When in the market for a minivan, 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. And financing rates are typically lower than for a used vehicle.
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 for 200,000 miles or longer. Rust isn't nearly as big a problem as it was years ago, and solid-state electronics have eliminated the need for frequent tune-ups. That said, since minivans are frequently used as family vehicles, older minivans are likely to show more interior wear and tear than you might find on a car of similar age. Check carefully for rips, stains, smells, and other damage.
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