Best and worst Dodge Caravan years — which to avoid
Understand the Dodge Caravan years to avoid for a hassle-free driving experience.
If you are looking for a reliable family ride, the Dodge Caravan makes an obvious choice, but are all of its model years equally reliable? We’ll give you a detailed answer in this guide by dividing the model years into the best years to buy and worst Dodge Caravan years to avoid since there have been some repetitive issues.
We’ll elaborate on the common problems of this car and highlight the model years that were mostly associated with those problems. To do that, we’ll guide you through our findings on Dodge Caravan reliability derived from NHTSA submissions, complaint reports, and ratings by other drivers.
Why you can trust REREV’s advice on which car model years to avoid: Our car experts look at official data, ask real drivers what they think, and talk to experienced mechanics to make sure our list is useful. This reliable info can make buying a car easier for you. Want to know how we do it? Find out more about our research methodology.
How we rated the best and worst Dodge Caravan years
Separating all of the Dodge Caravan years on best and worst wasn’t easy, and we primarily stuck with trustworthy details found on websites of driving safety organizations. So, we found out about the main complaints and issues through NTHSA, and we backed up those claims by checking the safety ratings received by the IIHS.
We also took into consideration all the reviews and ratings left by drivers through platforms like Edmunds and KBB, as well as Dodge Caravan forums. So, here’s a list of both the best and worst model years:
|Dodge Caravan Generation
|Best Dodge Caravan Years
|Worst Dodge Caravan Years
|1992, 1993, 1994
|2001, 2005, 2006
|2008, 2009, 2010, 2016
Most common Dodge Caravan problems
Dodge Caravan has some common problems you should look out for. It is best to plan your maintenance routine so that these problems get nipped in the bud before they have time to materialize, so you avoid most of them.
1. Failed transmission
Many Dodge drivers have reported their vans lurching, jerking, and producing grinding noises while the transmission disengages from the engine.
The 2002 Caravan model was most notorious for having this issue, causing drivers to remove, disassemble, and reassemble the transmission to fix the problem. Because of the high number of complaints, drivers were expecting a recall for these vehicles, but it never happened.
2. Oil leakage
3. Failing power door lock
Some Caravans have faulty keys and internal switches that cause the door lock to malfunction. Drivers complained of hearing the beep that indicates the door is closed, only to find it unlocked upon their return later. It was a severe problem for most 2005 models.
Replacing the 20 amp fuse that powers the door lock’s function is one solution that worked well for some drivers. However, it would be best if you got a mechanic to inspect the vehicle and identify the main root of the issue, so the proper repairs are made.
4. Popping crankshaft seal
Crankshaft seals prevent the oil tossed about by the rotating crankshaft from leaking out from the crankshaft. Unsurprisingly, 2006 Caravan drivers complained the most about this issue and had more oil leak problems than most other models. The crankshaft seal kept popping open, causing the oil to leak.
The seal itself was faulty for most models, prompting drivers to replace it with a more reliable one. It is vital to address this issue early, as oil loss impacts your pocket. You would have to constantly top oil levels so your engine can work properly or dole out money for engine repairs caused by inadequate oil levels.
5. Stalling engine
The most common cause of stalling engines in the Caravan is a dirty throttle body. Drivers complained of low engine idling while the engine was warming up, which often caused the oil light to illuminate. The warning light only went off when they accelerated.
Other drivers experienced rough idling while in gear or hesitant acceleration.
Cleaning the throttle body gets rid of this problem. But you have to ensure you do it on time, so you don’t have to fix other parts that could get affected by the frequent stalling.
6. Faulty interior accessories
Some model years of the Dodge Caravan have issues with their interior accessories. The 2005 model is most notorious for having the most accessory problems.
Drivers complained that the alarms went off by themselves, the interior lights burned out quickly, and the power door lock was prone to failing. These fails may look small, but when you count repair and replacement costs, you find they take a massive chunk off your wallet. It is best to research and get better models that do not take much for maintenance and repairs, so you can avoid spending more than you should.
Worst Dodge Caravan to avoid
The Dodge Caravan is a decent minivan that will serve you well. However, it would be best if you avoided these model years when looking for one to buy:
We’ll go through these by Dodge Caravan generations to show you why they are best avoided if possible.
