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Mini van or work van?
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May 26, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: kramer
Pertinent info: I've been living full time in my mini van since March (2007 dodge grand caravan) but it's got too many power features that are already breaking. Space is not an issue since it's just me. And I like how a mini van drives, gets better fuel economy, and is pretty stealthy (though so is a plain van I would think). However, I don't like the overly-electronic features like power seats, power side doors, power rear vent windows, etc. I also wonder if work vans have longer lasting engines and transmissions? Are work vans just built tougher overall? Am I focusing too much on gas mileage? I love road tripping and driving a lot and have plans to do a 365 day trip across America that would be 25,000+ miles so a difference of even 5 mpg would be significant.

If I go the mini van route, I'm thinking Toyota Sienna. Work van, not sure, econoline 150 or Chevy 1500? I told myself I wouldn't get another American car after seeing how shoddy this dodge has been but again are work vans different than mini vans in overall durability? Or is everything just plastic and crappy now?

Thank you all in advance for the advice.
Hobo Greg
Joined Mar 30, 2016
64 points
May 26, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Rappelling after setting up TR on AKD
Hobo Greg wrote:
(2007 dodge grand caravan) but it's got too many power features that are already breaking


You stated your problem- its a Dodge. Top two minivans for reliability are the Odyssey and the Sienna. I believe the Sienna has a little bit more interior space, but both are larger than the dodge. If you don't mind going old-school, the Previa seems to be a popular choice and, even though its a decade or more older than the grand caravan, will still have fewer problems (yay Toyota). Some things are more plasticky and more crappy than others. The Chrysler corp has a stellar reputation for terrible electrical systems and poor fit and finish. For my money (and perhaps because there's not a lot of it) I'm trying to find an old Previa.

Edit: To be fair to other American manufacturers, Chrysler's products are the worst of the bunch, regularly falling in last place among all vehicles available in the US (rankings by msn auto, edmunds, consumer reports, etc). I'm not suggesting Ford and Chevy are quite as reliable as their Japanese competitors, but they're much, much closer, and have been slowly closing the gap for the last 7 or 8 years.
Henry Holub
From Altus, Ok
Joined Nov 6, 2015
512 points
May 26, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Shuksan summit with the tiger
I have a 2004 Sienna with 207k miles on it that is going strong. Planning on many road trips to come. I think that livability/stealth camping is easier in a mostly windowless work van but MPGs and ride comfort are definitely better in the Sienna. Alexander K
From Boulder, CO
Joined Oct 26, 2014
68 points
May 26, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Rump roast II, pistol whipped, Indian Creek  Photo...
Previa and Sprinter owner here, though the Previa is no longer a stock type van.

Previas have idiosyncrasies which you need to know how to repair. Most modern day mechanics don't have the knowledge and some will bluster their way through faking it and screw up the repairs. Mechanics in the know often refuse to work on them. The factory service manual and onine forums devoted to the Previa are indispensible. And the Previa AWD is the best in the snow of any vehicle I have ever driven, and we live at 9300' in Colorado

If you want to travel rough dirt or 4x4 roads, full size vans are the way to go unless you mod your minivan. Previas can be lifted, but the AWD does not have hi/lo unless you transplant an 80's transfer case.

BTW, Previas don't get the greatest gas mileage. Mine gets about 21mpg highway. But if you can get one cheap, you get the savings on the front end.

YMMV


Rock Climbing Photo: Lifted 4x4 hi/lo transfer case, 5 speed manual tra...
Lifted 4x4 hi/lo transfer case, 5 speed manual transmission, custom self built front coilovers, bigger wheels and tires Previa
mountainhick
From Black Hawk, CO
Joined Mar 19, 2009
222 points
May 26, 2016
There are going to be trade-offs either way. For me, fuel economy is high on the list. As is fundamental mechanical reliability.

If you're happy with the space and clearance of a minivan, maybe you just need a more reliable minivan.
Kent Richards
Joined Jan 10, 2009
81 points
May 26, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Climb of an easy water ice route near Colorado Spr...
Anecdotal: my Sienna is great. Throw a crash pad in it with seats removed and it is comfy. Engine is great. I beat racecars off the line. Decent gas mileage for road trips. Automatic electronic Windows etc, still fine. Faulted Geologist
From Lawrence, KS
Joined Jan 7, 2015
161 points
May 26, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: profile pic
An acquaintance got a 1st gen Ford Transit Connect cargo van and put 2 roof boxes on it. It is a very nice set up, especially for weekend stuff. I very nearly decided to do the same, but ended up getting a 2004 sprinter. I kinda regret getting the sprinter because I'm spending a lot of time and money repairing it (though I think some of it is just the "regular" replacement of worn parts; the body rust, however, is not). I like driving the sprinter when I'm not thinking about repairs, though. Ben Stabley
From Portland, OR
Joined Sep 7, 2014
140 points
May 26, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: kramer
Thanks for all the input! It seems like even 20 mpg highway is not really possible with a work van (other than sprinter, but too much up front for me). And since I am totally happy with the space/clearance etc of alter mini, maybe the sienna is my best bet? Previa seems cool but as mentioned, repairs can be funky and I am anything but mechanical. So it's between Sienna and Odyssey is it?. Crapshoot either way or is one perhaps better than the other? I've never owned a Toyota but the civic I had was super reliable. Hobo Greg
Joined Mar 30, 2016
64 points
May 26, 2016
Hobo Greg wrote:
So it's between Sienna and Odyssey is it?. Crapshoot either way or is one perhaps better than the other?


