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might be a silly question, but looking to buy a previa...

5817 Views 10 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  Toyotaguy2002
and I was wondering if there are any years I should avoid? I know some other make/models of cars have off years and wasn't sure if the previa had any.

We are looking at only spending no more than $3000 but prefereably about $2000 which around WA could get us anywhere around a 91-94 with 120-180K miles on it.

Anything I should ask about when looking at used cars? Anything I should know? All the reviews I have seen online have said NOTHING but wonderful things about these old girls and being a mom of 3 in a single income (sort of, I make/sell toys online but DH makes the "real" money in our family) family, I need a good car for a good price. And for what we are willing to spend, we could buy a caravan that needs a tranny, an MPV that needs an engine, a 20 year old aerostar ;) etc.... or a Previa, which seems to have a good track record.

The only bad review I saw online said something about the engine going out but that seems to have been a fluke amongst the 20+ reviews I saw all over of cars going 200K with no major work needed.

Oh, and i can drive a manual transmission so if they are more reliable in the long run, feel free to recommend that, too :D

Anyhow, if you like to talk about how cool your car is, feel free to do it here, I need all the help I can get :)

Also, I have 2 in car seats and one in a booster - are all previas equipped with proper restraints in the back seats?

THANKS so much!
in Tacoma
wants a good ol reliable van :D
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We have both a 91 and 93 Previa. The 91 isn't driven anymore simply because it's not needed, but the 93 is my Dad's daily driver. Both have been very reliable vehicles, especially becuase my Dad tows a 3000+ pound boat, and has done so with both vans. The 93 is almost at 200,000 miles and runs like new.

Both our vans are the LE model and have captains chairs in the center row. As far as I know they are both fully capable of restraining a childs seat.

The only negative I have about the Previa, and is something you should consider if you have children, is that it is not a safe (read: crashworthy) vehicle whatsoever. I have been urging my Dad to consider an early Sienna because of this.
It would be hard to beat a Previa for someone minivan-shopping on a small budget. True, you could get a Ford or Chrysler used that was cheaper, but it won't last, and will likely have problems the whole time.

Keep in mind that the newest Previa is almost 10 years old now, so even as good as they are, you are still likely to have occasional problems especially buying a vehicle unknown to you.

The crash tests gideon mentioned are a bit misleading: When the government and insurance agencies switched their tests in the mid-1990s, the Previa, which had previously had good test marks, suddenly tested poorly. Reason? The new tests are called double-offset, which are supposedly more like real-world crashes. The old tests, under which the Previa originally was certified, was where the vehicle crashed full-on into a barrier. I still drive my van and don't worry about crashing. It's a point to consider when buying a car, but would never be the deciding factor for me. If your kids ride in the middle seats where they are supposed to, they will be as safe as can be expected in a crash.

The engine in the Previa is bulletproof; they can go over 300K without overhaul. People who lose their engine before that either do only stop-and-go driving or don't service their emissions system.

Beyond that, there is no particular year that is better for the Previa: They are all good years!!! What is important is choosing what features you want. The primary differences are: All-wheel-drive, supercharged engine (same engine, but with a bit more power), manual transmission (there were VERY few of these sold) and basic or luxury models. The Previa ranged in price from 22K to almost 40K by the time sales stopped over here because they are very well-designed and well-built vehicles. The loaded, leather-interior, AWD, supercharged ones still command a premium, and are worth the price IF they have been serviced properly.

My Previa (below) lists for about 3K, but is well below average miles and is in very good condition for its age, almost 16 years old. If you are looking for the best value in Previas, look for 1991-1993; they are the first generation, non-supercharged vans. You can get AWD with them but those might be a bit underpowered. My van has plenty of power for my uses (not hauling bricks & lead blocks; just people & gear) and I never have to slow down except on really steep hills where many other cars do as well.
If you want a little more zip, get a supercharged, RWD model. They put out more power than mine.
If you need an AWD model, make sure the owner always changed all four tires at the same time. Different-sized tires wears out the AWD mechanism prematurely, and it is expensive to replace.

