As far back as the late '80s fleets were regularly getting well over 400,000 miles on Caravans with no major engine repairs, so mileage is not a good indicator to go by. My '88 daily driver has over 410,000 miles. What would concern me more is the engine size. You didn't list that, but it seems the 3.5L is the most common, and that is an "interference" engine. That means if the timing belt breaks, the open valves will be hit and bent by the pistons as they coast to a stop. That turns a four-hour maintenance repair into an all-day very expensive one. I personally will never own an interference engine because of the cost of repairing bent valves and the time involved. Other than that, it's not a good idea to try to get more than 100,000 on a timing belt. Chrysler engines are noted for getting much more than that, but it isn't worth the risk. Honda used to recommend timing belt replacement every 75,000 miles, and they commonly broke at 65,000 miles, along with the bent valves.
My other concern, and the reason I won't give up my 25-year-old van, is all the unnecessary use of technology. All the computers are fine as long as they work as intended, but when they don't, many can not be bypassed, and what if there's no company that rebuilds them? Just due to the environment they live in, we know there are going to be failures with expensive repairs. We never needed computers before for heater systems, power locks, wipers, and interior lights. Even headlights involve a computer. There is little benefit to the owner when the headlights don't turn on at night and you'd really like to drive home.
The problem is you're going to find all the same computers hung onto every system on every car brand by the insane engineers. The newer the vehicle, the worse that will be. What you have going for you is Hyundai, Toyota, and Chrysler are the top three manufacturers when it comes to being "customer-friendly". That means they put your needs ahead of short-term profits in hopes of making you a life-long customer. Certain other manufacturers are well-known to squeeze as much out of you for repairs right now because there's a good chance you won't be coming back there for your next vehicle. Their focus is on short-term quick profits, and advertising for new customers. In particular, on many cars you can't install a used computer from a salvage yard. You must buy a new one from the dealer and have them program it to your car. On Chryslers you can still have a used computer reprogrammed to your car, and their dealers are going to be much more willing to do that because of that "taking-care-of-the-customer" mentality.
Other than the timing belt issue, I wouldn't let mileage be a concern. You may want to pay an independent shop to do their own inspection. Up here in Wisconsin a new or used car dealer has to place an inspection sticker in the window, but what most people don't understand is that means everything on the list was inspected. It doesn't mean things were fixed. Also, it only covers safety-related items. A vehicle can be sold with worn brakes, as long as it is disclosed. I've never heard of a dealer going through all the work of doing the inspection, then not doing the repairs at the same time to increase the value of the car, but on older cars they may not repair such things as the cruise control or air conditioning. 99 percent of dealers want you to be happy with your purchase and spread good word-of-mouth advertising, and if that means sending you off with a set of new tires, that's what they're likely to do.
Up here we state the percentage of front and rear brake linings that are left. Some dealers, like the one I worked for, will replace linings that are more than half worn out on fairly new, higher-cost cars, but on the older stuff those linings would have to be worn a lot more before they got replaced. That helped them keep the cost of the car down. Every car got an oil change. The mechanic can also check the Engine Computer to see how long it has been since the last diagnostic fault code was erased. If it has only been a few days or weeks, you have to wonder if there's an intermittent problem waiting to act up again, or if it was a definite problem that got diagnosed and repaired. A lot of independent shops use Chrysler's DRB3 scanner because it will work for emissions-related things on all car brands starting with '96 models. It will also read the "clutch volume index", (CVI). That shows the volume of fluid it takes to apply each clutch pack in the transmission. Based on those numbers, an experienced transmission specialist can tell you how much life is left in the transmission before it will need to be rebuilt. Based on the high mileage in a short time, this vehicle has most likely seen a lot of highway driving, and there isn't much shifting going on compared to city driving. The momentary slippage during shifts, when the clutch packs are engaging and disengaging, is when all the wear takes place. No wear takes place during cruising.
Look at the tire wear patterns too. If you don't know how to read them, anyone at a tire and alignment shop can do that for you and explain anything abnormal. They can also inspect the steering and suspension parts for wear. That only takes a few minutes. Many shops do that for free, but those that charge a small amount usually include a written list of their findings. Worn parts are not uncommon, but it's nice to know what repairs you can expect in the near future.
Friday, January 24th, 2014 AT 5:28 AM