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Minivans - Domestic or Foreign

I'm new to the group and would like to thank all contributors for advice and input given to date.
I have been looking at the 2002 DC Grand Caravan Sport 2_K with added side air bags and touring group, the Honda Odyssey EX, and the Toyota Sienna XLE. All three are around the $35-36K in Canadian dollars, but DC currently has rebates on which would drop it down to $30K. Alternatively I could get a Chrysler Town and Country LXi for the same as the Odyssey and Sienna (after rebate). Any thoughts, suggestions would be appreciated. Also, Iv'e noticed a number of tools for coming up with prices for cars bought in the US (Edmunds, Consumer Report, Car Point, etc.) but hav'nt found anything to give me a starting price for Canadian cars. Any ideas?


  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    Welcome to Town Hall. Be sure to read the model specific boards for the vans you are interested in, and check out the comparison topics too.

    Getting Canadian prices for free is tough - there is a business that sells Canadian car price information whose name escapes me at the moment. I'll try to dig it up; meantime maybe someone else will jump in with the name.

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  • Roland,
    Being a thrifty Canadian myself, let me save you a lot of time. The Dodge Grand Caravan is without a doubt the best in it's class. My wife and I spent weeks driving and comparing all the offerings (By the way, stay away from G.M.). We even rented two samples before buying. The Dodge is the best ride without question. No other minivan handles, rides, or is as solid as the Dodge. If you can, I highly recommend renting one for a weekend to see how it performs, you won't be disappointed. We took delivery of a 2002 G.C. Sport in Garnet Red last November with quite a few convenient options ($34,500 sticker; $32,200 plus tax). After 4,000 km including one trip to Nashville, we are convinced we made the right choice.
  • Try "".
    You can calculate accurate sticker prices on this web page. It also offers some good explainations of option packages. All in Canadian dollars.
  • yzfyzf Posts: 65
    Gee, I would have said the opposite. Get a GM and stay away from DC vans!! DC vans tend to have major powertrain problems in a very short time (60/70K miles) whereas GM's will run forever. I've got the Olds Silhouette and love it. My wife appreciates the car-like ride and all the amenities keep us happy. Guess you really need to shop around and try the different minivans for yourself to determine which is best for you.
  • I have rented a 2002 DC Grand Caravan for a week, and was happy with the ride and comfort, but am a bit concerned with the long term reliability. I've probably read to many articles and discussion groups because you will find dissatisfied Odyssey, Sienna, GM etc. owners too. Any thought on the 3.8 vs. 3.3 on the Grand Caravan? I'm interested in comparing fuel economy of these to the Odyssey and the Sienna, but would like to see actual road results and not the laboratory results which do not include wind resistance. Thanks again!
  • excelent3excelent3 Posts: 197
    Another great option. Read the reviews on E-Opinions or Edmunds. Forget the Kia past as far as reliablity. Hyundai is behind them now and the Sedona is well concieved and designed...but not perfect. Im' a former Toyota Previa owner, so I expect alot. I am very pleased with this van, great power, 25mpg hwy, excellent stereo. Fully loaded every conceivable option I paid $22995. 10 year 100K warranty is hard to beat. Drive one and see for yourself.
    Heres just one of many reviews."

    Heres another:

  • yzf,
    Did not drive the Olds but tried the Chevy and Pontiac minivans. Both were rattle traps that wandered all over the road at highway speeds, road noise over rough surfaces turned both into rolling drums, you can't even hear the radio. I did discover why these vans are less expensive than most; they are not as well appointed or as well finished as the rest.
    As far as D.C. tranny troubles, I know 6 people with the D.C. vans that have not had powertrain trouble well past 150,000 km. The only negative was one owner who frequently tows a 21 ft. boat. That repair was limited to seal replacement due to overheating. D.C. has addressed the question beginning in 2001 with a new design and an expanded warranty. This tranny is so smoothly you have to watch the tach. to know when it shifts.
  • regarding DC transaxles. In my office three of us had DC vans. One guy had two. We are all in the maintenance biz ourselves, so we stick to factory service recommendations, or even better.

    All of the vans but one needed a tranny rebuild. Mine didn't, but then I traded before the warranty expired after seeing what my co-workers experienced.

    I know, a very small sample space out of the millions of vans, but after seeing people who properly maintain their vehicles lose their trannys was unnerving for me.

    To be fair, my 1987 Buick LeSabre also required a tranny rebuild at 90K last October. Fluid and filter was changed every 30K. I was getting ready to change again when the car just wouldn't go when warmed up. So $1500 for a tranny rebuild. It too is very smooth now and should be good for at least another 90K.

    A final thought, the DC 4speed auto transaxles are very smooth as was previously stated.


