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:
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:
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.
Where 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.
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
You 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).
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!
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!