2WD vs 4WD

Are you ready to start designing your custom van, but don’t have a chassis yet? One of the biggest questions you may have is whether a 2-wheel drive vs a 4-wheel drive vehicle is the right choice. The truth is, it all depends on how you ultimately plan to use it. Check out the information below to see the pros and cons of choosing a 2-wheel drive chassis.


— DANNY E, 2WD van owner



Fuel efficiency:
With less weight in the front (about 270lb less compared to a 4WD), the 2WD chassis gets better fuel economy than 4WD. On long haul trips, this savings really adds up, especially if you’re using your van as a daily driver.

2WD vans typically cost around $10k less than a 4WD.

2WD Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis are much easier to source than 4WD. This is due to the low amount of 4WD chassis Mercedes-Benz imports each year. Wait lists for 4WD chassis can be extremely long, some lasting up to 6 months. 2WD vans are much more readily available — we even have three 2WD vans available at our shop.

With the right tires (such as studded or non-studded winter tires), a good amount of weight over the rear axle, and some winter driving smarts behind the wheel, 2WD vans are able to handle snowy and icy conditions. For extreme snow conditions on challenging roads, we recommend carrying a set of chains as back-up.

Dirt Roads: With the right tires (like all-terrain), 2WD vans can handle gravel roads and slightly rutted dirt roads, as long as they’re not extremely muddy.

Ground Clearance:
Though the 4WD chassis may look like it has more ground clearance than a 2WD because the body height is lifted about 3-4” higher, the actual driveline is the same, so the ground clearance is equal.


“With the right tires, I’ve found that I’ve rarely needed to chain up in the winter months while enjoying better gas mileage on dry roads and highways when I’ve needed to cover some ground.”
— Chi M, 2WD van owner



Winter: If the conditions are extreme or the pitch of the roadway is challenging, gaining momentum in a 2WD may prove difficult as compared to a 4WD. This is why we recommend carrying a set of chains as back-up for these situations.

Dirt Roads: If the road is extremely muddy, rutted, or rocky it is not recommended to take a 2WD van on it. The risk of getting stuck is very high. Due to the van’s large size, it’s difficult to go true rock-crawling in a van, anyway.

Because of a 2WD van’s difficulty handling the conditions listed above, it’s imperative that you plan for where you’re going before you go. Knowing what’s down that dirt road or what winter weather may be incoming is very important when planning a trip in a 2WD van. If you’re planning driving your 2WD van on remote, potentially rugged BLM or Forest Service roads that you’re unfamiliar with, always use your best judgement and carry essential off-road recovery gear. We recommend carrying a shovel, traction boards, tow straps and shackles.