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matthewmcl New Reader
9/6/19 7:38 p.m.

Okay, here is the scoop.  I have not been posting on my build thread in a while as my wife and I have just added 3 foster kids to our home (formerly kidless).  My wife's Tahoe is getting trashed and I really wanted to get a semi-beater minivan so when things get spilled we won't cry.  I am thinking 6-10 years old and around 100,000 miles.  I would like something that some other family has grown out of the need for and that I can keep running for another decade or so.  We need to be able to take 5 comfortably and hopefully some friends as well.  We really need sliding doors, and sadly an auto since I have not had a chance to teach my wife how to shift yet.

I am looking for any guidance anyone has, vehicles to look for and/or holes in my logic.  We live in Northern Utah, so we see some salt, but vehicles still tend to hang around for a while.

I am trying to budget about $10k, but I can adjust if that won't do it.


Thanks in advance for your help,


Dusterbd13-michael MegaDork
9/6/19 7:43 p.m.

Caravan or the toyota. From all ive heard, they are unkillable.

chandler PowerDork
9/6/19 8:03 p.m.

Good for you! And duster has it right.

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
9/6/19 8:23 p.m.

I see minivans owned by 3 types

  • Owned by service companies/taxis (beat) 
  • Owned by families (beat with lots of juice box stains)
  • Owned by retirees (well maintained) 

Set you sights on a 7 year old model in the more geriatric colors and trims (not the sporty black out trim) and you might find a good one. 

All makes are generally good (but the Nissan Quest gets low marks) 

God bless ya on your dedication to the kids. My own similar but different situation.

In all sincerity, the path won't always be easy, if you ever need an impartial and nearly anonymous lending of an ear...my contact info is in the link above. 

Vigo MegaDork
9/6/19 10:56 p.m.

If you have a stock tahoe you actually care about, don't be surprised if you end up caring about the minivan more, since it's gonna be mostly better other than potentially being older or in lower trim. 

My baby is very young so i haven't  yet had to deal much with the spillage issue. However, I don't plan to give up on keeping my vehicles pretty clean. I did just drive an 06 Chrysler Town and Country with ~210k miles on a 2500 mile road trip with 6people that involved flooring it a lot to get to the top of Pikes Peak.  I like chrysler minivans a lot but older ones are significantly less nice inside than typical Toyotas and Hondas  that didn't really offer 'stripper spec' and newer Chrysler vans aren't much or any more reliable than a Kia/Hyundai so i'd consider all of those as options. 

Vans are great.

WonkoTheSane GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
9/6/19 11:54 p.m.

Good on ya mate!  And good luck!

I recommend buying Tuna's old Dodge caravan..  it's worked out really well for me so far!

Sorry, a bit of an inside joke since I literally bought a forum members minivan..

I'm a big fan of the Chrysler/Dodge vans for value vs quality vs serviceability.  I've had 3 to ferry around our 5 kids in. Both of ours (2005 & 2011) have over 150k and have relatively little and common maintenance to upkeep them.

The biggest problem with shopping used vans is that no one ever buys one because they think it's cool, they only buy them because they need them as a tool, so it's hard to find that 10-15k lightly used one that someone is getting rid of because they bought a newer/cooler one like it would be with a car/SUV.

I'd recommend going for the highest spec Chrysler Town and country you can find with leather and tri-zone climate control with the best condition/lowest miles you can get in your price range.  The 2013+ got upgraded brakes that mean you have to change pads a bit less often, but they do cost a bit more when you do.  That's really the most common complaint :). Other than that, they're common enough that you can easily work on them or easily pay someone else to deal with it.


Oh, and our rule is no food in the car for the kids.  It has helps, but we make sure to schedule snack stops if we're going on long trips.

chandler PowerDork
9/7/19 7:42 a.m.

Doing those front brakes on my ‘14 and it’s like $250 for parts. Got 100k of in town driving out of them though.

newrider3 New Reader
9/7/19 8:05 a.m.

