Newbie ready to buy van

Hi, I have been considering van life for a year and I’m ready to take the plunge. I want to buy a Mercedes Sprinter van, but I wonder how old, how much, and how many miles? I’m looking at vans that are about $17,000 with 100,000 miles and 5+ years old. Also looking for high roof/no windows.
Any advice???

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Greetings & Welcome!

Sprinter vans newer than 2008 have serious and expensive problems with their complicated exhaust systems. Cargo vans also make terrible camper vans. Factory campers have many windows because of their many advantages, and nobody in their right mind will be happy living in a windowless box. Contrary to the lies of the promoters, cargo vans are also the exact opposite of stealthy, and carry a huge negative stigma in the eyes of both the public and the police.

For newbies, I usually suggest cheap, older, factory camper vans or motorhomes. They’re move in ready, and they hold their value. I have rarely paid over $2500 for a good, reliable, move in ready vehicle. Even if you step up to a $5k-$8k vehicle, you will still be much money ahead of building your own. Save building your own until you have a lot of experience and know what you want and need going in, through your own experience, not the lies of the promoters. Most of us are actually the happiest with the simplest builds, full featured but comfortable, convenient, and easily & cheaply replaceable.

The promoters are after your money, they don’t care about your comfort, your success, or how much money they will cause you to lose. They are not your friends, and in fact are closer too your enemies. They are selfish, and will gladly lie, cheat, and steal to put some of your money into their pockets. They’re getting paid to promote horrible choices.

If you’re still convinced that you want to build your own, at least start with a passenger window van, and don’t put any holes in your roof, because sooner or later, they always leak. Opening windows and a cheap fan provide much better ventilation than an expensive roof vent with a fan anyway. Also don’t gut it, just remove the rear seats and keep the floor, walls, and ceiling intact. It’s best to move your furniture in and secure it, instead of actually building it in. A complete conversion with all the amenities should cost hundreds, not thousands. My current conversion cost under $300 and I have all the amenities of a $100k+ motorhome. My high top van only cost $750 in perfect mechanical condition. It’s old (1973) but it has proven itself to be both comfortable and reliable in the 10+ years I’ve been living in it. It’s nearing 500k miles on the original engine and transmission, and it still runs perfectly and even passes smog testing. It is likely to out live me.

Too many people lose too much by following the advice of the promoters. On a previous build, they cost me over a $30k loss in just under a year. Please don’t become one of their many victims. Money alone, or with the promoter’s terrible advice, won’t buy you the happiness you seek. It takes common sense, and non commercial advice from those of us with actual experience, until you have actual experience on your own, and even then, people like me are still learning from others with even more experience. I’ve been a nomad for over 40 years, my entire adult life, and I’ve been blessed with gaining knowledge by some of the best. Even with my previous experience, I got suckered by the promoters. They promote beautiful dreams, that in reality turn into very expensive nightmares.

Good luck, and we’ll look forward to hearing more from you.


"Never gamble more than you can afford to lose." ~ Dare2Dream

I appreciate your advice, but it is contrary to a lot of the advice that I have seen. Maybe it’s different strokes for different folks? I need to live in LA part of the year and anything that looks like anyone lives in it is not stealth. That includes having windows or looking like a camper van. Also, I’ll need to drive around a fair amount, so I need something that’s not too old and will not break down on me. The advice I’ve seen seems to be from people who live in Sprinter vans and like them.

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There’s no such thing as stealth, that’s just another lie made up by the promoters to get people to buy cargo vans, and spend a ton of money converting them. The more you try to hide, the more suspicious you become, and the more negative attention you draw to yourself. Somebody is ALWAYS watching!

You’re being brainwashed by the promoters… No honest vandweller promotes vandwelling or cargo vans, we offer support, but we DO NOT promote it. Anybody promoting it is doing it for their own gain.

The mistakes are yours to make, I have only tried to help you avoid them. I am mostly a city dweller, with many years of experience…



"A cheap factory camper beats an expensive project every time." ~ Promoters_Lie!
"Cargo vans are not stealthy, they're a scam!" ~ Road Warrior

Wow! I’m one of those people who’s not been in their right mind as I had no problems with a windowless van. I have had a few problems getting the windows covered in a window van.
All in all, this is a very minor point…

I have a hard time with people who state opinion as fact… But I do agree with you about a used camper van as a place to start.

If you have your heart set on building it yourself, then have at it! This is your life, enjoy it & do it the way that makes you happy!

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welcome to the van life :wink:


I just see too many people getting led astray. It’s not all rainbows and roses out here like the promoters lead people to believe. I work for a living, attend a lot of rallies, and know a lot of nomads, so I can report the facts, without it impacting my income.

People deserve the truth, the good, the bad, and the ugly. They deserve to be made aware of all the options, not just the ones which are highly promoted. There seems to be a never ending supply of $100+ solutions to solve $5 problems.

I want to see people succeed in following their dreams and passions, with honest & sustainable real world solutions, and on their very first try. With enough choices, this is possible in all walks of life, not just vandwelling, and even starting out dead broke.


"Smiles are contagious, pass it on!" ~ Van_Dweller