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Old 09-12-2020, 08:48 PM   #1
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Default Sprinter to Promaster (or vice versa)?

Any actual owners who've transitioned from a Sprinter Class B to Promaster (or vice versa) care to comment on the real world pros and cons comparison?

To be clear I'm quite familiar with the marketing and on-paper differences of each chassis, but as a long-time Sportsmobile Sprinter owner looking to purchase a new rig I'm particularly interested in hearing from those who have actually owned both types.

For example did you find the Promaster ground clearance to be adequate for remote Forest Service / BLM campsite access? Was the maintenance cost / reliability significantly different? Any things you'd reconsider if making the choice again?

Thanks!
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Old 09-12-2020, 11:53 PM   #2
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I have not owned both, but I have upfitted both—my PM and my son's Sprinter. Quality-wise, we agreed to a wash. Some things better here, some there. Maintenance—you surely know that story. MB is significantly more expensive.

We have driven the PM on all sorts of FS, BLM roads, plus dirt roads in BC, the Yukon, and a couple months in Alaska. Our experience is that if it is a 2WD Road, the PM will be fine. 4WD—of course not. Front-wheel-drive can be a real asset. Turning radius is a dream. Son has to be more careful in crosswinds and curves than we do.

OTOH, his cab is better appointed than ours.
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Old 09-13-2020, 06:52 PM   #3
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Ditto what MsNomer (love the user name!) said. Some will note that the Sprinter has more leg room than the PM. Or that the steering wheel does not tilt on the PM. Or the seats are not as comfortable in one (pick the brand), etc. You really have to try them yourself and come to your own conclusion. I found for instance, that trying to get up, turn and go into the coach section of a FORD Transit was really awkward versus the Sprinter and PM. Others have said no big deal. Its up to the individual and it is actually great to have choices! Overall I agree it is largely a wash. Oh-back to the leg room; the specs say the Sprinter (can't remember the Transit) has more leg room than the PM but goodness, the PM legroom is great and I am 6'-2" and about normal for torso to leg ratio I think, and size 12 minimum shoes. Tilt wheel not on the PM? I thought that was an issue until I first drove a PM. Didn't care one bit it doest have that. It does have a telescope adjustment but my wife and I have left it where we set it on the PM/Travato 59K we eventually bought jfor our own so I don't think that matters but again, personal choices are available between these three brands.

If there is a biggie to consider, I suppose it would be if you want to drag something along behind. The full length truck chassis of the Sprinter and Transits will have the advantage there. I have no care to hitch up, tow, unhitch and do it all over again when traveling for fun. I can rent a vehicle at or near a destination if I need too. Same for boat or some places even rent UTV's now. Nice to have your own for sure but goodness, the cost, grumbly not so bad hassle, parking, maintenance, insurance, etc. etc., naaah. Btu we mostly pavement travel to see the "world"; we don't camp-camp anymore. Done that been there. Personal choices again! And of course, 4WD if you need that but make sure you secure everything inside if your really 4 wheeling. And maybe keep a bigger stash of case or access to money if you break something that matters you might encounter without expectation off road.

PM works for us. FWD power train with V6 gas is outstanding and distance driving mileage is excellent. Around town, 8,000-ish pound stop and start will drag the mileage down but overall, it's really great. Wind experience in Sprinter and PM; PM wins. I think due in part to its lower center of gravity but especially because it is a pulling & steering advantage in cross winds versus rear axle pushing where steering has to work harder to keep straight. Obviously it's do-able in all three choices of vans but from some experience in these two brands and a tiny bit of experience in the Transit, I do prefer the handling in any street situation with the PM. Real world circle turning is also nicer even though the others have similar specs. Interestingly, quick corner steering has a typical FWD resistance going on with the tires but its just a moment that you notice and again in real world turning, its just a feel not such a change in actual cornering. Except I will admit liking the Transit of the three in making those curb corner turns has the best feel/less tire scrubbing effect. Turn slower on the more than slow-slow curb turns as being less noticable tire scrub effect. I haven't had any negative tire wear by the way, something I found more predominant in fwd cars when I may have made unwarranted, faster turns in my younger car driving years...
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Old 09-13-2020, 07:32 PM   #4
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Iíve ďalwaysĒ (i.e., for 5 years) owned a Sprinter-based van and am now looking for another B. The thought crossed my mind to look beyond Sprinters but a quick search on reliability/issues for the Promaster and Transit scared me right back to looking exclusively at Sprinters. Am I being biased in my review of the reliability info? Is there info out there to convince me that another make would be as reliable? I would LOVE to be convinced because it would open up a lot more options. Someone please help me broaden my search criteria.
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Old 09-13-2020, 07:52 PM   #5
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a quick search on reliability/issues for the Promaster and Transit scared me right back to looking exclusively at Sprinters.
Boy, that is an unusual position. Many of us are being forced away from Sprinters precisely due to the unbelievably bad reliability of the BlueTec emissions systems on diesel-equipped Sprinters (not to mention the equally atrocious but less expensive wheel speed sensor issues). I have seen nothing remotely comparable on the other platforms. You can only take so many ruined vacations due to "n-starts remaining" messages or locked-transmission limp-mode due to a trivial sensor failure before it starts to get old.

