Archived Q&A and Reviews


Buying a new minivan: Which old car to keep?

Nov 2014

We are going to buy a new Toyota Sienna and plan to sell one of our other two cars. Which old car is the best one to keep? One is a 2004 Sienna with 146000 miles on it. The other is a 1997 Subaru Impresa with 31000 miles on it. Which car is more reliable, the newer one with more miles, or the older one with less miles on it? Which matters more, age or mileage? If anyone who knows about cars has thoughts on this, I'd appreciate it. Thanks! Mollie

Check out the website: It will give you an idea of what to do. Roger

I am by no means a car expert, but I would say to keep the low mileage car. It sounds like it's got a lot of years left in it, despite its age. Also, why would you want two minivans? We have one minivan for hauling our kids and their friends, but our other car is a gas-sipper, for when we don't need 7 seats. Van fan, but why two?

Best minivan for 3 kids in carseats?

August 2006

We have a 3 year old son and are expecting twins in November. We have been told by everyone that we now ''need a minivan''. We know that we don't want an SUV (mostly because of the safety risks) --is there any good, roomy alternative for three kids and various equipment (folded up double stroller in the trunk/back etc.)? We would also like to get people's opinions of the most reliable and practical minivans (both new and used). Are those fold-down seats as helpful as they seem? Which ones fold most easily or does it not really matter? Which drives the best? Any advice on how to compare or how to anticipate what our needs will be with a preschooler and two infants in a car would be helpful.
Driven To This

Hands down the best minivan is the Toyota Sienna. I resisted getting one for the usual reasons but now that I have it, it makes me life so much easier. Test drive for yourself four kid family

I know that there tends to be a snobby bias here against any American cars, but we just bought a Dodge Grand Caravan with the stow and go seats and we love it. Our stroller fits fine and I've stowed the seats for some furniture moving. The van drives great. I don't get the ''reliabiltiy'' factor either. For waaaaaaaaaay cheaper than a Nissan Quest or Honda Odyssey, you get practically the same thing. Where the Dodge lacks is in not being as luxurious or ''finished'' like the Honda. But, for about $10,000 less, why spend the extra money on that when kids are going to trash the thing anyway? So, take all the reccos you're going to get for the Honda with a grain of salt. If you have money, then I guess it doesn't matter, but we love our dodge and it didn't break the bank. It drives great, too Van-o-rama

I have three kids and drive a Volvo wagon with the third row of seats in the way back. I feel very safe & have enough room inside for everything. For long road trips with a lot a gear (camping), I use a Yakima space case up on top attached to the luggage rack. I like this car too because it was economical to buy. I pd only $8,000 for this used one. The only two downsides that I've noticed are 1. Volvo repairs are more expensive than other cars I've owned, 2. Mini vans do have more interior space. To deal with that, if we go on a long road trip with A LOT of gear, my plan is to rent a mini van--but I haven't had to do that yet. Joanne

When we had our second child and got the double stroller, etc., we went for a Toyota Sienna with the fold down and removable seats. We got a used 2004 8- passenger version and I can't say enough great things about it. I'd highly recommend Ron Goode Toyota in Alameda to look for the car too. This is the first time ever that we've all been comfortable with the two kids, my tall husband and whatever relatives are visiting at the moment. Even when we have all three rows of seats up there is a roomy storage well in the back for the gear. There are little compartments tucked everywhere which is lots of fun for the kids to hide little toys in. The automatic door has been a real blessing when carrying two kids in a parking lot! Finally, my husband is really into woodworking and home renovation so he folds down all the seats and has a blast at the lumber store. Our other car is a Prius and I was worried that I'd be bummed by the gas usage of a big van. However, the thing actually gets decent mileage (around 25 - 27). I simply don't think I'd want to live without it anymore. Now if only they made a hybrid version I'd be totally happy. Sienna Fan

Oh yes, the age old minivan question! My husband and I have a 3 year old son and 13 month old twins and we, too, contemplated the minivan scenario. However, after much SUV searching and minivan researching, we ended up with a LandRover which seats 3 Britax carseats (the carseats are the biggest issue in most cars) and there is nice amount of cargo space for a double stroller. The other nice feature is that the middle seat in the 2nd row folds down flat, something we did not see in any other SUV. The nice thing about that is that our 3 year old can climb into his 3rd row seat from there and it provides ample legroom for him as well. Also, you can comfortably get an adult in that seat between the carseats in that 2nd row, another nice feature. Good luck and happy hunting! :)dana

our honda odessy is great with room for our double stroller behind the third seat honda fan

Used minivan; honda or toyota?

