Question Crap. Best of crappy choices?


Senior Community Member
So. If you needed a new used minivan, and had no money, what would you do?
In the $4k and under price range. But in that price range, I'm looking at a bunch of crappy choices.

Here's sort of what i have figured out..maybe someone can help think it through, or give add'tl info?

I'm looking at maybe 97-2002 ish model years.

Which means that any dodge, etc brand vehicle is going to have gen 3 seatbelts. i am exceptionally not okay with this, especially since i now have a full time booster rider, and that seat belt is the only damn thing keeping her in the car. If it fails/unlatches, etc...... :eek::( So dodge, etc is out.

So, moving on..i cant get a new gen sedona for that, and im not interested in the much less safe, less reliable pre-06 models. So kia is out.

I was looking hard at the fords, but there are so many windstar recalls, plus after looking online, i can barely find a GOOD review...the reliability is apparently crap, .almost everyone (including my stepson) says that they had serious mechanical issues and had to sink thousands in major repairs - and we absolutely will NOT be able to pay for thousands of dollars in repairs should something happen. So ford out.

the montana/transport/silhouette/venture....well..we all know the crash test results on those. :( it makes me a tad ill to think about putting my family in one. IIHS "worst performing vehicle" is NOT the award I want my car to have, ya know? SAme thing with the astro/safari...horrific crash test results. Chevy, et all, out.

Ody's..not a lot in my price range, if any..and those that are have 200K+ on them, plus some model years that far back had serious tranny issues.

Siennas...hahahah again, rare in that price range, and if they are, it's because they've been crashed or have 200k + on them, etc. And even for a toyota, chances are crap is going to start falling apart after 200k miles.

So...what? Suck it up and finance a newer nicer van, going even further into the murky pit of debt? Live with just one 5-passenger vehicle? (we're a family of 7 with 3 in school, and both dh and i work..this would be HELLISH to try and do for any amount of time). Give up the idea of a van, and just get a cheap older car, so we would at least have 2 vehicles, even if neither would seat the whole family? Option D ? (i dont know what that might be lol, you have to tell me. )


New member
I understand how you feel about the Ford recalls, and the spotty reliability record, but really, for a minivan in that price range that gets decent crash scores, I think it's the best option.

ETA-we really liked our 99 Windstar. We bought it when it was nine years old, had it for a year, with no issues at all, and the only reason we got rid of it was the rising gas prices. We couldn't justify keeping it when we only had one child. We traded it for a 2003 Focus.

ETA again-we had an older (like, a 91, IIRC) MPV before the Windstar, and I don't think the MPVs get decent scores at all until the newer model years. I'm not sure if you can find a new enough MPV to have good scores in your price range, but if you can, it might be worth a look. I didn't look at them seriously because the ones in my price range (when we were buying 3 years ago) were old enough to get bad scores.


New member
I'd probably go with the Windstar. It was at the top of our list a few years back when we had a lower budget and were going to need a bigger car.

I also don't know much about cars, but I didn't see the MPV on your list. Currently we're in a T&C, but it was between this and the MPV when we were looking. The T&C won out only because we needed something RIGHT THEN, and would've had to wait a month for the MPV.

An Aurora

Senior Community Member
I would think MPV, Sienna, Ody, even if they have higher miles. I'd rather a higher mileage Toyota or Honda than a newer Dodge, Chevy, Ford, etc with less miles.


New member
I just remember van shopping 3ish years ago, with 4K or less as our budget, too, and the Siennas and Odysseys in our price range were old enough that they didn't have great crash scores; the Windstar was better (you just need to make sure to get a 99+, IIRC, because the 98 and older don't have rear headrests). I wanted an Ody, but in that price range, we could only get the older body style. We had to go so much older with Toyota or Honda to stay in our price range.


Well-known member
Having been in that situation my entire adult life, at some point SOMETHING has to let go. {{{HUGS}}}

As bad as the Gen3 belts are, the actual rate of failure is very, VERY low. As bad as the crash test results are with the GM vehicles, I can assure you they're still very safe.

Have you seen the photos from when I crashed my Astro?

I rolled it (ice). The boys were in the back in a dh-installed (jerry-rigged :whistle: ) seat with ELR belts. Projectiles EVERYWHERE. (I was hit in the shoulder by the "custom" center console, which wasn't secured.DH's metal workbench was in the back, and was twisted all to hell by the crash.) The car rolled completely once, landed on the wheels, then kept rolling, finally landing on the roof facing oncoming traffic because it was spinning around clockwise as it rolled.

Yet, when you look at the pictures, it doesn't look THAT bad, and the boys were completely unhurt - not even a scratch. (They wouldn't ride a roller coaster for years afterwards.:p ) I bumped my head on the driver's side window, and had a lovely set of bruises on my shoulder from the console. I was 5 weeks pregnant with Joy at the time. The ambulance driver and EMT on board insisted on NOT leaving us at the car (it was snowing), but didn't take us to the ER.... they drove me to my IL's house instead. We were FINE.

Was the car a "safe" car? Hell no. Would I CHOOSE it again? No, I didn't choose it to begin with. But, despite it being "unsafe", it DID protect us in a VERY serious crash. (I wish I could find the pics. Apparently, I don't have them in any of my online albums anymore.) The EMTs were floored that we didn't have any injuries.


Moderator - CPSTI Emeritus
Was the car a "safe" car? Hell no. Would I CHOOSE it again? No, I didn't choose it to begin with. But, despite it being "unsafe", it DID protect us in a VERY serious crash. (I wish I could find the pics. Apparently, I don't have them in any of my online albums anymore.) The EMTs were floored that we didn't have any injuries.

This, exactly. We were in a side-impact crash in our Astro - two adults, five kids, other car hit us doing 35-40mph, no serious injuries.

I was also in a side-impact crash in an Eagle Summit - aka "Dodge Colt," which is another car that had horrible crash ratings. Two adults, three kids - everyone fine.

So yeah - if for some reason I didn't have my Mazda5 anymore and was on a tight budget, I'd stick a battery in that old Astro and start driving it again, no worries.


Moderator - CPS Technician
I have no advice, but I'm in the exact same situation, only I need 4 wheel drive. Or actually, no I don't since I decided I am going to take the train to NV in the winter from now on. My trip this month took 13 hours.


My a van? Why not an SUV? I thought you could find a Durango fairly cheap.
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