On the surface, sprinter van conversions are the perfect vehicle to live in. They have plenty of space, excellent gas mileage for the size, and a long lifespan.
Many aspiring van lifers dream of converting their own Mercedes Sprinter van and hitting the road. But is the price tag worth it?
A new sprinter van can cost anywhere from $36,000 to $50,000. And that’s before you do the work of converting it into a camper.
If you want to hire a conversion van company to design and build the perfect rig, that number rises even higher. Some luxury conversions cost upwards of $100,000 not including the van!
In this article we’re going to highlight the pros and cons of building a sprinter van conversion.
We’ll cover everything from the cost, to the different models, where to purchase them, how to get them converted, and tips to build your own DIY camper and save some money.
Types of Sprinter Vans
When starting your search for the perfect sprinter you’re going to come across three different types:
- Dodge Sprinter Van
- Mercedes Sprinter Van
- Freightliner Sprinter Van
Fortunately, all three models are the same. Between 2001 and 2007, sprinters were branded as the Dodge Sprinter Van. From 2007 onward, they were branded as either Mercedes Sprinters, or Freightliner Sprinters.
No matter which sprinter you choose to buy. The meat and bones are just the same.
Cargo VS Passenger VS Crew Sprinter Vans
Sprinter vans come in a variety of sizes with different lengths, heights, and power train options to choose from.
In addition to that, there are three main styles of sprinter vans:
- Cargo van
- Passenger van
- Crew van
In a nutshell, a cargo van is the best choice for a sprinter van conversion. These vans are a blank slate that will allow you to add and remove windows, seats, and other components as needed. They are also the cheapest option.
The cargo sprinter van is a commercial vehicle. It comes with one row of seats for a driver and two passengers. The rest of the van is bare bones and designed to haul large loads of equipment. Cargo vans have the largest payload capacity and are the least expensive.
Passenger sprinter vans are the most expensive. They offer comfortable seating for 8-15 people and come with all of the bells and whistles that you would find in a passenger vehicle. If you’re planning to build a camper conversion, passenger sprinter vans are not the best choice.
Crew vans are a hybrid between the cargo and passenger vans. They come with a second row of seats which are removeable. The payload capacity is in-between that of a cargo and passenger van. Crew vans come with windows pre-installed so they’re a good choice if you’re looking to add that feature.
Standard VS High Top Sprinter Vans
Sprinter vans come with two different height options: standard, and high roof. Most people cannot stand fully upright inside a standard height sprinter van.
- Standard roof sprinters: Measure 96.3 inches (8 feet) exterior. 65.3 inches (5.4 feet) interior.
- High roof sprinters: Measure 107.5 inches (9 feet) exterior. 76.7 inches (6.3 feet) interior.
There are a lot of different pros and cons to owning a standard vs a high top van. A high roof van will give you more storage overall. It’s easier to get dressed and cook inside, and there’s enough space to add a bathroom or bunk beds.
High roof sprinter vans are best for large families and more passengers. They can also be more stealth since you can hide solar panels and other equipment on the roof.
Standard height vans are easier to park in structures, take in drive-throughs, and pack toys like kayaks on the roof. They also allow you to articulate solar panels more easily or add accessories like a pop top.
Sprinter Van Wheelbase Length
Cargo sprinter vans come in three different wheelbases:
- 144 inch wheelbase
- 170 inch wheelbase
- 170 inch wheelbase extended
The extended wheelbase adds an additional 15 inches in length.
Crew vans and passenger vans come in 144” or 170” wheelbases (there is no extended version).
Which wheelbase is best for a conversion van? 15 inches adds a significant amount of space inside your camper, but it does come with some downsides.
For one, a longer wheelbase is more difficult to maneuver. The extended wheelbase will not fit comfortably in a standard parking space.
And, for those who enjoy overlanding, a vehicle that long is just not a good choice because you can easily scrape the bottom or get stuck.
Power Train Options
There are a number of different power train options that are going to affect the handling and gas mileage of your vehicle. They are:
- 4-cylinder gas
- 4-cylinder diesel
- 6-cylinder diesel
- 6-cylinder diesel 4×4
Diesel engines last longer than gas engines, but they are more difficult to service. You’ll also get the best gas mileage with a 2WD vehicle.