May 2004

We are considering entering the ranks of minivan driving families. We will buy a used one. Does anyone have any feelings about what would be better a used Toyota Sienna or used Honda Odyssey? thanks, Elyse

We considered both the Sienna and the Odyssey as well, and once we'd driven both, the Odyssey was the OBVIOUS choice. It handles like a car. The Sienna handles like a tank. :-) However, lots of people love the Sienna, and it does offer some features the Odyssey doesn't (specifics depend on what model years you're looking at but might include leather seats, sunroof, 4WD); which is better for you depends on what you can find with the features and in the price range you want. They're both excellent vans. We Love Our 2000 Odyssey

I know that Honda has a great reputation and we have had several great Hondas (civics), but I want to warn you about the Honda Odyssey. We have a 2000 Odyssey and have had nothing but trouble with it. The list of problems is too long to mention (I think the dealer grimaces every time we call), but the most recent trouble has been with the transmission...we had to get a new transmission (luckily we didn't have to pay for it) at 40k miles! The doors often don't work well, various little pieces/parts have had to be repaired/replaced, the A/C broke at 25k, the 3rd seat latch has been repaired 3 times, etc., etc. So, I know some (most?) people love them, but I would be cautious and if I were to get another minivan, I would get a new Sienna (not necessarily the older ones) because they have made improvements (bigger, third seat folds in, middle windows roll down, etc.) Not an Odyssey fan

We drove both minivans and there was no question: the Sienna is the way to go. Siennas are built on a car chassis so they are much zippier to drive and easier to handle. Contrary to an earlier post, we felt (and many of our Honda driving friends agree) that the Honda drives like a tank, or at least like you're being followed by a living room! Love our Sienna

Which Minivan?

August 2002

Well, we finally decided that we'll give up the 13-year-old station wagon and buy a minivan. We're trying to decide between the Toyota Sienna (reliable, solid, dull) and the Honda Odyssey (fun, great features, really *too* big in a lot of ways). We also thought about the Mazda MPV but didn't care for it when we drove it. If you have bought a Sienna or an Odyssey, or have gone through the same decision making process, would you be willing to share your thoughts? We are at a standstill because we think we could spend less on a Toyota ... but maybe there's a good reason EVERYONE seems to want the Honda!!! Thanks for your recommendations. - seeking family transportation

I'm writing to endorse the Honda Odyssey as my hands down favorite minivan. Is it unhealthy to love one's minivan as much as I do?! We have two kids in carseats, plus various grandparents, bicycles, strollers, grocery bags, hiking/camping stuff, boxes from the office, etc., etc., that are often stuffed into the van all at once. It all fits and we're still comfortable! My husband is 6'4'' tall and this was the only minivan that could accommodate him (essentially Honda is the only make of car that will), I love how easy it is to move the seats around to allow for different needs, especially the back seat that recesses away. We looked at the Toyota Sienna, and there were literally three salesmen in the van at once trying to figure out how to get the rear seats out and couldn't do it. Yeah, the Odyssey is a big car, and we had to make our peace with the environmental downsides to that. But it has served us extremely well in the 9 months that we've had it. Plus, the waiting lists and long delays in getting one are pretty much gone (we didn't have to wait at all to get what we wanted - use a car broker - we just picked a few from the yellow pages and had them competing to get us the car). I sound like a Honda representative (but I'm really just a graduate student!), but we love our Odyssey. Good luck!! Gretchen

The reason the Honda model is so popular is the rating from Consumer Reports, and road experience. We are also looking to replace our Aerostar. We selected the Honda because its repair record is so much better than the Toyota. My husband who spent his adolescence taking cars apart and putting them back together, also regarded the Honda as superior in design and superior mechanically in nearly every way. If you want more details about the engine and innards of the cars, you can contact me and I'll contact my husband. He's so good about cars! Tobie:

