My wife and I are planning on taking a large 20 day vacation this summer where we plan on driving aver 5000 miles with our three older children. My wife drives a 2008 Ford Taurus X, which we love, but does not have enough space for a family of five for such a long journey. We were originally going to rent a minivan from the local enterprise, but a two week rental will set us back $1,300 with tax.
Recently I noticed that there are some good deals to be had on fourth generation Chrysler minivans. My wife and I bought two of these vans new, a 2001 and a 2005, and we loved both vans. This has me thinking, why not just buy a loaded up low mileage van for around $3,000-$4,000, use it for the summer/trip, and then sell it after we are done. Any advice?
If you have the cash flow/time to buy-then-sell AND assuming you can do a bit of repair with your own hands, then yes, you should absolutely do this! This will be cheaper than renting (obviously) and maybe even flying to your destination. Plus, road trips are all about the journey. That said, let’s make sure you are safe and not stranded on the journey.
A list of items you must check on your short list of minivans you want to buy, then sell:
- Tires, tires, tires. Road trips are hard on old tires, so new-ish tires are almost mandatory. And not just tread depth wise, also age wise. Don’t forget the spare, either!
- Service records: buy the van with the most comprehensive service history. Even if it’s Barney purple and has stains/rips inside, that’s the safest bet.
- Fresh fluids, good rubber hoses/wipers/belts/vacuum lines, fresh brakes and all the stuff we preach in this column on a regular basis.
- Clear headlights with new bulbs, as you will drive at night and want to actually see where the hell you’re going.
There are other granular bits to discuss (strength of transaxle if subjected to neglected ATF) but that’s hard to armchair in terms of being a relevant concern to your short-term ownership. I would buy the van with the most records, the best tires/brakes you can find and hope you can add value in your ownership (via repairs and detailing) so you can actually make money on your vacation!
Best of luck with that.
Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.
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