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Minivan advice

Can anyone give recommendation for a late model minivan? Anything worthwhile outside of Honda and Toyota?

Yes. No.

You won’t get any kind of simple story from this board. I am a fan of the Dodge Caravans - the '95 that I’ve had for a really looooong time has been one of the best vehicles I’ve ever owned and Dodge has been doing the minivan longer than anyone else.

Your best bet is to use stuff like Consumer Reports to read reviews, find reliability ratings, and identify problem spots. The internet is your friend in this.

You apparently want a used van in which case a primary question isn’t who made the van, but how well the van was cared for before you might own it.

What cigroller says is definitely true, especially if you’re looking at something late model but with a lot of miles on it. The real weak point of any minivan is the transmission (because it’s basically a car transmission that has to lug around a big ol’ van) and if a previous owner hasn’t kept up on fluid and filter changes, failure is pretty much a “when not if” matter on any model of minivan.

Also sort of along the same lines, I think it’s fairly clear that the Japanese vans do have a slight edge over the domestics in terms of build quality and to a lesser degree reliability, but they’re not far behind and they are much cheaper used. This means that the used domestic van you can buy for x dollars is going to be newer and have lower miles than an equivalent Japanese van and it is my feeling that having a newer van will cancel out whatever reliability difference the vans had new. So short answer: yes, I think the domestic vans are worth considering.

OK. So which domestic vans are considered better? What about the KIA Sedona or Hyundai Entourage vans? Not domestic or japanese. Are they worth considering?

To be more specific, I am looking for 07 or newer with under 50K miles. Looking to spend under $15K. My dilemma is whether to get a SIenna/Odyssey with higher mileage or a “dark horse” brand with lower miles and similar/lower price
I have looked at Consumer Reports, but I am just looking for other opinions.


I would certainly look at the Hyundai and the Kia if I were shopping for a late model minivan. As with any used car, how the vehicle was cared for by the previous owner makes a BIG difference. If you can verify the maintenance history of a used car you’re way ahead of the game.

Likely I will be buying from a dealer; how do you verify the maintenance history? I know carfax has some info, but it seems limited.

Unfortunately, if you’re buying from a dealer you generally can’t verify history (yet another reason why private parties are a good bet). The best you can do is have an independent mechanic check it over before you buy.

Also, Carfax is completely useless for looking at maintenance records-- the reason why they list service dates at all is so you can detect an odometer rollback. Carfax is great for detecting deliberate fraud like odometer rollbacks, “cleaned up” salvage titles or non-disclosed major accidents, but won’t detect plain old run-of-the-mill neglect.

If you can spend up to $15,000 you may even be able to buy a minivan with some warranty. I bought a 2006 Chevrolet Uplander in 2006 for $15,000 with 15,000 miles that was called a “program vehicle”. Everything checked out, and I got the balance of the factory warranty. I have about 60,000 now and have had no out of the pocket expenses except for servicing. I know Consumer Reports does not think much of the GM minivans, but I am the one who drives it, not them.

CR’s information is a little misleading. The worst cars on the planet have only a 3% failure rate and the best cars on the planet have better than a 1% failure rate. This is not so much aproblem for new cars, but for used cars it becomes a big problem. The Sienna and Odyssey hold their value very well, often costing a few thousnad more than a comparable Detroit 3 product. But repair costs are so low these days that even a worse than average ratng is not worth the $3000 or so penalty in resale value. You might pay $200-$300 more over 5 years on average for maintenance for a 2007 T&C than an Odyssey or Sienna, but the purchase price is $3000 to $5000 less. And if you buy a 3 year older Odyssey to get below $15,000, the repair costs will be far higher than the 2007 T&C.

The Odyssey and Sienna are fine vans, and if you are willing to pay for the excellent engineering that goes into the, then that’s great. In 2003 we bought an Oldsmobile Silhoette for many thousands less than a comparable Honda or Toyota. I’ve spent very little for repairs and am satisfied with it’s “less than state-of-the-art” engineering. It’s one of the best buys we evey made.

There is one advantage of the Chevrolet Uplander for me–it is narrower by 3 to 4 inches than the Odyssey and Sienna minivans. I have to back off a busy four lane street into an alley and get the van between a building and a utility pole in order get to a stage door. I have to even fold in the rear view mirror on the right side. I then open the left sliding door and load in a set of tympani. On the Ford Windstar that I owned before the Uplander, I had to fold in both mirrors. I’m certain others would appreciate the added width, but to me it is a detriment.

Well, none of the above are Domestic. I agree with Cigroller, I am fond of the Dodge or Chrysler, myself

GM developed the narrower minivans as world car that would sell in Europe as well as the USA. Our 2003 Silhouette is also several inches narrower than an Odyssey. That was perceived as a detriment by CR and several other reviewers. It has plenty of room for us and I’ve rarely found its dimensions to be a problem. I paid over $10,000 less than for a comparable Odyssey or Sienna.