Jesse Ransom
Jesse Ransom UltimaDork
1/21/23 7:42 p.m.

In particular, how they age, what goes wrong, and how much worse they are to fix than an Econoline/E-Series/whatever Bronze Age domestic truck/van we've all been living with lo these many years. Differences between first and second gen? I mean, third is appropriate to the thread but beyond my budget, and it seems likely that first gen is all that's appropriately depreciated. I think the 2500 is probably needed to get GRM-level towing capability?

I found a 2005 Dodge Sprinter 2500 on CL the other day, with 205k miles for $11k. I found myself simultaneously thinking:

  1. That's probably about as "cheap" as I can hope to find a reasonably straight-looking, not truly-astronomical-miles Sprinter.
  2. That's got to be an easy 50% more money than a similar age/condition E-series, no?

But... Better mileage, easier use in terms of loading motorcycles, I expect drives better generally, maybe less miserable to use as Household Vehicle B?

On the one hand it's not van shopping time yet, and on the other, I already wonder how I'm going to load the wee Ninja into the F-250 solo and find myself looking at small winches with remotes. That few inches taller that the bed of a pickup is over a van is nontrivial.

TJL (Forum Supporter)
TJL (Forum Supporter) Dork
1/21/23 8:01 p.m.

I put about 100k on a new 2008 i think it was? It was a hateful thing. Maybe the most uncomfortable seat ive ever experienced.  It was speed limited to 82mph which made it nearly impossible to drive on i-95 and not have everyone hate you. it had the mercedes diesel. 3.0 maybe? It had regular issues with the turbo which left me with zero boost at the most unfortunate of times. It took involving the leasing company that my then employer used before dodge/mercedes actually fixed the thing. Prior to that they would just say "no prob found, no codes, nothing, go f yourself". It was a known issue. They cleared the computer and sent me on my way every time. Then maybe the same day or weeks later, back to no boost.   There was more that ive probably blocked out. After that oversized hunk of crap, i had a ford transit connect which was SO MUCH BETTER!  Indescribably improved driving experience with the boxy gocart transit connect.  


mr2s2000elise UberDork
1/21/23 9:58 p.m.

Unless you spend your day eating $17 avacado toast and want to spend your time making your mechanic rich and constant breakdowns - stay away

I am actively van shopping and 5k E are not here anymore. Havent been for a while. 


I am down to NV3500 vs Express 3500 for a usable reliable platform.  

ae86andkp61 (Forum Supporter)
ae86andkp61 (Forum Supporter) Dork
1/21/23 9:59 p.m.

I can't answer all your questions, but do have some to contribute. I work around vans and van people, and while I don't own one currently, I've driven quite a few, and also heard lots of feedback and opinions about them. You are spot on with regards to the ease of loading/carrying motorcycles compared to a pickup!

The stock Sprinter seats aren't very comfortable. I know because my day job is selling aftermarket car and van seats, and Sprinters are our biggest market. Transit, Promaster, Econoline, and Express are also frequent customers, but not on the Sprinter level. Customers who have owned multiple vans usually hold the opinion that Sprinters are the cream of the crop, but are a bit more expensive to buy and maintain than the other offerings.

Econolines seem to have a wide range of used prices. Probably has to do with the fact that so many were built over so many years. I feel like I've seen ads for similar age/mileage Econoline cargo vans (no interior) for $5K-$7K asking. I've also seen loaded low-mileage Quigley 4x4 Econoline conversions for $60K asking!

Fuel economy should be quite a bit better with the Sprinter than the E-Series. Parts should be cheaper with the Econoline. The Ford is a very early-90's design, which is an update to a mid-70's design! The T1N Sprinter is an early 90's design, which has many benefits IMO, but some folks prefer the domestic stuff. Sprinter repairs can get expensive, but I'm not sure it is fair to say that every single used Sprinter always require expensive repairs. YMMV.

The Transit Connect isn't really comparable. It is based on a FWD Ford car platform, and a high roof XL will haul motorcycles, but the lower short ones have to be very tight for bike hauling. They are quite a bit smaller than most other vans. Towing capacity on a Transit Connect XL should be 2000 pounds. Towing capacity on the T1N 2500 you are looking at is 5000 pounds if I'm not mistaken.

If you're used to performance cars and bikes, vans will be glacially slow. laugh In Oregon traffic, I haven't found the Sprinter to be unsafe or terrible as long as you've got your head screwed on straight and remember what you're driving. 70ish mph Interstate driving with an occasional sprint up to 80 works around these parts. If you live somewhere where traffic gets mad at someone doing 80, I'm not sure what van would be suitable!

Jesse Ransom
Jesse Ransom UltimaDork
1/23/23 5:40 p.m.

In reply to ae86andkp61 (Forum Supporter) :

Yeah, I'm also grateful that 80 isn't impeding traffic around here; between trucks, vans, and my propensity to like small and old cars, 85+ cruise would be a tall order...

