Thinking about buying an Astro or Safari

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Thinking about buying an Astro or Safari

Postby geocrasher [OP] » May 22nd 2014, 5:25am

Hey there good people,

I just sold my little Mitsubishi 4wd so that I could afford to buy something that my family can all fit in. We've owned 2 Suburbans in the past, and I know those vehicles fairly well. 13-14mpg around town, tough as nails, and mega comfortable. I've been looking into another one, but the idea of an Astro/Safari came to mind.

My understanding is that they are also pretty reliable vehicles, and can last a long time. I've been looking at ones such as these (Yes, I'm in WA also. Hai!)

http://portland.craigslist.org/clc/cto/4478741034.html
http://portland.craigslist.org/mlt/cto/4479043060.html
http://portland.craigslist.org/clk/cto/4482111005.html
http://portland.craigslist.org/clk/cto/4482228001.html
http://portland.craigslist.org/clk/cto/4474619434.html

At first glance I notice that they are less expensive than a suburban for a much newer vehicle. One of those is a a 1998 for only $1200. I'd imagine it probably has a zillion miles on it though.

2wd or AWD doesn't really matter, I am more interested in what to look out for when shopping for one of these. Every vehicle has its achilles heel as far as I know, although the drivetrain in these is well tested (4.3, 700r4 etc). So what is it- electrical gremlins? Poor suspension? Handles breaking off?

Also, what kind of mileage can I expect? Gonna be a lot of around town use for whatever I buy, with some freeway driving thrown in for running to town (we live out in the country).

Thanks for any guidance! I sure do appreciate it.
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Re: Thinking about buying an Astro or Safari

Postby chevymaher » May 22nd 2014, 11:59am

Idler arms and distributor caps. Really they don't have any real issues they just run forever with normal maint.
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Re: Thinking about buying an Astro or Safari

Postby kenk » May 22nd 2014, 1:10pm

if it were me, I'd go look at the last one you posted, the 97, it's a little bit longer, if they have been maintained, they run a long time, you do want to ask if the fuel pump has been changed, I bought one some months ago, with 202,000 on it, runs like a top
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Re: Thinking about buying an Astro or Safari

Postby 94 Van Guy » May 22nd 2014, 2:32pm

Go drive them all. You should be able to pick out the best one. Be sure to check the pail pipe, dip stick, (see if the oil is sticky)and smell the trany fluid to see if it has smells burnt.

Good luck and welcome to the forum.

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Re: Thinking about buying an Astro or Safari

Postby SilverBullet1997 » May 22nd 2014, 3:38pm

I drove between 10-15 Astros before I decided on the one I bought.

They are great cars, the AWD is a big plus and really doesn't take a big hit in MPG compared to a RWD.

I prefer the full-time AWD T-Case of the 96-98 Second Gen's, 99 and above went to a Electronically controlled AWD t-case.

These vans are awesome because it doesn't take much to lift them and make them the same height as a suburban if not a little taller...

Good luck finding one that does not have cracked armrests on the door though, that seems to be the achilles heel with these vans, but that is most vehicles with vinyl armrests problems.... so if you can live with that..

Things that will fail, but really aren't that big of a pain in the *** to change;
Door Lock Actuators.
Exterior Door Handles.
Window Motors.
Idler Arms.

Mechanically:
Distributor Cap and rotor(but what vehicle's doesn't after so long)
Fuel Pump - Doable your self, just hope it fails when your tank is low on gas.... The OEM one should last for 10-15 years though, as long as you aren't driving the van on fumes all the time, as the pump is cooled by the gas inside the tank(in tank pump)

Other than those issues these vans are really the best bang for the buck!

Edit: and oh by the way, their are a bunch of us on here from WA State now... So you would be in good company.

Edit #2: Oh yeah... I like the 98 A bit high miles, but I would keep looking for another AWD....

Another great place to look(no AWD's last time I checked) is metrovansales.com, These are those vanpool van's you see driving everywhere, they are slowly phasing out their astro fleet, BUT they are all meticulously serviced, and have a full service history you can look at when you are purchasing.... Their outlet is in Redmond at the end of 520.
(looks like they only have the 04's and 05's left, but most of them are under 100,000 miles...)
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Re: Thinking about buying an Astro or Safari

Postby 95AstroLT » May 22nd 2014, 5:34pm

$1,200 looks like a good deal for the '98 if the rest of it is as unmolested as the pictures show. Check out mechanically of course, but it should still have many good miles in it.
Replacing the door handle is doable, but be prepared to cuss a little if you do it yourself.
Astros and Safaris have more room than a minivan, and I personally believe rear wheel drive is a better platform than front wheel drive. They ride more like a truck than a car, but can carry heavier loads and tow more than a front wheel drive minivan.
Before '96, cup-holders wouldn't handle tall cups. :D
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Re: Thinking about buying an Astro or Safari

Postby RECox286 » May 22nd 2014, 6:06pm

Mileage is a moot point depending on how consistent maintenance has been. My 93 that we got in

94 with 25k mi, now has 325k mi, and runs almost like it did new, except for MPG which has degraded

somewhat, but is still cheaper to run than replace. Not all the little things, like power locks and heater

controls (vacuum) work, but it still gets me to where I need to be and back home reliably. You may

expect to get in the range of 15-19 mpg, depending on tune up, rear end ratio, what kind of shape the

inside of the motor is in, transmission, tires, and how you drive; monster or granny. However, with the

big box behind the pax seats for all your goodies, it will still be a cheap ride. As always, I suggest that

if you are not all that familiar with the nuances of the vehicle, definitly line up a trusted friend or pro

mechanic to look it over before you shell out the asking price. Not that anything can't be fixed, but

you should have some idea what you are getting into before you dive in to the shallow end of the pool.

If you do get one, stick around A/S.com for tips and tricks, and the welcoming you will get from the

other on line members. Good hunting...

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Re: Thinking about buying an Astro or Safari

Postby TucsonRay » May 22nd 2014, 9:37pm

I dont know WA or OR that well, but I think of very wet climates ( I know big chunks of both states are pretty dry though)

anyway, especially in a wet climate its always good to get under the van and check out the rust situation. One thing that is known to fail is the O2 sensor on the exhaust close to the front of the van, there are 3 this is the most forward one. the mount for this O2 sensor can get very rusty, and start to crack, leak etc. for that matter check out all the O2 sensors. it can be challenging (hot) if the van has just been driven, but if you can try to wiggle that sensor a little, see if theres any play. (there shouldn't be! and its unlikely but doesn't hurt to check) these aren't necessarily deal breakers, but its nice to know ahead of time

while your down there, look for stuff like oil leaks, tranny leaks etc etc :blah: and again check out the whole exhaust visually. oh and take a look at the rear diff, is it leaking? ditto for the front if its AWD

test drive and makes sure it shifts smooth at low and high speeds so you don't have transmission issues to deal with like I do lol!

the ABS light was on in ALL the vans I test drove except the one I bought (its on now of course lol) this is a common thing but not a big issue (search site for more info on that).

and all the other good advice already posted!
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Re: Thinking about buying an Astro or Safari

Postby SilverBullet1997 » May 22nd 2014, 10:54pm

TucsonRay wrote:I dont know WA or OR that well, but I think of very wet climates ( I know big chunks of both states are pretty dry though)


We may be wet here! But one thing we don't get is snow or ice(very rare) so we never salt our roads, so the amount of rust under our vans is minimal to nil. It is nice!

You just got to look out for the vans that spent most their life on the east coast before coming here...
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Re: Thinking about buying an Astro or Safari

Postby [email protected] » May 23rd 2014, 1:01am

geocrasher wrote:Yes, I'm in WA also. Hai!


Hey dude!

http://portland.craigslist.org/clc/cto/4478741034.html

geocrasher wrote:...2wd or AWD doesn't really matter, I am more interested in what to look out for when shopping for one of these. Every vehicle has its achilles heel as far as I know, although the drivetrain in these is well tested (4.3, 700r4 etc).


700R4 is more for the gen 1 vans and the transition year. During and after '96 it was the 4L60E. And things to look out for are pretty generic. There aren't really any specific things that you'd have to look for outside of buying any other car.

geocrasher wrote:Also, what kind of mileage can I expect? Gonna be a lot of around town use for whatever I buy, with some freeway driving thrown in for running to town (we live out in the country).
Thanks for any guidance! I sure do appreciate it.