  • yzfyzf Posts: 65

    Can't argue with your experience in testing the Pontiac Montana or Chevy Venture. All I can say is that my Olds Silhouette is very smooth and quiet inside. No problems hearing the radio. To each his own.
  • 4aodge4aodge Posts: 288
    My family and I have a 2000 Chrysler Town & Country LX 3.3L van. The whole family loves this vehicle after 34k miles of trouble-free service. Our Town & Country still runs just like it did the day we drove it off the lot and I would highly reccommend a 2002 model to anyone shopping for a minivan. If you want the ultimate mininvan in terms of comfort, luxury, and convienience, you cannot beat a Chrysler Town & Country Limited. Just sit inside a 2001 or 2002 Town & Countr y Limited and you will understand.

    As for GM vans, we rented a 1999 Oldsmobile Shilouette (spelling?) when on a family trip in Hawaii and were very dissapointed in the interior quality of the car. Keep in mind, we had a rather base 1998 Dodge Grand Caravan SE at the time, which was still alot better than the Oldsmobile in terms of quality and refinement. The interior cloth and trim was very cheap and there were plenty of rattles in the doors. In my opinion, Chrysler, Honda, and Toyota do a much better job of making a minivan than GM.

    As for Chrysler reliability, it has improved greatly over the years. I have many friends with DC minivans and they all are very satisfied with their vans. One neighbor that just moved to Chicago actually had two 1999 Dodge Caravan SE models and they did not have a problem with either. Another neighbor down the street has a 1997 Town & Country LXi with 70k miles and no-problems. Lastly, our 1998 Dodge Grand Caravan SE was traded in for our new Town & Country with 70k trouble-free miles of service.

    I hope this helps!

  • jasdmwjasdmw Posts: 118
    Am now the very happy owner of a Sienna XLE. Had owned 2 Chrysler vans for a total of 8.5 years prior to. Was fed up with the problems and lack of quality. Was able to build a nice personal relationship with a Service Manager, though. That's about all the good I can say about my Chrysler experience. Should you buy one, get a pre-owned one. There a many, many around, even current models (2001/02). The depreciation is also atrocious, again because there are so many around. That should help you get into one for a very good deal, if that's a big factor. Keep in mind, though, you get what you pay for. As the old addage goes, if it's got to be Big 3, buy used, if it's Japanese/German, buy new.
  • excelent3excelent3 Posts: 197
    Kia (Now owned by Hyundai)needed to address reliability issues in a big way. They had to make a targeted move which would begin the trail of redemption concerning reliabilty. They made a tactical, gutsy move. Duke it out in the highly competive, brutal, minivan sector. And why not. Minivan buyers are ultra picky and uncompromising. They had to make a heck of a statement. They did their homework and did it well, and the end result is the Sedona. This Sedona is a winner, hands down. "Charter" buyers are reaping the rewards of a well conceieved vehicle, incredible value, warranty!
  • donselldonsell Posts: 27
    Unfortunately, this thread will probably degrade into people flaming the mini vans they didn't buy. Spend some time in the all of the discussions, especially the discussions about the problems that vans have. I think you'll see all vans have had their share of problems and alot of owners of all vans say they've had no problems.

    I'd pretty much ignore people who subjectively flame one manufacturer like has happened to GM already. I think it is interesting that no one has had to start a GM Van Problem forum but they seem to get beat on regularly by those who chose a different van.
  • I bought a minivan last year and here are my thought as objective as I can make them:

    Dodge/Chrysler minivans have great features for the price and most people agree they have the best styling of all the minivans out there. Reliability was a concern but everything I've read indicates most of the transmission problems have improved starting with the 2000 model year.

    Honda makes a very reliable minivan with a powerful engine. Features were a lot fewer on Odyssey than GC but it still has everything you need. At the time I was shopping, dealers were still selling them above MSRP but I don't think that's the case any longer.

    I did not even drive a GM minivan because of horrible crash test ratings.

    The Mazda MPV is a great little van but the V6 at the time wasn't very powerful. I've read that it has a larger V6 for 2002 so maybe that's no longer a concern. I viewed the MPV as a 7/8 scale Honda Odyssey with the added benefit of roll down windows for the middle row.

    I've never been a Toyota or Ford fan so I can't give you any input on the Sienna or Windstar.

    In the end, I ended up buying a used 2000 Grand Caravan with 14,000 miles. The price was more than $10,000 less than the sticker on a new GC and I have not had any problems yet.
  • kkollwitzkkollwitz Posts: 274
    "I did not even drive a GM minivan because of horrible crash test ratings."

