Residual values for last year's minivans are higher than they were in 2000.

Much like the station wagon was the shuttle of Baby Boomer generation, the minivan has been the primary means of transport for Generations X and Y. Just as the boomers abandoned the Country Squire, though, those kids that were toted around in Grand Caravans and Windstars are adults, and they certainly don't want to be seen in the cars their parents drove.

So why, then, are there still some brands holding out in the minivan market? Chrysler has already announced that a new Town & Country will arrive in the next few years, the Kia Sedona has just been given a massive redesign and both the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey remain strong products despite being in the middle of crossover-heavy lineups.

The simple answer? It's all about the money.

"They're good moneymakers," George Girjel, owner of Toyota of Cool Springs in Tennessee, told Automotive News. "And the more loaded they are, the faster they sell. The Sienna Limited retails for about $49,000, and we can't keep any in stock. They come in and they're gone."

That sentiment was echoed on the domestic side of the dwindling minivan market. "It's a good transaction and a loyal customer," said Brian Heney, the operations director of a nine-dealership group in Colorado. "You start loading up a Town & Country and they sell for $45,000. We like selling them."

Weirdly, though, the moneymaking minivan only came about because of slow sales. "When there are eight or nine entries in the minivan segment, nobody makes any money," Hyundai CEO Dave Zuchowski said at an industry conference in April, according to AN. "When four people drop out because they can't afford to stay in and there are just four or five remaining players, they all make money."

It was the failure of the minivans of General Motors, Ford and Hyundai that's allowed the offerings from Chrysler, Honda and Toyota to become real moneymakers. According to ALG, residual values for last year's minivans are higher than in 2000, with 36-month values up to 48.9 percent from 47.2 percent, AN said.

While the minivan market continues to make money, the real question now is whether these strong residual values and high transaction prices will force automakers that previously abandoned the market, like Ford or GM, to give it another look. While that doesn't seem likely, considering the success of crossovers from General Motors and Ford, along with the new Transit Connect, the appeal of money has a way of doing strange things to automakers.


