For our current RV, we chose the Ford Transit vs Sprinter from Mercedes Benz. Here are 9 reasons why:
This is an updated version of this post brought about from lots of questions from newcomers to the RV Lifestyle about why we chose the Ford Transit vs Sprinter chassis from Mercedes-Benz. Since we are asked that so often, even a year after we bought our current RV, we thought it wise to update this post.
First, let me say I have nothing against the Sprinter. We've had six of them and they are rugged, reliable, and make an excellent van or chassis to be outfitted and used as an RV.
We truly have loved our Sprinters. We will probably get another someday.
But when it came time to get a new one last year (we like to swap out RVs every year or two so we have experience with different brands and chassis), we ordered a Leisure Travel Vans Wonder Rear Twin Bed model built on the 178-in Ford Transit cutaway chassis.
Technically, it's a class B though it's marketed as a Class B+ motorhome.
Even though our Wonder is a 2021 model coach from Leisure Travel Vans made in Winkler, Manitoba, Canada, the chassis is a 2020 model from Ford, made in Kansas City, MO. We ordered it in January 2020 when we heard about lots of updates Ford was making to the Transit line and bought it in June 2020 from LTV's Holland Motor Homes dealership in Holland MI.
Disclosure – We buy our RVs
And, yes, we bought it ourselves. A lot of RV influencers are in RVs provided them to use for free by the manufacturers in exchange for publicity. We previously did that with Roadtrek and it is a very common practice by most of the manufacturers. But we feel more comfortable being able to share the good and the bad by actually buying it and owning it ourselves. Leisure Travel Vans has no say in what we report and has never asked us to alter a video or blog article.
We also had purchased the Unity we owned before. We sold that model ourselves to a recently-retired couple from Missouri when we purchased the Wonder.
Again, RVs are NOT given to us or provided to us. We used our own savings and the proceeds from selling the Unity to buy it.
Why we went with the Transit vs Sprinter for our new RV
There are lots of factors like appearance, storage, floor plans, available options, and personal taste issues that led us to choose the Wonder vs Sprinter. We'll show and discuss those in more detail in future videos and posts here on the RV Lifestyle travel blog. But for this article, I want to talk about the reasons we chose the chassis we did, selecting Transit vs Sprinter. And I'll just touch on why we chose the particular Wonder model we did.
First, some comparison resources:
- CLICK HERE for the specifications on the 2121 Wonder we have on the Ford Transit 3.5L EcoBoost V6chassis.
- CLICK HERE for the specifications in the 2019 Unity we previously had on the Sprinter 3.5L EcoBoost V6 chassis.
Reason #1 for choosing Transit vs Sprinter: All Wheel Drive
We do a lot of boondocking in remote spots far off the beaten path. Our Sprinters have gotten us to many nice spots but, truth told, some have been very dicey and the ride in and out was very white-knuckled. We did use a 4WD Sprinter once but found the ride and suspension to be very rough.
When we heard that All-Wheel Drive was an option on the Transit it immediately got us excited. AWD will help on those remote two tracks we sometimes drive back in the boonies but in the wintertime up in Michigan where we do a lot of winter camping, it will give much more confidence. AWD applies torque to all four wheels. The advantage in getting moving in slippery conditions is obvious. Since AWD turns four wheels instead of just two, there's that much more grip, and when the available traction is very low—such as when we're on snow and ice—we'll be able to accelerate better, with less or even no tire slippage.
Another benefit is AWD accelerates better than 2WD, something we noticed on our very first drive home from the dealer.
Reason #2 for choosing Transit vs Sprinter: Service and maintenance
It's no secret that Mercedes Benz and Sprinter maintenance is expensive. Parts and service cost more. One reason is that all the Sprinter parts are made in Germany. True, they're now building the Sprinter in the US, but most of their parts come from a long way away and are at premium costs.
Another issue is service centers. There just are not that many places where Sprinters can be serviced. Many Mercedes dealers flat out refuse to service them. Sprinter repair facilities can be hard to find. On a couple of occasions over the years, we had to drive several hundred miles out of our way to get the necessary service on the road for our Sprinters.
Parts and labor should be cheaper on the Transit.
With Ford, there's a dealer in just about every town. And while not all Ford dealers service the Transit, there are many more Transit service shops than Sprinter service shops.
There is some anecdotal evidence I've recently heard from Wonder owners that getting Transit service may not be as easy as you'd think, what with Ford dealerships in or near just about every town in America.
Wonder owner Harry Salit emailed me to say:
“Only Ford fleet or truck dealers will service a Transit. And then not even all fleet dealers will service a motor home. Last summer I was in the SF Bay Area when my change oil light came on, I called about 6 fleet dealers, some recommended by Ford customer service, only one dealer said they would service me, unfortunately, 150 miles away. The one that was 5 miles away would not take my Wonder!”
