The Van-build battle: Transit VS Sprinter

passenger door of ford transit van

Ok, you’ve made the big decision. You’re going to live in a converted van, but at first glance, you are overwhelmed with information. For starters, which van should you buy? You may have noticed an ongoing debate in the van life-world: Transit VS Sprinter, which is better for conversion? While both vans are an excellent choice, they have a number of distinct differences that can make your decision confusing.

If you want to find the perfect van for your lifestyle, we are comparing these two top-rated brands of panelled cargo vans so that you can determine what will work best for you. We’ve also included instagram inspiration from people who are living in converted Ford Transits and people who are living in converted Mercedes Sprinters.

Ford Transit Van conversion

Let’s start with the Ford Transit, a sturdy vehicle with excellent van conversion possibilities. The Ford Transit is an excellent choice if you’re looking for height. With the highest interior height of the van world, tall people can live comfortably in Transit van life. Transit vans are also relatively cheap.

Ford Transit Specs


Wheelbase: 330 cm

Exterior length: 553 cm

Exterior height: 278 cm

Interior standing height: 201 cm

Interior cargo length: 338 cm

Interior cargo width: 196 cm


Wheelbase: 375 cm

Exterior length: 598 cm

Exterior height: 278 cm

Interior standing height: 207 cm

Interior cargo length: 365 cm

Interior cargo width: 196 cm


Wheelbase: 375 cm

Exterior length: 670 cm

Exterior height: 280 cm

Interior standing height: 201 cm

Interior cargo length: 437 cm

Interior cargo width: 196 cm

Ford Transit height

If you are considering buying a Ford Transit for your van conversion, there are several things to keep in mind. The Transit comes in low, medium, and high roof sizes. You are probably going to want a high roof height, or at very least a medium. 

Ford Transit Models

There are four different Ford Transit models: Ford Transit Cargo Van, Ford Transit Crew Van, Ford Transit Passenger Van XL, and Ford Transit Passenger Van XLT. While the Passenger Van XLT is the biggest and nicest, it is also the most expensive. And even though “bigger is better” is often the case with campervans, the Passenger van has some oddly shaped trims that make the size available for conversion actually smaller than you might have initially thought. The Ford Transit Cargo Van is designed to seat only two-plus cargo. This makes it easier to convert as you don’t need to restructure where the seats used to be.


There is also the question of how long you want your campervan to be. The Ford Transit comes in Regular, Long, and Extended Long. You likely want to stick with Long or Extended long for your conversion. Generally these sizes translates to 130”, 148”, and 148” extended


From the year 2020 onward, all Ford Transits have AWD, something to consider if you thought of buying a used Ford Transit. Older Ford Transits only have RWD.

Power Upgrades

Since you will be adding weight to the van during the conversion process, it is probably best to pick the 3.5 litres EcoBoost Engine, the most powerful engine available, that has the most power and torque. If you can, you should also upgrade your Ford transit to “Heavy-Duty Trailer Tow” so that you can tow extra weight if need be.


We love Ford Transits for their low price points and availability. There are often old Ford Transit vans aplenty at used car lots – old delivery and service vans just aching to be converted — if you are on a tight budget.

If something breaks down, Ford Transits have cheap and readily-available parts. They are also easy and affordable to convert as their square shape adds cladding and wooden boards a breeze. 


Ford Transits can last a long time despite their gas engines. The gas engine in the Ford Transit makes it less fuel-efficient than its diesel-running counterpart, the Sprinter. Ford Transits get between 14 to 18 miles a gallon or about 15L/100km on newer models.


Ford Transits are a lot like cars to drive. The cab is smaller, and the steering handles sharp turns. Consider using the Ford Transit for your van conversion if you’re a nervous driver or want a more car-like driving experience.

What We Love About Ford Transits as a vanlife van

·      Accessible price point
·     Simple to convert
·     Easy to drive
·      Low maintenance costs 
·      Can be fixed anywhere by any mechanic
·      Highest roof available on the market
·      Easy-to-find and affordable vehicle parts

What Could Be Improved

·      Lower gas mileage
·      Gas engine has a shorter life span than a diesel
·      Lower clearance for driving on difficult terrain

10 Ford Transit van conversions to inspire you


This Australian-Czech couple based out of Australia is in the process of converting a Ford-Transit into a campervan. They showcase their van conversion process on their youtube channel, including adding a toilet to their ford transit and making space for tall people in transit van life. This is their second van conversion. Check out their youtube channel here


US-based Melody showcases her solo van lifestyle in her Ford Transit. She has van-build inspiration on her saved Instagram stories and help for others who want to do the van life on their own.


This couple showcases their beautiful van lifestyle living out of their newly-converted Ford Transit. They have three different van-build styles on their saved Instagram stories. If you’re worried that living in a Ford Transit might not be as luxurious as living in a Sprinter, think again because this van is beautiful.


