I get asked this question about 10 times each month…and the answer is – There Is No Correct Answer!
In the past four years, I have helped over 200 clients, get the Sprinter van that works best for their conversion. Although there may be some options that I strongly suggest, the size of the van is really dependent upon how you plan to use your Sprinter van. So let’s talk about the right size Sprinter Van.
144 in wheelbase is absolutely the easiest Sprinter van to drive, especially if you drive in city streets. At 19 1/2 feet long bumper to bumper this Sprinter van is about a foot longer than a full size Suburban, and a few inches shorter than a Ford Super Cab pickup truck. And with its 47.6 foot turning diameter, it can turn a circle in tight spaces. The only thing you have to watch out for, is the exterior height.
The standard roof van is 8 feet tall. Add to this about 9 inches for the factory roof air conditioning or any aftermarket roof top A/C, so you are OK to go through the drive thru’s that are 8’10” or more. This gives you about 65 inches of interior stand up room which is still higher than most other vans of any type. Go with the high roof, add another foot to the outside height, and that much more inside. So with a factory or aftermarket roof A/C on the high roof van, if the drive thru is less than 9’10”, do not attempt to drive through it.
The inside floor space on the 144″ wb is 10 1/2 feet from the back of the drivers seat to the back doors. On the 2500 with single rear wheels (I will cover dual wheels in a little while) you have 53 inches of floor space between the wheel wells, and it is 70 inches from wall to wall at the floor level. As the side walls do start to taper up from about halfway up the sides, the side to side gets a little less near the top of the van.
It’s pretty amazing how much you can put inside the short wheelbase van, whether you are doing a custom passenger van or a full Class “B” RV. But if you need more room, then we go to the 2500 170″ wheelbase van. This van is 22 feet 10 inches long bumper to bumper, and now you have 14 feet of interior cargo length.
All 170″ wb vans are the high roof type, so you have 6’4″ of interior stand up height, more room than most full size RV’s have. One advantage of using this size van, the longer wheelbase will generally give you a better ride. But if this is not enough room inside, we can use a 170″ wb with the Extended body, which will give you 15 1/2 feet of cargo floor length. When you open the side sliding door and look to the back of the van, you will be amazed at how much room there is.
The 170 Extended van is what most of the companies like Airstream or Pleasure Way use in their B class RV conversions. This van is 24 feet long bumper to bumper, so it is longer than a normal parking spot, therefor when you are looking for a spot to park, think about using big parking lots with lots of room.
Up to now I have been referring to our 2500 models, which are single rear wheel vans. These will have a cargo carrying capacity of 2800 to 3000 lbs. Usually plenty enough for most conversions, but if you are building a full RV with water holding tanks or generators you might need to use the 3500 chassis.
The 3500 models are all dual rear wheels and can carry a payload up to 5000 lbs. You can get the same length vans in the 3500 that we have in a 2500. Short wheelbase, 170 wheelbase or Extended. The disadvantage of the 3500, you lose some interior floor space as the distance between the wheel wells drops to 38 inches. Generally you will find the ride a little firmer, translate rougher, on the 3500 because the stiffer springs and heavier duty tires. But once you get a completed RV conversion in a 3500, the weight you added really smooth’s out the ride.
Now I will have customers who tell me they want the 3500 because it will handle better on the road. I’m not so convinced that this is the case. All Sprinter vans come with our ESP Stability control system that makes sure you are in control of your van in case you need to make an emergency maneuver. One thing that I do think is important for the handling of any Sprinter van is to get the Heavy Duty Stabilizer bar option, which I will get in to next.
This is page one of my dissertation of “What Sprinter Van is the BEST for a Conversion”. Part two will added tomorrow, where we go through options and packages for the Sprinter van.