    ...and I bought a GM minivan in part because of the superior real world accident data available at which puts the Montana and the Silhouette in first & second place.
  • catamcatam Posts: 331
    I just did. It sure gives an interesting perspective on minivan safety. In a nutshell you are safer in any minivan regardless of IIHS crash test scores, than the vast majority of other vehicles. Goes back to the duh philosophy, the bigger one wins. My $0.02 is that you should look at the whole package when buying any vehicle, just going off one stat is equivalent to a totally uninformed decision.
  • cavillercaviller Posts: 331
    Crash tests are a direct measure of crashworthiness for specific types of crashes.

    Real world statistics may also have an element of crashworthiness in them, but they also have a very large element of driver profile. Thus the discrepancy between vehicles like Venture and Montana, Quest and Villager or Town & Country and Grand Caravan. These pairs of vehicles are all essentially identical twins, yet have markedly diferent injury scores in some cases. Death statistics are similar in variations among twin vehicles.

    It's easy to be a booster or detractor of any particular model by clinging to one statistic. On the other hand, if you are looking for an overall evaluation of minivan safety, you should look at all the crash tests and other relevant safety information. Also see:

    Personally, I'd tend to avoid vehicles that have significantly worse than average results in any of the crash tests or real world death/injury data. There are plenty of choices in most classes of vehicles that do average or better in all these comparisons.

  • catamcatam Posts: 331
    You state, "Real world statistics may also have an element of crashworthiness in them, but they also have a very large element of driver profile." Exactly what is the difference in driver profile between the driver of a Ford Winstar Vs. a Toyota Sienna or any other minivan for that matter. I would think the driver profile for these drivers would be as similar as it can get, "young to middle aged adult parent of more than one child, probably married and working full time" All minivans are targeted by the auto makers to the same audience.
    How exactly do you buy a vehicle if you eliminate those Significantly worse performers. The Quest was the worst performer listed as far as injuries, yet it was the best performer in death rates. By using the criteria you have purported you could easily eliminate any and all minivans and have evidence to support they are unsafe.
    In the end, like I said earlier, a new Minivan of any make, is probably one of the safest vehicles on the road, and to discount any soley on any one safety test is stupid. Look at the whole package, and buy what best fits your needs, budget and taste.
  • jpc47jpc47 Posts: 62
    A horrific crash is likley to kill anyone in any vehicle. Picture a head-on with a truck! Point is, you can get a Ford Windstar with great crash protection but horrible reliablity, or a Honda Oddessy with both reliability and crash protection. We have the Venture, which to be sure is not good in the frontal offset crash tests. It has been reliable and comforable, and I think it's safe.
  • cavillercaviller Posts: 331
    "I would think the driver profile for these drivers would be as similar as it can get"

    Similar, yes. Identical, not by a long shot. Again, compare the twin vehicles I mentioned. T&C and GC, Quest vs. Villager, etc. Identical vehicles, identical crashworthiness, yet different injury/death statistics. I'd be happy to hear any other explanations for these variances. Precision is one, but that would then mean all the results are poor. For death rates, notice that they publish a margin of error. With margins like that, the statistics don't appear to have great precision anyway, even if you ignore the fact that driver profile is a big part of the variances among identical vehicles.

    "How exactly do you buy a vehicle if you eliminate those Significantly worse performers"

    I said worse than average. Personally, I'm very skeptical of any vehicle design that earns 3-stars or less in any NHTSA test, or a "Marginal" or "Poor" in the IIHS test. These tests are well established, and the parameters are well known to manufacturers. If they can't design a vehicle to do well in these tests, why should I be confident they have made a good safety cage or restraint system that will be effective in other types of crashes that may vary from the tests? As for injury and death rates, even excluding driver profile, most minivans are better than the overall average.

    Overall, Winstar, Sienna and Odyssey pass all the crash tests and rollover ratings with flying colors, and have lower than average injury and death rates. Odyssey and Windstar both appear to be average or lower than average in injury and death rates, even just within the minivan category. Everyone will use their own criteria, obviously, I simply suggest thay buyers consider all the available data, and not just one piece that makes one particular vehicle look good or bad. That seems to be pretty much your conclusion, also.

    Mass and length are also important safety factors in crashes between different vehicles. Most minivans have a big advantage there, too.
  • cavillercaviller Posts: 331
    you can get a Ford Windstar with great crash protection but horrible reliablity

    How do you define horrible? If you are using those misleading red and black bars in Consumer Reports, keep in mind that their average problem rate for 2001 is 0.2 problems per vehicle over the last 12 months. At that rate, even a Windstar (about 50% below average predicted reliability) would take years to have even ONE more serious problem than a Sienna (about 30% above average).
  • carleton1carleton1 Posts: 560
    For my sister, a new 2001 Odyssey EX was the best. For my wife and I, a new 1999 Grand Caravan in March 1999. Inky now drives a 2002 Odyssey after having 2 Siennas and a 1999 Odyssey. Swampcollie is now driving a 1999 Grand Caravan Sport after complete satisfaction with 2 other DC minivans. My friend Kurt got a 2000 Grand Caravan LE after satisfaction with 2 previous DC.
    Some people do not like Astro and Safari. We had excellent experience with our 91 Astro CL and actually prefer the panel doors to the liftgates that are on most minivans.
    Jim W. hates his Windstar (he got used) but there are many friends who love their Windstars. Bill T. traded a Toyota 4Runner on a Windstar a few years ago and now has another Windstar. My good friend Terry A. loves his 98 Sienna LE.
  • We are in the market for a new minivan for the first time in nearly 10 years. We now own a 93 mercury villager and have loved it for the ease of re-configuation of the seating, car-like driveability and minimal repair (several major this past year, but none prior).

