Diesel vs Gas/ 2x4 vs 4x4

Hello!

I am planning to buy a van. I have been looking and I feel like have a pretty good budget of $60k. I know this is a lot of money but I will be living in the van full time, taking my dog along with me, and toys such as bikes, snowboards, and dirt bike. My original absolute must haves for my van were; higher top, extended, diesel, 4x4, and preferably with no more than 100-150k miles on it. I know these vehicles tend to be more expensive and I am having a tough time finding anything (converted or not) within my budget. I would like to find the right vehicle that I can keep until I run it into the ground and that is why I am willing to spend a little more. But most vans that meet my requirements run $85k+. I am wondering where I can afford to budge. Is diesel a necessity? For those who are super out doorsy, has having a 2x4 ever stopped you from going places? Right now I have the option to buy a 2015 2500 Dodge Promaster Ecodiesel with 81k miles on it and is partially built out. It is located in Portland Oregon and they are offering it to me for $50k is it worth it? I will have to finish converting it but want to make sure I’m buying what will fit me best. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated!

Hey Lindsay,
Hope all is well for you. You have quite a few questions in regards to your future purchase. This is my two cents. Personally, if you take certain things into consideration, you may find something within your budget. Also, do you really need a diesel? Diesels are known for long engine life, but late model gasoline engines with today’s machining and lubricant technology are approaching mileages unheard of twenty years ago. Also, the hefty costs to repair a diesel must be considered. At 100-150k a diesel engine may still have quite a bit of life left, but some components such as injection pumps and injectors tend to fail at about the 100-150K range. Finally, if a gas engine stalls out on a road trip, there is a good chance you may be able to fix it yourself and get back on the road. With a diesel, this would most likely not be possible. Finally, some good driving and a locker or limited slip can get you places. I’m not knocking a diesel, but being a diesel mechanic, it is just something to think about

Greetings!

I woulld say that $50k for a 2015 2500 Dodge Promaster Ecodiesel with 81k miles on it is a total rip off, and I would never buy a non factory converted rig either. The quality & safety of most DIY conversions is abysmal.

I’m not a fan of any of the newish Euro style vans. I think the previous generations of truly American built vans are much better quality. Instead of age or mileage, I look at durability & longevity. Whole drivetrains & suspensions can be replaced fairly cheaply in older rigs, giving them a whole new lease on life.

I would avoid both diesel & 4x4. I would also consider a motorhome instead of a van… They can be found cheap, with low miles, and in excellent condition. The added space can make a HUGE difference in livability.

So I went up on Portland’s Craigslist, and found a number of rigs I would consider…

2001 Chevrolet G3500 LS Van Express Extended HIGH ROOF Cargo Passenger - $6,995. High miles, but a whole new drivetrain, front end, suspension, brakes, etc. could be installed for ~$5k.

2008 E-250 Econoline Extended WHEELCHAIR LIFT HIGH ROOF van- $8,995. Another high mileage one, that could easily be refreshed.

1989 Dodge Road Trek. Low Miles. $5500.

1975 Superior RV Motor Home - $5,500 78k miles, same length as a van.

1988 Jayco Class C, 77k miles, $1600.

All of these would save you a fortune, both now & in the future. All are cheap & easy to repair with readily available parts.

I tend to look at the big picture… Drivetrains can replaced pretty cheap on older vehicles, and they will retain their value better too. I’ve put over 1,000,000 miles on cheap rigs, never been disappointed, and lived in them quite comfortably. I’m currently living in a 1973 high top Dodge Travco camper van that is approaching 500k trouble free miles on it’s original drivetrain, and still runs like brand new. Purchase price and the last 11years worth of repairs totals less than $1500. (Doesn’t include typical maintenance, tires, brakes, etc. Just actual repairs.) Once a year I’ll add a quart of Slick 50 on an oil change, and a bottle of fuel system cleaner into the gas tank. It gets 15/18 mpg, city/highway. In the last 11 years, it has never broken down, not once.

Cheers!


"Old school, cheap, simple, reliable, and easily replaceable for the win!" ~ Traveler@Heart


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I really should sell my van while the getting is good. $50k for a 2015 with 81k and is not even completely built out. That is just crazy.

I do not believe diesel is going to get you much at this point. It can be harder to find and I think the only company still adding that option new is Mercedes.

We do not have 4x,4 just traction pads and good tires. We have been never really been stuck bad enough to need a pull out. I actually never had to even use the traction pads. Sure 4x4 is good, but if you are going to go that route, you’d be better off with a truck and camper in the back. We honestly haven’t had the need for 4x4 and most camping spots we find on apps, that people deem you need a 4x4 to get too, can easily be reached by a capable driver with front or rear wheel drive vehicles.

If I was going to spend that kinda cash on an adventure rig and not get something completely new it would be something like this:

https://www.thesamba.com/vw/classifieds/detail.php?id=2493525

Pretty much has all you are looking for including 4x4 and it will hold it’s value. Repairs are also very cheap. Just food for thought, or you could also get something half the price in near mint condition (https://www.thesamba.com/vw/classifieds/detail.php?id=2487658) sans 4x4.

For 50k you could buy a brand new 2021 Promaster and convert it yourself with top of the line gear and have brand a brand new vehicle with low mileage and a good warranty.

You gotta ask yourself. Is the 6 years, 80k miles, and half built out conversation worth the extra $13k you’re going to spend over the Promaster 2500 high top’s, $37k starting price. In my opinion probably not. Throwing a mattress down in a brand new one will likely make you just as happy and you’ll have peace of mind knowing that if something breaks, someone else is going to fix it for you and you aren’t going to pay a dime for it for a long time.

Two more things, if the van is only a 1500 definitely don’t get it as it will have a low GVWR meaning less weight capacity for gear.

Most importantly of all, before you do buy it, call the insurance companies and see if they’ll insure it for you or not. Likely spending that much money, you’ll want to have full coverage. Insurance on the self built rigs can be a real pain to get.

Good luck!

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Like others have said, diesel isn’t that much of an advantage nowadays. Sure, you’ll get slightly better fuel mileage and some more torque, but the extra purchase cost and extra cost for fuel (usually higher than gas here in the US) makes it more expensive in the long run. 40 years ago I owned diesel cars while living in Europe, but that was then and this is now. I’ll probably never buy another diesel.

As for 4WD I don’t think it’s much of an advantage in a van - vans are too big to go places where a Jeep can go. Most people who have them might engage the 4WD less than 1% of the time they drive it. Better to have a locking differential and good tires in my opinion. Most people who insist on 4WD aren’t doing it for practical reasons, they do it for their ego and the “manly” appearance. Let go of the ego and you’ll be much happier and your wallet will thank you!

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I would not buy the Promaster, especially for that price.

2WD will not get you everywhere, but neither will 4WD.

Personally, I would go with 2WD (better on fuel and cheaper to maintain) and put some money towards good tires, a locker, a winch, and/or a recovery strap. You’ll be better equipped for off-roading than a 4WD without those accessories, and will have spent less money too.

As far as gas vs diesel, I still prefer diesel. In Canada, it is cheaper (by a little) and it is more efficient. Diesel engines tend to last longer than their gas counterparts, too. There is a reason that every single tractor trailer and train is diesel. That said, the newest generation of vehicles, with direct injected and/or turbocharged gasoline motors, are a pretty viable option too.

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Thank you so much for your input and links you provided!

Thank you so much! This was very helpful!

Thank you! This was super helpful!

Thank you Axel! So grateful for all the good feedback:)