What's the Most Affordable Minivan?

What’s the Most Affordable Minivan

The minivan market has seen a surprising resurgence, with every model on the market receiving a full redesign or significant upgrades over the past two model years:  

  • The significantly refreshed 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country have new interiors and powertrains. Both models have reformulated their trims and features to stay competitive. 
  • The completely redesigned 2011 Honda Odyssey improves its gas mileage and has a new look, too. 
  • The 2011 Toyota Sienna, now the oldest model in the segment, was completely redesigned and features the only four-cylinder engine option among minivans and a new low entry price. 
  • After a two-year hiatus, Nissan reintroduced the Quest to the U.S. market for the 2011 model year. 

So which new minivan offers the best deal in terms of features for the money? We’ll take a look at the Sienna, Grand Caravan, Odyssey and Quest and judge them on how much they cost — not at the bare-bones MSRP, but when they’re well-equipped. The Volkswagen Routan and the Kia Sedona are modest sellers that are addressed in our chart below.

We decided that a modern minivan should have the following features:

  • Power sliding doors 
  • Power liftgate 
  • USB input  
  • Rearview camera 
  • Rear temperature controls 
  • Anti-theft system 
  • Bluetooth connectivity 

You can argue these decisions in the comments, but we needed a baseline. Here’s how each model gets priced when you select these features.

2011 Dodge Grand Caravan: $29,100, destination $835

2011 Dodge Grand Caravan

The revised Grand Caravan Express ($24,995) comes standard with rear temperature controls, but we have to move up to the Mainstreet trim ($25,995) to start getting the features we want. Dodge’s Power Convenience Group adds power sliding doors and a power liftgate for $1,325. The $695 upgraded media center includes the rear backup camera. The $690 UConnect package includes Bluetooth audio streaming with a smartphone, USB port, auto-dimming rearview mirror and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Add the security system, which includes remote start, for $395, and our desired Grand Caravan comes in at $29,100, excluding $835 for destination, making the Dodge the most affordable entry in the minivan segment.

Notable Features You’ll Get: Driver-side knee airbag, active front head restraints, Stow ’n Go second-row seats, adjustable pedals, 6.5-inch touch-screen with 30-gigabyte hard drive

2011 Toyota Sienna: $32,694, destination $810

2011 Toyota Sienna
Starting at $24,560, the 2011 Toyota Sienna is the most affordable minivan on the market — even more so than the entry-level Kia Sedona ($24,595) and Dodge Grand Caravan ($24,995). Unfortunately, the price quickly escalates when you add our desired features. Getting a rear backup camera, Bluetooth, USB port, rear temperature controls and the power sliding doors is simple and affordable on the Sienna. They’re all part of the LE Preferred Package, which costs $2,735, for a total cost of $28,380. Keep in mind, for nearly 30 grand, you’re only getting a 187-horsepower, 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine, the only four-cylinder offered in a minivan.

However, the power liftgate is a less attainable option. You have to upgrade to the SE trim ($30,850) and select a $1,545 SE Preferred Package to get the feature. Strangely, even though the LE trim has an option for an anti-theft system, the SE trim does not, though we now get a 266-hp V-6 engine. We added the $299 Toyota Vehicle Intrusion Protection dealer accessory for a grand total of $32,694.

The SE is actually a sport-tuned version of the Sienna, so the ride and handling are impacted as well. However, it is the most affordable trim level to get the features we’re looking for.

Notable Features You’ll Get: Driver's knee airbag, brake override system, active front head restraints, windshield wiper de-icer, 19-inch chrome wheels, sport-tuned suspension, Bluetooth audio streaming, satellite radio and leatherette seats with sport fabric insets

2011 Nissan Quest: $34,350, destination $800

2011 Nissan Quest

The Quest starts at $27,750 with nice features like push-button start and a security system, but it has a power window only on the driver’s side; the passenger side uses a crank. Really? The midlevel SV trim ($30,900) has most of the features we’re looking for — including the power sliding doors, Bluetooth, USB connector and backup camera — and includes other goodies, like tri-zone automatic climate control. Unfortunately, we’re still missing the power liftgate. To get that, we have to upgrade to the SL trim, which starts at $34,350.

