18K Original Miles: 1989 Dodge Caravan

 

Isn’t it amazing how the vehicles of your youth suddenly begin to strike a chord with you decades later? Nostalgia is a powerful drug, and this low-mileage first-generation Dodge Caravan is strangely appealing to me. Of course, the one I would want to have is equipped slightly differently, but the sentiment remains the same. These were everywhere when I was in elementary school and it’s amazing to think the minivan has already been replaced by the crossover considering how popular these people-haulers once were. The seller’s vehicle is just 18,000 miles and remains in very nice shape – shockingly, it is in Waterbury, Connecticut, a part of the world where most of these have rusted away. Find it here on Facebook Marketplace for $4,500.

Thanks to Barn Finds reader Dennis H. for the find. I suppose for all my lamenting about the influx of CUVs, fans of the classic estate wagon looked at the arrival of the minivan the same way. We keep getting taller and wider to accommodate the same amount of people, and what’s crazy to me is how much more versatile your standard minivan is than a three-row SUV. This tells me the sale of SUVs and CUVs is driven entirely by the perception that a minivan isn’t hip, but as someone who has young kids, my concerns about my image pale in comparison to my desire to own a vehicle that makes my life easier. The Caravan and the ensuring generations dominated this market for years, almost to the level at which it became pointless for other manufacturers to try and compete with their take on the classic formula.

The minivan concept is still extremely relevant today, but I see more parents time and again climbing over immovable rows without aisles instead of walking through the middle of a spacious van with second-row captain’s chairs. Even this Caravan, ancient by today’s standards, allows you to walk between the front seats with a clear path to the back rows, and the giant sliding door obviously offers an easier entrance than a conventional rear door. In recent months, I’ve rented both a final-generation Caravan and the new Pacifica, and both models are exceptionally well-designed, clearly reflecting that Chrysler Corp. has had several decades to get the formula perfected after initially hitting it out of the park with the first-generation model. Look at the interior of this one – no signs of rips, stains, or other abuse that typically befalls vehicles that shuttle young kids.

The engine bay is clean but also looks somewhat undisturbed, meaning that despite the low mileage, no one has been in here lately to replace hoses, plug wires, and belts, so I would assume the seller is leaving that to the next caretaker to sort out. I would preventatively replace all of the timing-related components, along with any weeping hoses or partially-shredded belts. The seller does say it runs and drives great, so presumably, it doesn’t have any issues at the moment. If i were to buy one, it’d need to be white-on-white-on-white with the woodgrain trim and color-coded mesh wheels – does anyone out there have any leads?

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Comments

  1. Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

    Sorry, but you don’t accumulate that much grime on an 18000 mile engine, even in the worst environment. I am calling 118000k.

    Like 13
    • Pete R.

      It is pretty crusty looking…

      Like 3
    • Dave

      Doesn’t matter. $4500 is certainly fair, assuming everything works properly. Our 88 Caravan was identical to this one but a darker shade of blue and the only reason we got rid of it 11 years later was the dealer’s inability to correctly repair the transaxle. There wasn’t a spot of rust on it and I live near Pittsburgh.

      Like 6
    • Terrry

      and that means it’s nearing the end of life. These are the first of the second generation Caravans, and they died early and often.

      Like 1
      • Rob

        “and they died early and often”.? I disagree, I STILL see them driving around in Ohio, I bought a 1994 in 2000 with 113k,
        sold it in 2018 with 203k, 18 1/2 years! never failed me!, it
        had the Mitsi V6. It was the “A” car for 6 years, and then a work van for 12, Then I purchased a 2005 Grand Caravan
        with 162k, it rides smother, quieter than my T&C

        Like 8
    • nlpnt

      Rest of the car is in too good shape to have been around the clock, especially over 30+ years. That’s enough time to have endured the full gamut of kid-on-car abuse, from spit-up on the seat upholstery through the sticker-all-the-things phase all the way to the teenage driver who blows the speakers out, twice over.

      Like 2
  2. Gary

    These were great. I owned one in the early 90s with that same Mitsu V6, loved it. I am not sure about the miles either, does look awful grimy. If this were an estate sale, left by an elderly owner who hasn’t driven in years, maybe explains 18K miles, but not the filthy engine. I would look for some documentation on that before I bought. If the miles are true, then I think the ask is fair. At this price, would be a great driver, so very comfortable. Easy to get in and out for old farts like me. These were great cross country cars too. Holds a ton of luggage as well. Gets 30 MPG, what more could you ask for? At this price, buy it, just for family vacations alone. Wally World, here we come!

