Transit, Ducato or Sprinter? - NowWheels
I have a few questions about vans, if anyone can help.

After a rather successful trip in a small rented motorhome, I am exploring the idea that a large campervan may be the solution to my travel requirements for a project I am starting. (The project involves prolonged journeys of unpredictable locations in rural areas of Ireland and Scotland, for me and my dog. Not huge distances, but a lot of nights away in unpredictable places and b&bs aren't really useable with a dog).

The motorhome was very comfortable as a home, but apart from blocking out too much of the sky, it was just too big for easy driving in towns or at speed. Too wide to fit in car parks without using two spaces, and the high sides over the double-floor combined with the luton-style overcab bed area to make it unstable in crosswinds. Still driveable, but unpleasantly hard work.

So I reckon that a campervan (i.e a converted panel van) would make more sense than a motorhome, I don't think that economics of owning a campervan make sense, but I'm still exploring the idea.

The most popular vehicle for such conversions seems to be the Fiat Ducato van, but that model also seems to be plagued with problems. As usual with FIAT, the substantive failings are usually relatively minor, but FIAT dealers' inability to fix them is a constant source of complaint on the motorhome websites, one of which maintains a list of over half-a-dozen persistent problems.

The Peugeot Boxer van (a rebadged Ducato) appears to attract fewer complaints, although that may be because it's less widely used. However, so far as I can find out, it may use a different engine. Does anyone know if that's the case, or does it use the same engine as the Ducato?

The most common alternative seems to be the Ford Transit, which seems to be broadly similar in size, but just a little bit narrower inside than the Ducato. It doesn't attract complaints, but I dunno if that's because it is much less widely used for motorhomes. Are the recent (2006 onwards) Transits a reliable beast?

The alternative, which doesn't seem to be widely used for motorhomes or campervans, is the Mercedes Sprinter. As a bar panel van, it's a little more expensive new than a Transit, but holds its value much better. Does anyone know if its more reliable? Merc cars have taken a hammering on the reliability front in recent years, but did the problems extend to the vans too?

Thanks for any help.
Transit, Ducato or Sprinter? - Steptoe
The short answer is none of them! If any of the Japanese makers produced and imported a suitable large van the European makes would be dead in the water, just look at their minibuses which are extensively used and abused in the third world and do stellar mileages.

Having got that rant off my chest back to specifics?..

Much depends whether you are going for a new or old conversion. The feedback I get off the motorhome forums is the Mercedes Sprinters are not so reliable as their reputation might suggest; brakes and the dreaded Sprintshift often come up for critiscm. The latest model may be better but it is early days yet. The old transits (smiley face versions) were bulletproof but will have rotted out by now. I understand the later ones use the same engine as the Mondeo (2.4 Duratorq) and reading the tales of woe on here has put me off them. I believe the very latest engine is a collaboration with Peugeot, so may be better, but again the jury is still out.

I can speak from personal experience about the Fiats (Ducato/Boxer). Don?t bother with the pre-94 versions, these are a bit dated now and can suffer from clutch and gearchange problems (stiff & baulky). Also most of them are petrol and feel underpowered. My present van is on the 95 ? 2001 chassis, and I think that this has a good combination of an old-tech reliable diesel engine and modern underpinnings. The only faults I?ve had relate to rusty brake pipes. From 2002 a common rail engine was used, reliable enough but not so DIY friendly. The latest model, the X250, gets rave reviews for the driving experience but has had inevitably suffered teething problems, the most serious being a reported judder when reversing fully loaded (as motorhomes usually are) up an incline. The fix reportedly will involve a lower ratio reverse gear so best to avoid the early models.

Transit, Ducato or Sprinter? - daveyjp
For one man and his dog do you need something as large as a Transit? Would a Citroen Dispatch, Pug Expert be suitable? I had a Dispatch as a hire car in Tenerife and it offered ample space for 5, but was small enough to tackle the mountain roads.

