I’ll preface my post by saying that I am not an experienced car shopper. I tend to keep cars until they fall apart, and the last time I bought a vehicle was over 11 years ago, when I bought my current 2000 Toyota Sienna (used). So I’m having trouble deciding what to do here:
My 2000 Toyota Sienna currenttly has 292,000 miles. It has been a good vehicle for many years, and I have taken care of it pretty well (oil changes every 3,000 to 4,000 miles, timing belt changed on schedule, regular tire rotation, etc.). But now it has major transmission problems, to the point that it is almost not driveable. I have gotten an estimate of $2,000 to rebuild the transmission (and that comes with a 1.5 year / 18,000 mile warranty on the rebuilt transmission).
Everyone I have talked to has advised me to junk the Sienna and to buy something newer. That was my initial inclination as well. But my budget for buying a newer minivan is only about $6,000, and I’m just not finding any minivans in that price range where I feel confident that the vehicle has been taken care of and will last at least a few years without major issues.
Basically, I’m looking at four options:
- Have the transmission rebuilt on my 2000 Sienna. (But how much longer before I have another major issue, on such an old vehicle?)
- Buy a used Sienna that fits in my budget – i.e., somewhere in the range of 2004 to 2007 model year with around 150,000 to 200,000 miles. (But has it been taken care of?)
- Buy another make of minivan with a lesser reputation for reliability, like a Nissan Quest or a Dodge Caravan, where I can get a newer and/or lower mileage vehicle as compared to a used Toyota Sienna at the same price.
- Find a way to stretch my budget to go a few thousand dollars higher, so I can buy something newer. (But even then, there is no guarantee that the vehicle I buy will be a good one.)
Right now, I’m leaning toward #2 or #3, but I would appreciate any advice. My biggest stumbling block is that I keep asking myself, would I really be upgrading that much over what I have now? For example, is a 2006 Nissan Quest with 130,000 miles and unknown maintenance history likely to be that much of an improvement over my 2000 Sienna with a rebuilt transmission? Basically, I’m hoping to find something that has a decent chance of lasting 3 to 4 years without major issues.
One thing I should add is that my Sienna has been driven on salty roads in winter for roughly half of its life. And I know that it is having issues with rust: For example, the running boards had to be taken off several years ago because they were rusted and falling apart, and I had to get a section of tail pipe replaced due to rust a few years back.