If you are converting a van, the Ram Promaster is likely on your list of possible vans to use. The Promaster is one of the best options on the market when it comes to building a custom camper van. Not only do amateur van builders use this type of vehicle but also manufacturers base a lot of their class B RVs off of the Promaster chassis.
There are quite a few manufactured class B RVs on the market that use this van. Below, is a shortlist of some of the RVs that are currently built using the Promaster.
All of these RVs start out as a basic Ram Promaster cargo van and are then converted into a professionally assembled RV. Why is it that this particular van is so often used by Class B RV builders? A few reasons may be because:
- It comes in a high roof
- It’s readily available
- It has a proven track record
- It’s a solid built van from a major car manufacturer
- It has a workhorse of an engine and gets great gas mileage
- It’s large and roomy and comes in different sizing options
I chose the Promaster for my van conversion and have been very happy with it. For the most part, it is a very easy van to work with and provides a great shell to hold your mobile home. If you are like me, there are probably a few vans on your list to be considered. There are usually three different vans that people look at when they take on the challenge of converting a van.
- Ram Promaster
- Mercedes Sprinter
- Ford Transit
I looked at all of these models before I settled on the Promaster. Let’s look at how these vans stack up to the Promaster van.
Ram Promaster Vs Mercedes Sprinter
The Sprinter van has been a very popular model for van conversions. It’s almost as if this van is seen as a status symbol in the van life community. Sprinter vans can be quite expensive depending on the type and size that you purchase. They can also be purchased in four-wheel-drive which adds a considerable amount to the price tag.
When comparing the Sprinter to the Promaster, there are a few distinct differences that typically stand out.
- The Sprinter is available in diesel. Many people swear by the diesel engines and prefer to have this over a gasoline engine. However, I have been more than happy with the gasoline engine in my Promaster van.
- The Sprinter van has the longest vans available on the market. If you need a lot of space or have a family that will be in your van, the sprinter 170 Extended will be a great choice for you. This is larger than what the Promaster can offer at its largest size.
- Sprinter vans are more luxurious. When driving one of these, you have all the luxuries and technologies that you would expect from a Mercedes. This may be important to some people and could be beneficial if you do a lot of driving. However, for the most part, the Promaster has all that you need to ride in comfort.
- The price of a Sprinter is more than a Promaster. If you were to purchase a brand new Sprinter, you will pay a considerable amount more. Currently, in 2020, a brand new Sprinter 144″ High Roof cargo van will start at $37,270.
- The Sprinter costs more to maintain. You will need to have it serviced at a certified Mercedes dealer. These services can be much more costly than the Promaster. Parts and labor will come at a premium price.
Ram Promaster VS Ford Transit
The Ford Transit is another popular option for those converting a van. With its high roof option, the Ford Transit has the largest amount headroom in its class. Taller people will appreciate the extra headroom offered by the highest roof version of the Transit.
The following is a list of differences between the Ford Transit and the Ram Promaster.
- The Transit has a higher ceiling. If you choose the high roof option of the Transit, you are looking at a roof height of 77 inches. This is plenty of room for people up to 6’4″.
- The Ford is not as wide as the Promaster. If you intend to sleep sideways in the van, the Promaster is your option. The Transit will not accommodate most people sleeping sideways so similar to the Sprinter, you’ll need to plan on a bed that runs long ways in the van.
- The Ford Transit can be serviced nearly anywhere. There are Ford dealerships all over the country in the United States so you are never very far from being able to have your van serviced. This is similar to the Promaster but I have often been to Dodge locations where they will not service commercial vans.
- The Transit is available in four-wheel-drive. If off-roading is something you are interested in, the Transit provides a four-wheel-drive model that will help to get you off the road and into hard to reach locations. The Promaster is not the best option for this.
Ram Promaster Models, Size & Weight
The current chart shows the different Promaster models along with their interior size and gross vehicle weight. These are all cargo vans and make great options for a van conversion.
|Model||Interior Width||Interior Length||Interior Height||Gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR)|
|118″ Wheelbase 1500 Low Roof||75.6″||106.7″||66.3″||8,550 lbs|
|136″ Wheelbase 1500 Low Roof||75.6″||122.8″||66.3″||8,550 lbs|
|136″ Wheelbase 1500 High Roof||75.6″||122.8″||77.1″||8,550 lbs|
|136″ Wheelbase 2500 High Roof||75.6″||122.8″||77.1″||8,900 lbs|
|159″ Wheelbase 2500 High Roof||75.6″||146″||77.1″||8,900 lbs|
|159″ Wheelbase 3500 High Roof||75.6″||146″||77.1″||9,350 lbs|
|159″ Extended 3500 High Roof||75.6″||160.2″||77.1″||9,350 lbs|
9 Reasons To Choose A Promaster For A Van Conversion
1) It’s the widest van on the market
If you’re looking for a van that will allow you to create more space width-wise, the Promaster will accommodate best. With the Ram Promaster, you are able to set up your bed to go crossways in your van if you are average height. As you can see from the chart above, all of the Promaster vans have an interior width of 75.6 inches.
