Last post on Mar 31, 2013 at 4:37 PM
You are in the Vans & Minivans
What is this discussion about?
Toyota Sienna, Dodge Caravan, Chevrolet Venture, Mazda MPV, Kia Sedona, Honda Odyssey, Chevrolet Uplander, Nissan Quest, Hyundai Entourage, Van
#3525 of 3798 Re: Considering Van/minivan as third vehicle, advice sought [kmauss]
Aug 15, 2008 (8:21 am)
Very well-written post; you sound sort of like my great-aunt when it comes to vehicles. She is single, no kids, but couldn't live without her Odyssey minivan. She typically has the rear-bench seat folded down with a big tarp in the back to she can put anything (mulch, a piece of furniture, Sam's Club parphernalia) in the back that she wants without a fear of messing up the carpet. She used to make regular trips from Birmingham, AL to Virginia Beach, Virginia in her 2000 Odyssey, and now does it in her 2005 model. She has also helped my parents moved (me driving, but using her van) to and from Oklahoma City, OK and Birmingham, AL. Needless to say, its been a major "trip car" while loaded way down.
The basics: The vans are all VERY WELL rated on safety, more fuel efficient than SUVs, and these days, will likely have better resale since they don't have the fuel-hog stigma of the SUV. Space efficiency is the key to the van, and they do it better than SUVs every time!
All that being said, some major features/difference to note in the three main competitors do exist.
Dodge Grand Caravan / Chrysler Town and Country
These two are the same basic vehicle branded as two different things. The Dodge is styled as a little more sporty, the Chrysler more luxurious. This is the newest model that debuted on the market.
Major Pros: It features a seating system you might find VERY useful, called Stow-n-Go. It allows all rear seating (middle buckets and third row) to be stowed underneath the floor, creating a flat load surface from tailgate to the front seats. Dodge and Chrysler also offer rebates and competitive pricing more often than the competition.
Major Cons: The engine options are a little lacking unless you get the most loaded-out model (the best engine comes only on the most expensive model). The amount of power coming out of the engines in the lower and mid-level models are way down on what the competition offers. Also, interior quality isn't as good as that of Honda or Toyota.
This van is the most "carlike" of the van options. It has tight steering, a firmer ride, and overall, drives similar to a Honda Accord. The engine makes more power (and is noticeably better) than the lower-end offerings from Dodge and Chrysler, but lacks power relative to the Toyota, which is just plain fast!
Major Pros: The driving experience as a whole. The way the van drives will be the most comparable to a car, I believe, which could be a plus for you coming from a car. The rear bench is split, and folds flat into the floor like the Dodge's does.
Major Cons: The Odyssey has the firmest/bumpiest ride, and has the most interior noise. The middle-row of seats must be manually removed if you want only the front seats in place, with the rest for cargo. These seats are heavy (my aunt calls me to move them).
The Toyota Sienna is easily the most luxurious van of the three, with a very smooth isolated ride, a quiet but VERY powerful and fuel efficient engine.
Major Pros: The ride is arguably the best of the three. The engine is the most powerful AND fuel efficient of the three. The rear bench split folds into the floor, like the Odyssey. The Sienna is available with some really high-tech options such as high-intensity headlamps and laser cruise control, which will slow down when you come up behind a car going slower than you, and speed back up once the slow car is out of the way.
Major Cons: The driving experience pales in comparison to the Honda (to me). The steering is light, not too precise. Its responses are not quick or car-like. The middle seats must also be manually removed, as in the Honda. Toyota's option packages can be maddening to decipher; sometimes you can build the can you want online, but will never find it in real-life. If you are looking for lower-end models (you mentioned not wanting bells and whistles) this may not be an issue.
I hope this gives a bit of an idea of the differences in these vans. If there are more questions, please just ask away!
#3526 of 3798 Re: Considering Van/minivan as third vehicle, advice sought [kmauss]
Aug 15, 2008 (8:25 am)
If you look at it from a practical perspective, purely based on merit, a van will win every time.
You get more space for a lot less money, for starters. Nowadays you can get a good basic van for $22k, and for a little more you can get lots of extras.
