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Considering a used Mini Van

I am seriously considering a used mini van to use like a work van for occasional handy man jobs.
I don’t want a pick up or a conventional work van.

I like the mini van as i can take the rear seats out and put them back in as I need them and there seems to be a large selection on the used market.

I have looked at and considering the Dodge, Honda, Toyota and Kia.
I know the Honda and Toyota are more reliable but also much more money so I want to weigh that against the Caravan and Kia Sadona which are cheaper in general.
I would like to know what folks could share about these mini vans as what to be aware of in used models…I am probably looking around 10 yrs old vehicles with a about 120k or less miles. Thanks in advance.

This is too easy. Find van you like, have an inspection done for about 100 to 125 dollars to see if there are any noticeable problems ( not 100 % effective but worth the money) Then drive on.

Here’s a forum site with a lot of info on the Dodge/Chrysler minivans.

I’ve had one for nearly 19 years.

According to Kia Sedona years 2015,2012,2006,2002 have the most problems and should be avoided.Dodge stop making the Caravan in 2008 but continued with the Grand Caravan until now. Grand Caravan years 2008 and 2005 have the most problems and should be avoided.

rascal, when looking at a 10 year van like the OP is current condition is all that matters. Just because some had problems not all did and it is possible all of the problems could have been taken care of.


I love my Sienna. I bought it with 73,000 miles in 2008 (it’s an 04). I now have 222,000 miles on it and it has been awesome. The engine does not burn oil, the transmission is rock solid, and it has never stranded me. I’ve done nothing but maintenance and minor repairs, except for last year when I got hammered with about 3,500 dollars of repairs over the whole year, all related to rust and age (rusty sub-frame, rotted exhaust, rotted transmission lines, corroded bolts on suspension components). I live in the snow belt of NY and this is fairly typical on aging, high mileage cars. This year I have only had to deal with front brakes (normal wear) so far.

I do think the Dodge Caravan family of vans can be decent, especially if you are handy and can do some work yourself. Based on my friends’ experiences and mine with Toyotas and Dodges, if you keep your vehicles a long time you will probably end up spending about the same on either. The Dodge will be cheaper up front and costlier to operate in the long run and the Toyota will cost more up front and will most likely cost less over the long run.

I do agree with @VOLVO_V70. At this age, condition is everything. Look for a vehicle with good maintenance records, clear evidence of NOT being driven hard, and carefully check underneath for rust. If the suspension and frame look very rusty, walk away.

For occasional use a Dodge minivan is OK. I friend of my wife has one and it seems to be quite reliable as she does not drive a lot.

If you are looking for a ten year old minivan, you could add a GM product like the Chevy Uplander. One of the regular posters was pleased with his, and IIRC, his son still drives it. We have a 14 year old Olds Silhouette that still runs well for us. 2003 was the last year for the Silhouette, though. Mostly, I suggest that you widen your list to minivans that are no longer sold as new products. As @VOLVO_V70 said, buy the van in the best condition you can find. After 10 years, that is the primary issue.

I’ve had a Dodge Caravan for 20 years. I don’t drive it during our salt season, called winter.

Its only got about 100,000 miles on it, but has been virtually trouble free.

The fact I’ve kept it that long, with no plans to get rid of it and plan on driving it for a long time, says something.

I rented a used 2008 (?) Town & Country and put 3,000 miles on it. It performed well and didn’t use any fluids.

I wouldn’t overlook Chrysler minivans. Look at stow & go seating. They are a real bargain. Check for any serious rust damage prior to purchase.



If your are over 100k, did you get the free license plate frame?

I’m working toward my 200k frame. Unfortunately, mine has some cosmetic issues. But it runs well.

My 2000 Toyota Sienna went 220,000 miles with only oil changes and muffler, brakes. etc. No tune ups or engine work. It was still going strong when I reluctantly turned it over to the next owner. Great car for hauling “stuff” and also could seat 7 people very comfortably and still have room for luggage and the dog.

About 2 years ago, we got rid of our much loved 2003 Honda Odyssey. It had been a faithful friend, but the transmission started acting up. Basically, it was going to cost more than the van was worth to fix, and I read that Odyssey transmissions were problematic up until about 2005, I believe.

So we traded it in on a 2012 Odyssey and haven’t ever looked back. No problems. Good luck.

Very good feedback here. Thanks…I realy like the Stow and Go seating…that is a real innovative and winning feature the Chryslers have. I realise the CU reports are only an average…an older car on the road that is still going strong may have been made on the better end of the failure distribution. All Very good points. I do like the Sedona but the engine has a timing belt which I don’t care for. I would also like a roof rack for hauling a ladder or other long items on occasion. Most of the used ones I have seen don’t have them. Good points on the Chevy and Olds…
As long as the body is not too rusty and the drive train seems strong I am open.

Lots of choices and not much time to go looking…all of the upfront advice helps, thanks!

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my 98 Sienna has 275,000 and still drive it daily… it is very handy with the seats out, can move lumber, mattresses, etc etc. With the seats in, it can move half a troop of Boy Scouts :wink:

The maintenance costs on the Caravan will likely be more frequent, but cheaper - Toyota parts are expensive…

Don’t worry about anything with an average or better rating. Another regular posted a graph a while back that showed how long, on average, it took to have the first repair. For the most reliable brands, it was about 10 years. IIRC. For average reliability brands it was 5 to 7 years. I find 5 to 7 years for the first problem on a well maintained vehicle acceptable. I use that information when I buy used cars to get a good deal on a well maintained, less reliable brand. I did that in 2012 or a Chevy Cobalt and we haven’t had any repairs on it in the last 5 years.

I’ve owned three mini vans over the last 15 years. I love the space for moving, camping, hauling stuff. My only complaint is that I’ve had to get rid of all three due to transmission failure before 200,000 miles despite regular transmission oil changes. Not sure why this is. Bad luck for me or something else???

If you want to use it as an occasional handyman, the convenience of the Dodge and Chrysler minivans with the stow and go seats makes them ideal. Both the 2nd and 3rd row seats fold into the floor and 4 x 8 sheets of drywall or plywood can be loader into the floor. When I looked at a Toyota in 1997 I measured between the wheel wells and it was only 47 inches. Don’t remember exactly what year the Sienna was.

Unless you are towing a heavy trailer or plowing snow I would say that you have had bad luck. I owned a 2004 Sienna that I just sold last month with 227,000 miles. The transmission was rock solid with no shifting issues. Chrysler minivans are known to have frequent transmission problems so it is possible that purchasing any Chrysler or Dodge minivans could result in transmission trouble down the road.

No towing or plowing. I am looking at a 2008 Town and Country with 136,000
miles on it for its stow n¹ go back seats but am hesitant.

One or more people owned that minivan during its 136,000 miles. What do you know about how they treated the van? If they kept up with fluid and filter changes as outlined in the owner’s maintenance manual, it might be OK. If you can’t get this information, this T&C is a big risk.