Taller people will still need to create a bed that goes lengthwise of the van. However, for most people, a bed that goes side to side is achievable and it’s exactly how I built my bed in my van. The van gives you more room from side to side so that you can create a little more roomier living area than what you might build in a narrower van.
Of course, you’ll have to consider the width of the walls in your conversion but the skeleton of the Promaster gives you a good amount of space to work with.
2) It’s An Affordable Option
A Promaster can be purchased for a reasonable price whether it is brand new or slightly used. I would recommend searching for a slightly used one but be careful as these are often driven hard and not well taken care of by companies that own them. You will need to do your due diligence when searching for one of these vans on the used market.
You can find great deals out there but just know what you are looking for and the price you are willing to pay. Don’t settle for less because as they say, there are plenty of fish in the ocean (although that’s becoming debatable nowadays).
3) It’s a Reliable Van With a Long History
The Promaster is also marketed as the Fiat Ducato in Europe and has been produced since 1981. It has a proven track record and is a reliable van for many businesses that depend on them. It came to the USA in 2014 as the Ram Promaster and has been growing in popularity since. If taken care of properly, these vans can last a LONG time and give you many years of dependable service.
4) Great Fuel Mileage
I get nearly 20 miles per gallon on average in my converted Promaster van. This is great fuel mileage considering you are hauling your home around with you everywhere you go. Of course, you’ll need to make sure to convert your van as light as possible so that you aren’t adding unnecessary weight which could be detrimental to the overall fuel economy.
5) Powerful Engine
Many people don’t like that the Promaster is only available with a gasoline engine. However, I have been more than happy with the amount of power the engine has. Again, you’ll want to make sure the van isn’t overloaded in weight. I have not had any problems getting up large hills and over mountains. I generally find the power of the 3.6L V6 to be more than enough for my needs.
6) Great Turning Radius
I am used to driving my Nissan Frontier truck so when I first drove the Promaster, I was surprised at how great the turning radius was. My truck is terrible and needs a large space to be able to turn around in which is strange considering it is a smaller truck. The Promaster uses less space to turn around in so I can whip a U-turn without worrying about whether I’ll make it or not. With my truck, I am always calculating whether I’ll be able to make a sharp turn.
7) High Roof
The van comes in various options and a high roof is the most obvious choice for a van conversion. The roof extends high enough to accommodate most people of average height or a little more. I’m about 5′ 10″ and have no problems walking around and standing up straight with a few inches left to spare.
You can also choose a low roof if you are looking to build a stealthy van but these come with their own issues. You may have to hunch over all the time when walking around and you just won’t get the feel of having a truly livable camper van.
8) Easy and Cheap to Service
For the most part, the Promaster is an easy vehicle to work on. You can take it to nearly any Dodge / Ram dealer in the USA or FIAT dealer if you live in Europe. Most places can accommodate simple service to the vehicle and for an affordable price similar to what you would pay in your personal vehicle. Unlike the Sprinter that usually comes at a more expensive cost during service visits, the Promaster is cheaper in this regard.
What’s more, you can do basic service yourself on the Promaster. Changing the oil is the most commonly needed service and it’s easy and cheap to do yourself. I have always changed the oil myself in my van and once you have all the tools you need, it’s a breeze. Of course, it may not be as easy if you are full-time on the road but finding a RAM dealer is also easy.
The only difficult part is finding a dealer that has a bay door high enough to accommodate the high roof van. Keep this in mind and know that some remote areas may not be able to perform some services due to the height of the van.
9) It’s easy to convert
The Promaster makes for one of the easiest vans to convert into a living space. This is mostly because of how the van is structured. The walls rise up fairly straight and it doesn’t have the contours of some of the other vans. Although squaring your building areas within the van is a challenge, the Promaster makes it about as easy as it’s going to be.
The structure of the inside of the van is easy to mount things into and has pre-drilled holes that are useable depending on what you are installing. I looked at numerous van models and determined that the Promaster would make the most sense for the custom build I did.
Cons of a Promaster
1) Low Clearance
If you look at the bottom of the Promaster, you’ll see that the rear axle sits less than 7 inches off the ground in its stock configuration. This doesn’t leave much room for driving in areas where rocks and other items might be on the road. Some people who want to get off the road will need to consider a lift kit so that the rear axle doesn’t sit so low. This will keep the van from bottoming out when the road isn’t paved. This isn’t a big deal for those who will stick to well-traveled roads and know the limitations of the 2wd Promaster.
I’ve never had an issue with this but I know my limitations and don’t take my van into suspect areas.
2) Not The Most Comfortable Vehicle To Drive
At first, the van seems as though it is comfortable but the further you drive, the more you notice things that could make it much better.
