Hey guys. I’m looking at purchasing a van for my growing family and I came across a deal that seems too good to be true. It’s a 2016 Dodge Caravan for 2,900 + taxes and fees. The catch: 216,000 miles. I’m not the most knowledgeable about cars so I’m not sure if that should be a huge deal breaker or not? I would be purchasing off a lot so I don’t know the maintenance history. It has had 1 previous owner. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
Sorry but IMHO you’re looking at a sticking time bomb.
To me it would be tempting, if I knew the maintenance history, if I had inspected the engine and transmission (professionally). If I was going to do 99% of the repairs myself. It would be ideal if you could predict The major problems in advance. If you know that the high milage is the only reason for the deal, you might want to find out what it would cost for an engine replacement. If that plus the $2900 plus tax and fees is too much than walk away. Then you are still taking a gamble on the transmission. Your future will probably include worn out suspension parts that will cost you time and money. If there is any structural damage or if it has a salvage title, then it isn’t worth the gamble. My experience has been with deals too good to be true, at it’s best, it wasn’t really that good by the time all is said and done. Sometimes it’s a disaster. But once in a great while, (not often though) it’s a great deal. But I really doubt if that would happen from a lot. If they sell cars for a living, why wouldn’t they know enough to sell this thing for what it’s worth.
If it runs well, has NO rust/body damage, and has a clean title, this could be an ok deal. Depending, of course, what the “taxes and fees” come to.
If the Caravan has ANY evidence of a past accident, ANY rust or body damage, or has a salvage/rebuilt/reconstructed title, I’d walk away. Many of these vans make it to a quarter of a million miles without major issues, so I’d say there’s probably a good 30,000 to 40,000 miles left in this thing. I would assume that if the previous owner had not changed the oil regularly, or had the transmission fluid changed at least once, this would not have reached 150,000 miles, let alone 216,000 miles.
Just do the usual due diligence:
- Bring an inexpensive OBDII code reader/scan tool. Plug it in to the diagnostic port immediately before you start the engine.
- Prior to starting the engine, check the oil with the dipstick, and open the oil fill cap and look inside for evidence of sludge buildup. Put the oil fill cap back on. There is no transmission dipstick on this model, otherwise I’d suggest checking that too for fluid condition only (level can only be checked with the engine idling in park).
- Start the engine from cold, open the radiator cap, make sure there aren’t any bubbles as the engine warms up, put the radiator cap back on, make sure the temperature gauge reaches the normal position and the heater works. Check under the vehicle to ensure there aren’t any leaks.
- As the engine warms up, examine the body for fit and finish, again check for fluid leaks, check your code reader/scan tool to make sure there are no current, pending, or permanent codes set, and that no more than one monitor says “not ready”. (This is the most that is permitted on a 2001 or newer vehicle, to still be able to pass emissions/inspection.)
- Take a long test-drive, lasting for at least 20 minutes and at least 15 miles, driven both in city traffic (so you can see if the engine overheats or misfires at low speed, or if the transmission has difficulty upshifting on demand) and on a freeway or other road with a 50 MPH or higher speed limit (so you can see if the engine overheats or misfires at high speed, or the transmission slips or whines in higher gears). Begin the test-drive by backing out of a parking space, so you can see that reverse works.
- At the conclusion of the test-drive, but before turning the engine off, again connect your code reader/scan tool, and make sure no current, pending, or permanent codes have set. Also, test all of the power windows, power door locks, power sliding door/liftgate (if equipped), sunroof/moonroof (if equipped), power seats (if equipped), and if the weather is warm enough, test the A/C if that feature is important to you, test the audio system if that feature is important to you.
And of course, after you buy it, I would change the engine oil and oil filter, coolant, transmission fluid and filter (drain-and-fill, not a flush), check the brake pads and replace if low. DIY is best for these things, but if that’s not an option, use a reputable independently-owned shop–not a chain and definitely not a Jiffy Lube-type place.
Think about it:
The owner of this vehicle apparently drove it over 50k miles per year, or over 1,000 miles per week. That type of usage surely doesn’t leave much “downtime” for performing maintenance. But, perhaps it was properly maintained.
If you can verify that the trans fluid has been changed at least 7 times, and if you can verify that the oil has been changed at least 40 times, then it might be worth considering, in view of the low asking price. Just be prepared to have to overhaul the transmission in the very near future–even if the fluid was changed 7 times already.
As a family car, it should be reliable, and a car with mileage this high won’t be. How long can you go without the van? I would expect it to be out of service a few days each month on average. If the work hasn’t been done already, it will likely need new bushings, shocks/struts, and brakes. By brakes I mean calipers and master cylinder in addition to pads.