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  • 52 Comments
      cgm9999
      • 6 Months Ago
      A couple of thoughts: 1.) I may be skewered for saying this, but I think that's a handsome, tasteful looking minivan. Maybe even the best looking one I've seen in recent memory. There, I said it. 2.) There's absolutely no shame in owning a minivan. None. In fact, more people would be much better served with a minivan than the SUV/CUV that they force themselves into just to avoid minivan jokes. That's the tragedy, IMO. People are so incredibly style conscious that they'd rather force themselves into a more expensive, less fuel-efficient, less space-efficient vehicle to the detriment of their family's needs all in the ineffective attempt at convincing themselves that they're not "minivan people" (as if that's such a horrible thing to be, if it's even a thing at all). If you've made the decision to have a family, you should be a big enough person to shrug off the ignorant ridicule of owning a minivan for the betterment of your family. Unless you need substantial ground clearance and/or tow something regularly, a minivan is the best choice for people that need three rows of seats. Ironically, this aversion towards minivans hasn't allowed the CUV-owning-soccer moms to escape ridicule like they hoped - it has simply moved the goal posts of what's considered the house-frau-mobile-of-the-moment, so to speak. Seriously, I can't be the only one that has been dragged into an ignorant car discussion with a family friend about car-buying advice only to hear something like the following said with an absolutely straight face and an earnestness without the slightest hint of sarcasm: "I want a Sorrento/Traverse/Explorer/Journey/Pilot/Highlander/etc because I don't want to look like a soccer mom". [buries face into hands and leaves conversation] So despite their efforts, people who need a minivan are failing miserably at escaping the image that they so desperately want to avoid. This, despite already assuming and openly embracing the soccer mom look by wearing holiday-themed sweaters covered in baby stains (at least a month before the holiday, no less), formless and unflattering mom jeans, a prototypical Kate Gosselin-like mom haircut circa 1996, and regularly quoting Madagascar 2 (no judgment, btw, just pointing out the irony). The solution? Put on your big boy pants, act like a mature adult that made the decision to have multiple impressionable and dependent children that rely on you for their livelihood and simply buy the vehicle that suits your needs best, outside opinions be damned.
        Wyrmdog
        • 6 Months Ago
        @cgm9999
        Can I upvote this some more? Good grief. If I had a dollar for every time some smarmy douche that drove an SUV or crossover gave me **** for my minivan I could buy a new one. And the funny thing is when they tell me why they bought what they did, a minivan or a station wagon would have been a better fit in EVERY case. Acura, Audi, VW, Mercedes, Subaru and Volvo all make nice wagons, if you just can't go mini-van.
      eye.surgeon
      • 6 Months Ago
      I hope minivans never go away, they are tremendously practical and when my family was younger it was the perfect vehicle. Frankly if you're really into cars, you're a minivan fan, not because they're sporting but because they're so purposeful. And far more useful than a SUV. We had a Town & Country all wheel drive and that thing could go anywhere and haul anything or anyone.
        Brian
        • 6 Months Ago
        @eye.surgeon
        Haha very true. something all of us hates to admit ;)
        Zoom
        • 6 Months Ago
        @eye.surgeon
        Amen. As a car guy, I'd drive a Sienna S over a Highlander any day.
      ken
      • 6 Months Ago
      Minivan is easily the most comfortable and the most practical vehicle on the road. More comfortable than pickups and SUV, more rear seat room than most limo, and automatic doors make it better than any 7 series or S class.
      OglesbyThomas
      • 6 Months Ago
      I'm currently looking at a Sienna and Grand Caravan. I'd feel no shame driving the vehicle at all. I'm a family man, have the wife, have the kids and have the dream. I'll take a fuel efficiant minivan that gets solid fuel economy and low ownership costs any day.
        Fodder
        • 6 Months Ago
        @OglesbyThomas
        I'm currently driving a Dodge Grand Caravan that replaced a Mazda5. I also had a Ford Freestar. I tend to find that the Mothers drive SUV's and Dad's get the minivan's. Guess what we father's have learned? They are loading these things with high powered V6's and you can pretty much overload them with stuff. My 2012 Grand Caravan has more then 250 horsepower. The Mazda5 had a six speed but sat six. These aren't things to apologize for. Really with the Grand Caravan all I have to say is that I love my big fat minivan. I've carried large cargo thanks to Stow N Go as well as the whole family. Plus when I'm alone I can act stupid in it although it handles like an ox with three legs tied together being dragged by a large rocket.
      MJ
      • 6 Months Ago
      Most of these are less "mini" and more "van." They're pretty huge, which is fine, I guess, since that's what most people want. I'm just glad the Mazda5 exists. For the money I'm not sure I could be happier with that car.
      throwback
      • 6 Months Ago
      I have a friend who is a doctor, she has 3 kids and 2 dogs. She is on her third leased Honda Odyssey. She loves them, and she always gets the top of the line van with all the features except video screens. I'll never buy one but it seems the people who buy them, keep buying them Like pick ups.
      fred schumacher
      • 6 Months Ago
      Minivans are the best idea Detroit ever had. Super practical and better than a pickup most of the time and more rugged than a sedan.
      evanee80
      • 6 Months Ago
      I've said it before, and I'll say it again: The $20k Caravan AVP is quite likely the best value for the money of ANY vehicle being sold today. It's not fancy or loaded with toys, but it is every bit as good (mechanically) as a $40k T&C. Think about it... what else does $20k get you today? A decently-equipped compact sedan, or a stripped-out midsize or CUV. By comparison, the AVP is a screaming bargain.
      icemilkcoffee
      • 6 Months Ago
      The new crop of minivans are getting too wide/long, and also too low. It's time to bring back the smaller/taller minivans that were easy to park and easy to get in and out of.
      Hoale
      • 6 Months Ago
      Minivans are super practical and more roomy than just about any SUV. The main reasons why people don't buy them is because they don't look cool and they don't want to be seen driving a "soccer mom" van. 99% of SUV owners don't ever take their cars off paved roads.
        Bernard
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Hoale
        SUV's are the new soccer mom cars. 10 years from now the fashion will change again.
          Bernard
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Bernard
          I don't get the down votes. Are people saying that soccer moms don't drive SUV's? Or are they saying that the fashion trend will never change? If it's either of those then it must be crack pipe season...
          Justin Campanale
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Bernard
          Who knows? Maybe we'll see a return of 7 seater wagons. Keeping my fingers crossed right here.
          hokkaido76
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Bernard
          @Justin Campanale: Yeah, uh huh. Every boy racer is saying that. You're not getting your brown, diesel, manual wagon unless you move to europe. Deal with it.
      yo
      • 6 Months Ago
      this is a great looking minivan
      tenspeeder
      • 6 Months Ago
      Kia did a great job designing a somewhat sporty box. It will be interesting to see how this sells to retail customers. And, how Chrysler responses with their future redesign.
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