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Old 02-03-2016, 04:42 PM   #1
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Default Starting from scratch! Which model of van do you recommend?

I just joined the site, and I have a basic (but important) question. I'm at the very beginning of buying a class B van and converting it into a simple camping and road trip vehicle.

I don't plan to install kitchenette or shower or anything like that. It will be a passenger van a lot of the time - taking kids to soccer games, etc. When we go on camping trips, we'll just load gear into the back of the van - including tents & sleeping bags. I plan to have bench seats in back that can fold down to make beds. We'll use the fold-down seats as beds occasionally, but usually will use tents for camping.

I'm looking for advice on which model of van to start with. I plan to buy a new van, and then have it converted. I am thinking about the long wheelbase, high-roof version of one of these models:
Mercedes Sprinter
Dodge Promaster
Ford Transit
Nissan NV (but not sure if they have a long wheelbase model)

I'm not sure if this is the right forum for posting this, but if it is, here are the questions (or advice i'm looking for):

Which of these is best for reliability? I.e. frequency of repairs? Cost of repairs? Ease of finding qualified repair centers?

Do you have any comments on comfort (for driver and passengers)? I want a van that is very comfortable for long road trips.

And, finally, I would appreciate any general comments or recommendations on selection of a new van for a conversion.

Thanks!
Clint
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Old 02-03-2016, 06:09 PM   #2
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Everyone who answers will recommend their own.

I suggest you visit the respective forums and read up on what folks like, don't like. I've almost completed a Promaster conversion. Lots of folks on our forum are doing what you describe.

Pros for Promaster: extra width so beds can be transverse, FWD so extra interior height and amazing handling, galvanized body so rust is non-issue even on 10-yr-old vehicles I've seen in Northern Europe on same body, cheapest of the three, fenders are dirt cheap if you ding one.

Cons for Promaster: smaller dealer network, no passenger van option so you have to add seats.
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Old 02-03-2016, 07:07 PM   #3
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I personally am a fan of the EcoBoost Transit, just because it has one of the biggest advantages of the diesel (not losing power in the mountains). Plus, Ford has the best dealer network out there.

Of course, if you want 4WD, the Sprinter is your only choice.
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Old 02-03-2016, 09:00 PM   #4
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Transit if you are going to tow, or like too much power, Promaster sells a lot less than the others and is lower to the ground to step in. I would stay away from diesels till they come up with new smog technology, its too complicated,costly and unreliable now, you don't save any money in the long run unless you put as many miles as Fedx/UPS. They are large ugly lunch boxes on wheels so appearance is moot, if you have lots of dough and like a lot of options, the MB is your van,but its diesel. I'm converting a Promaster, 19mpg drives like a car, no complaints.
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Old 02-03-2016, 09:12 PM   #5
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Let me ask the question no one has yet. How tall are you?

You don't want to be always bending over. So first eliminate any vans which do not have enough head clearance.
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Old 02-10-2016, 04:21 PM   #6
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Hi - thanks for the comments. I apologize for the delay in replying. I wasn't getting email notifications when people posted comments on this thread. I wondered why things were so quiet, so I took a look this morning and saw these replies.

In response to questions/comments posted above:

I'm 6' 1". I'd like a roof at least that tall.

I don't plan to be towing or carrying heavy loads. Sometimes I'll be carrying up to 10 people (with three rows of seats in the back). Sometimes I'll remove the 3rd row seat to put in a shelving unit; then load up the shelving unit with tents, sleeping bags, etc.; and have people in the remaining seats, as we drive into the Sierra Nevada for a camping trip.

There will be a trailer hitch, but that will be for a bike rack that holds up to 4 bicycles.

I've been reading a lot on various web sites and forums, and at present I'm leaning towards either a Ford Transit or a MB Sprinter. I would get the long wheelbase variety. I need to make a floor plan to see how long the cargo area needs to be to accommodate three rows of seats that could all be shifted to lie down flat to form beds. My family and our friends really like tent camping - but sometimes you get nasty weather while camping and it would be nice to be able to evacuate the tents and take refuge in the van if the weather gets really bad.

Again, I apologize for the delay in replying. I really appreciate the input from other members of this forum. I'll poke around this site to try to find the setting to send email notifications to me when somebody responds.
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Old 02-10-2016, 11:38 PM   #7
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No better platform for a conversion than the Promaster.
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Old 02-10-2016, 11:53 PM   #8
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Hi Jostalli.

I'd like to hear more about why you feel the Promaster is the best van for a conversion. I've been looking at a lot web sites and forums, and this is the first endorsement of the Promaster that I've seen. I think that every other comment I've seen regarding Promasters has been either negative or VERY negative. I'd like to learn more about the other point of view.
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Old 02-11-2016, 12:54 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Clint View Post
Hi Jostalli.

I'd like to hear more about why you feel the Promaster is the best van for a conversion. I've been looking at a lot web sites and forums, and this is the first endorsement of the Promaster that I've seen. I think that every other comment I've seen regarding Promasters has been either negative or VERY negative. I'd like to learn more about the other point of view.
This is the first endorsement you have seen? You obviously have not been "looking" that much. Did you know that 75% of all motorhomes in Europe have the Fiat Ducato as the base vehicle?

I chose the Promaster for many reasons. After watching over 100 YouTube videos showcasing European Ducato van conversions I was sold. I did, however evaluate all three cargo vans extensively. I ruled out the Sprinter due to the service issues I read so much about on the Sprinter forum. It is also too expensive for what you get compared to the other two.

Here are a few bullet points related to my Promaster decision:

1. You can create so many floor plans due to the width. You can have a transverse sleeping arrangement, which opens up a lot of space.
2. Cheapest to purchase of the three main cargo vans.
3. I wanted the most space in a van that could fit in a normal parking spot. The 159" Promaster has the same cargo volume as the 170" Sprinter.
4. Front wheel drive allows for a lower floor so you don't need a step to climb aboard. It also performs better in snow or off road.
5. Both the gas and diesel get better fuel economy than the Transit.

After a year of ownership I have had no problems other than the recalls that the dealer promptly took care of. I'm about 75% done with my RV conversion.
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Old 02-11-2016, 01:14 AM   #10
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Thanks for replying so promptly. Can I ask a few more questions?

Which model year did you buy? Did you buy new or used?

How many miles have you driven it?

Have you driven it in the mountains? If so, how did it handle steep uphill grades?

Have you driven it in snow? If so, how did it perform?
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