9 reasons why we chose Transit vs Sprinter for our awesome new RV

 9 reasons why we chose Transit vs Sprinter for our awesome new RV

For our new LTV Wonder RV, we chose the Ford Transit vs Sprinter from Mercedes Benz. Here are 9 reasons why:

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 may get another someday. 

But when it came time to get a new one this time (we like to swap out RVs every year or two so we have experience with different brands and chassis), we ordered a 2021 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 back in January when we heard about lots of updates Ford was making to the Transit line and bought it last week from LTV's Holland Motor Homes dealership in Holland MI.

Disclosure – We buy our RVs 

the transit vs sprinter we bought
That's us right after getting the keys the day we bought our Wonder from Holland Motor Homes in Holland, MI. We chose the transit vs sprinter chassis for our new RV!

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 the 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. While we did negotiate a discount we still paid over cost and 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:

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.

CLICK HERE for an article I did back then when we got our Unity on the Sprinter chassis

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.

We chose trnasit vs sprinter on the 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.

rear twin beds onLTV wonder - a fator in choosing transit vs sprinter
The rear twin beds on the Wonder make into a Queen-sized bed, too

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. 

transit vs sprinter the wonder garage
This was a big factor in our choosing the Transit vs Sprinter – the pass-through rear garage on the Wonder that can hold two bicycles

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.

transit vs sprinter - the underbed storage on our wonder
We love the underbed storage on our Wonder

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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9 reasons why we chose Transit vs Sprinter for our awesome new RV

Mike Wendland

Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road at RVLifestyle.com. He and Jennifer also host the weekly RV Podcast and do twice-weekly videos on the YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel. They have written 10 books on RV travel.

27 Comments

  • Mike, once again an excellent article thank you for the information. My wife and I are interested in the wonder RTB also and have tried finding the measurements of the garage. We ride a tandem road bike and feel this unit might work well to Handle our bike. Can you tell us the garage measurements as well as the door openings.

  • Thanks for your online information and videos. Knowledge is power.

  • I have been to many places in my 1998 Roadtrek…great vehicle. I have talked to many sprinter owners… All were very unhappy with the fact that: 1. Merecedes would not ship a part to their mechanic.
    In Canada Sprinters were sold as “Dodge” and you could get service everywhere. That changed. 2. A lot of people were not happy with the computer settings especially with exhaust and would buy a replacement chip with better performance. 3. In Mexico the fuel diesal not as good quality and would cause problem. 4. They didn’t like the windows in the newer sprinters. Just putting in my 2 cents.
    Meyer@gmail.com Manny

  • Ahem: Leisure Travel Vans is located in Winkler, Manitoba (MB), not Alabama (AL). Perhaps you were confusing AL with Alberta (AB)?

  • Thank you for buying Canadian. I think they build a pretty good product out there in Manitoba. I have owned a few RVs over years and the only one I had that was quality built was a slide in camper I built myself. I do like what I have seen of the Leisure Travel Van.

  • Great article Mike but please have someone proofread before you post 😉

  • Excellent article, thank you. Lots of very useful info. I did notice quite a number of simple typos in this particular edition. I can proofread these for you if you like. 😉

  • Does anyone have an update on the Roadtrek line of RV’s, especially the Zion which I am very pleased with (all electric with Volt Start). Would be interested in a new one but very little info out there (maybe no longer in production)

  • Hey, Mike.
    Good article. I enjoy your content.
    Quick question, when you say “While we did get a discount we paid over cost…,” are you saying that you were provided a discount above what a regular consumer would get?
    Thanks,

  • Great information, Mike! We appreciate learning all we can before buying our first RV next spring. Our decisions will be infinitely better through all that you share!

  • Donna, this has been a longtime complaint of mine, to the point of only returning to learn more about the Wonder. Proofreading would also have resulted in stating upfront that they had not purchased the Roadtrek first, versus stating they purchased all their RVs only to come back and state except for the Roadtrek. The aforementioned RV purchase clarification and competent proofreading makes for responsible journalism.

  • I don’t want to sound like a Karen, but the English teacher in me can’t let things go easily. You didn’t choose Transit vs the Sprinter, you chose the Transit over the Sprinter. Versus is a comparison, and since you use the phrase over and over again, you should probably write it correctly.

  • Nice article explaining why you got the Wonder. We’re still partial to the island bed Unity as John prefers diesel.

  • Mike,

    Are you sure the towing capacity is correct as I thought it was stated to be 5,000 lbs at the reveal? Checking the LTV website the 2020 Wonder had a 3,000lb towing capacity and I thought it was upgraded for 2021. Could you please double check this number.

