Why the Ford Transit Is BEST for Camper Van Conversions

Before buying our Ford Transit, we did a lot of comparison research with the Sprinter and Promaster vans. And though every vehicle has pros and cons, we believed the Transit provided the best overall vehicle for our van conversion.

In this post, we discuss the different categories important to our van life and discuss why the Ford Transit van wins out on most of these categories. We awarded points based on how each van performs in each category to determine the winner. The winner is the van with the MOST points.

‘Scientific’ Proof? We award points to each van to determine a winner based on each category. This system is very much unscientific, possibly arbitrary, and likely biased. But you can use this post to help you decide which van is best for you.

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The Competition

When evaluating why we think the Ford Transit is the best commercial van for van conversions, we’ll look at the different aspects from the viewpoint of the following four standard camper van vehicles.

Ford Transit

Ford Transit Van

Mercedes Sprinter

Mercedes Sprinter Van

Ram Promaster

RAM Promaster Van

Older Models

1. Largest Interior Height for Van Conversions

Internal height was one of the most important factors for us when we were choosing our van. This was critical for the following reasons:

Camper van with back doors open and man cooking inside
Cooking lunch inside our van

1. Reduce Claustrophobia – Maximizing internal living space is essential, but having more clearance above our heads is the most critical to reducing claustrophobic feelings, which makes long-term van life more viable.

2. Larger Upper Cabinets – A higher ceiling means you can build larger upper cabinets, which helps increase overall storage.

3. Loss Of Height During Build Out – In reality, the internal height of the van will not be the actual internal height of your finished camper van. That’s because your insulation, ceiling, and flooring materials will all take up space and reduce the overall height.

Ford Transit vans have the tallest internal height of the three major commercial van brands. Below are their internal height specs:

  • 1st: Ford Transit (77″) – 10 pts
  • 2nd: Sprinters (75″) – 8 pts
  • 3rd: Ram Promaster (74″) – 7 pts
  • 4th: Older Models (None) – 1 pt

Sportsmobile has a great resource page for more detailed dimensions of each van.

2. Ford Transits Are Great Value!

From the start, we knew we wanted a brand new van, and we felt that the price point for a new Ford Transit provided much better value than its competitors.

2018 Ford Transit window sticker
Our Ford Transit’s window sticker

A comparable Mercedes Sprinter would have cost  $7,000 to $10,000 more than our Ford Transit van. We could easily use those savings for better building materials when converting our van,

And compared to a Ram Promaster, we paid only about $2,000-$3,000 more for a van with a better build, engine, and ground clearance.

For our new 2018 Transit, we paid $36,729,92 at the dealership. To learn more, check out our Ford Transit price breakdown post.

We award points below based not on the overall price but on the value you get for the money you pay.

  • 1st: Ford Transit – 4 pts
  • 2nd: Mercedes Sprinter – 3 pts
  • 3rd: Ram Promaster – 2 pts
  • 4th: Older Models – 1 pt

Interested To Buy A New Transit From A Dealership? We did a ton of research beforehand and learned a lot of dealership negotiation best practices along the way. Read more about it below.

Read: How To Negotiate With A Dealership To Purchase Your Van

3. Ford Transits Have Cheaper Repair Bills

One of the significant disadvantages of the Mercedes Sprinter is its expensive repair bills, should anything break or malfunction. And one of the biggest reasons for the large repair bills is the Sprinter’s diesel engine.

Replacing brake pads on a Ford Transit camper van at an auto shop in Mexico
Replacing our brakes at a generic mechanic in Mexico

With all the diesel engine’s state-of-the-art digital sensors, pollution filters, & controls, only an authorized Sprinter repair shop will likely be able to fix the van should anything go wrong. Diesel parts may also need to be shipped in, only adding to the wait time and cost.

Talk to anyone. Sprinter repairs are notorious for being expensive.

We chose to skip all that hassle and cost by choosing the Ford Transit and its gasoline engine. Should anything go wrong, we can take our van to most repair shops instead of trying to find authorized mechanics.

  • 1st: Older Models: $ – 6 pts
  • 2nd: Ford Transit: $$ – 3 pts
  • 3rd: Ram Promaster: $$ – 3 pts
  • 4th: Mercedes Sprinter: $$$$ – 1 pt

4. Ford Transit Vans Have Rear Wheel Drive

Our Ford Transit camper van parked in La Cienega De Gonzalez, Mexico
Our Ford Transit van parked on loose & rocky terrain In Mexico

Our Transit’s rear-wheel drive packs quite a punch. And we’ve successfully driven our van through many different types of challenging terrain.