Glad you corrected me on the towing capacity; I think I picked up the notion that a 2500 could tow 7000 (or 7500?), but on double-checking it looks like that wasn't just getting generations mixed up but just flat wrong. I'm not sure how often I need to tow more than 5000lb, but I'm kind of accustomed to having a truck that while it doesn't tow like a modern truck is capable of moving pretty much anything on an occasional basis. Seems like it wouldn't be hard to wind up with a rental trailer/car combo that overshot 5k. But maybe that's rare enough not to worry about? I just hate the notion of having a truck and ever having it be insufficient.

Given that we didn't get the Transit in the US 'til 2015, and the Promaster is sort of... funny, and also didn't arrive 'til relatively recently, the Sprinter is the only "modern" van that's available old enough to be a relatively cheap household/motos/tow/maybe-camping thing. And while I like the notion of a lot of things being more modern, the thing that I want the most is a high-roof option, specifically with tall doors. I want to be able to hunch less (or not at all) inside, but it's really a bigger deal not to be trying to push a motorcycle up a ramp and do limbo at the same time.

Trying to find an Econoline-based thing that isn't guaranteed to dent my skull while loading and doesn't look like it started life as a U-Haul is hard. My wife is incredibly understanding and supportive of my miscellaneous pursuits, but a big chunk of the reason we have the F-250 is that the windowless Dodge cargo van was looking increasingly sketchy as the paint started peeling, and she didn't want that to be our curbside neighborhood representative. She's expressed dubiousness that anything that started life as a box truck will ever look like anything else.

Daraku New Reader
2/3/24 1:44 p.m.

People go for them because they're the cheapest high-roof vans on the market and can sell under $5000 if you look hard enough. The 25 highway mpg is also a bonus.

I own a 2006 Sprinter and the parts aren't that expensive compared to other diesels. I've driven from NY to Key West and back, never broke down. The van is super easy to work on and an authorized mechanic is not required if you have basic mechanical skills.

Jesse Ransom
Jesse Ransom MegaDork
2/5/24 11:53 a.m.

I haven't done anything since starting this thread, but I suppose it's getting closer.

I feel like I'm seeing a bit more in terms of all the "modern" vans with enough depreciation to be viable. And/or I've been raising my sights for how decent a van I want and finding that E-series that nice aren't as much cheaper as I'd like.

Mercifully it's not something I'm likely to depend on for daily use, so while I don't love the idea of getting surprised with big repairs, reliability isn't as critical as for something that has to get to work every day, and I can play in the hopefully sane trade-off area of buying something cheaper and accepting that it's more likely to hand me a bill for a turbo or a transmission next year and just go in braced for that.

The mileage as compared to older vans is pretty compelling, and having driven the neighbor's Promaster 2500 briefly, the ride is pretty remarkable (when compared to a 26 year old 3/4 ton pickup).

I do wish the modern vans' towing capacity were better, just to have plenty of room for randomness; makes me lean toward the diesel Transits and -oddly- any Promaster, but the diesel Transit comes at a premium and with a side order of extra scarcity. Bummer the Sprinters seem to cap out at 5000 lbs towing unless you're looking at a 3500.

orthoxstice Reader
2/22/24 7:38 a.m.

I've probably spent a cumulative two years of my life behind the wheel of various T1N Sprinters. Easily 100k miles total. My thoughts:

- '02-'03 have a different intake, turbo, and some other stuff. They also sometimes have 15" wheels. The intake design makes doing glow plugs a challenge. I always felt these seemed a little faster off the line than the '04-'06's 

- turbo resonators, boost hoses, injector seals, glow plug controllers, transmission wiring harnesses, EGR. Learn to DIY all this stuff. Buy the injector seal toolkit. 

- Side door latch and alignment always gets screwed up. It's a dumb design and is a pain to make adjustments on. 
- Rust. The underside will stay solid forever but massive fist sized holes through the center of doors or other random places are common. 
- Rear door latch assembly function is dependent on an intact plastic trim piece otherwise doors will rattle incessantly. Interior material quality is poor. 

All in all I think they're great vans. They get 23 mpg all day whether empty or stuffed with 3k pounds of people and gear. They have an exceptional turning radius. When they break down every shop will tell you they don't want to work on them and to get lost, so you really need to get proficient with fixing all the quirks. 

trigun7469 UltraDork
2/22/24 8:53 a.m.

I am always looking for Sprinter vans, so this information is very helpful to me. I think they are cool and got to drive my brother laws work one once on the highway and thought it drove nice, however his was limited to 65MPH, which sucked and wouldn't work for me on the 70MPH highways I travel to the track. I drove my father in laws work 90's E-series rusted out passenger van, it drove like a bus. Both to me have more of a Bus feel, especially when you are driving on track and then jump into your tow vehicle and have bus brakes.  The towing capacity of a Sprinter is poor compared to the E-Series, however the MPG is superior.  In my neck of the woods both are complete rust buckets. A E-series is probably something I wouldn't mind driving on the street to run errands or drop the kids off, but I feel like the Sprinter is a one off vehicle, because oh how tall it is. Now that I just kart race, I will likely just buy a bigger trailer and use a SUV.

