Choosing a Van

There are many factors to keep in mind when choosing your van. Used or New? High top? Windows? Maintainability? This page goes over the reasoning for why I picked a high top Sprinter van and some of the alternatives.

I had a few requirements to narrow down the vans I actually looked at. They needed to be high top; standing up fully is incredibly nice when it’s your full time house. you also have more room for cabinets and things. I didn’t want side windows so it looked more like a “cargo van” for stealth. You can make Reflectex window shades for windows with black fabric on one side, but that’s more suspicious (but having windows WOULD be nice). I didn’t want anything longer than a standard parking space, so that I wouldn’t be subject to laws against parking on the street.

The Mercedes / Dodge Sprinter van

These are generally regarded as the tippy top of vans to convert. I say Mercedes/Dodge because for vans made before 2006, they actually have a Mercedes engine and insides, but dodge branding and outsides. Everything made after 2006 is Mercedes.

Pros
-Diesel engines: They last MUCH longer and are very well built. I bought mine with 250,000 miles and have seen reports of these engines going over a million miles (with the average at 500,000). Gas is also cheaper, and you get more MPG. I get 23 MPG on average with my 2005 (and don’t have to deal with emissions problems like with 2006+). The sprinter gets better gas mileage than any other van.
-The general build quality of the sprinters is very nice. This thing will LAST.
-They have excellent ground clearance so I can take it off road. I took this thing on 4 wheel drive only jeep trails (I’m 2WD) and it handled them like a champ.
-They handle like any other car (at least the 144″ Wheelbase I have) and have an excellent turning radius. I was worried about driving such a big vehicle at first, but have had zero problems with the Sprinter.

Cons
-They are the most expensive choice. I bought mine used and fixed it up so that I could afford it. New vans cost over $40,000.
-Parts can be hard to find and many places will not repair high top vans.

Other Choices

You do have options other than the sprinter, and the pros and cons of each are coming soon. For now I’ll list them.

Ford Transit

These are the only serious competitor for the sprinter in my opinion.


Nissan NV

The nose is wayyyy too long on these for me. They also only get ~10 MPG.

Various Camper vans

These were not stealthy enough for me, but do have more comfortable options and are often already converted. Most are not high top, but have options to “pop” the top upwards, or other such things.

Truck Campers

Also not stealthy enough, but you can swap the camper and the truck for longevity. The campers are also pre-built and are pretty nice. You can also set the camper up, then drive the truck places.