Minivans

Chrysler Minivans for the Young Man FAQ

Introduction

I bought my first Chrysler Town & Country minivan when I was 19. Many people ask, "Why would a young single person drive a minivan?" A minivan offers a variety of advantages over other vehicles, such as:

  • Low cost of ownership
  • Low purchase price
  • Raised seating position
  • Extreme comfort for all occupants
  • Large cargo area
  • Thoughtful design and features
  • Chic exterior appearance
  minivan

Low cost of ownership

Owners of a Chrysler minivan benefit from low depreciation on used minivans, low insurance rates, good fuel economy considering the size of the vehicle, and ease and low cost of maintenance and repair. A three or four year old Chrysler Town & Country with 80,000 - 100,000 miles in good condition can be acquired for around $10,000. It may still perform in almost-new condition and easily have another 50,000 - 100,000 miles before major problems occur.

Insurance rates are low because a minivan is inherently safe due to its size and much of the time they are driven in a sensible manner by sensible people. You can expect to average about 20 mpg in mixed driving with the 3.8L engine, and perhaps 21 - 22 mpg on the highway [2009 newer minivans have been optimized for highway mileage and may do much better]. While this is slightly more fuel than consumed by the average sedan, one must consider the additional utility of the minivan and remember that even with the extra fuel consumed it still has a reasonable cost of ownership.

2001 Chrysler Town & Country car reviewsSince the Chrysler minivan is such a popular and widespread vehicle, parts are fairly easily to locate and relatively inexpensive. After all the expenses are added up and depreciation is included, it is entirely possible and not unreasonable to assume a total cost of ownership of around 30 cents per mile for a nearly new, luxurious vehicle with enough space to haul couches, large screen TVs, and furniture should the need arise. Sure, you might be able to drive around a 12-year old subcompact sedan for only 25 cents a mile, but you would be missing out on all the extra utility, comfort, safety, and other benefits offered by a Chrysler Town & Country. If you're going to be paying for depreciation, registration, insurance, gas, and all the other expenses that go with owning a car, you may as well spring for the extra 5 cents a mile and drive something nice.

Low purchase price

While a new Chrysler Town & Country can be purchased for between $20,000 and $40,000, a used minivan can offer a great deal if you would prefer all the options and features of a loaded $40,000 minivan but don't have $40,000 to spend. A three or four year old fully loaded Chrysler minivan can be had for around $10,000. Why are the slightly used minivans so inexpensive? I'm not going to theorize about why the supply and demand curves are shaped the way they are, but the market price is what it is. A low purchase price makes it easier to replace the vehicle should something happen to it, and lowers collision insurance rates or may eliminate the need for collision insurance. Plus, with a purchase price of only $10,000, you won't be paying nearly as much interest on a new one as you would on a used one.

Raised seating position

A higher seating position than in a sedan is beneficial for several reasons. Chrysler designed the minivan so that the seat was at exactly the proper height for easy entry and egress from the vehicle. You don't have to climb into the vehicle or stand up and climb out of the vehicle. Sitting higher also allows for a more natural seating position for enhanced comfort. Also, being higher up allows you to see farther down the road, which makes driving a minivan that much safer.

Extreme comfort for all occupants

The raised seating position allows for a more natural posture, as your legs can hang lower than they would in a sedan. With quad seating, even the center row occupants get seats that recline and have armrests. Nobody infringes on anyone else's personal space. The long wheelbase minivan also offers copious amounts of legroom, especially for rear seat occupants. Dual or triple zone temperature control allows people with different temperature preferences to get comfortable. I'm not a selfish person. I want my passengers to be comfortable too!

Large cargo area

The beauty of the 167 cubic feet of cargo space in a Chrysler minivan is that it can be used to hold 7 people, large objects that would only otherwise fit in a truck, or some combination of both and it can be switched in a matter of seconds. You also don't have to worry about protecting your precious belongings from the elements if they're inside a minivan, tying them down, or carrying a mattress on your roof and holding it with your arms while you're driving. See the question on mattresses for a more thorough investigation of the mattress issue.

Thoughtful design and features

For a detailed list of all the Chrysler minivan firsts and thoughtful features that Chrysler engineers put into the minivan, the best resource is here on allpar.com. There are so many wonderful features I can't even begin to cover them and if I did I wouldn't be able to give them justice. Especially check out the links under 1996-2000 technical information.

Chic exterior appearance

Perhaps this is just a matter of personal opinion, but I think the Chrysler minivan is the best looking of all of them and it has a nice shape to it, resulting in a Cd of approximately 0.35.