Finally: Yes, the Previa is cool! I'm a single, no-kids guy who is probably the last person who would buy a minivan, but when I rode and drove around in it with its prior owner, a close family member, the van really grew on me. I get compliments all the time from people on it, and the styling still looks fresh and modern even though it was styled in the late 1980s. It does have some minor crankyness due to its age, but overall has far less gripes than even some new cars these days.

Good luck with your hunt. I suspect there are many Previas to choose from in the Puget Sound area, so be picky & let us know what you find!!!

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I realize that in referring to safety I should have also mentioned that the offerings from GM, Chrystler, Honda etc. from that same time period did not fair all too well in the crash testing, which huge emphasis on the GM vans. I pointed out the Sienna because it was the first minivan to recieve a 'Good' rating from the Insurance Instutute for Highway Safety. Now that I think about it, with a van of that age, the only one you would really be safer in would be the Honda Odyssey, and even then not by much.

BTW: Wanna buy our 91 Previa? :p:
The 92 Previa we have is at 247K and has been excellent to us. Even though I put it into a gully one winter and busted out every window on the drivers side, and the insurance company totaled it. (We bought it back from the insurance and replaced the windows.) Other than the accident related repairs, I have had to replace the front axles, alternator, shocks-n-struts, exhaust (due to a bad flex pipe) and the brakes (rotors and pads). I run synthetic oil, K&N oil filters, and change the oil when the oil change light comes on every other time. The van has plenty of power for a 4cyl and has always run.

Sadly my wife, hates the Previa because she once slammed her fingers in the sliding door, and since our driveway is somewhat steep she is always worrying about the door sliding shut on one of the kids and decapitating them. :rolleyes: But interestingly enough she seems to always want to drive it when there is snow because of the AWD and the weight distribution it handles excellent in the winter.
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Good comments from everyone. I'm a fairly long-term owner of a '91 Previa. Since you asked for specific things to look out for I mention the following:

1. Have a mechanic inspect the SAD shaft to make sure the rubber bushings are still in good shape. (This was a Toyota engineering blunder on the earlier Previa models.) If the mechanic can't find the SAD shaft, find antoher mechanic.

2. Put the car on a lift and check for oil leaks. If the engine is wet with oil underneath, keep looking. Inspect the front crank seal, the crank case, the oil pan, the valve cover and the distributor (yes, oil can come out of the distributor when its internal bearings wear out).

3. The starters tend to go on Previas due to worn out copper contacts and plungers. It's an easy fix but be aware that you may come out some moring and it won't start. Don't panic, just tap the starter lightly with something heavy and restart. Then read up here on how to get it repaired cheaply.

4. The on-dash drink cup holders on most old Previas won't lock in place. Again, a poor design that broke easily, so we all drive around with them sticking out a half inch.

5. You have to check the oil level (e.g. using the dipstick) under the driver's seat. Not a big deal after the first time, but it surprises some people.

6. There is an auxiliary oil supply under the hood. Keep it filled!!! After good engine design, this is probably the number one reason Previa engines last so long. If you forget to check the oil, this will temporarily save you from your own insanity. I think all cars should have this feature becasue it's the cheapest insurance against premature engine failure I know of.

7. The brakes on Previas are not first class. Plan to have them serviced regularly.

Otherwise, Engine- excellent; frontend- excellent; transmission- excellent; electrical- excellent; body- excellent. From my experience the A/C systems on these old Previas end up needing (usually expensive) work. If you find one without cold air, it won't get cold without spending some bucks.
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thank you so much for your information everyone. I am still looking for "the" car. Our taz return should arrive anytime now and when it does, I will be out shopping. "new" previas with around 150K pop up on craigslist ever few days here so I should be ok with looknig for a good one, so long as I dont spend all my money at the nechanic's having them safety checked I should be ok :)

I am going to print out your list, Steve. and take it with me when I have the car checked over :) Thank you!