I recommend checking Consumer Reports or something similar for the full picture on their comparative reliability.
Kent Richards
Joined Jan 10, 2009
81 points
May 26, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: kramer
Kent Richards wrote:
I recommend checking Consumer Reports or something similar for the full picture on their comparative reliability.


I have looked at both, but since things vary from year to year, I'd like to augment that with anecdotes from people on here. Also, Im hearing of the Honda Element as being an option, anyone have experience with it?
Hobo Greg
Joined Mar 30, 2016
64 points
May 26, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Sam Perkins; Ground-up FA; named because it's big ...
AWD Previa get the same MPG has my old AWD Astro and isn't half as capable. They tend to overheat, too. Ball
From Oakridge, OR
Joined Jan 18, 2010
113 points
May 26, 2016
The difference between 16 and 21 mpg for 25,000 miles at $2.25/gal is only 800 bucks. Get a decent cargo van and be done with it. I have a Chevy 1500 Express and enjoy it. Bill M
From Fort Collins, CO
Joined Jun 30, 2010
328 points
May 26, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: kramer
Bill M wrote:
The difference between 16 and 21 mpg for 25,000 miles at $2.25/gal is only 800 bucks. Get a decent cargo van and be done with it. I have a Chevy 1500 Express and enjoy it.


$800 more in just the first year of planned ownership is a significant margin when I don't need the extra space of a work van, however, if its more durable and cheaper on repairs etc in the long run I'd save money and I would consider it, is that the general case?
Hobo Greg
Joined Mar 30, 2016
64 points
May 26, 2016
I would not make generalizations. I assume "well maintained" is more important than a particular model of used van. Parts are inexpensive for my Chevy van and I am sure the same is true for a Ford. Bill M
From Fort Collins, CO
Joined Jun 30, 2010
328 points
May 26, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: kramer
Bill M wrote:
I would not make generalizations. I assume "well maintained" is more important than a particular model of used van.


I would have agreed 100% before owning this Dodge, which I bought at 110k, one owner, will full service records. Since then, Ive put 8k on it but have had to replace the radiator, the drivers side sliding door stopped working from the inside (no manual override, so I have to open driver door and reach around to outside handle every morning to exit), and theres minor but concerning things like once in a while, the LCD displays will get really bright for a few seconds, for no reason whatsoever. Or how the passenger front seat won't move more than 1/4" (again, no manual override) and as such, I can't put the seat behind it down and its taking up space.

Fun fact, Mike Lechlinski and a friend replaced my radiator at the cost of one radiator and four twelve-packs of Sierra. I wanted to help but had recently dislocated my elbow in a fall. That was one hell of a week!
Hobo Greg
Joined Mar 30, 2016
64 points
May 27, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: profile pic
Hobo Greg wrote:
Im hearing of the Honda Element as being an option, anyone have experience with it?


I think Steph Davis, her bf, and dog lived in an element until recently, if that means anything to you. Could probably check her old blog posts to see what she wrote about it.
Ben Stabley
From Portland, OR
Joined Sep 7, 2014
140 points
May 27, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Sam Perkins; Ground-up FA; named because it's big ...
Old cargo van with a broken water pump: $30 and 30 minutes to fix.

Previa: good fucking luck!
Ball
From Oakridge, OR
Joined Jan 18, 2010
113 points
May 27, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Sam Perkins; Ground-up FA; named because it's big ...
My friend complained that the Element has terrible mpg and if you load it up you need air shocks or it'll sag hard and eat tires. God help you if the water pump goes on a sideways-mounted engine from any make. I replaced one on a Chevy and a Honda; the Chevy wasn't too bad, but the Honda required removing engine mounts, the balancer, timing cover...

