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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.

At 10 years out, the most important thing is to have your own mechanic do a thorough inspection prior to purchase. Any shop records of work completed from the original owner are extremely helpful too. Brand doesn’t matter as much at this point. If you’re looking at using it for work, consider looking at Chrysler minivans too. The stow and go seating is fantastic for quickly getting that space in the rear cargo area (such as the last time I used my 05 Town & Country to help a buddy move)


At 10 years old, look for the one in the best condition and don’t worry about brand. Ten years is plenty of time to ruin a Sienna by not taking care of it. You are on the right track looking for lower mileage. Find one in top condition and pay a mechanic you trust to do a prepurchase inspection to see if anything is wrong. If you find a good one, be willing to pay more for it. The extra you pay up front will save you money in the long run. You won’t have to pay for early repairs and lost revenue when the minivan is in the shop.

Stay away from the Chrysler mini vans.

The brake components are too small for the weight of the vehicle, and the brakes don’t last very long. Especially if you’re going to carry any cargo in the vehicle.


I have to disagree with some statements made; assuming you use good judgement, the name of brand can have a large effect on how reliable the car will be at 10+ years old. Regardless of how well the vehicle was taken care of.

Since I don’t have anything for sale and no real reason to be blatantly biased, I’ll tell you up front that I am a line technician for Toyota and hold all of their certifications. Before my work at a Toyota dealer, I worked for 8 years on all makes and models. So I hope I can be of help.

A LOT of the Toyota’s that were made between 2006-2012 were made and assembled in Japan and this is an important fact because their cars, especially steering and suspension parts were made at such a high specification. Need not worry, there is a plethora of parts readily available and I’ve found at an even lower cost than domestic vehicles in a lot of instances. Their engines are SOLID and it is rare to have any mechanical issues. The technology is ahead of its time, inside the car and out. You can get almost all models, including the Sienna in AWD (all wheel drive) and the basic services would have likely been done already by 100,000 miles. I drive an 07 Rav 4 AWD. It’s 11 years old, has 143,000 miles and I have not had 1 leak, 1 check engine light, have not replace any steering part, suspension part, or major brake part, ever. My Toyota is just like many of the Toyota’s I work on everyday. Aside from the mechanical, you’ll never find an 06 Sienna with rust on it. Unless it was parked in a lake or a snowbank lol.

Honda is also a very reputable brand. They’re less regular maintenance than a Toyota but they do have parts that wear significantly faster. Spark plugs, tie rods, water pumps, calipers and sway bar links are all often things replaced when owning a Honda. They are a very smooth ride and also ahead of its time in technology. Do the oil changes!

Dodge, Chrysler, Ford, Chevy… you’re going to be very disappointed. Their vans are bare basic vans that are usually filled with rust. Every gasket and seal on those things were always leaking. Wheel bearings, exhausts, steering parts, broken suspension springs and ticking engines are a common issue with domestic vehicles.

It sucks to say that our cars kinda suck, but the fact is, the Asian/ European vehicles are just better. You’ll get fantastic MPG with a Honda. Better Toyota than domestic.

And more questions, ask!

OK, why does the Toyotanation forum have so many posts about problems?

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I haven’t visited Toyotanation personally so I can’t necessarily comment on any specific situation.

I’d be glad to discuss specific topics, though.

I have owned 5 minivans over the last 26 years: 1. 1990 Ford Aerostar; 2. 2000 Ford Windstar 3. 2006 Chevrolet Uplander 4. 2011 Toyota Sienna. 5. 2017 Toyota Sienna. Toyota is a good minivan, but it is not the only minivan.
Now, the 2011 Sienna I owned was assembled in Princeton, Indiana and 93% of the parts were made in the United States. The original battery was made by Johnson Controls. The tires were Firestone. Even the right front turning signal bulb I replaced was a U.S.made Sylvania. Now, had I not liked the 2011, I certainly would not have purchased a 2017. That being said, I did have an expensive repair.on the 2011. The water pump replacement at 90,000 miles was $975. Our son bought the 2006 Chevrolet Uplander from us. It has 200,000 miles and has never had a repair this expensive. It has never had a water pump replacement, alternator replacement, etc.
I just recently sold the 2011 Sienna to our son. If I didn’t think it was reliable, I would not have sold him. I would not have sold him the Uplander had it been expensive to maintain. In fact, I would have purchased another GM minivan, but GM no longer makes minivans. I have the service records for the first 90,000 miles on the 2006 Uplander and the 2011 Sienna. The Uplander had the better record.
I concur.with the other posters on this board that for an older minivan, condition is more important than the make.
I bought the 2017 Sienna because I got a very good end of the year price from the dealer and I have been treated fairly by the service department. I might have kept the 2011 longer, but our daughter-in-law is on the road a lot to help take care of her mother who lives two and a half hours away and I have a grand daughter who is getting her learner’s permit and I wanted them to have a newer vehicle
However, the 2006 Uplander took them from their home in middle Tennessee to upstate New York and back this past July with no problems.