A colleague is off to NZ on a touring holiday and the camper van they are hiring is a converted Toyota Previa. A Toyota Hiace could be another slightly smaller alternative.
Transit, Ducato or Sprinter? - SuperBuyer
VW Caravelle? (or whatever they call the transporter with a bed in the back...)
Transit, Ducato or Sprinter? - boxsterboy
How much room do you need?

We have a lwb Transporter T5, converted by Bilbos (called a Komba), with the lovely 174bhp 5-cylinder 2.5 diesel. Drives like a dream. Ours has a pop-up Reimo roof, air heater, but not hot water and only a porta-potti toilet. Bilbos do other conversions (called Lezan IIRC) with better toilet, heater and hot water on the high roof Transporter van (but not enough beds for us). There are other converters of course, but I think the T5 will take some beating.

Or there is the VW California which is similar to our Komba but on the swb van, with an electric roof (which was troublesome on our friends).
Transit, Ducato or Sprinter? - Manatee

...or even an Almera (do you still have one?) would look cool with one of these attached

Edited by Manatee on 07/10/2008 at 21:28

Transit, Ducato or Sprinter? - Mapmaker
Transit, Ducato or Sprinter? - Harleyman
If you're going to be driving to remote locations, you ideally need a RWD vehicle, which limits you to the Sprinter and the Transit. Front wheel drive motorhomes are useless on anything worse than level wet grass.

I owned a Sprinter for a year (3I0 LWB hi-roof) and can vouch for it being a superb van; held 75 easily on motorways, returned 29 mopg overall, and nice to drive. I must admit that drivers of later Sprinters with whom I've spoken rate the older models better.

Watch out for rusty doors, though; some parts can be pricey too but they've got a very good reputation for being virtually unburstable. Avoid the 4-cylinder engine (gutless) and go for the mid-range five-pot, best combination of power and economy.
Transit, Ducato or Sprinter? - jc2
Most late model Transits are FWD although Ford offer RWD on some models.
Transit, Ducato or Sprinter? - commerdriver
Since they don't do Commers any more I would suggest for your kind of use a VW transporter would offer a good compromise between driveability and accommodation. You need to decide what size you need especially if you are in more out of the way places with narrower roads, bigger can also be more difficult to find parking for.
Transit, Ducato or Sprinter? - tawse
Mercedes Sprinters are common on The Gower used by surfers. They build a raised square wooden frame to fit into the back on top of which they put a mattress to sleep, underneath the frame goes all their gear, camping stoves, even boards. Not ideal but it works. Of course, no good when it is cold.
Transit, Ducato or Sprinter? - tawse
Ford do a lovely Transit campervan now but it is very pricely at mid 30Kish. Bongo type vans are just too small IMPO and I have concluded that what you need is a motorhome and a small Yaris type car for everyday use.
Transit, Ducato or Sprinter? - Baskerville
If you're going to be driving to remote locations you ideally need a RWD vehicle
which limits you to the Sprinter and the Transit. Front wheel drive motorhomes are useless
on anything worse than level wet grass.

Why? If it comes down to it you can always reverse, but I'll bet the times when that is necessary are pretty rare.
Transit, Ducato or Sprinter? - jbif

What is the carbon footprint for that?

Transit, Ducato or Sprinter? - NowWheels
Thanks for all the suggestions. Sorry for not responding sooner, but after reading the earlier replies I set off to do more research and then forgot to report back.

Someone suggested a tent, which is a good idea. I tried one his year and loved it, even in bad weather, but it has two big disadvantages: washing and a site. Without access to a shower somewhere, tent camping isn't the best for personal hygiene, and for the purposes I have in mind I need to be reasonably presentable. Getting a shower requires an organised campsite, which aren't in great supply where I'll be going, and in any case using a tent off a campsite is difficult (requires a co-operative farmer who has a field clear of livestock). So regrettably, I've had to consign the tent to holiday use only.