03Panther PowerDork
2/28/24 12:43 a.m.

In reply to ae86andkp61 (Forum Supporter) :

I've driven on 95 from Maine to homestead FL, and all parts between. No way to say it nice, but he's full of it. There are parts that have angry azz hats, but 85 mpg won't last long there; there will be a back up in just a few miles surprise

Anyone that wants to get mad cause I ain't doing 25 over the limit, is more of a traffic problem, than any slow vehicle ever made. 
Only drove one 02 sprinter, from MN to VA coastline. Seat was a van seat. No better no worse than other work vans I've driven. 

wae PowerDork
2/28/24 7:10 a.m.

The only upside to a Sprinter with the Bluetec is that if you can find one that hasn't had a lot of miles put on it since having the AEM done, the extended warranty that was part of the settlement isn't terrible.

buzzboy UltraDork
2/28/24 11:48 a.m.

Friend of mine built out a T1N two years ago. He laboriously read up on all the different high roof van options and chose the MB.

Two years later his only complaint is the transmission. Horrendous shudder under certain throttle and load. Apparantly a very common problem with a few bandaids and no real solution.

gearheadE30 Dork
3/4/24 11:29 a.m.

In reply to buzzboy :

The first time I experienced that  T1N transmission shudder I thought the trans had picked that moment to fail catastrophically. It's so much worse than how it was described to me.

Fuel mileage is great, and they do make decent bike haulers, but they are narrower inside than I expected which is a pain sometimes.

For much less than the price of a built out sprinter, I now have the Suburban along with a toy hauler camper, a small enclosed trailer, and a hitch hauler so I've got something that works for whatever I'm doing. Obviously this only works if you have space to park trailers. I would not daily drive a Sprinter, but the Suburban is just fine for that role aside from the gas mileage.

I also keep a tow strap in the truck so I can yank my friends' Sprinters out at muddy races. laugh

Kreb (Forum Supporter)
Kreb (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
3/4/24 11:34 a.m.
gearheadE30 said:

I also keep a tow strap in the truck so I can yank my friends' Sprinters out at muddy races. laugh

I wonder how we got through the "pre-awd" era. Offroading, skiing, parking in muddy fields at motorcycle races.... All in a 1963 Chevy pickup or a 1965 Volvo 544. 

gearheadE30 Dork
3/5/24 12:08 p.m.

In reply to Kreb (Forum Supporter) :

I got through it by routinely being pulled out by friends with trucks, tractors, dozers, etc. 

I've only had 4wd for 2 years at this point. Necessary? No, but sometimes it sure is nice. 

Ian F (Forum Supporter)
Ian F (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
3/5/24 12:21 p.m.

I'm not sure where some of you folks are driving, but I have driven up and down the East Coast quite a bit and rarely is 75 MPH slower than the average cruising speed of traffic.  Even when I drove down to southern TX via St Louis last year, a good portion of the time I was the fastest vehicle on the hwy and I was rarely more than 10 MPH over the posted limit.  In almost 4000 miles of driving during that trip, I might have gone over 80 MPH once and I was never holding up traffic or getting passed like I was sitting still.  

If I could buy a new Sprinter I would consider one.  Used one?  Unless it came with meticulous maintenance records, NFW.  I have zero confidence in most Americans to properly maintain a German diesel with a turbo. 

MiniDave HalfDork
3/5/24 1:34 p.m.

I also heard that the paint and rust on the Dodge versions of the Sprinter were both just awful......A friend has a Merc Sprinter conversion van and has done a LOT of miles in it with no issues......he tows a Moke on a  trailer behind his, says it's easy peasy.....

MiniDave HalfDork
3/6/24 10:56 a.m.

No idea, he bought it brandy new, I  think 2 years ago.....

03Panther PowerDork
3/6/24 12:00 p.m.

In reply to Ian F (Forum Supporter) :

I might have gone over 80 MPH once and I was never holding up traffic or getting passed like I was sitting still.

with a former dmv record that looked like a phone book, i tend to stay pretty close to the speed limits on my travels. 
I've been passed like I was standing still, and occasionally held up traffic. In either case, if it bothered anyone, They were the ones in the wrong!!!

If we drive responsibly, the others will do whatever they want, and think whatever they like. 

A 401 CJ
A 401 CJ UltraDork
4/2/24 8:29 p.m.
Kreb (Forum Supporter) said:
gearheadE30 said:

I also keep a tow strap in the truck so I can yank my friends' Sprinters out at muddy races. laugh

I wonder how we got through the "pre-awd" era. Offroading, skiing, parking in muddy fields at motorcycle races.... All in a 1963 Chevy pickup or a 1965 Volvo 544. 

And even farmers and loggers drove 4x2 pickups that they sometimes chained up.

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