Comparison Guide for Selecting a Van

When you live in a van, it’s never about the actual van.

It’s about everything you gain from the change in lifestyle: freedom from the monotony of 9 to 5s and the suburbs, and the attainment of non-material luxuries such as silence and fresh air. Getting into your first van can seem overwhelming, if not an insurmountable task. Deciding what kind of van you want to convert into your dream living situation is the first step of obtaining #VanLife. Below are key comparisons from the top three models we recommend for your conversion. In all cases, we, at The Vansmith, only recommend (and build out) modern high-roof cargo vans, like the ones below, rather than minivans or city vans.

Mercedes Sprinter “The Boss”

By far the most expensive, but also the sexiest. What do you expect? It’s a Mercedes. This incredibly smooth ride and a turbocharged diesel engine makes the Sprinter super-efficient and about as much fun as you can have driving a van. Spacious interiors and a wonderful layout save time during the conversion and ultimately make for a better van build, as validated for its popularity in the #VanLife community. Designed for more than just carrying cargo, a major advantage of converting Sprinter vans are the numerous pre-configured accessory options out there, such as ladders, roof racks, variations in windows, folding bed kits, to name a few. The Sprinter is the most developed and further along different iterations to suit various needs and lifestyles for consumers – but at a cost. You need to bring it to a Mercedes dealership for major work, as their computer software is proprietary. There is often a pre-order waitlist as well.

RAM Promaster “The Utilitarian”

By far the most affordable option, this van gets it done. Coming in both diesel and gasoline options, this front-wheel-drive tank does surprisingly well in snow and wet conditions because of this bad boy’s heft.

Dodge designed this vehicle to be a cargo van, and thus it's a simple, powerful beast. Though the Promaster can be a bit bouncy and a little louder, we're often adding bigger tires and lifts to them which give them a totally badass look and feel and a somewhat smoother ride. The gasoline option (naturally aspirated), which does not come with a turbo, is plenty powerful for most people. You can also go with the diesel option if you want more power, but all in all, it doesn’t compare to the other options available. The fuel economy is just okay, however, Promasters are unbelievably solid machines that can be repaired just about anywhere by anyone and the parts are super affordable and easy to find. We chose to focus on Promasters for our Bivy van conversions for all of the reasons above. 


Ford Transit “The Anomaly”

While Ford has been selling cargo vans for decades, the Transit is Ford's newest answer to Ram and Mercedes. Though Transits can offer a smoother ride and more amenities than the Ram Promaster, once you get to a comparable build as the Mercedes Sprinter, the price becomes comparable too. We do like the fact that parts are easy to replace and you can get maintenance done at most garages. However, in all honesty, if you're going for something with a bit more luxury, go with the Mercedes Sprinter. Sprinters are tough as nails and hold their value extremely well. Not to mention, they look amazing, especially with a Vansmith living space.

Check out to below for a quick spec comparison, and as always don’t hesitate to reach out ( or comment below!


Kelly Baier

I have a 2016 F350 High roof extended body Transit van, Dully. How far out are you to get a conversion kit built and installed?
Thanks’ Kelly

Floyd bBarnhill

I want to acquire a garageable camper van. If possible with a pop top. What vans do you have that would fit into a standard garage. Thank you

Karyn Palma

Hi, Love your site, so helpful! I started looking at Promasters online and had a question- I see there are 136" and 159" roofs and noticed your specs comparison chart lists 118"…is there a functional difference in adding those extra 18 or 41 inches, like frees up space for more features? I’m happy in small spaces, but do like the idea of sleeping up top and leaving the bottom for more of a couch/office/bikes space. Thanks so much and wish me luck in the Omaze lottery :)

Peter Amend

This is such a great outline of the features of all three vans! It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by info. Thanks guys xo

Jeanette Renfro

I’m interested in a Sprinter Van conversion. Super comfy, functional. I’m not really sure where or how to begin. Happy to discover your site. Thanks!

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