Gas Vs Diesel Sprinter – Which Is Right For You?

Gas Vs Diesel Sprinter – Which Is Right For You?

Imagine this. You’re standing on a dealership lot, looking at two 2500 144″ High Roof Cargo Sprinter Vans, but one has a Diesel Engine and the other Gas. Which one would you choose? There is a lot to consider when choosing the right engine for your conversion, and it comes down to the purpose of the van and how you intend to drive it. In this blog, we’re going to break down the critical deciding factors of a Gas vs Diesel Sprinter so that you can make an educated decision best for your adventures. 

The Vans Purpose 

There are three questions you need to ask yourself before deciding which engine is right for you: 

  • Where do you currently live? 
  • Where do you plan to travel? 
  • What do you plan on hauling? 

If you’re looking for a conversion to be a multi-use vehicle such as a mobile office or daily driver, in addition to your adventure vehicle, then a gas engine is probably the right choice for you. This is because the driving feel of the gas engine van will be most comparable to the comfortability of sedans, compact SUVs, etc. This is due to the smoother power and torque curve and lack of turbo lag that Diesel engines experience. However, if you’re not looking to use your conversion as a daily driver and plan to travel long distances to remote locations, a Diesel engine is right for you. In this instance, a Diesel Engine will fare better on highways and provide you with the appropriate power to handle challenging terrain at your desired destinations. 

Two Diesel Sprinter Conversion Weight Ratings, Towing, & Payload Capacity 

Every modern vehicle manufactured has a GVWR, or Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. Which, essentially, is a measure of how much weight the vehicle can safely manage on its own. Vehicles also have a GCWR, or Gross Combined Weight Rating, which is the GVWR + Towing Capacity. Most Sprinter vans have a maximum towing capacity of 5,000 pounds (7500 lbs for 3500 duallys, besides the 170 EXT) with a Tongue Weight maximum of 500 pounds. However, each chassis and conversion will have a unique payload capacity depending on the engine and driveline. Payload capacity is the GVWR minus the vehicle’s weight. This means the leftover capacity for stuff is your payload capacity. For clarity, the payload capacity is the amount of weight the vehicle can carry, while the towing capacity is the amount of weight the vehicle can pull behind it. The only crossover here is the tongue weight, which needs to be accounted for in your payload numbers. You can find the ratings of your specific vehicle on a special sticker located inside the driver’s door jamb, or on the driver’s seat frame. Note that vans converted by a professional company should have addendums posted to the payload sticker to account for the amount of weight that was added during the conversion process. The new label should accurately reflect the weight of the van and provide an updated payload capacity. This updated figure is what you need to use when considering how much gear you can bring along. 

Now, what does this mean to you and your decision choices? Unfortunately, the “bigger is better” logic doesn’t apply to the Sprinter. Most would think that the van with the largest engine can haul more and tow more. Wrong. Well, only mostly wrong. The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 2500 chassis has the same GVWR, regardless of engine size. If we remember from above, payload equals GVWR minus van weight. This means that the heavier engines will translate to less payload capacity. Sorry America, bigger isn’t always better in this case. Below is a quick apples to apples comparison of a Gas vs Diesel Sprinter 144” wheelbase cargo vans payload capacities. 

  • 2022 2500 144 High High Roof 4 Cylinder Gas Cargo 2WD
    • Payload: 4,376 lbs
  • 2500 144 High High Roof 4 Cylinder Diesel Cargo 2WD
    • Payload: 4,112 lbs
  • 2500 144 High High Roof 6 Cylinder Diesel Cargo 2WD
    • Payload: 4057 lbs
  • 2500 144 High High Roof 6 Cylinder Diesel Cargo 4WD
    • Payload: 3704 lbs

Looking at these numbers makes you question why ever go with the larger engine option. The answer? Drivability. Yes the calculations and figures tell us that the smallest engine can legally haul the most. But those numbers don’t mean much when you’re trying to get your 8,600lb campervan out of the way of a fiercely charging big rig while driving uphill on the grapevine. The ability to get out of your own way is a sought-after experience for those with a heavy load. Ultimately, you really shouldn’t expect to win any race in a Sprinter Camper van, the 6cyl diesel might give you the best chance if you decide to give it a go.

