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Best used 7 passenger vehicles

I need to replace my van and I’m looking for used vehicle reccomendations. I have a max of about $12k to spend and i need a 3rd row of seats. Do 2002-2004 Odysseys have transmission trouble? Are any American vans or suvs as reliable as Toyotas or Hondas? I wish an suv would be practical but I am resigned to the fact that they probably are all either too expensive or gas guzzling.

I have a 2000 grand Caravan and although it has basically been a decent car, I had a lot of trouble with the locks, hatch and power outlets and at about 100k miles the transmission went and my husband chose to replace it rather than buying a newer used vehicle. Now there are about 200k miles on it and there is a big hole rusted through where the strut mounts to the frame under the hood (is this safe?)and the van has been in the shop at least once a month (last month to the tune of $3000). I hate that my Caravan has big speakers by the back seat but no air vent there. My poor son sweats like crazy back there so I really like how the 2002 Odyssey I looked at had adjustable vents above all of the seats. I don’t really trust Chrystler minivans because of all of the problems I have heard others have with them , but I do wonder about roominess and reliability of the Pacifica (does it have 3 rows of seats?). I want to keep an open mind because I seem to be locked in a Odyssey or Sienna mindset.


- Anita

If I had to get a minivan it would be a Honda Odyssey hands down. Excellent reliability, great quality, and good driving dynamics. Between Toyota and Honda-I choose the Honda, not because the Toyota isn’t reliable because it certainly is-but the Toyota is just blah compared to the Honda.

You don’t need our advice. You are right on track focusing on the Odyssey and Sienna. You won’t likely go wrong either way, so just shop for one with the color and features you are looking for and choose the best car you can afford. I would avoid the Chrysler products you mention. There are some other good cars out there, but none better than the cars upon which you focused.

Agree with Dave and Manolito. North American minivans have signiifcantly lower quality and reliability. Honda, Toyota and Mazda have the best models. Hyundai’s minivan is OK but has not proven itself yet. Since you are interested more in the practical and cost aspects, try both the Toyota and Honda; sporty handling may not be a high priority with you.

A friend of my wife has a Honda Odesey for business, and is totally happy with it after having suffered through the problems with a Ford Windstar.

My response is biased because I believe that if you have seen one minivan, you’ve seen them all. I had a 2000 Ford Windstar that I sold to my son. It has well over 100,000 miles and has had no major problems. It has rear air conditioning that works well. I replaced the Windstar with a Chevrolet Uplander in 2006. The Uplander also has rear air conditioning and it works well. I have 41,000 miles and my only problem was a sending unit for the fuel gauge that was replaced under warranty. Our other vehicle is a 2003 Toyota 4Runner. The interior quality of the 4Runner is better than either the Uplander or the WIndstar, and I assume the same would be true for Sienna or Odyssey. My experience does not match those reported in Consumer Reports which indicates that the Upander and Windstar are not reliable. An Odyssey or Sienna would have run about $12,000 more than I paid for the Uplander. One advantage that I found with the Uplander is that it is narrower than other minivans. I frequently have to back off a busy street into an alley to load tympani for the chamber orchestra which I manage. There is a building on one side and a telephone post on the other, so the 4 inches of less width are important to me. On the other hand, for some people, the width would be a great advantage. I also like the fact that in the Uplander I can fold either second row bucket seat up against the front seat. This is an advantage as I can fold up a bucket seat and slip the dog cage in with ease (I have a very friendly dog who loves to ride places and visit people). I get 16-18 miles per gallon around town and 24-26 miles per gallon on the road with the Uplander.

If someone were to give me a new minivan, I would probably take the Odyssey or the Sienna. On the other hand, you may be able to purchase a newer Uplander for the same amount of money as an Odyssey that is 2 years older. My minivan is my utility vehicle and it serves that purpose well.

I can only give you personal experience about 2002-2003 Honda Odyssey transmissions.I did replace several while working for Honda and 2 new ones died on a test drive,cant say this makes a trend,just my experience.All were very low mileage cars.

THhanks for the help. so an Odyssey it is.
Back to one of my original questions, are the transmissions a worry? I thought that I heard that the bugs were worked out in the 3rd generation so I wonder if I would be better off spending a little more for a 2005. How many miles are too many on a used Honda? Are there other things more important to look at than the odometer reading or does it give a good indication of the life left in the vehicle?

I think more important than the odometer reading is how well the vehicle was maintained over the miles it already has on the odometer. My son bought a 1999 Ford Windstar with 90,000 miles that had been used for package delivery between two cities. The mileage was mostly interstate travel. He drove it to 150,000 when he sold it and bought my 2000 Windstar that had less than half the miles on the odometer. The 1999 that he bought was in better shape mechanically than another he examined that had half the mileage and cost more.

When I bought used cars forty years ago, the last thing I looked at was the odometer. Dealers were very proficient at resetting them in those days. I remember one dealer where I looked at cars in a small college town in the early 1960’s would reset many used car odometers to all zeros and then claimed that he had to replace a broken speedometer. I bought a car in May of 1971 where the odometer read 33,000. While checking out the car, I found that the car had been inspected in February and had 55,000 miles. The car was a 1968 AMC Javelin. I bargained the price down from $1695 to $1200. I put 100,000 miles on top of what was already on the odometer and sold the car 5 years later for $600. The law is much stricter on odometer tampering today.

If you can find the history of the Odyssey you are considering, this would be great. Perhaps the transmission may have already been replaced.

If the lifetime cost of a gas guzzler is less than an Odyssey or Sienna, would you buy it? The resale value on 7-seat SUVs is so low that you might make out on the deal, despite high gas prices. Check the price on a used Explorer and Suburban. Thake the difference between that and the $12,000 you have to spend and see how many miles you need to go at EPA MPG estimates. do the same for the Honda and Toyota.

On a more conventional note, have you considered a Kia Rondo? The first year ws 2007, but you might find a private sale on an LX in your price range.

I believe large SUVs like the Suburban are practically being given away. Local dealership has a brand new one on the lot with “$10,000 OFF” in bright green letters on the front windshield. I’m sure if someone offered them $20k they’d actually consider it, just to get it off the lot, and it’s a $40k vehicle normally.