It’s a real crapshoot to buy something with this many miles though most of it had to have been highway miles . So if you buy it you then have to have the plugs , brakes inspected , shocks inspected and possibly replaced , tires possibly, coolant flushed . While the Pentium V6 has generally been pretty reliable 200k plus miles is a lot for any engine . You are looking at another $1500-2000 if you go through and replace what should be replaced . Things like pulleys, alternator , water pump, fuel pump could go at anytime .
+1 to both of the above comments. And then we have the transmission that likely has one foot in the grave and the other foot on a banana peel. Has the OP considered the cost of overhauling the transmission?
I would say it depends on how many miles you drive in a year, I would not plan on getting 300,000 miles out of it, but if you drive 10,000 a year or less you can probably get your money’s worth out of it. I would like to get a compression check and see the condition of the tranny fluid, check for any leaks and listen for noises. Make sure the check engine light works and get codes read.
The way I see it, you have two choices:
A) Budget for maintenance and repairs. How much? I’d estimate two or three thousand dollars a year.
B) Use that money you’d budget for repairs and buy something much newer in terms of age and mileage.
Simple, ask the seller for permission to bring a mechanic to look over the car. If the seller says “no” walk away. If yes, spend a $100 or so and get a mechanic to check this thing out.
216k miles in this short period of time is almost all highway miles unless this thing was used as a taxi.
I’m going with taxi. With that mileage someone put an average of about 142 miles a day on it every single day since 1/1/2016.
Please… Walk away from this. It is not any kind of “deal” I promise you. Any trouble free driving was already enjoyed by the previous owner…the next owner is the one who will be replacing all sorts of items that are on the verge of total breakdown… Those items will surely be…the brake system, the suspension, the transmission etc… Who knows the engine might be just fine…its just nearly everything else that will start having problems.
Like I said…any trouble free motoring was enjoyed by the former owner, they bailed because they probably know what is coming around the corner repair wise. Take a hint from them and please skip this vehicle.
You can do better than this for that kind of money, even if it happens to be an older, yet less used vehicle. Walk on by this “deal”
When I shopped for used cars ages ago, I ignored the odometer reading. In those days the reading didn’t mean much as dealers were known to reset odometers.
That said, if you are seriously interested in the car, an inspection by an independent mechanic may be able to find clues as to how the vehicle was used. If a the vehicle was used to commute 60 miles each way to a job, or the previous owner was an over- the- road salesman, there may be some miles left in the vehicle. Highway driving is relatively easy on a car. On the other hand, if the vehicle was used for taxi cab service, it’s probably worn out. Worn pedal pads, worn upholstery, etc may be a clue to this type of service.
On your end, how do you plan to use the vehicle? Will it be used locally or are you intending to use it for a 100 mile commute to work each day? If you need a vehicle to commute 100 miles round trip to work, this probably isn’t the vehicle for you. On the other hand, if it is to transport kids locally, the vehicle may be o.k. It’s somewhat opposite of how the original owner used the Caravan.
In my own case, I need a minivan to transport musicians and their instruments. Once a week we drive 15 miles each way to band practice. If this Caravan checked out ok by a mechanic and I had a sedan that was my main vehicle, I would consider purchasing it. In my case, I find it more economically wise to have a newer minivan as my main vehicle and not have two vehicles.
(Actually, for transporting my musical friends, I would prefer a Duke Ellington Caravan over s Dodge Caravan, but nobody in our group is a sophisticated lady).
My dad in the olden days said look at brake pedal wear to see if it was city or highway miles.
Couldn’t you get the band to the gigs if you take the A train?
I was thinking it might be a courier, but your theory works too.
Well I drove 30-40,000 miles a year. I tried to sell one of my Rivieras with 300,000 and I never did get it sold. Dang near impossible to unload a car with high miles. I finally sold it to a worthy cause for $50. It was a fine car. My other Riviera went over 500,000 miles. I’d say it would be pretty hard to put that many miles on driving it in the city. Even so it would have been running all the time so the wear would have been on the trans and brakes. I guess I’d have a shop take a look for obvious issues but for those willing to try a high mileage car, the prices are right. Got another one now I’m sure I’ll have unload cheap.
Not necessarily within city limits, but in the entire metropolitan area it is easily possible. NY, NY metro is most of Long Island, most of Northern NJ, half of CT, a good portion of mainland NY, as well as the five boroughs. The Baltimore/Washington metro area is about 100 miles north/south and nearly as wide. Couriers also go out of area. My daughter’s friend’s father was a courier and he occasionally went from Baltimore to Philadelphia.