    Like 7
  3. Howard A Member

    Yeah, they went to 6 digit speedos for a reason, these spun over regularly. As evidenced, people that had these loved them, and took as good of care as they could. The moms house was probably spotless too. What more can be said that I haven’t already said on these. Of all my vehicles I’ve owned, the Chrysler mini van was by far, the best of the lot, and I’ve had some impressive vehicles. The mini van did it all, for years, with nothing more than minor maintenance, would insure hundreds of thousands of miles. If I was looking for people hauler today, I’d pass every new van offered to get one of these again, yep, even with 118K, and in a shocking twist, I might even pay $4g’s for another,,when we balance our national debt, maybe, but a nice find regardless.

    Like 9
  4. Steve Clinton

    We have this thing to thank for the multitude of family vans that came after.

    Like 1
  5. GLG Member

    We had a 1991 Plymouth Grand Voyager. What a great truck. White/wood grain over tan cloth interior. Drove it almost everyday for all the needed short trips and then occasionally it did reliable and comfortable duty for long trips. Ours was a 3.3 Chrysler whereas this listing is the 3.0 Renault engine. I made countless trips to the wrecking yards for our family fleet of vehicles and the 3.0 liter vans were the first ones on the lot; the engines were troublesome. By contrast, it was rare to find the 3.3 vans with less than 250K miles. Ours went 330K miles and died of old age; engine, transmission, tires, and air conditioning all at the same time. We could not justify the expense. When the wrecker came to pick it up, the driver remarked, “wow, this is a really clean truck” as he left greasy fingerprints on the steering wheel. It was hard to see it go as I tried to convince myself that a 6.4 Hemi, rear wheel drive conversion would cost too much and take too much scarce time. We marry our cars and they are all virtually “till death due us part” but their memory lives on.

    Like 6
    • Terrry

      That’s a Mitsubishi engine, used on Chrysler minivans and some cars up until 2007 I believe. Not a bad engine but change the timing belt occasionally and keep the oil changed.

      Like 3
  6. Abi

    Yet another seller wanting us to believe their rolled over odometer is “original’ miles. The engine compartment is too dirty, the upper radiator hose has been replaced, the top of the rear seat and the side panel next to it looks all stained to me – or is it bad lighting?. The headlight lenses are all road-rashed.
    I’m not convinced.

    Like 2
  7. JackG

    I had a 88′ with the 2.5 4cyl. It was a great vehicle and took the family on many great journeys.

    I recall that the Mitsubishi 3.0 was known to blow head gaskets and having had a Mitsubishi Tredia (don’t ask) before I didn’t want to touch anything from them.

  8. Terry

    Warning! Danger! Danger! Transmissions in these went bad early and often. At 118k miles which this one probably is, that ol’ gearbox is about done.

    Like 2
    • Howard A Member

      My experience was the non-overdrive transmissions failed around 100K, but my Dodge T&C had 210K on it, bought with a bad motor, I replaced the motor( in an afternoon) from a parts van ( that the non O/D trans blew @99K) and I put at least another 40K on that van, and never did anything to the O/D trans. Your experience may vary, of course.

      Like 1
      • MJF

        I think those transmissions need a regular fluid change , did you happen to do that ?

        Like 1
      • Howard A Member

        Remarkably, never touched the O/D and I doubt the previous owner did either. Being a truck driver all my life, I was always real easy on transmissions. I’ve seen people that are just too hard on them, whether they realize it or not. Think of the horror stories a transmission could tell, like that unintended “reverse drop” , or park at 5 mph,,detrimental stuff that shows up later.

    • Richard Neponri

      Yeah. I had a few. All died from transmission woes. Okay

    • Motorcityman Member

      My neighbor went through 3 transmissions in 100,000 miles!!
      Guy I worked with went through 2 in about the same miles…..trans seemed biodegradable!

  9. OddBallCars Member

    The car I learned to drive on! Ours was an 84 Plymouth Voyager, but same color exterior. Interior had blue vinyl. I tipped it into a ditch, we had the roof cut off and a new one welded back on. Then in college, I did an oil change, tightened the filter too tight, and broke the stud. Didn’t realize it, and 5 miles later, the engine seized. I miss that car! I could fit everything I owned in it, drive across the country, throw it all out on the ground, pile 7 friends in it and go to Busch Gardens!

