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Buy an 2001 Toyota Sienna or a 2006 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT

I’m in the market for a budget minivan. I have 2 that good possibilities but I can’t decide between the two. Here are the specs:
2001 Toyota Sienna

  • 133,000mi
  • $3500
  • second owner, car was clean, owner already left the country
  • the car has been regular serviced at the same dealer since the first owner- per carfax
    2006 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT
    -$4500-5000 price yet to be negotiated
    -93,000 miles
  • second owner, car was dirty, owner selling bc he’s leaving the country
  • carfax only shows regular oil changes and smog testings

I really like the Toyota-- It seemed to drive better than Dodge. My only concern is that it is old. The owner of the Dodge is sloppy, but it’s a newer car-- with better features (stow & go seats, automatic doors etc) AND lower miles. I need the mini-van for a move, and going budget bc cash is tight. I need the van to last me a good year without any costly repairs. Which wold be the safer bet?

Make your choice, then get it checked out by an independant mechanic to diagnose upcoming repairs and problems.

Assuming a mechanic’s inspection doesn’t show anything major needing work, I’d prefer the Toyota. The Chrysler minivans have had the worst reliability of any minivans made, and the Sienna has the best.

How do you plan to use this? If you’re going to keep it for years, maybe until it dies, I definitely think the Sienna is the better bet. Sure, it has more miles on it, but if it doesn’t have any rust that van could be good for many years to come. The Dodge I don’t seeing last as long. They just aren’t well made. If you’re not going to keep it long, then the Dodge might be the better buy. If you clean it up so it shows better you might even get back more than you paid.

If you’re in a cold part of the country (or anywhere else) make sure your mechanical inspection incudes looking for rust. For the Toyota rust could be the thing that sends it to the scrapper. The Dodge is more likely to have something else expensive fail.

Is there anything else to be concerned about since the Sienna is older and it has hardly been driven in the last year. The son of the owner says he drives it around the block “weekly.”

The Dodge is overpriced. We sold our 2000 last year with 175K miles. It had the 3.3 engine which is a good engine but some have had head gasket issues. Ours literally went in midlife crisis around 100K miles. The list of what I had to change is very lengthy and even though I did a lot of the work myself, it still cost us a fair chunk. Now the sloppy owner on this one is the icing on the cake. I wouldn’t pay more than $3K for this one and even then, if you look around, you will find better deals on Chrysler vans.

Have the Sienna checked by your mechanic. If the drives were not very short (1-2 miles), I wouldn’t worry much about it. You can also negotiate the price.

Chrysler and Dodge minivans don’t age nearly as well as Toyotas in my opinion. The Toyota uses a timing belt in the engine that requires replacement, at that mileage it should have been done already. As long as that service has been done, I’d say the Sienna would be the better car.

Don’t get caught up in features like automatic doors. They’re expensive when they break.

I read somewhere that if has not been driven for sometime (1 yr+) then it may need all new fluids. Is this something that I will need to do for the Sienna? Again the owners son says he starts and drives it “weekly” around the neighborhood. I also test drove it very briefly, bringing it up to 60mph on an unused street. It started fine, and the drive was good. Brakes were squeaky and smelly was the main issue.

It’s always a good idea to change all fluids when you buy a used car. You never know how old the fluids are and it’s relatively cheap preventive maintenance. Especially important to change the transmission fluid since many owners fail to do so at the recommended interval, with resulting damage to the transmission.

I would take the Toyota, but have it checked out first by a local mechanic.

My first rule for purchasing a vehicle is to put a piece of tape over the odometer and another piece of tape over the nameplate. If you know the service history of the Toyota and it is not rusted, then the choice seems obvious to me.

If you only have a choice between these two, the Toyota sounds like it might be a better bet. Pay a good mechanic the $100 or so it will cost to have the van checked out. And make sure you see a receipt for the timing belt change if the owner claims it was done. Maybe it is on the CarFax if it was done at the dealer. I believe items on the CarFax, but there are things that might not be there. If all the servicing was done at the dealer, the CarFax is probably a good gauge of maintenance and repairs.


In regards to the Toyota van

The only thing that makes me nervous is that the owner isn’t the one selling the car. There have been some ugly situations in which the seller wasn’t even legally permitted to sell the car. There have also been situations in which the guy trying to sell the car didn’t even have access to the title.
Money was exchanged, and then the ugliness began

Personally, if I’m in the market for a used car, I will only deal directly with the owner, or move on to the next vehicle

I like to be cautious

I just read the original post. Both vehicles sound like Craigslist listings and I would be suspicions of both. Also at that price point the brand name is not important, just the condition of the vehicle itself.

Thanks for all your responses! The Sienna fell through. Back to the drawing board.

well, I vote for the Toyota. I would ask the dealer who has been servicing it about it.

as far as the title, don t let someone other than the owner sign it in your presence. get a notarized letter from owner, if possible, ok ing the sale