The 4×4 power train option is a good choice if you need a lot of traction for ice, sand, snow or other overlanding activities. Unfortunately, this option will also have the poorest gas mileage.
How Much Does A Sprinter Van Cost?
Prices are going to vary by dealership. As a ballpark estimate, the starting prices for a brand new 2021 sprinter van range from $36,000 to $47,000:
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A sprinter van conversion can range anywhere from $10,000 to $100,00+.
A DIY build with less accessories is going to be the cheapest, while hiring a specialized conversion company will be the most expensive.
Most sprinter van conversion companies will require you to purchase the vehicle separately before bringing it into the shop.
Sprinter Van Conversion Pros and Cons
Sprinter vans make a great vehicle for camping or converting into an RV because they have ample storage space, get good gas mileage for the size, and they’re long lasting.
These vehicles also have a lot of quality aftermarket components. And, if you’re buying new you can customize the wheelbase, height, and power train.
The best part about a sprinter van is that they tend to hold their value. So while the cost may seem high up front, this type of vehicle is an asset that you can sell later.
- Good gas mileage for the size
- Reliable and long lasting
- Large, boxy interior
- High quality aftermarket components
- Variety of lengths, heights, and power train options
- 4×4 capable
- Holds value well
The biggest downside to a sprinter van conversion is the high price tag. Not only are they expensive to buy new, but the used market is high-priced as well.
Maintenance can also be a significant expense on these vehicles. You can only get them serviced at a Mercedes dealership and repairs can be technical and expensive. Fortunately, your trips to the shop should be far and few between.
- Expensive repairs
- Technical maintenance that requires specialized shops
Where To Buy A New Sprinter Van
The best place to buy a brand new sprinter van is straight from the source. You can build your dream van online at mbvans.com or search local dealerships to see what they have in stock.
If you’re planning to have a conversion van company build out your vehicle, reach out to them. Some companies can help source your vehicle.
Buying A Used Sprinter Van
There are a number of marketplaces specific to sprinter vans. When you go to inspect the vehicle, make sure you bring a friend or mechanic along for the ride.
Here is our complete list of things to look for when buying a used camper van.
- Facebook Marketplace
- Auto trader
Alternatives To The Sprinter Van Conversion
Cargo vans make the perfect blank slate for a camping vehicle, but a quality vehicle can be difficult to find. Ford Transit conversions and Dodge ProMasters have many of the same upsides as a sprinter and are worth some consideration.
Building A Sprinter Van Camper
After you purchase your van, the next step is to gather inspiration and plan your build! There are a few different way to complete your dream camper van:
- Purchasing a turnkey camper van
- Hiring a custom van conversion company
- Building a camper with conversion kits and aftermarket components
- Designing a DIY sprinter van conversion
Turnkey Sprinter Van Campers
If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of waiting for a build to get completed, the next best thing is to buy a turnkey camper. Two companies that sell completed sprinter van campers are:
You can expect to pay $150,000 minimum for a completed sprinter van conversion.
Of course, these campers come with a warranty, professionally installed components, and the peace of mind that you have a vehicle that will last.
Custom Sprinter Van Conversion Companies
In a recent article, we created a list of custom camper van conversion companies organized by state. This is the most expensive way to get your van build completed, but by choosing this route, you won’t have to lift a finger.
You should plan to invest a minimum of $35,000 when choosing to hire a company. And that doesn’t include the cost of a van.
A big advantage to hiring a custom conversion company is that you’ll be paying for expertise. These builders have completed tens, and even hundreds of vans so you can rest assured that it’s being done the right way.
Hiring a team of experts is also going to give you a wealth of information when it comes to the best components and styles available on the market today.
An established company will be able to help you narrow down exactly how much power you need, water to store, and even the type of vehicle you should buy.
Sprinter Van Conversion Kits And Aftermarket Components
One of the great things about converting a sprinter van is that they’re so widespread and popular. You can find high-quality aftermarket kits and components that will fit your vehicle perfectly.
If you’re building a DIY sprinter van camper, these aftermarket accessories will make your job significantly faster and easier.