    There are lots of great alternatives out there and I'm getting overwhelmed with options and compromises.

    The one feature I had hoped to get is a numeric keypad entry (frequently lock keys in car). I have only found this option on the Windstar. Do any other models still have this feature. It was available on Villager in '93 but no one seems to offer it now.

    Also like the Odyssey for the flip and fold seat but it is missing several small features like conversation mirror (for spying on kids in the back).

    Sienna is ok but after having the "instant cargo room" capability on the Villager, we don't relly want to have to remove seats for cargo room.

    So, I'm back to the Villager or the Quest. Am I crazy to be considering a discontinued model? Do these vehicles still have the Maxima engine in them (I thought I read that they now have a "bullet-proof" truck engine)?

    Any thoughts out there?
  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    I don't think you'd be crazy to buy an orphan, assuming you get a great deal on a Quest or Villager. If you traded cars every 3 or 4 years, I'd say no way - the depreciation hit would be too great.

    If we were looking to replace our '99 Quest, we'd look hard at the Sedona and MPV initially since our preference is for the smaller vans.

    Keypads are "passé" now that everyone has gone with fobs. I like the fobs (no scratches around the door lock), but I do keep a spare key hidden under the bumper. Fobs are pricy to replace. I doubt that you'll find any keypads available, but other little touches, like the conversation mirror, are probably available as an aftermarket item to upgrade an Odyssey (or whatever) to your liking. And the Odyssey and MPV have "magic" seats that are convenient for instant cargo room without removing seats.

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  • yzfyzf Posts: 65
    Steve's right - not too many keypad equipped vehicles out there any more. Key fobs seemed to have done away with the key pads. Have you looked at the GM's? We have an Olds Silo Premiere and are really happy with it. Rear set folds down easily for expanded storage. It has onstar so if you lock your keys in the car, you can call onstar from any phone, give your account and code number and they will unlock the car remotely. Pretty nifty! Other nice features include a car-like ride, rear parking aid, dual power sliding doors, LOTS of cargo space (we got the extended version), leather, heated seats, tow package, rear VCP/Video, triple zone climate control, etc. etc. and a 6/60 bumper to bumper warranty since Olds is on the way out.

    Since you seem to keep cars like my family (forever), don't worry about going with a Quest if that's what you want. Keep in mind, however, that the Quest does not have a fold flat or hidaway rear seat. Instead, you take out the second row captain's chairs and slide the third row seat on a track all the way to the front. But for that feature, the Quest would have been a very strong contender for us. No keypad either. As for the conversation mirror, we picked up one aftermarket at our local Auto Parts store. It attaches to the windshield with a suction cup and sits right above the rear view mirror. There are also ones that actually attach to the rear view mirror or clip to the visor. I wouldn't base a minivan purchase decision on that feature alone. Good luck!
  • Had a keyfob on my Villager that broke within the first year, but i'm sure they are much sturdier now.

    I wouldn't base my decision on the reaview conversation mirror but I do get tempted by the keypad on thw Windstar. My significant other says "no way" to the WS as their rear seat does nothing. We love the sliding track rear seat on the Villager and Quest and may go with it again.

    Have been looking at the MPV online and reading the town hall notice. Might have to go visit that one in person. Thanks for your quick response.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    That's a great plug for OnStar too, yzf. I have a friend who's always locking his keys in his truck - he could sure use it.

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  • pluto5pluto5 Posts: 618
    I drove the GC sport also with the H package and was impressed with the ride. However the mechanicals don't appear any different than my '94 GC/SE which has had premature failures in A/C evaporator coil, paint and transmission which the manufacturer paid only part.
  • Hi posted this earlier and was asked to use this site.
    I'm looking at 3 minivans. Need your opinions on which you feel would be the better deal for my $$.

    98 Villager...43,000 miles.....asking $14,9
    99 Grand Caravan...33,500...$15,995
    99 Sihouette.....37,200...16,995

    checked CarFax all are clean....Have service records on all, but they don't say much.
    I just need a good reliable vehicle. Have heard good things about Villager.

    Also any tips on how to haggle price would be appreciated.
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