What to Look for When Buying a Used Dodge Caravan

2019 Dodge Grand Caravan 35th Anniversary Edition
2019 Dodge Grand Caravan 35th Anniversary Edition

Many people are looking for large, spacious vehicles that they can take on all sorts of adventures. And it’s hard to look past a minivan if you are looking for optimal space for the dollar. Among the minivans, the legendary Dodge Caravan is arguably the most popular. The Dodge Caravan has a long history of easy maneuverability and affordability, so here’s what to look for when buying a used Dodge Caravan

This Canadian-built family hauler is the ultimate choice for families, businesses as well as anyone else looking for plenty of easy-to-use room. Thanks to its versatility, both its oldest and newest models have something great to offer, whether it’s high safety ratings, flexible cargo bay configurations, or excellent performance! Let’s look at what to look for when buying a used Dodge Caravan.

A brief history of the Dodge Caravan

The Dodge Caravan is a minivan produced between 1984 and 2020, proving time and time again to be a popular choice among drivers thanks to its unrivaled versatility. The Dodge is the ideal caravan whether you want to drop your kids at school, pick up groceries, or take your family on a breathtaking road trip. 

2020 marked the death of the Dodge Caravan. Though certainly not a disaster in the grand scheme of things, it was a highly appreciated minivan with a rich history. Below is a brief look at this pioneering family car. 

First Generation (1983-1990)

Initially slated for introduction as a 1982 model, Dodge Caravan was launched together with the Plymouth Voyager in 1984. Its controls, interior trim as well as instrumentation were borrowed from the Chrysler K platform. Three trim levels were available, including base, LE, and SE. Because it was a front-wheel drive car, the company was able to build a low floor, easing both ingress and egress.

Under the hood, it featured a 2.2L and a 2.4L engine connected to either a 5-speed manual or a standard 3-speed automatic transmission. During this period, the Dodge received more powerful engine options, including a 3.0L V6.

Second Generation (1991-1995)

For the 1991 model year, the 2nd generation of Dodge Caravan entered the market. To match the General Motors APV and Ford Aerostar minivans, manufacturers sought to significantly boost both the aerodynamics and handling of the model line.

To boost the vehicle’s overall safety, anti-lock brakes and all-wheel drive were introduced as options. The Dodge was further distinguished from the Voyager, getting headlamp units and different grilles. It also receives its one steering and dashboard design. 

For the 1994 model year, the Dodge underwent a mid-cycle revision as part of a body upgrade in line with the 1998 federal safety standards. But because of its dwindling popularity, the woodgrain trim option was removed from the market in favor of two-tone and monochromatic designs. 

Except for the discontinued turbocharged 2.5L 150 HP, the 2nd generation caravan carried over its powertrain line from the 1990 Dodge Caravan. In this regard, a 2.5L l4 was standard, with a 3.0L V6 and 3.3 V6 as options. In 1994, the Dodge received a 3.8L V6 as an option.

Third Generation (1996-2000)

1999 Dodge Grand Caravan SE
1999 Dodge Grand Caravan SE

The 3rd generation Dodge Caravan was available in long-and-short wheelbase models; 3-and 4-door configurations, and eight different powertrains. Base models of the Dodge were offered with either a 2.4L 4-cylinder or the 3.0L Mitsubishi V6. The Caravan received more minor upgrades in the form of new wheels, colors, interior fabric, automatic headlights, and optional heated seats. 

Fourth Generation (2001-2007)

2005 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT
2005 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT

The 4th generation Caravan was based on the Chrysler RS platform and had a fairly large body frame with modified tailgates and headlights. Besides these alterations, a power hatch and power sliding doors became available as options.

In terms of power options, the Mitsubishi 3.0L V6 engine was discontinued, and a more powerful 3.8L became available. All-wheel-drive was still offered on high-end models. Other notable innovative features included a remote-operated sliding door and a rear hatch.

Fifth Generation (2008-2020)

2008 Dodge Grand Caravan SE
2008 Dodge Grand Caravan SE

The 5th generation Dodge minivan debuted in 2008 and a new 6-speed automatic transmission became standard with the 4.0L V6 and 3.8L V6. The 4-speed automatic transmission is standard with the 3.3L Flex-Fuel V6. The previously unavailable ESC (Electronic Stability Control) was made standard for this particular generation.

There were numerous upgrades and changes through the years, ranging from the engine to interior and exterior features. Some notable changes included acoustic glass, sound insulation, newer seats, new LED ambient lighting, and softer-touch surfaces.

It is worth noting that the Dodge Caravan was discontinued after the 2020 model year for regulatory reasons. It is widely believed that the cost of improving the vehicle to meet the latest federal safety guidelines was so high that it would impact its low price advantage!

What are some of the most common Dodge Caravan problems?

