Depreciation Appreciation: The Dodge Grand Caravan

Welcome to Depreciation Appreciation! Every month, your pals at autoTRADER.ca dig up an instance of how depreciation can make for an extraordinary used car deal. Only this week, it’s a used van deal.

This month, we’re highlighting one of the roomiest, most flexible, and most readily available vehicles on the market, on the cheap.

Do you need a work van? A family hauler with space galore? A weekend getaway camper/hauler? A machine for frequent trips to the garden centre? Look no further than the Dodge Grand Caravan. It’s all of the above, and more, depending on what you’re after. We even know of folks who buy a dirt-cheap used version of Dodge’s massively popular minivan to tackle a summer’s worth of home renovations, and then re-sell once they’re done with it, a few months later.

Dodge has sold countless copies of this machine, and with good reason: almost nothing else on the road provides access to so much space and versatility for so little money. And, provided the unit in question has been well-maintained and cared for, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy relatively trouble-free operation in the process.

Here’s the magic of a used Grand Caravan: a newer used copy can be had for similar money to a used compact car, but packs more on-board space and cargo volume than many a great big SUV. You can get parts or repairs for it anywhere. Every mechanic on the planet has lots of experience working on them, too.

Perhaps best of all, you can find nearly retired used copies of these machines with high mileage in road-worthy shape for under $1,500, and use them as a work van, cargo van, or simply as an alternative to a pickup truck for tackling projects around the house or cottage.

The Sticky

We’re not focussing on any specific year or grade of Grand Caravan here. Instead, we’ll tell you what you can expect for your dollar, at various price points.

All models were V6-powered and featured an automatic transmission, a set of sliding doors, and a low step-in / load-in height for easy loading of cargo, gear, tools, canines, toddlers, or just about anything else you might need to bring for the ride. With two rear seating rows that can either be removed or folded into the floor, Grand Caravan can switch from a family hauler to a spacious cargo van to a closed-body alternative to a pickup truck on a whim. Pop an air mattress in the back, and Grand Caravan will sleep two people with relative ease on a camping trip, too.

Depending on the year and model-grade you’re after, Grand Caravan may offer features like navigation, premium audio, Bluetooth, power-sliding doors, leather seating, rear-seat entertainment consoles, automatic climate control, and more.

Approximate New Value

Grand Caravan’s new pricing in Canada typically started in the mid to high twenties for a value model, and climbed well into the thirties or higher in more upscale models, though incentives off MSRP were generally plentiful. The posh version of the Grand Caravan was called the Chrysler Town and Country, and commanded even higher pricing. If you’re after a luxurious second-hand family hauler on the relative cheap, this might be the way to go – but if you’re after an el-cheapo camper or work van, we recommend sticking to the Grand Caravan.

Approximate Used Value

For the context of this story, the Grand Caravan might fall into one of three pricing ranges, depending on the year, mileage, and your intentions for it.

On the higher end of our examples, units like this and this give shoppers access to all core Grand Caravan attributes with reasonable mileage and plenty of life left in the $10,000–$15,000 range. It’s fairly likely you won’t find a roomier and more family-friendly vehicle on the market at this price point.

If you’re on a tighter budget, there’s no shortage of used Grand Caravans like this, this, or this at about eight to 10 years old, with mileage from the low-to-mid 100,000 range available around $7,000.

If you’re planning to buy a cheap Grand Caravan to use for a limited period as a work truck, home reno hauler, or to tackle some project, look no further than examples like this, this, or this, which put older, higher-mileage units on offer for $1,500 or less. The last example listed here is a bit of a fixer-upper and isn’t pretty – though for $900 and a little body work, it’s a lower-mileage unit that should work well for a summer or two before the end of its life.

Test Drive Tips

Confirm proper operation of the power sliding doors and power liftgate, if equipped. Any strained operation or non-functionality should be called into pricing negotiations or repaired.

Some owners across numerous model years have reported less-than-expected life of various brake and suspension components, as well as tires. Be sure to have each of these inspected by a mechanic ahead of your purchase. Note that squealing from the front of the vehicle typically indicates that a brake job is needed, and that any unwelcome clunking or popping sounds from beneath the vehicle are likely the result of a worn suspension component. Wheel bearings should also be inspected, especially on higher-mileage units.

Triple-check for proper operation of the air conditioner. Also be sure the transmission operates smoothly – and that it’s been treated to on-time fluid and filter changes for its entire life. Some years and models of Grand Caravan have seen owners reporting transmission-related issues, sometimes serious, but at least some of these can be attributed to failure to properly maintain this driveline component.

Chances are the Grand Caravan you’re considering has rear-seat climate control implements, and it may have rear-seat entertainment consoles, too. Hop in the back and make sure these work properly – calling it into pricing negotiations if that’s not the case.

Two other notes.

First, avoid a model with power sliding doors where possible, as these tend to be problematic and frustrating when they age and wear out. And, second, remember that a professional pre-purchase inspection (PPI) by a technician is your number one best defence against buying a Grand Caravan that’s concealing some pricey or serious problem that you’ll have to foot the bill for.

The Verdict

A healthy Grand Caravan can be had on the relative cheap – and a unit with a thumbs-up after a professional inspection should provide relatively worry-free access to plenty of space and versatility, without breaking the bank, for years to come.

Supersized value 7/26/2018 8:00:00 AM