I haven't quite ruled out the Sprinter for our next rig, but I have 100% ruled out any diesel-based vehicle, and that doesn't bode well for the Sprinter. My next rig will very likely be built on a all-wheel-drive gas Transit.

P.S. -- when evaluating the Transit, be sure the reviews you are reading are for the current generation platform. Big difference from the pre MY2019 version.
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Old 09-13-2020, 08:13 PM   #6
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Amen to that Avanti,
The track record or issues and associated costs of repair when not under warranty on a Sprinter has at least by commentary, been a bit ghastly. Even for oil changes. Hopefuly the claims have subsided. I haven't followed Sprinters since we chose a PM based Class B. Other than respecting the factory for asking us to take our PM into a dealer for two recalls (neither of which were presenting issues to our PM), We have had zero issues whatsoever on our nearly 3 year old PM now. I hear hints of improvement in the number of MERCEDES dealers that will even work on Sprinter's versus some dealers for the other brands. I should think all MERCEDES dealers will have lifts strong enough for commercial Sprinter van work regardless of their often nicer showrooms and waiting lounges, thus a Class B Sprinter should be no issue to handle in their bays.

I imagine factory training, online or otherwise and certain vehicle specific tools are likely required to be on hand before MERCEDES will allow them to be a selling AND servicing dealer. If so, that might have been an issue in the early days of Sprinters for dealers but these vans must represent enough revenue value for all dealers across the USA to participate these days.

I hardly ever hear about the emission system issues that apparently plagued a fair number of Sprinter owner/operators by the number of comments in recent years so MERCEDES must have gotten that behind them now.
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Old 09-13-2020, 08:35 PM   #7
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I hardly ever hear about the emission system issues that apparently plagued a fair number of Sprinter owner/operators by the number of comments in recent years so MERCEDES must have gotten that behind them now.
I hope you are right, but I see little evidence that you are. Go over to Sprinter Source, search for "starts remaining" and limit your search to the last few years. I just did that experiment. The results were not encouraging.

People are saying that they "must" have fixed it on the VS30. But, it takes time for these problems to manifest. I lived in two years of blissful ignorance before the nightmares started.
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Old 09-13-2020, 08:56 PM   #8
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I hope you are right, but I see little evidence that you are. Go over to Sprinter Source, search for "starts remaining" and limit your search to the last few years. I just did that experiment. The results were not encouraging.

People are saying that they "must" have fixed it on the VS30. But, it takes time for these problems to manifest. I lived in two years of blissful ignorance before the nightmares started.
How complicated and how costly are those NOX sensors to replace? I'm asking for a friend...
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Old 09-13-2020, 09:18 PM   #9
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Wow! Well, I guess Iíve been living in a Sprinter bubble! My 2008 Sprinter (SS Agile) was bulletproof for the 5 years we owned it.

I certainly didnít limit my search to MY19 and up - have there been real improvements? The general take that I got on the Sprinter was ďreliable but expensive when a fix is needed.Ē

Are there sites or reviewers out there that you all think are reliable? Iím feeling better about Sprinter options, but I do like data..
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Old 09-13-2020, 09:19 PM   #10
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How complicated and how costly are those NOX sensors to replace? I'm asking for a friend...
No big deal to replace, BUT (a) they are not cheap and, more importantly (b) simply replacing them will not cure your "n starts remaining" predicament. They have to be mated to your specific vehicle using the MB Xentry system and something called a SCN Code, which your mechanic gets from the MB mother ship using a very expensive subscription service that very few shops other than your dealer have access to.