Only one of your van links is AWD. Silver's right on this one, it doesn't make much difference with Astros, so might as well look into an AWD as an added bonus. You get a consistent and very solid 16mpg (combined) being stock. 15/17.

SilverBullet1997 wrote:They are great cars, the AWD is a big plus and really doesn't take a big hit in MPG compared to a RWD.
I prefer the full-time AWD T-Case of the 96-98 Second Gen's, 99 and above went to a Electronically controlled AWD t-case.


All in all, just go check it out :P
They really don't drive anything at all like a typical van.
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Re: Thinking about buying an Astro or Safari

Postby SilverBullet1997 » May 23rd 2014, 4:57am

http://seattle.craigslist.org/est/cto/4474141358.html - nice
http://seattle.craigslist.org/oly/for/4481940239.html - ok, little rust, needs muffler... and it is a 95(transition year)
http://seattle.craigslist.org/see/cto/4454655289.html - :rofl: Seahawk green.... (NOT AWD)
http://seattle.craigslist.org/see/cto/4476986014.html - This one is definitely a buyer... AWD, has bent front bumper but nothing a new bumper from a JY wouldn't fix, 2nd row captains chairs(looks like the third was removed for a (easily removeable wheel chair lift... which probably has a nice power cord ran to the back you could use for subwoofers...), suicide knob on the steeringwheel :rofl:... 127k, 2700$... I would jump on this one, it looks nice and clean... Just saying
http://seattle.craigslist.org/see/cto/4477115754.html - 1993 AWD, nice if you want a gen 1


I think this is the feast'da'leresistance
http://seattle.craigslist.org/tac/cto/4481075677.html - 2000 Very clean 149k 4200$ AWD very clean!

So yea, do some searches here in seattle on craigslist, their are some nice ones, I really like that last one, and would probably by it myself if I had 4k.... The other green one with a dent is nice, I would rip the bumper off an put a 4x4 bumper on there...
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Re: Thinking about buying an Astro or Safari

Postby geocrasher [OP] » May 24th 2014, 7:13am

Thanks folks for all the info and recommendations. My max budget is about $1500 and so I'm trying to keep it at or below that. I have driven a Safari before, I worked for a guy who had one and drove it from time to time. His was a long wheelbase with AWD, don't know what year. It was a bit of a beast, though! The only thing I remember about disliking is that the footwells seemed really small. But impressions change, and I also remember his driver seat being a bit wobbly. I may need to test drive another to get a better impression.

And, in my price range, it may come down to finding what vehicle is in my area, in the right shape, for the right price. 2wd or 4wd or AWD doesn't matter as much to me as it used to. Although if there's no mileage hit, AWD is pretty cool. Sounds to me like the mileage isn't much better than a Suburban though, not on the highway at least.

At the very least you've all given me a lot to think about, and I appreciate it!
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Re: Thinking about buying an Astro or Safari

Postby [email protected] » May 26th 2014, 4:36am

geocrasher wrote:Thanks folks for all the info and recommendations. My max budget is about $1500 and so I'm trying to keep it at or below that. I have driven a Safari before, I worked for a guy who had one and drove it from time to time. His was a long wheelbase with AWD, don't know what year. It was a bit of a beast, though! The only thing I remember about disliking is that the footwells seemed really small. But impressions change, and I also remember his driver seat being a bit wobbly. I may need to test drive another to get a better impression.

And, in my price range, it may come down to finding what vehicle is in my area, in the right shape, for the right price. 2wd or 4wd or AWD doesn't matter as much to me as it used to. Although if there's no mileage hit, AWD is pretty cool. Sounds to me like the mileage isn't much better than a Suburban though, not on the highway at least.

At the very least you've all given me a lot to think about, and I appreciate it!



It doesn't get much better than the Suburban on the highway. The Suburban is better aerodynamically shaped. The 5.7L Suburbans (depending on your driving style) get 16/17 on the highway. If you were to get one that had a Detroit diesel, it would actually have better gas mileage than both of the other two Suburban motors and better than Astros. The reason for the major offset in the city for Suburbans is simply because THEY ARE HEAVY. An Astro weighs around 3900# and a Suburban weighs around 5700#.
Just the Torque Converter in the Suburbans are 60# stock.