Wait until late 2004 for the new VW Microbus (released as a '05 model). And if you can't wait that long, get the VW Euro Van, they are going to be reducing the price because the new Microbus will be out soon, so you could probably get one for $24K. About the same as the ugly, lumpy potato called the Toyota Sienna. The Honda is expensive, but it holds it's resale better and has that cool 3rd rear seat that folds away. I think the Honda is popular because it's a trendy thing, everyone's doin' it! The Honda is also a 3 year old van and the new '(04) one will be out late 2003. Styling wise the Honda is also a little uninspired and wedge like, Hondas in general are not ''pretty'' cars. The Toyotas and Hondas tend to look like last years good idea when the new ones come out, they look dated fast. But the VW EuroVan like other German autos age gracefully, and tend to look more contemporary longer and also have a more loyal cult following. Like the old boxy Westfalia VW vans, '92's still look fantastic and have a good resale. The VW EuroVan has a great VR6 motor with alot of power, and the new MicroBus will have an updated version. Both are made in Germany. The interior materials are not that different between the Japaneese and American minivans, maybe marginally better in the Japaneese. But overall very cheap feeling, flimsy switches and knobs, inexpensive plastics, yuck! In contrast, go sit in a VW Golf or EuroVan and it's like a BMW or something, fabric covered b-pillars, rubberized parts, just a dramatic difference in quality. And that's where you spend most of your time with the auto, so it should be quality and not cheap feeling. It is very worth while to purchase your auto in Los Angeles, auto capitol of the west coast. Look for dealers in Orange, or elsewhere in LA. You could save thousands, and it costs $80 bucks to get there on Southwest. They just have more cars there, go figure. Also, auto brokers are really great. Good luck, think VW for your poeple mover! anon

Hi there, I also went through the mini-van struggle, though i setteled on, and bought, the nissan Quest. Its the smallest, cheapest and to me the least ''mini-van'' looking of them all. Im happy with it overall, but the rear seats cant be taken out which is weird and has been an issue. Anyway, good luck, ms mini-van

we bought our 2002 odyssey in march this year. love it! we already put 10,000 miles on it. we brought it without even looking at any other minivan because we had so many relatives and friends do the research and legwork before we even decided to get a minivan. maybe that was foolish but we have no regrets. another happy odyssey driver

We have had a Toyota Sienna for a year and a half now and we love it. We too looked into the Odyssey and the MPV. In the end the decision was between the Honda and the Toyota. What made the decision for us was the flexibility of the Toyota. In the Honda, that disappearing third row seat is either up or down. In the Sienna, you can have one third row seat up and one down or you can take one or both of them out if you really need the space. We now realize that we keep the third row down most of the time for storage but if we need one more seat for a person it's easy to put up. In the Odyssey, you'd have to empty out your cargo space to put the seat up. The other deciding factor for us was that we could get a top of the line Sienna, the XLE, for the price of the Odyssey. I really wanted leather interior, it's been very easy to clean. We could also get a sunroof which makes the car more fun. We also liked the way it handled a bit more. The Odyssey felt a bit big being that we were going from driving a Saturn to driving a minivan. Good luck Amy

You didn't ask about Toyota Previas, but I'd like to put my 2 cents in....We got an almost new, but used Previa in 1995, just before my 2nd son was born. Now, 7 years later it still runs perfectly. We do the oil changes and service whenever you're supposed to. We've had to replace brake pads recently. We drive it all over the Bay Area, schlepp kids around, take it on vacations, camping etc. It never quits. I don't know anything about the Honda van or the Sienna, however for whatever it's worth to you, my husband owns 2 car repair shops (one foreign and one American) and really likes most of the Japanese cars and thinks the American cars are poorly constructed. Good luck with whatever you decide. June

Well, I know you said you didn't want the MPV-- but we *love* ours! It has the drop down third seat that the Odyssey has but isn't quite as big. We use the dropdown feature quite a bit and I don't think I'd buy a minivan without it (this was why we chose it over the Sienna). I actually didn't like the visibility of the Honda Odyssey (but then several years ago I bought a Mazda 626 because I didn't like the visibility in the Accord). The only feature that I occasionally wish we had is the automatic doors- but we have friends with an Odyssey who say that they've had problems with those doors... Lisa C.

