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2000 Toyota Sienna: Rebuild transmission, or time for a new(er) minivan?

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:

  1. Have the transmission rebuilt on my 2000 Sienna. (But how much longer before I have another major issue, on such an old vehicle?)
  2. 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?)
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

sell. or junk it. 17yrs old. 300k miles. bad trans. scrap value. $200? 2000 budget for trans? I am sure you could find a 2-3 yrs newer van with 150k for less than 2000


I would not put any money in this just because of the miles and RUST.
You keep vehicles a long time and your financial status is none of our business. You say 6000.00 so is that cash or the amount you plan to finance. A entry level Sienna is about 30000.00 so at least consider if you can afford it and you will have years service.

The rust would scare me off doing the transmission job. With a $6000 budget, look for a minivan where you know the maintenance history of the vehicle. When you find a candidate for purchase, pay a mechanic to do a thorough inspection. Don’t get hung up on the make.

I appreciate the advice. Even though I’m not likely to go with the option of rebuilding the transmission, I think it helps me to hear more people agree that that would be a bad idea. It helps me to feel like I’m making the right decision on upgrading to something newer.

Getting a brand-new vehicle is not an option I would consider. In addition to the price of the vehicle itself, I would also have to consider insurance, sales tax, and annual personal property tax in my state. It’s just not affordable for me at this point.

I definitely will have a minivan inspected by a mechanic before I buy. Maintenance history is proving to be tough to find though. I’ve looked at quite a few used minivans online and a few in person, and even when a Carfax report is available, the maintenance history is almost always incomplete at best.

Do you absolutely need a minivan? I do, so that is the vehicle I own. I have had minivans since 1991. However, if my needs change because I am no longer able to play my horn and not transporting musicians and their instruments, I will consider another type of vehicle. In your case, would a small SUV such as a Ford Escape do the job? Would you consider a Pontiac Aztec in good condition even though they aren’t stylish? The lack.of style keeps the price down. If your needs dictate a minivan, then use the time remaining on your Sienna to search out a good used one.

Yes, I need a minivan. Or at minimum, I need a vehicle that comfortably seats six people (myself, my wife, and our four kids). I know that some SUVs have third row seating, but I’m not convinced that that will give us enough room. For example, we are borrowing a Toyota Highlander right now. It has a third row of seats, but the seats don’t have much leg room, and if you fold them out to use them as seats, then there is almost no room for storage behind the seats.

Given that you are thinking about buying a 10+ yr old vehicle, I would not be bound by reliability reports. At that age and mileage, the timely maintenance done on it is much more important than the initial reliability. So that opens up cars like the Dodge Caravan.

Good perspective. Thanks. So maybe I will get more serious about looking at a Nissan Quest and a Dodge Caravan that are available locally here.

I would also consider a Chevy Uplander . . . or one of its corporate cousins . . . or a Ford Freestar

They don’t hold their value nearly as well as Toyota, so you should be able to buy a van that’s several years newer than your Sienna, and within your budget

If your mechanic inspects it and gives his approval, there’s no reason such a vehicle wouldn’t last for several more years, provided it’s in reasonable shape now, and isn’t already rusted out

Yup! You either need a minivan or bus. For.what it’s worth, I bought a 2006 Uplander in 2006 that had been a GM program car. I would still be driving it, but our son needed a.better vehicle, so we sold it to him at family discount price. I would have purchased another GM minivan but GM in its infinite wisdom abandoned the minivan market. The Uplander I owned is still.going strong at 200,000 miles. I replaced it with a 2011 Sienna. It has been troublefree, but no more so than the Uplander. The driver’s seat and driving position were more.comfortabe for me in the Uplander. GM marketed the Uplander under different names in the Buick, Pontiac.and Saturn nameplates, so maybe you can find a good GM minivan.

I haven’t driven those Uplanders for more than 1/2 hour at a stretch, but the seating position was fine for me, and I’ve definitely got a bad back

It would be nice if the van had climate control, versus plain jane ac, but other than that, no real complaints

We have several in our fleet, and they haven’t been especially trouble prone

Shep was a good ole dog for 25 years but he can’t see, hear, or get up anymore. What should I do?

  1. A car without a trans is not worth much so you either fix it and drive it for a while to pay for the repair or just cut your loss.
  2. I’m not clear on the market now but $6000 is not a lot of money to try and find a reasonably dependable car. Would you be better off to take a portion of that for a down payment on a new or near new car that will provide no repair costs for a couple years?

Buy the minivan in the best condition and as new as you can afford. For a 10+ year old vehicle, condition is number one, not brand.

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Interesting to hear the recommendation of a Chevy Uplander. There is a 2008 Chevy Uplander that I’ve been planning to look at locally. The price is very good compared to a Toyota Sienna or Honda Odyssey with similar year and mileage, and the Carfax report shows good maintenance history. Also, the Carfax report shows that it was owned in Alabama and Tennessee, so it probably hasn’t been exposed to much road salt. I’ll make a point of getting over to look at it soon. Thanks.

When I wanted a minivan ~ 2006, my budget was similar to your current budget. I went to, put minivan in the type if car, limited the search to a certain year (2000 and above at the time) and certain miles (75K) with a price max of $7500 hoping that I will haggle. We bought a 2000 Caravan with 60K miles for $6. It did need repairs after 100K miles but still cost less than a Honda or Toyota van despite repairs. You can try the same. Wondering if a Kia Sedona might be a good middle of the line. Check their reliability because I know older ones had issues.