Love the website and love your reading your column. My question is I am looking to get a minivan within the next 6 months to a year. I am only looking to spend around 8 grand on one. I am leaning heavily towards Chrysler’s vans, and found some really great deals on older ones with low miles. But then I read your article about how it’s not always good to go with older, low mile automobiles. So would I be better to get say, a 2002 model Town and Country, with a little over 100 hundred thousand miles? Or should I not even bother with Chrysler at all? I was leaning towards a Windstar as well, but then there’s that whole rear axle breaking thing, and I quite enjoy living. In your personal opinion what is the best minivan for my budget.
I’m gonna try something different: give reasonably decent advice in the beginning, then let out my crazy. Because there’s more variety to your minivan choices than what you see: multiple opportunities to dance before dating in the Homecoming Dance of Minivan Life, as it were. So let’s do this thing.
That said, buying a used minivan is a tough nut to crack. Usually a higher mile vehicle with ample service records is the way to go, but perhaps their Achilles’ heel (transaxles not worthy of such a large machine) will fail much sooner on a high mile rig versus a low mile creampuff. After all, new tires/belts/hoses/brakes on a 30,000 mile rig is much more palatable than a new gearbox after 110,000 miles. Speaking purely in generalities, ‘natch.
Chrysler’s hit or miss quality control with transmissions is almost legendary. Rebuilt units are just as troublesome, depending on the Pentastar-savviness of the shop involved. Windstars were recalled for rusty axles, and perhaps the replacements should also be coated in 90-weight gear oil to keep the problem from resurfacing, so to speak.
That said, 90-weight oil does smell like a gigantic ass, so perhaps not. But this isn’t the point.
Look at what’s in your budget, I suspect the recall free (fuel system aside) Ford Freestar is up your alley…they definitely trade under your budget in the auctions, so why not find a desperate seller ready to take a low ball bid? And with the “big block” 4.2L motor, they are rather quick too. I kinda like them, in a bizarre CUV-hating kinda way. Then again, you might find plenty of clean Chrysler vans with ample service paperwork and a clean transmission dipstick. How am I to know what you will find first?
Even though the last gen GM minivans are uglier than sin, they are also a worthy choice. Especially the Buick of Minivans, the Terraza. And maybe you’ll get a sweetheart deal on a Toyota/Honda minivan from a friend who could care less about their price premium on the market. So what’s my advice?
Let the service history, transmission fluid condition, and status of normal wear items (interior, brakes, paint, power-operated gizmos, tires, etc) be your guide. Or be nuts like me, and hold out until you find a fully loaded Mercury Monterey and tune the hell outta that big block 4.2L for maximum minivan hotrod goodness.
Mercury lives: come and dance with me!
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