By John Goreham
The minivan may be the butt of jokes, but we testers know they accelerate, handle and ride as well as most large crossovers, if not better. The truth is, for large families with small kids, minivans are the best solution to a transportation problem with limited options.
Honda has long been a sales leader in this important segment, and there is a large population of used Honda Odysseys. And by used, we mean smeared with pizza and Goldfish, rubbed by many a shopping cart, and muddied by soccer balls and cleats galore. Rather than wear and tear, let’s call it a “fine patina.”
The Odyssey has a relatively low rate of owner gripes on CarComplaints.com going back to 2009, but there is a little hint of trouble brewing in the 2014 model year. Reader AYTN from Murfreesboro, TN, summed up the dark cloud over the 2014 Odyssey by saying , “We only had this car for three days and ended up returning it to Carmax when our mechanic confirmed shifting problems and black fluid/metallic flakes (signs of internal damage). Have since found out about pervasive 2014 transmission problems, so I'm glad we were able to get our money back. Stay far away from 2014 Odysseys.”
We should point out that given the large number of Odysseys in circulation we may have ignored the 2014 model year transmission complaints as just bad luck except that Honda in general, and the Odyssey specifically, has had a pretty long record of transmission defects. (See our report on the Accord for more on that.) When we look back a bit further, it is clear that the Odyssey has struggled with transmission issues from 1999 through 2006. The worst years are 2002 and 2003. Owners recorded over 300 complaints at CarComplaints.com related to the transmission for those two years alone. Our research shows similar complaints over the full span of the seven years above at varying rates. The second generation that ran from 1999 through 2004 saw the worst of these issues.
A transmission failure on a used Odyssey is no small matter. CarComplaints readers report that the average cost to repair the issue is $3,442. Inga from Hereford, AZ tells CarComplaints.com that the issue could mean a totaled vehicle, saying, “I am just so disappointed in my 2002 Honda Odyssey. Never had a problem until 105,000 and now it needs a new transmission. The van is not worth what it will cost to repair it.”
Honda owners, in general, seem like a pretty mild-mannered lot and the complaints above are the tamest we could print at this family-friendly publication. Matt S. from Hollywood, FL, wrote fifteen lines of text to express his dissatisfaction. (Half the length of this story!) In his manifesto we are pretty sure Matt used all the common profane words, plus a few we were only vaguely familiar with. It was so good we have decided to start a new story series titled “Best Rants and Raves.”
Don’t give up on the Odyssey! If you are looking for a used one, we have two suggestions. First, buy a model year 2009 or newer. Second, if the Odyssey is still under Honda’s warranty try to buy an extended warranty directly from Honda. If that is not an option, consider buying a certified pre-owned model to take advantage of the seven-year 100K mile warranty and bookmark your calendar for a sale at the time of the warranty’s expiration.