Buying a used: Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

Date: Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A revised Mercedes-Benz Sprinter was launched in the UK back in 2006 and is now appearing on the used market in growing numbers. Steve Banner reports on what issues to look out for before buying one

 Re-engineered and restyled both internally and externally at a cost of £1.25bn, the 2006 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter came with a redesigned version of the 2.1-litre four-cylinder common rail diesel used in the previous model. It was offered at 88hp, 109hp, 129hp or 150bhp, and the two beefiest variants came with two-stage turbocharging. It was the first time such a system had been fitted to a light commercial.

The most powerful model however, was the 184bhp 3.0-litre V6 common rail diesel.

Whether 3.0- or 2.1-litre, all the engines were equipped with particulate traps. A six-speed manual gearbox came as standard with a fully automatic five-speed box borrowed from the passenger car range offered as an alternative.  The Sprintshift automated manual gearbox offered as an option in the previous model was unceremoniously dumped.
The 2006 Sprinter went into production with three different wheelbases – 3250mm, 3665mm, and 4325mm – and the van was offered with four different overall lengths ranging from 5243mm to 7343mm. Van buyers were also given a choice of three different overall heights, including the all-new Super-High roof with an internal load height of 2140mm. As a consequence cargo capacity extended from 7.0cu/m to a cavernous 17.0cu/m.

Gross weights now extended from 3.0 to 5.0 tonnes in a line-up that also included 3.5-, 3.88-, and 4.6-tonners with payload capacities running from 900kg to 2710kg. It all added up to a choice of around 1000 basic derivatives if you factored in chassis cabs, chassis double cabs and Traveliner minibuses.

Still rear-wheel drive, all the Sprinters came complete with a new-generation Electronic Stability Programme known as Adaptive ESP sourced from component giant Bosch. ABS, Acceleration Skid Control, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, and Brake Assist were all integrated into the ESP system.

Hard work
A fleet favourite because they are so robust, Sprinter vans tend to be bought new by operators who intend to work them hard.

As a consequence many of the examples offered for sale second-hand are high-mileage. That need not be a problem just so long as the one you are contemplating buying is accompanied by a full service history. Check through it to ensure there are no gaps, and remember that even reputable operators sometimes fail to maintain their vehicles as rigorously as they should.

Sprinters are often deployed on parcels work, and parcel van drivers take no prisoners. As a consequence their vehicles can collect more than their fair share of dents. So examine the van for damage to the bodywork and mirrors, and take a close look at the wheels and tyres. They may have suffered harm by being repeatedly kerbed during arduous urban delivery runs, and uneven patterns of tread wear may suggest that the wheels have become misaligned.

Constantly bashing the front wheels against the kerb will have done the steering no favours, so check for any play when you test-drive the Sprinter in question.
Go up and down the gearbox a few times too, taking careful note of how the clutch pedal feels and whether all the gears engage properly.

The previous driver may have worn the clutch out as a consequence of having to change gear repeatedly while chugging through city-centre traffic. In fact, the van may have gone through a couple of clutches, so make sure you find out when the last one was fitted.

The constant opening and closing of load area doors during umpteen daily deliveries of parcels and packages can result in them suffering excessive wear. So open and close both the rear and the side doors once you have finished the test drive and ask yourself: do they operate smoothly, or do they have a tendency to stick? And are the rear doors sagging on their hinges? Ensure the locks work too. They may have suffered as well.

A  high-mileage parcels van may have been double-shifted, with the cab interior taking a hammering from two different drivers, each of whom probably blamed the other for any damage that may have occurred. So check for tears in the seat upholstery, not to mention stains, and ensure that the driver’s seat can still be fully-adjusted.

One option to look for is Motor Start Stop (MSS). It kills the engine when the Sprinter is idling in a traffic jam or at the lights, saving on fuel and cutting noise and pollution.

Purchase price
So how much can you expect to pay for your used Sprinter? A 2007-vintage, 07-registered, long-wheelbase standard-roof 129hp 313CDI with 131,000 miles recorded was recently sold by auctioneer Manheim for £5250. The same auction disposed of a 08-registered 2008 long-wheelbase high-roof 109hp 311CDI that had covered 82,000 miles for £8820.

Elsewhere, a hard-working 07-registered 2007 long-wheelbase high-roof 109hp 311CDI that had clocked up an astonishing 240,645 miles went for £2900 at a sale organised by auctioneer  BCA, evidence that there is a market for everything.


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