A $10k budget should easily get you the cleanest 2013+ Grand Caravan with around 100k miles you can find. I was looking at a few 2016 GCs with 120-130k miles for about $8,000; ended up finding a 2013 GC with 100k miles and a couple weird carpet stains for $6,000. These were dealer prices too so better deals may be had private party. Definitely look for the '13+ Chrysler van, the brakes are huge and amazing. The 3.6 and 6 speed auto are honestly impressive for a vehicle of this size.

1988RedT2 UltimaDork
9/7/19 9:06 a.m.

As someone whose kids basically grew up in our 2005 Mazda MPV, I would take exception to the "if kids were in it, it's trashed" mentality.  Throw a towel over the seat before you buckle them in.  Encourage neatness.  Provide napkins, and paper towels if necessary.  Yes, you are going to have to vacuum out the dropped goldfish crackers every now and then. 

Although now relegated to "spare vehicle" status, our MPV is 14 years old with 175,000 miles on it, and it's still in pretty good shape.  It certainly doesn't qualify as "trashed."

I'm generally not a Chrysler fan, but either a Caravan or a Sienna would be solid choices.  The Sienna SE manages to look somewhat "sporty", but don't expect that to extend beyond the outward appearance.

It's a shame Mazda couldn't see a reason to continue with the MPV. sad


John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
9/7/19 9:21 a.m.

Just to chime in a thought about basic Dodge Grand Caravan.  

There are low option models that have a second row bench seat.  These low option models also don't have dark tinted rear/side windows.  The biggest thing the do not have is rear AC which leaves you with the most exposure to the hot sun and the least ability to cool the rear cabin.  Not a good combo if your actually hauling people.  An okay choice if you are just using it as a cargo van.  

Sample pic of what they called The American Value Package (low option model):

Typical picture of a Dodge Grand Caravan SE (the mid level model): 


ronholm Dork
9/7/19 9:40 a.m.

newrider3 is exactly right.   the 13+ Caravan is best followed closely by 11+    13+ is the bigger brakes all around and 11+ is the 3.6L    Don't bother with the 2010 or older unless they are stupid cheap.  The 3.6L gets better gas mileage and has no trouble at all zipping the van around.   Make sure to get one that has at least power doors.

Certain trim packages also like in 2014 the "R/T" trim and I IIRC the Touring S had a slightly stiffer spring package.  I wouldn't take more miles or more beat up for it, but the slightly stiffer spring package is better, even if the standard issue isn't bad.  I think this spring package while not marketed as heavy was also fitted on some of the less trim packages in other years, but couldn't tell you for sure.  

I have had a number of Caravans around but in the fleet right now is a 2011 "crew".  It has 208K miles on it and I would drive it anywhere.   It was bought  a couple years ago for barely more than half your budget with 160K and needed a Transmission around 180K of what I suspect was a pretty hard life.  A low milage junkyard transmission was cheap and an easy swap.   Shortly after that the Fuel Pump relay on the integrated power module died.  I did the cheap mount an external relay "fix" which was the  RECALL "fix" for the Durango and others with the same issue.  (they never recalled the van for the problem) and ran it like that for some time before rebuilding the TIPM myself with quality parts.

I don't figure that is a heck of a lot of real maintenance for a vehicle that lived a hard of life as this one to make 200K+, and I promise you after a month or so, for your intended purpose, if you get one with power sliders, add the function of Stow and Go, you are going to LOVE the van and try and figure out what the heck you were doing with the Tahoe.   Seriously..   You will love the van.










matthewmcl New Reader
9/7/19 3:25 p.m.

Thank you for everybody's comments.  This helps a lot.  I never expected the Tahoe to do great, but it has tremendous sentimental value so it is not leaving the family for as long as I can keep it running.  In regards to it getting trashed, that is more behavior based.  Every kid in the foster system has toxic levels of stress 24/7 and never really gets to start off with good emotional skills.  If they came from families that could teach them that they would still be with them.


Thanks again,


ThurdFerguson Reader
9/7/19 3:28 p.m.

Toyota Sienna, hands down.



ShinnyGroove Reader
9/7/19 3:41 p.m.

