Saturday, November 28, 2009

Shopping for a new minivan

It's getting to be time to get rid of the Windstar, she's starting to nickel and dime us with repairs (and being a 2001 with 152K miles, is not worth a whole lot and probably won't last much longer anyway). The main problems are ones that are difficult to diagnose - both warning brake lights on the dash come on for no reason at random times, the back windows may or may not open (and if you get them open, they may not close), the number lock keypad doesn't work, the keyless beeper doesn't always unlock the doors, and 7 times out of 10, when you start the van, the windshield wipers cycle. Most of this has been a problem ever since we bought the van, and the dealer hasn't been able to diagnose what is causing it, so they can't fix it (and I'm not throwing any more money at diagnostic attempts when it's costing $80 an hour, and is going to cost the same to fix it, plus whatever the needed parts may cost).
So DH and I have been out looking at minivans. Now, the Windstar was a good one, other than the electrical problems (and so was my Grand Caravan, till it had electrical problems). So far, most of the minivans we've looked at - Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Kia, Honda, Toyota, Dodge - are all about the same. They're all easy to get in and out of, they all get about the same gas mileage (anywhere from 16/18 mpg city to 23/25 mpg hwy and I'm not going to quibble over a couple of miles difference), and all of them have pretty comfortable seating. All of the newer ones (anything 2007 and after) have front and rear heat/air. The only ones I've seen that have the Stow'N'Go seating tho, are the Kia Sedona and the Dodge/Chrysler/Plymouth minivans (and I really like the idea of the Stow'N'Go).
One drawback is that I will need to get seatbelt extenders with whichever one we decide to go with. Seems they've decided to shorten seatbelts. The seatbelt in my '97 Grand Caravan fit with room to spare, but in the 2008 I drove yesterday, it was tight (yeah, it fastened, but I had no room to move, and if I was ever in an accident, the damned thing would probably decapitate me). The Kia was the same way. But seatbelt extenders are usually free, and that's a small thing.
I think we've narrowed our choices down to the Kia Sedona or the Dodge Grand Caravan. I've driven both of them (DH won't drive them, he calls minivans "chickmobiles", and only drives his 4WD F150). The Kia, well, just let me say that I would definitely need to use the cruise control on the highway at all times. It accelerates quite well (yeah, it and would get away from me if I wasn't careful. Of course, the Dodge was the same way, so that doesn't really go in to making the decision on which one we buy.
We're looking at how many miles are on each one, how much warranty is left on each one, the best price on each one, and what we can get on trade-in for the Windstar from each dealer. A lot will also depend on which one our bank will finance for us, too.
So, what does this have to do with FA/SA? Being a fat person, especially a fat person with arthritis who finds it next to impossible to get in and out of cars, I thought it would be informative for other people with similar difficulties to know what I've learned in my minivan shopping.
Granted, I prefer Dodges, I've had a lot of them in my car-owning history and they've always been good vehicles (and my dad likes them too, and that's a big influence on me). My son just bought a Kia Optima and recommended that I look at their minivans (he loves the Optima), so that's why I looked at the Sedona (yeah, I do tend to listen to my son when it comes to vehicles, he's not steered me wrong on the ones I've bought that he recommended). As always, YMMV, but if you're looking for a minivan that will fit someone up to 350 pounds and 5' 8" tall, the 2007 and newer Dodge and Kia minivans do it admirably (with the addition of a seatbelt extender).


  1. Interesting! Did you look at the "cute utes" at all, or small sport utility vehicles? I find they are a nice height and my CR-V is pretty roomy.

  2. We looked at them, but none of them had the 3 rows of seating that we need when we visit family and want to take one vehicle for shopping or dining out (not all of us will fit in DH's truck or my son's car, so the minivan with 3 rows of seating is a necessity).

  3. I have a 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan and am very happy with it. It has the sto-and-go seating and can fit the whole family (including the dog). Good luck with your purchasing decision!
    Minivan Mom

  4. Between friends and family, we've seen Dodge, Toyota, Ford and Honda minivans. By far the best ones have been the Toyotas and Hondas. FAR less repairs and later expenses on them, as I believe Consumer Reports has shown many times. Also, it retains its resale value much better than other brands.

    My Dodge was a very decent van, I have to that's probably an OK buy. But it's definitely required far more repairs and upkeep than the Japanese vans, so I think those are the best bang for the buck. JMO. Good luck whatever you buy.


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