If it were possible to simply carry spares and pull into a random truck repair place when this happens, it wouldn't be so utterly pathetic. But you can't. Unless you have VERY special skills and access to exotic software, you are on your way to a dealer, which is often easier said than done. Oh, and if you DO find yourself in such a situation, don't bother calling the dealer for an appointment--the receptionist will tell you that you can have a slot in n weeks (where n>=2). Your only hope is to pull up to the repair bay, find the service manager and act desperate. A doe-eyed SO doesn't hurt, either. Fortunately, such tactics more often than not get you in within a day or two.

The biscotti is good, though.
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Old 09-13-2020, 09:26 PM   #11
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that sounds like an absolute nightmare... you've just gaslit my rv search idea
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Old 09-13-2020, 09:45 PM   #12
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Not all Mercedes dealers can service Sprinters. There is only one in Minneapolis/St. Paul metro (3.5 million people) that can. Fortunately, it is the one closest to home. Many don't have the lifts, the building height, the training, and the diagnostic equipment. The dealer I go to said it was a million dollar conversion inside an existing building. Before that, I was going to a new Rochester, MN Mercedes dealer 90 miles away since I could manage to schedule service to and from La Crosse, WI frequent visits to my son's house. Before that Dodge serviced my N1T; and their were less than satisfactory, IMO, Freightliner dealers but head great lazy-boy lounge chairs for over the road truckers. I have gotten absolutely superb service at Mercedes dealers in Scottsdale, AZ, Shreveport, LA and Littleton, CO while on the road.

I've had an electrical computer board and a power steering fluid hose disconnect problem in 15 years and 220,000 miles and three vans of ownership, both under warranty. I've had the typical RV dealer problems common to all Class Bs.

Sprinters seem to me better fit and finish and better looking in compatibility in looks to their family of luxury cars. Much better cab where you sit and drive all day, better safety features and just better overall looking but I do think they simplified the newer look VS30 Sprinters. The Promasters are just plain ugly to me as I liken them to a Hoover vacuum cleaner and Ford has never been known for design as the front ends look like a large mouth bass fish. That's my opinion and am sticking to it.

Ground clearance? Promasters sit too low to the ground with front wheel drive, IMO. Not good for rugged back roads and evidently not very good with under body tanks as I've never seen a Promaster match Sprinters in capacities. I'm not getting 4WD so let that one go but if you want it, then Sprinter is the one.

I haven't analyzed payloads or towing. The Sprinter is the longest of the vans and I have had three different lengths in 21', 22' and 24' with 158" and 170" wheel bases and will soon test the 20' length with the 144" WB.

The debits? The Sprinter side walls curve in more streamlined than the other two. Great for looks but for RV interior design a liability. The overall width is shorter and that limits interior design potential but better for parking. I'll never settle for side to side bed sleeping and disturbing the partner anyway. Gas vs. diesel? I'm not sure of gas capability in a Sprinter but when I ordered my next Sprinter last year it was a moot issue I will live with. Diesel pumps are mostly end bay pumps which I like but they do have filthy handles. On the highway there are few places that don't have diesel. It's the off the highway neighborhoods that you may have trouble. DEF is no problem as I am deft at dealing with it every 7-8,000 miles. I've instinctively adjusted to all the foibles over the years.
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Old 09-13-2020, 09:48 PM   #13
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How complicated and how costly are those NOX sensors to replace? I'm asking for a friend...
NOX sensors are covered to 100,000 miles and 5 years under warranty. If you keep your Sprinter that long I guess you could worry about it.
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Old 09-14-2020, 12:07 AM   #14
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Yup, beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder.
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Old 09-14-2020, 12:24 AM   #15
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NOX sensors are covered to 100,000 miles and 5 years under warranty. If you keep your Sprinter that long I guess you could worry about it.
That protects your pocketbook. Doesn't unspoil your family's vacation. though.
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Old 09-14-2020, 01:33 AM   #16
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My 2012 Sprinter/2013 Airstream Interstate has been one of the most reliable vehicles I've ever owned in over 50 years of driving. I did have to replace the DEF tank heater last year just past the 100,000 mile warranty. But that was no worse than replacing the catalytic converter and batteries on my 2001 Prius, the second most reliable vehicle I've owned.