Notable Features You’ll Get: 18-inch aluminum wheels, leather-appointed seats, front heated seats, 4.3-inch color audio display, auto-dimming rearview mirror, integrated turn signals in the side mirrors

2011 Honda Odyssey: $34,450, destination $780

2011 Honda Odyssey

The Honda Odyssey, which starts at $27,800, is the most expensive entry price among our test group and second highest out of all minivans – the 2011 Chrysler Town & Country starts at $30,160. You’d think the Odyssey would come reasonably equipped, and to some extent, that’s true. But once we get the features we want, the Odyssey becomes the least affordable. All the features we want come standard on the EX-L Odyssey, one of the nameplate’s most popular trims. That gets you a large 8-inch display in the dash — the largest available in a minivan — a noise cancellation system and leather-trimmed seats for $34,450.

Notable Features You’ll Get: Leather-trimmed seats, power moonroof, heated front seats, a cooled storage compartment, 10-way power driver’s seat and seven-speaker stereo with 2 gigabytes of memory

Summary

The bottom line is you get what you pay for. To get the selected content, the average minivan in the segment cost $32,134. Most of these models would be priced the same if automakers like Nissan and Honda were as flexible as Dodge and Toyota in allowing consumers to select features a la carte.

While the Odyssey and Quest each cost $2,000 more than the Sienna, they included features like leather upholstery and larger display screens; adding those features to the Sienna would have brought its price up to the same level.

However, even a top-of-the-line Grand Caravan, with all the fixings, only costs $36,235, which is still on par with the middle-of-the-pack Quest and Odyssey. The Grand Caravan’s redesign made huge leaps from the previous year, according to senior editor David Thomas’ recent review. The Kia Sedona, at $29,195 with the desired content, is only $95 more than the Dodge, and it hasn’t received such drastic revisions, only a new engine and some minor cosmetic exterior work.

The Chrysler Town & Country, which comes standard with many safety features like blind spot monitoring and rain-sensing wipers, ends up being more affordable than the Japanese minivans as well, at $31,365.

The Volkswagen Routan gets Chrysler’s new Pentastar V-6 engine for 2011, and the SE trim with the Rear Seat Entertainment option gives us what we’re looking for at $33,790.

Overall, Chrysler offers the greatest value for the equipment we’re looking for, followed closely by the Kia. Toyota straddles the line, despite having the lowest base price, and Honda and Nissan offer the least value when it comes to features for the cost, but they deliver the most upscale interiors.

2011|Toyota|Sienna

2011|Dodge|Grand Caravan

2011|Chrysler|Town & Country

2011|Kia|Sedona

2011|Honda|Odyssey

2011|Nissan|Quest

Comments 

qdp

If a car breaks down more often than average, then apart from losing travel time,you are going to spend alot of personal time dealing with mechanics, hoping they are ethical by doing good job and using quality materials. That's really big headache and bears a huge economic cost

Happymantis

I'd like to see some MPVs included in here as well, they're certainly more affordable... although it might be a problem for the biggest families.

Amuro Ray

A few questions here, DT or CB...

(1) If I look at the chart - the price of the Sedona quoted - does it equip similarly to the $29.1 Caravan?

(2) if so (or very close), wouldn't you say that Kia has a better value than Dodge due to its warranty period?

(3) Which one is Chrysler gonna kill next year?

(4) Is this the last year for the Sedona?

(5) Did I miss the Quest review?

Now my comments:
Although it's true that Dodge is the value factor here (and so is Kia), it's not gonna have a huge success in terms of biting more sales from the big 3 (Honda, Toyota, Nissan). This is for the simple fact that we are talking about $30K vehicle here. When one has to pay that much for a vehicle, people will take the brand name into consideration, and a few thousand dollars more is NOT a big concern at that price range. Smart? No. Reality? Yes.

Collateral damage done by Dodge in the past = not on par with brand name reputation like the others. If Dodge is selling it for $25K or so, that would have been another story...