Roughly: Combined, City/Highway
262 4.3L (Gas) Astro: 16, 15/17
350 5.7L (Gas) Suburban: 14, 12-13/17
454 7.4L (Gas) Suburban: 11, 9/15
395 6.5L (Diesel) Suburban: 18, 15/20

If you plan to follow through with and Astro then don't worry, they're out there :)
I got mine for $1500 and I use it for so much, it's crazy. Friday night I took it to the Rodeo Drive-in with my cousin and his wife.
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Re: Thinking about buying an Astro or Safari

Postby chevymaher » May 26th 2014, 11:23am

[email protected] wrote: An Astro weighs around 3900# and a Suburban weighs around 5700#.
Just the Torque Converter in the Suburbans are 60# stock.

Roughly: Combined, City/Highway
262 4.3L (Gas) Astro: 16, 15/17
350 5.7L (Gas) Suburban: 14, 12-13/17
454 7.4L (Gas) Suburban: 11, 9/15
395 6.5L (Diesel) Suburban: 18, 15/20

Mine is a pig weighing ion at 4500 lbs empty with a half tank of gas.I had it on scales scrapping metal a few times on the way out.

Mileage with the modified engine is. 17 city 22 hwy.
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Re: Thinking about buying an Astro or Safari

Postby [email protected] » May 29th 2014, 7:56am

chevymaher wrote:
[email protected] wrote: An Astro weighs around 3900# and a Suburban weighs around 5700#.
Just the Torque Converter in the Suburbans are 60# stock.

Roughly: Combined, City/Highway
262 4.3L (Gas) Astro: 16, 15/17
350 5.7L (Gas) Suburban: 14, 12-13/17
454 7.4L (Gas) Suburban: 11, 9/15
395 6.5L (Diesel) Suburban: 18, 15/20

Mine is a pig weighing ion at 4500 lbs empty with a half tank of gas.I had it on scales scrapping metal a few times on the way out.

Mileage with the modified engine is. 17 city 22 hwy.



Maybe I should edit that post to say "Stock" :D
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Re: Thinking about buying an Astro or Safari

Postby geocrasher [OP] » June 5th 2014, 3:56am

Well, tomorrow I am going to look at this one: http://portland.craigslist.org/clk/cto/4496188175.html

222k miles is a lot, but its in my price range and doesn't appear to be beat to death. I will use the info you've all given me. If it doesn't look bad, I'll offer them $1k for it and see if they bite.
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Re: Thinking about buying an Astro or Safari

Postby Astrofarian » June 5th 2014, 4:34am

Looks like a decent van...hope it works out for you!
Move along....all is well.....return to your homes.....nothing to see here.
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Re: Thinking about buying an Astro or Safari

Postby geocrasher [OP] » June 5th 2014, 8:22pm

It didn't. It was a 45m drive, some of it on a rather rural, bad road (but so, so pretty!) and when I got there, the man had taken the keys with him when he went to work, and only his wife was home. So, couldn't test drive it. Ran into a huge snag though- I don't fit! Have to lay the seat way back in order to clear my head. Otherwise my head bumped the roof instantly. Laying it down so far would leave no room behind me. Well, it was worth a shot. Thanks for everybody's input.
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Re: Thinking about buying an Astro or Safari

Postby SilverBullet1997 » June 5th 2014, 8:29pm

You didn't fit in the Astro?! wow how tall are you? did it have electric seats? did you lower the seat all the way down and scoot it back? Their are some mods that you can do to improve the throw of the seat.

This is my thread on how to modify the passenger seat, but it would work equally as good on the drivers seat.
HOW TO: Extend passenger seat. Increase leg room. No Welding
viewtopic.php?f=13&t=21642
R.I.P.-1997 Astro AWD SilverBullet I 4-9-1997 to 2-17-2015 - Cause of death: Rear-ended
R.I.P.-1999 Astro AWD SilverBullet II 1-4-1999 - July-2016 - Cause of death: Roadrash passenger side

Current: 1999 Astro AWD GreenBullet I - Purchased 02/2018
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Re: Thinking about buying an Astro or Safari

Postby geocrasher [OP] » June 5th 2014, 11:07pm

Do the seats go *down*? It seemed nice and tall which is okay but the owner had not left the keys with his wife so I could not adjust the seat, if it were electric. I'm only 6'1", nothing crazy! I saw your mod to move it back, that was pretty cool, quite simple really.
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