By on November 13, 2017

2005 Dodge Sprinter in Arizona wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
The European-style vans sold by Mercedes-Benz, Freightliner, and Dodge have been with us here in North America since 2001, and have held their value very well since that time. Depreciation of even the most useful vehicle is relentless, however, and it was inevitable that used-up Sprinters would begin showing up in big self-service wrecking yards at some point.

That day has arrived; I spotted the first of the discarded Sprinters in my junkyarding experience, this one in a Phoenix yard over the summer.

2005 Dodge Sprinter in Arizona wrecking yard, front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
As is always the case with the first of a valuable vehicle type to appear in a cheap wrecking yard, this one has been picked nearly clean of running gear and trim parts. In another five years, the market for used first-generation Sprinter parts will be saturated and these vans will be attacked less ravenously by wrecking yard vultures.

2005 Dodge Sprinter in Arizona wrecking yard, fuel filler - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
This one is a diesel-powered, Dodge-branded Sprinter with automatic transmission.

2005 Dodge Sprinter in Arizona wrecking yard, cargo area - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
These vans are very efficient cargo haulers, though you didn’t see them every day back in 2005. This one doesn’t seem smashed, so perhaps it donated its drivetrain to another truck in its fleet before being dispatched to the knacker’s yard.


Perhaps there is a bit of acceleration exaggeration going on in this ad.

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42 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 2005 Dodge Sprinter Cargo Van...”


  • avatar
    gtem

    I’ve never seen another modern vehicle rust out as quickly or as badly as these 1st gen Sprinters in the salt-belt. Truly a thing to behold.

    • 0 avatar
      spreadsheet monkey

      Agreed. They are shockingly bad here in the UK, too.

      The Arizona climate has been kind to this one.

    • 0 avatar
      mattwc1

      Agreed. My father in law had 2 Sprinters for his business. While they were reliable, they both started showing signs of rust at the wheel wells and lower door areas. He has a local body shop address this issues early on and that seems to stem this issue. The surprising thing was his second Sprinter (1st Sprinter was involved in an accident /second was still a 1st gen) started doing the same thing in the same areas.

      It mystifies me how any new car can rust with the preventative steps taken in manufacturing, But Sprinters, Mazda 3’s, and Rams seem to disprove my theory.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        I thought that the rusted ones I notice in the Toronto area are anomalies or just the victims of our local dependence on massive amounts of salt. So reading that rust problems on Sprinters is something that the B&B have noticed, in other areas, certainly points to it being a real concern with these vehicles.

        • 0 avatar
          mikey

          @ Arthur Daily…The were dumping that “Brine” concoction on the roads 10 hours before the first snowflake fell.

          That reminds me. I better book my appointment at Krown.

    • 0 avatar
      Advance_92

      All of which makes me wonder at one that’s in a yard looking like that. I’d think someone would buy the shell in a minute.

    • 0 avatar
      scott25

      Yeah, I was going to say this is the first rust-free one I’ve seen in a decade. All of the 1st gen Sprinters in Ontario are rolling wrecks at this point, they’re a sad sight to see.

    • 0 avatar
      EquipmentJunkie

      Our ’05 Sprinter passenger van rusted from the inside out. In its 160K life with us it was repainted once and needed it again. But that wasn’t where it stopped. We replaced two A/C compressors, one transmission, and had a sliding door that needed major help.

      Despite it being the most expensive vehicle our company owned for a long time, I loved it. I wasn’t alone. Whenever I transported people who never heard of a Sprinter before, they always raved about its comfort and visibility. It was also so engaging to drive. I chose to forgive and forget about its cost per mile whenever I drove it. Why? It drove like a sports car shaped like a Frigidaire. I turned into what the British call, White Van Man. It was a pleasure to leave much more capable vehicles in its wake. I have great memories of that big, white box.

  • avatar
    Ermel

    In Germany, the preceding generation of Mercedes vans (called just the “Bremer” inofficially due to their birthplace) have mostly disappeared from the roads a couple of years ago. Sprinters have been rusting just as enthusiastically, so it’s no surprise their turn has come.

