Choosing the right camper van for you is the very first and most exciting step towards your vanlife journey.
Before you start your research, be sure to know what your needs are so you can save time and energy in the process. Do you want to ride in a new or pre-owned van? What kind of space are you looking for? What’s your budget for the base model van? How many seats or beds do you need? By doing so, you will be able to narrow it down to the van that suits you best. If you decide a Sprinter Van is the way to go, here is our ultimate guide to help while choosing your perfect Sprinter.
Choose your base: Cargo vs. Crew
The Cargo Van is the most affordable and popular model. It is essentially a blank canvas with limitless opportunities for customization. With up to 15.1 m3 of cargo space, you can take advantage of more room when planning out your own conversion. Mercedes-Benz offers a variety of approved upfitters that spans across the country. If you decide to go this route when choosing your Sprinter, a dedicated specialist can help you find quality installations and finishes.
The Crew variant has more built-in features such as additional bench seating that may be better suited for family weekend adventures, or road trips where you’d like to invite more than one person. With large standard side windows, you and your loved ones can enjoy a drive with expansive views wherever your adventure takes you.
Choose your length: 144” vs. 170” wheelbase
The Sprinter Van comes in a variety of different lengths: 144”, 170”, and 170” extended wheelbase.
When you ask François Laforest, Sales and Marketing Advisor for Safari Condo, the 170” wheelbase is his model of choice, without a doubt. “For me, the 22-foot [170” wheelbase] is just natural because I want as much storage as possible.” It’s also important for him to have as many amenities as possible directly in the van: “I want to have a shower and a toilet inside my van because I don’t have time to run to gyms, truck stops, or yoga centers to take a shower and I want to be as independent as possible on the road.”
When choosing your Sprinter, it all depends on the layout you’re designing for your van build. If you’re planning to live full-time on the road or want the maximum floor and storage space possible, the 170” wheelbase, regular or extended, might be the right choice. You’ll have all the space you need for your kitchen, bed, bathroom, desk, storage, or gear – you name it! Parking the 170” wheelbase is a breeze as it fits in most regular parking spaces and comes with advanced safety features like a 360∞ Camera for full visibility.
If you aim for a more budget-friendly solution, the 144” wheelbase can be a better option for you. Even though there is less cargo space, you will have plenty of room to install all the basic necessities you need on the road. After driving many different van models and four different Sprinters, Jean-François Coulombe-Vigneau, Road Technician at Energir, has found that the smaller model has everything he needs to be comfortable on the road. For him, the mobility and flexibility he gets from driving the 144” wheelbase model surpass the need for extra storage and living space.
Choose your roof height: Standard vs. High
The main question you want to ask yourself is: Do you want to stand up in your van or not? Our years of experience on the road have taught us that being able to move easily in our Sprinter Van is a big part of our everyday comfort, so having the High Roof is essential.
The reason we would suggest buying a Standard Roof Sprinter is: if you’re planning on sleeping in big cities often, the lower roof helps a lot in tight and stealth camping situations. Be sure to get the cargo body because the Crew Van doesn’t come in Standard Roof height. However, in any other context, the High Roof is an all-time favourite.
Choose your drivetrain: 4×2 vs. 4×4
We get this question quite a lot when choosing a Sprinter van; is the 4×4 Sprinter essential, or a total-must have? The true answer is no. But is it adventurous and fun? Yes!
As Jean-François mentions, “With some weight in your van and good tires, the vast majority of Sprinter owners will be totally fine with the 4×2 model.” As long as you drive safe and stay on well-maintained roads, you won’t have any problem while travelling in your van. But if you want to go off the beaten path and go down every dirt road you find, you might want to consider the 4×4 option.
“It all depends on your taste for adventure”, says Jean-François. Off-road outdoor enthusiasts, touring skiers and snowboarders, and daredevil surfers are all perfect examples of vanlifers who should invest in the 4×4 drivetrain. It leaves you with the freedom to go further on every road you take and find the best hidden spots to park your van for the night. With features like Downhill Speed Regulation and 4ETS (Electronic Traction System), you’ll feel a greater sense of safety when you leave the road.
The 4×4 also gives you safer driving in the snow as the weight of the vehicle is distributed on all four wheels. You can feel how the 4×4 drivetrain grips to the road more than the 4×2. So, if you’re like François and love to know that you can go pretty much wherever, whenever, without hesitation, the 4×4 is made for you. “I now have this option on my van, and I wouldn’t live without it.”
In the end, choosing your dream Sprinter depends on the adventures you plan to embark on. A longer van gives you more storage, but a shorter van is easier to drive on any given road. The 4×2 is less expensive, but the 4×4 gives you the freedom to explore off-road. The best advice we could give is to try and rent different converted Sprinters to get a good feel before buying your own. With the many models available, we’re sure you’ll find the one for you. Whatever your needs, style and type of adventure are, the Sprinter offers quality, safety and performance that are perfect for the vanlife.
Our years of experience on the road in a Sprinter have left us with a strong impression that we want to share with you. Adventure is in this van’s DNA. As you set out on your own exciting expeditions, it will provide you with some of the best off-the-grid living you could dream of. As the cold weather starts to let up and we head into warmer months, we hope to see you out there in your Sprinter adventure van!
Are we going to see you on the road anytime soon? Get started by building out your dream van and following #MBVansAmbassador to get more vanlife inspiration from Go-Van and Mercedes-Benz Vans Canada. https://www.mercedes-benz-vans.ca/en/home.