When in the market for your next car, the first consideration is whether to buy a new or used. Buying a brand-new minivan certainly has its benefits. Most notably, new minivans can have the very latest safety gear and engineering improvements. And with a new minivan, you know what you're getting, and it is backed by a comprehensive factory warranty. You don't have to worry about potential service problems or concealed collision damage. Further, you can have your choice of color, trim line, and option level.
The key drawback with buying a new minivan is rapid depreciation. A new car can shed a third of its value in its first two or three years on the road. If you have financed the new car with a low down payment, you can easily find yourself "upside down" on the loan, where you owe more than the car is worth.
Used minivans can be a welcomed alternative. The used-car market is about three times the size of the new-car market, so there's certainly plenty of choice out there. One of the best strategies is to find a minivan you like that's only a couple of years old. Such a minivan has already taken its biggest depreciation hit, which works to your advantage, but it should still have most of its useful life ahead of it. Modern minivans, if soundly maintained, can stay on the road a long, long time. Rust, for example, isn't nearly the problem it was years ago. Likewise, solid-state electronics have eliminated the need for a lot of the regular servicing that was necessary in the past. An older minivan will likely have more wear and tear than you might find on a minivan of similar age, further pointing toward more recent examples as attractive buys.
The key to selecting a good used minivan is to focus on reliability, even when a prospective automobile is still covered by its original factory warranty. In this segment, that qualifier narrows the field to Honda and Toyota, brands that have a history of making reliable minivans.
CR's reliability scores are no guarantee, of course, but they do carry the weight of probability. If you shop for minivans with top-notch reliability scores, the odds are on your side. At the same time, every used car is unique. A careful pre-purchase inspection remains a vital part of the process. With minivans, there are many controls and systems, so try to use them all before buying to ensure you don't have surprises later. If you do your homework and take care in the selection, a used minivan can save you significant money in the long run.
Whether buying new or used, it is important to do research so you can choose a good model, and follow that up with effective negotiation.
Learn more in our used car buying guide
See coming minivans in our New Car Preview
Check our Car Brand Report Cards to learn more about each automaker.