A rear-wheel drive van is critical because most of the weight on a camper van sits on the rear wheels, so these wheels have the most friction with the ground. This friction creates a firm grip on the road and keeps your van moving forward.

Our Transit has successfully navigated off-road terrain that we don’t think a 4×4 is necessary for most van life travelers.

You might think rear-wheel drive should be on every commercial van, but the Ram Promaster is a front-wheel drive vehicle.

We’ve already witnessed two Promaster vans burn quite a bit of tire rubber to escape tricky situations.

AWD Option: As of 2021, Ford Transits come with an AWD option. It’s a higher price tag but worth the cost for many off-road enthusiasts.

  • 1st: Ford Transit – 4 pts
  • 1st: Mercedes Sprinter – 4 pts
  • 1st: Older Models – 4 pts
  • 4th: Ram Promaster – 1 pt

5. Powerful EcoBoost Engines

The Ford Transit may not have the power of a V8 engine of an older work van or the Sprinter’s diesel engine. Still, by upgrading to Ford’s Ecoboost engine, which combines a turbocharger with direct fuel injection, we feel the power differences between our Ford Transit gas engine and the Sprinter’s diesel are minimal.

Plus, the Transit engine doesn’t come with the same expensive repair bill that a Sprinter engine would see.

We’ve driven through some steep and bumpy terrain on National Forest land in the US and throughout Mexico without any problems. Zero.

The Ford Transit EcoBoost Engine is a champ.

Which Vans Have The Best Engine

  • First: Older Vans (V8 Baby!) – 4 pts
  • Second: Sprinters (Turbo Diesel V6) – 3 pts
  • Second: Transits (Turbo Gas V6) – 2 pts
  • Forth: Promasters (Standard V6) – 1 pt

6. Ford Transit Ground Clearance Is Sufficient

A vehicle’s ground clearance is essential if you’re considering going off-road. Too low of a ground clearance, and a vehicle’s under-body can get bumped and scraped.

The Transit’s clearance is nothing to gloat about. Depending on where you measure, our ground clearance is:

  • Minimum Front bumper clearance: 9.5″
  • Rear Differential: 6.5″
  • Exhaust Pipe: 9.5″
  • Shocks: 5.5″
  • Rear Bumper: 15″

But so far, the Transit camper van’s overall clearance hasn’t been an issue for us yet. We’ve driven over some pretty gnarly terrain without any problems. The most critical key is placing your tires in the places when you’re off-road.

Increasing Your Ground Clearance: SumoSprings (read our review here), larger tires, and a lift kit are the best ways to improve your camper van’s ground clearance.

With the highest ground clearance of the bunch, this is where the Sprinter finally comes out on top!

  • 1st: Mercedes Sprinter – 4 pts
  • 2nd: Older Models – 3 pts
  • 3rd: Ford Transit – 2 pts
  • 4th: Ram Promaster – 1 pt

7. Transits Are More Incognito Than Sprinters

The Best Van For Van Life - Commercial Vans

While we don’t believe we are fooling many would-be thieves into thinking we are a standard commercial van, we also don’t believe we’re an attention magnet, unlike a Sprinter van with its flashy Mercedes logo.

Ironically, we think building a 100% stealth camper van is a terrible idea, but we do enjoy flying under the radar with our Ford Transit.

However, stealth living isn’t the Transit’s strong suit. We think the older models (duh) win the stealth battle and the Promaster’s lower height profile.

  • 1st: Older Models – 4 pts
  • 2nd: Ram Promaster – 3 pts
  • 3rd: Ford Transit – 2 pts
  • 4th: Mercedes Sprinter – 1 pt

Tallying Up the Totals: Ford Transit Camper Vans Win!

We get our final rankings by adding up all the points from the above seven categories.

  • 1st: Ford Transit – 27 pts
  • 2nd: Mercedes Sprinter – 24 pts
  • 3rd: Older Models – 23 pts
  • 4th: Ram Promaster – 18 pts

And so you see why we chose a Ford Transit for our camper van conversion. If you agree, disagree, or even feel we missed a category, please let us know in the comments below.

Happy traveling!

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