Quick List of Sections

Why a Chrysler minivan and not a minivan made by one of the other fine auto manufacturers?

minivan engineWhile a number of other auto companies make minivans that are attractive alternatives to the Chrysler minivan, there are several reasons I had to go with the Chrysler. Both Honda and Toyota put together a reasonable fairly well designed minivan. However, a used Honda or Toyota with similar options, mileage, and age will be significantly more expensive to acquire than the Chrysler. The Toyota is also slightly smaller inside than the Chrysler, as is the Nissan Quest. The Quest also has a center mounted instrument cluster, which would force me to take my eyes off the road. A Ford or GM minivan would be less expensive to acquire, however the interiors are not as thoughtfully designed and the overall package is not as revolutionary or as well thought out as the Chrysler was. I recommend that everyone read "The Critical Path" by Brock Yates (and check out this on allpar.com) for more about the development of the Chrysler minivan. Back in the early 90's when the 1996 redesign was being engineered, Chrysler knew they would need a runaway success with the minivan because of the dire financial situation of the company.

I heard that Ford has decided to leave the minivan market!

Yes, it is true, Bill Ford, Alan Mulally and company have decided to exit the minivan market. Clearly this proves that building a successful minivan lineup isn't something that every company has the capability to do. It's tough work to develop a vehicle that meets such diverse needs and does it so well. That's what makes the companies that can pull it off (like Chrysler) so special. Heck, I would have helped Bill Ford lead the minivan program for a reasonable salary... I guess he hasn't read this FAQ yet. Ford has already introduced their Edge and Taurus X, and Flex. It will be interesting to see how well these vehicles can fill the void left by the absence of their minivan.

I heard that GM has also decided to leave the minivan market!

As far as I know, GM has no plans to refresh their current minivan lineup. I guess now Alan Mulally and Rick Wagoner are going to have to start a bidding war for me if they want my help with their minivan programs.

How reliable is a Chrysler minivan?

chrysler minivan faqWithout an extensive database of repair information and ownership histories, I cannot objectively conclude that one brand is particularly more reliable than another in terms of breakdowns, minor annoyances, or costs. From personal experience I can say that most of the problems I have encountered can be solved rather inexpensively if one takes a few moments to search owner forums and/or troubleshoot the problems on their own. My hope is that if a vehicle was truly a piece of junk, one owner would not keep it for 100,000 miles. If something breaks, fix it.

If you're worried about catastrophically large repairs such as a transmission failure, you can purchase an extended warranty or service contract. And if perfect reliability is of that much importance to you, perhaps you should live your entire life in a padded cell because of the terrible things that could happen to you while crossing the street to get the mail or going to the grocery store. Reliability is one of a number of factors that should be considered in the purchase of a vehicle - not the only factor. Based on personal experience, it seems that most components will last until 150,000 miles, after which point a whole host of things will need replacing in short order.

Good reliability? You can't be serious! I own/know of many Chrysler minivans with all kinds of problems!

They were all new and in great condition when they left the factory. The problems you may be experiencing are likely due to the ignorance/neglect of an owner, the negligence of a mechanic, or some combination thereof. Try taking care of your van. It doesn't ask for much. A nice, warm bath once in a while... an oil change every few thousand miles... a fresh tank of gas each week... and a little bit of care and attention once in a while.

What have you had to replace on the ones you have owned?

Outer tie-rod ends on the 1999-2000 model years have a life expectancy of about 80,000 - 100,000 miles. With labor charges these are only $60 - $70 each to replace if you're getting a new set of tires and/or the van needs to be re-aligned anyway. Heated seat control modules on the 2000 model are about $35 each and needed replacing at 70,000 miles. Sway bar end links may need replacing around 120,000 miles ($300 for both). And transmissions may need an overhaul if you have a nasty transmission fluid leak and neglect to maintain the fluid at the proper level, allowing the transmission to overheat. Rear wheel cylinders might need replacing around 100,000 miles.

My van asked for an EGR valve and oxygen sensor at 112,000 in the process of troubleshooting a drivability issue (turned out to be plug wires), as well as a fuel filter and a serpentine belt at 117,000. A front brake caliper at 126,000. An exhaust system for $400 at 140,000. And I tossed in a new valve cover gasket and master cylinder that were probably not in the best of shape from sitting around too long. I've also replaced a water pump, belt tensioner, idler pulley, harmonic balancer, fuel pump, and inner tie rods, all after 150,000 miles. Power steering pump, reservoir, lines, and steering rack needed replacing at 175,000 miles. I had to replace a few headlight bulbs. I recommend against Sylvania Silverstars as I installed about 4 of these and they lasted me about 7 months apiece. And I replaced the bulbs in the overhead console courtesy of JKL Components.

That's about all in 125,000 miles of Town & Country ownership. Other than that, just do your best to ensure that the person who owned the vehicle prior to you isn't a complete idiot. Which most aren't. After all, they did have a Chrysler Town & Country, didn't they?