And just yesterday, I heard from another reader, Duce Webber, who lives in Colorado Springs, CO. He has a new Wonder Rear Lounge model on order and was checking around to line up service for it.
“I have been having a hard time finding a Ford Dealership that can perform warranty work or other chassis stuff.,” he says. “I have not received the unit yet, but wanted to track down an authorized dealer that can perform chassis work, warranty, or recall. The local dealers state the lifts at there shop cannot support the Wonder or any RV. I did have one state there is a third party that is authorized in Denver, CO which is about 70 miles from my home.”
Those were issues we also had with the Sprinter. I guess I'll soon find out whether they also hold true for the Transit, though calls to a couple of Michigan dealers near me seem to indicate I'll have no problems.
If I do, I'll let you know.
But I still think having service on the Transit will be easier.
It's no secret that the diesel sensors and related technology on Sprinters can be balky and costly to fix. And while I generally found the Mercedes warranty to be excellent, diesel engines are by nature more costly to repair. There's also Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF). My Sprinters needed a jug or two every 4,000-6,o00 miles, at about $25 a fillup.
I won't need that with the Transit.
Reason #3 for choosing Transit vs Sprinter: A gasoline engine
All our Sprinters were diesel. Right now, diesel costs considerably more than gasoline.
Our Transit can run on 87 octane gas (though ion hard-driving trips I plan to use 89 octane).
As I write this AAA says the national average for gasoline is $2.17 a gallon. For diesel, it's $2.43
On a practical basis, diesel is a little more difficult to find. I can't tell you how many times I have pulled off a highway to get fuel only to find diesel not available at the service stations at that exit. It's a little better than it was when we first started and there's never been a time when I couldn't find diesel by just driving down the road a bit. It just took a bit more searching than gasoline stations will be for us.
Gasoline, overall, will be cheaper and easier to find.
Alas, there is a downside to the gas engine. Mileage. On our first tank of gas, driving about 300 miles, I averaged 12.3 mpg in the Wonder. My Sprinter-based Unity typically for 14.5-15 mg of diesel. Cost-wise, because gas is cheaper, it's a wash. And 2 mpg less is no big deal to me.
I think we're still going to be pleased we have gas.
Reason #4 for choosing Transit vs Sprinter: A smoother, quieter ride
That was the first thing we noticed with our new Wonder, Transit-based RV: How quiet and smooth it was to ride in. All six of our previous Sprinter RVs rode much rougher. Some were better. Some, like the 4WD one, was worse. But all of the Sprinters had more of a truck-like ride.
The Wonder, as I said, feels more like a car. Or SUV. Not completely. But mostly.
Our Sprinters were also noisy. So noisy sometimes we could hardly record useable audio for our videos as we were driving down the road at high speeds. Wind noise. Tire noise.
Maybe because the Transit is not quite so high as the Sprinter, we find it considerably quieter. We are able to more easily carry on a conversation, especially when videoing. Don't get me wrong. The Sprinter is generally comfortable and pleasant to drive. But I'd be less than honest if I didn't point out the cab noise.
Last year when we borrowed an LTV Wonder for a 2,000-mile test ride for a review we immediately noticed the quieter, smoother ride. From our brief use of the Wonder, this new one is even better.
Here's the video review we did on the 2019 Wonder we tested out on a 2,000-mile trip last year:
Reason #5 for choosing Transit vs Sprinter: Better acceleration
As mentioned above where we talked about AWD, the transit is quick off the stop. At least quick when compared to the diesel Sprinter. True, the Sprinter has more sheer pulling power. But it is ponderous when taking off from a dead stop.
The Transit let me quickly accelerate and merge into heavy interstate traffic (sometimes a bit of a challenge for the Sprinter) and at stoplights, it would never bring frustrated honks from the line of vehicles behind.
Our Transit has a turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 engine that generates 310 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque with a 10-speed automatic transmission.
A Car and Driver review tested a Transit engine like ours doing 0 to 60 mpg in 6,8 seconds. A 2019 Sprinter like we had does the same 0 to 760 in 11.3 seconds.
Both the Spriter Unity and the Transit Wonder models have some 11,000-pound gross vehicle weight rating. The Unity could tow 5,000 pounds. We can only tow 2,000 pounds with our Transit RTB model. Other Transit LTV Wonder floor plans can tow 3,000 pounds. The Wonder is less because of the extra 500 pounds of storage that can be loaded in the rear garage of the Wonder twin bed model. I think the peppier acceleration makes up for the lower towing capacity.
