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Buying a used minivan

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  • Buying a used minivan

    Well, it's official. My 2009 Kia Sedona is dead. The mechanic's opinion is we need a new engine. Cost of engine >$3500, value of vehicle in working condition <$3000...we're donating it to NPR.

    We were going to be replacing it within the year anyway, this just bumps up the decision. But since we don't buy cars often I wanted to make sure we're not missing anything.

    My plan is to look at the major makes of minivan, and investigate which 1-2 year old models will fit our needs. (One unique need is that it has to be narrow enough to fit a fairly skinny garage bay.) Then narrow down the model years and trim levels. Then put together a budget. Spending more than $25k on a car feels kind of wrong to me. However, we do have the cash on hand to up that price point, if I can be convinced of the value. And after my stupid Kia left me in the lurch before 10 years and under 100,000 miles...I could be convinced that a Honda or Toyota is worth the cost.

    What are your favorite references for this kind of research? And do you have any strong minivan-related opinions? It's mostly a grocery getter and kid toter, but we camp or road trip around once a month on average. It will see a good amount of steep graveled roads but not much road salt.

    Keeping in mind that although I'm a penny pincher, I'm also a big fan of paying for convenience when it comes to one-off purchases like this. We quit Netflix because we didn't want to keep getting dinged with that $8 monthly, but there's zero way I'm going to have a car shipped from out of state or something just to save $1-2k. And no, I don't care if my priorities are illogical.

    Thanks for any help!

  • #2
    Your narrowness requirement has me concerned. Late model odysseys and siennas are both very wide, I think significantly wider than a 2009 sedona. I would get the measuring tape out and look up some dimensions on the internet as that may dictate your choice more than anything else.


    • #3
      There was a recent minivan thread.  But yeah, how narrow are we talking?  I suspect most current models are similar width


      • #4
        We are very happy with our 2016 Sienna. We bought it this summer with 55k miles and have already put another 10k on it.  For what its worth it is 76" wide at the wheels


        • #5
          I don't know the width, but the hybrid Chrysler Pacifica, which replaced the Town & Country, will be high on our list when our T&C dies.


          • #6
            1+ the Pacifica.  Stow and go seating is the best.  Who cares about a TV or a vacuum in the van.  Those are easy to duplicate. However being able to put your seats into the floor is awesome.  And when the seats are up the space is a secrete cargo hold.  Helps if you are caught by the imperials.


            • #7
              We have a 2017 Pacifica and a 2018 Odyssey. The 2017 Pacifica was one level up from base with 17k miles, cost $21000. The Odyssey is an Elite at was 44K prior to taxes, fees bought new.

              I like both the vehicles. Very similar acceleration. Pacifica probably has better seating flexibility for lugging big items around, Odyssey is more comfortable. The Pacifica has no way to downshift and the low gear setting is very much overkill. If you are planning to do lots of steep inclines/declines I would make sure you look at the downshifting abilities. The Odyssey we have does have paddle shifters which would be great for increased manual control on steep grades...we live in a flat part of Texas so I've not used the paddles much.


              • #8
                Nissan no longer makes minivans. We bought a certified pre-owner Nissan Quest with 16,000 miles for ~$17K prior to tax and registration. It’s been quite a nice kid hauler, but this definitely is a wide vehicle.

                I’m not sure you’ll find a true minivan that is “narrow”. The Mazda MPV or a station wagon like a Subaru Forester or BMW or Mercedes station wagon might work.

                You certainly won’t save much money this way, but you could consider parking assist in lieu of a narrow minivan. Alternatively, some folks put a tennis ball on a string to hit the windshield and show distance from the front wall. I’m sure Youtube has a half dozen suggestions for cheap and easy ways to avoid hitting the sides of a narrow garage bay.


                • #9
                  I think the grand caravan is actually a great option in the used market, especially for someone needing a narrower van. You avoid the honda/toyota tax and can get something lower miles for cheaper.


                  • #10

                    I think the grand caravan is actually a great option in the used market, especially for someone needing a narrower van. You avoid the honda/toyota tax and can get something lower miles for cheaper.
                    Click to expand...

                    Sure, but Fiat Chrysler's reliability is somewhere above Yugo and below GM.  I really like the Pacifica Hybrid, but I wouldn't want to own a Chrysler from year 5 onward.  Heck, I'd be somewhat hesitant to own an FCA car older than three years.

                    (Have they messed up the reliability of Jeeps?  Those things used to have excellent longevity back in the days of Grand Cherokees with fake wooden side panels.)


                    • #11
                      My data may be a few years old (ok, quite a few years old), but when I researched a minivan purchase in 2011, the savings on a used vehicle weren’t that great over buying a new minivan outright. I only really looked at Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna (ended up buying the sienna and have been really happy with the purchase), so maybe it’s different for other makes and models, but the reliability factor was important to me.

                      I’m not sure what your break even point would be, but when I was only looking to pay $4-5000 less for a used, one to two year old minivan, I decided that it wasn’t worth saving that little to get a used minivan. After owning it for 7+ years now and seeing what kind of atrocities happen in a minivan, I’m glad we got ours new.


                      • #12
                        I found the same as MaxPower just 2 years ago; My anticipated cost/year of ownership on a new Odyssey (then selling at something like $6000 less than MSRP) worked out better than what I could find on a 1-2 year old one.

                        Also, if width is a prime concern, the passenger version of the Ford Transit Connect Wagon (it's a van) is 6 inches skinnier than the Honda or Toyota.  And a lot cheaper.  And ugly.


                        • #13
                          Thanks all. With the side mirrors out my Sedona had about 4" total clearance and I routinely backed it out with under a 1/2" to spare on one side. Not the kind of thing that backup cameras and tennis balls help with. Garage door is under 8' wide. We really just need the vehicle not to have a fat ******************. :lol:

                          Thanks for the info about downshifting as that is something we rely on heavily in the mountains. And I had no idea stow n go wasn't standard! We hardly ever have the third row up, as we use the van for hauling, but when we pick up a random kid, throwing the third row up one handed is invaluable.

                          Thanks for the input, lots to think about!


                          • #14
                            Thanks again. I'm not sure we would have looked particularly for downshifting if it weren't for this thread! We went used car shopping today and ended up with a certified pre owned 2015 Sienna for about $12k less than new. It's so fancy! Very clean inside and locally owned all its life. And it fits in the garage!  Not easily but I will get better at parking it.