Ok, so now you have your crops in and are starting to harvest. The next big question is “What is the best way to get the crop to market?” As most of you growers have done, we also started delivering with the car….THE CAR! And at the time we were thankful for that. We then graduated to the Van, and in our case, the Suburban. Driving with the air conditioner going at full blast could get to be a chilling experience. And by the end of a hot summer day, the cooling ability of the air conditioner was less than acceptable. After a lot of research,  Bulletin Board reading and Ebay shopping, we took the leap and bought a Sprinter with a cooling unit. It was a used unit with 200,000 plus miles on it, but we bought it for about the third of the price of a new unit set up the same way. We spent the first summer doing some troubleshooting and repairs. The cooler had some problems that took a toll on our love of the Sprinter, but it turned out to be a simple thing like replacing the filter. The Sprinter mechanical was a bit more expensive, but was mainly sensors on the motor and drive train that needed to be replaced.
    
The pluses that we have enjoyed with the Sprinter over a regular van are numerous. First of all, it drives and rides like a Caddy…well, not quite! It is susceptible to high winds, especially if empty. The mileage is great, for a big unit. It gets better mileage than the Suburban by a long shot! The cooler will hold the temperatures near ideal for transporting the flowers. And I love the ability to stand up straight while in the back.
    
It also allows florists to enter the unit and shop right from the buckets. I built a set of stairs for the back out of some scrap aluminum so that access is easy for some of the older ladies who have bad knees like mine. I installed some extra lighting for better visibility so the doors can be kept closed while shopping. Then I added some framing to hold the flower containers upright and some racks on the walls to hold smaller containers. For the farmers’ market, I made allowances for space to haul two tents, 4 ½ tables, two folding chairs and the weights. My weight are quite the conversations pieces. I found 6 old house screw jacks that weigh about 45 pounds each.
    
If you are shopping for a Sprinter, I have a few suggestions. Make sure that you have a reputable service shop within reasonable distance from your home base for both the cooler and the truck. I have to drive about an hour to get to a dealership, which is fine as long as you don’t have to be towed.  Don’t be too concerned with high mileage. Sprinters are built for high mileage. I have heard up to 600,000. Of course, there is going to be some upkeep and some of those things can be expensive. If you are buying a used unit, be aware of the insulation. I ‘reinsulated’ our unit with an extra layer of polystyrene and ‘sealed’ the doors with foam insulation so that very little of the metal is exposed to the inside of the unit.
    
Before you purchase, especially if you are not mechanical, have the unit inspected by an independent mechanic! And if possible, get some kind of warrantee/guarantee on the cooler unit or buy it cheap enough to do repairs. A new cooler unit can run $8-10 m. Plan on putting on new tires! Peace of mind and safety are important. If I were to do it again, I would immediately replace all of the belts, filters and (depending on the mileage) those pesky sensors. Become very familiar with the unit! Learn the controls for the vehicle and the cooler system. Know the troubleshooting items before you begin using the unit because while you are driving is not a good time to do research!  
    
Each grower has different needs and the Sprinter may not be the answer for your operation but I hope this information will help you make a decision. I would have loved to have a new unit—and there are some really good new units available—but one has to weigh the costs against the possible revenue that it can generate.
    
I continue to make modifications to the hauling system as time and experience educate me.  
    
Many of the suggestions that I have made would apply to any vehicle that you would buy. One of the most important is, “Will it do the job that you need done?” Good luck with your delivery system! Happy gardening.