The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is a top choice for both the workhorse utility vans and vanlife camper builds. It’s a great choice, too. In fact, with a diesel engine, a Sprinter will easily see a lifespan of over 300,000 miles. As long as you stay on top of regular maintenance, the longevity of a Mercedes Sprinter will serve you well. But these vans are not devoid of some major common issues, and these problems are expensive to repair.
Mercedes service costs
Sourcing Mercedes parts is a potentially difficult task. And buying parts gets expensive. The difference between servicing a Ford Expedition is obviously going to cost significantly less than service for a Mercedes G-Class. The comparison is clear. While you will feel the Mercedes-Benz difference in the Sprinter’s handling––especially maneuvering on city streets––the other side of that coin is that maintenance costs tend to be higher for the Mercedes van.
Because, according to Jalopnik, the only piece of a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter that is locally sourced is the battery. With every other part being shipped internationally and reassembled here in the US, there are only so many parts available. And it’s not like they are shipped for free. You pay for the German-manufactured Mercedes-Benz and you get the German engineering and the awesome German diesel. But you also have to deal with the high cost of parts.
Especially any post 2008 models, because US diesel regulations changed around that time and the way the Sprinters were built was altered, making repairs much more expensive. Tom Robertson with A. Blair Enterprises Inc. employed a fleet of Sprinters over the span of several years. He explains these changes as “an extremely complex and expensive exhaust system to comply with our government regulations.”
Sprinters are complicated
These complicated systems are largely what go wrong on a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van. Sure, on the outside they look simple, tough, and low maintenance. But when you get to know them better, you find that they are needy and require a lot more attention than you thought. And the price of bestowing the adequate amount of attention on these complicated systems adds up big time.
For example, the diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) pump is comprised of the DEF temperature sensor, level sensor, tank, and a control unit sensors and actuators. When these parts fail––and they usually do once the engine has clocked 100,000 miles––they can cost anywhere from $600 to over $1,000 each to replace.
Maintenance is dealer exclusive
Adding to the expense of owning a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van, these complex systems are so intricate that it’s near impossible to find anyone to work on them. Unless they are a Mercedes certified mechanic at the dealer. Kristen with Bearfoot Theory says “Because the computer on these Sprinters is so complicated, most regular mechanics won’t touch them, leaving the dealer as your only option when you have an issue.”
For this reason, she recommends that if you buy a Sprinter the extended warranty is worth the cost. Her warranty covered repairs on the two Mercedes Sprinters that she has lived in because she invested in extra coverage. In fact, Kristen recommends the Sprinter for vanlife. But for a commercial fleet investing in extended warranties for, say, half a dozen work vans doesn’t make for a very appealing expense report.
The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
There are many compelling reasons to buy a Sprinter. Especially if you are able to do regular maintenance such as changing the oil on your own. But if you are thinking about buying a Mercedes work van, it’s good to know that there is a chance these vans can cost a lot of money should they require repair.