The minivan segment is fairly mature, and what that means is you have lots of good choices. High tech multi-valve engines are both powerful and fuel efficient. Seats fold and disappear. Space and comfort are abundant. Options galore.
Let's look at the criteria that matter to you:
Dependability: probably no different than the SUV segment. SUVs offer AWD, but you can get a Sienna with AWD, so even in snow you should be able to depend on that van to get around.
Repair Costs: minor differences. Vans are perhaps a little bit simpler than large SUVs to work on, but I doubt it would break your bank. Vans cost a lot less to begin with, at least compared to most large crossovers/SUVs.
Stow-away seats: big plus for vans. Dodge and Toyota even offer you power folding options, though some SUVs do as well (Expedition for instance). Primarily the vans win in that all the seats are actually comfortable and inhabitable. Even large crossovers often have tiny 3rd row seats.
Insurance costs: probably lower for vans. I actually got insurance quotes for our Sienna and for a Subaru Tribeca 7 passenger model, and the van was $87 less every 6 months. Not a lot, but still cheaper. We liked the Tribeca but ultimately decided it was too small (we did buy a Subaru Forester for my wife).
Safety: check IIHS but I think you'll find most of these tend to score very well, just make sure you get things like side curtain air bags and stability control. Nowadays most vehicles in this class have both standard, but make sure.
To haul stuff you want SPACE! My Sienna offers 148 cubic feet worth. You can lay a 4'x8' sheet of plywood on the cargo floor, and still close the hatch! That's EIGHT FEET of length. The width is actually 52", so I would have 4 inches to spare.
A Chevy Tahoe, for comparison, which is 1" longer than my van, only holds 109 cubic feet, and you can forget putting the plywood inside. An Expedition is longer and holds even less.
Some crossovers come close - the Saturn Outlook is about the same length, but it still only carries 117 cubic feet of stuff. It costs a bunch more than a van, however.
From a rational, practical point of view, a van will give you a lot more space for a lot less money. They are more car-like and easier to drive, too. They also use a lot less fuel.
SUVs can typically tow more and have off road capabilities, but you didn't mention either of those in your post.
#3527 of 3798 Re: Textured Buttons [ateixeira]
Aug 15, 2008 (8:26 am)
Good idea. Simple ideas are often the best.
I guess the texture helps the owner familiar with the car, while the backlighting helps the unfamiliar driver.
Exactly. I thought it was pretty ingenious, myself. It's those kind of ideas you wonder "why didn't someone else think of that sooner?"
#3528 of 3798 Re: Considering Van/minivan as third vehicle, advice sought [thegraduate]
Aug 15, 2008 (2:46 pm)
Wow! Thank you both for those very long, informative and definitely helpful posts! I will keep and consider all of that.
I have no experience with the Honda or the Toyota vans, but my brother and family are on their third or fourth Dodge/Chrysler minivan, having piled almost 200,000 miles each (lots of cross country driving) on each of the previous ones with no major mechanical issues before they've bitten the dust. Actually, the last one was totalled on a Washington Beltway, but Lynne walked off with barely a scratch. So, reliability-wise and safety-wise I can't really have anything bad to say about Dodge/Chrysler. And the fold down seats would be a HUGE plus. I personally want no parts of taking seats in and out of a vehicle. My sister has a bad back, and therefore I know I'd have to do it myself, and there's no way I'd get into that situation.
On the other hand, my other sibling had two Ford Windstars that were awful. I mean, when they worked, they were wonderful to ride in, but both of them had major mechanical issues that no one could locate. But since I don't think Ford even makes a mini-van anymore, it's a moot point. (The mystery in my mind is why after one Windstar was a total , did they replace with another Windstar.... things that make you say huh?) They now will buy nothing but Toyotas, so I'm sure they'd counsel me to buy a Sienna!
I will do some more research, and when I can, I'll just go out and test drive a few and come back with my impressions. In the meantime, I'd welcome any more input from anyone else who doesn't mind educating me.
Thank you both again!
#3529 of 3798 Re: Time for a new vehicle - Van or Suv?
Aug 15, 2008 (6:17 pm)
I have been driving Honda Odysseys (98, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006) and I am at lease end again. I have 4 kids, but one is away in college, one is 12 and two in boosters (7 and 5).