This couple has a custom Ford Transit which they’ve outfitted with a pop-up roof tent. Currently based out of the UK, they have plenty of build inspiration on their Instagram page as well as cute dog pictures. 



This American-based photography couple lives and travels in the Ford Transit. Their website, Truth of Traveling, and their Instagram have DIY guides for transit conversion and stunning photos of their travel to inspire you. They outline why they picked a Ford Transit instead of a Sprinter on their blog, but some of the main reasons, other than price, was that the Transit is taller for those over 6 feet tall.



The Canadian couple behind the millennial mountaineer is in the process of converting a Ford Transit to a campervan. They have both a website and youtube, in addition to their Instagram with resources and travel inspiration.



Ukiyo van is an Australian-based van that anyone can rent. Although their Instagram page does not have van conversion tips, the beautifully decorated Ford Transit will provide you with plenty of inspiration. 


This whimsical Instagram page showcases the van life of artist Jaz. Based out of Northern Ireland, her page has Transit van decoration ideas and tricks. She bought a 2011 Ford Transit with 105k miles in 2020 and converted it herself.


The granola gang is completing their second Ford Transit van conversion. Based out of San Diego, they live the van life on the weekends with their dog. With two van conversions under their belt, they show the versatility of not only living in a Ford Transit but of van life as well.


Malia and Blake have all the steps they took to converting their 2015 Ford Transit. Click on their saved stories for how they insulated their van, put in electricity and windows, as well as installed a bed frame, subfloor, and max fan. Their website is coming soon.

Mercedes Sprinter Van conversion

The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is the gold-standard in the campervan world. It is a luxurious brand with the longest build. Its long track record in the van life community makes it an easy van to convert, with inspiration and accessories aplenty.



Wheelbase: 366 cm

Exterior length: 593 cm

Exterior height: 273 cm

Interior standing height:

Interior cargo length:

Interior cargo width: 179 cm


Wheelbase: 455 cm

Exterior length: 696 cm

Exterior height: 273 cm

Interior standing height: 201 cm

Interior cargo length: 441 cm

Interior cargo width: 179 cm


Wheelbase: 432 cm

Exterior length: 737 cm

Exterior height: 273 cm

Interior standing height: 201 cm

Interior cargo length: 481 cm

Interior cargo width: 179 cm

Sprinter Models

There are many different Mercedes Sprinters to choose from, such as the cargo van, crew van, and passenger van. Of these three, the cargo is the most popular van for conversion. If you want more windows, go with the crew van, although you can easily add windows to the cargo van as well. Most people avoid the passenger van for conversion since too many design components make the transformation a challenge.


The Mercedes Sprinter comes in many different lengths. While the cargo van has three different lengths, the crew van has two different lengths. The longest van, the 432 cm, might have space for a bathroom or extra sitting room, whereas the medium length van, 366cm, is much easier to drive.


Sprinters have two different height options: Standard and High. If you want to stand up in your van, go with the high roof, the most popular option for van conversions. That being said, if you do go with the low roof, you can add a pop-top for more sleeping space. The lower height is also easier for driving and handling wind and off-roading.


There are different power trains to choose from: 4-Cylinder Gas, 4-Cylinder Diesel, 6-Cylinder Diesel and 6-Cylinder 4×4 Diesel. We prefer the 4 x 4 options for bad weather conditions and off-roading. Although the 2WD drive options do offer better gas mileage.

Space and Weight Capacity

The biggest and most powerful Sprinter on the market, the 4500 high Roof 170″ WB EXT, can tow up to 7,500 pounds and has a payload of 6,261 pounds. It has a cargo volume of 470 cubic feet.


Sprinters need to have regular maintenance every 20,000 miles (32,000 km). These costs add up fast. As a result, if a problem arises with your vehicle, it often needs to be worked on at the dealership, which means these costs are even more expensive. If you’re going to be doing a lot of remote driving, it can be hard to find a Mercedes dealership outside of Europe. For example, there are significantly more (10 to 20 times more) Ford dealerships in North America.


There has been much talk about diesel exhaust fluid system issues in 2008 to 2014 Sprinter vans. This is, arguably, after price, the most significant disadvantage of buying a Sprinter.

In 2008, when Mercedes took over the Dodge Sprinter, Mercedes developed a new exhaust system to comply with government regulations. This exhaust system is made up of multiple parts, all of which need to work perfectly. After about 100,000 miles, drivers have noticed that one or more of the parts of this system break down. A single part can range between $600 to over $1000 plus labour. Because the system is so complicated, it can only be serviced at a dealership, which will also mean that prices will be more than twice as high as a regular mechanic due to the Sprinter being a luxury brand model. 

If you are buying a Sprinter, consider purchasing the extended warranty that covers repairs.

