One of my most asked questions is why I chose the Ram Promaster 136wb over the Ford Transit or Mercedes Sprinter van for my home on wheels.
The next question I get is why I chose the 136 wheelbase (the shorter of the options with less living space) and not the 159 or 159 extended wheelbase, which you see most often when surfing for inspiration on the web.
Here’s the deal — ultimately I think you can create an amazing home on wheels with of these options and am speaking only from my own experience and research. I’m sure you’ll find about a hundred other blogs about why their van is the best van to build out. This isn’t that blog post. You have to remember, I came from a 1984 chevy G20 and a 1986 Toyota Sunrader, so the fact that it had air-conditioning is an upgrade worth mentioning if we are being honest.
This isn’t a “the better van wins,” my friends. Though I do think the Promaster wi… nah nevermind.
I created this simple 6 Reasons why I chose the Ram Promaster 136 Wheel Base for my camper van conversion.
This one’s number one because you know your girls on a BUDGET okurrr.
The cost of the van was my biggest expense. When I was looking for my future home on wheels, I knew I needed to save money anywhere that I could so that I had money for the actual build. I had a Jeep Patriot that I still owed on so I knew I wanted to trade it into a dealership and wanted to take out a car loan on my van.
I didn’t have the money to buy my van right off the lot but if you do, even better! CarMax sold me my Jeep originally and gave me the best trade-in deal on it so I went with them. The process was super easy and I love that they do a multipoint inspection before they list them. At the time I was wanting to buy my van, there actually weren’t any 136 wheelbases in my area. Since they are nationwide, I was able to get one transferred to Nashville for only $99.
No this isn’t a commercial, I just really like working with CarMax.
Ultimately, before tax, my 2019 Promaster High Roof 136 Wb with only 14k miles on it was $22k.
Of course, if you want an older van with higher miles, you’ll be able to find one for cheaper.
From what I understand, you can find Ford Transit vans for around the same price. All of these vans go up in price for the high roof (though the Transits do have an option of a medium roof which I think is pretty cool) and the length (or living space) of the van. Mercedes are going to be much more expensive (by at least 10-15k) if you want to buy newer with low miles.
2. She’s a Wide Gal
This is what really stands out to me about the Promasters when compared to Ford Transit and Mercedes Sprinter Vans. The Promasters are 6 feet wide which means you can have a bed going side to side in the back (and also means way more living space)! Most other vans you need a bed to go back to front, and with my preference for a short wheelbase, you wouldn’t have much more than your bed and mayyybeee a tiny tiny kitchen area. This was probably the biggest deciding factor for me.
3. Front-Wheel Drive
I don’t know if it’s because I’m a Michigan girl or what, but having a front-wheel-drive van was a big perk for me because I pictured being able to drive in anything, including snow or ice conditions without the fishtailing that can happen with real-wheel vehicles. If you put some snow or all-terrain tires on it, which I plan to put all-terrain tires on it once I have the $$, you’ll be able to get better traction in that terrain which is a big deal with 2×4 vans!
4. Straight walls
The Ram Promaster is as wide as it is from the floor to the ceiling for the most part which isn’t the case with the Transit or Sprinter vans which become more narrow towards the ceiling. Since I have hanging cabinets across both sides of my van, it feels much bigger inside because the walls aren’t bending in towards your head. Some people say that building in a Promaster is easier because of this but I don’t have experience building in the other vans so I can’t say if this is the case or not.
5. Turn Radius
The 136 wheelbase has the tightest turn radius out of all of the vans which was a huge selling point for me. Since I’m traveling solo, knowing I can turn around if I’m going down a dirt road that doesn’t make me feel comfortable because of the condition of it, which ultimately makes me feel much more confident to drive it by myself. Also, out of all of the full-sized cargo vans, with it having the smallest turn radius, I’m getting the easiest van to drive, park in parking lots or dispersed camping areas and maneuver dirt roads or city streets. It feels like I’m just driving a “normal” vehicle (which was not the case when it came to driving vans from the 80’s. Power steering has really experienced a glow up in the last 30 + years).
6. It’s much more affordable to repair.
I’m not very mechanical when it comes to the newer vans which means if I need something repaired while on the road, I need to know that not only can I afford the part that is needed, but it won’t take more than a couple of days (at most) to get fixed and back on the road. That’s what I loved about our Chevy G20 (which broke down A LOT). We were typically in and out of the mechanic on the same day.
The Ford transits are going to be much more affordable to repair as well — though this won’t always be the case with the Mercedes sprinter vans.
BONUS ROUND: why did I choose the Promaster 136wb vs 159/159 extended?
This is a big question for a lot of people once if they’ve narrowed down their choice to a Promaster. To get the 136” or the 159/159 extended.
I went back and forth on this a lot. I knew I didn’t want the 159 extended, mostly because I felt like it would be too much vehicle to drive. It’s just me and Ollie so I figured we could spend our money on both the van and saving on materials by just writing that one off altogether. Also, Andy, my boyfriend who owns Bodhi Vans, has worked on a couple of the extended wheelbases and it’s amazing how much more living space you have, but it wasn’t for me.
I test drove the 159 which I did love and it didn’t feel that much longer than the 136, to be honest. The 136″ wheelbase is 213″ (17.35 feet) and the total length of the “standard” 159″ wheelbase is 236″ (19.6 feet). The 159 extended is version “ 250″ long (20.83″). That extra two feet can go a long way in a build which is why a lot of people choose it, but it was a couple grand more expensive.
I love how compact my 136 wb is and wouldn’t change it if I had the chance at this point. It’s the same length of a standard truck, so I can parallel park it in the city and squeeze into any parking spot without having to worry about how far I am sticking out of the space.
>>>There is one thing I would change though now that I have the Promaster 136wb.<<<
I would spend a little extra money and get the 2500 rather than the 1500 just for load capacity. With the weight of my build, I can feel her gaining some momentum on downgrades and having a harder time going up steep passes as well. Plus my gas mileage has suffered a bit since I’ve finished the build, which I think can be expected with any of the vans but the 2500 is more equipped to handle a heavier load.
There you have it!