I have the Odyssey and love it. I have three little kids and took out one of the captain's chairs so I can easily access all car seats. There's room for the dog and when we pack up all our stuff for family vacations its nice to have the extra space. I really really like the automatic doors (and didn't think I would). The only thing I don't like (and should probably try and get fixed) is the passenger door has a really weak mechanism to hold it slams shut on people all the time. elizabeth

We purchased a minivan in April of this year-the Honda. We love it. It is expensive and big-- we already have a scratch on the rear bumper. But the fold down third seat is wonderful--we've used it alot. The dual sliding doors with two kids and stuff are great. Plus we have an 1989 Accord with 230,000 miles on it that is still going strong and had a Toyota Celica that was not a reliable car. I didn't realize that the Honda only has a CD player so all our kid tapes could not be played--not necessarily a bad thing. good luck shopping Denise

I know that a lot of people LOVE the Honda Odyssey and while I generally really like ours too, I do have some complaints. My greatest complaint is that we have had trouble with what I can only describe as the ''hardware.'' That is, various plastic and/or metal parts/pieces in and outside of the car. We have had to have the inside door handle fixed (it was loose), a piece replaced on the rack (the piece had fallen off, even though we have NEVER used the rack), some pieces replaced in the cargo area, and the seatbelt replaced (it broke - became stuck). This was all in a car with under 15k miles! This surprised me because I know of the reputation Hondas have and have owned several. Also, I was less than satisfied with El Cerrito Honda - there were several times when we took the car in only to find, at the end of the day, that they didn't have the part and it would need to be ordered (and that we'd have to return the car!). This on parts that, I would think, they should have - seatbelts, little plastic pieces. The other complaint that I had regarding the Odyssey was the markup - El Cerrito Honda wanted $5k over MSRP! This was last year and although someone wrote in that they are no longer hard to get, I know someone recently who did have a hard time getting one. Also, beware of the sliding doors. They are suppose to be safe for kids - don't squish them and open when they bump against a person (this was really touted at the dealership), but I have been almost squished several times and I am a strong adult! The doors sometimes don't open well (it takes several pulls on the handle) or at all (on a very cold Bay area day they would not open at all). Overall, though, the Odyssey is SOOOO roomy and has been rated as very safe, so I suppose that I would recommend it...but they're not perfect. Odyssey owner

We purchased a Honda Odyssey in June and love it. It drives like a dream but parking that sucker took some getting used to! At the time it seemed that we could get a ''better deal'' vis-a-vis the sticker price on a Toyota Sienna than on the Odyssey, but my view is when you're talking about spending this kind of money, buy the one you really like and don't compromise.

My advice re: purchasing an Odyssey is to get on the phone and contact dealers out of the area. Visit local dealers to decide what model, color and features you want, then call around to get the best deal. We found Autobytel and other web resources to be not at all competitive. The California Auto Club has a ''no negotiations/best price'' arrangement with many dealers in Northern California (similar to the Costco program) and they can give you a list of those over the phone. We spoke to a few of these dealers and ultimately did better than the ''best price'' initially quoted (which varies from dealer to dealer). The most effective way to negotiate by phone is to know exactly what you want and when you want it: ''I want an LX in Green with leather and I need it by this date.'' None of the dealers have them sitting around on the lot but they know exactly what they have coming in within 30 - 60 days. After making a few calls we found what we wanted and authorized a credit card deposit to ''hold'' the vehicle even though it had not even arrived at the dealer (Note: these deposits are generally refundable). Then our phone started to ring and sure enough, two other dealers had the model we wanted too. Then we played one off the other to get ''down'' to MSRP. You can definitely get an Odyssey without paying a premium over the sticker price, and with the new model year approaching, who knows? you might even do better than that. We bought ours from AutoWest Honda in Roseville (outside Sac'to.) because they had the color we wanted. But we also had good experience dealing with the Honda dealer in Tracy, Steve Hopkins Honda in Fairfield and Mistlin Honda in Modesto. Good luck! jennifer

I like many things about my '99 Odyssey, but it has not been as reliable as I hoped. A few weeks ago, we had to replace the transmission after 49,000 miles and 40 months. It took two weeks from the time I brought it in to obtain the parts and replace the transmission. We'd had a more frightening problem earlier in the month. The engine died suddenly while I was driving on the freeway and wouldn't restart for quite a while. During the two-mile trip to the dealer the next day, it died four times while in motion. The van was in the shop for four days, including a two-day wait for parts. The problem was the ignition switch, which is now the subject of a safety recall. I received the recall notice three weeks after I experienced the problem.