P.S. VW is a rip-off. I was at a dealership (multi brands, including Chrysler and VW) once and the service manager totally mistaken the VW as a Dodge (and he's been working there for at least 5 years)! And the funny thg was that he was telling his guys, "I can't tell the diff 'til I see the emblem."

sugarland

For those who are thinking of purchasing a Kia, I owned a 2003 Sedona that I purchased new. Every year it was at the dealer for warranty repairs, such as motor mounts, front struts, AC control module, and cylinder bank spark plug assembly, AC Freon leaking out every year and needing recharge. After the warranty expired, I paid for a new AC system at 63, 000 miles, engine control module ( twice) and other items. I traded it in on a new 2008 Honda van. I can tell you first hand, Kia is not a brand to look at when you are thinking of buying a van.

I can also tell you that after owning a Honda 2008 EX-L, it is not worth the money. It is a good van, but way over priced. If I had to do it over again, I would take a look at the Chrysler and put the money in the bank.

dodobreeder

Bought a Sienna AWD in 2009. Great people hauler. Fits in well with my wife's 2006 Mustang GT 4.6 and my 2010 Tundra Limited 4dr 5.7. Looked at Odyssey - too much money! Don't care for Chrysler products. Know too many people who suffer with them. Sienna is hard to beat, at any price, against any competitor.

KD

Sure...but the last 4 minivans in the chart, definitely have much better quality, and subjectively looks. Odysseys are bound to be more than the Sedonas and Dodges, but that Price difference is easily made up in amenities, quality, reliability, and features

Sheth

The honda doesn't have more features than the caravan. It costs way more because honda feels people will pay more. You will be hard pressed to find more than a handful of features on the honda that aren't on the dodge.

Chess

My last minivan was a Dodge and it cost us close to $5,000 in repairs within two years of the warranty expiring. I was happy the day I traded it in on an Explorer. You get what you pay for when you buy a minivan.

Paul

The most reliable minivan I've ever had was a Pontiac Montana which ran to 168,000 miles before dying. We now have a Toyota which we think will be better as it has 154,000 and runs like it's new.
My neighbor has a 2009 Dodge Caravan that he's currently suing under the lemon law to turn back in. I have lost count how many times the dealer has had to come and tow it out of his driveway.

Amuro Ray

@ Paul,

168000 is NOT reliable. From my pov at least.

My relative has a 199X Sienna. 230000 mi. Still going strong with NO LEAK. She doesn't abuse the vehicle (but definitely not like "baby" her vehicle either). It's a commuter and it's been going across the country too!

(I was VERY surprised!)

Another huge problem with Dodge/Chrysler is the rental image. Most people will not say, "I'm a proud owner of my $30K Caravan. Look! There's another one just passing by, from Enterprise (or Hertz, Avis, etc.)."

Quite surprised that Sedona's not as popular in the rental market as the Caravan though.

Skankzilla

Got you beat, AR. I have a customer with 345,000 on her Sienna :)

Sheth

So has every dodge van ever built fallen apart as the toyota dealers on this site claim? How has chrysler managed to lead the segment sine 84 with nothing but crappy minivans? Anyone willing to bet on the prospects of the honda outselling the chrysler twins this year? Any of you ever heard of an extended warranty if you're really that afraid of chrysler quality?

65Chrysler300

I have a relative who owns a 2001 AWD Grand Caravan. It has over 130,000 miles, which may not sound like much, but almost all of those miles were driven on gravel roads. (For anyone who does not drive on gravel roads, they are EXTREMELY rough on cars.) It has never had any major problems, and it is still running strong. I have driven it many times, and have always though it was an excellent van.

Paul

Sheth,
I'm not a Toyota dealer but I can tell you are an arrogant sob.

Paul

Skankzilla

Who are the Toyota dealers you're suggesting?

Amuro Ray

Just ignore that troll. He's famous for nothing 'bou wasting digital ink.

Be gone! You are not wanted here. Don't waste our digital space.

sheth

At this point I am convinced that AR and the rest of you MUST be bored Toyota or Honda dealers. There is no other rational explanation for the rabid bashing of everything that's not Japanese on this site.