Other common minivan repairs

Do the interiors on a Town & Country buzz, squeak, or rattle after several years or 100,000 miles? Or 150,000 miles? What about the sliding doors?

minivan doorsNo, the interiors of both of the Town & Country vans I have owned have been completely buzz, squeak, and rattle free. If the sliding doors rattle or do not close properly with a gentle push (as opposed to a slam) then you need to spend 5 minutes with a ratchet and socket set adjusting the 3 attachment points on the sliding doors for fore-aft alignment, up-down alignment, and seal compression. If you're slamming the sliding doors, then you're mistreating your Town & Country and you need help. All sliding doors will be quiet and rattle-free when adjusted properly.

What kind of gas mileage does a Chrysler Town & Country get?

In stop and go driving with the A/C on in summer, 16-17 mpg. In mixed driving, 19-21 mpg. On the highway at a constant 72 mph with fairly flat roads, you may get up to 24 mpg. Normal highway driving is around 21-22 mpg. The average of the one I drove was 20.37 mpg over 104,000 miles (see the graph). This assumes Town and Country LXi, 1998-2000, all seats in, normally only the driver, nothing on the roof, tires properly inflated, altitudes between sea level and 1500 feet, and 3.8L engine running on regular unleaded fuel. It appears that the Town & Country gets better fuel economy in warmer weather due to decreased aerodynamic drag because of the lower density of air (as would most vehicles).

How can the Chrysler Town & Country instantaneously calculate its fuel consumption?

You can find some pretty cool stuff if you do patent searches on http://www.uspto.gov for Chrysler's patents. The Town & Country can calculate its fuel consumption very easily in two ways. First, it knows the injector pulse width and the fuel rail pressure is regulated to approximately 50 PSI, and therefore it can determine precisely how much fuel has been injected into the engine. Second, it can use manifold pressure and engine RPM along with factors like engine displacement to determine how much fuel is consumed because under normal operating conditions the amount of fuel burned is in proper stoichiometric ratio with ambient air. For example, with the 3.8L engine on a 60F (15C) day, the calculation boils down to:

Fuel gallons per hour (GPH) = engine speed (RPM) / 9000 * absolute manifold pressure (inHg)

For example, if you are idling at 700 rpm and have 7 inHg of absolute manifold pressure (approximately 23 inHg vacuum at sea level), with this equation you would be able to estimate that you're using approximately 0.54 gallons per hour of fuel at idle. If you were going down the highway at 2100 rpm and 14 inHg absolute manifold pressure, this calculation would estimate that you're using 3.3 gallons per hour. 2100 rpm equates to 70 mph when the transmission is in 4th gear, torque converter locked, and this example works out to 21.2 mpg.

How accurate is that trip computer at calculating fuel economy?

I have constructed a database to verify this (available for downloading) and based on 359 tanks of gas all recorded to the nearest tenth of a gallon in my logbook (5000 gallons), the trip computer agrees with the gas pumps to a degree of accuracy greater than 8 gallons in 5000 over time (see the graph). I suspect some of the variability stems from temperature fluctuation causing changes in the volume of the fuel and heavy air conditioning usage appears to affect the trip computer somewhat. I am still investigating this. It appears the trip computer may slightly underestimate fuel usage in cold weather in the city and slightly overestimate fuel usage in warm weather on the highway based on the trends I'm seeing. Or perhaps I'm seeing an accumulation of rounding errors since I only record my fillups to the nearest tenth of a gallon. In either case, the trip computer is very accurate tank-to-tank.

How much did you spend on gasoline for your Town & Country?

My current record for one month (September 2005) is $632.66 for 15 tanks of gas at about $2.88 per gallon. My most expensive fill-up so far has been $58 for 17.5 gallons at $3.29 a gallon. One must take into consideration that this month involved an unusually-high 5,000 miles of travel due to vacation, moving, and an extreme amount of travel for business purposes. My average cost per month for gasoline ran in the neighborhood of $220.

It's people like you that are responsible for global warming and using up all of the world's oil!

I have taken a class at Carnegie Mellon in environmental sustainability and I got an A. That makes it OK.

If you spend so much on gas, what is your favorite brand?

Since I do a lot of traveling, I've used many different brands of gasoline and haven't noticed any major differences between them. And amazingly the oil companies don't send me any "get well" cards if I haven't bought a tank of gas in a week. However, I like Flying J truck stops because they are always very clean and post their fuel prices for each truck stop on their website, http://www.flyingj.com.

Have you ever had a bad experience at a gas station?