We bought the Odyssey in the first model year, which may be some of the problem. The ignition recall applies to '99 and '00 vehicles. The other main problem we've had was with the automatic sliding doors. This may have been fixed with newer vans. Our sliding doors were repaired after about two years. They replaced some parts with those used in the newer vans, and the dealer said they were more reliable.

We had all of this work done at Doten Honda in Berkeley. They did a good job of working my Odyssey into a busy schedule and went to bat for me with Honda -- they got Honda to provide the transmission parts at no charge even though the van was out of warranty. I had to pay the labor. Of course, Honda covered everything for the safety recall, including my rental car.

I love being able to carry six people and luggage comfortably in the van. Also, I use the fold-down rear seat a lot. It's easy, and the resulting cargo space is large and pretty much free of protruding hardware. In town, mileage is worse than I expected (18mpg or less), but on the road it's better (25mpg). Ricki

From: Susan (8/98)

We are starting to shop for a minivan or station wagon (considering both new and used) and would appreciate advice from current owners. What do you like/dislike about your minivan or station wagon? We are particularly concerned with reliability (i.e. repairs); ease of getting kids, adults, and cargo in and out; handling (hills, snow, wind); and safety. Also, does anyone know where one can get more info on auto consumer satisfaction, safety, etc. on the internet? Thanks very much.


From: David (3/99)

Of the two you mention, the Honda Odyssey is rated #1 by Car and Driver and, judging from the buyer satisfaction and loyalty of Honda owners, is probably the better buy. I found the Toyota to be overpriced and underpowered, not to mention the we're doing you a big favor attitude of the dealers. Don't forget to look at the Pontiac Montana, it handles very well and was #1 until the new Honda came out. It has some nifty features, drives well, and costs a bit less.

From: Curryville (3/99)

Check out for great, seemingly objective info about cars and vans. We have bought two cars through their auto-by-tel program (you send an e-mail about what kind you want and they send you a dealer with/in 48 hours). For both of our deals, they offered invoice plus a few hundred dollars (as opposed to manufacturers recommended price plus, which is at least $2000 more). On the first car we saved over $4000 from sticker; on the second a bit less. We also used the offer on the first to go into a different dealer closer to home and bargain. Good luck.

From: Wendy (8/98)

I just went through the search for minivans and found some websites to be very helpful. For most car companies, it's www.[car company]. com e.g., I also looked at the National Highway Safety Transportation website for safety ratings (Toyota Sienna was #1, Ford Windstar #2, but Honda is coming out with a new 6 cylinder that sounds promising from it's literature). You can also get info for new and used vehicles from,, and (I think) -- there are others but I don't remember their websites off-hand.

(BTW, I tried to get price quotes from these websites, and although my husband had much luck when he used them for a friend a couple of years ago, I found that I got a better deal when I went into the dealerships)

From: Meg (3/99)

I have $.015 to contribute to the mini-van discussion. Last time I looked, it seemed to me that the back seat windows of the Honda Oddessey actually opened like regular windows, whereas the other mini-vans' (including I think the Sienna), back-seat windows either don't open at all, or have those pop-out windows that don't actually let any air in. As I decide which minivan to dream about, I think I would want the one with the real windows. Otherwise, I'd be running the air conditioning all the time, which I hate. But maybe you have reasons, e.g. security, for preferring windows that don't open.

From: Trisha (3/99)

Someone wrote that she dreams of the mini-van with the back window that opens. It is my undrestanding that the back window when opened allows exhaust into the back of the car and that is bad for the occupants

From: Natasha

We are also in the market, having become completely exasperated with the umpteenth expensive repair of our Mercury Sable/Ford Taurus station wagon. First of all, in terms of on-line information, you can access Consumer Reports, but only if you are on AOL. The last comprehensive report was April 97. It boils down to this: If reliability is your first priority, your options are two: The Honda Odyssey/Isuzu Oasis twins or the Toyota Previa (no data on the completely new minivan, the '98 Toyota Siena, but reliability should be good). The American cars are nowhere near the Japanese in reliability.