I dont know a lot of people with Chryslers but I know someone with a Stratus that has like 150k miles and is still running. I know someone with a 300 that to my knowledge has been relatively trouble free. i don't have tons of Chrysler sob stories like AR and the rest of the of the Toyota dealers on the site seem to have. Either way, I dont care since I have no plans to keep a vehicle for 200k miles like others here.

Came back from the car show and checked out all but the Kia in person. The interior of the Sienna is inexcusable for the price. If Chrysler designed such an interior cars.com and other sources would be up in arms. Its nothing but hard plastics and cheap controls, it's a joke. The Odyssey looks better inside but is nothing but hard plastics as well. BAsed on the reviews I've read I thought the Honda had a near luxury interior. The nav screen is nice, but the plastics are no better than what you get in the Toyota. The Dodge had hard plastics on the dash but the door panels were probably the best of the three. The armrests and the overall design was the most upscale out of the trio and the Dodge had nice gauges and a nice finish on all the surfaces. It was at least as nice as the Odyssey and there was nothing inside the Honda aside from the large screen that suggested it was worth more money than the Caravan. After all the hype, I was truly shocked at the quality of the Honda interior. It's no more rich than the Pilot which we all know is full of rock hard surfaces.

Troy S.

Sheth,

I notice you failed to mention reliability, resale value and customer satisfaction between past and present Chrysler, Honda and Toyota vans in your last Detroit biased/Anti-Import post.

When can we expect that?

Skankzilla

A lot of people buy used cars, Sheth. Which means when they shop they look for a vehicle with good reliability and quality. Chrysler does not come to many peoples minds when they think of those factors. Why? You've figured it out, the world is full of Toyota and Honda secret employees spreading hatred toward domestic branding. Foiled by Sheth! Blast!

Or it could get a little more real life. While you know 3 people who own Chrysler's, I have a database full of them. The beauty of running an independent repair shop allows me to have unbiased opinions where the quality of the vehicle can speak for themselves.

If your Regal broke down and needed unnecessary repair before you fully paid it off, you'd be upset. That's what I see with MORE domestics than I do foreign. Sorry to disappoint you. The last thing I would suggest to someone looking to buy a car is, "Make sure you pick up an extended warranty, you never know with that product!" I mean, you did suggest we do so.

But, I can see your point. If I wanted to buy a vehicle and only keep it within the warranty period for 60,000 miles, why not pick up the cheapest most unreliable branded vehicle with the lowest resale value on the market. It makes selling it and getting that next car you want so much easier on your pocket!

Amuro Ray

@ Troy S.

Don't feed that toll. The more u respond to him, the more digital space he's gonna occupy.

BE GONE. U R WASTING OUR SPACE WITH UR DIGITAL INK!

Troy S.

@ Amuro Ray

You're right.

dodobreeder

Maybe I should have prefaced my post about buying a 2009 Sienna AWD with the fact that we owned a 2003 Windstar and it was a piece of sh it! Tranny quit with less than 100K on the clock. I'm not a Toyota dealer but I have become a fan. 2009 Sienna AWD with nearly 50K miles on the clock and never been back to the dealer for anything. What more could you ask for? Every American brand minivan we owned had problems within the first year and every year after that, until the warranty expired. Then we were forced to trade the damn thing or lose our life savings trying to keep it running. I'll take Sienna any day!

Tony

Chess...

"My last minivan was a Dodge and it cost us close to $5,000 in repairs within two years of the warranty expiring. I was happy the day I traded it in on an Explorer."

And what, you think you got a much more reliable car now???
ha-ha-ha

Tony

Paul...

"The most reliable minivan I've ever had was a Pontiac Montana which ran to 168,000 miles before dying."

Where have you been all these years? Siennas run >200K miles before any major repair.

Tony

Amuro...

"Another huge problem with Dodge/Chrysler is the rental image."

There are plenty of Siennas there too.

Tony

Sheth,

there were times that when you went to change oil you would ask to replace transmission along on your Chrysler minivan.

Don't be ignorant. We know who buys these Dodges - rentals, old people who doesn't know better, and red necks.

Normal Chinese or Indian will drive Honda or Toyota

Tony

Troy S...