You would think that putting gas in a vehicle is something that would be very tough to screw up. Fortunately, 98% of the places I stop to fill up manage to completely satisfy me. However, I have had a few bad experiences. My inconveniences range from the seemingly minor, such as not having squeegees or squeegee fluid, to major issues, such as being closed when I'm on E and there's no other gas stations around for 20 miles. Other bad experiences I've had include dirty bathrooms, trash cans/squeegee buckets blowing into me (and splashing) in high winds, having to wait behind a long line of people, and trying to use a $5 Mobil gas card (back when $5 bought more than a gallon). I had a really bad experience in northwestern Indiana when the guy in front of me parked at the pump, went inside to go to the bathroom and buy a bunch of stuff (presumably for his family, which was waiting in the car the entire time), came out to pump his gas, then finished up by going inside to pay. The worst experience I've had with a gas station ever has to be at the Exxon station in Penfield, Pennsylvania (intersections of Route 153 and 255). Of the three times I've stopped there, one time on Easter Sunday, it was closed at 6 PM and I really needed gas, and another time I stopped there my credit card was erroneously billed an additional $81 and my gas cap was left loose. Update: this gas station has gotten exactly what they deserve in the form of a brand-new 24/7 Minit Mart with many pumps selling gas for 10 cents per gallon less right across the street!

Why don't you save some money on gas by getting a (cheap small car)?

My fuel cost per mile to drive has been more dependent on the price of fuel over the past few years than the mileage of the vehicle. Assuming a 20 year average price of $1.20 per gallon, it would cost me 3.4 cents per mile for gas at 35 mpg, or 6 cents per mile at 20 mpg. At $2.20 per gallon, it would cost 6.3 cents per mile for gas at 35 mpg, or 11 cents per mile at 20 mpg. The cost of fuel in this case has increased by 83%, but my choice of vehicle has increased my cost by only 75%. A factor beyond my control has increased my costs by a higher percentage than a decision I would be able to make. I would have to sacrifice too much utility and comfort to go back to driving a small car. Therefore, I'm going to continue to do everyone a favor by keeping my consumption level consistent and providing an incentive for oil companies to increase their output and auto manufacturers to develop more efficient engines for large vehicles, driving down the cost for everyone.

How fast can a Town & Country go?

The 3.8L engine used from 1998-2000 puts out 180 HP at 4400 rpm. At 110 mph in 4th gear with the torque converter locked, the engine would be spinning at about 3300 rpm, putting out closer to 150 HP since at its torque peak of 3100 rpm it will put out 240 ft-lb of torque. Assume a Cd of approximately 0.35 and a frontal area of 31 sq ft. Also assume reasonable losses from rolling resistance (Cd = 0.015), driveline, accessories, etc. and flat level ground, and calm wind. Oh and air conditions at STP. Based on the equations, you'll probably end up with a result of a maximum speed somewhere in the neighborhood of 110 - 115 mph. Do the calculations yourself. I went through many semesters of college and paid many thousands of dollars to get my mechanical engineering degree. If you're a good engineer like I am and make proper assumptions and are careful in your calculations, you'll likely end up within about 3% of the real-world empirically derived value. I'm not going to stifle your independence by spoon-feeding the calculations to you. If you're so inclined, you can use the fuel consumption equations provided above to calculate that your fuel economy would be approximately 8 mpg at 110 mph. Remember to add about 20% to the fuel consumption because in this case you'd be running wide-open-throttle, which is open loop, not stoichiometric.

What is the 0-60 time of a Town & Country?

Empirical evidence suggests that under normal conditions the 0-60 time of a Town & Country is somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 seconds with driver and all seats depending on outside air temperature and fuel load. A full tank of gas can add over 100 pounds and skew the results. Note: this is quicker than a lot of cars! Chrysler could have probably shaved some time off the 0-60 acceleration by modifying the gearing slightly so the van would reach 60 mph in 2nd gear. This makes reaching 60 mph in 10 seconds even more impressive, considering that it includes a shift into 3rd gear. Also note that the 0-60 time is only one measure of acceleration. Other important factors to consider are the ability to climb hills without having to downshift, which the Town & Country does very well due to abundant low-end torque, and the ability to do a full-throttle downshift and pass on the highway.

Is it easy to get girls in a Town & Country?

Yes. As I mentioned previously, the engineers at Chrysler designed the seats to be at just the right height so there is no need to climb or drop way down to enter the vehicle. Most of them can just slide right in to the front seat without much effort, especially if the seats are leather - they're slipperier than the cloth.

No, I meant is it easy to attract girls when you drive a Town & Country?

It's no harder than it was in the Saturn that I drove before I entered the wonderful world of minivan ownership. And I haven't seen any sports cars out there with privacy glass and enough room for a bed in the back. If I wanted to attract the type of girls that were only attracted to a sports car or I felt like I needed to compensate for something, I'd go out and buy one just for that purpose. Till then I'm sticking with the minivan. Any girl who wouldn't date a guy that drives a minivan isn't worth dating. I know this from talking to some girls who said they would never date a guy who drives one. You're probably better off without a woman if she doesn't appreciate the benefits and usefulness of owning a minivan.

Have any girls ever turned down an opportunity to ride in the Town & Country?

