Sienna vs Dodge Grand Caravan-

How does a Dodge Grand Caravan stack up to a Toyota Sienna minivan?

I am looking at two vehicles and want opinions about value and usability. I was originally set on buying another Sienna because I liked my old one, but used Siennas with low mileage are hard to find and are pricier than other models. I am looking at these two vehicles:

2006 Toyota Sienna XLE, 81,000 miles.

2007 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT, 51,000 miles.

The Caravan is almost $1000 less than the Sienna, and is one year newer. The Caravan also has significantly fewer miles and has brand new tires. Both are one-owner vehicles, with no accidents or major repairs showing up on carfax.

The Caravan seems like a better bargain, IF it is as reliable as the Sienna.

If you have owned a Dodge Caravan, would you buy another one? I would definitely buy another Sienna, but finding an affordable one with low mileage is hard.

What are the pros and cons of each vehicle? How is the Caravan as a canoe vehicle (usually carrying two boats). My usage is 50/50 city and highway driving. I use it to carry boats and will leave a Yakima boat rack on all the time. I also like to carry canoe/camping gear and will camp out of the back. I usually had all of the seats taken out of my Sienna for that reason.

Any advice or suggestions?


has those spiffy seats that fold into the floor. I don’t think the Toyota has that.

My father in law has had one for the last three years or so, seems to work just fine. Very comfortable ride for the rear seat passengers, too.


Have owned both
and Sienna is a much nicer vehicle.

Research at or other car sites and you will find the Sienna rates higher for quality, durability, etc.

My 09 Sienna is rated 17/23 for mileage but I get 20/26 actual.

One drawback for camping is that the floor in the Sienna is not COMPLETELY flat for sleeping and it was in my older Caravan…don’t know if that’s changed.

this comparison might interest you

we have owned several minivans and currently have an 07 Dodge we bought new. We have had one major repair. The rear air conditioning coil is located behind one of the rear tires where it catches road grit and salt. They last about 4 years in the Wisconsin road salt and cost about 1000 to replace. General reliability has been very good. For boating it has been excellent. The fold down seats are very convenient The floor is sleepably flat with a third pad to level it out. Though it is probably less reliable than the Toyota, ours has been reliable and I there are small town dealerships in remote areas. I like the idea of having a fairly common vehicle when poking around the countryside. Also be sure to look for tie-down spots before buying. Some vehicles dont seem to have any. I have a chain loop around the leaf spring at the rear and there is a hole in the sheet metal back in under the headlights where you can place an s-hook.

The dream is to get Sienna quality …
… reliability and longevity at a Caravan price. Of course, most dreams don’t come true. There is a reason the reasale value is so markedly different. And it’s not because people want to drive a Toyata.

Minivans are still popular
in Canada, particularly here in Quebec. I have many friends who drive Caravans and a few who drive Siennas. Both sets of drivers seem happy with their vehicles.

Historically, there were concerns about the Caravan’s transmission, but these seem to have lessened over the years. Otherwise my own observation is that Caravans are more susceptible to rust than are the Toyotas, though that shouldn’t be an issue in Texas.

Given the significantly lower mileage of the Caravan, I think that it would be the better choice, though you might consider taking the van to a mechanic to be checked over.

…or even a minivan

Thanks for the pointers…
I have already discovered that the 2006 Sienna I’m considering doesn’t have any tie-down points like my old one did.

It does have the cool feature of the back windows rolling down.

The rear-most seat does fold flat, but the middle seats don’t. I do like the “stow-and-go” feature of the Caravan. It was a pain in the you-know-where to store all my Sienna seats in the house, and I never used them in the car.

It’s good to hear that the Caravan has a nice flat floor for sleeping. I have a wide mat that should fit to give more comfort.

I have a limited amount of money. I am already over budget with both of these vehicles, but I don’t want a beater. What I’d really like is for my mother to sell me her 1999 Sienna that has 60,000 miles on it. She doesn’t drive anymore (age 90), but we use her car for errands, and she won’t give it up–even though I’m usually the one driving it. Boo.

My neighbor who hit my car had insurance, and took full responsibility, but the amount I got from insurance is only about half of what I need to buy a decent car that isn’t too old or have too many miles. My 2002 Sienna had 166,000 miles on it, and I would have kept it as long as possible. Unfortunately, things don’t always turn out as planned.

I’m test driving the Caravan for the first time today. As much as I’d prefer the Sienna, I’m leaning towards the Caravan because it’s newer and has lower mileage in addition to being $1000 cheaper. It’s the last day of the month…maybe that will give me some leverage. Or maybe not. I hate shopping for vehicles. I really do.

I have run Carfax on both vehicles and have considered taking it to my mechanic for a pre-sale inspection. He charges $75 for that.

Keep the advice/voice of experience coming. It’s good to have feedback from people who use their vehicle for the same purposes I do.

you can always drill tiedowns
under the hood and use nylon loops. Drill the hole in the frame and insert a bolt through a nylon loop that extends out from under the hood… Nut on the other end.

Lack of tie downs is not a reason to reject a vehicle.

Carfax schmarfax… cannot tell you if the previous owner did maintenance… Spend the $75. It might save you thousands in repairs.

don’t go drilling holes in frames

– Last Updated: Jun-30-11 12:44 PM EST –

There is always a better way than drilling holes in the metal of your car. Particularly the structural stuff.

There are many other options but the simplest one is tying rope loops to the frame and attaching carabiners to them as tie down points.

Here is a picture of a good installation
never would I use carabiners…they are expensive and heavy…or gatehooks which are not carabiners.

With this method you can do lots of long distance hauling and not mar your paint job. The frame under the hood has holes already and some might be in the right place.

