It's not always easy to find a used minivan in good condition. These people movers are typically well-loved by their original owners, and they see hard duty hauling families, cargo, sports gear, and even bikes and camping equipment before they are traded in for a new model. That doesn't mean that great used minivans aren't out there - it just explains why you'll probably have to look a little longer to find a clean example in your price range.
We've put together this list of the best used minivans on the market, and included a few tips specific to each particular model. Let's take a quick look at eight of the best used minivans available and see what they have to offer.
8 Best Used Minivans - 01 - Honda Odyssey
The Honda Odyssey has long been a minivan staple, but one must exercise caution when searching for a used model. For most of the 2000's, used Honda Odysseys were notorious for transmission problems, a mechanical quirk that lead to several recalls. It's not unusual to encounter an Odyssey that has gone through one or more transmission replacements during the course of its lifespan.
If a used minivan like the Honda Odyssey suffers from such a well-known problem, then why are we recommending it? In 2007, Honda installed a different transmission design in the vehicle that was far less problematic, which makes the 2008 - 2012 Odysseys the best used examples to target. These versions of the van feature up to eight passenger seating, a 248 horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6, and fuel mileage of 19-mpg city and 28-mpg highway (when found with its available six-speed automatic gearbox).
8 Best Used Minivans - 02 - Toyota Sienna
The Toyota Sienna has long been the most direct rival to the Odyssey in terms of popularity. The Toyota Sienna also has the advantage of being more mechanically reliable than its competitor, although it's a good idea to check the sliding side doors and power liftgate to make sure that they are still in good operating condition prior to making a purchase - these are a known weak spot.
The most recent version of the Sienna debuted in 2011, and it's a worthwhile upgrade over older models. This generation of used Toyota minivan features the choice between either a 3.5-liter V-6 engine that is good for 266 horses (recommended), or an entry-level, 187 horsepower 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine. Fuel mileage for the two eight-passenger vehicles is close to being identical, with each offering 21-mpg combined, but the six-cylinder offers the advantage of optional all-wheel drive - which is well worth the premium for buyers living in a northern climate.
8 Best Used Minivans - 03 - Dodge Grand Caravan
The Dodge Grand Caravan tempts used minivan buyers by way of its affordability and its ease-of-use. When it comes to the latter, I am of course referring to the Dodge Grand Caravan's Stow 'n Go seating feature, which was the first on the market to allow for the rear rows of accommodations to easily fold flat into the floor and open up a ton of cargo space. Older versions of the van were also offered with the Swivel 'n Go seating system, which included a removable table that sat between the second and third rows which could be maneuvered to face each other.
Swivel 'n Go disappeared in 2011, however, when a refresh of the Dodge Grand Caravan brought with it a much-needed drivetrain upgrade in the form of a 283 horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 that returns 20-mpg in combined driving. We recommend the 2011-and-up used minivans from Dodge, but keep in mind that they only seat seven passengers, which could be a deal-breaker for some families.
8 Best Used Minivans - 04 - Kia Sedona
The Kia Sedona was a bargain when new and as a used minivan it continues to present strong value for buyers who aren't all that interested in luxury. Practicality is the order of the day with the Kia Sedona, which first hit the scene in 2006, and while there was a Hyundai version of this van called the Entourage that was also available, it didn't last nearly as long as the still-in-production Kia.
What do you get with a used Kia Sedona? Seven passenger seating, generous cargo space, and for the 2011 model year a 3.5-liter V-6 good for 271 horsepower and fuel mileage of 18-mpg city and 25-mpg on the highway, thanks to its six-speed automatic transmission. The 2011 and 2012 editions of the Sedona are the ones to target given this revised drivetrain, and note that there was no 2013 model year for this used minivan (so don't drive yourself crazy trying to find one online or at your local dealership).
8 Best Used Minivans - 05 - Nissan Quest
The Nissan Quest has always been known as a 'different' choice amongst used minivans, mostly due to its unique looks and its above-average handling. Although it seats up to seven passengers, the Nissan Quest is a little bit smaller inside than some of its competitors, which is something that might turn off buyers seeking to use the van to haul oversized cargo.
The most appealing used Nissan Quest minivan is one hailing from the 2011-and-up redesign, which introduced a new engine (3.5-liter V-6, 260 horsepower), and a continuously-variable automatic transmission that helps it achieve 19-mpg in city driving and 24-mpg on the highway. The Quest's seats fold flat into the floor - both the second and third rows - which gives it a bit of an edge over its Japanese contemporaries despite its smaller overall carrying capacity.
8 Best Used Minivans - 06 - Chrysler Town & Country
The Chrysler Town & Country can be thought of as the 'luxury' sibling of the Grand Caravan, as each minivan rides on the same platform and makes use of the same drivetrain. This means that when seeking out a used Chrysler Town & Country it's also advisable to find a 2011, 2012, or 2013 version of the van, as these feature the updated 3.6-liter V-6 as well as Stow 'n Go seating. What sets the Chrysler apart from its more affordable Dodge stable mate? Features such as a navigation system, three zones of automatic climate control, and real leather seats are easier to find when perusing listings of used Town & Country minivans, and the vehicle can often be picked up at a discount compared to import vans from the same model year.
8 Best Used Minivans - 07 - Mercedes-Benz R-Class
The Mercedes-Benz R-Class is a bit of an oddity in the minivan space, and also something of a blast from the past. Between 2006 and 2012, Mercedes-Benz built the R-Class, which was a six-passenger minivan in all but name, and which featured a pair of traditional rear doors rather than the sliding design that has come to define the segment. Reliability isn't as stellar for the R-Class when compared to other vehicles on this list, which means you might end up paying more in the long run for this premium option.
There are a panoply of different Mercedes-Benz R-Class configurations out there, so we're going to focus on those found in 2011 and 2012, which are arguably the most desirable. All-wheel drive is standard with the R-Class, and it remains the only minivan around with an available turbodiesel (3.0-liter) V-6 engine, which delivers 210 horsepower, 400 horsepower, and 20-mpg in combined fuel mileage. A 302 horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 is also offered with the R-Class, and if you want to go further back in time and own the fastest used minivan ever built, you can snag the 2007 R63 AMG model, which came with a 503 horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8.
8 Best Used Minivans - 08 - Mazda MAZDA5
The Mazda MAZDA5 is a 'mini' minivan, in the sense that it fits into the compact class rather than occupying as much space as its full-size cousins. The net effect of the Mazda MAZDA5's modest dimensions is a positive one for enthusiasts, for the small six-passenger van remains the only real 'fun-to-drive' model on the used market (discounting the R63 AMG hot rod), and it's also the sole hauler to offer a manual transmission.
The Mazda MAZDA5's most recent makeover came in 2012, when it was given a 157 horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine as well as suspension tuning that makes it feel more like a sedan than a minivan. Expect to see fuel mileage of 21-mpg in city driving and 28-mpg on the highway regardless of whether the MAZDA5 is found with its six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission.