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Buying used

Looking for a reliable minivan under $20,000

An expanding family looks for comfort, reliability and all-wheel drive

We have two kids already, and we're having twins in three weeks. We need a minivan and want a good, reliable one for under $20,000. We don't need bells and whistles, but we wouldn't mind AWD. It seems like our best bets are a Honda or a Toyota. The Toyota is kind of bland-looking. Which one is better? – Anita, Brandon, Man.

If it were a popularity contest, the winner between the Honda Odyssey and the Toyota Sienna would be the Dodge Grand Caravan.

That's almost certainly because it's cheaper – both new and used. For under $20,000, you can get a 2014 or 2015 Dodge Grand Caravan (average asking price for the 2014 base: $16,618, according to Canadian Black Book). To get a price in that ballpark for the Honda or the Toyota, you'll likely need to look at 2012.

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But, despite the Grand Caravan's price and those fold-into-the-floor Stow 'N Go seats, the Sienna and the Odyssey are the best minivans you can buy, reviewers say.

In J.D. Power's 2015 dependability study of three-year-old vehicles, the 2012 Sienna took first and the 2012 Odyssey came in second.

And, if you're looking for AWD, the Sienna is the only minivan that offers it.

2012 Toyota Sienna V-6

2012 Toyota Sienna LTD V6.

  • Third generation: 2011 to present (facelifts in 2015 and 2018)
  • Average asking price for base: $16,715 (Canadian Black Book)
  • Original MRSP for base: $29,110
  • Trims: base, LE, SE, XLE, XLE Limited
  • Engine: 266-hp, 3.5-litre V-6
  • Transmission/Drive: Six-speed automatic/Front-wheel drive, optional all-wheel drive (on LE and above)
  • Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 12.8 city, 9.4 highway (V-6)

The Sienna's not a stunner, looks-wise. But its job is to carry your family and your stuff, and it does that better than most.

"As far as minivans go, they don't come much better," Globe Drive said. "It's a no-fuss, driver-friendly, practical hauler with lots of room to spread out and enough creature comforts (aside from the missing seat-warmers in all but the XLE) to satisfy most buyers."

Review site Edmunds liked the Sienna's "smooth and powerful" V6, the available AWD and that it seated up to eight, depending on the trim. It griped about cheap-feeling plastic in the cabin and pricey option packages.

A 187-hp, 2.7-litre four cylinder (11.8 litres/100 km city, 8.9 highway) was an option on the LE, but most reviewers said to stick to the V-6. A loaded XLE Limited with AWD runs an average of $27,951 used.

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For 2012, the Sienna was the only minivan to get a recommendation from Consumer Reports, despite gripes about road noise and optional second-row lounge seats that "look more comfortable than they really are."

It gave the 2012 Sienna five out of five for reliability.

There were two recalls, including a fix to prevent the power sliding rear door from potentially opening while driving.

2012 Honda Odyssey

2011 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite.

  • Fourth generation: 2011-2017 (facelift in 2014)
  • Average asking price for base: $16,408 (Canadian Black Book)
  • Original MSRP for base: $29,990
  • Trims: LX, EX, EX-L, Touring Engine: 248-hp, 3.5-litre V-6
  • Transmission/Drive: Five-speed automatic (LX, EX, EX-L), Six-speed automatic (Touring)/Front-wheel drive
  • Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 12.3 city, 8.2 highway (five-speed), 13.2 city, 8.6 highway (six-speed)

For its 2011 redesign, the Honda Odyssey got a look that some called distinctive. Others, less charitably, called it ugly. But looks aside, it's one of the most capable minivans on the road.

"Despite its sensible-shoes trappings, this is a lively, roadworthy, eight-passenger hauler that will keep up with all but the most powerful sports sedans," Globe Drive said. "You won't find a better highway vehicle in this category."

Edmunds liked the agile handling, fuel-efficient V6, quiet cabin, top safety scores and easy-to-fold third-row seat. But it griped about the price and the button-heavy dash.

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The top-of-the-line Touring edition, $48,420 new, can be found for $23,226, on average.

"The Toyota Sienna is available with certain high-end features that you won't find on this Honda – namely all-wheel drive, keyless ignition/entry and adaptive cruise control," Edmunds said. "But for most, the Honda Odyssey is an ideal choice, offering the sort of universal competence that fosters mainstream success."

Consumer Reports gave the Odyssey a three out of five for reliability.

There were four recalls, including one for an airbag cover that could detach when the airbag goes off.

Shopping for a new car? Check out the new Globe Drive Build and Price Tool to see the latest discounts, rebates and rates on new cars, trucks and SUVs. Click here to get your price.

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