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Best used minivan

I’m looking for a used minivan for about $10,000. In that price range I find the 2004 Odyssey Ex-L with 101,000 miles or a 2005 Town and Country Limited Edition with 85,000 miles and pretty comparable options (actually the T&C probably has a few more options). Better to go with a newer car with fewer miles or better to go with a Honda, no matter the age or miles? What kind of life expectancy does each model have in terms of miles?

The biggest factor is going to be the vehicle’s history, especially in terms of maintenance.

I’d imagine that most people would say to go with the Honda. But if the Honda wasn’t well cared for during its lifetime then its not a good bet no matter what.

For each or either, what can you find out about the history? A trustworthy mechanic who can actually look at the vehicles is also a great resource.

That Honda is the same year and 50k fewer miles my daughter’s Odyssey which had a transmission failure. I’m not a fan of Chrysler. This quarter recommends you expand your search to include a Sienna.

The Odyssey is due for a timing belt kit and water pump if there is no proof that it has been replaced (the salesman’s word is not proof. You need a receipt with the van’s VIN on it). Both will need consistent transmission services to keep them from having problems, and that may well not save the Honda. The Odyssey’s transmission is a turd, and an expensive one at that, but this year was the tail end of their issues, and they got better with time, so you may get lucky. The T&C’s transmission is a nice one, as long as it was reasonably well maintained and only ever had ATF+4 fluid put in it.

I will probably be in the vast minority here, but given the choice if they were the same price, I would take the Chrysler over the Honda. It’s a nicer vehicle (though not as sporty feeling as the Odyssey) with no timing belt to replace (costly regular maintenance item on the Honda, and if you fail to do it, it will destroy the engine), and even if the transmission were to fail on it (rare with the newer Chrysler minivans but somewhat common on Odysseys of this vintage), replacement is half the cost of the same job on the Odyssey.

I will also recommend that you consider an Oldsmobile Silhouette. We have a 2003 Silhouette Premiere and like it a lot. It’s a bit narrower than the Odyssey and not as powerful, but we have moved three college kids in and out of housing; even trips over 500 miles one way without any difficulties. It’s very comfortable - much more so than the sister vans Chevy Venture and Pontiac Montana. In my area, you could get a Premiere (it’s loaded) in clean condition with 90,000 miles for about $7200 from a dealer, or $5900 from a private seller. Just because you have $10,000 to spend doesn’t mean you have to. Test drive a 2003/2004 Silhouette Premiere and see if you like it. We’ve only had to spend money on fluid changes, tires, rear light bulbs, and front bushings in 125,000 miles. The care a used car has had is much more important than the brand, especially for something 6 years old. If the Odyssey or T&C have features that you just gotta have, that’s fine. But don’t sell a van short just because it’s not on everyone’s must-have list. I consider the Silhouette, and especially the Premiere, a great buy.

Since jtsanders brought it up I’ll post something of the opposite opinion on the Silhouette. I bought a '00 Premiere edition with 104K on it from its original owner. I got it with all of the service records & unless they were scammed the entire time, all of the maintenance was done, repairs made in timely fashion, etc.

It is the largest piece of junk I have ever owned and I am constantly having to mess with things. This includes a nightmarish transmission (replaced for the original owner under warranty at 55K - about 60K later going to crap again).

I lean mark9207’s way - depending on vehicle histories.

I’d aim for a 2005 Odyssey or a $10,000 Toyota Sienna.

2005 Odysseys didn’t have as many transmission problems as earlier vans.

Wow! These comments are really helpful! I just got a lead on a 2005 Saturn Relay 3 with 65,000 miles and super decked out. What does anyone know about this car and do you think it’s ok to buy a Saturn since they don’t make them anymore?

If you like the Relay, it may be a good vehicle for you. It’s the same as the Chevy Uplander, which was the replacement for the Venture. It has a Chevrolet engine in it which was also used in many other cars including the Impala. I know someone who had a Montana SV6 (clone of the Uplander/Relay/Terraza), and from what I heard from them, the only significant work they had to do to it was replace the water pump at 130k miles, which I did for them in the driveway. It took about a half hour or so, not a big job at all and probably only a couple hundred dollars parts/labor if you took it to a shop. The Relay does have the 4T65E transmission in it, though, the same one cigroller was complaining about. That transmission does have some fairly well-known issues, and if caught early enough and taken to someone familiar with them, will not cost the transmission its life. I have heard that transmission described as great when it’s working right, but a pain when it’s not. Overall, I would say failure rate for the 4T65E is probably a little lower than the 41TE transmission in the Chrysler you are considering and significantly lower than the transmission installed in the Odyssey. Many of the transmission issues in the Odyssey were resolved by 2003, but they still had some issues, but got better the newer the model year.

