Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Van vs. Van: a Broke Buyer's Dilemma

I’m looking to buy a van for an extended roadtrip. Right now I’m torn between two vehicles. On the one hand a 1995 GMC Rally SXT with 100k miles used primarily for transporting teenagers as part of an after school program. The van has one recall that I’m concerned about for a long road trip: overheating http://www…GMC_RALLY. This van is $1200.

The other van is a 1984 club wagon. Suspected to have 129k miles, since it’s rolled over and is on 29k miles. I suspect it might have more. This van has three recalls, http://www…ON_Recall/ , and is less expensive, guy is asking $700.

My question: should I pass on both? Do more research? Is one of these a good deal?

Any help would be appreciated.



I would have a mechanic check both vans before you make a purchase. If a school corporation owned the GMC Rally, there is a chance that the maintenance may have been kept up-to-date to meet state codes. The GMC is 11 years newer than the other van, so it may not have as great a rust problem.

My brother has Chevrolet vans in his fleet for his plumbing company and they have workedd well. The GMC is similar.

the club wagon rolled, and has no good background on mileage. that one is out for you.

out of the 2, the GMC would be my pick.

pick up an electric fan or 2 at a junkyard, put 'em on and drive.

I think he means the odometer rolled over, not the whole van.

With vans these age, recalls are the least of your worries. For one, a recall means something where the company “recalled” the vehicles in to be fixed for free, so it’s quite likely that these vans have already had those problems fixed. Also recall issues tend to be very minor problems (because if they were major GM would do everything in it’s power to avoid fixing them).

IMHO, if you are mechanically inclined at all, the '84 is going to be easier to work on and easier to fix by the side of the road if need be. For me, that would make it a better adventure van in my book.

However, if you’re not so inclined, the '95 would probably be better. It’s 11 years newer, which is good for wear and tear but also because it has a more modern fuel-injected engine that should be overall more reliable.

oh, now i get it. now its harder to pick.

In a vehicle I have not owned I would not trust either one on an extended road trip. I don’t know what you mean by extended road trip, but since you are thinking of buying a vehicle I assume you are intending a round trip. You can get all kinds of rentals, even trucks with unlimited mileage for 30 bucks a day. My suggestion would be to look into a suitable rental and skip buying something very questionable for a one time trip.

Recalls are meaningless after 15+ years. Have a mechanic check it over and at that price be ready to dump it along the way. I would not put a dime into either except for tires maybe.

Have you considered a domestic FWD minivan? The MPG will kill you with these large choices on an “extended” trip.

I would say, based on the age of these vehicles, buy the younger one.


Have you driven both vans? Which do you like more? Take the one you like best to your mechanic and tell him you want a pre-purchase inspection. You need to know what it must have to pass state inspection if there is one, and anything else that it must have to be safe for your trip. You also want to know what it might need soon, or would be nice to get fixed. Get these on a separate list. If the repairs are too much, pass ot it.

I would keep looking until you found a Dodge van with a 318 engine. This is a bullet-proof power-train and is the easiest to work on should you ever have to remove the dog-house. Maintenance on the Ford and GM can be a horror show…I would also make 1998 my cut-off year. That’s old enough to be cheap but not TOO old…That '84 Ford is a relic…

Thanks for all the feedback!
I ended up buying the 1994 gmc rally wagon after getting it checked out by another vouched-for mechanic who said it checked out as a good van, just needs a couple bolts tightened on the transmission pan and a replacement rear drive shaft yoke (?).
Hope it’ll make it!
thanks again,

hope all is well. I had the same issue and immediately replaced the driveshaft. I used some manual and ask my dealer for some advice…