The Best Minivan of 2013

20 Nov

You could be forgiven for thinking that this is just an old article, but we are all about used minivans, and letting someone else take that initial depreciation hit for us, so now that the 2013 minivans are approaching 3 years old, lets take a look at them and see which 2013 is the pick of the crop.

Our Comparisons

To try and keep things as fair as possible, we have tried to keep things as similar as we could, this was pretty easy as most recent vehicles in this category have pretty similar specs anyway.

We tried to pick a model in the middle of the range, with the same 40,000 miles and silver in color, and used my zipcode for the area.

Most of the vans come with V6 engines, auto gearboxes, dual AC, keyless entry, radio, CD and front and curtain airbags. If any of the models differs greatly from the specs of the others we will call that out as part of the model overview.  For a couple of the vans that didn’t have as many frills as standard (like backup cameras or navigation) looking at the used market seemed like you could still get these models with those options, and it didn’t appear to change the price on the used market.

Our Contenders

We have 9 contenders for the crown of Best Minivan 2013, they are listed alphabetically to be fair.

2013 Chrysler Town and Country S

Like most of the minivans in this comparison the Town and Country does come with a V6 engine producing 283HP mated to a 6 speed automatic transmission which manages 17MPG around town and 25MPG on the highway.

It does come as standard with a backup camera and leather seats, and seats 7 people.

2013 Dodge Caravan SE

This is the slightly less upmarket little brother of the Town and Country, while mechanically they are very similar, having the same engine and gearbox that give the same economy numbers the Caravan only gets steel wheels with plastic trims as standard.

It also has seating for 7, there is no leather seating or backup camera as standard.

2013 GMC Savana 1500 LT Passenger Van

While this is not strictly a minivan, it does have a similar purpose, so it has been included in our comparison to see how it stacks up against the rest of our 2013 models.

The Savana gets a 310HP V8 engine and rear wheel drive from its truck based roots, but also gains a more utilitarian interior with no leather or backup camera, in fact for 2013 the standard radio did not even have a CD player.

The van does seat 8, but access is limited by only having 3 passenger doors, with an additional pair of doors at the back for accessing the luggage area.

2013 Honda Odyssey EX

The Odyssey is one of the longest running models in this group, and to a lot of people it the firs vehicle they think of when they hear minivan.

Like most of the vans in the comparison, it comes with a V6 engine and automatic gearbox, and get a leather interior as well as a back up camera.  It does have seating for 8, which only a few of the minivans in this comparison have.

2013 Kia Sedona EX

Kia are one of the newer car brands to the US, but have been building a solid reputation by building vehicles with Japanese levels of quality and selling them for less than their competitors.

The Kia comes similarly equipped to the other vans, with a V6 engine and automatic gearbox, it does come with a backup camera, but leather is an option.

2013 Mazda MAZDA5 Touring

This is our other entry that doesn’t quite match the others, but we threw it into the mix to see how it faired.

The MAZDA5 is a lot smaller than the rest of the minivans in this comparison, but still manages to seat 6 people.  It only has a 4 cylinder engine and a 5 speed auto transmission, but it also weighs around 1000 lbs less than the other vans in this group, making its performance comparable and giving it an edge in economy.

On the inside there is no backup camera or leather as standard, but the interior still feels durable and high quality.

2013 Nissan Quest SV

Of the minivans from the big three Japanese makers, this is probably the least well known.

It too has a V6 engine but the conventional auto gearbox is replaced by a CVT one, which should mean a smoother ride and slightly better fuel economy.

The interior is about on par with the other vehicles in the group, providing a backup camera but no leather as standard, it also only seats 7 compared to the 8 seats from both of our other Japanese vans.

2013 Toyota Sienna LE

Specification wise this is almost the Odysseys twin, and that shouldn’t be surprising as these two fight it out everyday to be the best selling imported minivan.

The Sienna has a V6 engine and 6 speed automatic transmission, and a backup camera.  While all of the specs sheets I found said this model should not have leather as standard I actually gave up looking for a used one that didn’t have the leather interior.  Seating is provided for 8 people, making it and the Odyssey the only regular minivans with seating for 8 in this comparison.

