Best cheap minivan

Is America s last cheap minivan worth it? - Autoblog
AM
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Unfortunately the budget cannot go up, since we're about to buy a house and can't take out a loan or spend any more of our savings.

I was thinking of a 2002ish Toyota Sienna, but my husband was hoping for something newer. We don't upgrade cars very often (I drive a toyota rav4 with 250k mi) so reliability is most important. What other brands and years would you recommend?

Thanks so much!

15, 260 posts, read 13, 494, 968 times

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Siena or an Odyssey. Since you have shortlisted a Siena, your decision should be simple.

Location: Floribama

11, 285 posts, read 25, 175, 398 times

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Maybe I'll be wrong about this, but the Chrysler Town and Country should be pretty good.

I know Chryslers have problems, but I've heard good things about the minivan. A friend once drove one, and was older and had many many miles on it without a lot of problems. Just something ton consider.

PM
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You're not getting a Sienna or Odyssey for $6k or less unless it is well over a decade old or has north of 150k miles on it. While I agree those two tend to be the "best" vans overall, if you need a decent van on a budget, it's time to look at other options.

The first in total cost conscious territory is the last GM vans; Chevy Uplander, Saturn Relay and Buick Terraza. Many of these are out there from the 2005 or so model range and while they are very uninspiring vans, they are mechanically competent. The best choice is one with the 3.9L V6, but that may be hard in your price range. Also, try to limit the "extras" in terms of electronics and features as those are the things most likely to break, for instance, get manual doors instead of power doors.

The next group is the Chrysler vans; Town and Country and Dodge Caravan. Since these are so common and widespread, repairs are generally cheap and there are tons of models out there at all price ranges. Basically find the newest, lowest mileage example you can in your price range. In general you should try to avoid the ones with the 3.3L V6. Either get the 3.8L or even take the 2.4L I4 as they are more reliable choices.

33 posts, read 162, 527 times

It's a myth that Odysseys or Sienna's are trouble free minivans, and that Dodge's are very problematic. I went to a transmission shop just to look at it [across a thrift store] and they were fixing an Odyssey transmission. I'd recommend a Dodge Grand Caravan like this:

I bought a great 2005 Grand Caravan SXT last month for $5900 @ 126, 767 miles. It had the DVD player and trailer tow package, so I could tow 3700 lbs if I wanted too.

My last 1999 Dodge Grand Caravan Sport lasted from 83, 000 miles to 113, 000 miles for 6 years with about $2800 in repairs. Needed a brake job, water pump, window motor, starter, and rusted brake lines during that time.

14, 660 posts, read 29, 929, 239 times

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Quote:

Originally Posted by abostonmama I'm not sure what you mean by decent in the first paragraph. I've only been looking for a couple of days, but I have found a few '02 siennas for $6k, 120k mi. Is it the age or mileage that is indecent? Should I be trying to be the newest van and make/mileage is less important? Thanks

It seems like the Odysseys in my price range (ones from 2000-2003) are known for transmission problems.

Decent basically ties back to the age and mileage. The older something is and the higher the mileage the greater the chance that you will have to run into issues. Not necessarily major issues like engine and transmission, but dealing with needing to replace suspension parts, gaskets, electronics, etc. When you get into something of that age range, you never really know what you are getting.

With that said, given your budget ultimately you are really just looking for the newest, lowest mileage and best maintained example you can find, regardless of brand. Out of those ownership pedigree is most important. I would take an 8 year old GM or Chrysler van that was a one owner with complete maintenance records over a similarly aged Odyssey or Sienna that has been through two or three owners and has an unkown past.

On top of that, I place a much higher emphasis on mechanical reliability of vehicles at that age then I would on creature comforts, interior quality, etc. The older Sienna's that would be in your price range are known to have oil sludge issues and the Odyssey's are known for transmission problems. The GM and Chrysler vans aren't as well put together, but the drivetrains are generally considered very reliable.

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