If you had to pick a minivan for a TV

Discussion in 'Tow Vehicles, Hitch & Towing' started by Pops64, Oct 15, 2012.

  1. Pops64

    Pops64 Member

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    Well, our old TV is going to be replaced. The Mercury Villager has been a capable rig. A little undersized, but has served us well. 180K miles. Never left us stranded. This is DWs daily driver and she insists on another minivan. So any opinions, suggestions or words of wisdom are appreciated.

    Here are some parameters. Cash budget is $7K to $8K. Our PUP is a 95 Rockwood. 10 foot box. Approx 1900 lb dry weight. No more than 2300 lbs all loaded up.

    Most of the vans I'm finding in my price range are 2003 - 2005 models with 80K to 140K miles. Here are the 3 finalists:
    1) Toyota Sienna. I have owned other Toyotas. Love the reliability and gas mileage. 3500lb towing capacity is barely sufficient for our needs.
    2) Dodge Grand Caravan or Chrysler Town & Country. I've done enough research to know that I want the 3.8L motor. Chrysler transmissions scare me a little. 3800lb tow capacity is sufficient, but not great.
    3) Chevrolet Astro. Highest towing capacity. 5000lbs Worst gas mileage. Mosted dated in terms of appearance and features.

    Thanks for reading all this. Just wanted to hear other opinions from a group that I trust. And feel free to offer other suggestions on vehicles.
     
  2. fallsrider

    fallsrider Active Member

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    We love our Sienna.

    Why would 3,500 lb. capacity barely be sufficient? Do you take a lot of camping gear?

    Ours towed our pup (about the same weight as yours) very nicely. We have a family of 4. I don't know about the Chrysler, and I used to own an Astro but can't remember, but the transmission on a Sienna is selectable in any gear. This allows you to tow in 4th in hilly terrain if you choose. I have even towed in 3rd in the mountains.

    Reliability has been superb, as is usual for Toyotas. The one issue we've had, as was common with '04/'05 Siennas, and maybe '06, was the door cup that holds the door check on the driver's door is prone to break. Ours did. Repair costs can run $1,600 to $2,000 if out of warranty, so I paid $80 for a cheap welder and repaired ours myself.

    You're right that the Astro would be the most capable TV, but you're also right regarding the looks.

    I can't speak anything intelligent about the Chrysler because I've never had one. Good luck!
     
  3. cwolfman13

    cwolfman13 Active Member

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    I'd go with the Sienna. We tow with a Hyundai Veracruz with 3,500 capacity and our p'up is heavier than yours. We have zero issues and no problems towing with our vehicle. I personally think that reliability has to play a big role here and I've never been a big fan of Dodge Caravans or the Chevy Astro.
     
  4. vike-king

    vike-king My worst camping trip ever, was terriffic!

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    I own a 98' Dodge Grand Caravan with 223600 miles on it and a 00' Chrysler Town and Country with 147000 miles on it. Both vans have the 3.3L engine in them. I use my 98' to pull a 72' Viking S20 7K and have no problems. Loaded with 3 kids and plenty of gear, it gets the job done. I guess Im a Mopar man tho and do all the mechanical work to them. So do what feels right. Happy camping!
     
  5. 96Rockwood

    96Rockwood Member

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    Astro, can be had in AWD if you want that. They are a very reliable vehicle not uncommon for these to go well over 200k miles on the original engine and transmission. the 2003-2005 Astros alot of chassis components are shared with the 1500 series GM trucks. Ours had no problem pulling our 6,000K Sea Ray. Ours was a great van while we owned it. We had the 3.42 gears in ours, around town we averaged 17 miles per gallon, on our trip from MI to Disney World (not towing but loaded down) with the cruise set between 75~80 we averaged 21.5 mpg's for the 2,400 mile round trip up and down I-75. Best part was not slowing down in the hills of Kentucky and Tennessee and passing the other mini-vans (Honda's Toyota's and Mopars) in the mountains, that 4.3L really made those hills seem flat. Towing the boat at 65mph going north in Michigan we used to average 13~14 mpg in D3. Ours was a 2003 AWD with a Majestic Conversion.

    [​IMG]
     
  6. apopkabob

    apopkabob New Member

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    The ford freestar has the largest avail motor 4.2 we rented and towed a 17'hybrid last sorting break went over 800 miles with no sweat tows my pup like a champ and still gets 20 mpg while towing
     
  7. sebring96hbg

    sebring96hbg New Member

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    We are on our third Chrysler minivan dating back to 1996. We are using a 2010 T & C to tow our Rockwood 2280.

    The bad rap relates to the pre-1999 four speed which suffered problems after the wrong transmission fluid was used. We have had no problems with the six speed gear box.
     
  8. volkster

    volkster Member

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    The Astro has a time-proven drivetrain. No serious weaknesses other than fuel pumps are prone to failure and a pain to replace. Most mechanical parts are shared with the S-10 truck and Blazer, so they're easy to get and usually cheap. I suppose rear-wheel drive is not a terrible concern in TX, front wheel drive is preferred up here in the snow. Also, center of gravity is higher and it drives more like a truck.

    Sienna- People love them for family vans, but I haven't seen a lot used as TV's, how is it for power?

    I don't think Chrysler vans in the 00's have transmission issues anymore. We frequently see them at our dealership with 200,000+ miles and still going strong. The 3.3 is surprisingly torque-y, I've towed all kinds of things with my dad's (including my Mazda). The 3.8 and 4.0 are great, too. The newer body style, 08+, with the 6 speed transmission is awesome!

    I currently have a Montana and have no complaints. Great mileage, and GM's 3.4 has plenty of torque for towing a popup. The earlier ones had intake gasket issues, but I think they fixed that in 02. The last few years that they made them were kinda goofy looking, but you can get a lot of van for the money.

