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The 3 Best Used Minivans on Today's Market
The minivan category has had to regroup and innovate in order to stay on top of the competition; not only from sport-utilities, but also from crossover vehicles which do their best to combine the space and utility of an SUV with the road manners of an automobile. For a time, it looked as though the minivan would go the way of the wagon, relegated to the back of the showroom in favor of the high profit margins of truck-based passenger vehicles. Some companies, such as Ford, even began to eliminate vans entirely from their lineups.
There are definitely several used minivans which stand out as being head and shoulders above the competition. By and large, these vehicles are made by companies which are dedicated to preserving the quality of their vans when other automakers decided to throw in the towel.
It took an increase in the price of gas and public outcry over conspicuous consumption to stem the tide of SUV domination. In the mid-2000s, minivans were again able to grab back some of their glory by highlighting their better average fuel economy and environmentally-friendly emissions. Not only that, but the companies who did stick to their minivan guns came out with some intriguing new features that helped to make the vehicles even more useful to their owners.
When it comes to choosing a minivan, there are a number of different things that buyers take into consideration: Interior volume and how that space is organized can be a deal breaker for large families or those who use their vans for a lot of hauling, especially if they frequently take long highway trips. Luxury features, or at least the same level of equipment that drivers would expect from a full-size sedan, can also help tip the scales when it comes down to making a purchasing decision. While horsepower and handling are lower on the list - people generally know what to expect when it comes to the minivan driving experience - that doesn't mean that companies aren't doing their best to refine the connection between the driver and the road in these high-capacity vehicles. Fuel economy, however, is generally expected to be at least as good as a mid-size crossover vehicle, if not better. With the tall aerodynamics of a standard minivan, automakers have to work magic with their drivetrains in order to meet the demands of the discerning buyer.
There are definitely several minivans which stand out as being head and shoulders above the competition. By and large, these vehicles are made by companies which have dedicated themselves to preserving the quality of their vans when other automakers decided to throw in the towel. These three minivans represent the best value on the used market for families who are looking for safe, comfortable and spacious transportation.
Best Used Toyota Sienna, 2004 - 2007
Toyota has never been afraid to take risks with its minivans, as evidenced by the ahead of its time styling of the Previa in the 1990's. When it came time to re-design their current minivan in 2004, the Sienna, Toyota pulled out all of the stops to make sure that the vehicle represented one of the most refined vans on the market. The Sienna is not spectacularly styled nor does it offer an unusually powerful engine, but it does put everything that a minivan buyer wants together in an attractive, well-designed package.
The Sienna feels big inside and that's because it is. With the third row of seating folded flat and the second row removed, the van can carry a whopping 148 cubic feet of cargo. That space translates into comfortable accommodations for up to 8 passengers, and even third row occupants have decent leg and shoulder room. Quality materials are found throughout the cabin, and the Sienna never feels like it was thrown together on the cheap.
Driving a used Toyota Sienna is a pleasant experience. The suspension has been tightened over the outgoing model in order to provide better response to steering inputs but it still maintains a comfortable ride that won't bounce passengers out of their seats. A 230 horsepower, 3.3 liter V-6 was the only engine option until 2007 when it was upgraded to a 3.5 liter V-6 that produces 266 horsepower. Both units provide good acceleration and impressive fuel economy with the Sienna seeing upwards of 24 miles per gallon in highway driving. All-wheel drive is also available.
The 2004 - 2007 Toyota Sienna minivan underscores what Toyota has done so well for so many years. It is a vehicle which drivers will never have to think about due to the fact that is so competent at each of the tasks that are required of it. The Sienna is designed to provide hundreds of thousands of worry-free, comfortable miles for owners and their families.
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Best Used Honda Odyssey, 2002 - 2007
While the previous generation of the Odyssey had been well received, Honda engineers put their nose to the grindstone when it came time to release the latest iteration of this popular people mover. The 2005 - 2007 Odyssey has had many of the mechanical quirks of the older van ironed out with what Honda calls intelligent variable-valve timing and packs a new punch under the hood with a 3.5 liter V-6 that generates a competitive 266 horsepower while managing up to 28 miles per gallon on the highway.
This newfound power and efficiency can be enjoyed by as many as 8 passengers. The Odyssey's seating arrangement differs slightly from other minivans: instead of using a second row bench, it employs a removable seat that is designed to fit between the two captain's chairs. This extra seat folds into the floor when not carting around a full load of people, as does the third row of seats. Another unique Honda feature is a rotating, floor-mounted bin that fits between and just behind the two front seats, making for easy access while driving. Passengers are kept entertained by a DVD system that comes with wireless headsets and drivers can also opt for a voice-activated navigation system.
While the van lacks the all-wheel drive of the Sienna, it does provide a driving experience that is very similar to a family car, despite its considerable bulk. A used honda Odyssey is quiet inside at highway speeds and acceleration is brisk, leaving many other minivans behind in the dust. Run-flat tires round out a list of safety features that also includes electronic stability control and standard anti-lock brakes.
The 2005 - 2007 Honda Odyssey is a vehicle which has been designed specifically with the customer in mind and it shows an attention to detail and level of build quality not often duplicated in vehicles in its price range.
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Best Used Dodge Caravan / Grand Caravan, 2005 - 2007
The grand-daddy of all minivans still has a few tricks up its sleeve to keep passengers and owners happy with their purchase. While the fourth generation of the Dodge Caravan went on sale in 2001, the 2005 model year saw some significant improvements which distinguish it as one of the better used minivans available.
Dodge has steadily improved the Caravan and its used Dodge Grand Caravan sibling over its 20 year lifespan and the most recent upgrade has been to the vehicle's seating management. The 2005 Caravan was the first vehicle on the market to have, not only the third row of seats, but also the second row fold flat into the floor. In addition to the seats folding flat, the system is so easy to use that the seats can be stowed or deployed in around 60 seconds. Called 'Stow'n Go', this feature is standard on all models except the SE and there is no struggling with heavy seats or awkward lifting - it's simple and works. The used Dodge Caravan also comes with optional three-zone climate control which works quite well at keeping all vehicle occupants in their personal temperature comfort zones.
Base model Caravans struggle along with a low-torque 4-cylinder so it's a good idea to find a version with either the 3.3 liter, 180 horsepower V-6 or the 3.8 liter V-6 that makes 215 horsepower and 245 lb-ft of torque. The V-6's also benefit from a more modern 4-speed automatic transmission. When equipped with 6-cylinder power, the Caravan is a capable cruiser, merging onto the freeway with ease and handling steep grades without breaking a sweat. All three engines see similar fuel economy, turning in highway miles per gallon in the mid-20s.
It is easy to see why so many buyers return to the Caravan year after year as a reliable form of family transportation. The 2005-2007 Dodge Caravan is one of the best of the bunch when it comes to buying a used minivan.
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