What would you do?

Which would you do?

  • Upfit the E250 with a hi top

    Votes: 2 20.0%
  • Buy the 3500 and continue DIY conversion

    Votes: 3 30.0%
  • Buy the 2500 and do a unfitter/DIY conversion

    Votes: 5 50.0%

  • Total voters


New member
I have an 2001 E250 extended 5.4L V8. It's getting 15mpg, 16 if I'm lucky, and it's as close to 100% mechanically sound as I'm going to get for it's 280k miles, with new tires and everything. I'm ok hanging out in it, but I don't feel I have enough room for me, my gf, my 20lbs dog, and our climbing, kiting, skiing, and surfing gear to head down to Terra del Fuego on a years long trip. Mainly, I want to be able to stand up and hang out! Instead of a dorm room on wheels, I'd like a micro apartment on wheels. I can probably sell it for 7k in my market.

Enter the Sprinter. I'm looking at a good condition 2003 Sprinter 3500 long bed with 190k miles and pretty full records, partially built out, for 15k USD, or a 2004 Sprinter 2004 cargo long bed with 380k miles, but a new engine that I can get a pre-inspection on and for 7k USD. I'd use the price difference to upfit it with nice stuff.

I can afford the higher quality of life, but I'd like to keep costs under 20k USD. Should I send the ford for a high top and pimp it out, get the expensive partially kitted out sprinter, or get the cheaper blank slate sprinter?

E250 Pros: I know the van already, it's reliable, good clearance, it's cheap (maybe not after a upfitter work) and parts and mechanics will be easy south of the border, and it's less conspicuous south of the border (maybe not after a hi top conversion).

E250 Cons: Less space, gas engine, gas mileage.

3500 Pros: Dulley has good traction, already finished in a good way, and easily customizable, just add solar, 190k miles, space.

3500 Cons: Dulley has ok mileage, 15k USD, not perfectly kitted out, lots of recent "preventative" engine work including new gaskets and alternator, but it has all service records and is probably mechanically sound, needs new tires, no easy support south of the border, less dirt road ability.

2500 Pros: Best gas mileage, cheap at 7k or less, mechanic's inspection, blank slate, space.

2500 Cons: 390k miles with an unknown mileage/ reason new engine, largely unknown history, blank slate, no easy support south of the border, less dirt road ability.

What would you do? I'm leaning towards the 2500 and taking it to an upfitter.


Active member
You have a tough decision. Another variable to add is the availability of ultra low sulfur fuel in South America. Not sure if the this is an issue with 2003 and 2004 diesels. There are a few other threads here about the this issue but I haven't read all of them because I am not planning a trip there. You can use the search button in the blue bar or here is one of the first ones https://sprinter-source.com/forums/showthread.php?t=12543&highlight=uls If it were just in the States I would go the 3500 route. Good luck and welcome to the forum. Let us know what route you took.

Old Crows

Calypso 2014 View Profile
MPG isn't a factor...reliability is. IMHO, you need a newer set of wheels. Setting off on a what?, 40k adventure with 10+ year old high mileage vans sounds sketchy to me regardless of condition of the van. Definitely a turbo diesel for the high altitude work and pulling power. 3500 for the load & capacity. Five or 6 speed tranny. Electronic stability & traction controls. Also, what kind of parts are available in these exotic lands?

Sometimes you have to exercise some weight control and jettison the excess baggage.


New member
It sure is sketchy, but it wouldn't be an adventure without risk. Unfortunately, a new vehicle isn't always in the budget. What is fortunate is that in the modern day and age, shipping is a marvel, especially with the right reshippers.

I probably wouldn't do a round the world trip in a 40 yo vanagon like these crazy awesome fools: http://www.vwvagabonds.com/Howdoyou.html http://www.drivenachodrive.com/ but I'd do South America in a 10yo van!

I agree that reliability is the #1 most important factor.


Active member
On all three vans the mileage wouldn't scare me if I knew all the history of the van. How many miles on the rebuilt engine?
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New member
I'm not sure of the mileage on engine 2. I'll ask the mechanic for his best guess at condition.
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New member
At those mileages, I vote for the Ford unless you have Dennis from Linden along heading your pit crew...
What are your mechanical abilities? They will undoubtedly be put to the test, likely in remote places. I don't know much about the E250, but my guess is that is mechanically more straightforward than the Sprinter. Sprinter specific diagnostic equipment is needed to communicate with the 7 or so different computers that are talking to each other to make the van go. So, even good mechanics will be limited without it. Something as a simple as a fuel filter change (when you fill up with questionable diesel) can leave you with a no start condition due to the pre- '04 fuel pump set up.
On the other hand, with the Ford, most mechanics (or you) will probably have a greater likelihood of fixing (or at least MacGyvering your way out of) a problem encountered on the road. For a trip of that length and duration, you should also consider that you could have a catastrophic breakdown where the most practical move would be to get rid of the van altogether and fly home. It would be less of a loss with the Ford.

Just my $.02.

Buen viaje!


New member
Of the 3, I'd go with the devil I know. The $7k Sprinter with new engine (how new?). I'd sell the Ford to subsidize part of the Sprinter price.


New member
If you are looking for Good MPG SPRINTER single back wheels (2500) is a Way to GO:rad:

February 2014 I made a "one-shut" trip to Miami from Panama City Florida ~650 miles.
Before fill tank up to cork.
Drove CC 70m/h. After calculation on next tank refill got 23.3 miles per gallon.

Around my neighbor-hood Panama City there is NO interstate HW. Speed limit 55m/h.
I am lazy (or lesure) driver, I drive 45m/h. My max one way none-stop trip is ~50miles.
So in October 2014 made my MPG check again GOT 28mpg:shhh:
a week ago I put it on SALE,
If I take some "Fancy Futures" out it may shakes price DOWN from 23,000 UDS:thinking:


03 2500 158wb HR
Buy the 03 and find a way to deal with the egr (delete, have a spare) should it fail during the trip.


New member
If you drive less than 15k a year, mpg isn't too relevant. The difference between 15 and 20mpg is 25%. 15k miles is 1000 gallons at 15mpg ($3500 @ $3.50), 750 gallons at 20mpg ($2625). An $875 difference annually, or less than $75 difference a month.


New member
Might be a bit late but my 03 freightliner 2500 has 473 thousand miles and counting. All stock internals engine trans etc. Consistently gets 22.5mpg. Just thought id give my 2 cents.


2006 2500 T1N
Might be a bit late but my 03 freightliner 2500 has 473 thousand miles and counting. All stock internals engine trans etc. Consistently gets 22.5mpg. Just thought id give my 2 cents.
Wish they were all this way. Too bad there is no way to tell when purchasing a high mileage van.

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