Road Trip Van for five 22 year olds w/ decent MPG

Hi! My housemates and I are currently seniors in college and to learn more about our great nation and our supposedly adult selves we’re planning a road trip after graduation. we have our sleeping bags, campstove and camcorder but our chariot is still missing! Can anyone recommend anything for the mechanically-incompetent that is under $5000 and that won’t break our wallets on gas?

The best comfort/mileage balance/cargo space at that price point is a used minivan. All minivans will get very low 20’s in a loaded condition with lots of highway mileage.

Domestic minivans would be the best since depreciation is the greatest like a Dodge Caravan, Ford Windstar or GM minivans.

Do you have your heart set on a van? If you’re not going to be sleeping in it, a larger sedan would probably work very well. Something along the lines of a 5-year old Taurus or LeSabre or the like would probably suit you fine and would get into the 30’s MPG-wise instead of the mid-20’s of a minivan. If you really need a lot of cargo room, even a full-size Crown Vic or Grand Marquis are comperable space and fuel-economy-wise, but would drive much better.

With 5 guys I would go for the Dodge GRAND CARAVAN. It has a longer wheelbase, and is an easy traveler for 5. Find one with the smallest engine. To carry all your extra stuff, a streamlined roof carrier such as the Sears EX-Cargo makes sense. You can buy that one used (classifed, garage sale, etc.) I sold mine for $50 to a retired person who was going to tour North America in his standard size minivan, which already had a roof carrier frame, as most minivans do.

Bon Voyage!!

Are you planning on buying a vehicle for one trip? How long are you going to be traveling? Consider renting something appropriate for a few $100 per week unless this is going to be a very long trip.

I recommend a Ford Taurus Station Wagon. It will get better fuel economy than a minivan and if you use a rooftop carrier, you can put the guy who draws the short straw in the rear-facing third row seat…you know…the car sick seat. Actually, you might be able to fit three of you in the regular back seat. Of course you could always go Greyhound. Doesn’t that sound more adventurous?

How about five motorcycles and a few tents, that’s a real road trip.

How about 5 backpacks and some “_____ or bust” cardboard signs? THAT’s a real road trip. :slight_smile:

I like the station wagon idea, but I’d also say that if gas money is a limiting factor on this trip, you might try saving your money a little longer until you have some appreciable “buffer” money built up. Nothing like running on a shoestring gas budget, getting lost for 200 miles, and then realizing you don’t have the cash to get back home.

That’s when you break out those cardboard signs.

If you don’t like THIS one, shop around…

A Crown Vic or a Grand Marq. work too. The Buick will get around 18-20 mpg and the Fords 25 mpg if you stay below 70…

For maximum adventure I recommend a VW Vanagon.

Yes, you will all be competent mechanics at the end of the trip!!

How about a old rear wheel truck based mini van. Chevy Astro, or Ford Aerostar.

My 98 Windstar got about 25 mpg highway and with a 25 gallon tank had pretty long legs. It was running well at 98k when I sold it for $3800. I was pretty thorough with maintenance and keeping the interior and exterior in good shape. Size wise it’s close to a Grand Caravan. Despite it’s poor reputation, except for 1 CV axle replacement I had 8 trouble free years of ownership. Finding a minivan in good condition for 5k is going to take some effort on your part.

Good luck,

Ed B.

I drove in a diesel Vanagon from CO to Baja California(via a ferry part way down Mexico) event free. Vanagons are pretty good on third world roads and no break downs.

My MIL has a 98 Windstar purchased for $4k two years ago with only 55k miles in good condition. They can be found. Its been uneventful ownership for her with mileage now at 90k.

There simply no Sedan including crown vic/mercury grand marquis that seats 5 adults comfortably as a minivan since sitting more than two in a row is simply too tight after a few hours.

LOL, unless it’s a toyota, these guys have probably never even looked at one closely.

Ford E-150 will get over 17 on the highway, or I am estimating wronger than ever. The other vans will get you there, but maybe you should overdo it a bit. Borrow all you can from relatives and friends as long as they don’t need the money back in a hurry. Get cruise control because the cowl latch will bother your gas pedal foot. Arizona has the Petrified Forest right on RT. 40. Canned Granyon is nearby along with Meteor Carter and Painted Dessert. That sounds funny but this guy, Reggie used to make these great looking desserts from aircraft grease and paint. Good thing nobody had to go to the Base Hospital. Lava looks new too; you gotta see that in the Mo-jive Desert. New Mexico has a lot of mesas. If you have to eat out West, good luck. Now serving real food in Connecticut and points North. If they still put Royal Crown cola in bottles in Illinois, have one. Milwaukee is famous for…being North of Chicago!

I checked rates at Rent-A-Wreck near Baltimore. Minivans go for $49 to $69 per day. That’s $1500 or more before taxes and other fees. And these kids are probably ineligible to rent. Most places won’t rent to anyone under 25 unless their (the young employee’s) company underwrites the rental. An extended wheelbase minivan is definitely the way to go, unless they can get a deal on a full size van.

I was thinking the same thing until I saw that the budget is $5,000. You can’t find a good reliable motorcycle for $1,000, let alone five of them. You also need to factor in about $200 each for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Basic Rider’s Course. But Craig, I like the way you think!