Not any intelligent ones. Some do wise up though after about the third or fourth time. In my personal experience the ones that don't wise up aren't worth wasting your time on and are best left to run around the world bothering other people, especially if they're openly prejudiced against 7-seater vehicles with sliding doors. If nothing else, driving a minivan is an effective way to weed out those girls.

Why would a woman want to date a minivan owner such as yourself?

There are so many good reasons that the answer is almost too big for this FAQ! But I'll try to formulate a brief answer. Driving and maintaining a minivan demonstrates financial responsibility, practicality, logical reasoning, attention to detail, and meticulousness, among other fine qualities. The maintenance I've done demonstrates that I have troubleshooting skills and that I'm mechanically inclined. My ability to do performance calculations and create a web site about minivan ownership demonstrate my technical skills and intelligence. Parking a large vehicle requires careful calculation and spatial orientation. I care about other people, as shown by the facts that I'm sharing great information about minivans, I've helped people move stuff, and everyone in my vehicle gets a comfortable seat. It shows that I appreciate some of the finer things in life and that I have some culture. I can read a map and follow directions as evidenced by my road trips. I'm faithful to one brand of minivans. I'm also willing to do what I think is right even if other people think a young person driving a minivan is crazy. And to top it off, I like to think that I'm decent looking and I can cook!

Are you against people who drive SUVs?

As long as a person can afford their SUV and they stay out of my way when I'm trying to pass, they don't bother me at all! And a few of the people who own SUVs actually do need them. What authority do I have to tell people they shouldn't be chasing their dreams by buying a huge rig and an enormous house 50 miles away from where they work? It's not necessarily how I'd spend my money, but I don't feel someone is wrong or stupid for buying a vehicle that may be slightly bigger than what someone else thinks they need. And if it were a truly stupid decision, I think it would rank pretty low on the "stupidity continuum," especially compared to some of the other things people do these days to mess up their lives.

The auto companies are designing a whole bunch of vehicles aimed at people in your (young) age bracket such as Scions, the Honda Element, Nissan XTerra, Toyota Matrix, Pontiac Vibe, Pontiac Aztek, etc. Why not drive one of these?

The aforementioned vehicles are designed to be able to carry lots of cargo, be very versatile and flexible, low in cost, cool, and fun to drive. A minivan already has all these bases covered! Plus it looks sleeker, it's available with a powerful V6, and you can find them loaded with all kinds of neat features. What do you know... the auto companies basically think young people need vehicles that do all the things that minivans do!

If you're driving a Town & Country, how many ways are there to arrange 6 girls in the remaining 6 seats?

Oooh! A math question! I like these! 6 * 5 * 4 * 3 * 2 * 1 = 720 possibilities.

Speaking of seats, is it possible to remove and the install seats by yourself?

I'm not exactly a bodybuilder myself and I am able to remove and install both captains chairs and the third row unassisted. I have not weighed the seats, but if I can do it, it must be possible, so the answer to this question is yes. The followup to this is that yes, it is easier to do with two people.

While we're on the subject of seats, how do you keep your leather seats in such good condition?

The key to keeping the leather interior (or any interior) in good condition is to protect it from sunlight and ensure that the interior gets cleaned once in a while. Most people are bigger slobs than I am so they'll have to clean theirs more often. I recommend applying a leather treatment product every 4 months or so. You can find these products for less than $6 a bottle at any place that sells auto treatment products and a bottle should last you for several applications. For less than $50, you can keep your leather interior looking nearly brand new for the entire life of the vehicle! This will keep the leather seats and surfaces conditioned and prevent cracking. I also recommend using a shade in the windshield when the van is parked during the summer. The rear of the van has privacy glass that reduces the solar intensity and helps protect the rear seats.

Have you customized your van or do you have any thoughts on customization?

I have added one custom feature to my van. When I was removing the overhead console to replace burned out bulbs, I decided to run wires from the connector on the trip computer PCB to the windshield to provide 12V for my radar detector - thus eliminating the long unsightly power cable that was previously plugged into the power outlet near the cupholders. What kind of customization would be neat? How about 5 comfortable seats in the back that are removable so you can carry cargo and people? Better yet, how about those seats fold into the floor? Wait a minute, Chrysler has done that already! Suggestions I have received or thought up include the following:

  • Bean bag seats, a movie screen, and digital projector for watching movies
  • Leather couch
  • Refrigerator and/or wet bar
  • Wireless Internet connection so I could be online anywhere and everywhere (Chrysler did this for 2009)
  • Data logger to log all performance parameters of vehicle
  • Audio input jack to hook laptop up to sound system - Chrysler did this for 2008!
  • 120V power outlets integrated into van for laptops - Chrysler did this for 2008!
  • Turbocharger / Supercharger
  • Flame paint job
  • Turn around second row of seats and put a table in the back - Chrysler did this for 2008!
  • Hybrid or all electric powertrain

    (Chrysler did this in 1993)
  • And if I had a dollar for every person that mentioned "put a bed back there" I'd be able to afford a brand new van

I am thinking about putting a mattress in the back. What must I consider?