  • avatar
    Joss

    We use an annual oil treatment it’s messy but the depot has a drainage loop with filters. A new diesel engine is about $6K. We had an issue with DEF tank the urea was settling to the bottom so water was just been skimmed off the top into the Sprinter reservoir when filling. This ruined many injectors… Note Blutec is only on the 2md gen Sprinter. This first gen had better pick up, a bigger tank and better mileage than the 2nd gen. The ballast plate option on the 2nd gen helps immensely in the snowbelt with rear drive traction.

    • 0 avatar
      Ermel

      Oh yes, traction in winter is a problem. We once got stuck with a “Bremer” crewcab pick-up (five passengers, no cargo to speak of, so quite front-heavy) on a level street with a packed snow surface. Two passengers standing on the rear bumper and clinging to the rear platform gate did the trick.

      This is where rear-engined, RWD Volkswagen Transporters used to shine. Today, you really want AWD for such vehicles — neither FWD nor RWD really cuts it with the engine and cab in the front.

      • 0 avatar
        Ermel

        I still feel that VW should’ve kept the rear-engined pickup. It seems like the optimal solution to tuck away the mechanics under the cargo floor, for good traction, little cab noise, and a good compactness/cargo space ratio.

        Too expensive to make two different lines of Transporter, I assume. I’ll be interested to see what they come up with when the time is right for an electric workman’s pick-up, euro style. I can imagine an “E-Buzz” Doka very well.

  • avatar
    Duaney

    Just when Dodge had perfected their van, (LAST YEAR 2003) Mercedes ended the production and introduced their Sprinter. Still believe it was a big mistake, Dodge no longer had a full size van that could go in a garage, and the Sprinter was full of mechanical problems that the Dodge didn’t have. Bodies held up better on the old Dodge as well.

    • 0 avatar
      scott25

      The Dodge vans didn’t last well either though compared to Econolines or Expresses, they’re a rare sight nowadays.

    • 0 avatar
      scott25

      The Dodge vans didn’t last well either though compared to Econolines or Expresses, they’re a rare sight nowadays.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Agree about the myriad of mechanical issues these vans had (and still have). My contractor friend dumped the Sprinters and replaced them with Transits. While the first gen Transits have not been trouble-free, they had far fewer issues than his Sprinters. Electronics and related items were always on the fritz, and check engine lights were common. Those multiple four figure repairs, plus a few missed service calls spelled the end of these vans for his company.

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja

      I agree with Duaney, dumping the Ram Van in favor of the Sprinter was a huge mistake. And yes, they were durable, and you do not see as many on the road today because, as Duaney correctly points out their last model year was 2003, plus they did not sell in as large quantities as their Ford and GM counterparts.

  • avatar
    TCragg

    This is a former FedEx Ground van. Crockett Express would be the independent contractor and have an assigned FedEx delivery area.

    We had a bunch of these first-gen sprinters at UPS in Canada. They were, to put it kindly, junk. We had to flatbed ours to Mississauga (a 90-minute drive from our delivery centre) to be serviced while in warranty. They spent more time laid up waiting for parts or in the shop than they did delivering packages. Our biggest issues were no-starts, injectors, ECMs, rear suspension, sliding doors falling off, and goofy electrical issues.

    I suspect the one here, since it would have been owned by an individual, was beginning to bankrupt the guy and he simply cut his losses.

    • 0 avatar
      Numbers_Matching

      I think ‘junk’ is a little strong. Sprinters have rust issues, and electrical issues, but once resolved, will generally last a long time. If you check out some of the many Sprinter forums, there are 4-5 issues (Improved intake/turbo seal, VGT actuator, OCV routing, NAG1 trans module plug) that can easily be fixed for bulletproof reliability – at least on the Gen 2s. My 2009 Winnebago has 265k – most of which towing a Mazda 3 – with original drivetrain. This would be unheard of for a domestic van chassis mainly due to transmission failure (very common on Class C). 800k is not unheard of in the hands of private owners.

      • 0 avatar
        TCragg

        I only say “junk” compared to the Econolines and GM-chassis UPS trucks that were the norm. The Sprinters, as mentioned in another post were great to drive, and were superbly comfortable, with good visibility and driving dynamics. For a business, the uptime percentage compared to other vehicles in the fleet was disappointing.

