For decades, basically the only choice in the cargo van marketplace was a domestic body-on-frame cargo van or cube van (cab & chassis van with a box installed). That changed in 2001, when DaimlerChrysler (now Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) introduced their European Sprinter to the North American market. Unlike domestic vans, the Sprinter was 100% diesel and of unibody construction.

The Sprinter’s efficient diesel engine, voluminous cargo capacity, and modern ergonomics made the new vehicle popular with cargo and passenger customers who could justify its premium pricing. Domestic vans remained popular with price-conscious buyers and those who needed maximum GVW and towing capacity. Sprinters are currently sold under the Freightliner and Mercedes-Benz nameplates. The vehicle was also sold as a Dodge up to model year 2009.

For model year 2012, the Sprinter finally received some marketplace competition in the form of the Nissan NV series (the NV1500, 2500, and 3500 are full-size, while the NV200 is a different compact vehicle). The NV is of body-on-frame construction and designed specifically for the North American market. This vehicle is 100% gas-powered and comes in at a lower price point than the Sprinter.

For model year 2014, a new competitor in the form of the Ram ProMaster (not to be confused with the ProMaster City) entered the North American marketplace. The ProMaster is an existing European design offering both gas and diesel power. This van is of body-on-frame construction, and is the only front-wheel-drive van in this segment.

For model year 2015, Ford introduced their Transit (not to be confused with the Transit Connect) to North America. The Transit is a unibody van offering both gas and diesel power.

Let’s look at how these large cargo vans perform in the used marketplace. As a benchmark, we included domestic cube vans in the comparison. Results reflect January-October auction data, adjusted for mileage, for vehicles returning five or more sales. Note that we have only included the cargo versions of these vehicles in this study. Passenger versions are valued in the ATD/NADA Official Commercial Truck Guide.

Starting with the 2012 model year (graph below), we see that the Sprinters hold their premium pricing into the used market. Logically, the heaviest-duty versions bring the most money, with the 3500 170” High Roof retaining 50% of its MSRP. Nissan NV’s also follow this pattern. The domestic cube vans turn in a strong performance, showing that cargo capacity is a prime consideration in this segment.

For model year 2013, the Sprinters again lead the market, although the 2500’s in our database brought more money than the 3500. This is most likely due to the much higher average mileage in our 3500 data. The 3500 170” High Roof averaged 126,277 miles, as opposed to 62,649 for the 2500 170” High Roof and 31,573 for the 2500 144.” We did adjust our figures for mileage, but this adjustment might not fully account for this substantial difference. As for the NV’s, they once again fell into a logical price formation based on size and engine.

In model year 2014, the traditional cube vans turn in a surprisingly strong performance, again proving that maximum cargo capacity is of prime value. The ProMaster performs well in its first model year in the North American marketplace, following a logical price pattern based on size. We didn’t receive enough sales of the 2014 Sprinter to include that model in this graph.

For model year 2015, the Transit performs strongly, particularly when equipped with diesel power. The 150 Medium Roof 148” Diesel retains 72% of its MSRP. The ProMaster holds its value well, performing roughly on par with gas-powered Transits. To date, we have received a minimal number of sales of diesel-powered ProMasters. Also, as with model year 2014, we did not receive enough Sprinter sales records to include that model in the graph.

There are two main takeaways from this study. First, traditional domestic cube vans perform surprisingly well, indicating that cargo capacity is a prime factor in the commercial van marketplace. Second, among the newer offerings, the larger the van, the more money it will bring in the used market. There are also brand-based differences that buyers and sellers may want to note.

We will continue to monitor this segment and provide our interpretation of sales data in our published values. As always, NADA Used Car Guide can provide data and deeper analysis to interested parties on request.