Reader Question: The Safe Bet Van?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Ken asks: Can you offer counsel on the most reliable minivan available built between 2006 and 2015? I like the looks of the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna, but want something better than “Ewww Shiney!!” as a reason to part with my cash. We currently have a Lexus RX300 that has gotten a new timing belt and tires to go along with a used transmission at 255,000 miles.

My reply: Both the Odyssey and the Sienna are excellent vans but if it were me, I’d go with the Toyota. For several reasons. The Sienna’s drivetrain during the years you reference (3.5 V6, six-speed automatic) is as blue chip – reliable and durable – as it gets. It’s the same engine Toyota puts into the Camry, which is arguably one of the best bets in a car there is.

Toyota is also very conservative in terms of adding complex tech to its vehicles. Several current Toyota models do not have direct injection, for example. The Sienna years you’re interested in will not have a DI engine or other dubious tech such as automatic stop/start (ASS).

The main thing is to find a good used Sienna. Which comes down to due diligence. All the usual things you’d – should do – when considering any used car. Give it a thorough going-over (or have someone you trust who is competent to do it) give it a thorough going over. I’d be most interested in the vehicle’s maintenance history – even more so than the vehicle’s mileage. A Sienna with 100k on it that’s been well-cared-for ought to be reliable for another 100k-plus. These things routinely go 200,000-plus miles without trouble provided they get serviced according to the recommended schedule.

I will probably get ribbed for this, but I actually like big vans like the Sienna. They are immensely comfortable – great for road trips – and in many ways as practical as a pick-up truck but much nicer than most trucks. You can haul/carry a huge amount of stuff – and out of the weather.

Keep us posted on this!

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