We always liked the Mercedes 4×4 Sprinter Vans, but when we started planning this project, we considered everything under the sun.
Our main goal was to be on the road, traveling around to all of the National Parks, without decreasing our workload, OR slowing down our CrossFit training.
It was almost 2 years to the day before we picked up our new Mercedes 4×4 Sprinter, that we were at a 4th of July party down near Summit Lake, WA, and right there in the driveway was a new Mercedes Sprinter van.
At that party the owners let us checkout their van, walk around inside, and spent (what seemed like) hours talking #vanlife with us.
Side note: We ordered our van from Mercedes of Seattle a whole year before it was delivered. These vans are popular!
From our first experience with the Sprinter van, we loved it. But they are not cheap vans. And because they aren’t cheap, we spent a whole year researching our options.
Here are a few of the things we considered:
* Earth Roamers
* Truck with camper on-top
* Truck pulling a trailer
* Conventional RV’s of all sizes
* Car pulling a pop-up trailer
Things that were MUST haves:
* Space for CrossFit gear (preferably over 500 pounds)
* The ability to work from the vehicle
* 4 wheel drive – We love skiing, and needed this machine to be good in the snow.
* Indoor shower/bathroom (Emily)
* The same (or less) than our rent payments in Seattle
With all of these things in mind, we got to work…
These vans are super cool! You can get them in 4 wheel drive, they have pop top roofs, and even interior stoves and sinks.
*Some people might not like that I clumped these together, but get over it. They are very similar.
The downsides that we found were:
* The weren’t currently being made in the US. After searching around the web, I found that for some reason VW doesn’t think there’s enough of a demand in the US.
* These vans are very small. I couldn’t even come close to standing up in one of these vans, which meant no more standing desk (unless it was outside).
* No interior shower.
* Getting financing on these can be tricky.
These rigs are bad A$$, and you pay for how bad A$$ they are! But they can really make you feel at home on the road, without compromising much while driving.
They are tall enough to stand up in. You can get pretty much every household amenity under the sun (including indoor, and outdoor TV’s). Because who doesn’t need an outdoor TV…
You can get satellite internet! A large fridge. And they will can easily carry over 500 pounds of CrossFit gear!
* These beasts are speedy! We’re talking $500k and up.
* The gas milage is crap. But I guess you don’t care if you can afford one…
* They are really, really big. Which means you won’t be driving down any narrow backroads.
* They actually had more than we needed. We don’t even have cable TV, so as cool as an outdoor TV sounds, I’d rather spend my money on a new barbell.
Truck with a camper on-top
A lot of people were surprised that we didn’t go with one of these vehicles. And the truth is, they were probably our runner up.
But that being said, they were a VERY distant second place.
This was actually one of the rides we got to drive/experience when Emily and I were on the show CarMatchmaker – CrossFit Campers.
The cool thing about these is…
* You can get a very nice truck. I like nice vehicles, so this was cool to me.
* The living space is fantastic! You can get full sized showers, and bathrooms. The one we drove had a fireplace.
* You can definitely standup inside.
* It would carry all of our CrossFit gear.
* Depending on your setup, the price could be reasonable.
* Man oh man, I thought this ride was going to tip over every time I took a corner. Not a hard corner, any corner!
* Even with a beefy truck, there was no acceleration.
* The gas milage was not good.
* These can get very wide. Wide to the point where I was worried about clipping a tree (or other object) while driving down the road.
Truck pulling a trailer
Because of our need to be mobile, get off the grid, and go skiing (a lot), we didn’t really consider this setup.
I know people pull this off, but let’s get real, pulling a huge trailer is never any fun. Even if it’s only when you move your house once a week.
Conventional RV’s of all sizes
We did look pretty hard at a few Class B motorhomes. Anything larger was going to be too big to fit our needs/wants.
When looking at these, we always came back to the Sprinter vans because none of the other RV’s had 4 wheel drive. Or the majority of them don’t have 4 wheel drive.
There are several companies that will kit out a Sprinter van for you, and they are pretty darn cool!
An RV loan can usually be up to 20 years, and at pretty good interest rates.
We really liked these converted vans, and it was extra cool that you could order them in the Mercedes 4×4 Sprinter model.
This meant we could get virtually everything we wanted (with the exception of doing anything custom. Think bumper weight holders.). And get affordable financing.
Not to mention, they had some super features like pop out sides (like you might see on a larger RV). #extrasquarefootage
* It was cool that long term financing was available, but we would have the payment for 20 years! Assuming we didn’t pay down early (who ever does that…), or sell the RV.
* To get what we wanted (essentially 4×4) was still higher than what we wanted to spend in total.
* The 4×4 versions were hard to find.
These vans are cooler than cool! And they will customize the heck out of them for you.
When we visited their showroom they were all about our idea to have a mobile CrossFit gym on wheels. The employees was coming up with ideas for an attached, roll out squat rack. It was awesome!
The downside… When they came back with a rough estimate quote for us, the number was $175,000, NOT INCLUDING THE VAN!!!
The other downside was, they don’t do pop tops of any kind at OutsideVan. And we were fairly certain we didn’t want our sleeping and living area to be the same place.
We were so close to pulling the trigger on a Sportsmobile van. We even drove one on our TV show, and choose the Sportsmobile as our top pick.
Sportmobiles are super cool! They are the leading pop top company in the US, and they have some really livable conversions.
Not only that, but they’ll do custom setups for you. AND you can get RV financing on them.
* The only real downside that we have for Sportmobile is their cabinetry materials look kinda cheap.
* Oh, and their website, and business practices are from the 80’s. Seriously, it would take me a day to build a better, more functional website than they have.
The build it yourself Mercedes 4×4 Sprinter van conversion
Ultimately this is the road that we took. And here are the reasons…
1. We are going to spend a minimum of $40,000 less than the Sportsmobile, and get more features.
2. I really enjoy working with my hands, and have done construction, and worked on cars in the past.
3. We are still going to have Sportmobile install a pop top on our Sprinter. A little over $10,000.
4. We will pay off the van sooner. We got a 2.9% interest rate on a 6 year loan through Mercedes. And although the rest of the build will be out of pocket, we will have the whole van paid off in only 6 years (or less).
5. We can document the whole build process, and hopefully pick up a few more Instagram followers ;-).
Although you may, or may not agree with our choice, it was what we decided would be the best road for us, and as I’m writing this… we have the van, and have started the process of insulation.
If you have any questions for us about our van, or some of the other vehicles we considers, drop us a line in the comments below, or hit us up on social media @thevantasticlife.