Jun 03 2010

The search for a van…

I researched the heck out of cloth diapers…and they don’t cost nearly as much as a van costs, so you can be certain I’m researching the superheck out of vans!

We’re not in a huge hurry, though I think I would like to have it purchased before our new baby gets here in December. Buying a vehicle and selling another with a newborn laying around…yeah that sounds like a pain.

It appears that there are three main models that are widely available: Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, and Chrysler Town & Country.

The first two are highly regarded by Consumer Reports in terms of reliability and features. The price of these vans reflects that.

The T&C didn’t score as highly on various reliability tests in certain years. It’s also WAY cheaper.

For example, if I’m wanting to spend around $9,000, I could get an ’04 Odyssey with about 100k miles on it at a dealership.

Or, I could get an ’07 base model T&C with about 55,000 miles. Even an ’08 T&C (which is redesigned from previous years and has more features) can be had for around the $10-11k price point, and around 80k miles. ’06 and ’07 Odysseys with that kind of mileage are still above $17k from what I’ve been able to find so far.

So it’s apparent that I could get something newer and with lower miles if I went with the T&C — but I do need to keep in mind that they do have more reliability problems than Hondas.

This summer and fall, the redesigned 2011 Odyssey will debut, as will a new Dodge Grand Caravan and Toyota Sienna.

I have a theory but it’s based on my own logic and not necessarily real-car logic. I think that when these new vehicles come out, current van owners will be excited to trade in their older vans.

People who have a three-year lease on ’08 vans will have the option to buy the van or return it to the dealer soon — and if lots of them return it (and maybe buy or lease a newer model) then I can expect to see a greater supply of ’08 vans for sale.

Greater supply = good for a buyer! Maybe lower prices, and certainly better selection. Lease holders tend to keep the mileage lower, so that’s another thing to consider.

So maybe if I wait until the fall, I will have more options available. I will still keep looking because you never know when a deal will present itself.

Another thing I’ve noticed — I’m seeing very few privately owned ’08 vans listed for sale. On Autotrader.com, within 500 miles of Pittsburgh there are only FIVE ’08s for sale from private owners. And that’s at all price points!

I have another theory. Well, two. First, ’08 is still really young for a car, so maybe ’08 drivers are still happily driving along with no intention to sell any time soon. Or, they are upside-down on their car loans and don’t have/don’t want to pay the difference to the bank if they sell now. ?

I don’t know.

But it does seem that if I want an ’08, I’ll most likely have to work with a car dealer. That stinks because you can usually get a better bargain from a private seller.

We hope to get out and test drive a few vans to see how we like them so we can truly narrow our search and be ready to pounce when the bargain comes along. We haven’t decided how much we’re willing to spend, so that will certainly play a factor in what we end up getting.

Suggestions welcome!



15 Responses to “The search for a van…”

  1. NO LAUGHING PEOPLE!

    Ok, now that I got that out of the way… I drive a Ford Freestyle and I think it would be great for kids! It’s a ‘crossover’ but very similar to a mini van. ;) You really should look into that too. Or at least some different crossovers. You may be able to make your money stretch a little further. ;)
    .-= Mrs. Money´s last blog ..Run to the Doctor, or Tough it Out? =-.

  2. When we found out we were having twins in 2007, we thought we could fit our three children into the back of a Chevy Lumina. HA! With all of the car seats and the double stroller, there was barely room left over for the diaper bag! Of course… our other car was a Ford Focus. Ugh.

    We ended up shopping for a mini van just 3 weeks after the twins were born… and because we live in a rural area that lacks a Toyota or Honda dealership… we bought a Chrysler Town & Country. The flexibility of having a minivan has changed our lives… it was a GREAT purchase for us, and our van has had minimal repairs – just regular wear and tear stuff (knock on wood!).

    I never saw myself as a minivan person – but I love it. It’s easy to get everyone in and out of the vehicle, and when all the seats are folded flat, you can haul a LOT of stuff in it!
    .-= Christina @ Northern Cheapskate´s last blog ..Earn Cash Back for Personal Care Items =-.

  3. One other note: LOVE the new look of your blog!

  4. We had a Ford Freestyle as a rental once and I agree with Mrs. Money. They’re really nice. Maybe you could open your search to a ‘wagon’ body style for more options? On Autotrader, this includes the Freestyle as well as others like the Subaru Outback. I wouldn’t mind having a sports wagon myself.

  5. I drove a Subaru Outback for a while (hand me down from the parents) and it is a fantastic car with a ton of space. When I was in an accident last summer it saved my life. So if you’re planning on sticking to two kids for the time being you should definitely not rule one out. I come from a family obsessed with safety, reliability and Consumer Reports.
    Also, when I nannied, I drove a Toyota Sienna and it was awesome. I hate vans but those are some well-made vehicles. Dunno about the other two.

