Long story short, we’re selling my wife’s 2014 Forester to my mom, and are thinking about buying a used Sienna minivan for my wife. Goal is to have no car payment, so the purchase price would need to be under $8k.

Would you take an older van (2005) with AWD and great maintenance history or a newer van (2008) without AWD and less maintenance history? Note, we live in the Milwaukee area and my wife routinely needs to be to work before the plows have been out.

Longer version, my wife has been wanting a minivan for a few years now, and it would allow my daughter and dog to load themselves in by themselves. We were going to take a loan and get her a newer model Pacifica, but then we got hit with and unexpected bill, and decided its probably a better idea to pay that stuff off first. My mom is going to buy my wife’s car, and we should clear about $6,000-$6,500 when everything is all said and done. I’ve had very good luck with Toyota (my LC has 190k+ on it) and the Siennas are supposedly very reliable. Its also the only minivan with AWD (see above why this is important).

I test drove this van yesterday:

Its obviously been well loved, but in decent shape. The rims are surprisingly bad and peeling and the back bumper needs paint, but nothing terrible. The bonus is the owner has great records and everything important has been done, including the timing belt change. It has the 3.3L engine, which seems to be reliable, but low powered.

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Here is the other option:

Its also the highest trim package, no AWD, but does have DVD (not a big deal to us). It also has higher miles (148k) I have not seen this one yet, but the fact its at a small used car lot, I can’t imagine I’m going to have much for maintenance records.

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What do you guys think? Better records or newer year with higher miles? My wife barely drives (9k miles in 4 years), so I’m not real worried about the mileage (within reason of course).