After Chrysler discontinued the Ram Van, Ford and General Motors owned the commercial van market until 2002, when Freightliner introduced its Sprinter line of commercial vans to the North American market. Then, in 2009, Ford’s Transit Connect went on sale, providing cargo van buyers with a compact, fuel-efficient alternative. And then, in 2011, Nissan started selling the NV-series cargo van – a vehicle about the size of the traditional domestic vans, but with enhanced comfort and a factory high-roof option.

With multiple months of sales data in our database, we are in a position to gauge the relative performance of these vehicles in the used market. The graph below shows performance of key versions of each vehicle through the auction channel. We will look strictly at the most recent three model years, since the NV-series and Transit Connect were not available before then. To clarify, we have included both cube van (cab & chassis van with a separate box mounted on the frame) and cargo van versions of the E350.
Unfortunately, sales data for 2011 models other than cube vans is still too sparse to allow for accurate assessment. We also do not yet have any data on the NV3500.
What we can see, however, is that cube vans retain an impressive percentage of their original value. The 2011 E350 Cube Van outperforms the 2012 Nissan NV2500HD, indicating that the market places a premium on the cargo capacity of a separately-mounted van box.
We can also see that the most basic model of the Sprinter outperforms every other vehicle listed. This performance is logical, given that the Sprinter is the only diesel-engine vehicle in this comparison, and carries a substantial price premium new.
The Transit Connect returns a respectable wholesale price given its affordable MSRP. We should note that Transit Connects sold in the used market had substantially more mileage than the Sprinters or E350’s. While we did adjust for mileage, this factor indicates that the Transits saw heavy use.
One takeaway from this comparison is that cargo capacity appears to be a primary factor in the value of a late-model van. Despite their heavy exposure to the rental market, cube vans retain an impressive percentage of their value.
We will revisit this comparison in a few months when our database of 2011 and 2012 models is larger.