What to Look for in a Used Minivan

What to Look for in a Used Minivan

Written by DriveAxis.ca July 06, 2022

The modern SUV may be enough to satisfy some families who need some decent storage capacity, but they still pale in comparison to the minivan. This vehicle continues to epitomize the heights of storage space and versatility, and they’re handy not just for large families, but for entrepreneurs who need to lug around a lot of materials.

Used minivans are prevalent, and they’re an excellent bang for your buck, provided you do a bit of homework. It pays to examine some key criteria that can help you make a more informed purchasing decision that is best for you and your family. Read on to learn more.


Every vehicle comes with its own inherent reputation for quality and reliability, and minivans are no different. The question on a lot of buyers’ minds is whether their used minivan of choice will remain reliable down the road, or whether it will give them mechanical problems or other issues as time ticks by.

Generally speaking, minivans created by brands like Honda, Toyota, Kia or Nissan tend to get high favorability ratings, but that’s not the entire story. It’s not always the best approach to consider the brand name, but rather, the individual vehicle in question. As with all used vehicles, it depends largely on how well the vehicle was maintained by its previous owner.

For that reason, consider buying a minivan with a strong CARFAX report which details things like maintenance and repairs, while noting red flags, such as car accidents. Also, check out the minivan in question and do a bit of research into its history. This includes checking for recalls the company may have issued, which can tell a more accurate story.

When it comes time to buy, you can always request a pre-purchase inspection (PPI) to make sure everything is on the up and up. It’s quick and affordable, and can save you a bundle of money in the long run. An authorized mechanic should be able to quickly identify any possible issues the car may face. When in doubt, consider buying a certified pre-owned vehicle from a local dealership, as these must adhere to higher standards before they are eligible for resale. They may also come with a few perks attached, such as better warranty coverage and roadside assistance from CAA or another entity.


In today’s world, fuel economy matters, especially with inflation running high and certain political decisions creating a strain on the oil and gas industry. If you do a lot of driving, you should choose a minivan with an engine that best supports your lifestyle, as well as one with the best fuel economy. Many minivans utilize V6 engines, but if gas costs are a concern, it might be better to consider a 4-cylinder option instead.

And of course, there are hybrid options available which can drastically reduce the cost of filling up the tank. Certain minivans like the Toyota Sienna and the Chrysler Pacifica offer hybrid options for those who want to save big in the long run. For those not quite ready to jump on the hybrid bandwagon just yet, there are other options such as the Mazda5 which may fit the role.


There are a few things you can do as a consumer to check and see if your minivan of choice will weather the storm for the long term. Before buying, run down a checklist of the following items to make sure everything is in working order.

1) Power Sliding Doors

Most minivans come with power sliding doors that provide an extra level of convenience, especially for those carrying a lot of items who don’t want to pull the handle and open manually. However, as with any motorized component, they should be checked to make sure they’re in operational condition. If the sliding doors are creating odd sounds during operation, or struggling to open, that is most certainly a cause for concern. However, the solution to many of these issues is generally simple. Lubrication of components, software updates or a system reset can help, otherwise a mechanical problem may be the culprit, which can cost significant cash to fix.

2) Steering & Brakes

Most used vehicles undergo tests to make sure things like steering and braking are up to par, but it’s wise to check just to be sure. When it comes to steering, try driving slowly in a parking lot with a level service, then let go of the wheel. If the minivan immediately pulls to the left or right, you may have a steering-related issue, or unbalanced wheels. It’s also advisable to wiggle the steering wheel back and forth while parked, and listen for any odd sounds that may signal issues with strut mounts or the steering column. Finally, listen for any grinding sounds when taking a corner, which could signal a worn out wheel bearing.

For brakes, it’s far easier to detect issues. When driving the vehicle, hit the brakes with different levels of pressure and listen for any odd grinding or squealing sounds that could signal worn out brake pads. Besides that, testing the various levels of braking can give you an idea of how well the brakes operate. Braking should be very firm and immediately noticeable, as opposed to sluggish and uncertain. Thankfully, replacing brake pads doesn’t cost a lot of money, but other issues related to the calipers or wheels might.

3) Listen For Noises

Besides the obvious noises one might hear when braking or steering, it’s wise to pay attention to any odd sounds that might pop up during a test drive. Rattling, clunking or rubbing sounds could signify a problem under the hood; perhaps with the engine itself. It might also signal a problem with the suspension or framework, perhaps due to a previous accident that has gone unrecorded.

4) Check Transmission

Transmission issues are something everyone needs to watch out for, and they can be costly to repair. When driving the vehicle, maintain a feel for how it shifts gears as you accelerate or slow down. If it feels clunky or spasmy, the transmission is most certainly the culprit. Sometimes these issues can be fixed with a software update on the vehicle’s main computer board, but it’s most often a mechanically-related issue.


Buying a used minivan is a pretty straightforward process, and many of the steps listed above are recommended not just for that vehicle type, but all vehicles in general. However, due to the unique nature of minivans, and their size, it pays to adhere to these tips in order to make sure you’re getting a great vehicle.

Are you in the market for a minivan to support your work and family lifestyle? If so, DriveAxis.ca has plenty to choose from, all hand-picked and tested for reliability and quality. Contact us today so we can help you find the exact one that best fits your needs.

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