Interior of Diesel Van The Cost Of A Gas vs Diesel Sprinter Conversion

The cost of a Gas engine is significantly lower than that of a 4×4 Diesel. However, so are the benefits. Contributing factors to the cost of a Diesel engine are typically due to the need for added equipment such as DEF system and the need for heavier duty components that allow the engine to perform well when operating at such higher compression rates. In addition to the cost, several Diesel conversion owners believe that the vehicle’s resale value and life expectancy make the increased price well worth the investment. In a best-case scenario, when it comes time to sell the van, you would receive what you paid for, breaking even, which is uncommon among Gas sprinters.  

Below we list three conversions and their current base model price as listed on the Mercedes Benz Vans website. 

  • 2022 2500 144 High High Roof 4 Cylinder Gas Cargo 2WD
    • Price: $42,600
  • 2500 144 High High Roof 4 Cylinder Diesel Cargo 2WD
    • Price: $47,920
  • 2500 144 High High Roof 6 Cylinder Diesel Cargo 4WD
    • Price: $56,420

As you can see, there is a $13,820 difference between the 2WD Gas Sprinter and the 4WD Diesel Sprinter, and this does not include any additional features or the conversion build. Another note to keep in mind is that while you can have a diesel engine in both a 2WD and 4WD van, you can only have a Gas engine in a 2WD, limiting your ability to travel to specific destinations.

Cost of Fuel 

Typically, you’ll get more fuel savings with a gas-powered engine. However, diesel engines are more fuel-efficient, so what is the cost breakdown? 

If you choose to take a 2500 144″ Gas Cargo 2WD that averages 15 miles to the gallon and drive it from Los Angeles to Joshua Tree National Park, a 130-mile trip, with gas selling at $5.60 per gallon, means gas would cost you $48.53 for that drive. 

If you choose to take a 2500 144″ Diesel Cargo 2WD that averages 18 miles to the gallon and drive the same distance with Diesel selling at $6.27 per gallon, that trip would cost you $45.28. 

While paying for Diesel at the pump may appear as more of an expense, its efficiency saves you from an extra trip to the gas station. Keep in mind that not every gas station carries diesel fuel, so in more remote locations you may find yourself driving farther to grab the fuel you need. It’s important to note that the Sprinter diesel engine is not compatible with biodiesel fuel blends past 5% (B5). California, in particular, has made a broad push for sustainable fuel options and urged many suppliers to switch their pumps to 20% (B20) biodiesel. This fuel should only be used in emergency situations and mixed with standard Ultra-low sulfur diesel as soon as possible afterwards.  If you ever plan on taking your campervan to Mexico, proper diesel stations are few and far between, so be prepared to bring a few extra jugs along for the ride. 

Maintenance of the Engines 

In general, it’s more expensive to maintain a diesel engine than a gas engine, and this is due to the lack of labor availability, the expense of parts, and the longevity of the vehicle. While diesel is more expensive to maintain, it typically lives another 200,000 miles than its gas counterpart, which could be another 5-10 years, depending on how often you use your conversion. In addition, the service interval for the Sprinter diesel engine is 20,000 miles while gas is 15,000 miles.

You also need to use Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) with a diesel engine. This fluid is a water and urea solution that’s inserted into the exhaust stream to turn NOx gasses into nitrogen and water. To meet EPA emission standards, vehicle manufacturers implemented this fluid in 2010 to meet standards without compromising engine performance or fuel efficiency. When the DEF light on your dashboard comes on, you need to fill up fast as your engine will have a fixed amount of starts (typically 16x) before the van turns to limp mode. A good rule of thumb is to top off your DEF once it hits half tank, or every few fill-ups to ensure you don’t run low. 

Gas and diesel engine is different terrain Environmental Impact 

If you’re looking to reduce your environmental impact, as many outdoor enthusiasts strive to do, then a Diesel conversion is the best option. Due to the engine’s efficiency, diesel can emit 42% less CO2 than its gas counterpart, a significant contributor to global warming. Diesel fuel is also greener to produce because the refining process of gas is more complicated and takes longer, allowing greenhouse gasses to be released over an extended period.  

If you’re still on the fence if a Gas vs Diesel Sprinter Conversion is right for you, reach out to our team at [email protected]. We’re happy to help you get on the road in a vehicle you’ll love! 

About Us

As a Mercedes-Benz Certified Expert Upfitter, ADF Sprinters has been perfecting the craft of van conversions since 2009.