Pros: Comfortable seats, drives well, decent sound system.
Cons: Cheap transmission, generally unreliable transportation, very poor jack and tire tool.
This is better than a "long term test". This opinion is based on my company's service fleet of Dodge Caravans. We have been using them since 1996 and I've seen around 25 to 30 of them come and go. I'm on my third one now, a 98.5 model. I have mixed emotions about this vehicle.
When they are running they run great. They are comfortable, have plenty of power, and drive well. Visibility is good, and the sound system and climate controls work very well. There is plenty of cargo space, and the seats are easily removable. The problem is reliability, or the lack there of. We keep our vans for 2 to 3 years and usually rack up between 75,000 and 90,000 miles in that period of time. These are just some of the problems that I have seen.
If you drive it hard, you can only expect about 20,000 miles out of the transmission. Even if you drive slowly and are very easy on the equipment, you can still only expect around 60,000 miles. This is a poorly designed drivetrain that just can't handle the load. Average cost at a dealership...$2200!
Drive Belt Shreads
Somewhere around 50,000 to 60,000 miles the drive belt for all your accessories will fail. There is a problem with the tensioner that allows the belt to shift over and destroy itself. You must insist that the tensioner be replaced with the belt or you will be back for the same problem in a matter of weeks.
Some Caravans will exhibit the mystery windshield wiper syndrome, turning themselves on and off at will. Most will experience bad MAP sensors in the engine causing the "check engine" light to come on for no apparent reason. All will experience the flashing dash lights after a battery failure. They will flash for exactly 15 minutes every time you start the engine, and can only be reset by the dealer. Also, you may notice one channel of the stereo sometimes come and go as it pleases.
A Note To Smokers
An extremely aggravating problem I've encountered is smoking when it is raining. It seems that no matter how hard or soft it is raining, and no matter how much or how little you open the window, you are going to get wet! There is just no way around it!
As you can see there are many problems with this vehicle. Even when it is provided to me for free by my company, all the breakdowns can be a real inconvenience. I would really hate to be a paying customer who is stuck with one of these!