"I notice you failed to mention reliability, resale value and customer satisfaction between past and present Chrysler, Honda and Toyota vans..."

Don't jump the gun, man. Odyssey is a total reliability failure, especially first generation (ob big one -1999). They chewed transmissions very well and that is not the only problem. Best Reliable Minivans are Siennas and they are far ahead from the rest.
Villagers/Quests had cascading issues too.

Tony

To the Editors:

This is actually a worthy article which does explain things as advertised. This is exactly problem that people facing. Manufacturers packing things in such way that they basically undressing you into higher trims. So, you can get a $25K minivan but you will not have any pleasure driving it because the sun will burn you on your way as you might not get privacy glass or something like that. Manufacturers spread all the worthy features around trims and lure you to spend more by getting stuff you don't need.

We, the consumers, could vote with our money but many people are too excited when they getting a new car and just plunging into it. And then they cry later.

Sheth

I thought it was obvious we were talking about new vans, not used ones. I am not talking about vans from 10 years back, I am talking about 2011 models folks. A 10 years old odyssey may be better than a similar caravan. That has no bearing on the new and improved model. You cannot deride a new model for poor reliability and poor resale since no track record exists. Paying more forr a car just to get more back at trade in is stupid. If the honda costs the same as the dodge and you could guarantee higher resale than the honda would impress me. I'm not going to pay 5000 more to get 6000 more at trade in time. You borrow money when you geta car so you are not coming out ahead once you account for interest costs. If folks have data on resale, reliability, customer satisfaction, etc for these 2011 models please share it. That said, no amount of data could pursuade me to hand over $40k for a sienna with a cheap interior. Toyota has brainwashed people into thinking you should expect cheap interiors as long as a vehicle is reliable. I don't agree.

AR,
Meant to respond to you yesterday.
We didn't add 5 year costs, warranty value etc no and therefore the Sedona might top the DGC. We were just tackling features and pricing. If we went deeper this type of post would be ungainly for most readers.

We were told that Chrysler would move to a more crossover-like vehicle, leaving Dodge with the true minivan.

I'm writing Quest review right now.

Parrots

@Sheth

Just as they are Honda/Toyota car dealers, you are a Chrysler/GM dealer!!

Amuro Ray

Thanks DT.

If you can find out if this is the last year for the Sedona, as other sites have "reported," that will really be appreciated.

OTOH, I don't think that the decision to kill the T&C is the best one...it is the model that is supposed to be at the same brand level as the others, not Dodge. Then again, Fiat may have diff ideas nowadays.

Ziggy

I don't care how "cheap" the interior of my Sienna is. I have almost 200k miles and have never had a repair. That's worth having some cheap plastic here and there. I can't say that for any domestic that I've owned.

dodobreeder

Ziggy, et al, the interiors of the Sienna are not all cheap looking and plasticky. I suppose if you bought a stripped-down entry-level model, but then it would be the same for all brands. Our AWD is the XLE-L, and there is nothing cheap about it, inside or out, even though it is not the top of the line trim - that would be the touring model at $45K, with NAV and Quad-DVD. We looked at that one too, but like the Odyssey, it was way too much money. We paid $32K for the Sienna after haggling, plus ttr&l for a grand total just shy of $36K, financed through my credit union (since paid off).

Tony

Sheth,

for once I can agree with you. Nothing will make me pay $40K for a minivan. What 40? - not even $27K.

But Chrysler, man... You go too far. They still not reliable. And Sienna plastic? My co-worker has Limited edition and I see leather on the doors. What plastic? May be new ones. But again, as Ziggy said, plastic is OK as long as you don't take trips to mechanic.
My Villager was so plastic, but I got it for 20K, drove 8 years, and spent about $750 total in repair and maintenance and it never stranded me on the road and had the best seats in business. So what that it was all plastic?

Caveman

I have owned a Ford Windstar, a Dodge Caravan, and a Chevy Venture. I now own a Sienna and will never look back. I tried buying American. My Sienna with 100k runs like new. My American vans all had too many maintenance issues.

Matt C

Forget about the mini-van, bring back the Goodtimes Van!

