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Used Mini Vans

My husband and I are looking to buy a mini van, used and preferably under 4000.00. Now, I know that we are not getting anything new by any means and we have looked at several (not driven, just looked). The ones we have been drawn to are a 2002 Ford Windstar with 171,000 miles in good condition and a 2005 Dodge Caravan with 117,000 miles. I, personally, have not had the best of luck with vehicles and since I will be driving the van, my question is what is considered high miles for a van? I know for cars it’s typically over 100,000 miles and you are starting to get into high mileage, but are vans the same since they are “family” cars and made to be driven a lot?

It’s all relative. For $4k you just look for the newest, lowest miles van you can find. Do your homework. Read used car reviews from owners on

So cross the Windstar off your list. Research the 2005 Caravan. It’s not going to be the most reliable vehicle out there, but you could do worse. You might get lucky with a good one. Be sure to pay a mechanic to check out whatever vehicle you do choose.

My wife had a 98 Windstar for 8 years and 99k miles. It was a good vehicle for us but do a search on Windstar head gasket, transmission, and rear axle failures. It used the same engines (3.0 and 3.8 V6) and transmission as the Ford Taurus.

Ed B.

Neither one is very reliable, but could be OK if very well maintained. At that age and mileage you have to hope they’ve been pampered. Unlike in days of old there is no specific mileage after which cars die. Back then engines wore out and that was that (usually). Now a good engine can run for hundreds of thousands of miles if maintained thoroughly. Most cars are scrapped because they have an accident that would cost more to repair than the car is worth. Transmission failures probably are more common than engines wearing out. They also cause cars to be scrapped. Good luck finding what you want.

A sad fact of life is that 4000.00 just will not get you a lot of vehicle, van or otherwise. One might last quite a while with little trouble or could turn into a money pit. I would use the Auto Trader web site for your area to see what is out there. After you find one spend about 100.00 for an inspection. It will not find future problems but could keep you from buying one that had serious problems.

I have owned four minivans–a 1990 Ford Aerostar, a 2000 Ford Windstar, a 2006 Chevrolet Uplander and presently own a 2011 Toyota Sienna.
The 2000 Windstar was satisfactory. We sold it to our son and he drove it over to over 150,000 miles. He did have transmission work at 120,000 miles. Be sure the recall for the rear axle has been done on the 2002 that interests you. Ford even bought back some of the Aerostars because of extensive rust, The rust caused the rear axle to fail. Before he bought our 2000 Windstar, our son had a 1999 Windstar. His had been used for package delivery before he bought it. He had to have transmission work at about 100,000 miles. It had 80,000 when he bought it and he drove that minivan to 140,000 miles.
IMHO if you have driven one minivan, you’ve driven them all. However, my favorite of the minivans I have owned was the Chevrolet Uplander. We sold it to my son and he has 125,000 miles on it now and it has had no major repairs. If your budget is $4000, don’t shop by brand but by condition.

I would say buy the newest, lowest mileage Caravan you can get your hands on. Make sure it is maintainerd properly, has the V6 engine, not the 4 cylinder. Regular ATf changes with the ATF4 specified by Chrysler is critical. At that price point you can not get a Toyota or Honda, or they will have over 200K miles.