    Like 3
  10. DavidH

    After looking at the pictures on Facebook Marketplace I tend to doubt the low mileage claim. It looks as though the driver seat may have been replaced and the carpet between the bench seat and the captains chairs has seen a lot of use.
    I owned a 1984 Dodge Caravan with a manual tranny and a 4 cylinder engine. This was a very reliable and economical vehicle. A number of our friends drove these as we started having kids. The later models only improved on an already good product. I think it was Mr. Iacocca who said “lead, follow or get out of the way”. IMO the other minivans followed Chrysler’s lead.

    Like 2
  11. Ray

    I’d be way more interested in a Turbo 4 with a stick. One of my college professors had one. Never knew they existed until then.

    Like 3
    • Howard A Member

      I had a Plymouth van with a 4 cylinder turbo and automatic. The turbo added 50 hp. and had plenty of power, but loved oil and the V6 actually got better mileage.

  12. bobhess bobhess Member

    We’re on our 4th Chrysler made van. First was a ’91 4 cylinder short wheel base, 87K miles, ’99 short wheel base Sport with 3.6 V6 that we did nothing to but two sets of tires and two batteries, an ’09 Caravan with the 3.6 3 liter, and now a ’21 Pacifica with too many electrical gadgets but pretty amazing power and speed. All hauled loads of varying sizes and weights plus race car and utility trailers. Biggest problem among the 4 was the emissions valve on top of the ’09 gas tank that a rat ate.

    Like 4
  13. bobhess bobhess Member

    Note: This van was probably exposed to salt,either on roads or the coast. The two main aluminum pieces in the engine compartment will turn like that even just exposed to salt air. Our ’99 and ’09 looked just like this one after being used post hurricane after flooding. We’re still pressure washing salt filled mold off our property after the ’17 hurricane Irma.

  14. Robert

    Look at the carpet it’s been cleaned but still very worn down no way this is only 18K that odometer has turned over let’s see a picture of the pedals. That motor is also been worked on can see a lot of things clean while the rest of it is nasty looking.

  15. flynndawg

    personally i have have always thought these were the worst, ugliest, non-descript vehicles ever built… where im from ‘east tn’, most of these reside in run down trailer parks, missing at least 1 ‘hubcap’, rottening from the ground up, and blowing blue smoke, dont hate, just my observation and opinion…

    Like 1
  16. Steven

    While I was wandering through Copart a year ago I ran across one of these. I climbed in the drivers seat and much to my surprise,…. it had a stick shift!
    I excitedly started writing down the bidding information only to find that it had already been sold.

    Like 2
  17. Joe Haska

    All I know is we bought a used 89 for a $1,000 bucks and it was in destructible. At the time we spent the winters in Mazatlan MX. and drove it back and forth between there and Colo. Every trip it was loaded with stuff and our two dogs and it never skipped a beat. If this one wasn’t so far away, I would probably go buy it , even if the miles are wrong. Funny thing is my wife wouldn’t care , the memories of that van would be worth it.

    Like 2
  18. SaabGirl900

    I used to work in a Dodge dealer’s service department as a service writer. The Mitsu 3.0 would eat valve guides. The engines would start to use oil at about 50,000 miles, and 25,000 miles later, it looked like the Mosquito Patrol was out when the van was moving. The 3.3 litre engine was absolutely bulletproof…..the van would rust out long before the engine gave it up. Overall a very useful vehicle; the ones built in the mid-’90’s tended to be rattleboxes with squeaks and other assorted noises coming from all over………

    Like 4
  19. Mark

    I can’t see how this strikes a cord with anyone.

    Like 1
  20. James Martin

    I test drove one , maybe a bit earlier than this one, it had a standard trans on the floor with the 4 poper. Kind of cool in this configuration, but still felt like junk. And in my opinion they still are.

    Like 1
  21. Geo

    Valve guides drop in the 3.0 Mitsubishi causing the vehicle to become a mosquito fogger at stop lights, and the trans are weak. Other than that awesome.

    Like 1
  22. Maestro1

    Jeff, thank you for this. If I had the room I’d buy it, give it what it needs, and drive it. I always liked that size.

  23. charlie Member

    I had 5, the first one an ’84 bought from “special order” before the dealer had any to see in person. Went over 200,000 miles, 2.2 engine, 3 teenagers learned to drive 5 speed stick on it, next two were used, a ’93 and a ’96, each with V6, each went over 200,000 (died of rust), then a new 2000, V6, the best of the lot, over 200,000 aftermarket leather, then a used 2006 (maybe a flood victim, not disclosed) ran well, but rusted fast. Told my kids, all in their 30’s, “Reproduce, or I am buying a 2 seater.” They didn’t, I bought an Allante, very used. They finally reproduced, one has a Honda the other a Toyota which claim to be SUV’s but are really minivans. The other is childless and driving an inherited 2003 Pontiac. So, even if this has 118,000 miles, and you have school aged kids to drive to baseball games, and soccor pratice, this is the car for you.