      • 0 avatar

        A motorhome owner can survive with it being in the shop or the driveway to get those issues ironed out. An independent FedEx delivery contractor with packages to deliver can’t. If he’s not turning, he’s not earning.

        • 0 avatar
          ToddAtlasF1

          The vast majority of 1st generations I still see around here are being used as stationary signage for Sprinter specialists whose customers are running 2nd generation vans.

  • avatar
    RedRocket

    The rust issue seemed to be universal on these. A fellow up the street had one for his business and it was pockmarked with golf/tennis ball sized brown rust blisters all over, even on the roof. I read somewhere that either during the trip over to N.A. by ship or in the holding yard where they were offloaded a contaminant got to the paint which led them to rust prematurely, but I don’t know how true that is. It really looked more like poor metal prep prior to painting or simply a poor quality paint job from the factory to me.

  • avatar
    psychoboy

    I do love me some Sprinters…

    The first gens, as noted above, were stamped out of rust and painted with chalk, but if you can keep in front of the serious stuff, they hold their value forever. They are fairly easy to wrench on (as german stuff goes), and they suffer fewer electrical gremlins than their second gen brethren do.

    However, as I remind anyone who comes to me looking for Sprinter advice, they are little more than Germany’s Ford Econoline. They are not ‘Mercedes’ in the way most Americans think of when they think of plush E or S class sedans. They are large metal shoeboxes built to a contractor grade price point.

    If you want a nice car, get a second gen. Those have all the quality feels you might expect from the badging. They also have tons of electrical problems that never seem to get fixed right.

    I’ve put 20k race car tow-pig miles on my 265k 2005 over the last 5 years, and it was easily the best car purchase I’ve made. When my employer decided to replace a 434k 2006 with a ProMaster, I bought it as insurance. Haven’t needed anything off of it, so I’ve fixed its problems (salvage rear end and new windshield) and will be selling it shortly to a racing buddy.

    And, actually, they are quicker off the line than they have any right to be. I put the first 50k miles on work’s 2006, and it was hilarious how deftly it handled. In that one regard, it really was like driving a huge E class.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    Anyone have any info on how the Transits are holding up in real-world revenue service? See quite many around here, but not many diesels.

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      Moments after reading this, a very sharp black Transit minibus passes outside my window. Dont think it is factory, but definitely more cohesive than typical cutaway implementations. I am downtown in the historic district of an east coast city, and a lot of hotels have transits as shuttles. From the sidewalk, they do seem very quiet.

    • 0 avatar
      ahintofpepperjack

      My previous employer had two full size transits, 1 ecoboost, and 1 NA. Both were problem free, the ecoboost van had 100k on it.

      They also had a Promaster and it was complete junk. Loud, uncomfortable, constant cooling issues, door handles breaking, even the radio antenna fell off the roof on the highway. They brought it into Dodge for leaking transmission lines. The tech at the dealership didn’t tighten the new lines and fried the transmission on the way back to our business.

      It was replaced with another Ford Transit.

    • 0 avatar
      EquipmentJunkie

      We have a ’15 Transit T250 cab & chassis with the diesel with an Eby aluminum flatbed. Everybody loves to drive the Transit. (Our Sprinter was much more polarizing) While our ’05 Sprinter had slightly better seats and handled marginally better, the Transit is a nice vehicle to drive overall. It eats up miles pretty well. I’ve never driven a vehicle with an automatic transmission where the engine and transmission work as well in tandem. It allows itself to hold a higher gear so it will torque itself up to speed. Great power and it is quiet…where I would prefer more diesel growl.

      Our only complaint is that the 3.2 diesel is fairly thirsty. We have 25K on it and it struggles to get 19 mpg on the highway. Some would wonder what I’m complaining about. I argue that if Ram can get nearly 30 out of a diesel Ram, 22-24 mpg in the lighter Transit is not out of the question.

