What vehicle can replace a Safari/Astro Van?

I’ve got a 2001 GMC Safari Van that has been a great vehicle for me. I’d like to replace it with something new next year, but can’t think of another vehicle with the same overall abilities of this van, and the Safari van is not longer in production. Any ideas from anyone?

Here is a list of the what this van does that I need a new car to also do.

1. Carry five band members and sound gear, including a 5 foot long electric piano, to gigs.

2. Carry 4 x 8 sheets of plywood, drywall, and other construction materials inside out of the rain.

3. Have all wheel drive or four wheel drive and be able to pull a snowmobile/motorcycle trailer

4. Get 20 MPG on the highway.

5. Carry a big load of trade show materials for work.

Most mini vans or SUV’s wont carry the same amount of gear the Safari carries. Larger Vans don’t get the same gas mileage and don’t have AWD. Trucks with open beds are no good for music gear.

You’ve outlined a tough criteria. Have you looked into a used low mileage version of your current van, perhaps a few years newer?

Perhaps a complete detailing and some money spent on reconditioning is worth considering. You can buy a lot of repairs/reconditioning for less than monthly payments on a new vehicle.

A neighbor freshed up his old Chevy S-10 Pickup with new paint job, new tires on either new or refurbished wheels. It looks great and has held up fine for just over a year since the refresh.

Are you looking for new-new or just new to you?

Firstly, was your old van AWD? If so, I’d be impressed if you ever actually got 20 mpg on the highway with it. I used to do an enormous amount of highway driving in an AWD Astro and I on one occasion squeezed 19 out of it on the 2-lanes, but usually averaged more like 16 or 17. The EPA also rates it more along the numbers I experienced.

So with this in mind, the more recent versions of the Chevy/GMC Suburban and Ford Expedition both are rated at higher fuel economy than your old Safari and should have no problem meeting your needs. Just don’t expect 20 mpg out of them (although if you truly did get 20mpg out of your Safari, perhaps you’d get it with one of these too). You could also look at the Toyota Sequoia or Nissan Armada if you wanted to. Also if you’re looking used you could try to find a diesel Ford Excursion, which is even a little bigger than the currently-offered full-size SUV’s but which gets okay mileage due to the diesel.

If you wanted to modify your criteria a little, there’s the Dodge Sprinter which is really a Mercedes-Benz van that gets stupendously good mileage for such a large van, but they’re not AWD. Also, I’d mention that you can get GM full-size vans with an AWD option and they are actually rated the same MPG-wise as your old Safari. Another option to look at might be a full-size truck with a 4-door cab and a secure canopy on the bed.

Midsize/compact SUV, 6 cyl with an enclosed trailer for gear.

I think you are out of luck. I had a Ford Aerostar that I really liked for the same reasons. When it was time to replace the Aerostar, I finally bought a Windstar and have since replaced the Windstar with a Chevrolet Uplander.

If any manufacturer offered the equivalent of a Safari or an Aerostar, I would purchase one today. I still think there is a market for vehicles like the Safari or the Aerostar. I see them in use by plumbers, HVAC technicians and electricians.

I transport people and musical instruments and I need the sliding doors of a minivan. Since the minivan is my transportation to my job as well, I finda regular van too large and fuel inefficient. The Aerostar or Safari would be perfect for my needs.

My MPG since new is 18 overall. 20 in the highway is alway doable and sometimes as high as 22 MPg with about 15/16 around town. I was thinking new, but I may just hang on to it and keep repairing it like the person above suggested. It has not been that expensive to maintain, except for having the front end rebuild once.

The sprinter just seems too big. Is there any back seat option in the Sprinter? The Expedition or Suburban idea sounds too big as well.

One thought I had was the Ford Flex, but it is a bit ugly and I don’t know anybody who has one to tell me if they like it or not.

Yes, I had been thinking of this as a possibility.

How about the Dodge Grand Caravan?