You really can’t go wrong with the major makes.  We had an ‘05 Odyssey for 10 years, and despite the rumors of transmission issues it was pretty bulletproof.  Now I drive a ‘15 Sienna... had it for five years now, and still love it.  I shopped them all at that time, to me the Sienna was the “best” but you pay the Toyota tax a bit, and the margin of difference was pretty small.

jfryjfry Dork
9/7/19 4:43 p.m.

The power sliding doors (and release of fear of door dings happening at every stop) are worth the price of admission 

Floating Doc
Floating Doc GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
9/7/19 5:32 p.m.

We've had two Odysseys, 2000 and 2005, a 2004 Sienna, and now have a 2014 Mazda 5. The Hondas were okay, the 5 is too small for your needs. My vote is for a Sienna, especially if you're planning to run it for a long time. 

True, you might pay a bit more for the "Toyota tax,", but extrapolate that out over a decade, and it's not going to matter.

ShinnyGroove Reader
9/8/19 3:28 p.m.

In reply to jfryjfry :

I agree 100%, and find it entertaining actually.  Power sliding doors are possibly the best feature of minivans, and not just for kids.  It gives you a huge side entrance for loading/unloading cargo, etc.  Yet that is the exact feature that makes people feel the vehicle is for soccer mommies, so they spend $10k more for a SUV with less usable space and worse rear doors just so they don’t have that feature.

linnjb New Reader
9/8/19 8:08 p.m.


A 401 CJ
A 401 CJ Dork
9/8/19 8:42 p.m.

I’m going to step out on a limb and accuse FCA of juggling torque converters and maybe final drive ratios on the Pentastar vans.  I’ve rented many.  Some will flat out move while others are much more lethargic.  I’ve even driven a T&C that was quicker than an otherwise identical R/T.  So it’s not the trim that decides it.  I dunno.  Maybe it goes by color?

Klayfish PowerDork
9/9/19 6:00 a.m.

I'll put my usual minivan vote in here and say the Kia Sedona.  IMO, it's a far better minivan than the Grand Caravan, and you can get them cheap.

We also have 3 kids and over the past 12+ years have owned 2 Sedonas.  We've now put over 200,000 combined miles on them with minimal issues.  They're tough as nails, have a far more comfy second row than the GC, come with all the features you'd want and have plenty of power.  You won't go wrong.

Mazdax605 UberDork
9/9/19 7:51 a.m.

Mid to late 00's Toyota Sienna is the go to. Our 06 has nearly 200k, and has needed little in the way of repairs. It's as reliable as gravity. If you get the 07 or newer the have a bigger, more powerful engine that I believe doesn't have a timing belt. Ours has a timing belt which has been done twice. Simple reliable vehicles. I keep wanting to get something else, but this vehicle is just too dang versatile.

newrider3 New Reader
9/9/19 8:46 a.m.

Middle and rear Stow and Go in the Dodge/Chrysler to me makes up for any of the other shortcomings of the brand. Pull a couple levers and suddenly you've got more cargo space than most modern pickups. The Grand Caravan really is both the best car and the best truck I've ever owned.



In reply to A 401 CJ :

There's an "eco" mode button on the lower center dash in the GC, that as far as I can tell deadens the response of the throttle pedal, and causes the trans to short shift and skip gears to keep RPM down. The trans is also supposed to adapt to your driving style, so a rental may have learned bad habits from the last driver.

Duke MegaDork
9/9/19 9:28 a.m.

I don't have anything at all against either the Sedona or the Sienna, but both seem smaller inside than the GC / T+C twins.  I can fold in both rows of seats in my T+C and it will swallow a truly mountainous volume of stuff.  It will close the hatch on a stack of 10 sheets of plywood.

If you go the Mopar route, 2012+ are the years you want.  3.6 Pentastar with the 6-speed auto, plus they finally put the big brakes on all models starting in 2012 or 2013.  Vigo will tell you he hates the ratio coverage, and for his case he's right, but the rest of the world doesn't really have an issue with it.

People complain about Mopar reliability but I've owned 3 of them since 1992 and never had any issues.


Vigo MegaDork
9/9/19 10:28 a.m.