They think Vans are uncool looking and want to go with a SUV. I am a realtor and sometimes I do have to use my vehicle, I don't mind the van.
I cannot afford the Odyssey this time. I am looking at a Quest 3.5 S but this is a serious downgrade from my leather, dvd, 2 auto doors. The price is good though close to $18000 out the door.
What else should I be looking at with a 3rd row of seats for $18000 out the door new??? Any suggestions? I do not like the 08 Pilot and it also is still too expensive.
#3530 of 3798 Re: Time for a new vehicle - Van or Suv? [imariquinn]
Aug 15, 2008 (7:22 pm)
The Hyundai may be a good option. Lot of features and good value. They're better in their reliability then they used to be.
The Chryslers also will give you a lot of value for the money.
#3531 of 3798 Re: Time for a new vehicle - Van or Suv? [imariquinn]
Aug 16, 2008 (8:32 am)
I am looking at a Quest 3.5 S but this is a serious downgrade from my leather, dvd, 2 auto doors. The price is good though close to $18000 out the door.
That is a GREAT price (to me, anyway). If you'd go with a year-old Dodge or Chrysler you could get a lot more van for the money, I'm sure, since someone else would have taken the resale hit for you. Another question: how much would it be to purchase your Odyssey?
#3532 of 3798 Re: Considering Van/minivan as third vehicle, advice sought [kmauss]
Aug 16, 2008 (1:01 pm)
Well, out of pure curiosity today I went and drove my first minivan - a Chrysler Town and Country, and I came back surprisingly favorably impressed. It drove and handled FAR better than I expected. Seats were incredibly comfortable, very smooth, very quiet ride, plenty of power. And good brakes! (As I discovered when I almost rear ended someone..... ) The weirdest thing is the gear shift on the dash board! That is just bizarre! I have long arms, but I can see how a short person could have real troubles with that. I'm not sure I could get used to that one. I was quite amazed how cleverly all the seats go down into the floor.
The other thing I drove that I never laid eyes on before is the brand new Dodge Journey. I was also quite favorably impressed with that vehicle, but that would be a 'replace current car with' and that is waaaayyyy off on the horizon, so I didn't look very seriously at it, at least not yet.
#3533 of 3798 Re: Considering Van/minivan as third vehicle, advice sought [kmauss]
Aug 16, 2008 (1:16 pm)
Thanks for sharing your impressions about the T&C. That type of gearshift is in the Honda (although the Honda seemed closer to the driver), and a similar type is on the Sienna. You can see them all below, in order from Chrysler, Honda, to Toyota. The Toyota's is lowest.
#3534 of 3798 Re: Time for a new vehicle - Van or Suv? [thegraduate]
Aug 16, 2008 (6:16 pm)
Today I visited a Kia, Honda & 2-Nissan dealers. I was also going to check out the Mazda5, but never made it to the Mazda dealer.
I liked the 7 seater Kia Rondo, it was cute, small, but would have been ok, but the price quoted to me was $18750 OTD the first go around (via telephone).
I then went to the Honda dealer, they wanted almost $30,000 OTD for just an EX cloth Odyssey, I just could not get excited about this, and the barrage back and forth between the sales guy and the finance guy. Ugh, it wore me out and depressed me. I finally left out in between the back and forth bull.
Next I went to the first Nissan dealer, they had a basic model of the Quest S. They did not want to deal and for that model would do $18,945.00 OTD.
Last dealer of the day was another Nissan dealer. Here I had gotten an email quote of $19165 OTD for a Quest S with drivers pkg (back-up sensor, dual sliding doors, power lift-hatch, info center with miles to empty, tire pressure, gas mileage, etc). The van was built in June 08 and I was the first to drive it. It was still wrapped up in plastic, inside and out! It has 8 miles that I put on it during my test drive.
Anyway, that was the deal I decided to take...
The window sticker on the van (after all the dealer add-ons, was $30095 MSRP. The deal turned out to be $17100 + TTT+ $599 dealer fee (= $19,165 OTD). I also received $600 in gas cards.
It was not a stressful transaction, the sales people were great, patient, knowledgeable and did not play the back and forth office cubicle game!