I toyed with idea of a caravan, and looked at Eribas. Very neat design, probably affordable if I imported an old one, but using the data from the very useful it seems that even the tiniest Eribas (with no washroom let alone a shower) are too heavy to tow behind my Almera automatic. Petrol automatics seem a particularly bad choice as towcars, but the Almera is such a handy car for other uses that I'd be very reluctant to go to the expense and hassle of changing it. In any case, I have gone off the idea of a caravan, because I've never conquered the art of reversing a trailer, and I'd get into a big mess with a caravan.

So that leaves a van as the only option. My thinking has been to keep the Almera for ordinary use, but have a cheap camper for my travels (a van is too big to use around town, both inconvenient and antisocial). Bearing in mind the comments about reliability, I have been looking at the possibility of importing a Toyota Hiace camper, but Hiace campers with showers are as rare as hen's teeth and also have layouts optimised more for carrying lots of people than for living in: they are more like weekend campers. Good vans, though, with a handy automatic gearbox and simple pre-common-rail diesel, and there are squillions of Hiaces in Africa going on forever. I haven't ruled out that option if I can find the right one.

For my purposes, the best van I have seen so far is the Romahome Dimension ( ), but that's based on the troublesome Citroen/Peugeot/Fiat van, which I'm not inclined to touch. There is also Transit-based Cavarno (see ), but like other panel van conversions it's scarily expensive new (over £40k) and has a common rail diesel (potential trouble). Older examples of UK panel van conversions cost far too much for their age -- £15K buys a tired mid- or late-90s van, and I don't trust them to have enough life left to justify the price. Germany is full of secondhand motorhomes at good prices, but their s/h prices for panel van conversions seem too high.

If I don't get a van, the alternative will be to stay outside the areas I need to be in, and drive a long distance each way every day. That's inconvenient, expensive on fuel and on accommodation, and unnecessarily polluting, so I think that if I can find a useable camper at an affordable price, it'll be the best option all round.
Transit, Ducato or Sprinter? - dieseldes
HI there, you are probably sorted out by now, I have had most campers new and old,I still do a lot of wild camping, I also built my own camper on a extended chassis 2.5 smiley Transit, There are still plenty of these vans about, they were made up to year 2000, some of these vans were called HI Cubes, and Quite a few had twin wheels,I also noticed in Ireland that the ESB , electric board, had Quite a number of 4 wheel drive smileys that they used to service their pileons out in the wild bogs, BT. have still got a lot of twin wheel transits, and better still great fibre glass bodys,+most are fitted with Diesel Heaters, I am at present driving a 2007 Ford Transit 2.4 she is twin wheeled and 6 Speed Box, It is the best driving vehicle I have ever owned, the turbo packed in at 4000 mls, and she was called in 3 times for minor adjustments, but she has a 60,000 mls warranty,140 bhp, 30 mpg, Go for Ford you can get bits anywhere on the planet,Another great engine is Fiats 2.3 it is fitted to thousants of campers world wide,I had two of them through my hands with no problems, I also had a 2005 Fiat 2.8 camper and again no trouble,I am looking for a used VW T5 elevating roof type but there are a lot of gossip about the 2.5 PD Engine, has me worried as I was told a set of injectors for this engine is at least £1200, good luck, dieseldes

Major case of snip quote. No need to include all of NowWheels last post, Rob

Edited by rtj70 on 25/12/2008 at 23:39

Transit, Ducato or Sprinter? - Spospe
It is perhaps a bit late, but I have found the Forum at:

to be helpful.

Members of that forum report that all the X250 based vehicles (the current Fiat, Peugeot, Citroen) suffer from the same problems, but that the attitude of the different manufacturers does differ. Fiat seems the worst offender as well as having the most cases of the main problems, namely water ingress over the engine and especially, severe judder when reversing up a steep slope.

Edited by Spospe on 26/12/2008 at 11:37


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