Express van with a chip get 20mpg. My Astro got 20 even though I jacked it up a couple inches. You're only going to get significant gas savings if you buy a hybrid, geo metro, or old 90s Mazda. If it's just one person and little gear you can make it work by pulling the passenger seat. I wouldn't cal it livable, though.
Ball
From Oakridge, OR
Joined Jan 18, 2010
113 points
May 27, 2016
My 2004 AWD Toyota Sienna just turned 250,000 miles. 12 years of great road trips, super reliable vehicle, big cargo space, a bit more expensive up front to pay for that Toyota quality, gets into many roads that the 4WD gas guzzlers get into. And still going strong. The minivan is cool! :) Wally
From Denver
Joined Apr 12, 2006
32 points
May 27, 2016
A late 2000's Chevy Express 1500 has decent room to work in the engine compartment - not as much as a flat 6 in an old pickup, but lots more than a minivan. Bill M
From Fort Collins, CO
Joined Jun 30, 2010
328 points
May 27, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Sam Perkins; Ground-up FA; named because it's big ...
Wally wrote:
Toyota quality


Highly dependent on year, model, and day of the week it was made. Just pray you never have to work on one. I just replaced the PCV valve on my 3L and WHEW!
Ball
From Oakridge, OR
Joined Jan 18, 2010
113 points
Administrator
May 27, 2016
Hobo Greg wrote:
Thanks for all the input! It seems like even 20 mpg highway is not really possible with a work van

I own a Nissan NV200 cargo van and I get 30 MPG highway (60 MPH) and about 25 city. You're right, 20 MPG is very unlikely with those old-ass vans because they are built for power with zero consideration for fuel economy. Back when those were designed, fuel was $1.50 a gallon and no one cared about fuel economy. You're going to have to buy something made in the last few years if fuel economy is your concern. There are several smaller cargo vans out there that can get 25 - 32 MPG on the highway. The Transit Connect, Chevy City, and NV200 are all examples.

Also, yes, the fuel economy in the Element totally blows considering the size of the vehicle and size of the engine.
20 kN
From Hawaii
Joined Feb 2, 2009
1,219 points
May 27, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Sam Perkins; Ground-up FA; named because it's big ...
20 kN wrote:
I own a Nissan NV200 cargo van and I get 30 MPG highway (60 MPH) and about 25 city. You're right, 20 MPG is very unlikely with those old-ass vans because they are built for power, with zero consideration for fuel economy. Back when those were designed, fuel was $1.70 a gallon and no one cared about fuel economy. You're going to have to buy something made in the last few years if fuel economy is your concern. There are several smaller cargo vans out there that can get 25 - 32 MPG on the highway. The Transit Connect, Chevy City, and NV200 are all examples.


Actually, gas is pretty cheap now. it's Americans who are poorer.
Ball
From Oakridge, OR
Joined Jan 18, 2010
113 points
May 28, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Middle
20 kN wrote:
I own a Nissan NV200 cargo van and I get 30 MPG highway (60 MPH) and about 25 city. You're right, 20 MPG is very unlikely with those old-ass vans because they are built for power with zero consideration for fuel economy. Back when those were designed, fuel was $1.50 a gallon and no one cared about fuel economy. You're going to have to buy something made in the last few years if fuel economy is your concern. There are several smaller cargo vans out there that can get 25 - 32 MPG on the highway. The Transit Connect, Chevy City, and NV200 are all examples. Also, yes, the fuel economy in the Element totally blows considering the size of the vehicle and size of the engine.


You have to also consider the non monetary cost of ownership when you drive around the Nissan. You'll get 30mpg but you actually have to drive the thing, god forbid someone sees you in it. Is the fuel economy worth looking and feeling like an emasculated twink?
Ray Pinpillage
From West Egg
Joined Jul 23, 2010
180 points
Administrator
May 29, 2016
Ray Pinpillage wrote:
You have to also consider the non monetary cost of ownership when you drive around the Nissan. You'll get 30mpg but you actually have to drive the thing, god forbid someone sees you in it. Is the fuel economy worth looking and feeling like an emasculated twink?

As opposed to driving around in a blacked-out 1990's cargo van that screams child molester?
20 kN
From Hawaii
Joined Feb 2, 2009
1,219 points
May 29, 2016
Don't listen to Ball!!!

My Astro was the worst vehicle I've ever owned. That even includes the 89 Toyota pickup that had been underwater. Or the corolla I got from a junkyard.

I've got a 95' T100 with 220k now that gets 19 in the winter and 22 in the summer. It is also 4wd with 31's. It can also handle a U-Haul trailer.

The only convenience T the Astro offered was the ability to take off muddy shoes while inside.

Reliability wise, there is no contest. Old Toyotas cost hundreds a year on maintenance, occasionally. Many years it's less. My Chevy cost almost 5000 in repairs in a year before I cut my losses.

If you get a new Toyota or Honda, you won't have anything beyond oil changes for probably 100k or longer.
highaltitudeflatulentexpulsion
From Colorado
Joined Oct 29, 2012
43 points


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