    • 0 avatar
      gearhead77

      One of the hotels I see a lot of had one of the first Transits I ever saw as a shuttle in the US. It now has 160k on it and has had transmission issues for at least the last 10k. Granted that shuttles see a hard life,this one goes up and down the giant hill that leads to the Charleston WV airport, often with 12 people in it. Seems like basic 3.7 or whatever motor is base in the highroof.

      I’ve been in some 200-300k E series that were probably on their original transmission. But as a passenger, especially for ingress/egree, Transit all day long.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        I received 5 Transits for work (all built and delivered within a few days of each other) and they had a recall – forgot what the description was – but they would disable the van if left un-repaired. The other issues were not significant and were not common to all of them. So, not trouble free but a far cry from the trouble the work Sprinters have.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    I’m also here to chime in on the myriad issues with the Sprinter. Back in 2005-06, our little printing company was struggling with shipping. A turbo diesel van capable of taking pallets seemed like a great idea. Up until that time we had been using a Chevy Express 2500 and a local cartage company for most of our needs. As fuel prices rose during that time the Chevy seemed like an albatross around our necks, the cartage company had no problems squeezing us for more money and so, the owner of the company pulled the trigger on a shiny new Sprinter. We used it for everything, including the delivery of small packages known as proofs.

    All was great for the first year or so, but we got indications from our bookkeeper that DEF, fuel and maintenance were much higher than we had expected. I forget exactly when, but the van started experiencing weird issues; a tensioner pulley bearing went bad (IIRC), the alternator failed and some kind of engine management issue caused the turbo not to build boost. These are the most memorable of the issues we had with the Sprinter, there were others, these were all things the drivers related to me. Then the rust started and once it started, it seemed voracious.

    In 2008-09 the ownership was frightened by the financial crisis to kill off our little company and we closed up. I was on-site to help liquidate the electronic equipment and the production manager was there liquidating the “hard assets”, including the Sprinter. It barely had 120K miles on it, but it looked like it had been through the Battle of the Bulge. It was the last non-printing press item to sell and we lost money on it.

  • avatar
    JaredN

    These things cannot be snatched up fast enough by the #vanlife travelling mountain bikers and low-budget roamer types.

    I have a few friends that are pro/semi-pro mountain bikers, and in the past 2 years 3 of them found high-mileage ones to recondition and use. And always see others looking

  • avatar
    cbrworm

    We don’t see many rusty vehicles where I live, but there is a Sprinter running around that looks like it was pulled out of the sea. When I first saw it, I thought it was a gimmicky wrap, but when I looked closer, I realized it was really rusty from top to bottom.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    With the engine missing, I’d say this van’s Sprinting days are done…

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I’ve always liked the Sprinters and nearly bought one in 2005 to run as a courier. But I never fully committed to the idea and decided to pursue my aviation career instead. I really wish they could get a handle on the corrosion that kills these vans in salty areas. I mean, you rarely see a Mercedes Benz car rusting, why are the Sprinters so bad? It’s not like they’re cheap either. I get that the cars are higher margin and a higher-end product, but the 2nd gen Sprinter is better at corrosion resistance, but not much. It should be much better!

    The Sprinter seems much more solid than the Transit as a passenger. Both have terribly huge and heavy sliding doors that do not age well. A Sprinter drives like the large German box that it is, my experience test driving an 06 was like driving my parents ’95 S320.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    My son manages his fleet for his company. They had several diesels of this model. The dealerships who were certified to work and maintain these things are few and far between. The maintenance and repair costs (yes-repairs) were extremely expensive.

    About a year ago they switched the fleet to the gasoline versions and haven’t looked back.

  • avatar
    DownUnder2014

    I’ve never seen a rusted Sprinter of this generation in my part of the world, but I have seen an early 2nd Generation (2008 model) with rusted-through rear doors (at the bottom). Then again, it is a Refrigerated van, so that might be part of the reason…

    I am in a temperate climate though so YMMV.

  • avatar
    MrAnnoyingDude

    Fun fact about Sprinters: In Poland, where I live, the 32-seat bus versions of them are the staple of cheap transport. You can get a trip from Puławy, where I live, to Lublin (ca. 65 km/40 miles), for 7 PLZ (a bit below $2) in one.


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