Choosing the Right Van for Your Conversion: A Guide from the Road

Getting started on your van conversion can be as thrilling as it is daunting, especially when thinking about all of the factors that must be taken into consideration for long-term use. Whether you're envisioning weekend getaways to the coast or a full-time life on wheels, the first and perhaps most critical step is choosing the right van. At Flarespace, we live and breathe van conversions, and we’re here to share some of our expertise to help you navigate this big decision with confidence.

Size Matters

First off, size does matter when it comes to selecting your van. You'll need to strike a balance between comfort and maneuverability. Larger vans offer more space for living areas, storage, and those must-have amenities, but they can be a challenge to park and navigate through narrow paths. Smaller vans, on the other hand, promise easier handling and access to those tucked-away spots but require a minimalist approach to packing and design. Consider your travel style, destinations, and whether city parking or remote wilderness spots will be part of your journey.

Think About Your Needs

Think of your ideal van lifestyle and take all things into consideration before falling in love with a specific model. Some factors may seem small, but can actually make or break how much you enjoy life on the road. Do you need a high roof to stand up inside, or are you okay with a more compact space? How important is fuel efficiency to you? Will you be traveling solo or with a partner or pet? Each van model comes with its pros and cons. For instance, the Mercedes Sprinter is a favorite for its reliability, while the Ram Promaster offers a spacious interior and is suitable for lower budget builds.


Your budget will play a pivotal role in this decision. Buying new offers peace of mind with warranties and the latest features but at a higher price tag. Going the used route can significantly lower costs but requires due diligence to avoid maintenance headaches down the road. Remember, the purchase price is just the beginning. Consider conversion costs, insurance, and upkeep in your budgeting.

Future-Proof Your Choice

Think long-term about your van life adventure. A van that suits your needs now might not be the best fit a few years down the line. Maybe you'll want more space, or perhaps off-road capabilities will become a bigger priority. Opting for something that offers flexibility in modifications can ensure your van evolves with your lifestyle.

Comparing the Top Vans for Conversions

Now that we've explored factors to keep in mind, let's dive into the key similarities, differences, and the pros and cons of the three most popular van options: the Mercedes Sprinter, Ram ProMaster, and Ford Transit. Each van has its own set of fans, thanks to unique features that cater to different needs and preferences. Whether you're all about the drive, the cost, the space, or the reliability, there's a van here with your name on it.

Ram ProMaster

Key Features: Front-wheel drive, spacious interior, and tight turning radius

Ideal For: DIY enthusiasts who prioritize interior customization and cost efficiency

The Goods: The Ram ProMaster is a front-wheel-drive system, offering a lower floor height for easier loading and accessibility. This feature also contributes to its impressive maneuverability, especially in tight spots and during urban explorations. It's also worth noting that the ProMaster comes with a wider body, allowing for a more spacious interior setup—perfect for tall individuals or those looking to maximize their living area without going up in size. You can also increase the width of your sleeping space even more by adding Flares. The walls play a big part in this beings as they are built straight instead of curved inward like the Sprinter - making the interior feel much more spacious. 

The Quirks: While the ProMaster offers a more cost efficient option, its capability, payload and towing capacity might not reach the heights of its competitors. Because it is front-wheel-drive and relatively low ground clearance, it doesn’t have the same capabilities to get as far off-road as the Transit or Sprinter. It also has far less upfitting/aftermarket products available on the market making it more difficult to “beef up” or customize.


Interior Space: A wider body provides a spacious interior setup, ideal for expansive conversion layouts and tall individuals.

Cost-Effective: Generally more affordable in terms of initial purchase price and maintenance costs compared to its counterparts. They are generally pretty easy/cheap to get serviced.


Towing and Payload: Slightly lower compared to the Sprinter and Transit, which might be a consideration for those needing to haul heavy loads. 

Reliability: ProMasters are known to have transmission issues. 

Not as much off-road capabilities.

Aesthetics: The distinct European design may not appeal to everyone.


Exterior Length: Ranges from 195 inches (short wheelbase) to 250 inches (extended wheelbase).

Exterior Width: 82.7 inches, providing a generous interior width.

Interior Height: Varies from 66 inches in the standard model to 77 inches in the high roof variant.