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I think that’s a great idea OP. You get a sort of mini-econoline handy-man van that way, just by taking the seats out. I think any of those would be a good choice, but I’d probably go with the Kia myself if it comes for a good size discount price compared to the others, as long as it is less than 10 years old. 10 years or older, as long as the prices are nearly the same, the Honda or Toyota would be my choice.

You may discover there’s a problem removing the seats btw. Not that you can’t remove them, but doing so may confuse the car’s electronics and that may turn on the check engine light or the seat belt light on the dashboard.

Please explain to me how removing the rear seats will turn on the check engine light . . . ?! :confused:

I admit to be guessing a little, but I think on some cars there’s a sensor which determines if someone is sitting in the seat. If somebody is sitting there, then there’s another sensor which determines if the seat belt is fastened. Ok ok, so that would turn on the seat belt light, not the check engine light … lol … hmmm … well I heard about a problem where a man was having some kind of drivability problem and he’d leave his car at the shop and they shop could never reproduce it. He’d come back and the problem was immediately apparent. They finally discovered why, when the man drove the car to the shop (or anywhere) he put his briefcase on the rear seat. But when he came to the shop to drop off the car he removed his briefcase b/c he needed it at work, so he took it with him. Somehow the briefcase sitting on the rear seat was causing or contributing to the problem.

Minivans must have removable rear seats to be classified as light trucks for fuel economy and emissions standards. Removing the rear seats will cause no harm and they do not contain sensors for the passive restraint system.

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I bought a 2000 Caravan (shorty) in 2006 with 50K miles on it. It was the middle of the pack as far as the trim. The V6 on it was strong and I maintained the transmission with frequent ATF3 changes. The van was great until 100K Miles but at that point stuff started breaking; the list is lengthy we kept the car up to 180 K miles where the paint was to primer. The engine seeped a lot of oil at that age but it was still running fine. I did the math and the money I saved in upfront purchase price (compared to a Sienna) was easily wiped away X 2 in extra expenses past 100 K miles. This is factoring that most of the repairs was done by myself so the labor was “free”. The local Napa store was giving me the mechanic’s discount (this should be a big red flag!).

You might have better luck finding a cheaper Korean make that the Japanese. I know certain years of the Kia Sedona were on the “to avoid” list of consumer report, you have to dig those issues out or look on Kia forums.

By the way, a minivan is perfect for your needs. I used our van for a lot of moves and even taking gravel to our project.

There are vast amounts of technological differences between a Sienna and an Uplander and all expenses aside, the Sienna would far outweigh the pros of an uplander.

With that being said, yes. Your generation Sienna, or most specifically the “2GR-FE” engine did usually require the water pump before 100,000 miles but usually because of acidic coolant. That’s why it’s important to change the coolant. Even then, they could leak and that’s really the only major repair ive seen on those next to the rack and pinion gear. They changed the steering to electric assist because of it.

I’m pretty sure that they switched to electrically-assisted power steering was done for CAFE reasons moreso than anything else

@Markwnjr. I changed the coolant in my 2011 Sienna every 30,000 miles and used coolant specifically recommended for the Sienna.
I have owned both an Uplander and.a Sienna. I don’t care what nameplate is on the vehicle I drive. All I can do is report my experiences with the vehicles. I have no bias for one make of vehicle over another.
I use my minivans to transport musicians with their instruments to gigs. I use the minivans to carry building materials. I also like driving a minivan because it sits up higher than a regular car.
As for technical advancement, the Chrysler.Pacifica has a.hybrid version. This.minivan would be ideal for my needs. However,.the price is higher than what I wanted to pay.
Toyota makes a.good.product. Our other vehicle is a 2003 Toyota 4Runner.
Of the five minivsns I have owned,.the Ford Aerostar extended most closely fit my needs. It had.the largest interior.volume and was.rear wheel drive was body on I felt.comfortable pulling a trailer with the Aerostar. I wouldn’t try it with my later minivans.

Oh come on!
I own a '12 Ody. It stinks for mpg. Check the boards, almost no one ever gets the advertised mileage on these things by a long shot. It’s never, ever been even close to 28 mpg in strictly highway use. More like 19-20 and that matches what most people are getting. The dealer just shrugs- it’s normal. I’ve come to accept that as so many others have similar grievance but it’s a bitter pill when you are so far from what they said it would get.

The issues with TC shudder, active motor mounts and that horrible VCM implementation. First and last Honda minivan I will ever own…

That has to be one of the most outlandish statements on this board ever.


All these opinions and not one of them mention experience working on cars. The overall mechanical design of Honda and Toyota is and always has been a better choice than any other brand. It’s a fact.

I remember the days when I’d choose a car based on style and interior comfortability first. So naive to use design and space in an argument based on a thread started with a concern for mechanical reliability at higher age and mileage.

Older Honda Odysseys have a terrible transmission flaw. Avoid them. Here is the info on that model. Have you considered a Nissan NV van (used), Ford Transit Connect, or a Ford Transit van (used)? They were designed specifically as work vans and have been in the market long enough to be available used. Both brands offer two sizes. You would not have to convert them

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