Where can I find info on older vans, best makes, models?

Hi everyone,

Thanks for your time and attention! Usually when I’m looking for a used vehicle (which has been all my vehicles!), I research reliability, performance and other statistics in Consumer Reports Guides to Used Cars. And then I know, if I’m interested in a Subaru Impreza for example, which years tended to have what problems, performance and safety issues, etc.

But if I’m researching older vans, is there any source of information like this besides word of mouth?

Just for backstory and more about my intentions, I lived in my 67 VW bus when I was in my mid 20s, off and on for a couple of years. It was a dream of mine…and it’s still alive. However at almost 66 and with a couple of recent surgeries behind me, I know I need more comfort than I did then. And I want to proceed cautiously, and not spend much money until I’m sure I want to jump in full-time.

So I’m looking at older Class Bs, though honestly they have more ‘stuff’ in them than I think I need and have a more crowded feeling than I’d like. I’d like to be able to put my yoga mat down on the floor on those days when the weather/external environment doesn’t allow me to be outside.

So I’m also looking at passenger vans. And…because of said surgeries and budget issues, I really don’t want to have to do too much to it. A level clean floor, a basic bed build or cot, some simple furniture, campstove, water jugs…I’m more than good with keeping it simple to start with.

But how do I find out which vans, which engines, which years are still reliable? I’m told Dodge is good but can have rust issues. I’ve heard to avoid Fords after 1999. I’ve been told Chevys are good.

Budget is about $10,000 though I would go to 15K if it didn’t need anything right away.

Thanks so much for your time and any advice or wisdom you care to share! Much appreciated.

They’re all going to have one issue or another, which in older vans are known and talked about on internet forums and review sites. Before buying my van I did a whole bunch of googling and reading through forums, and also read through forums and reviews on pick up trucks with the same drivetrains.

Because of availability, price, and the fact that US mechanics are very familiar with the vehicle, I picked up a 2000 Ford E350 extended passenger van with the 5.4 engine. I knew going in that this engine can blow spark plugs on occasion, but through research on the internet discovered that it’s a fairly easy repair nowadays.

Sure enough on the way back from a trip into the mountains of northern New Mexico it blew a spark plug. A week later it was repaired, and I had the mechanic install inserts into all 8 plug holes so it would never happen again. Since then I put more than 5,000 miles on the van going to the east coast and back, and a shorter trip to Utah and Colorado with no problems whatsoever. Doing maintenance and the occasional repair is part of owning any vehicle, and knowing what problems might pop up is a good idea. Knowing the spark plug issue, I used to carry a plug insert kit in case it happened far away from home.

Much more important than each model’s potential issues however, is the condition of the van and mileage. Most are pretty good - get a mechanic to check it before buying. Once you have it, do all the periodic maintenance - all fluids and filters, belts, hoses, transmission and differential service, etc. Replace tires more than 5 or 6 years old regardless of wear and have the brakes checked/serviced. After buying mine I did all this, plus replaced worn ball joints and tie rod ends.

Don’t expect nothing to go wrong with a van that has high mileage! If it’s dented and scratched up, whoever drove it probably ran it hard and put it away wet!

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Greetings & Welcome!

The older pre-computerized Dodges from the 70’s & 80’s are hands down the ones I’ve had the best luck with. The 318 engine coupled with a 727 transmission are among the most reliable drive trains ever produced. The slant 6 engines from the same era were great too, but under powered for a big van.

75-91 Fords would be my second choice, with the big block engines.

Chevy’s & GMC’s come in dead last of the big 3, because of higher than normal repairs than the above two.

Totally avoid Sprinters & diesels. The jury’s still out on the ProMasters & Transits. The ProMasters are Fiats, and that’s not very confidence inspiring. Judging by what’s for sale, there’s way too many nearly new Sprinter’s, ProMaster’s, & Transit’s for sale. Logic says if they were any good, there wouldn’t be so many for sale used, and often with low miles.


"I start saving money with the vehicle purchase,
and pay practically nothing to convert it." ~ Road Warrior

Everyone I know with a Mercedes Sprinter has had minor to major problems - everything from electrical, turbo, exhaust, injection, to engine failure at only 150K miles.

Their vans from the 1990s were great, albeit underpowered; but not very common here in the US. I put thousands of miles on them in Europe back in the 1990s - never a problem.

Thanks, Axel. I’m not expecting an older van to not have issues; just like you with the spark plugs, it helps to know what your particular make and model is prone to, right?

And definitely I will have a mechanic check it thoroughly before buying!

Thanks, Van Dweller, I appreciate the specifics of your advice and experience.

Definitely will be avoiding Sprinters, diesels, ProMasters, Transits, pretty though they might be. I just haven’t heard much that’s good beyond the space they have and the layout they allow.

Another thing I heard was that prices on used vans may go down in the fall? Any thoughts on that?

Thanks again!


RV prices typically drop in the fall & winter. Not sure on vans, and with the pandemic who knows…


"I start saving money with the vehicle purchase,
and pay practically nothing to convert it." ~ Road Warrior