And as far as the one in Rhode Island for sale ;) if its reliable and you want to deliver it, bring it on over ;) rofl, I am in Tacoma.
also, any reason I should buy a 1994 with the same mileage (and a better stereo) for $3000 instead of a 1991 for $2000? Is the difference in price really worth it in the long run as far as reliability goes with two well maintained vehicles?

Just not sure if prettier paint and a nicer stereo is worth the $1000 ;)
The 94-97 Previas have some differences in the frame and are supposidly a little more crash worthy. They also have a passenger side airbag.

If you ever want to have a nicer stereo in your van, go for the '94. The speakers in the Previas are a non-standard size and are difficult to upgrade (mainly if they are in the dash, which the basic 91 stereo is). Our 91 had the basic stereo and the 93 my Dad drives has the premium 7 speaker setup and there is a world of difference between the two.

Your choice, but I would personally go for the '94.
selena said:
also, any reason I should buy a 1994 with the same mileage (and a better stereo) for $3000 instead of a 1991 for $2000? Is the difference in price really worth it in the long run as far as reliability goes with two well maintained vehicles?

Just not sure if prettier paint and a nicer stereo is worth the $1000 ;)
With any Previa, since they are mostly over 10 years old (or 16, like mine!), the phrase is "condition, condition, condition"! These are old cars & if they have been abused or neglected you don't want to go near them, just as with any other car. Since one has not-so-good paint; that one might be on the neglected side. In my observation, people who neglect one part of the car tend to neglect the rest, though there are those who go to the car wash every week but don't change the oil...

I don't entirely agree w/gideon about the stereo. If it's the original unit, it probably won't last much longer. Ten years is a lot for any car stereo, and the Previas' were probably not the best to begin with. The dash speakers can't be upgraded in terms of size (power), but they are exceedingly simple to replace. I put Kicker speakers in mine (I had the basic stereo), and they do OK, considering their size and location. I believe some Previas have front-door-mounted speakers which are harder to get to, but probably easier to upgrade in terms of power. The rear speakers are the biggest but are in the wrong place for anyone except the rear passengers to hear. I disconnected mine and spliced in some old Pioneer rear-shelf speakers. They are on a 6-foot lead which allows me to put them anywhere in the car. I keep them on or under the middle seat. Regardless, if you want a good stereo, you should be able to install a very serviceable one for $300-400.

I agree w/everything SteveB2 said except for the oil reservoir. It fills automatically from a switch in the oil pan. However, if this switch gets stuck with crud, the reservoir will dump into the oil pan, causing it to overfill. Too much oil can be as bad as too little oil. Mine is disconnected, and I always remember to check the oil every month. The engine does not burn oil usually.

I agree w/gideon; go for the '94 if it's in good shape. You'll be ahead even if it has the same mileage as the '91, cause it's a newer car.

Keep us informed!

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We had owned a used 91 Previa bought in 2004 and it was great. It had Dual Moonroofs, Captian Chairs, Cool Box, and much more. This is when it got bad, we found out the rear most speakers don't work meaning from a 6 or 7 speaker setup turned into a 4 speaker set up with aftermarket unit which was there when we purchased the vehicle, moonroof had trouble closing, rattles nd squeaks everywhere and then it got much worse... It started out being just the brake pads after we purchased it and then the Oil Level/Low Oil Pressure light came on. Pulled over to a gas station and filled it up with oil. soon after the oil in the tank has dissappeared somewhere. Also white smoke appears when you accelerate. We go to the dealer, they do nothing to the problem. Problem is still existing. Then finally we traded it in for $4300 CDN for a 02 Sienna XLE Limited. The 91 previa had been in the state where the condition is bad. cracks, scratches, dents, wear all over the car. At the time we bought the Previa in 2004, we didn't have much money due to owning and operating a corner store. So we just wanted something that will run and drive. Then we sold it in 2005 and bought the 02 Sienna XLE Limited in 2006. So far the Sienna has not been much of a problem except for the brake pads warping the rotors (Machined the rotors) and the wheel cylinder in the rear drum brakes having a minor leak.
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