Our Journey To The Road – Van Build

If you’re here for the very first time, welcome!  We’re Kevin and Taylor and absolutely love to travel!  We are in the process of converting our Sprinter van with plans to take it across North America to Alaska and many of the continent’s National Parks!

 On July 26th, we took a leap of faith and decided to fly to Michigan to check out a 2015 Mercedes Sprinter Van.  After inspecting it and giving it a test drive, we decided to buy it.  That same day we drove it back to New Jersey and started converting it right away.  

We are documenting our entire Van Build journey to a true home on wheels and plan to share each step with you along the way. 

Our Van Build Journey is broken down into 3 main sections below.  If one section appeals to you specifically click the link below and jump right to it!

Why Van Life?

The desire to own a van started when we lived in the Pacific Northwest in the fall of 2017.  We were driving out to Mt. Hood on a search for a natural spring when we first saw folks living out of their vans and it made us curious.  Then we stumbled upon the #vanlife hashtag on instagram and the realization of what van life offered as an alternative lifestyle striked us.  

It took sometime for Taylor to get fully on board but she was more and more open to the idea, after camping in Crater Lake National Park at the end of September.  It was 28 degrees outside and we were sleeping on top of the snow.  That camped next to several converted vans and we knew the night would have been much more enjoyable if we had a warm cosy van to sleep in.  

From then I was hooked even more and continued to do more and more research.  One thing for sure is that the idea of being out on the road intrigued me deeply.  The ability to take your home with you would enable so many more opportunities and we could see the continent at a rate that would otherwise be pretty difficult.  

So almost two years later from first seeing a converted van, we finally purchased a van of our own with plans to convert and explore North America to see experience more of its natural beauty. , 

Van Selection

For many van owners, the question comes down to what is my price point and what’s the best van or vehicle for me?  If you’re looking in the cargo van category there are three popular options available.

  1. Dodge Promaster
  2. Ford Transit
  3. Mercedes/Freightliner Sprinter
When we made the decision to buy a van, it took us a few months to find the right one at the right price.  We decided to go with a Mercedes Sprinter van based on a number of different factors but here’s our opinion of the pros and cons for each van available.

I will write a more in depth blog post as to what van is right for you, but here’s a quick summary for why we chose the a Mercedes Sprinter van.  This is soley based on our opinion since some of the pros for us may be cons for you.

Dodge Promaster

Pros

  • Relatively Inexpensive
  • Widest Van
  • Gas Engine – Cheap to repair and maintain

Cons

  • Gas Engine – shorter life span
  • Shortest in length
  • Relatively new so reliability is unknown
  • Minimal value retention

Ford Transit

Pros

  • Relatively Inexpensive
  • Tallest Van
  • Gas Engine – Cheap to repair and maintain

Cons

  • Gas Engine – shorter life span
  • Relatively new so reliability is unknown
  • Not as long as desired (for us)

Mercedes Sprinter Van

Pros

  • Best resell value
  • Longest
  • Diesel engine – most reliable
  • Most conversion accessories are compatible 
  • Best body design

Cons

  • Most expensive to maintain
  • Diesel fuel is more expensive

Based on the pros and cons listed above for each van, we really prioritized the best resell value and most reliable vehicle we could find.  We know van life isn’t going to be forever and there will be a time when we want to sell our van.  So the Mercedes Sprinter made the most sense for us and we were fortunate enough to find one with only roughly 15,000 miles on it without breaking the bank.  

Van Build Episodes

So now that you know why we chose to buy a van and why we chose a Mercedes Sprinter van, it’s time to get into our van build journey.  We’ve been documenting our van build via blog posts and youtube video tutorials to help share the knowledge we’re learning through this process.  By no means are we experts in this matter and welcome any feedback from the community on best practices, and what to do vs what not to do for particular projects!

Below is the current status of our van build with an end goal of May 8, 2020 (June 1st, worst case)!

Van Build Completion
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Van Build Video Tutorials

Reader’s Tip:  Use the tabs for each part of the van build journey to learn how we did each individual project.

Part 1 - Windows

Our van is a 2015 Mercedes Sprinter Cargo Van, which means it didn’t come with any windows.  So the first project we did on the van was cutting directly into it and installing 5 windows!

Part 2 - Roof Installs

Part 3 - Our Van's Electrical System

Part 4 - Soundproofing and Insulation

Part 5 - Truck Bed Liner

Part 6 - Steel Stud Framing

Part 7 - Plumbing

Part 8 - Cabinetry

Part 9 - Diesel Heater

Part 10 - The Roof!

Follow Our Journey

If you want to follow along on a more personal level, check out our instagram and youtube channel!  

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