Count Down To Cargo Van Purchase

ford transits

In recent weeks, I evaluated four out of five cargo van candidates for my RV conversion project. I reviewed the 2015 Ford Transit, Ram ProMaster, MB Sprinter and the Nissan NV. I left out the Chevy Express, mainly because it is quite dated and doesn’t fulfill my minimum requirements.

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I quickly came to the conclusion, that I needed a lot more volume than the Nissan NV was offering. The Mercedes Benz Sprinter was a bit more complicated. It is certainly the best finished van available, right now, and it has all the features to make it a wonderful van conversion. Yet it has one major drawback: the curvature of the side walls causes the interior width, at shoulder height, to be substantially (approx. 7 inches) narrower than the other vans. Another, more personal, downside to the Sprinter van is that it comes equipped only with diesel engines. While longevity of this type of engine is a big plus, the higher cost of repairs and maintenance, the limited number of Sprinter dealers (repair shops) nationwide and the additional purchase price will keep this cargo van off my preferred list.

That leaves the Transit and ProMaster on my current buying list. There are many smaller differences between these two models, but some of the more noteworthy are as follows:

Ram ProMaster Ford Transit Ram ProMaster
Base Price $ 31,515 $ 32,240 $ 33,105
Roof high medium high
Interior Height 76” 70” * 76”
Payload Area Length 123” 134” 146”
* Barely sufficient standing height for an average person.

Every additional foot of length adds another $1,000 to the purchase price, which makes it comparably the same base price. With my current Dodge B-250 having a 116” payload area length, both ProMaster and Transit are substantially longer.

The interior height of the medium roof Transit is a serious point of concern to me; the finished interior height will be less than 70 inches, barely sufficient for the average person to stand upright. Changing it to a high roof will add another $5,000 and make it impossible to park in my deed restricted community.
On the positive side, Ford’s options include factory installed and warranted all-around privacy windows, avoiding any after-market changes to the exterior.
In general, I like the design and finish of the Transit over the ProMaster by far, but still would like to have a last quick look, to check the latter for how much the extended height impacts my usability concerns and to make a final decision on the desired length.

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Cost Comparison

A realistic cost comparison between the Ram ProMaster and the Ford Transit is only possible when based on a set of individual selected options and therefore will vary based on your own choices.

The following list compares two similar models together with my set of options. I highlighted the major differences.

Ram ProMaster Ford Transit
Model 2500 250
GVWR 8900 9000
Engine 3.6L VVT V6 3.7L Ti-VCT V6
Axle standard 3.73 Limited Slip
Wheelbase 136” 148”
Roof High Medium
Interior Height 76” 70”
Payload Area Length 123” 134”
Windows no All-Around with 2nd Row Driver and Passenger-Side Flip-Open Glass
Privacy Glass no yes
Rear-Window Defogger no yes
Mirrors standard Power Heated w/Turn Signals
Exterior Chrome Headlamp Trim
Chrome Grille Chrome Grille and Grille Surround
Full Wheel Covers Full Wheel Covers
Fog Lamps
Trailer Tow Trailer Wiring Provisions Trailer Wiring Provisions
4-Pin/7-Pin Connector 4-Pin/7-Pin Connector
Electric Brake Controller Tap-In Capability
Relay system for backup/B+/running lights
Class V Receiver Hitch Frame mounted hitch receiver
Tow/Haul Mode
Trailer Brake Controller no yes
Alternator 220Ah 230Ah
Cruise Control yes yes
Seats Cloth Pewter Cloth
Radio AM/FM/MP3 AM/FM Stereo
Handling Brake Assist, Stability Control, Traction Control, Roll Mitigation AdvanceTrac® w/Roll Stability Control
Standard Features
Air Conditioning yes yes
Inside Rearview Mirror yes
12V Powerpoint 1 2
USB Port 1 no
Auxiliary Fuel Port no yes
Sliding Passenger-Side Cargo-Door yes yes
Spare Tire and Wheel yes yes
Color Granite Metallic Lunar Sky
Base Price $31,520 $33,515
Total of Options $1,160 $3,140
Destination Charges $995 $1,195
Advertising Fees
Cash Incentives -$1,000 -$1,500
Net Price $32,675 $36,350
The longer wheelbase and the difference in length of the payload area (123”/134”) accounts for approx. a $1,000 price variation.
Longer payload area $1,000
3.73 Limited Slip $325
All-Around with 2nd Row Driver and Passenger-Side Flip-Open Glass $460
Privacy Glass $675
Power Heated w/Turn Signals $155
Trailer Brake Controller $230
Additional Options $2,845
Ford Transit $36,350
Ram ProMaster $32,675
subtotal $3,675
Additional Options -$2,845
Overall Price Difference $830

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For the roughly $830 extra on the Ford Transit you’ll get a much better appointed vehicle, yet some unresolved issues remain: the low ceiling of the Transit, FWD versus RWD, lower payload floor in the Ram and no need for after-market window installation with the Ford.
Additionally, when ordering from the factory, you have to realize that, incentives are applied at time of delivery and thus may have changed or disappeared entirely by that time.

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7 comments

    1. It shouldn’t be a deal breaker. It takes some time for them to show up in the after-market supply stores.
      It would be nice if they came as a factory option. Chrysler offers them on the ProMaster, however only both driver-and passenger side together for close to $1.000.
      You have been able to order them from Europe, but these are specifically made for the European version of the van, but you should be able to modify them. Here in the US, Discount Van Truck carries the passenger-side swivel and I think that Sportsmobile will be offering them soon.

      Van Williams

  1. Couldn’t be happier with our Ford Transit. The EcoBost in incredible. Tons of power at low RPM and an average of 19+mpg. Great clearance for rough roads, tons of payload and tows great. Adding a swivel from Discount Van for $199 is no big deal. Really happy with it so far.

  2. Thanks for a great review on the vans. This is a tough selection to make. I finally decided on the 2500 RAM Promaster (139 inch WB) after having such a hassle with dealerships trying to buy the Ford Transit. I recommend both vans, the Ford a bit more car-like than the Promaster. But…love the Promaster front wheel wheel drive. A great fun driving vehicle with extra height in the driver’s seat.
    I especially like the extra width and height for the van build. My biggest concern about Ford Products is that the transmissions often give out at or before the 100,000 mile mark. This happened to our Lazy Daze RV a few years ago. No fun going through that experience.

    1. I agree with most of what you’re writing. In the end, it’s always a personal choice.
      In my experience, many or most dealerships have no clue about what they are selling, when thinking about Cargo Vans, except about price and options. No brands excluded.
      First time, I hear about a possible systemic transmission issue with Ford models. But service has been a factor in my decision of a Ford. Less expensive parts than the MB Sprinter and better nationwide coverage than any of the other cargo van brands. My previous vehicle was a Dodge B-250 and had it for 25 years; not really comparable with the European (Ducato) ProMaster.
      Good luck with your van!

      Van Williams

    1. Hi Greg,
      Yes, there are many differences between the individual models. This was a comparison between two models with a similar exterior height (while the ProMaster has more interior height, it also has a lower floor). Because of deed restrictions where I live, I couldn’t go with a high roof model.
      Van Williams

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