NFR: Best bet in a used minivan (around $5k)


dead in the water
So the time has come to get a minivan. The wife wants one. Kid # 1 is here, Kid #2 can't be far away, the 100lb do is still the 100lb dog. High chairs, off road strollers, friends and their babies, etc. The Jetta TDI wagon just can't hold it all. Sad huh?

So I went to check out some late model 'lightly used' vans the other day. And it ended up that I was going to be out $6k after trading in the jetta. Which isn't a great deal in my book considering that I wasn't looking at top of the line vehicles. So I figured I'd be better off getting taking that $5-6k and getting an older minivan. The Jetta could be for longer trips (with its 45mpg and reliability) and the van can haul stuff around town.

Anyway, if anyone out there has any thoughts on what minivans hold up better over the long haul (making them a decent buy at 7-9 years old with 100,000 miles or so), I'd be stoked to hear about it.

Otherwise, feel free to insert minivan jokes.

Mark Moore

Just a Member

I buy used Aerostars for work and have had great luck. You should be able to get one in that mileage range and age for a good bit less than $5-6K. Be sure to get one with the 4.0L engine, it will have more power and better reliability than the 3.0L. They are rear wheel drive and even come as AWD if you desire that. They are all over the CL. The one thing I would do is get air bags or air shocks for the rear as they tend to be softly sprung in the rear. An aftermarket swaybar is a good addition for the rear as well. Pretty good gas mileage also for what they are.

Good luck.


dead in the water
I'll take a look at the Aerostars.

However, one thing I would really like is the left side (2nd) sliding door. I think that is just about the greatest invention to hit vans since...well...ever. And I'm not sure that the Aerostars were made recently enough to have them. But I could be wrong.

If I were being very picky, I'd say that 2nd row capt chairs and 3rd row "stow n go" seats would be really cool. But condition is always more important then features in a used vehicle.


Active Member
Be very careful of the ford aerostars. I worked for ford dealers for about 10 years, mostly in service. Be Careful of anything ford with a 3.8L engine, head gaskets (ford was not the only one). For that price you are most likely going to get something with over 100k. I would be concerned about transmissions in any mini vans over 100k. Helps to see maintenance records, were the transmissions serviced. Did they do the 30,60,90k services If it requires a timing belt, when was it done. Spending a few more thousand might get you a much better vehicle. Check out the web sites with reviews from actual people, I find these helpful. Consumer reports are ok, but take them with a grain of salt.


Active Member
No longer made, and probably never came with a ton of options, but the Chevy Astro is the ballsiest of the bunch. 4.3l Vortec, 5k towing capacity, the only one built on a truck frame, more clearance, and available in all wheel drive. Bellingham Automotive has a few they run that are stickered as having 250k + miles. They are very reliable, with only a few issues (fuel pump). I had an Astro cargo van for work before I bought my F150. 20mpg. Loved it.

I put 350,000 miles on a Dodge Caravan.
Repairs: 3 transmissions, front brakes 3 times, 1 starter, 1 water pump, 1 heater/AC fan, 4 batteries, 5 sets of tires. Never did a timing chain. Never had a leak, never burned oil.
if you can find an older mercury villager, the rebadged nissan quest NOT the vans mercury made, snap it up. i have a 98 villager that has 133K plus and has had just the usual maintenance issues, brakes, tires etc. the engine is strong and does not burn a drop of oil. my buddy has a 94 nissan quest that had 225K plus that ran strong until he gave it to his kids who subsequently trashed it. good vans. there was a 99 in my area with 95K that recently sold for 3G.


Active Member
Josh, I agree that the left side sliding door is a great idea. Useful for fishing, camping, hauling and loading it is one of those bright ideas that make good sense but somehow gets dissed as being nerdy. Most of the guys slamming minivans have probably never used one and just do it because they have heard it done so often.

As useful as they are though minivans do have a few legitimate problems. Other than the Aerostar and Astro van all are basically passenger cars with voluminous bodies. Loaded up they can swallow up as much stuff as you can put in a pickup but none of it ends up over the drive wheels. The shocks and suspension are mush tuned for a soft ride but are quickly overwhelmed when loaded with the full compliment of passengers and luggage. The tires are usually those wimpy P-metrics that are inadequate for the job and the engines far more suited for passenger cars than haulers. I guess this is why they are called minivans as real vans address all of these problems and handle loads with ease.

But some compromise is possible if you don't try to do too much with them. Certainly the mileage is a plus over a larger van or SUV. I would suggest replacing the stock shock units with something by KYB, Koni or other reputable aftermarket provider. Get rid of the P-metrics-you love your family too much to have those-and buy some tires with an adequate load range. Transmissions often fail in these things, again a function of too much load and stress on what is basically a passenger car. To head this off take whatever you buy to a transmission shop and have the torque converter flushed, don't just drain the tranny and leave several quarts of dirty oil in there to contaminate the new stuff. Americans spend several hundred million dollars a year on transmission work that could have been avoided with a periodic flush and adjustment. I'll bet $100 against $2500-3000 anytime.

And finally, pay some attention to the brakes. The OE pads may be designed more for quiet operation than quick stops. Get some pads that will stop the rig first and foremost. And, if you are doing a lot of mountain driving(about the only kind I do anymore)look into some after market anti sway bars of a larger diameter. These will dampen the float and wallow present in the stock units. Some of the Dodge sport model vans came stock with these.

I put them on my Explorer years ago for around $300 and the difference through the mountains and especially on the dirt roads where I go fishing has been enormous. The rig goes where it is pointed and doesn't get upset near as easily over rough road surfaces.

You won't find a van out there with all the improvements I mentioned but for $1,000 to $1500 or so you can improve whatever you do find. And that kind of money is just mouse nuts when you look at the price of new rigs.


Congrats on the MANVAN! its the greatest bro, I got mine cause we have 2 little curls, but turns out they are the best Troutwagons in the world man! I would take a look at the new town and countries I know you are looking for used, but spend another 2 or 3 grand and buy a brand new one, they are selling them for dirt cheap! plenty under 10K.


dead in the water
Good points Ive. Though I'm not too worried about the 'overloading' thing, as I've still got my ranger for fishing/hauling etc. No, it's not a big truck either, but my point is that the minivan won't be doing heavy hauling. Mostly just kid based stuff.


dead in the water

There are plenty of used T&C's under 10K but you are looking closer to $20k for a new one as far as I've ever seen. Anyone sees different at their local dealer, let me know.

If you have had good luck with your Ranger then an Aerostar will be in the same league as it uses almost all the same driveline and suspension components.

The Town & Country, Caravans have a horrible history with transmissions.


dead in the water
I've had good luck with my ranger, but I attribute that more to the fact that I bought it from a guy who took really good care of it.