Some components that you can find in aftermarket kits include:
- Cabinets, shelves and headliners
- Interior panels
- Water tanks that wrap around the wheel wells
- Seating and lockers
- Kitchen and plumbing components
- Bike mounts, ladders, roof rails and bumpers
- Fabric panels, cargo storage and platform beds
- Windows and awnings
Our favorite aftermarket component companies for a sprinter van camper include:
DIY Sprinter Van Conversion Ideas
Building a DIY van is going to be the cheapest option, but it’s also going to take a significant amount of time and research.
Fortunately, there are a number of different websites and youtube videos online to help you through the process. Building your own sprinter van conversion can be the most rewarding experience.
When you do-it-yourself you’ll also have intimate knowledge about every system in your van so you’ll know exactly how to make repairs if necessary.
Below, we’ve put together a visual list of some of our favorite sprinter van conversions for your inspiration.
DIY Sprinter Van Campers
Seeing example van to camper conversion ideas is a good way to research your future build. Whether you want to build out a DIY sprinter van yourself – or rent one for a quick road trip – these vans will have you drooling over a #vanlife adventure.
Justin from @van.surf.climb built a Mercedes Sprinter RV with a purpose. The goal was to build a rock-climbing, wave surfing adventure vehicle to take anywhere.
We like this sprinter because it has tons of storage for climbing equipment and cool designs on the back.
@Rosenesontheroad travel as a family of four so space is of the essence. This is one of the more unique layouts that we have found from a couple that built their own DIY sprinter van conversion.
The family keeps their propane tanks in aluminum boxes on the outside of the vehicle for maximum safety. They have gas supply lines that attach to the inside which power a hot water heater for a shower and a propane oven.
@sand.meets.summit built a simple and colorful layout into their Sprinter van. We like all of the storage and organization this design allows.
The couple was careful to build smooth surfaces that are easy to clean. They also added inexpensive diy stoppers to keep the drawers and cabinets from flying open during a drive.
@van.there had a home office in mind when they designed their Mercedes Sprinter RV conversion. They have a nice desk space that can pop up for work and fold away when not in use.
They also built their 12v ARB refrigerator onto a slider drawer so it can stay hidden away and pulled out when necessary.
@Permanentroadtrip built the ultimate garage under the bed of his Sprinter. Heavy duty drawer sliders keep everything organized and allow him to pull out a mountain bike before hitting the trails.
Another cool feature is the pop-out shelf near the side doors for cooking food outside.
@comeswithaview built a DIY Sprinter with a great organization. The telescoping table base underneath the bed lets you create benches or a full-sized mattress.
Designing a camper van sink next to the side doors also gives you a convenient way to fill and empty water tanks more easily.
@divineontheroad has a beautiful build with lots of storage and counters on both sides. The layout leaves plenty of space to move around and doesn’t go over the top with components.
We like this simple and clean approach for a van to camper conversion.
@eh.mon and his wife Rebecca took full advantage of desk and countertop space in their DIY Sprinter van RV conversion. Because they both work on the road, a mobile office was a necessity. They turned their entire bed into a workbench combo which is a great design for digital nomads.
Mercedes RV Conversions
NomadVanz is a van conversion and camper rental company based out of Vancouver, British Columbia. They make some of our favorite modern Sprinter designs.
We like that they incorporate so many bright colors and smooth surfaces to make their vans sleek and easy to clean. Nomadvanz outfits their vehicles with some of the best camper components and minimalistic designs.
What Can Be Added To A Sprinter Van Camper?
The sky is the limit when it comes to adding components to your sprinter van. The best models for full time living come with a complete bathroom that includes a toilet and shower.
Other great features include:
- Solar power
- Fresh and gray water tanks
- Hot water recirculation system
- Portable refrigerators
- Microwaves, ovens, and cooktops
- Comfortable beds
- Awnings, ladders, and roof racks
Renting A Sprinter Van Camper
If you’re unsure of whether or not a sprinter camper is right for you, we recommend renting a conversion van to try it out.
Renting a camper is going to give you a better idea of height requirements, drive train, your ideal wheelbase, components, and so much more.
DIY Sprinter Van Conversions
Coming up with ideas to build a van to camper conversion can be a challenge because there’s so many different ways to design your layout.
Sometimes looking at vehicle specific builds can help give you a better idea of what to make. We hope this article has helped get your creative gears turning.
Check out some of our other camper van inspiration articles for more ideas.