    I've never been a fan of the layout of the Windstar/Freestar vans (and I work at a Ford dealership), but their drivetrains are pretty hardy.
     
  9. MIPeaceDudeCamper

    MIPeaceDudeCamper New Member

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    The clear choice is..... a Honda Odyssey [LOL] [LOL] [LOL] [LOL] [LOL]. We have an '04 with 80k miles on it we'd love to sell you. [LOL] [LOL] [LOL] [LOL]
    seriously, I'd go for the Astro, looks be darned.
     
  10. Jayko

    Jayko Jayco 141J aka Big Bertha

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    Toyota reliable? Sticking gas pedals, smoking door switches, dated styling?
     
  11. Pops64

    Pops64 Member

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    Thanks Fallsrider. DW really likes the Sienna. Nice to hear your experience.
     
  12. Storm Trooper

    Storm Trooper Home is where you park it!

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    Why a minivan?
    There are other good options with decent gas mileage out there.
    My first choice for towing any pup would be a new Ford Flex, 4500 lbs towing capacity.
    Either a new Chevy Traverse or a new Ford Explorer, both have about 5000 lbs towing capacity.
    You are in Teaxs, so 2 wheel drive versions would be perfect.
    These three have a lot more reserve power than minivans and have plenty of room inside.
     
  13. cwolfman13

    cwolfman13 Active Member

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    ^^^ This
     
  14. mrwithit

    mrwithit New Member

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    We got the Sienna, but we needed an AWD van since we live in the mountains where it snows 500" a winter. The van was first and foremost an everyday driver for a family of four.

    As far as a tow/travel vehicle its gotta be hard to beat. I had to add a WDH to deal with read end sag, but since then i've had no probelms. Our trailer weighs 1900 dry too and we can take an enormous amount of gear with us in both the vehicle and trailer.

    I live literally in the mountains and cannot get anywhere with out driving over mountain passes. I can pull on the hwy at 75 no problem and up a 10% pass easily if dropped down into 3rd. Although, if towing in mountainous terrain you should consider trailer breaks as a full load is pretty darn heavy coming down.

    I could not imagine a more comfortable setup for traveling in. Everyone has lots of room and the DVD passes time nicely for the kids on longer hauls.
     
  15. EK41

    EK41 Member

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    I have a 2006 Grand Caravan 3.3L. I like the van, I bought it because I don't like to spend a lot of money on vehicles. I wanted an SUV, but vans were cheaper and got better gas milage. Since I'm a single guy and I own three vehicles it doesn't get driven a lot. Plus its impossible to look cool in a mini van. The Chrysler van's will have a softer suspension than the others so you may have to make some alterations. I added an airlift system. My van has 62,000 miles on it and so far has never caused me any problems. While towing, I don't go faster than 60 mph and it will do that no problem and over most hills. It does feel underpowered going over mountain passes, but I'm sure any mini van will feel that way. On my van I can not turn off the overdrive so I shift a lot.
     
  16. jkks2010

    jkks2010 New Member

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    We tow with a 2006 Kia Sedona. It has a 5 speed electronic transmission and a 245hp 3.8ltr v6. Our camper is a 2001 skamper that weighs 2100 dry.

    Our last trip, about 3 weeks ago, we went to the mountains of NC. I am very pleased with the way the Kia handled. At 60 to 65 mph, it towed with minimal effort. Only a few times where the grade got steep, did it slow down, but never really struggled.

    Never really thought I would be the mini van type, but for the capacity and mpg's, I wouldn't go any other way.
     
  17. salaryman

    salaryman Member

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    We are on our fourth Chrysler Minivan.

    1998 T&C
    2003 Grand Caravan
    2008 T&C
    2011 T&C

    Never had any issues with any of them. (couple of minor repairs - grand total was probably $500 for all 4).

    We bought 2011 new with the factory tow package. All the others were used when we bought them.

    We have a heavy trailer (2500lbs dry) and I've never felt like we were underpowered, including up some fairly steep hills.

    We also had a Ford Windstar in the mix, which we renamed the Death Star.... It was not the worlds most inspired vehicle. A lot of strange engineering that lead to expensive repairs.
     
  18. Pops64

    Pops64 Member

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    Thanks for all the responses. Good to hear so many positive responses about our 3 finalists.

    Thanks again, and happy camping.
     
  19. chinolofus

    chinolofus New Member

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    We have a 07' sienna and love it. Starting in 06' I think (google it) they came standard with a tow package so you don't have to worry about finding one with it or adding it yourself. Our pup is prob 1500 lbs dry + a few hundred pounds of stuff and you don't even know its there. Not to mention for a minivan it's fast, 0-60 in 7 seconds. you might want to add some after market air bags in the rear though cuz it does sag a bit when towing. That can be done for $100 or less though. I haven't done it yet but I probably will.

    I did a lot of research 8 months ago when I bought it and was consistantly a toss up between that and the oddessey as the 2 top minivans. The oddessey was prone to tranny problems though and fetches a higher used price. Ours has 98k miles on it and not one single problem yet.
     
  20. JamesRL

    JamesRL New Member

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    I've towed with two different minivans.

    My first was a Mazda MPV. Decent towing, had to upgrade the shocks. 3000 lbs capacity meant we had to pack light.

    My current is an 07 Pontiac Montana SV6. It has the extended wheelbase, 3.9l engine and the tow package with the auto adjusting rear air suspension.

    It tows just fine. I added a tranny cooler and it is pretty smooth.

    Gets better mileage towing than in city stop and go driving. It tows fine, still has some get up and go when towing.

    I'd happily recommend this combo.
     

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