The Saturn Relay is the same minivan as the Chevrolet Uplander, so except for the grille the parts should interchange. GM no longer makes a minivan, but parts should be available.
I owned a 2006 Uplander and really liked it. I bought it in 2006 as a “program” vehicle and it had gone about 15,000 miles. I would still have it, but our son needed a better vehicle, so we sold it to him with a good family discount. The Uplander now has 85,000 miles and has not had any problems either in our ownership or his.
I replaced the Uplander with a 2011 Toyota Sienna. Only time will tell whether the Sienna is a better minivan. I do like the fact that I don’t have to remove the seats in the minivan to haul balky things as I did with the Uplander. However, to me, a minivan is a minvan–if you have driven one minivan, you’ve driven them all.

thank you again for such useful info! Another option for me is a Toyota Highlander hybrid. It’s not a minivan, I know, but it does seat 7. The one I’m looking at is a 2006 with 110,000 miles. It’s a liitle higher priced than the minivans. Any thoughts on that car?

I Have A Chrysler (Dodge Caravan) I Bought New And It Has Taken Our Family Everywhere Over Many Years. It’s Not Driven In The Winter. It Has Been Totally Reliable And Has Needed Almost Nothing Besides Maintenance. It Is Comfortable And Easy To Drive And Easy On Gas.

It had 2 recalls done free of charge and had a horn replaced under warranty when it was just a pup. As was mentioned, a used car is as good as the care and maintenance it has received and it would behoove you to spend the time, money, and inconvenience to have the vehicle professionally evaluated prior to purchase.

You can then decide to go ahead or cancel or you can ask to have the price adjusted depending on what needs to be taken care of to get it in top condition.

Find out if thr vehicle you are considering has a timing belt and what the recommended interval is for its replacement and the cost. Some have belts and some have timing chains instead. Chains often last the lifetime of the vehicle, whereas belts will need fairly costly replacements every 60,000 to 120,000 miles to prevent catastrophic engine damage, stranding you someplace. Consider this in the price.


re: mark9207’s comments, indeed the GMs (Relay, Uplander, Montana, Silhouette, Venture) will have the 4T65E transmissions. The engine will probably go forever (though mine has the famous GM piston slap & had the intake manifold gaskets done 2X before I owned it).

But I’d flip a coin on the 4T65E. It will either be great & trouble free - or it it will be a nightmare and no one - including GM - will know what to do with it. For a while the "legend " was that its common failure was an electronic pressure control solenoid (EPCS or just PCS). GM even issued a TSB on that. But that is only sometimes a remedy for its myriad of issues (including problems with its TCC and TCC PWM solenoids). It seems that dealing with its issues is basically a crap shoot unless you have a shop that literally specializes in this one transmission. I am in the market for a used van to replace my Silo because of this and other messes and I won’t even look at anything with a 4T65E. I flipped the coin & lost the toss. Once was enough for me.

" whereas chains will need fairly costly replacements every 60,000 to 120,000 miles to prevent catastrophic engine damage, stranding you someplace. Consider this in the price."

Don’t you mean “belts” instead of “chains”?

I thhink I’m about to get a 2008 kia rondo with a third row, super low miles. if anyone knows why this vehicle and I should not be joined, speak now, or forever hold your peace.

"Don’t you mean “belts” instead of “chains”?"
Oops ! I Sure Did. I Have Corrected The Post. Thanks, Elly.


Not I! My Sister in Law drives one and is very happy with it. Expect to seat up to 7 people and carry almost no cargo. If that doesn’t bother you, it’s been a very reliable car for them. But beware! With a union speech like yours, you will be betrothed forever - 'til death do you part! At least it is a fairly reliable vehicle - MSN Autos says it has no major problems. Still, you might want to get it checked by a trusted mechanic before you Walk the Town.

The only caveat I can think of would be that you were originally in the market for a minivan, and the Rondo is definitely not a minivan. It is classified as a compact MPV and is along the same lines as a Mazda5. The Rondo with the third row seat will seat seven people, as long as they are small and limber and will forgive you for making them ride back there, but will not carry much cargo at the same time. If you need to carry seven people and their luggage, you need a real minivan. If you need to carry seven diminutive people and nothing else, the Rondo will serve you well. The Mazda5 is also worth a look and may even be a better reliability bet, though, if this is the type of vehicle you are looking for.

How big of a minivan do you need?

When I was shopping, we almost picked up a Mazda5 before going for a Mazda6. The 2007s and earlier had problems with premature tire wear that seemed to dissipate with 2008s and newer. 1 year ago, 2009s were going for $13,000 used with 30k on them. I’d imagine you might be able to get near $10k if you went for an 08-09…

I really don’t need a big minivan. I really need something that can seat 7 when I want to take my kids and their friends to the movies, or pick up my old, plump parents when my kids are in the car. I hadn’t even heard of the Rondo until I researched “7-passenger vehicles” and it was named. When I checked it out, it got rave reviews. It doesn’t actually get significantly better milage than a full-size minivan, but it doesn’t feel like such a boat. I did have to adjust my budget (I was trying to trade in my '09 CR-V and be able to walk away completely debt-free). But the Rondo is quite affordable and I was able to find one with only 16,000 miles on it. I will be taking it to my mechanic to get the final blessing. Assuming it checks out, I’ll post a few months from now to let you know how it’s going. I’ll also post the china pattern we pick out in case anyone wants to send us a gift.