Minivan Help

I am a Mom of two with another on the way and the time has come to move into the dreaded minivan mom world. I have been comparing new vs. used and Honda vs. Toyota. Any suggestions or recommendations?

I have owned four minivans: 1) 1990 Ford Aerostar; 2) 2000 Ford Windstar; 3) 2006 Chevrolet Uplander and 4) 2011 Toyota Sienna.

GM and Ford discontinued their minivans. I was satified with each minivan I owned. I sold the Ford Windstar and then the Chevrolet Uplander to my son. I do like the features of the Toyota Sienna, particularly the fact that the rear seat folds flat into the floor. The Toyota Sienna drives most like a car. I’ve only driven it 3000 miles so far, but I can give the Toyota a high recommendation.

Kia Sedona, Mazda 5, Dodge Caravan, Nissan Quest. Don’t limit yourself to just 2 brands

What’s wrong with minivans? When I was in your situation the “minivan” of choice was a VW Bus. There weren’t many alternatives. My old VW bus served me and my family well for many years (no heat in winter, but that’s another story). A van is a practical thing to own and drive, especially when you have kids. The sliding door(s) and easy rear seat access will really simplify your life.

My suggestion: consult Consumer Reports magazine’s Annual Auto Issue (April 2010). It contains a wealth of information about buying new or used vehicles, reliability data for just about any make and model you might be considering, and lists of used vehicles that are “recommended,” and “to be avoided.”

Pay close attention the the list of vehicles to be avoided.

If you haven’t looked at one yet, please consider the Mazda5. It may suit your needs and drive more like a car and less like a minivan.

My wife and I have been happy with her 98 Ford Windstar and her current van, a 2006 Sienna. The Kia Sedona is similar to the Sienna. Kia has had 5k to 6k rebates on the Sedona bringing the price new to under 20k.

Ed B.

For the best deal, consider the 2010 Sienna. It was redesigned for 2011, so dealers will sell these vans cheaper.

My experience back in March was that the dealer gave a bigger discount on a 2011 than he wanted to give on a 2010. The 2010 was less, but when I factored in that the 2011 is a model year newer, the 2011 was a better buy.

Toss up between Honda and Toyota minivans…everything else is a wannabe and a distant second. Our family is partial to the better handling Hondas. Once you have one for your kids, you’ll wonder why anyone would ever buy anything else for safety, room and overall practicality esp. dealing with three or more kids…

Toyota and Honda are overrated. Read the reviews, they’re not as great as everyone thinks that’s just perception. We’ve been very happy with our Sedona which we bought new in Dec’06. A comparably equipped Sienna or Odyssey would’ve been 6K more. That’s nuts, no wonder their resale value is higher, you pay more at front. Kia’s warranty is better and think about it, you would have to have 6K dollars worth of breakdowns or realibility issues to break even. So far, we had to replace corroded bushings (covered under warranty) because of winter salt here in Chicago. Other than that, no problems. Good luck.

Kia’s advertised 100,000 mile powertrain warranty is no better than Honda’s unadvertised 100,000 mile powertrain warranty. Kia just spends more money advertising theirs.

Kia and Hyundai enjoy comparing their 100,000 mile powertrain warranty to Honda’s 3 year 36,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty, and some people actually fall for it.

Although I now have a Toyota Sienna, I was quite satified with my Ford Aerostar and Windstar and my Chevrolet Uplander. I don’t understand why Ford and GM dropped the minivans. In my community, if you swing a dead cat around in the air, you are likely to hit at least 3 minivans–they are all over the place.

Used Chrysler and Honda mini vans have more transmission problems than average. If you buy used without a good service history showing transmission services and fluid changes you might have an expensive transmission failure to cope with. If you can afford new, that is the way to go with these brands.

Honda only has a 5/60 warranty on the powertrain, not 100k… well, there were some Hondas, including the Odyssey, which got an unadvertised 100k warranty on the transmission - but that was because they were miserably bad and had class action lawsuits against them.

I love the Mazda5, but I would never recommend it for a family of 5 - the third row really can only fit small children, and with it up, there is very little cargo space. For a family of 4, though, I believe that the Mazda5 is the perfect size minivan.

Of those two, I would choose the Sienna. I’m still unconvinced that Honda has finished solving their transmission problems with the Odyssey. I don’t see nearly as many complaints the past couple years, but I also have not heard what they did to fix the problem. That bothers me - if the problem is well understood and a fix is applied, I wouldn’t worry… similar to the horrendous Ford AXOD-E transmission on the old 95 and earlier Taurus. They had a problem with the forward clutch piston, that once solved in the middle of the 95 model year, caused reliability to skyrocket. Since I saw a tested, logical fix applied, I didn’t worry about that problem when I bought my 97 (with an AX4N transmission).

I might suggest at least looking at a Ford Flex, if the styling doesn’t turn you off. There’s noticeably less cargo room behind the third row, but the 2010 gets marginally better gas mileage than the 2010 Sienna, and marginally lower mileage than the 2011 Sienna. There’s also a whopping $5,000 rebate on them. That makes them roughly the same price as a base 2011 Sienna with a 4 cylinder, but with more equipment. If you put a V6 on the Sienna, the Flex will likely run you several thousand less.

But as I said, it has considerably less cargo volume.

On the used market, you might be able to find a used Taurus X or Freestyle cheap, too. Those were reliable (in FWD form, avoid AWD), but they seem to be commanding a premium on the used market. I see a local dealer here asking $19,000 for a 3 year old one with 95,000 miles on it. (are you kidding me?)

I must be wearing orthopedic shoes, because I stand corrected.

I have a 2005 Toyota sienna awd that I bought a year ago with 7k miles on it, we chose it over the odysey because of the well known transmission issues with the odysey. We test drove a caravan and it didn’t drive as well as the sienna or odysey. We also kind of wanted Awd which limited us to the sienna or a ford freestar, or a gm.
I don’t like the gm minivans.

BTW, if it makes you feel better I am 30 years old, male, married with no kids and I wanted the minivan, i need a vehicle that can haul 4-5 people comfortably at times, I needed the ability to carry 4x8 sheets of drywall and whatnot at times, furniture, plants, ect… I also needed to be able to tow a light trailer which is about 2k lbs loaded. We can get 26-27 on the highway if you stick about 70 mph, and ours is AWD which hurts fuel mileage.
We love our van, its actually better in the snow than my 02 jeep wrangler was, ( the wrangler went through snow fine, it just handled horrible doing it).