Once you have done your research and decided which minivan you want, and have set your budget, the next question is where to start looking for the best deal.
Set Your Budget
While you may already have a budget in mind, you should do some final research before you start looking at vans. Both Kelly Blue Book and Edmunds are great tools for working out how much used vehicles in any combination of condition and age should cost, but this should just be used as a guide.
It is common for local prices to not match the guide prices, but you will get a feel for where you local prices are once you start looking at cars, just be wary of anything that is either much higher or lower than the rest in your area.
Finally, before you start looking, work out what is the absolute maximum you want to spend, because, if you don’t, you will end up finding a car in much better condition than you expected which is more expensive than the rest of the others in your area, and you should know if it still within your budget, as it is really easy to overspend when the car is right in front of you.
Where to Buy
The choice of where to buy your used minivan, or where to start looking to buy, is best guided by the age of van you are considering.
Less Than 2 Years Old
If you are looking for a minivan that is less than two years old then you really should consider starting at the dealer that sells the new version of that van.
While you will always pay more buying from a dealer than you would if you bought directly from its current owner, there are advantages from buying from the dealer such as:
- Extended warranty through a certified dealer plan may be available
- The dealer may already have knowledge of that specific van, especially if that dealership originally sold it, and has serviced it
- You may be able to get better financing rates
- You can trade in your current vehicle rather than trying to sell it yourself.
Now this doesn’t mean that buying from the authorized dealer is your only option, you can pick up some great deals buying privately or through another dealer that has taken that vehicle as a trade in, and this could save you enough money over the authorized dealer price to cover any additional finance charges, or buy a better warranty.
Between 2 and 7 Years Old
Once the vehicle you are looking for is over 2 years old a lot of the authorized dealer benefits become less attractive, their certified plans do not cover as many of the vehicles they sell, and the financing rates fall more in line with what you can get yourself from a bank or credit union.
With used minivans in this age range the best deals are normally found at non-franchised dealers, so if they sell new vehicles this is not the right place, or from private sales.
If you have some mechanical knowledge (or have a friend who does) then I would suggest starting with the private sales from places like autotrader our craigslist as those will be the places that you get the best deals, but make sure you get the minivan checkout out mechanically before you buy it, and also get a vehicle history check from a company like Carfax.
If you would prefer to get a vehicle with a warranty then buying from a local dealer or a used car vehicle chain like CarMax, as they will almost always offer you an extended warranty when you purchase a van in this age range. Buying from a dealer will also give you the option of trading in your current vehicle, if that is what you are looking to do.
Over 7 Years Old
Once you get to a vehicle that is 7 years old, or older, then the best place to buy is almost always via private sale.
At this point any dealer history adds very little value to the vehicle and any manufacturers warranty has all but expired. Buying an extended warranty for a van in this age range, which probably has almost 100,000 miles on it becomes very expensive when compared to the price of the vehicle you are buying.
Top things to check when buying a used minivan:
- Check the vans functionality, check the horn, lights, windows, power locks etc.
- Check the tires, if you are going to need tires soon either use that to negotiate down the price or get the seller to replace the them.
- Test drive the minivan, check it accelerates smoothly, changes gear correctly, drives without any vibrations, and brakes without any vibration, noise or pulling.
- Check the vehicles history on a site like Carfax, to make sure it has not been in any major accidents, or has been stolen.
- Make sure the seller has the title for the vehicle, and there are no lien-holders, if there are get something in writing to say the lien will be paid off when the vehicle is sold.
- Have the vehicle inspected by a mechanic, as they are likely to find any major mechanical problems with it.
- Pay using cash, or a cashier check, get a receipt and take the vehicle with you as soon as you have paid.
Once You Have Your New to You Minivan
Once you have the van in your possession one of the first things you should do is take it for an oil change at a place that also offers free inspections, that way you will know that the oil and filter have been changed recently, and you will also have another opinion on any future work that may need to be done.
Also, don’t forget to let your insurance company know about your new minivan, and if you have any toll-tags or parking permits let them know the details of your new ride too.