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Vanlife in a Dodge Ram Promaster Cargo Van – Your New Home on Wheels

Are you considering the Dodge Ram Promaster Cargo Van for your own vanlife adventure?  We were too. Shopping for a van can be an overwhelming experience, and we can help you with yours by sharing our experience.  If you’re in the early stages, check out a few introductory articles we wrote to get you started on our journey:

Vanlife:  How to Choose a Van

The Best Van for Vanlife

If you don’t have time to read those posts, I’ll give you a quick recap.  Choosing a van should be all about a few important factors:

Budget

How much you can spend on a van and converting it should be the number one driving factor to deciding which van you purchase.  Try not to go into debt to buy your van, if you can help it! Traveling without debt is so much better than worrying about a monthly payment.  We decided to go with the Promaster because it was much more affordable than a Sprinter.

Your Destination

canadaWhere you’re headed will likely determine if you need off-road features or not.  If you’re a city slicker, you can get a more basic vehicle. Those of you looking to get your tires dirty will need to look for vans with that capability.  We like to do a little bit of both. The Ram Promaster is a good balance.

Your Adventure

The adventures you’re planning to take will determine what kind of van to buy, specifically because of your gear.  If you’re super outdoorsy and have a ton of hobbies like us, you need to look for a van with as much storage capacity as possible. On the other hand, vanlifers who don’t need a lot of space for gear can usually buy a smaller van and build a less complex conversion.  With two people and all of our gear, we needed a BIG van!

Creature Comfort Features

Van KitchenYou need to know your “must-have” features for your van.  Most vanlifers will insist on a few critical items, and these will determine which vans you can buy and how much they cost.  The features that make you happy in vanlife may be a refrigerator, a bathroom, or you may want a van with windows. Whatever it is, be sure to consider them when you’re shopping for a van.  Our build came out just how we wanted it to! We’ll talk more about this later.

 

Vanlife in the Dodge Ram Promaster Cargo Van

Let’s get to the good stuff.  Here are the top pros and cons of the Dodge Ram Promaster Cargo Van for vanlife.

Pros – Dodge Ram Promaster Cargo Van

There are a lot of reasons why we are happy with the Dodge Ram Promaster Cargo Van.  I could go on and on about why we like it so much, but I’ve tried to list the most relevant factors.

  • Cargo Room.  One of the reasons why we liked the Promaster as we were shopping was the big, square cargo area.  Contrary to a Sprinter van, the walls rise at a straighter angle and allow for a more boxy shape in the back.  This creates a more open build-out and gives you more head room up high. It also makes building out your conversion a lot easier because you won’t have to compensate for curving walls.
  • Height.  The high top Dodge Ram Promaster Cargo Van has enough head room that someone 6’2” can stand up straight very comfortably.  We know, because that’s how tall Greg is. This is a MAJOR factors for why we purchased the Promaster. We knew we were going to live in it full time and Greg being able to stand up all the way was critical.  Even if you’re not 6’2”, having a tall roof gives the van a larger feel and makes your home on wheels more open. It also creates more space for upper cabinets and storage.
  • Replacement Parts & Maintenance Costs.  Having an American-made vehicle is great when it comes to availability of replacement parts and mechanics who can work on them.  The engine is the same one as the Jeep Wrangler and the Dodge Ram Truck (3.6L Pentastar), and is very common.  Our major fear with an imported vehicle is the lack of shops and the inflated cost of maintenance.  In addition, we knew wanted to go to Mexico and were concerned that it would be incredibly difficult to get parts for a foreign vehicle if we ran into mechanical issues across the border.
  • Fuel Costs. While diesel vehicles get better fuel economy, it is statistically more expensive overall.  We did a bit of analysis on fuel costs vs. economy and determined that we preferred a gas vehicle.  The average cost of maintaining a diesel vehicle is slightly higher as well, and this factored into our decision.  We average approximately 12-16mpg depending on our travel type (mountainous vs. flat or highway vs. city).

dodge ram promaster cargo van

Cons – Dodge Ram Promaster Cargo Van

We’ve never owned a perfect vehicle and the Promaster is no different.  Some of our cons exist in other vans as well and aren’t specific to the Promaster.  

  • Clearance.  The axles are so low that we don’t have very much clearance and have to be careful when driving off-road.  We put slightly larger all-terrain tires on the van which helps a little bit, but it’s still pretty low.
  • Transmission Fluid.  It is commonly known among the Promaster community that Promasters have a known issue with coolant disappearing.  There is not a leak in the system, and we have never lost pressure.  We’ve taken it to the dealership several times and every time they have topped off the transmission fluid, but stated that there’s no issue.  We carry a bottle of OEM Transmission Fluid with us and we’ve topped off our own fluid around every 8,000 miles or so.  We’re crossing our fingers that this doesn’t become a bigger issue later on.
  • Back Door.  The back door needs to be slammed really hard in order to get a good seal at the top.  We’ve had times where we haven’t shut it hard enough and then end up with drips down the inside of the back door during a rainstorm or a car wash.
  • Sliding Door.  All Promaster owners we’ve chatted with have experienced the slider door being hard to shut as well.  You can’t be subtle with these doors, they won’t take the hint. You have to show it who’s boss and slam it shut, otherwise you can’t lock the doors and/or you’ll have a warning on the dash when you’re trying to drive away.  Despite the fact that we were raised not to slam doors, we’re pretty good at it now!

dodge ram promaster cargo van

Vanlife in a Promaster

We are very happy with the vehicle’s performance overall.  It handles well and is comfortable to drive. It accelerates quickly and gets up to highway speeds without issue.  We wish our gas mileage was a little bit better, but realize that we are driving a big heavy box and it can’t get much better than it is.  In addition, we haven’t had any major mechanical issues and the minor issues we’ve experienced are manageable.

