PDA

View Full Version : So, which minivan would you buy?


Leaffan
02-25-2008, 09:54 AM
I didn't want to hijack this (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=457217) thread, but we're soon to be minivan shopping. We've never had one and are looking for opinions on reliability, quality and features. Also, I say buy one that's 2 to 3 years old with possibly 60,000 to 70,000 Kms that's depreciated a bunch, and my wife says new.

Help?

SanibelMan
02-25-2008, 10:15 AM
I'm in the same boat as you. I currently have a 2003 Ford Windstar with about 65,000 miles on it, and I hate it. I bought it used for about $11,000, and it's the absolute base model with no tape or CD player, no power sliding doors, or anything like that. It drives like a floaty boat, we feel every bump in the road, and even with four new tires it vibrates at highway speed. And the power locks are failing - you have to quickly cycle the lock / unlock a couple of times to actually get the doors unlocked, and from what I read, the only repairs are temporary and expensive.

My wife and I have decided to trade it in for something a little better this summer, and we'll probably get a 2004 Honda Odyssey. My dad has an 03, and it's really a much better minivan - it drives like it's glued to the road in comparison with the Windstar. My only caveat is that you'll want a 2004 or newer - the 1999-2003 Odysseys have some transmission issues. From what I can tell, I should be able to get a 2004 Odyssey EX (that's the model with power sliding doors) for around $15,000 with 30,000 to 50,000 miles.

If you're going to buy new, I suppose the Odyssey is still at the top of the list, along with the Toyota Sienna. Chrysler just redesigned the Town & Country and Dodge Caravan models with some innovative features, but my parents had a 1996 Caravan that had so many electrical and mechanical problems that I've sworn off Chryslers. Ford is now out of the minivan business. And Kia and Hyundai share a badge-engineered minivan, which since 2006 is a pretty good contender, from what I've read.

Sophistry and Illusion
02-25-2008, 10:28 AM
I didn't want to hijack this (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=457217) thread, but we're soon to be minivan shopping. We've never had one and are looking for opinions on reliability, quality and features. Also, I say buy one that's 2 to 3 years old with possibly 60,000 to 70,000 Kms that's depreciated a bunch, and my wife says new.

Help?
Anecdote--we followed your wife's advice (got a 2003 Windstar with 70K miles) and immediately ended up dropping $2000 for a new transmission. I am never going to buy a used car again. My wife's mom bought it from us, and we bought a new Kia Spectra. Couldn't be happier. (It's not a minivan, but with gas at $3 per gallon, that's another selling point--no V6 engine to feed!)

Ivorybill
02-25-2008, 10:34 AM
As our old suburban started to give up the ghost after nearly 200,000 miles (100k of those "our" miles after buying it used), my wife did a whole lot of research on comparable vehicles and ultimately settled on the Toyota Sienna. As we hadn't bought a new new car in roughly 15 years, we bit the bullet on this one and went with new. However, we bought at the end of the '06 model year and found a program car after emailing all the dealers within an hour's drive. Doing so saved us a significant amount over what a new '07 would have cost.

We're very happy with it. It handles well, hugs the road, has a smooth ride and is very quiet. We worried about sacrificing cargo space as compared to the suburban, but we haven't noticed a significant loss on that score. We have four kids, and while they are still small, the rear seat legroom issue isn't a problem. The ergonomic features, comfort features, and control features are well thought out.

At the time we researched the purchase, the main significant difference between the Honda and the Toyota was a few internal features and a few thousand dollars difference in the price that made the Honda more expensive.

Hope this helps.

Belrix
02-25-2008, 11:07 AM
I recently bought an '05 Caravan 4 months ago or so and I'm pretty pleased with it. It had 40K miles on it when I bought it. My thread on it (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=441305) (which digressed into a discussion of American family values. Gee - how do things like that happen here on the SDMB?)

The engine is nicely peppy and it doesn't wallow on the road at all. Complaints? It's got some weird computer thing where the oil pressure light will stay on after then engine starts. If I turn the engine off, then on again, it'll clear and stay off. The seats in this model don't fold into the floor and they are damn heavy. Getting them out is quite the effort despite the wheels on the bottom. The wheels get them to the door, you still have to lift them in and out.

I had a Windstar before this and reading about the failing transmission on Sophistry's is very familiar. I'm convinced that Ford is incapable of manufacturing a transaxle that lasts more than 60,000 miles.

I had a Mercury Sable that lost its transaxle at 60K miles and when I traded it at 121K miles, the transmission was starting to slip again. My windstar lost its transaxle at 60K miles and again at 120K miles. After that second failure, I dumped the vehicle with the transmission still broken.

My sister has an Odessy that has gone nearly 200K miles so far and is still working well, my other sister has the Toyota equivalent with lots of miles. They both love their vans and were recommending that I buy one of their models. The prices on the Japanese vans were significantly higher, though.

Tool of the Conspiracy
02-25-2008, 11:47 AM
The Odyssey is very nice, but expensive. We looked at buying a used Odyssey, but settled on a new Mazda5 for about the same price. It's smaller and sportier than a mainstream minivan, like the offspring of a Sienna and a Matrix. It has three rows of two seats. It could use more power for acceleration (only a four-cylinder engine), but it cruises up hills effortlessly.

Leaffan
02-25-2008, 12:17 PM
The Odyssey is very nice, but expensive. We looked at buying a used Odyssey, but settled on a new Mazda5 for about the same price. It's smaller and sportier than a mainstream minivan, like the offspring of a Sienna and a Matrix. It has three rows of two seats. It could use more power for acceleration (only a four-cylinder engine), but it cruises up hills effortlessly.
Never considered Mazda. Thanks for that.

SanibelMan
02-25-2008, 01:29 PM
Yeah, I'd actually like to change my answer. My wife came home for lunch as I was looking at used Odysseys, and after we did some comparing, I think we're going to go for a Mazda 5 if we can swing it. For a few thousand more than a used Odyssey, we can get a new Mazda 5 that gets better gas mileage. The only downside to the 5 is that it doesn't have power sliding doors. But even the base model includes cruise control and climate control. And it's easier to finance a new car than a used one, for some reason.

And now that two people in this thread have mentioned their Windstar transmissions blowing up at 60,000 miles, I might get a new van sooner than this summer. Like, say, right now. :eek:

thirdwarning
02-25-2008, 01:46 PM
Don't do anything rash, SanibelMan. :)
We have a 2003 Windstar that we bought in March of '03. It was a dealer car with 6000 miles on it. It has about 93000 miles on it now, and we've not had a problem. (knock on wood) Most of those miles were in town, with some regular volleyball and softball tournaments in there. Several trips to college with the back loaded up, but most of its trips have been less than ten miles at a time. It does have a CD player, but it doesn't have the fancy computer stuff in it. Oh, and no sliding power doors, either.