Third-generation Caravan (1996-1997 and 2000 model years)
Compared with other vehicles of its time, the third generation of Dodge Caravans was pretty excellent. However, the 2000 model had some serious issues that made drivers avoid it. NHTSA had to issue 9 recalls for the model. Its brake system was faulty, its exterior loose and prone to rust, and the suspension had issues too.
Tire wear was also uneven on this model, and the steering linkage had problems. There were also some engine problems it suffered from. It is best to avoid this model year, along with the ones preceding it, as they are old and not really what you would be looking for to buy.
Fourth-generation Caravan (2001, 2005, and 2006 model years)
The fourth generation of Dodge Caravans was a famous sight for families. You could find it in almost every school’s parking lot. But its main problem is that IIHS classic saw it as a dangerous vehicle.
The models in this generation had fuel leakage during collision problems. That meant that if the car was ever involved in a collision, the chances of an explosion increased.
Furthermore, the side cushions had a defect that caused severe neck injuries and fracturing of the ribs and internal organs should the driver be involved in an accident. The generation is generally unsafe and should be avoided at all costs.
Even as a used vehicle that has already undergone extensive repairs, it is not safe to buy any model of this generation. Thankfully, Dodge addressed the safety issue of the fourth generation in the next generation.
Fifth-generation Dodge Caravan (2008-2010 and 2016 model years)
The fifth generation of Dodge Caravan had many issues that usually manifested through 2008, 2009, and 2010 models. These three model years suffered from problems with the brakes, engine, and electrical system.
The worst-rated model year out of all these was the 2008 Grand Caravan and it’s also one of the worst-rated models overall. It also had some issues with wheel hubs and the A/C heater, so it’s simply packed with unfortunate malfunctions.
Along with those three, there’s also a 2016 model that received pretty bad ratings overall and had more than 1,000 complaints issued to NHTSA. It also suffered from similar issues, only this time we had the addition of body/paint problems.
What are the best Dodge Caravan years to buy?
The Dodge Caravan is a reliable vehicle and has proven its worth over the years, except in the fourth generation. If you are in the market for a Dodge Caravan, your main question is probably – what are the best Dodge Caravan years?
The best Dodge Caravan year is 2004 as it received the least complaints, but you can also take a look at the following options:
These models are the best Dodge Caravans you can get, whether factory-fresh or used, but the best-rated options overall are 2004 and 2015.
2004 Dodge Caravan
The 2004 Dodge Caravan wasn’t exactly problem-free, but it at least didn’t bring the infamous braking system issue or engine problems of the surrounding model years. It received decent driver feedback without any major complaints regarding the engine or transmission.
What makes this model year in particular more reliable than the 2005 and 2006 Caravan is the lack of faulty fuel delivery lines as well.
2015 Dodge Caravan
As for the 2015 model, Dodge sorted out most of the issues of previous generations, but some engine issues still remained. Luckily, these rarely lead to complete engine breakdowns, but they were pretty serious if left unattended.
However, it’s still the fifth-gen model with the least complaints so you have to consider it before options like the following 2016 model.
Is the Dodge Caravan worth buying?
Despite its decreased popularity, the Dodge Caravan is still worth buying. If you buy a suitable model, you can get 20 years of good use from it without having to do many repairs. It is also affordable to purchase and maintain, meaning you save money using it.
If you take cars as investments, you might want to pass on the Caravan as it is no longer popular as fewer people are looking for it in the market. It has a fair resale value, though, but when you consider the price, the small profit you would make, and the time you may spend waiting for a buyer, you would agree it’s best to keep using it. That way, you get more value for your original purchase.
What are the best years for Dodge Caravans?
The best years for the Dodge Caravan are 2007, 2010, 2019, and 2020. These model years have the best reliability ratings and lifespan compared to the other Dodge Caravans.
Do Dodge Caravans have a lot of issues?
Dodge Caravans have some common problems, but compared to other cars, they are not that much. These problems include oil leaks, engine stalls, suspension noises, and transmission failure, among others.
Is the Dodge Grand Caravan reliable?
The Dodge Grand Caravan has one of the best reliability ratings for a minivan. It requires fewer repairs and maintenance than the average minivan. Also, the problems it eventually develops are not severe ones that significantly deplete your pocket.
Can you still buy a Dodge Caravan?
The Dodge Caravan is no longer in production, but you can still get a decent one from the used market. Alternatively, you can contact a local dealer to check if any are in stock. There is a good chance that any of the newer models may be available for sale.