Don't Make Me Buy A Minivan! Used Cars For Families.

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No-one aspires to drive a minivan.  But sometimes minivans happen to good people.  And if family or luggage happens to you, at least pick a good vehicle.  But how?  Here's my experience ...

I was a happy  Subaru Outback and  Honda Accord Hybrid owner (the most awesome car for fuel efficiency combined with luxury and power, by the way). Sure, I had friends who lived with Minivan -- the most common US strains being  Honda Odyssey and  Toyota  Sienna . But as long as I had my  Subaru , I was immune.  Then 2 things happened:  1) 2 more kids, and 2) I moved from the USA to Australia. Faced with shipping costs and the requirement to convert cars to right hand drive, I was forced to sell both these cars (which I did with a tear in my eye, but from the comfort of my armchair, thanks to eBay Motors, by the way). While we prepared for the move, I rented a  Chrysler Voyager for a few days. And that was my first exposure to Minivan. The kids loved the high up seating. The space and configurable seating was almost irrisistable. Upon arrival in Australia, I rented a  Toyota Tarago , and the drug started to work it's evil magic. Lugging untold suitcases, appliances and boxes of belongings all over the city put the van through its paces. Now, I'm about to take delivery of a  Kia Carnival , and I thought I'd share my research, in case you are aflicted too.

Does size matter?  If you want the biggest van, for a really large family, or to carry adults in comfort, look at the  Chrysler VoyagerVW Caravelle (harder to find), and  Kia Carnival .

Fuel Efficiency: No minivan is exactly what you'd call  fuel efficient , but look up the weight and fuel consumption stats online, and you'll find that smaller models like the  Mazda MPVHolden Zafira are best.

Looks Can Kill:  Most Minivans look like, well, minivans. And if you are looking for street cred, you're mostly out of luck. But Toyota's newish  Kluger and Tarago have better looks than most, and with each year the Honda Odyssey gets leaner and meaner looking (at the expense of internal passenger and luggage space). The Kia and  Chrysler are very standard looking.

Space Age: Probably your main concern is the ability to haul people in your people mover. So look for those with 7 or even 8 seats. But if you won't always have a full load, look for those where the seats either fold really flat ( Voyager ) or come out entirely ( Carnvial , and others). And pay attention to how much luggage space there is behind the back seats, or between  bucket seats .

Safety: Check out which models have the most airbags, and look for ABS breaks to protect your precious cargo.

Bells and  Whistles : Most modern minivans have plenty of cup holders, decent stereos, and dual AC systems. You can buy an aftermarket  DVD player for the kids, and a  GPS navigation system for the driver on eBay, so no need to be talked into a new car just to get these.

Price: eBay is a great place to research what these cars really sell for (search for  Completed Items to see not only the asking price, but the highest bids and actual selling prices). Honda and Toyota have hard-earned reputations for reliability, and their cars command high new and used prices to match. But buy a lightly used one with 2 or 3 years, and 60,000kms on the clock, and you can save $10,000's off the new price. Save more by looking for an older model, or one with a cheaper price when new such as the Kia, MPV, Holden. All these cars are built to take punishment, so don't be afraid of one with 100,000km.

How to buy on eBay:
eBay has 1000's of cars, from dealers and private sellers alike, with more detailed photos and descriptions than other sites, and with checklists and links to vital research tools like mobile inspections and title checks. You can search by price, location, make/model/year, or any other feature you care about. You can see if the seller is a dealer or private party, and contact the sellers anonymously via email, or phone them if they list a phone number. If you buy from a dealer on eBay, some will offer great service like delivering the car to you, or a limited warranty to go with the car. Provided you complete the deal on  eBay Motors with a Bid, Buy It Now, or  Best Offer , you'll have the safety provided by the eBay Feedback system and you can tell others about your experience. Plus the new  Vehicle Purchase Protection insurance program provides free insurance that the car you buy on eBay will be as described ( full details ).

Protect your account carefully when you bid on a big ticket item. If you get emails claiming to be from eBay or the seller, check  My Messages before responding. And don't respond to suspicious emails that offer deals "too good to be true" or that ask for Western Union payments. Use some common sense, and you can join the ranks of millions of other car buyers worldwide who have bought a car on eBay. Then you'll be ready to sell your old car, and eBay's $5 listing fee is about as cheap as it gets.

Finally, if you need help, a lot of people don't know that you can get Live Help (chat-based) 24 hours a day by clicking on the yellow Live Help links at the top of the  eBay Motors home page . Or you can ask a question and get a quick answer from the experts and eBay staff who hang out on the  discussion boards .

Good luck, and I'll see you on the road!
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