I have my Sprinter serviced at a Freightliner dealer that sells and services Sprinters. Just had the Brake Wear Indicator come on at 127,000 mile so I'm due now for the first brake jobs on this van. I'm now on my third set of tires.

I've had more issues with the RV systems installed by Airstream - fortunately I was able to fix those myself.
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Old 09-14-2020, 01:49 PM   #17
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Are there sites or reviewers out there that you all think are reliable? Iím feeling better about Sprinter options, but I do like data...
So... do we have anything more than our own experiences? Any sites you guys rely on for good reliability info? Hereís the kind of info I find, but itís not terribly objective.


https://connecteam.com/8-most-recommended-cargo-vans/

https://www.caranddriver.com/reviews...mparison-test/

https://www.edmunds.com/ram/promaste...sumer-reviews/

https://www.edmunds.com/mercedes-ben...sumer-reviews/

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/fatal...-tom-robertson
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Old 09-14-2020, 02:23 PM   #18
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So... do we have anything more than our own experiences? Any sites you guys rely on for good reliability info? Hereís the kind of info I find, but itís not terribly objective.
There are no statistically-valid quantitative reliability data publicly available for commercial vans. And, you are right to be suspicious about individual anecdotes (good or bad). Even if the sources are 100% reliable, they are just single datapoints, and the luck of the draw determines which side of the MTBF curve any individual vehicle will fall. Always, there will be flawless vehicles and disasters. We really need population data across the fleet, and only the OEMs have that, and they aren't sharing.

About the best you can do is to follow the relevant marque-specific discussion groups and look for patterns. Obviously, there is a strong bias to only post when you have a problem, so these data are pretty useless as estimates of absolute reliability. However, what you CAN see is patterns of relative reliability of various failure modes. So, for example, if in the case of the Sprinter one sees vastly more complaints about emissions problems than, say, basic drivetrain issues, it is a reasonable conclusion that those failures are more prevalent and likely significant. Given that overall vehicle reliability is higher than it has ever been, such patterns tend to stand out pretty starkly. Not great data, but it is the best we can do.

As for the Sprinter in particular, I actually don't think that overall it is an unacceptably unreliable or expensive vehicle. It has a lot going for it, and IMO would be worth the hassles of less-than-stellar reliability. The fatal problem, rather, is not the number of failures, but the consequences of those failures for the RVer. The combination of the ham-handed design of the limp-modes and emissions "no-start" lockouts, combined with the relative scarcity of servicing dealers and the non-viability of third-party repair alternatives just makes the whole thing unacceptable to me. It is hard to appreciate just how bad one of these incidents can be until you have experienced one during a special trip. Those of you who have not had the pleasure should count your lucky stars.
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Old 09-14-2020, 02:40 PM   #19
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I think the whole idea of having a vehicle that can only be repaired at the dealer is extremely unappealing to me. We went through all this decades ago as computer controlled vehicles became the norm. The manufacturers would not release the code so aftermarket diagnostics could be designed and sold to independent dealers, and the factory stuff wasn't available to the independents. It took years of legal fighting to get that resolved, but it is obvious MB appears to be going around it to hold vehicles hostage to their dealers. I think the OBDII requirement came about because of the legal issues to get rid of total proprietary systems.



I can't say if other brands are doing similar stuff, but if they are I haven't heard of it to this point.
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Old 09-14-2020, 02:47 PM   #20
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I think the whole idea of having a vehicle that can only be repaired at the dealer is extremely unappealing to me. We went through all this decades ago as computer controlled vehicles became the norm. The manufacturers would not release the code so aftermarket diagnostics could be designed and sold to independent dealers, and the factory stuff wasn't available to the independents. It took years of legal fighting to get that resolved, but it is obvious MB appears to be going around it to hold vehicles hostage to their dealers. I think the OBDII requirement came about because of the legal issues to get rid of total proprietary systems.



I can't say if other brands are doing similar stuff, but if they are I haven't heard of it to this point.

It is my understanding that any manufacturer can add proprietary stuff and a 10,000 'scan gage' can see stuff I can't followed by the manufacturer of my Accord passenger car that only Honda can see.
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