  • The 2021 Wonder has two towing capacities, it depends on the model. The Rear Twin Bed has a 200 lb tongue weight limit with a 2,000 lb towing limit. The other two models of the Wonder have a 300 lb tongue weight limit and a 3,000 lb towing limit.

    This can be found on the Wonder Specification page on the Leisure Travel Vans Website.

    Rear Hitch Receiver with wiring – 300/3000 lb (Brake/Turn/Tail Lights)
    Rear Hitch Receiver with wiring – 200/2000 lb (Brake/Turn/Tail Lights)

    All of the Unity models can tow 500/5,000 lbs. It only impacts those that intend to tow something but it is a large difference.

  • Thank you both for this review. I also appreciate that when you now post, there is no influence because you are not paid representatives. Enjoy your new home.

  • Hi Mike,
    My husband and I are so grateful for all the information you (and Jen) provide. We are within inches of ordering our RTB, but we have one concern: Boondocking is our favorite way to go, and we are wondering how pleased you will be with the Transit’s ground clearance. If you wouldn’t mind, we would love to see how well your Wonder serves your own boon-docking adventures.
    Thanks for all you guys do!

  • If you need a copy editor, I know a good one.

  • Great review. Two questions – given the low clearance on the Transit and the small tires are you worried about getting into more remote areas?

    Did you take your Sprinters past 100k and if you did did you have any problems with the emissions system?

  • Well presented, this is great information, thanks! You’re one of my go to resources for the RV lifestyle and right now and with so little in the way of personal reviews and opinions of the 2021 Wonder out there your current crop of Wonder related videos and articles are even more valuable to me. Again, thanks. I look forward to reading and hearing more.

    Bill

  • I enjoyed this article and his honesty about buying his own so his comments aren’t swayed by necessary loyalty to a brand.
    Also most RVers aren’t going to go nuts and complain about proof reading and typos , come on people that just makes you seem snooty and critical. Thanks Mike I enjoyed the content here.

  • Mike and Jen, Thank you so much for the excellent article between Transit and Sprinter. Thank you for explaining about the gasoline and diesel. I am aware that the diesel helps the Sprinter (View 24) to run strong to move up the mountain faster than the gasoline. I am thinking of Transit better. Smile

    Sara

  • Love the review of your new unit. My wife & I have followed you since we had our 2005 190P Roadtrek. We are currently considering a purchase like yours. Can you share a ballpark cost of the LTVTB as you equipped it? We are retired and love skiing & hiking as well as boodocking.

  • My sister was the RV buyer but in 2013 since her husband doesn’t like to travel, I was going to be her travel partner. When we were shopping, we fell in love with the Itasca Navion with rear twin beds: nice thick mattress, easy access to bathroom, and, as you mention, always made up. This proved invaluable when I was ill with red tide effects in Sarasota a few years ago. One can sleep in, take an afternoon nap, or watch a different TV program/DVD in the bedroom than the TV in the front sofa area. No matter the motor home floor plan we look at, the rear twin always wins. Sis is less enamored of the Sprinter for the reasons you point out, although Transit may not be the perfect solution. She also insists on a rear window which is hard to find. Love that huge storage though. I can’t tell the access to black/gray water outlet. Knees protest getting down on the ground or even kneeling to attach hoses these days and any new purchase would take that into consideration. And no, nothing larger than a B+ or C less than 27 feet would work. Thanks for the information!

  • Thank you for this very informative article! I had no idea there were so many issues with Sprinters and getting them serviced! I really love the Wonder with the “garage”–brilliant design!
    Wishing you all the best in your travels.

  • Thank you for your article and the video posted in YouTube. I should retire in less than a couple of years and this RV is on top of the list. Battery capacity option is really bad in this model, but I am planning to do the upgrades myself. Maybe I’ll buy yours if you are ready by then…..
    I am confused about the engine. You mentioned is a Gas engine, however in the the manufacturer’s brochure this model comes with the Power Stroke Turbo Diesel 185 hp. I would love to get the gas engine instead but don’t see it as an option. Again….if yours have the gas engine….I will be interested….
    Thank you!!!

  • We have a brand new 40 ft Newmar Dutchstar Coach, 2016 model with few hundred miles that we like to sell . It is stored at Banning near palm desert CA . We want to buy wonder leisure van in place . Do you know if anyone may be interested? We live in Carbondale CO.
    Tx
    Nalini Rao
    raonal@gmail.com
    412 760 9495 .

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