    Like 2
  24. Mark Member

    We have owned 2, a 1985 Dodge Caravan and a 1989 Plymouth Voyager LE. The best family car without 4 wheel drive, although I never had a problem in the Sierra Nevada with cables. We owned the Voyager for 8 years, 129 K, and sold it to a neighbor who drove it for another 10 years. Great vehicle, no real issues beyond preventative maintenance.

  25. Bob-O

    I purchased a new ’89 Grand Caravan with the 3.0 and “problematic” four-speed automatic. Never had any problems with my powertrain and I put over 50k miles on it in three years before getting divorced and trading it in on a new Dakota.

    I added a Mopar Performance heavy-duty sway bar kit that included urethane bushings. I also installed a set of Fittipaldi five-spoke wheels and performance tires. With that stuff, I surprised lots of people on freeway entrance ramps. Those sway bars made a huge difference in handling.

    The Caravan was comfortable and flexible and could handle 4×8 sheets of plywood with the rear seats removed. I put a lot of miles on mine traveling to race tracks around the mid-west when I was a race official for Indycar, SCCA, IMSA, etc.

    It was a great ride…

    • Motorcityman Member

      I wouldn’t expect to have any problems with a auto trans in only 50,000 miles.
      250,000 now THAT would impress me!

      Like 1
      • Howard A Member

        My O/D trans had about 250K and still worked fine.

      • Motorcityman Member

        Sure Howard, there r people that live to be100 years old too!

        Like 1
  26. Troy

    It could be actual mileage if it was stored outside like in a carport not a unreasonable price, wish it was closer

  27. Mike

    I had an 89 with the 2.5 with a manual transmission. Quick little bugger…

  28. Jim

    I emailed the owner asking some simple questions. And got very vague answers idn and ok nothing more no real answers. I had to google search idn there is something that seems strange to me about this ad.

  29. George Mattar

    When mini vans debuted in 1984, my wife was pregnant with our first child. Being a ultra conservative and not taking kindly to new stuff, I swore up and down these things were butt ugly. We bought a used 79 Olds Custom Cruiser. Well, about 11 years ago, I needed something for my growing mobile detailing business. Bought a 97 Caravan with a just replaced 3.0 engine and new struts. Yeah the trans took a dump 2 years later. Still cheaper to replace than buying a $40,000 new one. Oh, paid $1,100 for that green 97 then got $400 for it at a junkyard after having it 4 years, 97,000 more miles and zero car payment. I was hooked. I would never go without a mini van. Comfortable, I can see ahead at all the cell phone, cheeseburger stuffing on the pie hole, everything but driving idiots and carries far more than any useless new $60,000 POS cross over what ever they are. I found another green 97 on Craigslist in Nov 2014 with 50,000 miles for sale by the original owner. Asking $2,100. He had a New York phone book thick stack of receipts. Has 3.3 engibe. Seven years later at 123,000 miles and 24 mpg all day long I still have it. Goes in snow here in NE PA and I do all my own maintenance. He took $1,900 cash for it. You can have your stupid new SUVs. Oh, I coated the bottom of the rust free can with Fluid Film. Still no rust. And yes they rust. Mini vans forever.

  30. Reg Bruce

    My daily driver is a 1988 short wheelbase Voyager with the 3.0 MMC V6 and the 3-speed Torqueflite trans and, although the body looks like (and is) crap, the powertrain is nearly indestructible. I’ve now got 235,000 miles on it and it has original everything with a couple of exceptions. Yes, the head gaskets needed replacing at 150,000, however, with the heads now being off the engine, that seemed like a good time to change the timing belt and to fix the valve guides. On these engines the guides tended to “migrate” downward and into the ports thus exposing the top of the guide to oil splash so we simply used a punch and tapped them back up into the heads and into their correct positions. A quick “dab” with a MIG welder on their outside surface seems to have stopped them moving back down again and I have had absolutely no oil consumption issues. The mosquitos came back unfortunately.
    The trans has been faultless other than a “dodgy” VSS which sometimes caused a cycling issue with the Torque Converter Clutch –. Replacing the sensor was a quick and inexpensive fix.
    As others have said, I really wish I could find a new(er) van like mine. It would do me until I pop my clogs on this earth!

    RB

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