This might work if your musical instruments aren’t temperature sensitive and you don’t move the instruments in extremely cold (or extremely hot) weather. In my case, I am always transporting a string bass or two and on occasion, a harp. I need an enclosed space where I can control the temperature.

It sounds like you were one of the few people who really fit into the niche served by the old Astro/Safaris.

Newer minivans like the Uplander are about the same size as your old van, but they’re built on a car-style unibody chassis, as opposed to the frame-on truck style one the Astros were built on. A newer minivan would probably meet all criteria except #3. The unibody construction and car-derived powertrain are not as good for towing and plus, even with AWD, they’re pretty low to the ground and so it wouldn’t really work well for things like hauling snowmobiles up to trailheads.

The Dodge Caravan is probably what I would buy if I had to replace my Chevrolet Uplander. I like the body and frame construction of the Aerostar and Safari and the Dodge Grand Caravan is a unit body construction. I considered the Dodge Grand Caravan back in 2000 when I was replacing the Aerostar. I found the seats in the Ford Windstar more comfortable for me. In 2006 when I sold the 2000 Windstar to my son, I bought the Uplander because it came close to fitting my needs and the price was right. The Uplander I bought was a “program” car with 15,000 miles and I saved $10,000 over the next cheapest van I could get.

Neither the Windstar nor the Uplander nor the Grand Caravan has the room the the 2000 Aerostar extended version had.

Like UncleTurbo said, you may want to look for used GMC Safari vans that fit your exact criteria. Just in case you want a brand new vehicle I would recommend test driving the Toyota Sienna minvan. It is the only minvan out right now with AWD and will easily get 20mpg or more. It can tow a snowmobile or motorcycle trailer, but anything larger would be a strain on the chasse. Another vehicle that might work in the GMC Acadia. It is a very large vehicle that seats eight, comes with AWD, and is also able to tow the amount of wieght you require.

Good luck on your new vehicle shopping. That is one thing I always enjoy.

While the Sprinter is large, it gets better gas mileage than any other full size van or minivan. New ones are over $40,000, but you can buy used ones for less than $20,000. You really should look at one and drive it. It has a diesel and can get up to 30 MPG on the highway. As for seats, just get the passenger van. There is no reason to get the panel van unless you don’t want windows. Here’s some images:

Ford is still in business. My 2005 F-150 cargo van used to get almost 19 MPG on the highway with a light load. It had a V-8 engine, the 4.6.

You just need a 6 cyl van rather than a “mini” van. Ford & Chevy (econoline/express) both make good ones - most every electrician, HVAC tech, & communications tech are driving them every day. You just need a passenger version.

The GMC Acadia looks like it might be a good fit. I hadn’t thought of that one and with the 2nd and 35rd row seats folder it even holds a full sheet of plywood. It’s a bit pricy, but something I’ll consider.

Why have so many people recommended Suv’s, Suvs never hold as much as a van, Suvs get worse mileage, can’t hold as much and usually have really tiny 3rd rowseats. How about an AWD Toyota sienna, we have an 05 and it gets 22-24mpg on the highway, 17-18 city and it can carry a 4x8 sheet of drywall, I know i just bought some yesterday. it can seat 5 without the third row and can hold 8 with the third row. The sienna can tow 3000 pounds.
But what I would also look at is the sprinter, ford also now has a transit van out, It would be worth a look.

It’s good to know the Sienna can hold 4 x 8 sheets. That helps a lot.

I currently have a Gr Caravan that was retired from everyday family use. I now use it basically as a pickup truck - it is fantastic and does easily transport the plywood and takes plenty of weight. I think it is great.

The problem with these will remain - as was noted somewhere above - that the transmissions in minivans are weak little passenger car transmissions. I think that, given what the needs are I would steer away from them.

Your Astro has AWD? We did not see many so equipped and the heavy line guys were always working on the AWD components of the one’s that came in. How has the AWD held up for you?

The Astro was a unique vehicle (mid size van body on a truck chassis) It will be tough too replace it with something similar.