Stopping to take a rest when you're too tired to continue driving is a very wise choice. It's much safer than risking falling asleep behind the wheel. Sleeping in the back of a minivan can also save a lot of money on hotel expenses. And, like camping, having a minivan gives you a lot of choices as to where you can decide to "set up camp." For a couple of extra bucks you might be able to rent an RV site to obtain a power hookup and water. But, unlike camping, there's no fooling around in the dark trying to put together a tent for the first time! And don't stop to sleep in a spot where it might be illegal to park or you could get towed from.

Behind the front seats there is approximately 96" to the tailgate, and the narrowest width is 48". Of course the Town & Country was designed so that it would fit 4' x 8' sheets of plywood. A twin mattress is approximately 39" x 75". A double is 54" by 75". Clearly we can determine that a twin mattress will fit very well, whereas a double or larger mattress will not. Other sizes that will work would be a twin XL (39" x 80"), a three-quarter (48" x 75" - whaddya know, they make a mattress that's just the right width!), three-quarter short (48" x 72"), and super single (48" x 84"). Unfortunately at this time I do not have a recommendation for a three-quarter size inflatable mattress. You should be able to squeeze two captains chairs (unlatched from the floor) in front of a fully-inflated three-quarter mattress. You will also probably want to make sure that you have a minivan with tinted privacy glass in the rear. For you budding entrepreneurs out there, maybe some of you are already thinking that you could rent out the back of your minivan as a portable hotel room to help pay for gas. And to think, before reading this, you probably wanted a sports car...

Why would a single person drive such a large vehicle? Isn't that a waste?

A minivan at 200 inches long and 78 inches wide doesn't take up much more room than, say, a Honda Accord at 190 inches long and 72 inches wide. The minivan just makes extremely efficient use of space. According to my economic calculations above, driving a minivan doesn't cost much more than driving a smaller vehicle. A waste would be unnecessarily spending money on something that one doesn't plan to use. I plan to use all 7 seats and 167 cubic feet of cargo capacity on a regular basis. It's not like I'm driving a huge SUV that gets 12 mpg that I never plan to go offroading in. Sure, it uses a little more gas than a smaller vehicle, but there are many bright engineers like myself (and maybe you) trying to develop a solution for this so future generations of people can drive enjoy driving minivans. And if there is such a great surge in minivan popularity that a shortage arises, I'm sure Chrysler would be more than happy to increase production of the Town & Country so that everyone who wants one can have one.

There is something lacking in my life and I feel the need to compensate for it by driving a sports car or a large truck/SUV. Are you compensating for something by driving a minivan?

As a matter of fact, I am compensating for the fact that driving any other vehicle would compromise utility, finances, power, comfort, coolness, or some combination thereof.

I heard that brakes can greatly affect the performance of a Town & Country. What do you recommend?

I'd recommend a nice set of ceramic pads for the front and replacing the rotors when the pads are installed. Ensure your lugs nuts are torqued to specification (95 lb-ft) when the wheels are installed and again after 25 miles of driving. This will not only prevent your wheels from falling off, but it will also prevent your rotors and wheels from warping as well. Ceramic pads also greatly reduce the amount of brake dust that gathers on your wheels as compared to non-ceramic pads. Also downshifting to 3 and L when descending large hills to take advantage of engine braking will enhance the life of your brake pads. My ceramic pads would have lasted at least 100,000 miles at the rate they were wearing.

What kind of tires do you recommend?

My Town & Country had a set of Yokohama AVID TRZ's, 215/65R16. 225/60R16s should also fit quite nicely on 16 inch wheels. If you want premium performance from your vehicle, spend a few bucks and buy a nice set of tires. You already saved yourself thousands by buying a Town & Country. There's no need to squeeze out the last few bucks from your operating costs, which could completely ruin the feel and handling of your luxurious minivan. Check out tirerack.com for pricing and survey results. My first set of Yokohama AVID TRZ's lasted 53,000 miles.

But I can save a few bucks if I buy a tire from a company like Goodyear instead. Do you recommend this?

I would never recommend you buy a tire from a company that is in such financial trouble and gets rid of its best and brightest workers (see my biography)  Would you rather be buying from a company that is squeezing cost out of your tire to try to break even because it refuses to change or a company that makes a decent profit and is squeezing quality in? Why prolong the inevitable? Chrysler doesn't even equip its new minivans with Goodyear tires - they come from the factory with Bridgestones! Apparently removing me and my enormous engineer's salary from the payroll did not prevent Goodyear from losing $330 million in 2006 and $174 million more in the first quarter of 2007.

I can also save a few bucks if I switch to Progressive Insurance!

