Sprinter Conversions: Turning a Mercedes Sprinter Into The Ultimate Camper Van

Custom Sprinter conversion interior with lots of natural woodwork

It should be no surprise that Mercedes-Benz Sprinter conversions are wildly popular. This truly is the van, for the ultimate van camper. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Awesome fuel economy of 18-22 mpg
  • More interior space than the competition
  • Full stand-up interior height
  • Great power and torque with the diesel engine
  • Quality built and very reliable

A Sprinter van conversion all starts with a Mercedes Sprinter, which is like a blank canvas ready for paint (that is, once it’s been gutted). Your picture perfect camper is there somewhere, but you’ve got a lot of planning to do before you grab your brush…

Sprinter conversion by Roadtrek, exterior
Sprinter conversion by Roadtrek

You’ll need to design a floorplan that suits you, and choose the right RV equipment for your camping needs. And will it be a do-it-yourself conversion, or will you have a conversion company do the work for you? Hopefully by the time you finish this article you’ll have a more complete picture of what the ultimate Sprinter camper van will look like.  

Topics we’ll cover here:

  • Designing Your Dream
  • Do-It-Yourself Conversions
  • Companies That Do Conversions

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Designing Your Dream

Every house has a plan and so should every Sprinter conversion. Deciding on a floorplan and what RV equipment to install won’t be easy. However, the more thought you put into the design, the smoother the building process will go.

Interior of a Sprinter conversion by Roadtrek
Sprinter conversion by Roadtrek

Will you perform the work yourself, or hire a specialist to do part, or all of the van conversion for you? Either way, here are several questions you’ll want to ask yourself first…

How many will it sleep? You can easily create sleeping areas for 1-4 people, and by using bunk beds in the rear in addition to bench seating up front (which can convert to a bed) you could potentially sleep 6. Other bed options include a fold-down bed (which folds up and out of the way when not in use), a sofa that converts into a bed, or a bed that is attached to the ceiling and can be lowered for use.

12-volt power? To avoid draining the Sprinter’s starting battery, you’ll want to install an auxiliary 12-volt DC system to power the lights, water pump, fan, furnace, refrigerator, and any other equipment you’ll use with an inverter such as a TV, computer, microwave, etc. Deep cycle batteries such as AGM batteries are best as these are completely sealed and need no maintenance. The batteries can be charged by various methods such as:

  • van engine’s alternator
  • solar panels
  • converter/charger (if plugged into 110 volt electricity)
  • generator
  • wind power from a portable wind turbine

Will you be RV boondocking? If you plan to camp without campground hookups for an extended period, consider outfitting your Sprinter conversion with an RV solar panel charging system. Using the sun is the best way to charge your batteries when boondocking. Up to 4 solar panels will easily fit onto a Sprinter van roof. If you plan on using an air conditioner, or other high powered device, you’ll also need to install a generator or carry along a portable generator.

Do you commonly stay at campgrounds with hookups? Then you’ll probably want to install an AC electrical system so you can plug into shore power at your campsite. This will allow you to use 110-volt appliances without a generator or inverter. If you want to charge your camper’s batteries while plugged into AC power, you’ll also need to install an RV converter/charger.

Are you headed for the back roads? A Sprinter van isn’t exactly a Jeep, but it sure isn’t a “Class A Castle” either. Its small size will enable you to go places few RVs would dare tread. A shorter 144″ wheelbase Sprinter conversion will be better suited for rough roads. And keeping the weight down by not going overboard on the conversion will help too. Running boards will decrease your ground clearance so keep that in mind. Replacing the stock tires with off-road versions will give you much better traction. And if you really want to tackle the hills, Sprinter 4X4 conversions are available.

Galley on a Sprinter van conversion by Sportsmobile
Galley on a Sprinter van conversion by Sportsmobile

Propane? Propane is the fuel most commonly used for the RV stove, furnace, hot water heater, and three-way refrigerator. However, there are alternatives. You can find stoves and heaters that use diesel fuel instead of propane – perfect for a Sprinter conversion as you already have the diesel. These are made by two companies, Webasto and Espar.

Another option, if you’re plugged into shore power, is to use a microwave or electric hot plate for cooking and a small electric heater for warmth. For hot water, small portable propane water heaters are available. And instead of a three-way refrigerator, you can use one that runs off 12-volt DC power – provided you have an adequately sized battery bank and a reliable means to charge your batteries.

Where will the water go? Unless you prefer dry camping in the literal sense (I apologize for my dry humor),  some sort of water system is a must. This means installing a water tank, water lines, and water pump. It’s recommended that the water tank be installed inside the Sprinter van to keep it better insulated and to prevent freezing. You’ll want to situate the tank for easy filling. If you’ll be doing some extended RV boondocking, consider a larger tank. But watch your water weight as each gallon of H20 weighs 8.3 lbs.

What about waster water? If you want to bring along the kitchen sink (or the shower), a grey water holding tank is needed. The size will all depend on how long you camp and how fast you fill it – but a capacity slightly lower than that of the freshwater tank is typical for RVs.

