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Cheap Reliability and Lotsa Seating?

I need to advise someone rather poor with a big family on a car purchase.
We are looking at 2 adults and 4 children.
As a card-carrying member of No Ma’am ** I am reluctant but
it seems like a minivan (I guess likely a Honda) is needed. Another alternative might be a
Grand Marquis. We are talking about stuff back around 2000 in order
to get an affordable price for them. A 3 row Suburban or something like
that is out due to low reliability and terrible gas mileage. Are there any other
ideas? Were there any reliable 3-row crossovers back then?

** Normal Men Against All Minivans

Used Honda Pilot? My sister owned one since new for 12 years before having to get rid of it. Although, I’m not sure about Honda nowadays, I’ve heard from people the reliability isn’t the same. Not sure what year that started changing.

Minivan (don’t think a Grand Marquis or Crown Vic would handle the 4 kids), I’d add a Toyota Sienna, maybe prefer it, Hondas in that price range might have more problematic transmissions.

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2003 Toyota Sequoia might be another option if they can afford the gas of a Suburban. (Avoid 00-02 due to issue with transmission planetary gear when towing). Should be similar to the reliability of my 02 Tundra. Be leery of rusted out frames if they live in the rust belt.

We are donating my mom’s 03 olds Silhouette minivan to the church, they will then give it to someone in need. It worked out fine for her, and is all up to date and in fine working order with78k miles. For a couple of grand I would have to keep an open mind. Local charitable organizations may have a similar program.

What’s their budget?

Cheap and reliability can’t go in the same sentence. The only thing that will work is a mainstream van and hope for the best.

4 kids in the back seat of a Grand Marquis is not going to work at all.

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$2000 was what I read in the OP

I actually think the 2000 was referring to the years the OP is looking at

It pretty much has to be a mini-van to hold 6 people safely. One question that should be asked tho is whether it is really required to carry all 6 people at once? Maybe the use only requires 5 at once, max. If so a 4 door car-sedan would be a better choice, as 3 kids can ride in the back of a car safely. So decide whether it is a car or a mini-van, than use Consumer Reports Used Car Guide reliability and economy ratings, and the prices, to decide among the Honda, Toyota, Dodge etc cars or mini-vans for sale in your area.

Yes, 2000 was my guess at the years.
Budget–$2500 to $5000.
Grand Marquis: 3 in the front and 3 in the back. The kids are small.

I definitely wouldn’t go this route. Small children shouldn’t sit in the front seat because of the air bags. The problem with early 2000s vehicles is most of those are not going to be reliable as they’re heading towards the end of their lives. I think a minivan is going to be the best option for what they need. American made vans will likely be cheaper to purchase than Japanese counterparts, though not as reliable. If they can go closer to $5,000 they can probably look towards mid-2000 model vans which would increase the reliability, though, again, given the mileage that will be on these vehicles, I wouldn’t call them reliable.

How many ways are there to say this is a bad idea. I know you don’t like mini vans but you are not buying this for you. When you help someone your suggestions should be as logical as possible and if they want to do something else then step out of the picture.

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As much as Chrysler Minivans get a bad rep, you can find a newer one with lower mileage for that price compared to the Honda/Toyota ones. If you find one from a private seller with good maintenance record, it might serve them well. Like any used car, budget some for repairs. Also Kia has a Minivan (Sedona), I know some years were not as good but maybe consumer report could help narrow them down.

Bottom line is when buying used cars if you are chasing the ones that everybody else is, you will have to pay the premium and sometimes it is not as justified.


How about a Chevy Uplander, or one of its corporate twins?

They definitely don’t hold their value like Sienna or Odyssey, so they should be cheaper to purchase, and they’ll seat all those kids

We have several in our fleet, and they’ve generally been okay, but the build quality is definitely subpar, versus Honda and Toyota. But I don’t think that’s one of the criteria

On the other hand, I have a feeling this person is looking for a really cheap van, which also means it’s very likely the vans they’ll be looking at will be older, high mileage, probably on their 2nd or 3rd owner, and possibly no longer well maintained and not in good mechanical shape

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Go to a site like and search for minivans near you in your price range. I found 75 near me under $5k, all makes.

Don’t pay amy attention to image when picking a car. When I first retired from trucking, I stopped at a coffee stop I used to frequent in the 60s when I was a city driver.

A driver I new slightly had seen me pull in with my minivan and loudly announced that “Real men drive pickups”.

I walked all of my 260 lb and 6’ 3’ up to him and announced in a normal voice “Real men drive anything they please”

He got very quiet and seemed interested in his coffee.

By the way, I have never driven anything else remotely as comfortable on a road trip as a Chrysler corp minivan.


Thanks to everyone for the advice.

I agree with @db4690 that the Chevrolet Uplander might be a good bet. I owned a 2006 Uplander which my son now owns. It has gone almost 200,000 miles with no major problems. It still has the original alternator, water pump and fuel pump. I have a 2011 Toyota Sienna which is also reliable. I don’t really think that there is much difference in the quality of the Uplander and Sienna.

Look at any minivan in the price range. At that price, condition means more than brand. We had good success with our 2003 Silhouette too, though you can get something newer and with lower mileage with up to $5000 to spend. We had 5 in our family before the adults moved out and it served us well.

As much as seating, the vehicle has to have good cargo space. SUVs can’t compare to minivans for space, and they should have lower resale values because more people like SUVs. As a used car buyer, low resale value is a good thing. The GM vans will be narrower than the Asian vans, but we never found our Silhouette lacking in room. It’s 14 years sold and my wife still loves it. There are a few minor problems, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed if she were willing to put a little money into it. I’d look at any of the Asian vans, including Korean, and the Detroit 3.