MB Truck vs Unimog

beanmachine314

New member
Hi all,

My wife and I have decided to sell everything and live on the road permanently and we are at the point of deciding on a vehicle. We are pretty much set on a Mercedes Truck or Unimog as we plan on being outside the US for the majority of the time (we are planning 2-3 years to visit the US and Canada then heading south). We are about six months away from seriously shopping for a vehicle and I'm attempting to narrow it down between these two choices.

My main question is "Why do many people pick a truck over the Unimog?" The way I understand it, both the MB truck (NG/SK I haven't been able to keep them straight) and the Unimog (435 series) have very similar disadvantages (55mph max speed, not sold in NA, loud, poor fuel mileage), but the Unimog has a significant off road advantage. So, what is the advantage in choosing the NG/SK truck.

Secondly, where can I find more information about the trucks? There is so much more Unimog info out there than there is for the trucks. Like the transmission in the truck, I've read in a thread here that there are 2 options, a 5 and 6 speed, neither have OD, BUT I've seen a picture of an 8 speed, a video of a 6 speed with an air shifted auxiliary, and another video of some electronic thing (EPS?).

Finally, we will be at Overland Expo East this coming weekend and would love to be able to look through someone's build and/or get some guidance. I can tell you exactly what I would want in terms of North American manufacturers, but I haven't a clue when it comes to these Germans machines.

Thanks a million
 

Victorian

Approved Vendor : Total Composites
The unimog needs more “attention”. That in return rarely justifies the little extreme off road you would be doing with it. 99% of the time a regular Mercedes with 4x4 and diff locks will be more than enough. As much as I love the unimogs my choice for a globe trotting vehicle would be a sk.
 

Sitec

Adventurer
Hello and welcome! You have asked the question where you will get a pretty well 50/50 split in answers. Both have merit, and both have disadvantages... In my opinion I think the first thing you need to do is work out how much space you want and how much gear you plan to carry, as this may well dictate the truck you buy. The Mog owners will always vote Mog, as they have one... The NG/SK owners will always vote truck, as they have one!! I have the latter and will give you the reasons why we chose a truck over a Mog. Note, I have nothing against Mog's and loved driving the Ag Mogs in the UK.

So, why do we have a truck... We plan to live in our truck for a few years, so chose space over off road ability. Our Hab Box is 6m long, 2.5m wide and 2.2m tall. We have decent room to be comfortable inside when the weather outside is bad. We plan to do a lot of remote travel, but not go rock crawling so think the truck will be more than capable for our needs. If we meet a track or obstacle where I have to question driving it, we won't. The truck comes with heavy over engineered axles and transfer box, along with a huge unstressed V6 engine, so will sit at 90-100kmh all day long without getting hot and without breaking. The chassis will happily cope with 11 or 12 tonnes all day long. The truck option has the cab over the engine, and with our 4.3m wheelbase, our 6m hab box sits nicely on it. As the wheelbase is 4.3m we have lots of chassis space for a big semi fuel tank, 1 of two water tanks, start batteries, gas locker, AC base unit, recovery gear and spare fuel locker, tool locker, hidden locker under spare wheel carrier, chassis mounted drop down twin wheel carrier. This means the body is kept free of a lot of stuff. I see all this as advantages.

However... There are disadvantages... Because it's a 'truck', it is easy to get carried away with your build. I now have a 7.8m long 3.5m high and I'm guessing 11 tonne home on wheels. It's big! This is where having a Mog wins. You can't go crazy big on a Mog, so have to really plan what yo carry. Ian and Trish are a good example of this (Unimog Adventures on Youtube). They have crammed a lot into their Mog but still have a reasonably nimble machine. They have just uploaded a new video on their thread on here which is worth a watch. Read all the threads you can, work out what you 'need' and what you'd 'like', and then plan from there. Most importantly, take your time, allow for even more time, and be advised that building your own truck will consume you both!!! :)
 

NOFOMO

Member
Unimog owner here.

i think the NG/SK trucks will be slightly more economical, take a little bit less involvement (maintenance/complexity), and are a little less cool 😎

If you want a longer box, an Unimog is not the right choice for you. Go for the ’normal’ MB. You will be able to go most places in the world, as much of your success does not depend on your equipment; it depends on YOUR ABILITIES!

