Budget Used Domestic Cargo Vans for Family Member Build?

erstwild

Active member
I am in the process of trying to spec a budget friendly base van for a build for a family member and would appreciate any pointers/leads.

We are debating a new Ford Transit Connect, Ford Transit, or a $5-10k used full size van in good condition.

This is obviously a terrible time to be looking to buy this kind of used vehicle on the market for a fair price, but what are folks recommendations?

-late 90-00s vintage
-under 22 ft
-no V8 (decent fuel economy)
-extreme reliability
-reasonable mileage
-$5-10k price
 
You might be hard pressed to find a full size van from the 90 to early 2000s era without a v8. The v6 motors rarely do much better on fuel anyway. The ford transit vans are pretty good. I think they can be had with a small diesel engine as well. But there's nothing budget friendly about new vehicles unless you plan to finance. I'm partial to the full size Nissan nv vans, they can have a v6 or v8, tons of options, the entire engine is under the hood so no taking apart interior bits to get to the back of the engine, and most of the drivetrain parts are interchangeable with the Nissan titan.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

Jacobm

Member
I'd recommend looking at Chevy Express/GMC Savana van with the V8. Reliable drivetrain, some 4x4 conversions are available, reasonable fuel economy. Zach's right, the V6s are going to be underpowered to the point that you'll have to floor them to get up hills and merge on the freeway. Downsides are that the van chassis is going to make accessing the engine more difficult and you won't see great fuel economy, nowhere near what a brand new Transit Connect would see, but it's an entirely different platform. If a Transit Connect would handle all your off-road needs, could you consider something like a used Honda Odyssey or Toyota Sienna? Both of those are going to be similarly sized/capable, incredibly reliable, and return much more reasonable fuel economy. They'll handle most dry forest service roads/get you plenty of interesting places, and be considerably stealthier. Plus minivans aren't very popular right now, so the purchase price would be pretty tolerable.
 

erstwild

Active member
You might be hard pressed to find a full size van from the 90 to early 2000s era without a v8. The v6 motors rarely do much better on fuel anyway. The ford transit vans are pretty good. I think they can be had with a small diesel engine as well. But there's nothing budget friendly about new vehicles unless you plan to finance. I'm partial to the full size Nissan nv vans, they can have a v6 or v8, tons of options, the entire engine is under the hood so no taking apart interior bits to get to the back of the engine, and most of the drivetrain parts are interchangeable with the Nissan titan.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Good point on V8s of that vintage. Indeed, new is definitely even more spendy than I remembered. Nissans are definitely worth another look too.
I'd recommend looking at Chevy Express/GMC Savana van with the V8. Reliable drivetrain, some 4x4 conversions are available, reasonable fuel economy. Zach's right, the V6s are going to be underpowered to the point that you'll have to floor them to get up hills and merge on the freeway. Downsides are that the van chassis is going to make accessing the engine more difficult and you won't see great fuel economy, nowhere near what a brand new Transit Connect would see, but it's an entirely different platform. If a Transit Connect would handle all your off-road needs, could you consider something like a used Honda Odyssey or Toyota Sienna? Both of those are going to be similarly sized/capable, incredibly reliable, and return much more reasonable fuel economy. They'll handle most dry forest service roads/get you plenty of interesting places, and be considerably stealthier. Plus minivans aren't very popular right now, so the purchase price would be pretty tolerable.
Indeed, Chevy Express was one of my first thoughts. You both have made good points about repair accessibility on vans. I had not thought about that making basic repairs more time consuming/costly. Is that really a sizeable factor? Minivans are a really good point excepts for all the windows, since I want to do really heavy insulation. Still, I should take a look on price alone by the sound of it.
 

Herbie

Rendezvous Conspirator
he v6 motors rarely do much better on fuel anyway.
Seconded. Given that a v6 on a heavily-loaded midsize or moderately-loaded fullsize will be working harder, I doubt you'll see a noticeable improvement in fuel economy. For budget purposes, I DO recommend sticking to Gas engines, though. Diesel vans still commanding a premium.
 

vintageracer

To Infinity and Beyond!
AWD Astro or Safari Van. Look for 98-2005. Can be made true 4WD with a transfer case change. Lift kits available. They are light duty so no heavy off-road trails. SAS swap is possible. Smaller in size makes for easy trail use and easy to drive. 4.3 V6 is a great engine that can be repaired anywhere. AWD CARGO Astro/Safari's are hard to find in good condition. Window van versions are much easier to find. I just purchased another NICE lower mileage AWD 1 owner Astro window van last week for less than $2K. Lot's of build options for the interior.

Something different to consider!
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: WVI

Grassland

Well-known member
If you could find a short wheelbase 4.8 V8 GMC/Chevy short wheelbase used for a good price, as in a fleet lease return. Batches come available 2-3 years old with low km.
I was trying to buy one for my business but they kept going for 22K wholesale and the short wheelbase isn't enough room for my needs so I couldn't justify the price. But sticker on them was something nuts like 40k+
4.8 is reliable. The platform is ancient so mechanics know it well.

Otherwise a Transit 150 or 250 low or medium roof long wheelbase. But they command a heavy price new and used unless they are totally bagged courier vans.
 

Herbie

Rendezvous Conspirator
AWD Astro or Safari Van. Look for 98-2005
As an Astro owner myself, I'd restrict my search even more: 2003-2005 (6-lug) vans got a major braking upgrade (larger fronts + rear discs), and generally firmed up several components. They are cozy, though. I love mine, but there are days I wish I could add 12" to the wheelbase.
 
Top