My minivan, a 1994 Mercury Villager needs to be replaced. I would like to replace it with a van that has at least that much cargo capacity. I use it to haul stuff to craft shows long distance so I need decent MPG. I don’t care about seats (I’ll take them out) or luxury, I just need a utility vehicle that is reliable. What would be my best value for the money? I don’t care how old it is, I just want a good car.
I have owned 4 minivans–a 1990 Ford Aerostar extended length, a 2000 Ford Windstar, a 2006 Chevrolet Uplander and a 2011 Toyota Sienna. From my experience, I would recommend ignoring the make and make your purchase on the condition of the minivan. The Chevrolet Uplander I owned was the best value for the money. I bought it in 2006 with 15,000 on the odometer as a program car. I think I paid around $16,000. I sold it to my son about 4 years ago and it now has gone 125,000 miles with no major repairs. If you can find the Uplander or the similar Saturn Relay or Buick (I can’t remember what the Buick was called), in good condition at a good price, you may have a good replacement for your Mercury Villager.
There have not a great many made in recent years. I think all of them will be competitive in space with your Villager. Smallest is probably the Nissan Quest. Reviews have not been very good and they haven’t sold well. The Kia Sedona has just been redesigned. The old one was ancient and not very reliable. The new one (brand new) will be better, but risky. The Chrysler/Dodge minivans are still popular, but not very good. Reliability is quite poor. The Honda Odyssey is lovely, but equipped more for family use, tbough a base one can be used as a commercial van. It drives and handles beautifully and is very comfortable. My brother, who works for a delivery service, just bought his second. The first went 250,000 miles. It needed a new transmission at 125k and needed another when he disposed of it. The transmissions on the older Odysseys are infamous and always eventually fail. My brother still thought he got good value as very littld else broke, just normal wear items. The newer Idyssey transmissions are likely better. The Toyota Sienna is also very nice, mostly intended for family use. It doesn’t drive as well as the Honda, but has been a bit more reliable.
Then there is the newest kid on the block, the Ford Transit Connect. They have just completely redesigned it and that is what I’ll be describing. It is mostly a commercial small van, though they do sell a ‘wagon’ version with full side windows and your choice of two or three-row seating. The commerrcial version does not have windows behind the sluding side doors, and windows in those doors are optional. It comes in two lengths, with the short-wheelbase version on the small side for a minivan. Even the long-wheelbase version is smaller than most minivans, though it might be big enough for you. It’s quite inexpensive and comes in various configurations, all intended for commercial use. If you want a small commercial van this is where I’d go first. Simple configurations run under $25,000. There are lots of useful options that let you buy the van you need without paying for fancy extras. The only issue may be its size.
The most direct competitor is from Nissan, the new NV200, very similar to the Transit Connect. It also comes in passenger and cargo versions, similarly equipped. It only has one length, a few inches shorter than the long-wheelbase version of the Transit Connect. In most ways it’s very similar to the Ford, with all kinds of options for the rear cargo area. Like the Ford it only comes with a four-cylinder engine. Gas mileage should be good, but acceleration will be leisurely, especially when loaded.
The Mazda5 might work, otherwise look at either the Transit Connect or the Nissan NV200.
It sounds like you want a used van. That will save a lot of money and if it is low mileage, it could last quite a while. @Triedaq suggested the Uplander, and that could be a good choice. It is unpopular and therefore should be priced well. It does not have storable seats, but that doesn’t matter to you it appears. You could find a 2008 LS model that is well optioned a with about 80,000 miles in clean condition for a little over $8000 from a dealer. With that mileage, it could last you another 10 years. Chevy also sold a cargo version. It will cost about the same as the LS passenger van.
A compact SUV like a RAV or CRV are very space efficient. Try one out and see if it fits your needs.