Sheth

Tony,

Let's get something straight- I didn't set the criteria for rating interiors. Car review sites, like this one, are the ones that chide vehicles for cheap interiors. I didn't create that idea so don't take it out on me. I thought it was obvious I was talking about the current sienna, not old models. If hard plastic is undesirable in a chrysler, its the same in a toyota. Please dont't try and make excuses by saying a lackluster interior is ok as long as a vehicle doesn't break down. I asked for data showing me the new dgc is unreliable and none has been provided. If you can show me proof I will agree with your assessment that the new dgc is a piece of crap. All of these claims are based on one source- consumer reports and their data collection is flawed and they are very biased against domestic products. No sane person would claim otherwise. Its interesting that so many insist chrysler powertrains can't be trusted when chrysler had a lifetime powertrain warranty for several years. Conversely, the japanese brands have powertrain warranties that come up short vs gm and hyundai warranties.

Tony

Sheth

"All of these claims are based on one source- consumer reports..."

- Totally not truth.

"...they are very biased against domestic products."

- absolute not truth

"No sane person would claim otherwise."

- Who determines sanity?

"Its interesting that so many insist chrysler powertrains can't be trusted when chrysler had a lifetime powertrain wrranty for several years."

- which part do you want to discuss, what Chrysler had before or the quality of powertrain?

Sheth, Hyundai has 10 years warranty. This didn't stop Sonatas from breaking engines because of early failure of the timing belt.

You know what is the problem, me amigo - often you claim the unclaimable.

In this post editors decided which features they want in the van. At that point they picked the van with minimal features which included the needed feature. That was the price. Now. As result they might picked lower trim of Chrysler and higher trim of Toyota. This shows affordability. But the drawback of affordability is content richness. So, it is no surprise that lower Dodge has worse plastic then higher Toyota. For this comparo it is ok. Now. If they would take top of the line models and did that...
I don't see the reason for you to accuse the entire world of hating American cars. If anything, the corporations are guilty themselves. Greed made them spend more on CEO bonuses and private jets then on research and development. Don't forget these facts of life. They are paying the price and will still do so for the next many years. Nothing is free. And your struggle as well. It leaves imprint on your nerves. save your energy for a better day.

JR

Good back and forth commenting on this subject. Bravo. On the subject of initial quality, if we look at JD Powers ranking for initial quality for 2010 we see that Dodge has 130 problems per 100 vehicles while Toyota has 117 per 100 vehicles. Now I do not know how many DGC or Siennas were produced and how many of those produced had problems. But if I were to base my opinion based only on the given statistic by JDP, then I can say that Toyota vehicles still has better quality than a Dodge. From that same line of thinking, a Sienna has better quality than a Dodge.

Jim

Remember y'all there is usually a difference in the MSRP and the dealer invoice and factory to dealer incentives. While the Quest has a higher MSRP, the dealers have a lot more room to move on the price. I inquired of a couple of Toyota dealers about getting their best price and was told by bot that they just didn't have any room to move. In the end I paid just a few hundred dollar more for a new Quest then I would have for a similarly equipped Sienna. Even though the MSRP on the Quest was much higher. And for me the Quest had a superior ride quality and much higher quality interior. For me the ability to remove the seats was not important and just being able to fold them flat will serve my purposes just fine.

Chris

We own a 2011 dodge caravan. It has all the features he talked about. We paid $25k for s one year old van with 11k miles. The Honda and Toyota are a rip off. I searched for the best "value" for ovet 1 month! We got a one year old dodge with a bumper to bumper warranty for 7 Years 100,000 miles! This is what they give for certified used dodge caravans. It's awesome. We love it. And if anything goes wrong- well it's warranty time! The Japanese vans cost more than they are worth. If I can get the same thing for $10.000 less! And a 100 k warranty! No brainier. Plus the dodge has a sweet engine, it reminds me of my jeep grand Cherokee compared to the Japanese SUV's. I blow their doors off.

Bottom line- save the money, buy American, get a warranty. The Honda is just a status minivan. All those MILF's think they need it. But I've got 10k in my pocket to impress them with...

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