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Old 02-03-2016, 05:42 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, 07:09 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, 08:07 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, 10:00 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, 10:12 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, 05:21 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 02-11-2016, 12:38 AM   #7
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No better platform for a conversion than the Promaster.
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Old 02-11-2016, 12:53 AM   #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, 01:54 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, 02:14 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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Old 02-11-2016, 02:57 AM   #11
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2014 159" standard length 3500 used with a few thousand miles. I've driven it about 17000 miles. Yes I've driven it in the mountains. It handles steep grades well. Although some complain about the transmission downshifting when going downhill. I don't see any problem. I have driven in ice and snow and it performed great. But, I have all terrain tires so I don't know how the stock tires would have done.
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Old 02-16-2016, 08:32 PM   #12
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Thanks again for the additional information. I have one more question. It's a detail about engine design, but it might be important.

I've been reading about the engines in the Sprinter and Transit. In some forums that are dedicated to discussions of those vehicles, there are a lot of comments about carbon-fouling on the intake valves. This is because of direct fuel injection into the cylinder. When the fuel isn't injected through the intake port, there is no detergent action on the valve head from the fuel, so (according to reports in the forums) there is a problem with carbon-fouling on the valves. One Ford mechanic says that the only approved repair for this condition on the current generation of Ford engines is to replace the cylinder heads approximately every 20k miles!

Do you happen to know if the engine in the Promaster has direct injection or intake port injection? Just curious as to whether this could be an issue on the Promasters as well.
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Old 02-16-2016, 08:35 PM   #13
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Actually, I have one more question. It looks like you're in San Diego. I'm in Cardiff by the Sea.

Where do you take your Promaster for service? And are there any local dealers you would recommend for looking into a new Promaster? (OK,... I guess that was two questions.)
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Old 02-16-2016, 09:14 PM   #14
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If you plans on a lot of hills, get the transit with the ecoboost motor, its a hot rod, the standard gas motor on the transit and promaster have enough HP to accelerate to 60 pretty fast, the sprinter is very slow.
0-60 times:
7.6 transit ecoboost gas
8.0 promaster gas
11-12 sprinter diesel
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Old 02-16-2016, 09:22 PM   #15
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I do plan on driving in the mountains - a lot of trips to local mountains and to the Sierra Nevada. But I don't need a hot rod. When I am on mountain roads I drive pretty slowly - for a few reasons:

(1) I don't want to be in a hurry - I want to enjoy the drive and the scenery
(2) For safety - a little slower is a lot better, especially on mountain roads
(3) For comfort - my wife gets motion sickness easily. If I drive slowly, especially on winding roads, she feels more comfortable.

So I'm not looking for the most power. I just want the most reliability.
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Old 02-16-2016, 11:23 PM   #16
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Google is your friend. The Promaster has Common Rail MultiJet direct injection if you're going diesel. If you're going gas then it has Sequential Multi-Port returnless fuel injection.
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Old 02-16-2016, 11:31 PM   #17
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I too drive pretty slowly in an RV but having the power to merge into traffic normally and pass a truck going 5mph in the hills without worry is safer and less stressful. I had a full banks kit installed on my last rv (class A) and the extra power made it easier and more comfortable and safer to drive.
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Old 02-17-2016, 04:32 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Clint View Post
Actually, I have one more question. It looks like you're in San Diego. I'm in Cardiff by the Sea.

Where do you take your Promaster for service? And are there any local dealers you would recommend for looking into a new Promaster? (OK,... I guess that was two questions.)
I bought my Promaster out of state (reached out to over 35 dealers during my search) but I get service at Carl Burger in La Mesa. Sign up for BusinessLink and you never have to wait because you get your own dedicated service counter. I deal directly with the service Manager, Sean. They are quick and professional.
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Old 02-18-2016, 02:54 AM   #19
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I just found this thread, but here are my 2/10 of one cent.

I'm in the midst of a full blown camper conversion on a Transit.
The van is the extended high roof, with the ecoboost.

My observations so far. Since we're still building, we haven't got a lot of miles yet.

The van is very nice. It handles very well, and the ecoboost has lots of torque. We went with that engine because we do a lot of steep, slow mountain driving up here in the Cascades. Hence the need for torque. Speed is nice when we hit the freeway, but that wasn't the major reason to get that engine. We would have preferred the longer length of Sprinter's extended unit, but it's only the 2 of us plus dog. That wasn't enough to go with the Sprinter.

We rejected the Sprinter because of the reported reliability problems and limited servicing dealers. Also was higher cost.

We rejected the Promaster because we didn't care for the way it drove, sitting positions, or the build quality of the units we test drove. The wider body would have been nice, but wasn't a show stopper.

You can see what I'm doing at my blog (link's in my sig). It's been pretty straightforward, if slow, work doing the conversion.

Maybe it'll give you some ideas of what to do and what not to do. The blog is much more up to date than my build thread here.

Stan
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