Best Used Minivan under $10K?

Looking for a used minivan on a budget, to replace 1997 Mercury Villager. Can’t spend more than $10,000, so Toyota Sienna & Honda Odyssey not options. Have checked loads of reviews and nothing seems to get good across-the-board ratings… We really need the fold-down type 3rd-row seating and would like the 2nd-row captain’s seats so kids don’t kill each other on long trips. We sometimes haul small pieces of furniture, so the cargo area is pretty important. So far, narrowed it down to: Kia Sedona ('06 or newer), Hyundai Entourage (have had 2 Hyundais–loved them except for the faulty transmissions in the earlier ones), Chrysler Town & Country or Dodge Grand Caravan ('05 or newer–hear they fixed the reliability issues and they have the Stow 'n Go seating), Pontiac Montana (esp. the '06 SV6).

Feedback/suggestions appreciated; thanks!

I don’t understand why you are ruling out the Sienna and the Odyssey if you are buying a used minivan. You might have buy one with more miles on it to get one under $10,000 miles, but I wouldn’t necessarily rule them out for that reason.

Nonetheless, I believe either the Kia or the Hyundai (don’t remember which one), is pretty highly rated by Consumer Reports. See if you can get your hands on CR’s used car buying guide and use it as a starting point. It might be available at your library.

In your $10,000 an under price range it seems to me that the condition of the van is more important than the make. If you can find a van that fits your needs and you know the history of this van, this is more important than the make. If you find a candidate, look at the frequency of repair record in Consumer Reports. If a particular make has transmisison problems, but the transmission in the one you are examining has been replaced, you are good to go.
My advice is to save back $1000 from what you intend to spend for possible repairs, tires, new brake pads, etc.
Some years back my son bought a 1999 Ford Windstar on the advice of his wife’s brother-in-law who is a mechanic. The Windstar had been used for parcel delivery between two major cities, so many of the miles on this van were interstate travel. This Windstar gave him very good service. I have a 2006 Chevrolet Uplander which is essentially the same vehicle as the Pontiac Montana and it has worked out well for me.

If all you can spend is $10K. I would consider the newest Chrysler minivan you can find for the money which is as well outfitted as the Sienna/Oddessy but at a lower price. I would go for their design over any other make.

Secondly, engage in a daily prayer session for the continued well being of this car as the repair records for any minivan with the options you want for less than $10k will make it less reliable. Your asking a tad too much with the high mileage you’ll have to take IMHO.

Mazda 5 is worth a look as well

It may be possible to get a 2007 Mazda5 for less than $10,000. It would probably have to be a private sale, but it should be possible.

As to ruling out the Sienna and Odyssey, they are scarcer than hen’s teeth in this area in this price range–at any mileage. Odysseys sometimes, but not Siennas. Local Odyssey came up on the listings with 92k miles, for under $10k, but sold b-4 I could get to see it. Not totally ruling one out, but need something pretty quickly.

As far as finding models with the features we want, there are quite a few in this area between $9,000 and $11,000 with relatively low mileage–anywhere between 40,000 and 65,000 miles. If we didn’t want the 2nd-row captain’s chairs and the fold-down 3rd row, we could get something for even less than that. We could live without the captain’s chairs OR without the “stow-n-go” seating, but not without both! If we had to do without the fold-down seats, we’d have to have something in which the 3rd row was very easily removable. We’ve had our Villager for 4 1/2 years, and have never taken the 3rd-row bench out 'cuz it’s such a pain. We keep it folded up and it’s such a pain to even upright it for seating, we rarely do. So, a “must have” is at least a 3rd row that’s far easier to remove. So, does anyone have any suggestions on vans with easily removable 3rd row in lieu of the stow-n-go type?

And is buying a certified vehicle with the better warranty any better bet than one that’s not? I can grab a certified '07 Ford Freestar (warranty up to 6 years/100,000 miles on powertrain and 3,000 miles/3 months comprehensive) for under $9,000, and with 58k miles. Sounds tempting, but the reputation on these sucks raw eggs…


In my opinion, used vehicle certification is worthless. A certified used car isn’t worth any more than one that isn’t certified.

Regarding warranties, it all depends on your preference. How much of a warranty will you need to sleep soundly at night?

The most important thing to do is get a prospective purchase checked out by YOUR mechanic before you buy it. I don’t care if it is certified by God and comes with a comprehensive 500,000 warranty. You want to avoid the headaches.

The 2010 Consumer Reports buying guide gives the Ford Freestar an overall average for the 2007 model year. I had a 2000 Windstar (Freestar under the earlier name) and it was fine. I sold it to my son to replace his 1999 Ford Windstar that had twice the miles, but was satisfactory. The later Freestars have a better reputation than the earlier Windstars.

I think the third seat on the Freestars folds into the floor. The earlier Windstar did not and it was not easy for one person to remove. The Chevrolet Uplander has a third seat that folds down against the floor, but the loading area isn’t flat. There have been a couple times when I have had to remove the third row seats of the Uplander completely and it is a real chore.

Thanks for the info on the Freestar–I’ve read every review guide I can find, but haven’t been able to get the CR one yet–have to buy a hard copy, I think. I knew the Windstar didn’t have a great mechanical reliability record, but one would think they’d have rectified that by the time they replaced it with the Freestar. Our old mechanic recommended the Ford van over the GM ones at the time. And, I think the Freestar does have seats that fold down into the floor.

Too bad I can’t get one certified by God… seems that, really, no van is rated as highly as I’d like to see!

Minivans as I understand it, are built on passenger car platforms. The Sienna is based on the Camry, the Freestar is based on the Taurus, etc. Yet the minivans don’t have the reliability of the automobiles from which they are derived. It may be the type of service a minivan usually receives and its added weight over an automobile.

I would like to minivans built for heavier service. I realize that the minivan might not ride as smoothly as a car, but if I wanted a car, that is what I would buy. This is one objection I have to the tests in Consumer Reports. They compare the ride and handling to a car. For instance, Consumer Reprots criticism of the Ford Ranger pick-up is “It never lets you forget that you are driving a truck”. Well, if one didn’t want a truck, why would one buy a Ford Ranger? I feel the same way about minivans–make them beefier so that they stand up better.

I would like to (see) minivans built for heavier service.

I think they have them already, in the form of small box trucks and full-sized vans.

When I replaced the 1990 Ford Aerostar I owned ten years ago, I considered the Ford E-150 van. It was too big for everyday driving and also not as economical on fuel as the Aerostar. I finally decided to purchase the Windstar. The Aerostar was great–built on a frame instead of unitized construction. In short, it was built more like a truck. I would have purchased another Aerostar had Ford continued to make them.

You should be able to find plenty of Chrysler minivans in that price range.

I think the modifications you are suggesting would hurt fuel economy anyway, probably just enough to make it not worth doing because of the existing alternatives.

“You should be able to find plenty of Chrysler minivans in that price range.”

Well, there are a zillion Dodge Caravans in that price range, but not as many T & Cs. Though there are a few nice ones listing for between $10,000 & $11,000. Just looked at one today–really liked it! Right price, low mileage, and all the other features we’d like. Might get it, still want to test drive a few others, though.

Any personal insight on the Town & Country? Ratings & reviews seem pretty good.

Fortunately, if you like the Caravan, you will like the T & C. They are the same vehicle with different accessories. Dodge/Chrysler has always done a good job with their minivans, so you will find both trim levels of this vehicle to be designed with your needs in mind. If you like the Caravan, and you like extras, you will like the T & C even more.

I, for once, have to agree with Whitey. I have only had 2 Chrysler-built minivans but loved both of them.