Minivans offer more space, power, and utility than popular SUVs. For under $10,000, we pit the Dodge Caravan against the Honda Odyssey on the used market.
Myspace was a thing and the minivan was once the vehicle of choice for families, but it wasn’t all that long ago. However, on the road to 2021, the SUV threw shade on the minivan that the minivan itself had happily thrown on the station wagon. As they say, payback stinks. In a short 20-year time span, since the height of minivan sales of 1.2 million in 2000, the minivan market now consists of just 5 available models.
As much as you might like an SUV, there’s nothing this side of a Chevrolet Suburban that provides the utility, comfort, and quality transportation you get with a minivan. To prove my point, a 1999 Honda Odyssey can hold a Honda 50 bike in its compartment behind the 3rd seat and still take a family of 5 on a trip. I know because I’ve done it. What SUV do you know that can do that?
Today, we’re finding a good quality Honda Odyssey or Dodge Caravan for under $10,000 and letting you know where to spend your money. Now, they can bring along some extra miles on the car and most of them will have experienced cheerios and snacks on the carpet at some point. Even so, with a budget of $10,000 and some searching, you’ll find good examples in the 120,000 – 160,000 miles range. Depending on the area you live in, your mileage may vary. For our budget and with these mileages, we’re looking at used Dodge Caravans from 2011-2018 and used Honda Odysseys from 2005-2010. Let’s open the sliding doors and see what we can expect!
These used Honda Odyssey models came with a powerful 3.5L V6 that produced 244 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque. All of that power showed up with an EPA estimated 16 mpg city and 23 highway. The truth is that you’ll get somewhere in between. Honda has attempted to help you out on gas mileage by giving the EX-L and Touring trimmed models their iVTEC system that shuts down up to three cylinders when it can. This third-generation Odyssey’s engine and 5-speed automatic transmission have been reliable, with third-party ratings at good to excellent.
The Dodge Caravan is one of the original OGs of the minivan crowd from the mid-80s. It doesn’t mean that it’s old and slow, though. For 2011, Dodge introduced their new Pentastar 3.6L V6 that produced a very healthy 283 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Gone were the older 4.0L and 3.8L options, because Dodge had simplified everything with this new and more modern engine. Dodge didn’t have the cylinder deactivation that Honda optioned for you. Still, you do get an “econ” button that changes shift points and engine mapping. It will probably get you a couple of miles-per-gallon more, depending on how you drive. Otherwise, expect similar MPGs as the Odyssey.
Every Honda once felt light on its feet and responding quickly to driver inputs. Along the way to the 2010 model, Honda got hold of some consumer data that said people wanted a floaty, more luxurious, and detached ride. And that’s what you have in a used Honda Odyssey. Honda went the opposite way of the past models and especially in comparison to the Dodge. It’s not bad, just different and unexpected from a minivan. Everything is still comfortable, albeit in a middle-aged sort of way.
The used Dodge Caravan’s ride and handling are, shockingly, better than the Odyssey. For this generation, Dodge introduced a firmer ride that was still comfortable for passengers. Lowering the Caravan by a half an inch and putting new shock valving as well as bushings in place made the Dodge feel more like a sport sedan than a minivan. When it comes to driving comfort, the Dodge feels in control while the Honda feels flabby.
The Odyssey has Honda’s typical tight-fitting and well-thought-out layout for up to 8 passengers and luggage. It’s like Oprah was giving space to everyone. The used Honda Odyssey has very comfortable and supportive seats with room in the third row for adults for this generation. Since 2008, Bluetooth was added and there’s a backup camera that’s integrated into the rearview mirror. Thoughtful tech for that year. There were power passenger seats and an especially helpful reverse-gear side mirror tilt-down to help you with the curbs. Low interior noise has always been a hallmark of Honda.
The used Dodge Caravan has a similar gift of space inside. Unlike the previous Caravan generation, you’ll find soft-touch plastic and upgraded materials all over the interior. It’s as if a German manufacturer came in and made things better. The instrument panel design is all-new too. We like the layout and feel that it looks like VW gave some inspiration from Dodge’s collab with them on the now discontinued Routan. Other than those Sto N Go seats, everything looks and works great. It’s a much nicer place to do carpool duty than it’s ever been.
Standard features on the Honda Odyssey will be storage areas galore. In-floor storage, dual-zone climate control, and a disappearing third-row that falls into the floor. For the EX-L and Touring, you’ll find added power windows, a keyless entry, cruise control, nice leather, and other convenience options. We’d suggest the EX-L for price, since the Touring’s added navigation can easily be replaced by Waze or Google Maps on your phone.
We would recommend the SE Plus version of the Caravan. This trim will get you the Sto n Go seats that, although flimsy feeling, work well. Bluetooth, power windows, automatic headlights, and other conveniences are included. Overall, the Honda interior has better quality, but the Dodge has a better-designed dash. Either way, these are both quiet rides capable of taking lots of people for long distances in comfort.
With a cap of $10,000, you have a hard choice. You can get a newer car in the Dodge Caravan, but the Honda, even a few years older, is still a Honda. Honda has been at the top of the minivan market for a reason. For us, the Honda comes out ahead. Yes, the ride is softer, but the quality of interior and Honda’s reliability make it a tough one to turn down.
We love the Dodge Caravan, but it’s out-classed in this competition and has fewer conveniences than the Honda. In the end, the deciding factor will be the age of the condition and mileage of the model. This may very well tip you towards the Dodge. It would be hard to turn down a fully capable minivan with 30,000 fewer miles.
If you’re buying an older minivan, be aware that families will have well used it. There’s a reason they’re called motorized trashcans. But when you find that well taken care of version, you’ll wonder why we ever left minivans and went to the SUV.