However, if safety is your first priority, the American cars hold up better in crash tests - particularly the Ford Windstar. The Honda is okay and the Toyota Previa poor - again no data yet on the Sienna, which is a complete redesign, based on the Camry. In terms of convenience, I prefer the models which have five doors (two on each side, one on back). Some people think the Honda design, which has regular doors rather than sliding doors, is safer in that oncoming traffic has a visual cue when it sees the open door. On the other hand, the Honda is a lot smaller, with less cargo and leg room. It basically feels like a station wagon. This also translates to somewhat better gas mileage (25 mpg/hwy) and a lower ride; the latter factor was important to a friend with a child prone to car sickness.

Yesterday I test drove the new Sienna (hard to find them - I had to go to Richmond Hilltop), and it handles very nicely, has much more horsepower than the Previa, it's quiet, gets good mileage (24 mpg/hwy). However, inside it's pretty plain - barely any storage other than a zillion cupholders. The glove compartment is TINY, and unlike the Dodge Caravan, there's no underseat storage or other storage areas. Last spring we rented a Dodge (which is the same as the Plymouth and the Chrysler) for a vacation, and found it to be well designed, but it has mediocre reliability. Its performance on crash tests was adequate; not as good as the Ford, slightly better than the Honda and Nissan, much better than the Previa.

If anyone has anything to say about the Nissan Quest/Mercury Villager, I'd like to hear about it, as I know less about it. I want something with good reliability, decent gas mileage, excellent safety, and an intelligent design. Doesn't seem to exist.

From: Lynn

Think carefully about whether or not you really NEED one. They are harder to park, use more gas, and are harder to drive in traffic than a car. They also cost a lot and die hard. We resolved to drive a regular car and rent a van for trips. That way we always get a new van for our vacations or for times when we need to cart a lot of people around, we let someone else vacuum it out after, and we have saved a lot of money in cost and insurance. For different kinds of expeditions, we can rent a different kind of vehicle too, for example for snow trips we rent 4wd. Do a cost comparison and see how it comes out.

Toyota Sienna

From: Wendy (3/99)

I recently bought a Sienna, after trying to decide between that and the Honda, for several reasons. First, I bought the minivan last August and the new Hondas were not yet available (but I would have waited if I thought the Honda would have been better for me). I live in SF and have a normal size garage. That means there's about 1 inch clearance (or less!) on either side of the car, when the mirrors are extended, when I go in and out the garage. I believe the Honda is a little wider, but this is based on info I received by phone rather than by observation. The Toyota is also a little shorter, which I prefer, because the thought of parking a large minivan was daunting. There were also little details, like the low tire pressure gauge, but this is all a matter of opinion. I've got over 10K miles on the vehicle, and I'm very happy with it!

From: Stephanie (3/99)

We bought the Sienna last year and have loved it. It's very comfortable, not TOO big, and most importantly has an excellent safety record. The only trouble we have had is with one sliding door hook -- the mechanism to keep the door locked OPEN doesn't work in one door. We tried to get it fixed months ago by the dealer, and were told they were awaiting replacement parts from Toyota. The dealer -- who otherwise was great -- still hasn't called to let us know if the part is in yet. In fiarness though, we haven't followed up with them either. Our dealer is Toyota of Berkeley.

From: Karl (3/99)

I have looked at the Toyota Sienna and the old Honda Odyssey, and though I have not bought either (stuck with the old Taurus wagon), I would like to point out something that made me decide not to purchase the Sienna - it takes only Premium gasoline. This is not an advertised feature, and it really annoyed me that Toyota would make a family vehicle that requires premium fuel. I know its a great van, but it is expensive to begin with, and you will be paying more money for it every single time you go fill it up. My 2 cents.

