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Buying a Newer vehicle what to look for

Hi i am looking at buying a new van as it seems mine has hit the ceiling, and i need some honest advice on what to look for in a van. I want a van because i have more room, they are fairly mileage friendly, and i can pick my dogs kennel in there easily. I want one that is front wheel drive or all wheel drive, automatic, year 2000 or newer. I was looking at some on the internet, and i saw they have a 2000 Dodge Caravan SE, with those features. What is known about them? Also the Windstars? If anyone knows of any vans that are reliable that would be awesome! Thanks!

Consumer Reports Used Car Buyers’ Guide at the local bookstore will compare and contrast all of them and give you far more information than will fit here.

thank you very much!! I greatly appreciate your impute.

These Caravans are rated pretty poorly by CR. A 10 year old Caravan is not a good gamble. Your best bets are Toyota Sienna or Honda Odyssey (2004 or newer Odyssey due to earlier transmission problems.)

How much are you willing to spend, Miranda? Our recommendations will depend on that. I also suggest that if you can afford it, don’t buy anything more than 5 years old; the newer the better. That will give you more reliable miles. If you really do need to keep the cost down, I suggest looking at a 2003 Olds Silhouette. We have a 2003 Silhouette Premium and it’s been very good to us. Expect to pay around $7000 for the Premium. The Honda Odyssey EX with leather and entertainment center is the equivalent van and it sells for about $10,500. It’s an excellent minivan, but that’s 50% more. And you can consider the extra $3500 as a repair fund. I’ve done that for years and never spent the repair fund on any of the GM cars I’ve owned. The main thing to remember with used cars is to find the one in the best condition and don’t worry too much about the brand. Look for a minivan with complete records with the fluids changed at least as often as the manufacturer recommends. Have a mechanic check it out to see if there are any hidden problems. If there are safety or smog inspections required in your state, have them done before you buy.

There’s not a lot of difference in reliability in my opinion but when it comes to buying a used vehicle it’s anybody’s guess as to whether it will hold up well or not.

Regular maintenance and non-abusive driving habits mean the world as far as reliability and that’s something a buyer is seldom aware of.

Well my husband doesn’t want to spend more that 5000, but in my book thats almost impossible! i got my van from my uncle who kept it in very good condition so i KNEW what was going on with it before i got it, and what had been done to it. Where as now its hard to find something thats older and reliable and in good condition. Thank you very much Goldwing for letting me know about the Caravan. Thats the one that my husband wanted to get me because its “cheaper” (hes not car savy at all!) and i told him that i am going to research about the vans before i even consider looking at them. I agree, if you spend a little bit more you aren’t going to have to put as much into as repairs go. I am not exactly sure what smog or safety inspections would be for the state of Minnesota. Thank you all for your helpfulness and jtsanders I’ll look into those vans that you recommended. :slight_smile:

Tell your husband that there is a reason certain brands are cheaper than others.

I recommend Honda. They’re very good and the reliability is top-notch. Yes, they cost more, but that’s because they’re worth more :wink:

BTW, if you tell the dealer you want a van, he’ll show you full-sized vans. You want a minivan.

Once you narrow down the make and model, it behooves you to take any van you are seriously considering putting your money down on to a reputable mechanic for a thourough eval, to include a brake inspection, a compression test, and a charging system test. try to choose a mechanic who does not know the seller, ha ha.

In the $5000 range, you’ll definitely want to spend a couple hundred bucks on a mechanic inspecting the vehicle BEFORE you buy it.
Head over to and see if a timing belt is available for the models of vans you’re looking at. If the van is 6~10 years old, one can almost expect it needing a timing belt/water pump replacement and the owner got their mechanic’s estimate on the replacement

Be careful in purchasing a used minivan to make certain that it wasn’t used as a taxicab. I’ve seen more and more cities where minivans are part of taxicab fleets. I have had two Ford vans, a 1990 Aerostar and a 2000 Windstar, a 2006 Chevrolet Uplander, and presently own a 2011 Toyota Sienna. In the $5000 price range, the condition of the van and the maintenance history is more important, in my opinion than the make. I had good service from each of my ealier vans.

I am going to go against the grain and suggest looking at vehicles like the Dodge Caravan (including Voyager/Town and Country), Chevy Venture/Olds Silhouette/Pontiac Trans Sport or Montana, and Ford Windstar. The reason I recommend looking at these is because of your $5000 budget. Looking at these brands, for $5000, you can get the equivalent of a $10,000 Odyssey or Sienna. Also, if you find an Odyssey or Sienna for $5000, you probably don’t want to buy it because it will either have lots of problems or well over 200,000 miles, which will probably lead to lots of problems in short order. The domestic minivans I mentioned are all very nice vehicles and are a dime a dozen. You can usually find a really nice, cheap, low mileage one anywhere you look.

By the way, the stigma attached to the automatic transmissions in Chrysler minivans no longer applies to newer models. If memory serves, they redesigned the transmission around the 2003 model year and made a lot of changes to improve the reliability of them. For that matter, even Chrysler’s lousiest automatics can run for a long time if properly maintained. I know a guy who has nearly 400,000 miles on the original A604 in his 1991 Grand Caravan. His secret? He maintains it.

As an added bonus, none of the minivans I recommended have a timing belt. This eliminates one rather expensive maintenance item you would most likely have to address immediately after purchasing an Odyssey or Sienna. I don’t have a problem with the Odyssey or Sienna, as they are both among the best minivans on the market, I just can’t recommend them to someone on a $5000 budget.

Well thank you all so much for your advice!! i will let you all know what we decide. iwill definately have my husband read this topic before we even look at cars. We also have another option. My in laws have a very nice BMW stationwagon (im not sure on the make or model) but they told us they would just give it to us, it just needs a converter of some sort. So we have options its just deciding which one is the best one for us.

Well, there’s a nice addition to the equation. IF they give you the station wagon, you can take your $5k and trade the wagon in as well. Depending on the year of the wagon, you may be able to find a REALLY nice van. The converter you probably heard them tell you is the catalytic converter, not cheap to replace, even on a Honda or Ford.

yes it is the catalytic converter, and she said that it would cost probably 3k to replace. It is a nice stationwagen with leather seats and everything.

ask them the year and model wagon it is, then we can get a rough idea of what your trade-in value is.

Alright, so I was wrong on the make of the car that I am getting. My van is completely shot. I am getting a 2002 Volkwagon Passat stationwagon with 129,000 miles on it for roguhly around 3500. Everything is being replaced, cadlidic converters, timing belt etc. Also i am getting it from my in laws so i know that its been taken care of and the regular upkept has been done to it!

I have read good and bad on that model. I am getting the GLS V6 4 Motion Sedan automatic. For the price at this moment i didnt really have a choice and i can always turn around and sell it. What are your guys thoughts?

If your state requires safety or smog inspections, get them done before you buy. You can pay for it. Just make sure that you know what it needs before you pay for it. You may have done that already; there seems to be a list of replacements.