I'm trying to make a more educated decision on the purchase of my next vehicle (within the next month or so) and need some advice from someone who knows much more about cars than I do. I have a few very specific needs that require a very specific vehicle, but now that I've identified those needs and narrowed down the vehicle search, I'm still kind of stumped. I need a very large family vehicle, but a minivan or SUV just will not work for us. I've narrowed down my search to a Mercedes Sprinter or the Nissan NV. I don't think we'll buy brand new, but want something that's no more than 2 or 3 years old as this purchase will need to last as long as possible. (I've had very bad experiences in the past with the reliability and longevity of Ford, so I'm not considering the Ford Transit Van.) There may be another option that I'm not aware of, and in that case I'm definitely open to considering it. A little background information: I have a large family and will need room to comfortably accommodate a minimum of 8 people on a regular basis. We also travel twice per year (on average) to see family who are located about 16 hours away by car, and frequently take day trips which consist of a 2 or 3 hour drive, so comfort would really be an important factor for us. Of our 8 passengers, 3 are in rear facing carseats so accessibility and ease of getting them in/out is a must. I have had significant back and knee injuries, making climbing over seats difficult which is also why we're considering these two vehicles for their ease of loading/unloading the children. (The ability to walk in and move around the seats is a huge selling point for us for this reason.) Storage room is also a big factor as we regularly need to carry a double stroller, an additional single stroller, plus room for groceries, diaper bags, luggage, etc. One of my children is special needs, so we'd like room to accommodate any equipment she may possibly need in the future. Our daily driving consists of some highway, but we're in a rural area so it's mostly not highway but also not your typical stop and go city driving either... mostly state roads with 50 mph speed limits and smaller country roads. Between the daily driving and our mixture of road trips, we can easily put 15k - 20k miles on a vehicle yearly. Nothing is really close to us, so grocery trips, doctors appointments, etc are generally at least a 30 minute drive, mostly on country and state roads. We're in eastern Tennessee, about 30 minutes west of Knoxville, so there is also some mountain driving, although not daily. We don't frequently see much snow, occasionally we get a little bit of ice or a small amount of snow. Because of this, snow driving isn't a huge concern although we have family located up north, so decent handling in snow would be a plus for trips up there if we ever needed to go in the winter. As far as I can tell, both the Sprinter and the NV are equipped to handle our biggest needs so I'm left trying to compare the cost of owning each vehicle long term as a big part of my deciding factor. Used vehicles seem to be priced somewhat comparably from my searches for vehicles ranging from 2016 to 2018 (within a few thousand dollars and depending on options). My understanding is that the gas engine of the NV will only get about 12 mpg, while the Sprinter (diesel engine) averages 20 - 22 mpg. That's a huge factor, but I'm not sure if over the long term we'd be better with the gas engine when it comes to paying for more gas, but having less expensive parts/repair costs. The Sprinter has a good reputation of reliability, so I'm guessing that to mean more expensive repair costs but less frequent need for repairs? Before I stopped working to stay home with my kids, I was a full time paramedic and our entire fleet (about 40 vehicles) were Sprinter vans which had been customized for ambulances. Because of this, I'm familiar with them in terms of ride quality and am comfortable driving and maneuvering them. At this point, (about 6 or 7 years for the oldest in the fleet) and with much higher than average mileage, they're all still holding up well and have not had any major issues, so that's also a huge plus. As an important side note that's also part of our decision making process, my husband has historically done all of our vehicle maintenance and repair work himself (other than very large jobs which required removal of the motor, etc). He's an engineer and is one of those people who can take things apart, figure out how to fix them and put them back together. He can read up on a repair and then do it without a problem. Neither of us have ever owned a diesel vehicle before though (or a Mercedes), so we're not sure if this would still be possible with the Sprinter as much as it would be with the Nissan? He'd certainly be able to read up on diesel engines and specifically Mercedes, to have a better understanding of their differences. We're just not sure, given Mercedes reputation for needing specialty mechanics and high repair costs, if this could even be a realistic possibility. I know this was lengthy and I apologize for that, I'm just really hoping to get an expert's advice on which option would make the most financial sense in the long run for my family. Any advice that you could provide, other options we should consider, other factors that would tip the scales over way or the other, or just general information that could help in this decision would be so very much appreciated! Thank you for your time, Rita Brouillette
Thank you for writing in. It sounds like you are more excited by the Mercedes Sprinter. Despite it having a diesel engine, you seem to be more familiar with it and more comfortable with it. If you know the space inside the Sprinter will work well for you, then you may not appreciate the space utilization inside the Nissan NV, which has mixed customer reviews. If you are looking to purchase from a dealership, do not limit yourself to the dealerships near you and expand your search to find the right model for your needs. Always make sure to ask about warranties and make sure you fully understand the warranty you are getting. Good luck!