  6. My parents and a neighbor of ours both have a Chrysler T&C minivan and both have had nothing but problems. Both have had to have their brake lines replaced multiple times. Not sure on the neighbors, but my parents brakes have had to be repaired six times already. Both are newer models too.

    My bosses wife has a Honda Odyssey and absolutely loves it and hasn’t had any problems. Of course I know car problems can hit anyone, but it seems from reviews and people we know, that the T&C is one van to avoid. The mechanics we’ve dealt with have said those vans come in for more repairs than any other mini van out there.

    Then again you have people that are totally happy with their T&C vans, such as the commenter above, Christina. :) You never know! Just look around, test them out and see what you find suitable. I have a Honda CRV right now and love it. Plenty of room for us plus the 1 on the way. :)
    .-= AJ´s last blog .. =-.

  7. We bought a 2004 Toyota Sienna in 2008 from a guy who is a mechanic and also buys cars from an auction and sells them. He checks them out before he buys and after and repaired a few things before selling it to us. We know him and trusted him too. We got a great deal on it – just another place to consider looking. Oh, it had about 80k miles on it, but we know that it will last at least double the mileage and we were able to pay for it in cash!
    .-= Promises Fulfilled´s last blog ..Getting Organized: Laundry =-.

  8. I our Toyota Sienna. The thing I liked about the T and C was that all the seats were stow-n-go. That was awesome….but when we drove the cars the Sienna just felt nicer. The seats were more plush, the fabric better, the car had more get up and go. It still had stow-n-go in the back and automatic door openers. In the end we went with the Sienna. The Honda was also pretty nice but we found a Sienna for a better price. We ended up with a 2005, 55,000 miles for 10500. It is my dream car. I love it…which just proves how mommy I am.
    .-= Crys´s last blog ..Let me outside =-.

  9. Have you considered a Kia Sedona? I only mention it because some friends bought one recently, and absolutely love it.

    We’ll probably be minivan shopping in a year or so! My husband wants a station wagon though, so I’m giving it some thought. A 3rd row of seats would be nice, but a station wagon is a little smaller and I love having a small car. We’ll see…
    .-= ashley@twentysixcats´s last blog ..random tidbits for tonight =-.

  10. I recommend the Toyota Sienna. We have an ’08 and love it, really, really, really love it. We did lots of research as well.

    If you are back in Indiana I recommend going to National Car Sales in Indy. They sell vehicles that were at rental car places so all of their vehicles are newer models and have about 30,000 miles on them.

    Just a thought!
    .-= Gretchen´s last blog ..More Frugal Kids Activities . . . Colorful Catapults =-.

  11. I’m really curious what you guys will decide to do! I’ve looked at minivans a little bit online and in the Consumer Reports book and came up with the exact same conclusion that you have.

    We *might* buy a minivan after our baby is born later this summer, but I’m hoping to hold off for another two years or so until baby #2 is on it’s way.

    At any rate, when we are ready, we will have about $10,000 to spend as well. It’s so hard to look at the extremely high prices on the Sienna and Odyssey and then see how much newer of a minivan you can get if you go with something else!!! I feel for you, girl :)
    .-= Becky´s last blog ..Sandy =-.

  12. We JUST went through all this and ended up with a Honda Odyssey. We looked very hard at a T & C but while it had nice features, we were not impressed with the build quality or the reliability ratings. My husband had a Chrysler that we traded in, and even though it was only 6 years old it got very rickety and just didn’t feel very solid. We decided against a Toyota because of the recall issues–who knows what ELSE is going to go wrong with them? If I were you I’d also consider a Hyuandi Entourage–they stopped building them in 2008 or 2009 I think, but they got great reviews.

    It must be a geographical thing about the ’08’s because there are a ton of them around us (Gulf Coast area).

  13. Honda had some major recalls, too.

    http://www.honda.com/newsandviews/article.aspx?id=5397
    .-= ashley@twentysixcats´s last blog ..random tidbits for tonight =-.

  14. Kacie, I *LOVE* my Odyssey! Look at Carmax as well for your research. While they won’t negotiate, they have a lot of good information on their site. We have friends that love their Sienna as well. Especially when Johnny & his sibling get bigger you’ll love the room!

  15. Have you looked into Enterprise rent-a-car sales? We just bought our Sienna through them and got a great deal. Although I can’t remember exactly how much we paid, we got an excellent deal. The real incentive was that they took our SUV for Kelly Blue book +$1000. Couldn’t get a better deal with that. The van is in excellent shape too! Check into it – worked for us. And we LOVE LOVE LOVE our Sienna! Test drove the Odyssey and Sienna (didn’t waste time on T&C – awful reviews on Consumer Reports = no thank you) THe Sienna drove better, so we thought. Hope all goes well in your quest…

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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife to Shane and mother to Jonathan (7), Vivienne (5) and Amelia (2) . I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

I hope I can inspire and encourage you to improve your situation. See disclosure.

I'm adopting a much slower-paced posting schedule, and treating this as a hobby blog now.

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