The Best Used Minivan under $5000

12 Oct

If you are looking for a used minivan and have a $5000 budget, then which choice is the best use of your hard earned money?

We will compare six of the most popular used minivans than can be found for under $5000, these are, the Chrysler Town & Country, the Dodge Caravan, the Ford Freestar, the Honda Odyssey, the Nissan Quest and the Toyota Sienna.

The Ground Rules

  • The majority of our data was taken from Kelly Blue Book, including pricing and specifications.
  • We adjusted the model years of each chosen model to get either under or very close to $5000, for the models that are a little over $5000 you could try to locate a model with a few more miles on it to bring the price down into your target range.
  • The prices listed are for my area of North Texas, your area may be more or less expensive, so you may need to modify model year or mileage if the budget is being strictly stuck to.
  • For each vehicle the price was for a van in very good condition, being sold privately, and the trim level was one above base, and with no additional options.
  • The depreciation value is worked out by looking at the private sale value of the same model van two model years older.
  • Fuel costs will be based on driving 15,000 miles per year for two years, with the mileage being a mix of 75% city/25% highway, with gas costing $3.50 per gallon.
  • Maintenance costs between the vehicles are assumed to be about the same, with vehicles of this age there is no resale advantage to having a dealers history, so all of the servicing could be done at more reasonably priced neighbourhood garages.

What Features are the Same?

All of the minivans in this comparison, have a base set of features that are the same no matter which of the vehicles in this comparison you choose.

They all have 7 seats, a V6 engine, cruise control, driver and passenger front airbags, power windows and power door locks.

Additional features that are only included on some of the used minivans, such as alloy wheels, power sliding doors or leather interior will be included in each vans description.

The Contenders

2007 Chrysler Town and Country – $4322

2007-chrysler-town & country The Town and Country is the slightly more upmarket cousin of one of the other vehicles in this comparison, the Dodge Caravan.

The purchase price gets you a 2007 LX model with around 99,000 miles on the clock.  In addition to the standard features you also get leather seats and the drivers seat is power adjustable, but you do not get alloy wheels.

It has a 20 gallon fuel tank, which is pretty common amongst the group being compared, and has a stated fuel economy of 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway, which with our 75/25 split of driving gives us around 375 miles between fill ups.

Ownership costs for the two year evaluation window would be $1255 for depreciation and $5725 for gas.

2007 Dodge Caravan – $5082

2007 Dodge CaravanDodge and Chrysler are essentially the same company, and the similarities between the Caravan and the Town & Country are clear to see.

Almost ironically, while the Chrysler is considered to the more upmarket model, the Dodge is more expensive to buy used for the same year and mileage.

For $5082 you get a 2007 Dodge Caravan SXT with 99,000 miles, so to stay under the $5000 budget you may need to look for one with a couple of thousand more miles.  Alloy wheels are the only addition to the other features that are common to the other vehicles in this comparison.

The same 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway as well as the 20 gallon tank as the Chrysler give it the same 375 mile range between fill ups.

Depreciation for the two years is estimated to be $1636, and gas costs $5725.

2006 Ford Freestar – $4794

2006 Ford Freestar

The Ford makes the third of our domestic choices for the best used minivan under $5000.

To stay under our $5000 budget we have had to go a model year older to get to get this, a 2006 Ford Freestar SEL, and that year older adds to the mileage on the van, giving us 106,000 miles.

As with the Dodge, the Ford gets alloy wheels in addition to the other vehicle features.  The Ford does have a 26 gallon fuel tank that is the largest in the comparison, but also ties for the lowest fuel economy in the group with 15 mpg city and 21 mpg highway, resulting in a distance travelled of around 430 miles between fill ups.

Considering our two year running costs, gas for the combined 30,000 miles would be $6500 and depreciation would weigh in at $1451.

2004 Honda Odyssey – $4392

2004 Honda Odyssey

The Odyssey starts our trio of Japanese made minivans, and is considered by many to the the best of the breed, but how well does it compare to others in this fixed price comparison.

To stay under our $5000 budget we were forced to step back to a 2004 EX model, 2 years or more older than the domestically made vans it is up against, and that results in an estimated mileage of 124,000 miles.

Even though the minivan is a couple of years older it steps up with some nice additional features including alloy wheels, a power sliding door and front side airbags.

The Honda’s V6 engine manages 16 mpg city and 23 mpg on the highway, so coupled with it’s 20 gallon fuel tank the Odyssey should be able to get around 355 miles out of a tank of gas.

Depreciation for the Honda is $1612 and gas costs for the two years would work out to $6063.

2002 Nissan Quest – $4337

2002 Nissan Quest

The Nissan is the oldest vehicle in this comparison, there may have been enough room below our $5000 budget to step up to a 2003 model, but Nissan did not make the Quest that year, and the 2004’s are over $6000, so we are stuck with the 2002 model.

Our $4337 gets us a 2002 SE model with 142,000 miles on the clock, almost 50% more than our 2007 domestic vans, although you could spend some of the almost $700 left in your budget to try and find a low mileage example, and reduce the gap a little.

The Nissan does manage to add alloy wheels to the standard spec for this comparison, but that is the only addition.

15 mpg city and 21 mpg highway puts the Quest at joint worst fuel economy with the Ford, but the Nissan only has a 20 gallon gas tank resulting in the worst miles per tank figure of this group with only 330 miles.

While you will be filling up more frequently with the Quest, its gas cost for the two years and 30,000 miles is the same as the Ford at $6500, but depreciation would be the lowest in the group at $924.

2003 Toyota Sienna – $4628

2003 Toyota Sienna

The final used minivan in this comparison is also an import offering the same perceived quality as the Honda, but does not appear to have the same, almost cult, following.

This time our budget gets us a 2003 LE model with 134,000 miles travelled so far.

The Toyota may be the sparsest of all of the vans compared here having no additional features over the standard set offered by the rest of the group.

Fuel economy is close to the highest in the group, managing 17 mpg city and 23 mpg on the highway.  This coupled with its 21 gallon tank gives it a range of 388 miles, only beaten by the Ford with it’s monster tank.

The ownership costs for our two year period would be $5775 and depreciation would add another $1030.

So What is the Best Used Minivan Under $5000

So with the overview of our used minivans taken care of, which one is best?

Clearly buying a domestic minivan gets you a newer vehicle with less miles, which could result in less maintenance costs, but given imports reputation for reliability I think maintenance costs would probably come out pretty close between any of the cars in this test unless you picked up a lemon.

The additional safety and convenience features of the Odyssey are tempting, but they could just be adding extra things that could go wrong with what is already a decade old vehicle.

Minivan Year Mileage MPG City MPG Hwy Gas Cost Depreciation Ownership Cost
Town & Country 2007 99,000 17 24 $5725 $1255 $6980
Caravan 2007 99,000 17 24 $5725 $1636 $7361
Freestar 2006 106,000 15 21 $6500 $1451 $7951
Odyssey 2004 124,000 16 23 $6063 $1612 $7675
Quest 2002 142,000 15 21 $6500 $924 $7424
Sienna 2003 134,000 17 23 $5775 $1030 $6805


Looking at the numbers, the depreciation on the Odyssey is surprising to me, especially given the lower numbers for the other two imports.  Also, a little surprising is that a domestic van has the lowest gas cost, but that may be as a result of the better technology in a newer engine.

Based on the total cost of ownership and Toyota’s reputation for reliability, my pick for the best used minivan under $5000 is the 2003 Toyota Sienna LE.