Reason #6 for choosing Transit vs Sprinter: Price
The Sprinter chassis on the Unity runs about $20,000 more than the Transit chassis.
Any way you cut it, that is a big deal.
We spent a long time on Sunday's Ask Us Anything live stream on our RV Lifestyle Channel on YouTube talking about our new Wonder and even showing a video tour of the interior features. If you'd like to check that out, click the play arrow below.
Reason #7 for choosing Transit vs Sprinter: Availability
I was excited when Mercedes Benz announced the upgrades to the 2019 Sprinter.
But then, thanks to Amazon buying up tens of thousands of them, they became extremely hard to get. Last year was terrible for small RV makers who build on the Sprinter chassis. They had a doozy of a time getting them released by Mercedes Benz in a timely fashion. Amazon snapped them up as soon as they came off the assembly lines.
RV build times on the 2019 chassis grew longer and longer.
Then it came time for the 2020 Sprinters. Bureaucratic red tape and EPA certification issues delayed the release of those chassis for months.
The result is that if you order a new Sprinter-based RV today to be built, it will most likely take from 12-14 months.
It's no wonder the Wonder is looking so attractive. Built-in Kansas City and pretty much uninterrupted (except for the COVID shutdown), you can get a new Transit chassis RV in about half that time.
We ordered ours in January. We wrote the check and got the keys on June 24.
Reason #8 for choosing Transit vs Sprinter: The need to understand the Transit RV platform
As noted above, this is our 7th RV. All the others have been Sprinters. But Ford and its Transit is coming on very strong and I think will clearly be the main chassis alternative to the Sprinter for Class B and Class C RV manufacturers.
Last week I was in Elkhart, IN, the RV Capital of the world. Small motorhomes are huge. The manufacturers are taking orders like crazy. I drove by the Coachmen plant in Middlebury, IN, and was amazed to see row after row of Transit chassis waiting to be turned into RVs (Coachmen makes the Beyond model on the Transit chassis).
I saw no similar stock of Sprinters. Sprinters are starting to come in but at more of a trickle when compared to the Transit.
As someone who keeps track of industry trends, I need to be as familiar with the Transit as I am with the Sprinter.
So we got one.
And it's a Wonder!
Reason #9 for choosing Transit vs Sprinter: The Wonder Rear Twin Bed model
The ninth and last reason we had for choosing Transit vs Sprinter was the Leisure Travel Vans Wonder itself. As I said, we drove one for about 2,000 miles last year and really liked it.
We chose the company's Sprinter-based Unity FX last year because of big upgrades made in 2019 to the Sprinter chassis, the automatic leveling system it had, and the easy way we could update it with Lithium and a larger inverter (the 2019 Unity came with just a 1,000-watt inverter.) Oh yeah, both front seats on the Sprinter swiveled around so they could be part of the motorhome interior.
Those features were not available on the 2019 Wonder.
In 2020, Ford made major upgrades to the Transit chassis, as major as Mercedes Benz did in 2019 with the Unity. And this year, Leisure Travel Vans added 2,000-watt inverters to the Wonder and upgraded the batteries to AGM with a lithium option. We ordered ours with two 100 amp lithium batteries and a 2,000-watt Xantrex inverter, both installed at LTV factory.
And the front seats on the 2020 Transit chassis both now swivel. Only the passenger's seat did before.
We love the Wonder floor plan with the rear twin beds. The rear twin beds are always made up. When it's time to stop, there's nothing that has to be set up or pulled down when it's time to turn in, as we did with the Murphy Bed on the Sprinter-based Unity.
Those Wonder twin beds can easily be pushed together to make a Queen-sized bed, too.
And one more thing that the Wonder had that we really wanted: A garage.
A massive pass-through rear storage bay can hold two bikes, full-sized lawn chairs, and lots more gear. And inside, just beneath both of the beds, is a cavernous storage area that serves as a hanging wardrobe and storage area.
What about the automatic leveling system for the Wonder on the Transit chassis? We got that, too.
The day after we bought our new Wonder, we drove to Elkhart, IN, and the headquarters of Equalizer Systems. They installed a fully automatic four-point leveling system on the Wonder, pretty much exactly the same as the Unity had.
Here's a video we just released on the install of the Equalizer four-point automatic leveling system:
It's an expensive option – about $4,000. But after being spoiled by it with the Unity, we just had to also have it on our new Wonder.
Ours was the first such system Equalizer installed on a Transit.
Based on the success of our install, I suspect it will soon be an official option from Leisure, something new buyers will be able to get factory-installed up in Winkler instead of having to go to Elkhart, as we did.
So there you go 9 reasons we chose the Transit vs Sprinter.
We're looking forward to many happy miles in our new RV.
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