The Van

The Van

Why a van?

Uh… adventures, road trips, traveling, new places.. do I need to keep going?


Ok then, why this van?

I was looking for a pretty specific set of features and I wanted a platform that has a robust reliability, decent fuel mileage, common/easy to find parts, and the best space/size ratio that could fit in my budget. I also had a few hard requirements as well as some strong preferences.

Price: Obviously, price was a factor. There’s a lot of great vans out there if the budget didn’t have a limit but unfortunately I still needed to be able to afford the build. Plus, part of the attraction of #vanlife is the relatively debt free lifestyle and having to maintain a monthly payment on the van wasn’t an interesting option. That said, I probably over paid for this van in particular a little but I just consider it a premium on finding exactly what I wanted at this point.

Windows: I realize there are possible security and climate considerations involved in wanting a van with lots of windows, but I love the natural light it will offer and really open up the small space inside the van. Additionally, my intention is to travel to places worth seeing, so why would I not want windows?

Height: I’ve done a number of week long road trips in smaller vehicles, which work out really well and were quite fun, but thinking about the amount of work that is going into this van and the (hopefully) amount of time to be spent in it, the luxury of being able to stand up was an option I didn’t want to avoid. That said, the sprinter comes in both a standard height and a high top so I was focused on finding one of the high top variants.

Length: One thing that I really enjoy in the previous cars I’ve used on road trips is the ability and convenience to park them anywhere. This particular van is the shorter of the two common wheelbase sizes being 140″ and 158″. Even though there’s only a foot and a half difference between the two wheelbases, the bumper-to-bumper length of the larger of the two is almost three and a half feet longer [source] than the shorter version, making it impossible to park in a standard parking space. The 140″ wheelbase happens to fit perfectly in most any parking space!

Mileage: It’s not unusual for the community to say these vans will run well past half a million miles and can be frequently found for sale with several hundred thousand miles. That said, I wanted as much room left on the clock as possible and was pleased to find this one had relatively low mileage for pre-owned Sprinter vans.

Fuel/Emissions: This was a personal preference for both convenience and reliability. Post 2007 diesel vehicles are required to use low-sulfur diesel fuel as post 2010 have the additional requirement of adding “diesel exhaust fluid”. While I agree with the improvement of emissions in a general sense, these extra systems are complicated and expensive to fix. Furthermore, I’d love to eventually venture into Mexico and Central America where they have plenty of diesel but low-sulfur diesel and DEF fluid aren’t necessarily readily available. Being a 2006 Sprinter, I should be able to fill it with any diesel I can find without a problem.

All that said, it was pretty tricky to find a pre-2007, short wheelbase, high top, passenger configuration of the Sprinter van in my price range… and the unusual red color was just a bonus!


Wow! What else does it have?

Sometimes you just get lucky. I didn’t realize at the time but have since learned that unlike many productions vehicles that are produced with most, if not all, the infrastructure installed for all possible options, Sprinters only have the infrastructure for only the options they are equipped with. That means if it didn’t come with the option originally, it’s much more involved (and expensive) to add. Luckily, this van came equipped with quite a few useful optional features.

Rear AC: This could either be an amazing feature or a huge headache, and hopefully the former. I’ve noticed that it doesn’t seem many other van builders have auxiliary air conditioning, but I feel like a summer day in the western desert would be much more comfortable with a/c that can keep up.

Aux Heat: This is another great bonus feature. This van already comes equipped with a diesel furnace with a built in timer than should be able to keep the cab warm throughout cool nights. Although the coolant pump is bad and needs replacing.

Aux [House] Battery: Since this van came with a wheelchair lift in the back, it also came from the factory with an ignition isolated auxiliary battery that would be a great start for a house battery set-up.

Super Cool Folding Seat: To make the back more flexible for wheelchairs, it came with a folding two-person bench seat complete with seat belts. This will come in very helpful to repurpose as a dining seat that can already fold up for extra floor space.

Power Options: I don’t think many base Sprinter models come with very many power options, yet this one came with power windows, locks, and mirrors!

Cruise Control: And like the power options, I think cruise control is another unusual item which this one was equipped with as well, a handy item for extended highway runs.


You must have been willing to search country wide to find one like this…

I was actually fortunate enough to find it on Craigslist and bought it from a local dealer who bought it at an auction in Texas where it was taken out of service. It also came with a wheelchair lift but it’s unfortunately non-operational. I’m not sure if this van was taken out of service because of the hurricane, the broken wheelchair lift, or some other unrelated reason.

In it’s previous life, it was a shuttle for a senior living home, hence the wheelchair lift in the back.


Uh oh, so what’s wrong with it?

As I mentioned, it came from Texas so it’s pretty rust free relative to a lot of Sprinters on the road. But, I also mentioned it was touched by Hurricane Harvey and does have a little bit of water damage on the interior. Nothing terribly major but enough that it’s going to need some cleaning.

Some minor damage to a couple of the interior pieces.

The windshield has a few chips.

A couple maintenance issues, such as the lower sliding door guide needing to be replaced.

Other than that, there are a couple missing interior and exterior pieces that will need to be replaced.

And, despite the dealer I bought it from promising me it was mechanically sound, a check engine light came on within the first 50 miles of my new ownership… so that will be the first thing that gets addressed.


Then what?

In the mean time, I’ll be collecting some of the parts I know I need and will want such as this solar panel and charge controller.

(Amazon links, click images for more details)


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  1. Fun reading your post!

    I’m in almost exactly the same position as you and have almost all the same criteria for van choice. I just purchased an 04 with low miles for basically the same reasons! Looks like yours came with some nice features.

    Looking forward to seeing your build!

    1. Author

      Thanks so much! You should track your build on a blog too 🙂

      Also I added a way to subscribe to the blog if you’re interested in seeing new content as it comes out. Or there’s always instagram!

  2. Nice photos and initial write up. It would be good to know the actual costs as you build it.

    Also, remember that your audience may be non-US based so it will be important to consider/explain things. Make sure you implement Google Analytics if you haven’t already. We originally thought our primary audience was New Zealand / Australia, but after nearly 2 years of blogging, we realise that 60% is US-based so have had to change our writing style accordingly.

    1. Author

      Thanks! I was thinking about including a cost sheet as it gets developed… glad to hear you’re interested!

  3. lots of work yet but should be a good adventure van when done

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