Congratulations for you. Once again, see my biography. Switching to Progressive would cost me significantly more than I'm currently paying, and to top it off, you'd think after my experiences with them that they'd have the courtesy to stop sending me solicitations in the mail! Seriously, if they claim to offer the rate quotes of so many other insurance companies, they should be able to figure out that they can't save me any money with their higher quote.

(A large portion of) Chrysler was just sold by Daimler to Cerberus! What effect will this have on Chrysler?

I think that being privately held and being freed from Daimler will allow Chrysler the freedom to develop even better products over the coming years. They'll be able to focus on building the cars they need, without having to worry about brand overlap with Mercedes, and they'll be able to use the parts they want to use, instead of being forced to buy Mercedes parts when it's not appropriate. Without having to answer to Wall Street, I am expecting that Chrysler can concentrate more on designing the vehicles people want to buy than worrying about quarterly earnings. If I had $7.4 billion, I would have bought Chrysler too!

How do I program the Homelink garage door opener on my van?

Homelink's website has vehicle specific instructions for this.

If money was no object and you could choose between a Corvette and a Town & Country, which would you choose?

The Town & Country. Duh.

As a minivan enthusiast, what features would you like to see in the next generation of minivans?
Features I wanted that made it into the new generation of minivans are highlighted in blue.

Here's a list of things I'd like to see that aren't currently available:

  • Powered Stow-N-Go seats
  • More comfortable Stow-N-Go seats
  • Wireless Internet connection so I can be online anywhere as long as I'm near the van
  • MP3 player with USB connection for flash drives
  • 3.5mm audio input jack on sound system
  • More powerful, more fuel efficient engine (of course!)
  • Beverage heaters/chillers in the cupholders
  • Integrated power inverter for 120V outlets
  • Power tap on overhead console for radar detector
  • Parking brake release moved to more easily-reachable position (or release with foot pedal)
  • Autoshift capability with steering wheel mounted controls
  • Manual transmission! (it's not available in the US)
  • Cylinder deactivation (MDS)
  • Cooled seating surfaces
  • Tucker-style headlights for seeing around corners
  • Smart glass to automatically shade interior in summer when the van is parked
  • Heads-up display
  • Diesel engine (not available in US)
  • Programmable interface with body, powertrain, and transmission control modules so I could display whatever I wanted to on the instrument cluster or heads-up display
  • Flat panel instrument cluster with fully customizable displays

Where can I find more information about all the cool changes incorporated into the next generation of Chrysler minivans?

   Allpar

What is your opinion on the 2008 Chrysler Town & Country?

I had the opportunity to check out several at the recent Detroit Auto Show. While it is certainly a superior vehicle, I wish Chrysler would have left a few things the way they were in the past and I beg them to change these back and curtail further attempts to cut costs by reducing features. Here are my suggestions:

  • Move my parking brake release back up to where I can reach it without bending over
  • Bring back the windshield wiper defroster
  • Bring back the lit window and door lock controls on the doors
  • Enlarge the interior door handle so I can fit my whole hand in there
  • Put instantaneous fuel economy calculation back in the overhead console
  • Move heated seat controls back onto the seats
  • Put the coin holder back where I can reach it
  • Put the door back on the compartment below the cupholders in the front console
  • Do we really need a brake-park interlock?

Changes I like from the 2000 model year:

  • Reconfiguring engine so rear spark plugs can be changed from the top
  • Larger headlights
  • Increased horsepower
  • Movable center consoles
  • Power sliding doors and power rear liftgate
  • Stow-N-Go seating
  • Available Bluetooth connectivity for cell phones
  • Classier looking instrument panel
  • Three-zone automatic temperature control

When are you going to part with your hard-earned money to buy a newer Chrysler Town & Country?

A confluence of factors is currently conspiring to keep me from purchasing a replacement Town & Country at the moment. First, I am now in grad school, so I am not making much money. Second, I have hefty tuition bills to pay. Third, I am living in a city, which means I don't need to drive much, so it would be pointless to spend thousands of dollars on a newer vehicle at the moment. And fourth, gas costs nearly $4 a gallon so I'm trying not to drive much anyway. As soon as I graduate in December I expect the first three issues to resolve themselves.

What is your current vehicle situation? 

Currently I am driving a 1996 Ford Taurus station wagon. Sadly, others in my family were so anxious to get rid of it that it was forced upon me when a massive repair bill necessitated the disposal of my Town & Country. After driving the Taurus, I can say that it does not hold a candle to the Town & Country. The powertrain is rough and unrefined, the seats are uncomfortable for a person with nearly average proportions (me), and the interior is not laid out nearly as well.

I checked out the really cool programs you developed for keeping track of gasoline and maintenance, and would like you to do some programming for me.

Certainly! See my programming page for more information.

I work at Chrysler and I want your assistance designing and/or testing the next generation of minivans. What should I do?