- The front seats sit up high. The steering wheel is also low with not much adjusting to be done. You have to extend your arms out quite a bit to reach the steering wheel. Driving for long distances always makes my upper back hurt. It’s even worse if you intend to add swivel bases to the front seat.
- Cruise control is an option. The model I ended up with didn’t have cruise control. I never even thought to check when I went to purchase it. I assumed cruise control would be a standard feature nowadays. I was wrong and didn’t even notice it until the drive home. Be sure and check this because cruise will make it so much better. You’ll have to install an aftermarket one if you make the mistake I did.
3) No 4×4 Option
For some, this is an important area to consider in a camper van. Going off-road is important and boondocking often leads you to places where a 4×4 is necessary. However, you are out of luck as of 2020 for a four-wheel-drive option on the Promaster. It does have front-wheel-drive which does very good in most cases, especially if you have all-terrain tires on it. If you want something a little more suited for off-road adventures, you’ll have to choose a Sprinter or a Transit which are both available in four-wheel-drive.
You can also choose to go with a truck camper and then choose whatever 4×4 truck you want. This is a popular way to go for those who spend time off the beaten path.
4) Step Up In the Interior to the Cab Area
When going from the cab of the van to the living area, there is a step of about 4 inches that you’ll have to cross. This causes an issue if you are installing swivel seats because when you swivel the seat around, your feet will be dangling like you are a child. Rather than having your feet resting comfortably on the floor, you’ll have an awkward feeling of not knowing where to put them.
Many people build an area that extends the cab area and creates a flat area to put their feet. Other people, like me, use something to put their feet on. I use my bench seating or my collapsible ottoman and it makes the front seat very comfortable when swiveled around.
5) Stock Sound System Is Terrible
If this is important to you, you’ll probably upgrade this system anyway so it may not be a big deal. Mine came with a simple radio with an MP3 player in it. The sound was terrible and I quickly changed it out with a Sony XAV-AX1000 that allowed me to also connect a rear backup camera. It also made the stock speakers sound much better than they did with the factory radio. There are various packages you can purchase so make sure you are aware that some of them have a subpar sound system.
Converting a Ram Promaster To A Camper Van
If you have decided to use a Promaster, there are few approaches that you might take in the conversion.
1) Self Convert
The most obvious way to convert your van is to do the conversion yourself. This is where you start from scratch and build everything custom inside the van. This is the most popular option that you will see all over the internet. It’s the option that allows you to set your van up the exact way you want it. You can impress your friends and end up with a living space that is completely you and serves your needs.
The problem with this type of conversion is that it is a difficult and time-consuming process. You will need to have some handy skills to pull it off and it won’t be easy. If you are not fluent in some type of building trade, the process will be one challenge after another. What’s more, you could end up with a conversion that is done improperly and may present dangerous situations.
The Promaster does make the process easier than some of the other options but it is still a challenging undertaking.
2) Conversion From a Kit
The second option is to purchase a conversion kit that is specifically made for the Promaster. These are designed to fit into the van and make the conversion process as simple as possible.
If you want to go this route, you will be in for a much simpler installation. Since most of the work will be done for you, you will simply install the pre-designed parts into the van. While it won’t be a custom setup or look near as good as a custom build, it will still make a nice van conversion that will be much quicker to complete.
The best company on the market currently is Wayfarer Vans. They offer conversion kits for the Promaster as well as the Ford Transit. While quite expensive, these kits do save time and a lot of headaches of trying to figure it all out yourself.
Buying a Ram Promaster For Van Conversion
Finding and buying a Promaster for your van build may be the most difficult part. Depending on where you live, you may have limited options available and will have to drive long distances to look at potential vans.
I scoured the internet for a long time trying to find the perfect van and while you can get great deals, they usually happen to be further away. Unless you live in a large metropolitan area, you may have to drive a bit to find your future van conversion.
Personally, I had the best luck by using Carfax to do all of my research. You can usually see the history of the vehicle by using Carfax and although it isn’t totally reliable, it’s better than nothing. I found the one I purchased on Carfax and it was only 50 miles from me. I went to look at it and immediately knew that it was the one.
Who is the Promaster best suited for?
The Promaster is the best choice for those who want to convert a van that includes the most space from side to side. If you want your layout to include a bed that is always set up and extends from side to side, you will be happy with it.
It’s for those who want a basic, dependable van that doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles. It will get you from place to place as long as you are not planning to go off-road. While you may be able to do a little bit of off-road driving due to the very capable front-wheel drive, you won’t want to get too far off the road. Add some upgraded all-terrain tires to the van and it will be more than capable of going most places.
It’s a cost-effective option for people looking to start with an empty cargo van and build an awesome, custom home. It’s a lot of work but in the end, the Promaster is a great choice for allowing you to have an amazing van conversion.