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Suggestions to consider regarding

my wife and i would like some suggestions to consider with regards to purchasing a used suv/minivan. we have two kids that are 9 & 12 and both are active in sports. we need room, especially for the equipment bags and luggage when we travel. we value reliability moreso than all of the frills and upgrades. basically, we are looking for a roomy, reliable (proven track record for performance/low maintainance) vehicle with AC. our budget is $18,000 including tax. let the suggestions begin…

If you followed this website you may have read about the $2500 automatic door repairs on a Toyota Sienna minivan. You are right to stay away from “loaded” vehicles. A low mileage one or 2 year old Dodge minivan would not cost much and if you buy one with complete maintenance records, and look after it well the overall operating costs will be reasonable.

The worst buy is a Toyota or Honda minivan with high miles that has not seen any maintenance. Some car dealers push these at inflated prices (because of the manufacturers’ reputation) and sell the buyer on a “extended warranty” to put the buyer’s mind at ease. Such a vehicle will be an everlasting black hole that takes your money. I’m warning you that this will happen.

Kia minivans from Korea are getting better and are reasonably priced. But their life expectancy is unknown. Ford minivans havea mixed record, and this website is full of horror stories and Ford does not appear to rapidly address warranty claims.

Since a slightly used Chrysler or Dodge minivan costs about One Half of a Toyota, Honda or Mazda, regardless of condition, you can budget a transmission overhaul and some other major work in the future and still come way out ahead.

Other posters may have had good luck with GM minivans. In all cases, please remember that the previous owner may have done no maintenance, other than oil changes. So I would insist on seeing a complete mainteance record. You can often get that by buying from a private owner.

To repeat, the base engine is normally the best, and I would avoid anything loaded with all sorts of gear that will become a repair headache later.

Good Luck!

Also remember that Honda Odysseys in the early 00s were scattering transmissions left and right, so they aren’t the safest bets.

New, the only minivan I’d consider would be a Toyota Sienna without all the bells and whistles. Used, only a Sienna or a Chrysler with a good warranty and at a steep discount. I don’t view Odysseys as worth anything, as you have Chrysler reliability levels at absurd prices, and the GM and Ford offerings were subpar at best… (though you might be able to get a hefty discount on them)

Your first purchase should be a Consumer Reports New Car Preview at the local bookstore. That will give you a good comparison of all the options out there. With that as a guide you can test drive all that look good to you.

I too agree that there’s generally an inverse relationship between frills and reliability.

Sincere best.

Toyota Sienna base version from 2004 to current.

A slightly used Dodge/Chysler minivan have huge depreciation rates making them bargains. They have likelyhood of being more troublesome than Sienna/Odyssey however its likely you won’t hit the purchase price difference in repair bills.

thanks all for the suggestions. i’ll pay the premium upfront for the known reliability, rather than buy a “cheaper” model and make up for the maintainance on the back end.

In 2006 I bought a Chevrolet Uplander minivan for under $16,000. This was a program vehicle (supposedly it was used by GM employees, but I suppose it could have been a service rental or even used by the railroad and driven down the tracks to test for protruding spikes) that had gone 15,000 miles. At any rate, I have over 36,000 miles and have had no problems, despite the apparently poor reliability record in Consumer Reports. The one I bought is the bottom of the line, although it does have a DVD player. (I find this useless–it hurts to crane my neck and look around behind to see the picture–I’m better off putting a book in the center of the steering wheel and read as I drive along). I noticed the Chevrolet dealer was selling 2007 versions of the Uplander for $14,000 a couple of weeks ago. I have this vehicle because I manage a small chamber orchestra and we give outreach concerts. I have had 3 passengers, 3 tympani, 2 french horns and a string bass in the Uplander all at the same time. I get 16-18 miles to a gallon around town and between 24-27 miles to a gallon on the highway. When I examined CR reliability chart, the engine and transmission appeared to be very trouble free.

I’ve heard that GM is dropping its minivans, so you may be able to get one at a good price. It’s dull transportation (dull fits my personality and the color of my minivan is horse manure brown), but it reliably does the job I need and I paid about half what a new Toyota or Honda minivan would have cost.

For that kind of money I wouldn’t ever consider buying used. You can buy a new 2008 Mazda5 SUV for about $18,000+. Check it out at and see if it meets your needs.

Known “reliability” is no guarentee of trouble free ownership, it only increases your chances slightly. Most people who own even “unreliable” brands still do not encounter lots of problems.

I owned a brand notorious for problems yet had trouble free ownership of 64k - 170k of a VW Jetta GLI. My wife’s Honda known for great reliability had many issues, and she maintained it.

I agree with Steve on this. Well, almost. I suggest that you look at the Kia Rondo, too. My BIL has a 2007 and we rode all over Southern PA and Northeastern MD one Saturday. It was a very pleasant ride. It seats 7 when you need it and the rear seats can be stowed for more cargo room. Did I say it is comfortable? And quiet. With A/C it will run about $18,500. Or you might find a used 2007.

Or a loaded Nissan Versa. It’s a hatchback that is large for it’s class and sells for about $16,000 on the road with just about everything. take advantage of that $750 rebate!

Test drive the Kia if a bit over $18,000 works and definitely haul your gear down to the Nissan dealer to test out the cargo bay. Have fun!

You need a used full size van like an E-150 from Ford or a Savanna from Chevy. I don’t like any of the minivans. Cargo vans are the cheapest but you will have to get rear seats and stuff. Those fords can move fast. I used to love getting on an entry ramp. My cargo van with 4.6 and AC auto trans got 19 MPG highway when almost empty.