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Car Age Versus Mileage

I am car shopping and was wondering whether it’s better to buy a newer vehicle with higher mileage or an older vehicle with lower mileage. For example, would a 2006 Dodge Caravan with 113,000 miles be better than a 2003 Dodge Caravan with 89,000 miles if the price is comparable?

There’s no rule of thumb.

The mileage difference in those vehicles are insignificant. I’d buy the newer one. But check with other people more familiar with those vehicles. Some years of certain vehicles are better then others.

I don’t think the difference in miles, 24K, is that significant. How the owners have maintained the vehicles is more important. Does either van have a complete maintenance history?

The model years of the vans are different, so the 03 could be a better or worse model than an '06. Consumer reports can tell you relative repair experiences to compare the '03 to the '06.

If the '06 was similarly equipped and was selling for the same price, the added 24K miles wouldn’t deter me from buying it.

Probably. 25k miles is a drop in the bucket for wear and tear. Proper maintenance will play a far more crucial role in determining which vehicle would be preferable. If one has service records and the maintenance schedule has been followed, that’s the one to get.

With those two, the difference is mostly a matter of how well the vehicles were driven and maintained.

You should also look in the Consumer Reports used car guide to see if either had any weak spots. Neither is a shining example of reliability. The 2006 has a MUCH WORSE THAN AVERAGE rating for suspension, engine cooling, fuel system, climate control brakes, body hardware, and an overall worse than average rating.

The 2003 has a MUCH WORSE THAN AVERAGE rating for engine cooling, major transmission work, minor transmission work, climate control, suspension, brakes, and body hardware. In other words, it’s also a bit of a dog, and to be avoided

In both cases, don’t buy if you do not have proof that ALL required mainteance was done. However, there are better minivans on the market; the only others I would avoid are Kia, Chrysler and Volkswagen, both of these are also trouble-prone.

Dodge minivans have been selling a a good discount. A new one is ususally $9000 to $10,000 less than a comperable Honda or Toyota. If you are retired, and don’t put on a lot of miles, a new Dodge minivan might be a good buy, since it will likely last 15 years or so if you maintain it by the book. A poorly maintained used Dodge minivan is probably the worst thing you could buy, except a poorly maintained Volkswagen minivan, essentially the same, but more expensive.

A friend of mine drives a lot and having had a Dodge minivan before his Honda, he says the difference is night and day.

IMO, people get far too hung up on mileage as a judgement of wear on a vehicle. Same with age. There are MANY different ways to wear out a car, and different parts will wear differently. Some parts, like rubber seals, will wear almost entirely based on age. Some parts, such as wheel bearings, might wear predominantly based on mileage. Some parts, like suspension parts, may wear predominantly based on a combination of the smoothness of the road combined with mileage. Some parts, like your transmission, will wear largely from the number of shifts combined with the rpm differential as it shifts (ie, SLOW acceleration and lots of highway cruising will put little to no wear on a transmission). Then you have your engine, which has a combination of parts which wear differently… some on age, some on total hours of operation (not miles), and some based on the average and standard deviation of the rpms the engine runs at…

And after all that, never forget about proper maintenance.

You want the car that has been serviced properly over its life. Poor maintenance means short life.

Sorry to be blunt but; you’re asking whether it would be better to buy a poor car (2006 Caravan) or a worse car (2003 Caravan). It would be easier to answer the question if we started talking about vehicles that were fairly reliable from the beginning. Then we could talk about maintenance. You could maintain and drive either of these puppies perfectly for the mileage indicated and still have more problems than many other brands that were not maintained as well. Check CR ratings.
IMO, if you can’t afford to buy something better, you can’t afford to own one of these either. They are a lose,lose. Buy one only if it spends most of it’s time in the drive as a playhouse for the kids.

I would take Docnick’s excellent advice but condense the sentence to “In both cases, don’t buy… !”

Disclaimer: The OP really didn’t give enough information to render a reliable verdict, HOWEVER…based on the information given…I would choose the '06, because the yearly mileage (23,000/yr or so) is such that it’s likely most of those miles are highway miles (I mean, you really have to try to put 23K/yr putzing around town.)

Thus, it’s likely that many of the parts (hint: ESPECIALLY the transmission) have been treated more gently than the miles indicate.