Yeah, most people aren't flooring their minivans past 70 so it's no big deal. Around here 70 or right below is often the starting point for flooring it if you're passing on the highway so it comes up fairly often for me.  

The Chrysler 6 spd is a little annoying to me as a de facto transmission elitist (i guess) because it's basically a gear splitter stuck on the back of the old 4spd. I mean, you could say a 2015 Corvette and a 1985 Corvette both have 7spd manuals, but it's only kinda true. The older one has a 4 spd with a gear splitter and it turns out not all of the gears that result from that are useful because the ratio spread is goofy, while the newer one was designed to have 7 gears from the start. A 3.6/6spd caravan is fast in the speed range that normal people care about, and you don't suffer the side effects of the 6spd's half-baked nature until you're already past the speed limit. Or you could get a Chrysler with a 9spd auto which apparently shifts so slowly and/or reduces torque so much during shifts that the cars didn't get any faster going from 6 spds to 9. So yeah, not all transmissions are created equal, but if you're just trying to get down the road with your family then you're not likely to nitpick that kind of stuff. 

Hoondavan Reader
9/9/19 10:56 a.m.

Welcome to the minivan life.  A big V6 w/250+ HP, and a lower CG than most SUVs.  As much as I like wagons for the driving experience, minivans are great. Especially when your passengers are happy on long trips. Having power sliding doors is a huge time saver, especially if you have younger kids.  I didn't realize how much easier this made everything until I had it. Sliding doors also mean your kids can't lazily ding the cars parked next to you as they climb out. 

You'll  probably see better value initial value in the Mopar or the Koreans, but if you do go with HondaYota you'll appreciate the value when you eventually sell it.  Crash ratings vary considerably, I remember seeing the newer Nissan Quest was considerably worse than others.  VW Routan is mostly a Caravan w/a fancy badge and some different interior pieces.  Pricing seems similiar to the caravan, but they do look more upscale. 

I've bought an '08 Odyssey in 2011 w/70k miles on it. It now has 180k miles on it.  If I were going to do it all over again I would have spent more time cross-shopping.  SWMBWO WANTED the Odyssey. The earlier pre-2005 Odysseys have a reputation for weak transmissions.  The newer (2005-2010) don't have a great reputation for transmissions either, but are supposed to be better as long as you adhere to the fluid flush intervals.  Transmission fluid flush is more complicated than one would expect...apparently they have to cycle the fluid through the transmission while the car is running through the gears (?).

John Welch's comment about maintenance & types of owners is critical.  W/my odyssey there's a lot of weight over the front end...if things are worn out you'll feel it.  Once these things hit 100k miles, there'll be big variances in the way they feel/drive. 

The stow & go seats in the caravans are convenient, but they also feel smaller and less comfortable than other seats.  W/the odyssey it's fairly easy to remove the middle row & the rear seat does fold flat...which is great for moving stuff.  The Honda V6 requires a timing belt change somewhere around 100k miles.  Make sure you see a receipt, or budget accordingly.

One gripe about my 2008 van is that on cruise-control at 75mph on the interstate it will downshift whenever it encounters an overpass rise (think I-10 though western FL/AL/LA).  It's maddening.

The non-metallic Honda paint is awful.  My (white) van is peeling on the roof, hood and a-pillars.  Apparently there have been TSBs and recalls for the Blue paint, as well as 2011 and 2012 Odysseys...so inspect it carefully.  Granted, I didn't spend much time waxing/caring for it, and the Florida sun is intense.  The van feels like it's 20 years old...not 10 years old.  We did put ~$1k in replacing wear items last year, but it should get new front struts.  With that said, if the van died, I'd consider a lower-mileage replacement of the same year if I could find one for a reasonable price ($4k - $6k).   One other issue to be aware of w/the Odysseys:  Some of the higher-end models came w/PAX wheels/tires.  Run-flats in a weird metric size that tires are astronomically expensive (dealer-only, I think).  These rims won't fit a normal tire.  Most people de-PAX their vans rather than buy new tires. That's why you see so many Odysseys w/Acura or aftermarket wheels.  It's cheaper to buy new wheels & tires than just replace the PAX tires. 

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