Living full time vanlife in a Dodge Ram Promaster Cargo Van has been so great.  Considering all the pros and cons, we are really happy with our choice. We’ve driven it all over the United States, Canda and Mexico.  The Promaster did well in Baja, Mexico, despite the poor road conditions. The space is very open and feels quite large considering that it is only 80 square feet.  We have a ton of cargo room in the back and our cabinets fit very comfortably. Overall, we recommend the Dodge Ram Promaster Cargo Van to anyone who is looking for a van to start their own vanlife adventure!

If you’re looking for any accessories to supplement your vanlife adventure, check out our top 10 favorites in our blog!

vanlife

14 Comments on “Dodge Ram Promaster Cargo Van | Vanlife”

    • Hey Tyler! Thanks for reading along, we’re glad it was an interesting article for you!

      Greg & Jess

  1. That van is like a small camper. Would a camper be better or worse mileage? It just seems like it would be roomier. It’s cool that one van can have so many perks. Thanks for sharing!

    • Hey Cathy, that’s a great question! Most campers are larger and will get worse gas mileage, but we’ve met some people with small ones that are similar. A lot of campers are much roomier, but we like that the van is the same size as a full-size truck and can fit in a normal parking space without issue. Although, I’ll admit, a little more space would be nice sometimes!

      Thanks,
      Jess & Greg

  2. Back in 2010, I went up the east coast from Knoxville, TN to New York City just to visit different places on the east coast. I did this in a Subaru Baja. I wish I had your van back them. Much more spacious and looks like it would be great for sleeping in. Thanks for the information.

    • Hi Bob, thanks for reading along! The trip you did in your Subaru sounds really fun! It would definitely be more spacious in a van, especially since we can sleep in it. We would love to drive along the East Coast one day. Maybe next summer or 2021! The list of places we want to visit just keeps getting longer :)

      Jess & Greg

  3. Great post.

    I am glad you are warning people about not getting into debt just because of a car or van.

    I know this because I have gone through owning a car where I had to worry about monthly installments.

    I can only imagine how worse this would be if I am living full time in a van.
    On a site note I really love the Promaster especially since you said it accelerates very quick.

    • Thank you! Debt can be so suffocating, I hope you were able to work through your car payment and get it off of your shoulders! We wouldn’t have so much freedom if we had debt with our lifestyle. The Promaster is great, almost feels like your driving a regular car sometimes. Until you realize it’s actually pretty big!

      Take care,
      Jess & Greg

  4. Hello,

    This is really great. I was wondering how van-life looks like because I always wanted to try it. I live in Germany and having a van like this dodge ram Promaster. I loved the idea this van has a relatively big space inside with good hight.

    However, I have my concerns regarding its cons, I understand most of them are common among cargo van’s owners but still, I have my doubts to be able to handle such problems such as Transmission Fluid and clearance. Anyways, I love this cargo van.

    Thank you very much for this amazing review, it is amazing to see all these details with your honest opinion and experience using it.

    • It is true with any vehicle that there are odd little things you have to take care of, for sure! SO far, we’ve been able to manage those with the Promaster, but I understand why that would be something to make you cautious about owning one. Vanlife in Germany would be such a great experience! It really is a great way to live, as long as you have places to sleep at night that are legal and safe.

      Thanks for reading along!
      Jess & Greg

  5. What a thorough and informative review of Dodge Ram Promaster Cargo Van.
    I liked the way you explained things and the sincerity you have in your review.
    As you so rightly said, go into debt to buy a van. Yes, I think this applies to all areas of life.
    When I read the pros and cons of I noticed that despite everything, the Dodge Ram Promaster Cargo Van seems to be perfect for a vanlife adventure; except the fact that the clearance is low.

    • Hey Sebastian, thanks for reading! Yes, you are right that the clearance is pretty much the only downfall of the Promaster. Otherwise it is the perfect vanlife vehicle! We have really enjoyed it so far. After living in it full time for over a year and a half, we feel like we’ve worked out all of the kinks. It’s a great little home on wheels!

      Jess & Greg

  6. Thank you, I’ve just been searching for info about this topic for a
    while and yours is the best I have came upon so far.
    However, what concerning the conclusion? Are you sure
    about the source?

    • Thanks for reading, I’m glad you found it to be a helpful resource for choosing a van. We are still very happy with the outcome and would recommend the Ram Promaster to anyone who asks us what van to buy!