With several years of experimentation and owning various brands and models ourselves, the Mercedes Sprinter really has proven to be the best in class for better adventuring, comfort, durability, safety and resale. We have perfected every measurement and upgrade for these bad boys, and highly recommend them for a build out. If you are buying a brand-spanking new one, we have some tried and true tips for you that will improve your experience and save you some change and make the most of your build.
Get the 4x4 if you can swing it
Mercedes is currently the only manufacturer offering a factory 4x4 option on new models making this an important upgrade option to consider. Unless you live somewhere incredibly flat, you’ll be happy to have this option in the snow, rain, mud, sand etc. If you take a look at the most in-demand used vehicles, 4x4 drive is a must. If it’s just not in your budget (believe me we understand), a high-quality set of studded or un-studded winter tires and chains will serve you in a pinch. One thing to consider on the 4x4s is that the factory suspension isn’t great if you plan on doing a lot of off-roading. We can help you put in a better one as well as a lift kit if you plan on really getting off the grid.
Shorty or a fatty?
If it’s just you or you’re using your van for long weekend adventuring, the basic 144” wheelbase will easily meet your needs. If there are two of you (or you have furry friends), consider getting the 170” wheelbase which adds three and a half extra feet of living. It makes a difference and ultimately depends on your usage.
Do you usually duck in doorways?
If you get the 170” wheelbase, it automatically comes with the higher (6’4”) ceiling. It is possible to get the higher ceiling on the 144,” however, and is a consideration if you or your partner are roof skimmers.
Improved console improves resale
… and also is just a better experience all around. The backup camera that comes with it is crystal clear and super clutch for backing up your Big Boi into tight spaces and avoiding rocks, not to mention having cruise control and other critical functions directly on the steering wheel. The navigation and music control are pretty seamless and makes for a slick experience. This is definitely a “nice to have” so don’t sweat this one if it’s not in your budget – you can still adventure just as hard.
This is not a deal-breaker in the least, as there are some after-market options should you change your mind, but upgrading your headlights provides brighter, farther and wider light coverage built-in. If you’re ordering a new van, consider negotiating this in, as it’s comparable to less-reliable after-market upgrades and is a better experience, especially for lighting up a campsite or avoiding Bambi on the road.
Get the stock swivel seat!!
When buying a new van, you have the option of upgrading the stationary chairs to swivel. Their factory swivel models are better than any after-market upgrade (and cheaper) AND save you the two inches in height that are added if you change your mind later. You’ll want this feature, as being able to turn the chairs all the way around provides easy entertainment and seating options in addition to whatever benches we put in. The cost for the swivel is nominal and can sometimes be negotiated in. Just do it. While you’re at it, talk to them about getting the upgraded seats as well (not just the swivel). Having owned non-upgraded ones ourselves, you’ll appreciate the additional lumbar support, arm rests, bucket and upgraded leather options, as well as heating. They’re significantly more comfortable than the basic level ones and we will personally not make that mistake again ourselves.
Their stock flooring is great
If the vehicle you’re looking at comes with their stock 9mm Baltic birch flooring, leave it. If it doesn’t have flooring, no biggie, Vansmith can install our proprietary flooring in your color and texture choice.
The sh*t you don’t need
Don’t let the sales rep talk you into upgrading the walls of the van—we’re just going to rip them out when we install insultation, wire the van, and upgrade you to better walls anyway. They also may try to sell you an additional AC unit. Don’t do it: it takes up a lot of precious space that could be used for solar panels, roof racks, storage etc. AND it only works if the van is running or plugged into the grid, defeating the purpose of your adventure-mobile.
If they bring up mid-door stops—also pass up on these and ask them to remove it if they’ve already installed it. They’re large, unsightly, and difficult to hide underneath a ceiling. We have a proprietary slider spider mid door stop we install on all our vans that allows the doors to either stick all the way open or closed mid-way without rolling.