The reason we went for the Unimog and are happy with it are:

- same reason why I drove a Porsche 911 and not other capable sports cars:it is a Unimog. Period.
- we wanted a compact truck that doesn’t limit us from turning into tight spaces
- we wanted a vehicle that gave us additional reserves when going off-road

If you go on my YouTube channel NOFOMO, you can checkout my roomtour of my friend Josef’s MB Truck. I don’t know what his build cost, but I assume he spent 50% less than we did. But I doubt that he only has 50% fun or can only go 50% of the places that we can go.

Josef is happy with his MB truck.
We are happy with ours.

If you go Overlanding, there is no wrong answer.
just the wrong question!

NOFOMO4ever!
LOL

Good luck with your decision.
 

DiploStrat

Expedition Leader
I'll play.

-- I have a MB 917. In hindsight, would probably be happier with a conventional US truck for speed, economy, etc. I am of the camp that if you are planning to drive both ways 'round the world, you want the simplicity of straight axles, the lower complexity, and the higher cruising speed. Joe917 and the Hays would probably agree with me. These folks are helpful: https://www.ln2-forum.de/

-- My friend, Rob Blackwell drove a Unimog from Siberia back to the US via Europe. He pretty much proved that there are much higher maintenance challenges. http://whiteacorn.com/home/rtw Dr. Arrons, who can be found on this site and Iain Burgess, both of whom own Unimogs, are always worth listening to.

Come visit at OEXPO East.
 

RoamIt

Active member
I have neither :) But I will share that my research echo's what has already been mentioned. MOG is the max off-road king, sucks on the highway. The MB truck is good off road, sucks less on the highway.

How much time are you going to spend crossing sand dunes, rivers, mud flats, etc, VS. driving on the road? (I know 'road' is a broad term, but if it's being traversed on a regular basis I would call it a road)

When you answer that question you'll know which one you want.
 

Geo.Lander

Well-known member
You might also want to consider the budget, if you have the cash for the latest model Euro6 U 4023 / U 5023 then most of the concerns with on-road comforts and cruising speeds (100km/h all day long) no longer apply to a relative extent. I think most of the replies here are geared towards the older rigs. Then in that respect you should also be looking at the MAN TGM, Zetros 6x6, etc. But then you have the "where the hell can i get a Euro6 rig fixed in Mongolia question" OR "try finding add-blue on the Skeleton Coast".

I went for a truck (LK cab 1120) because I wanted a bigger living space, to carry more toys, budget and maintenance concerns. No doubt thou, the MOGS have the "coolness" edge 😎 and certainly better offroad..
 
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Christian

Adventurer
I'll play too, although I have neither, but still a MB truck.

I'm guessing you are not talking about a factory fresch Unimog, otherwise your other choice would not be a NG.
I drove an Unimog 416 in the army, and although it was one of the coolest things I have driven, I would never turn it in to a camper. The cab is really cramped, it's extremely loud and when outfitted for years of overlanding too heavy and too much investment to utilize it's full potential, and I haven't even gone in to maintenance and associated cost.
But they are cool AF!

The NG will go almost the same places, exept the last few %, where you shouldn't risk it anyways, because what gets an Unimog out, if THAT is stuck? The NG is a lot simpler design, not only in not having portals, but transmission, frame, springs etc. Brake a leaf in a spring? Some dude in Brazil, Bangladesh or elsewhere will find something. Do the same on a Mog? with the freight times these days? Might as well buy the plot it stranded on... (yeah, I exagerate)

I went a different route, and got a LAF1113B... They are a bit older, mine's a 1979, but 170hp OM352A, power steering, lockers, a lot of the same as the NG.
BUT the engine is not in the cab, lesser noise, better access to the back, cooler design (IMOP)
(the pic is not my truck...)
 

