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Mini-van madness

My wife and I are in the market for a mini-van, due to our expanding family. I’ve been trying to do some research on the best & most affordable van, and was wondering if any of you had suggestions.

All the consumer reports point to the Honda Oddessy as the “best” van, but the price for those things seems a little steep. All the other minis ( counting the Ford Flex, I’ve considered it as a mini-van) seem to have a better price.

I’m pulling my hair out and I’m starting to see dealer web pages in my sleep. Any suggestions will help. Thanks


How large is your family?

Me, the misses and two boys. 6 & 4 yrs old.

I looked at the consumer reports on the Mazda5. If my memory serves right, it looked good other than the “reliability”. Should I put much emphasis on those reports?

The Mazda versions of minivans, and esp the 5’s are pretty small in comparison to others so keep that in mind.

Consumer reports are good to use as one of the things to look at, but if you’re looking for new there is really no way to say much. Are you looking for new or used? If used, what are your basic bounds? Miles? age? etc?

The best vehicle I’ve ever owned was a Dodge Caravan. Dodge has been in the minivan business longer than anyone.

Consumer Reports rates the Mazda5 and Ford Flex as “excellent”, the same as the Odyssey, and higher than the Sienna

They may have it marked lower in reliability - but from what I remember it was rated above average, which puts it in as statistical tie with anything rated tops…

IMO, the Flex and Mazda5 are both very good vehicles - every bit as good as an Odyssey (Odysseys were disasters in the late 90s and early 00s, so watch that if you’re considering buying used)… don’t put too much stock in the miniscule differences you see in the reports and just buy what you like.

I’m going to suggest you and your wife drive them all. Take LONG test drives. Ignore the salesperson and just keep driving until you know how they all feel to both of you.

Then, regardless of ratings, reliability, etc, buy the one your wife prefers.

The Honda and the Toyota are considered the best around. The new Sienna is apparently a step backwards compared to the old model according to a recent issue of Consumer Reports. I’m not sure where you’re getting the idea that the Flex is cheaper than the Odyssey as the MSRP for the base model Flex is three grand higher than that of the Honda. If you keep your cars for a long time then I don’t think the Mazda is going to be a good bet, it may be sufficent now, but once your kids grow for a few years, it’s going to become pretty cramped.

That was one thing I had against the Mazda. It looked smaller than what we wanted. That was the whole point of getting a van…more room.

The “boss” wants new, but I have slowly got her talked into a used car. The only down side to that is, my bounds for used is no older than two years and less than 30,000 mi. The used car prices are not that much different from new. Just one example:
New: Chrystler T&C (Base)= $30,000
Used: 2009 Chrystler T&C (Base) = $23,000
This was just one of the many makes we checked but they were all around the same scenarios.

The Caravan was the first one we checked out, but the reports on it were horrible. Poor reliability, safety, ect. I had always thought they were the best, for the same reasons…they’ve been building it for years.

She wants the Flex. But will “settle” for an Odyssey.

I probably made a mistake on the Flex and Odyssey comparison. I tried to compare apples to apples,(base models vs base models) but I may have checked a base to a limited. Like I said, I’ve seen a lot of web sites.

When you narrow it down to a few good brands and good products…

next, consider SERVICE.
For the long haul, in warranty and beyond.

Here in this small town I wouldn’t get the Honda or the Mazda…closest dealer 140 miles one way.
I wouldn’t get a Dodge product…don’t like the dealer here.

other reasons like that should sway your purchase toward a good long term relationship.

I’ve owned four minivans: 1)1990 Ford Aerostar; 2)2000 Ford Windstar; 3)2006 Chevrolet Uplander; 4) 2011 Toyota Sienna. I think I liked the Ford Aerostar the best because it had the most room and was on a full frame. My present minivan, the 2011 Toyota Sienna is the most car-like of the minivans I have owned. It does have some nice features–particularly the rear seats that fold flat to the floor. The center seats are easy to remove if necesseary. I frequently am transporting musicians and/or musical instruments. I have been able to carry two tympani, a string bass, two french horns and three passengers in the Sienna at one time. When I purchased the Sienna in March, I compared the features of the 2011 with the 2010 and preferred the 2011. The price of the 2011 was very little more. At the time, Toyota on certain cars was going through the unexplained acceleration problem and the dealer was anxious to sell cars. The Sienna has performed flawlessly in the 6000 miles that I have driven it. I am anxious to see what Consumer Reports has to say, but my copy hasn’t arrived yet.

Ummm…I hope you realize that the Chrysler T & C that you might be interested in is essentially the same vehicle as the Dodge Caravan. If you saw “horrible” reports on the Dodge Caravan, those same comments would also apply to the Chrysler T & C.

The essential differences are, a different grill, a cushier interior, and a higher list price on the Chrysler models. They share the same engines, the same (not very good) transmissions, and have the same reliability rating–much worse than average.

There is even a third iteration of this vehicle on the market now, namely the VW Routan. Again, there is more that is the same than is different, and the prices go even higher with the VW version.

In my opinion, if you spend more to get a Honda Odyssey or a Toyota Sienna, you will get what you pay for. They don’t just cost more because of the name badge. They cost more for a reason. I would look at overall cost of ownership, not just the cost of purchase. Yes, you can buy a Dodge Caravan for less, but they often require expensive repairs sooner than their Honda and Toyota competitors.

According to, the true cost to own a 2010 Honda Odyssey EX 4dr Minivan (3.5L 6cyl 5A) for five years is $42,971, and the true cost to own a 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan C/V 4dr Minivan (3.3L 6cyl 4A) for five years is $43,580, and this is in spite of the Odyssey’s higher sticker price and the Caravan’s smaller engine.

My advice is to get over the sticker shock and consider an Odyssey.

The mechanic at the independent garage where I have my work done recommended the Odyssey and the Sienna. In March I sold my 2006 Chevrolet Uplander to my son and was looking for a replacement for the minivan. GM quit making minivans in 2008, so I was looking for a 2007 or 2008 GM minivan. My mechanic and my wife ganged up on my and convinced me to buy a new minivan. My mechanic gave the edge to the Sienna. My wife and I have had very good experience with a 2003 Toyota 4Runner so she thought that was the way to go.

I bargained with the dealer for what I thought was a reasonable price. Since I already owned a Toyota, I am considered a loyal Toyota owner and I was given two years of free oil changes. My wife wanted new floor mats for the 4Runer, so I asked for a discount on new floormats for that vehicle. The dealer tossed them in for nothing to close the sale.

I haven’t told my independent shop about the Sienna. By convincing me to buy a new vehicle, my independent shop is out 2 years of service work, although the shop still takes care of the 4Runner.

There you go. Now all you have to do is write the check.

Kia Sedona. Loved mine, would have bought another if I still needed a car. The EX comes loaded for the price of a base Odyssey, if that.

We have an oddessy and it really is a great minivan, if the new models are too steep try looking at a 2010 model, honda usually releases the new year models in September and then they are willing to deal on the 2010 inventory, since it is august already you should start to see deals, i am a tall guy and found the sienna seat did not go back far enough to make it comfortable so i would try a few of them to see what “fits” also pay attention to the ergonomics, cup holders storage etc. Also don:t go for the touring model of the oddessy if it includes run flat tires they are outragously expensive to replace, better to get the LX model with dvd and GPS, you will need the dvd player for sure with two kids. good luck


Thanks for all the advice. With all the Honda vans I see on the road, and ya’lls comments, I’ll more than likely go for one of them.

Not before i test drive the Kia Sedona, though. It’s price tag is too tempting.

Thanks again

The run flat tires can be replaced with regular ones if one so desires.