My resume is right here. I would be more than happy to consider a position consulting for Chrysler or any of the other auto companies.

"Chrysler" and "Town & Country" are trademarks of DaimlerChrysler.

Last updated 6/29/2008 - Brian Feldman — 

Minivan loss: update

Unfortunately my beloved minivan has reached the end of its useful life for me. I have included charts and graphs of pertinent data for the van's lifecycle.

What Happened

I went out to the garage one evening to go to the grocery store and discovered a large puddle of power steering fluid. The power steering pump was leaking, the reservoir had rusted through, the lines were corroded, and the steering rack was leaking also. The estimated cost to fix this was over $1300, and so it is time for me to search for another vehicle.

Life Cycle Analysis of a 2000 Chrysler Town & Country, November 2003 - April 2008, 71,063 - 175,692 miles

FAQ graph

Figure 1: Maintenance Costs Per Month - This includes both maintenance items and repairs, along with a trailing-12-month moving average. Maintenance costs began to rise into the ridiculous range in late 2007, which almost initiated the search for a new van at that time.

minivan FAQ

Figure 2: Lifetime Gas Usage - As you can see, I spent more on fuel than I did to purchase the vehicle. 

minivan graph

Figure 3: Tank Deficiency - This shows the cumulative difference between fuel consumption calculated by the trip computer and reading at the gas pump. Note that there were a few times I did not fill the tank all the way, and that the fuel pump was replaced around 164,000 miles. The cumulative difference between the trip computer and the gas pump is approximately 1 gallon in 1000.

minivan gas usage

Figure 4: Gas Per Month - Where's that missing $300 per month? I think I just found it.

minivan maintenance costs graph
Figure 5: Gallons Histogram - This depicts the number of gallons I put in the tank along the bottom and how many times I did it along the side. Luckily this value was never equal to or greater than the capacity of the fuel tank.

minivan gas mileage

Figure 6: Distance Histogram - Shows how far each tank of gas took me. 

minivan repair costs graph

Figure 7: Cost Per Gallon and MPG Actual - This shows what a gallon of gas cost over time plotted with fuel mileage and a trailing-10-tank moving average in red. Note that while fuel economy fluctuated with seasons and major life changes, in general it stayed fairly consistent throughout the life of the van.

The total cost of ownership of the van was $31,900 for 104,629 miles, which works out to $0.305 per mile. This can be broken down into:

  • $11,900 - fuel
  • $9,000 - depreciation
  • $7,000 - maintenance and repairs
  • $4,000 - insurance, registration, and oil changes

There you have it - a complete data-based history about the costs and ownership experience of a Chrysler Town & Country. Considering that it took nearly $32,000 and four and a half years, perhaps I should get a PhD.

Downloads to enhance your minivan (or other vehicle) experience

gas mileage database Gas Log - with this Access database you can track all kinds of trends in fuel prices, gas mileage, miles per tank, calculate total fuel consumed over the life of the vehicle, and make many pretty graphs and plots of this data! Just put your data in the "gas" table and you can run all the reports and queries. I provided some sample data that you'll want to clear out before you use it, unless you're interested in my driving habits. Want to produce the cool graphs that I did up above? This is how I made them. This was developed by me as Freeware for the common good of society. (Mac users can try this site.)
minivan mileage Vehicle Cost Log - This Access database helps you keep track of your total operating cost per mile and calculate future expenses. Just fill in the Depreciation, Maintenance, Per Mile Costs, Per Year Costs, and Vehicles tables (all other tables are automatically updated by the program), fill out the "Info" form, and then open up an "Operating Cost Report." Again I've provided some sample data. No, I do not own a fleet of three yet. I only own one! This was developed by me as Freeware for the common good of society. (Webmaster note: I use a spreadsheet for the same basic outcome.)
chrysler minivan picture 1024x768 Desktop Background - You may not be able to drive your minivan while you're at your computer, but at least now you can look at one! The original is a much higher resolution photo, originally available on http://www.minivan20th.com (which is down now), if you wish to resize it for a different screen resolution.
We make no guarantees regarding validity, accuracy, or applicability of information, predictions, or advice. Please read the terms of use and privacy policy. Copyright © 1994-2000, David Zatz; copyright © 2001-2016, Allpar LLC (except as noted, and press/publicity materials); all rights reserved. Dodge, Jeep, Chrysler, Ram, and Mopar are trademarks of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.


Saltillo silvered

Pacifica hybrid: high on gasoline, too

New Challenger GT: four wheels a-rockin’

Wagoneer on hold — “oops” again?

All Mopar Car and Truck News



Dodge Challenger GT AWD Honey, we screwed up the truck High torque, long life: Jeep 4.0 The always-future Dodge Dakota pickup

Will the Wagoneer be Grand? Shelby Dakota: hot or not? Washer fluid bags! Chrysler Crossfire: fauxpar?