Attachments

Grenadiers

Adventurer
We've had two diesel RV's, a truck camper, and now our Saurer 6dm. Primary reason to have purchased it, was to travel mainland Mexico and Baja. We have yet to take a US trip. At the time of the purchase, we lived in northern Arizona, in a cabin in the woods, on a mountain. Didn't really have to travel. Then we moved to NW Wisconsin, on a lake, with a pontoon, a sided by side. Again, no summer travel. However, we now primarily go to Baja. Greatest experience ever, camping on the beach, shore fishing, beer, local shopping, riding our electric bikes to town, on the beach, etc. THE most reason, however, for a truck for us, is that no matter where you are, even a truck stop in Oklahoma for the night, is that you have your tiny home on wheels with everything you need. Obvious fact of course. But, the difference with a larger space is that you feel 'at home', versus the truck camper we had, where we felt that we had to spend more time outside than inside. It's a very comfortable feeling. Heading back to Baja this fall. Trying to sell our truck, but the rarity of Saurer in the US, (there are two), parts, (Zurich anyone?), keeps people away. Well, we like it.
 
Important question: where would you register it? EU, Canada, USA?
Can’t give advice without that.
I ended up with a U500NA because it was the best thing for bad road travel with a 4.5-4.8m camper I could find in 2005 when I ordered it new, registerable in US. It’s pretty civilized to drive and I cruise at 92-97 kph, top speed 108. It has really nice features like CTIS, really low gears, automated shifting that can also be manual with a switch, and the obligatory (in anything) diff locks.
If I lived in Canada or EU and were looking for something perfect now, not concerned about cost, I would look for late Euro 3 MB or MAN truck with CTIS, 9 or even 16 speed (they were introducing autoshifting manuals in the early 2000s). Or else, an Excap restored/improved Steyr 12M18.
The reason CTIS is so great (people do always bring up reliability issues, but the Anglic expression “knock on wood” applies to me) is that people are lazy, and manually deflation and re-inflation, maybe in nasty conditions, just isn’t going to be done as much as playing with a couple of switches. And it is an option on the MB and MANs.
I weighed mine 2 weeks ago. With 380L fuel (a further 462L empty), water full, it was 5050kg (11130 lb) front, 7300kg rear (16090 lb) for total of 12350kg/27230 lbs. GVW 15000kg.
But that’s with 2 hydraulic winches, big bullbar, 2nd unmounted spare tire, an over abundance of recovery gear (anchors plural etc etc) every plausible tool and an enormous supply of parts. Could be as much as as 2500 lb/1150kg!
A U500 is a unicorn in North America and only slightly less so outside Europe. A MB Atego or mid range version or MAN equivalent is pretty common outside North America.
If you are from US, Acela refurbished FMTV are interesting, but there’s a couple of issues.
Whatever, do yourself a favor and get something from 2006 or earlier, the “apex” of world travel capable medium trucks.
 
Or buy a refurbished, perfect pre 2007 unit from Unicat, one they actually built originally, with modern upgrades like I have done at considerable expense, like induction stove ( no propane!!), big high efficiency solar (I am up to 950w), etc. One only has a problem if you live and will register it in USA.
 
I’ve worked on both. Comes down to pedigree.
MB is a truck used to transport goods. To which you can get 4x4 added. Still mostly a transport chassis. MB makes a great truck. Older 90s were very easy to work on. Interesting fact, many TATA truck parts fit on MB in that era.
Unimog started as a coil sprung tractor, designed as a base to add all kinds of implements. Fire equipment, snow plows, farming. Still a tractor, very hard to justify the extra costs to maintain a unimog.
Unimogs Achilles heal, nobody knows how to set up and repair portal axles. You need special tools and knowledge
Unimogs are unbelievably awesome in the bush!
Don’t let cool factor cloud judgement.
 
I wonder whats special about two spur gears ?
Special? They’re pretty heavy. The big one is underneath my mattress along with 42” torque wrench, clutch disk, etc.
I carry enough parts to rebuild at least 2 portals, including at least 1 set of gears. And the helpful special tools. But more important, I have continuous temperature readouts on them.
 
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