Carfax vs independent mechanic inspection isn’t an either-or situation. I would use both for evaluating things. Actually, carfax CAN tell if an owner did maintenance…IF the maintenance was done at a dealership. It’s itemized. Also shows how many owners. Of course, it does NOT show maintenance or repairs the owner did himself or through an independent mechanic.

For comparison, I ran my totaled Sienna through carfax. It had been serviced and/or had repairs at more than one Toyota dealership and by an independent mechanic after warranty expired. All service records were accurately listed up until the point it was out of warranty and I switched to an independent mechanic not associated with a dealership.

It showed that I had repairs done to the power sliding door and system. It didn’t show that I’d had the timing belt changed and spark plugs replaced on schedule because I didn’t have it done at the dealership. It showed I had regular oil changes for about three years…but that’s when I quit taking it to the dealership for oil changes.

I was surprised that some previous accidents didn’t show up, especially since they were all reported and repaired under insurance. Two were just fender and bumper repairs, but I also had an accident in 2005 that required serious paint and body repairs and replacement parts. That was fixed under my insurance. None of those accidents showed up on Carfax, but the the recent accident that totaled my Sienna IS on the report and shows a salvage title has been issued.

I wouldn’t rely on Carfax for judging the mechanical integrity of the vehicle, but it has value to weed out vehicles that have multiple owners, verify mileage, and to see what maintenance/repairs have been listed.

if the frame has holes, fine

– Last Updated: Jun-30-11 2:33 PM EST –

Otherwise you can imagine possible consequences.

I didn't suggest gatehooks, and expensive or not, carabiners are cheaper than repairing frame damage or rust. Or you could use a link of chain.

Drilling holes in your frame or any other metal on your car without an understanding of consequences is just plain lazy or dumb. Why? Because most likely, there are easier ways that are just as effective.

Caravan advantages
As others have mentioned, one advantage of the Caravans is they are extremely common, nationwide and parts (new or used) are pretty easy to come by and less costly than the fancier imports. Even finding mechanics to work on them can be easier, something to consider if you want to keep your maintenance budget reasonable or might find yourself ever broken down in the boonies on paddling trips.

For an example of the woes that can befall a car owner with a less generic vehicle, I just went through 3 weeks of nightmares with what should have been a simple and cheap clutch replacement on my “new” 2003 Hyundai Santa Fe because the shop (an Aamco Transmission franchise, no less) was dumbfounded as to how to install the “exotic” replacement assembly. I had to research it myself on the internet and send them instructions, as well as order the parts myself. Still cost me $1400, not counting the hassle of 3 weeks without the car!

Problems like that are the reason we recently chose to buy a used Ford Ranger pickup rather than any other marque (especially a less common foreign make) because the Rangers are common as dandelions in these parts – in fact we picked up all the accessories we wanted (cap, extra wheels, hitch stuff) on Craigslist almost immediately.

I’ve owned two Caravans, an '89 manual 4-cylinder and a '95 automatic six, and neither gave me any trouble for over 100K each. My partner currently has a battered '98 that still runs like a top for him at 170K and my uncle who covered 50,000 miles per year as an agricultural supplies salesman, got up to 300K on his Caravans and swore by them. Yup, they aren’t as sleek and fancy as a Siena but any greasemonkey in any small town knows how to fix them and probably has one on blocks behind the shop they can scavenge parts from. Just something to consider.

Dodge vs. Toyota?
Surely you jest.Toyotas are built to last 300,000 miles.Dodges are built to last until the new model comes out.

There are good Dodges;there are a lot more good Toyotas.

Not that I’m prejudiced.

Caravan vs Sienna
Normally I would agree with string, but will relate my experience anyway.

I picked up an old junk-heap of a Caravan three years ago specifically to carry kayaks/gear. It had well over 100k miles, but seemed to run OK and was really cheap. It now has well over 200k miles, still looks like a junk-heap, but runs flawlessly and I haven’t done anything to it but replace the tires.

Those who work in the auto industry …
talk about Chrysler products of that era as 3 year cars. They were designed and built that way. Go with the Sienna.

Owned both and can tell you
That I have less than zero confidence in any Dodge minivan, either brand they sell. Both died on me very prematurely and cost a bundle.

The Toyota was a better car from the getgo, but it wasn’t trouble free either. We finally sold it running, but after repairs over the 100K mark. At that point I prefered someone else deal with its age, and we take good care of our cars.

FWIW, I owned a VW minibus 40 years ago, ran it through 3 continents for almost 200K miles over 12 years, and the next few owners kept it going for another 5-8 years too. Sure, I had to do the usual engine work every 40K, but jeez you could do most things yourself. Cheap to buy, good to use, cheap to fix. Nobody makes cars like that any more.

I’ve owned quite a number of American cars and trucks, European and Japanese mark cars too, including some luxury cars and a 4 wheel drive pickup with a snowplow. The only brand that I’ve found super reliable, reasonable to buy and run, and that the company stands behind it almost always (not even so for Toyota in my cases) is Honda. And they do make very good vans, SUVs and crossovers.

YMMV as they say in the car biz, so you don’t have to take my opinion or experience as necessarily yours or anyone elses. Sorry if I’m stepping on any toes here, but you did ask.

Back from the dealer–didn’t buy
After looking and doing a test drive, the Dodge Grand Caravan just didn’t do anything for me. It’s newer, has new tires and fewer miles than the Sienna, and the salesman came down another $1000, but in the end, I chose not to make an offer on either vehicle. The Toyota Sienna is more than I want to spend, and the Dodge Grand Caravan didn’t strike my fancy. I Haven’t decided what I’m going to do next, but I appreciated all the helpful input.