2013 Volkswagen Routan SE

The Routan was only imported for a handful of years, 2013 was one of them, but still don’t expect to find one of these used anywhere as easily as an Odyssey, Sienna or Grand Caravan.

It’s specs are actually near the top of the group, with heated leather seats and a backup camera being added to the V6 engine and auto transmission.  It seats 7 people, and interestingly wasn’t available in silver as standard, so all of our price comparisons will be based off a white van.

The Results

Ownership Costs

Saving a little money is one of the main reasons we want to buy a used minivan, so costs should one of the top facts to consider. The table below shows used price for each model with as close to the same specifications as I could find and the same milage, the price when the vehicle was new, and the used price a percentage of the purchase price (Higher is better).

The list is from best to worst, and is based of the percentage of the cars initial cost it still retains.

Minivan Original Purchase Price Current Price Retained Value
Odyssey $31,825 $21,312 67.0%
Toyota Sienna $30,135 $20,049 66.5%
GMC Savana $29,510 $18,448 62.5%
Mazda5 $22,070 $13,262 60.1%
Quest $29,740 $18,078 60.1%
Grand Caravan $23,395 $13,821 59.1%
Routan $32,010 $18,384 57.4%
Kia Sedona $29,190 $16,500 56.5%
Town and Country $32,050 $17,898 55.8%

 

Fuel Efficiency

A large part of how much the vehicle costs to own is based on its fuel efficiency.

The table below shows the published figures for city and highway driving as well as an estimated cost per year for gas based off 20,000 miles/year with gas costing $2.50 / gallon and the mix of driving being 60% city, 40% highway. Results are best to worst.

Minivan City MPG Highway MPG Estimated Gas cost/year
Mazda5 22 28 $2078.00
Quest 19 25 $2,379.00
Odyssey 18 27 $2,406.00
Toyota Sienna 18 25 $2,466.75
Kia Sedona 18 25 $2,466.75
Routan 17 25 $2,564.75
Town and Country 17 25 $2,564.75
Grand Caravan 17 25 $2,564.75
GMC Savana 13 17 $3,484.25

 

The GMC is completely outclassed here, but that is the side effect of the V10 engine and the heavy truck chassis.

The Mazda is the runaway winner, but that is due to the smaller engine and the lighter total weight.

For the full size vans, they are all pretty close, less than a $200 spread from best to worst per year.

Reliability and Reviews

It is hard to find reliability numbers that are actually consistent between sources, and a lot of customer reviews and ratings are normally based off a comparison with their previous vehicle, meaning the same vehicle could get wildly different reviews depending on if the customers previous car was a 15 year old beater or a brand new $80,000 luxury sedan.

For those reasons we will not actually score this section, but we will add our experience, imported asian/Japanese cars seem to be more reliable, and when you do have a problem visiting their dealers seem to be more pleasant experience.

European imports are probably a little more reliable than domestic vehicles, but when something does go wrong it will probably more expensive to fix than either domestic or Japanese imported minivans.

Given these vehicles will all be reasonably new, reliability should not really be an issue with any of them, but you should carefully examine the service records to see if there is any signs that this vehicle may have more than its fair share of problems.

And The Best Minivan 2013 is…

Well it is actually a tie, The 2013 Honda Odyssey and the 2013 Toyota Sienna are so similar on paper that there is really nothing to say one is better than the other.

Our advise is to go and look at both of them, and drive them both, and see if you have any emotional attraction to either.  If you don’t then don’t worry about it, just watch for the best deal you can on both, and then pick the best deal you can find, and feel happy about getting a great deal on a great used minivan.

An honorable mention goes to the Mazda5, if a slightly smaller minivan fits what you need then this is the bargain of the group. It’s much lower current price means instant savings, and its impressive fuel economy numbers mean you will keep saving money over a full size minivan for as long as you own it.

The domestic entries did not do great against the competition, with the Chrysler having lost almost half of its initial cost in less than three years.  I think the domestic car companies are making great strides to make their cars and minivans better, and a 2013 Town and Country is a great improvement over a 2006, but the rest of the market is moving up too, and they still have some ground to make up to be on equal footings with the Japanese imports.