Sprinter 144 vs. 170: What Size Sprinter Van is Best for a Camper Van Conversion?
What Does Wheelbase Mean?
Sprinters are cargo vans that come in three different “wheelbases”. The wheelbase of a vehicle is simply the distance between the two axles. The Sprinter van is available in:
- 144” WB
- 170” WB
- 170” Extended WB
While the Sprinter 170 and the 170Ext vans technically have the same wheelbase, the extended version offers an additional 15 inches of nterior length for your build out. The body of the van ‘extends’ farther back past the rear wheels, which is what creates the extra length of the van.
Parking and Maneuverability
When it comes to parking and maneuverability in tight spaces, it should come as no surprise that the 144” wheelbase Sprinter van holds the advantage. This wheelbase has a tighter turning radius, and it fits easily in standard parking spaces found in most parking lots.
However, the 170” WB Sprinter van is plenty nimble. The van does (barely) fit in standard parking spots, and, like all Sprinters, was designed with city driving in mind. Compared to a traditional RV, a 170” Sprinter is far and away the more nimble vehicle. The narrow profile of the Sprinter, combined with its safety features and moderate size, allow it to navigate city streets with ease.
Unless you do a lot of city driving and you plan on using your Sprinter van as your daily driver, parking and drivability shouldn’t be too much of a factor when choosing a wheelbase for your van.
Living Space in Your Camper Van
This one is pretty simple. The longer the wheelbase of your camper van, the more buildable living space there will be inside for your floor plan. The difference in interior space between a 144” and 170” extended wheelbase Sprinter may seem inconsequential at first, but it’s quite a big gap in reality.
But there are some important considerations to take into account when choosing a length for your adventure van. First, if you have kids or want more than two seats in the van, a 170” WB Sprinter is almost always the best van.
Next, consider how important a full-length bed is to you. Full-length beds do not fit horizontally in Sprinter vans; they must be oriented front to back. In a shorter wheelbase 144” Sprinter, having a full-length bed oriented front to back means that the rest of your living space will be very limited.
The 144” offers about 10.5 feet of buildable space, front to back, so a full-length bed leaves you with about 4 feet of buildable space. A 170, meanwhile, has about 14 feet of buildable space, making a full-length bed the easy choice.
Finally, simply consider your typical usage of the van, and what you personally need to be comfortable. Everyone is different, while some people need the extra space, the smaller 144” wheelbase will be plenty of room for others.
Additionally, if you are planning on living in your van full-time, you might want to consider going with more living space.
Sprinter vans are popular, in large part, due to their off-road capabilities. These vans come with optional 4×4 and suspension upgrades for added clearance and control in off-road environments. The off-road capability of Sprinter vans allows their drivers to access tucked away campsites and mountain bike trailheads that simply aren’t accessible in other types of recreational vehicles.
For light to moderate trail use, all sizes of Sprinter camper vans should perform fine, especially when equipped with 4×4. However, if you plan to use your van in situations where substantial ground clearance and/or a high amount of maneuverability is needed, you may want to consider sticking with the 144” wheelbase van.
The shorter the wheelbase, the less likely it is that you will encounter issues with ground clearance when driving off-road. Plus, if you encounter tight turns with trees or other obstacles on the sides of the road, the 144” will be easier to safely maneuver.
Which Wheelbase Sprinter Van is Best for Camper Van #Vanlife?
You’ll have to consider your personal needs and desires when choosing the specs of your Sprinter van. If you want a more maneuverable, highly off-road capable rig, a 144” might be right for you. On the other hand, if you plan on traveling with more than one passenger, or want more luxury and comfort in your van, the 170” Sprinter is probably the right call.