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The Difference Between Mercedes Sprinter, Dodge Sprinter, and Freightliner Sprinter

The Difference between Mercedes Sprinter, Dodge Sprinter, and Freightliner Sprinter

What is The Difference Between Mercedes Sprinter, Dodge Sprinter, and Freightliner Sprinter?

If you are in the market for a Mercedes Sprinter, then you have probably come across Dodge Sprinters and Freightliner Sprinters.  It’s a little confusing at first, how can the same vehicle exist but made by different manufacturers?  Well, the story is actually more interesting than just business as usual.  Below I explain the difference between Mercedes Sprinter, Dodge Sprinter, & Freightliner Sprinter.


The history of how Sprinters came to bear the Dodge and Freightliner badges begins with a trade war between the United States and Europe.  The story goes like this.

After World War II, US farmers greatly increased their production of chickens.  So much so that they needed to sell their surplus to other countries.  Next, came a flood of cheap chicken from the US into European countries.  This competition was extremely painful to European farmers who were still recovering from WWII.  So in response, Germany adopted the strategy of taxing chicken imports with protectionist tariffs.

In response, the United States retaliated with its own import tariffs on brandy, dextrin, potato starch, and you guessed it, LIGHT TRUCKS!

This meant that any vehicle imports classified as “light-trucks” would be slapped with an insane tariff of 25%.  A move that was designed to protect US automakers from foreign competition.  And while the other tariffs from this trade war have eventually gone away, the 25% tax on light trucks still exists today.

So fast-forward 40 years and companies like Mercedes-Benz were stuck trying to figure out how to sell their Sprinter vans in the US market (by far the largest market for “light trucks” in the world).  They knew that their profit margin couldn’t survive a 25% tax, so they employed some clever tariff engineering.

Mercedes would manufacture their Sprinter vans in Germany, but then disassemble them and ship them in parts to the USA.  They had deals with Dodge and Freightliner to reassemble the vans and brand them as such.  This crafty move helped Mercedes Benz avoid paying the 25% “Chicken Tax”.

The Dodge Sprinters were only made from 2002-2006.  But Freightliner Sprinters were actually still being made in the US until 2020, with sales ending in 2021.

So what is the difference?

So what is the difference between the different brandings of Mercedes Sprinters?  Well aside from branding and some cosmetic differences, they are mechanically identical.

So as far as specific mechanical differences, it’s not really the branding that you need to worry about.  And actually, the 2002-2006 year Sprinters are regarded as being some of the most reliable.  So you shouldn’t avoid Dodge or Freightliner Sprinters just because they don’t have the three-pointed star on the front.

You should still be looking for the best price and mechanical condition no matter which badge is on the front. 

But getting your Dodge or Freightliner Sprinter serviced can become a little complicated.  For example, some Freightliner locations only work on “big rigs” and will not work on Freightliner Sprinters.  Or in some states (i.e. Colorado) you may be required to visit a brand specific dealership for warranty work.  Conversely, some owners have actually found savings by taking their Mercedes Sprinter to Freightliner for service, instead of a Mercedes Benz dealer.  This forum thread shows Sprinter owners trying to navigate this.

If you are interested in common problems for 2002-2006 sprinters, check out this comprehensive list.

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