What We Love About Sprinters as a vanlife vehicle

·      Excellent gas mileage for a van
·      Long life span, up to 2x as long as a gas vehicle
·      Available in 4×4 and RWD (even older models)
·      Comfortable seats in the cab with more legroom
·      Excellent steering
·      More cubic feet of space
·      Greeting weight capacity
·      Good ground clearance
·      Popular in the van community, so there are many resources.

What Could Be Improved

·      Expensive upfront
·      High maintenance costs
·      Needs to be fixed at dealerships, which can be hard to find
·      Long wait times for parts outside of Europe
·      Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel can be hard to find
·      Prone to rust

10 Mercedes Sprinter van conversions to inspire you



This Australian woman has travelled all over the world living the van life. She’s still living in her 4 x 4 Sprinter. Her Instagram and blog showcase some of the upgrades you can add to your Sprinter campervan to make it the off-roading vehicle of your dreams.



This German-Danish couple has a beautiful Instagram with pictures of their van life. They have travelled all over Europe in their Sprinter van and have inspiration and van-build ideas.



Travelling through Australia in their Sprinter van, Chels and Dan offer helpful van build ideas and travel inspiration on their Instagram and new youtube page. 



Did you know you can get a colourful Sprinter van? This van life couple showcases their remote living lifestyle in their orange-themed van both inside and out. Currently, they are exploring the UK.


Living in her minimalist-decorated red Sprinter van, Larissa gives van conversion inspiration. She also has step-by-step guides on Instagram of her van conversion in both English and German. Larissa is based out of Germany and is a student.



Jake and Heather are living out the van life in their 2008 Mega Roof Sprinter. Their Sprinter conversion feels large and homey and includes a shower, toilet, and gas stove. Their website and youtube channel have a plethora of information about their van conversion and lifestyle.



Taylor and Kevin are an American based couple living the van life part time. They picked the Mercedes Sprinter because it has the best resale value, most reliable engine, and the most conversion accessories. They want to be able to easily resell the van if that time comes. Their Instagram, blog, and youtube provide lots of great content about van life and van conversions.


This American family of five lives full-time in their converted Sprinter van. If you’re curious about how to live the van live with kids, their Instagram provides plenty of tips and inspiration. It is also simply impressive how many people a Mercedes Sprinter can house. After more inspiration on vanlife with kids? Check out our post on top tips and considerations when converting a van for kids.



Megan and Chris have a gorgeously renovated Mercedes Sprinter van equipped with a shower and toilet. Follow them for breathtaking pictures of the places they visit with their van. Their website and Instagram stories provide invaluable van layout guides.


Katy is living a full-time van life in the UK. Her red Mercedes Sprinter has a playful interior design. Katy’s Instagram has pictures of her life on the road and bus improvements and building on her stories.

What van should you choose for your van conversion?

Is luxury is your goal? Then hands-down, choose the Mercedes Sprinter. This van has been the queen of #vanlife for years. With its sleek design, ample cubic footage, and comfortable seating, the comfort of a Sprinter van can’t be beaten. The Sprinter is also the best van on the market for fuel efficiency. While it may cost a pretty penny to purchase, Sprinter vans hold their value and can be driven for upwards of 400,000 miles.

If the initial cost was the only major flaw with Sprinters, Mercedes vans would also be our recommendation for budget travellers due to their lower costs of fuel and being able to drive your van for years, if not decades. Unfortunately, the on-going maintenance is the most significant issue we have found in the Sprinter. While you might be able to deal with the price tag of the van, you will need to have a fat savings account to plan for regular maintenance of your Sprinter. Regular upkeep at a dealership can add up exponentially fast. If spending upward of $10,000 a year for maintenance is within your budget, then the Sprinter is the best choice for you.

The Ford Transit is an excellent choice for those looking for more of a budget #vanlife lifestyle. The initial cost is much more affordable, and maintenance can be done with any mechanic. The Ford Transit does not have any regular maintenance issues, whereas the Sprinter potentially does with its DEF pump. If your Ford does need to be worked on, parts are readily available and affordable, and you can shop around for a mechanic.

If you’re looking for an excellent off-roading vehicle, traditionally, the Sprinter is the best choice. With upgrades to a 4×4 model, your van can handle challenging terrain and difficult weather. In 2020, Ford announced its new transits would have an AWD option. While not as rugged as 4×4, this option is likely sufficient for most off-roading and weather escapades.

Another selling point of the Mercedes Sprinter is that Sprinter van life is the most prevalent. There are countless blogs, Instagrams, and resources outlining how to convert a Sprinter to a campervan. Since the Transit is newer and less glitzy, there are fewer resources. This is changing, though, and you should be able to find plenty of resources for whichever van you choose to convert.

Which van do you think you’ll purchase? Let us know in the comments below!

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