There is a lot to love about this amazing minivan. All of its model years have something great to offer, from excellent steering to reliable interior and exterior features. And while it’s a dependable vehicle overall, it still has its fair share of problems. Below are the most commonly reported problems for different model years:

Oil leaks from the oil filter adapter: The Dodge’s one of the most common issues was engine oil leaking from a faulty oil filter adapter. The oil filter adapter connects the oil filter to the housing, so oil leaks when it becomes faulty. 9 model years experienced this problem, including 1998-2004, and 2006-2007 model years.

Malfunctioning power windows: More than 100 Caravan owners reported their power windows stopped working, either because of a damaged motor or window regulator. 11 model years, from 1996 to 2003 and from 2006 to 2008 had power windows that misbehaved. 

Engine stalling problems: Few things are more frustrating than having your car’s engine stall without a warning as you drive. Unfortunately, some Dodge Caravan model years are particularly prone to engine stalling incidences. The carmaker had to issue a recall for its 2008-2010 models because of this issue.

Faulty A/C systems: Your car’s air conditioning unit plays a huge role in keeping you cool and comfortable. The 2011 through 2014 Dodge model years are especially prone to blowing only cold air out of the air conditioning system.

Calamitous shifting of the transmission: Poor shifting is a serious issue that can potentially impact fuel economy as well as damage to the drivetrain. And 2011 through 2014 Caravan model years are likely to suffer from poor shifting.

Excessive oil consumption: There have been reports of the Dodge Caravan consuming more oil than it should.

2015 Dodge Grand Caravan American Value Package
2015 Dodge Grand Caravan American Value Package

Which are the best Dodge Caravan years?

If you are looking to buy a used Dodge Caravan, be prepared to embrace both the good and the bad. But provided you know and understand the potential problems with the specific model you are interested in, finding the perfect Dodge Caravan should come with very little risk. Below is a list of some of the most reliable Dodge Caravan model years:

2007 model year: Even though it’s a relatively old model, the 2007 Caravan is one of the best vehicles you can find, thanks to its incredible reliability and safety ratings. This Caravan is powered by two great engines, a 3.3L V6 option and a 3.8L available in higher trim levels. With proper maintenance, this vehicle can give years of quality service!

2010 model year: Here is another performance-oriented Caravan that can deliver excellent services. If you choose this particular model, I’d recommend you go for the SXT Dodge Grand Caravan because it not only features the most potent engine option in the form of a 4L V-6 but delivers an incredible driving experience overall. What’s more, it comes equipped with a powerful and efficient transmission, a power liftgate at the back, a trailer tow as well as security features.

2019 model year: This is a family-friendly vehicle that is fitted with top-notch safety and infotainment systems. It also boasts excellent reliability ratings.

2020 model year: This is by far the best and most reliable Dodge Caravan model year. It’s fitted with the latest safety features such as blind-spot monitoring, hitch receiver, power doors, cross-path detection, and built-in park centers, among others. I’d recommend going for either Premium Plus or GT model because they are highly powerful and quite efficient. 

Worst years of the Dodge Caravan you should avoid?

Even though the Dodge Caravan has produced some fantastic models over the years, there have also been some very problematic model years to stay away from. These models are not worth driving or buying at all! They will not only put your overall safety at risk, but may also come with expensive maintenance costs to keep them going.

These model years include 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006. Some of the leading reasons that deem years avoidable include persistent transmission issues, engine problems, interior accessory issues, cracked dashboards, and faulty air conditioning systems!

2018 Dodge Grand Caravan GT
2018 Dodge Grand Caravan GT

Are Dodge Caravans reliable?

Yes, the Dodge Caravan is a very dependable vehicle, with an average reliability rating of 4 out of 5. This minivan can last around 200,000 up to 300,000 miles. With proper and routine maintenance, you can get between 15 and 20 years out of your Dodge!

Dodge Caravan fuel economy

The Dodge Caravan has an EPA-estimated 17 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway and a combined 20 mpg. However, it’s good to know that newer models manage closer to 30 mpg on the highway, due to the newer engine control systems. So, this implies that you should opt for newer models if fuel efficiency is one of your key priorities.

What is the cost of a used Dodge Caravan?

Of course, there can never be a standard price for a used vehicle, and the Dodge Caravan isn’t an exception. Numerous factors affect the actual price of the vehicle, ranging from the model year, mileage, to location, and current maintenance condition. But on average, you’ll pay between $3000 and $23,300 for a second-hand Dodge.

Do Dodge Caravans hold their value?

Obviously, you don’t want to invest your hard-earned cash in a car that will lose a big portion of its value over time. Fortunately, the Dodge Caravan has an above-average depreciation rate. It will depreciate 38% after five years and had an approximate resale value of $19,000, which is not bad.

Should you purchase a Dodge Caravan?

The Dodge Caravan is certainly a good minivan option, especially if you can find one from the best year models. It is not only spacious and family-friendly, but comfortable, affordable, and very efficient in terms of performance. Newer models also come equipped with great safety and infotainment features, enhancing both your safety and driving experience.