Mercedes Sprinter

Key Features: Superior build quality, all wheel and four-wheel drive options (in older models), high-roof options

Ideal For:  Long-term travelers looking for comfort, reliability, and off-road capabilities

The Goods: The Mercedes Sprinter is often seen as the “the van” of van conversions, offering superior engineering, comfort, and performance. The Sprinter has recently moved to an AWD platform, making it just as capable, if not more, than the older 4x4 models.  The Sprinter is also known for its longevity and higher resale value, an important consideration for those looking at their van conversion as a long-term investment. The Sprinter has the most upfitting and aftermarket products available compared to any other van, making it easier to customize both the interior and exterior. From front Brushguards and rear cargo racks to custom mattresses and rad, matte black wheels, the Sprinter has by far the most products offered on the market. Shop all Flarespace Sprinter products here

The Quirks: All these premium features come at a price, making the Sprinter the most expensive option. Additionally, maintenance and repairs can be pricier, given its German engineering. Another con to consider is the interior width. Sleeping sideways can be a bit difficult for taller people without the addition of Flares. Thankfully, adding Flares is an easy modification to increase sleeping space.


AWD: All wheel drive (4x4 available in older models) for off-road capabilities, making it ideal for adventurers.

Extended wheelbase option for additional room, which can be better for full-time living.

Engine Longevity: Diesel engines known for durability and long life.

Resale Value: Higher resale value due to brand reputation and build quality.


Price Point: Higher initial purchase price and maintenance costs.

Repair Costs: Specialized maintenance and repairs can be more expensive.


Exterior Length: From 233.5 inches (144” standard wheelbase) to 290 inches (170” extended wheelbase).

Exterior Width: 92.3 inches (mirror to mirror), striking a balance between spaciousness and maneuverability.

Interior Height: 79 inches in the high roof models, offering ample standing room.

Ford Transit

Key Features: Ecoboost engine, AWD, and impressive payload capacity

Ideal For: A balance of performance and comfort, suitable for both city driving and off-road adventures

The Goods: The Ford Transit is celebrated for its versatility and capability, while also being a more affordable option than the Sprinter and offering an intellegent AWD option. The Transit is also generally easier and more affordable to get serviced. With the rise in popularity of the Ford Transit, more aftermarket products are coming available - like our bronze Transit wheels. Shop all of our Transit products here

The Quirks: While the Transit is a strong contender in many areas, its interior width is slightly narrower than the ProMaster’s (that one inch can make a huge difference!), which could affect layout plans. Additionally, its standard height options are taller, which may not suit everyone’s needs or parking space limitations.


Payload Capacity: Superior payload capacity, ideal for heavy conversions and carrying additional gear.

AWD Option: Provides improved traction in adverse conditions without compromising fuel economy.

More of an affordable option than the Sprinter.

Tallest roofs available in a factory van, best choice for taller individuals or those wanting a little extra headroom.


Interior Width: Slightly narrower than the ProMaster, which may affect some conversion layouts.

Height Considerations: Standard height options are taller, which might not fit all garages or parking spaces.

Less aftermarket products available than the Sprinter.


Exterior Length: Between 219.9 inches (short) and 263.9 inches (long and extended versions).

Exterior Width: 81.3 inches, accommodating a variety of build-outs.

Interior Height: 81 inches in the high roof versions, offering flexibility for standing room and storage.

Choosing the right van for your conversion is a personal journey. It’s about balancing what you need with what you dream. Whether you're drawn to the spaciousness of the Ram ProMaster, the luxury of the Mercedes Sprinter, or the versatility of the Ford Transit, your perfect van is out there. We always recommend diving into the van life community for research and advice before making any decisions. There’s no better way to learn than from those who are already living the dream. Online forums, social media groups, and van life meetups are gold mines of information and inspiration. You’ll find honest reviews, clever conversion ideas, and maybe even make some friends to meet up with on the road.

At Flarespace, we believe that van life is not just about the vehicle—it's about the freedom, adventure, and stories you'll gather along the way. Your van is what will facilitate the adventures and carry you through this incredible experience. Choose wisely, and don’t rush the process. After all, the best adventures are those that start with a solid foundation.

Happy travels, and here’s to the journey ahead!