What about a toilet? Most Sprinter conversions do without a permanent toilet and instead use a portable toilet such as the Thetford Porta Potti. This type of portable commode can be emptied into a regular toilet or at an RV dump station. If installing a permanent toilet, the black water holding tank must be mounted directly below the toilet.

Floors, walls, windows, and insulation? You’ll have to decide what types of materials to use for the floors, walls, and insulation on your Sprinter conversion. And if you want to install RV windows you have several options including:

  • fixed pane
  • sliding pane
  • louver
  • egress, or escape windows
Sprinter camper with wet bath by Roadtrek
Sprinter camper with wet bath by Roadtrek

Ventilation? For ventilation, screen windows can be installed. And a roof vent with a fan is a superb way to extract heat and keep the fresh air flowing.

Do-It-Yourself Conversions

A do-it-yourself (DIY) Sprinter conversion is a great way to save money and get all the features you want in a Sprinter van camper. You won’t have to settle for factory configurations. When you build it yourself you’ll have full control over the design. And completing a project of this magnitude can be extremely satisfying.

Custom Sprinter conversion interior with lots of natural woodwork
Custom Sprinter conversion interior with lots of natural woodwork

Advantages to Tackling It Yourself

  • You get exactly what you want and nothing you don’t.
  • You can save thousands of dollars over factory built Sprinter conversions.
  • You’ll be more familiar with a van conversion you did yourself and will have a better handle on how to modify or fix things later.
  • Used Mercedes Sprinter Vans are easy to find online.
  • A wide variety of RV equipment is available from online stores.

Do-It-Yourself Disadvantages

  • It’s a major time investment. But it all depends on how elaborate your design is. If you’re building a full blown RV with a shower, toilet, and complete kitchen you could spend countless hours on the design and construction. Perhaps buying a used Sprinter RV that could be modified would be more practical.
  • An insurance company may not be able to insure a DIY Sprinter conversion as a recreational vehicle. The insurer may need proof of the RV’s value, which is hard to do in this case. Check with your insurance company to be sure.

Companies That Do Conversions

With the growing popularity of the Sprinter van, several companies are now in the business of doing Sprinter conversions. Whether you want a full blown RV decked out with all the features of a large motorhome, or a simple Sprinter camper with little more than a place to sleep, you can leave the work to the experts.

Here you’ll find companies that build Sprinter conversions and offer you a few options, as well as some that do complete custom Sprinter conversions. Whether you build it yourself or not, seeing what’s already out there will give you several ideas on how to get started. Good luck in your quest to create the ultimate Sprinter conversion!

  • Airstream
    Airstream (the same company famous for its travel trailers) offers the Interstate model with 6 different floorplans. It’s built on the 170″ wheelbase Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van and features rear lounge seating that converts into a bed at the touch of a button.
  • Leisure Travel Vans
    Leisure Travel Vans builds the Free Spirit, a 170″ wheelbase Sprinter conversion. This campervan features a ducted roof air system for even heating and cooling.
  • Midwest Automotive Designs
    Midwest Automotive Designs specializes in custom Sprinter conversions and can build a Sprinter RV to your specifications.
  • Outside Van
    Outside Van is all about outdoor adventure. The company can build you a customized Sprinter camper to suit your active outdoor lifestyle. They have several toy hauling and gear storing options. And check out the Off The Grid model built for RV boondocking.
  • Pleasure-Way
    Pleasure-Way offers the Plateau with 4 different floorplans all based on the 170″ wheelbase Sprinter van. It boasts a large 6 cubic foot double door fridge along with a good sized bathroom. The sofa transforms into a bed with the touch of a button.
  • Roadtrek
    Roadtrek has 3 Sprinter van camper models: The RS-Adventurous is built on the 170″ wheelbase Sprinter and offers two floorplan choices, the SS-Agile is based on the shorter 144″ wheelbase Sprinter, and the SS-Ideal is also based on the 144″ wheelbase Sprinter and boosts a rear slide-out room that provides an extra 3 feet of living space.
  • Sportsmobile
    Not finding a Sprinter floorplan you like? Design your own. Sportsmobile hands the reigns over to you in the design process, building a Sprinter conversion to your specifications. The company’s website has numerous floorplans you can tweak, and all kinds of options including a pop-up roof, solar panel charging system, and built-in generator.
  • Van Specialties
    Van Specialties does custom van conversions. So if you can dream it, they can build it.
  • Winnebago
    Winnebago offers the Era which is based on the 170″ wheelbase Sprinter Van. This Class B motorhome features a power sofa that converts into a bed. An extendable LED TV swivels 180 degrees for viewing from either end of the RV. A patio awning is optional.
  • Xplorer Motor Homes
    Xplorer Motor Homes builds the Sprinter Xplorer Xtreme 3500 on the 170″ wheelbase Sprinter van. Several floorplans are available. Unique options include a built-in lockable safe, built-in diesel generator, diesel cook top, Espar diesel heating system, and a tankless hot water heater.

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Still hungry for more juicy tidbits on the Sprinter RV? You’ve come to the right place. Here’s what’s on the menu.

Featured image by Clay Banks

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