From: Lindsay (3/99)

Lindsay Schachinger <lindsay [at]> This is not true. I have a new Sienna, and the owner's manual says it takes octane 87, which is regular fuel. I am quite certain about that. BTW, I like the Sienna alot. I have been a Honda owner for 15 years, and wanted to buy another Honda, but the hype and big markups ($2-3K over MSRP) on the Odyssey really turned me off. The two dealers I talked to said I couldn't even drive one without putting down $500 and waiting 2-3 months, and they were very snotty about it. </lindsay [at]>

From: Susan

MINIVAN UPDATE Belated thanks to everyone for the advice on minivans. Since several people have asked me what we ended up with, for the reference of other car shoppers, here's what we found: We have purchased a minivan but the experience has not been pleasant.We decided on a Toyota Sienna, the new model just out which replaced the Previa. It's a great car, built on a Camry platform, and we expect that it will be very reliable. It has two rear doors and the most flexible seating arrangements we've seen (eg you can take out a seat from the second row and the seat directly behind it in the third row to carry long narrow cargo while still seating 4 people) and the feel of the car, the quietness of the engine, the way the seats move, doors slam etc was superior to other minivans. It's also priced more competitively than the Previa was. The problem is, it's in short supply so it's a real seller's market. You have to buy a car and wait for it to come in. It can be hard even to find a dealership with one in stock for a test drive. If you can wait till later in the year when the supply increases, you'll probably get a better deal. Right now many dealers are selling at sticker or, I've heard, even marking up. Our experience was that we put a deposit on a car (a specific car; they gave us the vehicle ID number) at Hanlee's Hilltop Toyota in Richmond and they said it would be available 12/17. It's 12/29 and it's still not in and the dealership has been rude and duplicitous in explaining (or not explaining) what's happening. We got Hanlee's to give us a deal well below sticker but I almost wish we had gone with Walnut Creek Toyota where the people seem more straightforward (fyi, they also have a fairly good supply of Siennas compared to other dealers) and where the pricing is also straightforward: they're selling at sticker, period, no negotiations. If anyone has any advice on dealing with recalcitrant dealers, or knows how to track down just where a car is based on its vehicle ID number (we fear it's been damaged and is in the shop or something) I'd love to hear about it.


From: Toby

We have a 1995 Mercury Villager that we bought used this past February with 19,000 miles on it for $17,000.00. Before we bought the van I went to the library and looked at the auto magazines that compare and value cars. This was essential. I would suggest that you do this before you go shopping. Many of the vans are basically made by one company, but sold as 2 different vans, like the Villager, which is the same car as the Quest made by Nissan and the Honda van is the same as another lesser cost van (I don't remember which one). Also, we used an auto broker that we found through Cal State 9 credit union. If you don't like haggling over price, an auto broker is the way to go. After you read about what's available, go test drive and decide which colors and features you want, but don't buy the van until you call the auto broker. The broker will locate the van you want and give you a price. This price will be lower than the sticker price and lower than any price quoted to you by a dealer. You cannot haggle over this price, but you may be able to get a lower price from the dealer. I much prefer buying cars this way. I hate dealing with car sales people. Good luck.

From: Judi

We had a 1994 Villager. The pluses were that it really handled like a car instead of a van and got reasonable gas mileage. It was also nice to be able to pass through on the inside (btwn driver and front passagenger seats) to get the kids when they needed something.

Minuses were that we spend a lot of time parked on step inclines and I often had trouble with the weight of the sliding door. This is probably in part because I am rather short too. The service department at the dealer for warranty work ( Neigherbon in Oakland) was very bad also.

Ford Aerostar

From: Helen

Regarding a possible van purchase, if you get a used one, I'd stay away from Ford Aerostars, we got ours in 1989 and it has had a series of nagging problems, drives like a truck, has no turning radius, is difficult for short or frail elderly people to get in to, and generally give me more pain than pleasure. There have been major improvements since then in all vans, and its probably worth it to get a later model and pay a little more. Good luck, and after you do your research, let us know what you decide to buy.

Plymouth Voyager I have had several Plymouth Voyagers and have always been quite pleased with them. I never had problems with the transmission, and I put a heck of a lot of miles on them (I was a field service rep for a medical manufacturer). I have been told that basically the Caravan is the same van for all practical purposes as the Voyager. I heartily recommend checking Consumer Reports before buying ANYTHING!!! If you don't know anyone who keeps their back copies, you could check the library out.
Diane (7/99)