Purchased a used 1994 Mercury Villager last summer. It had a rebuilt engine with 60K km's since swap. The crankshaft broke three weeks after buying it. Despite Fords attempts at using low lift cams and dished pistons to make this a non-interference engine, there was exhaust valve to piston damage. The first engine also had piston and valve damage from a broken timing belt.
Finding a low mileage used replacement is harder than you think, even with so many rusted out Nissan Maximas sold for parts. A 3.0 ltr V6 Ford engine could be found for $200, but Nissan engines are around $800 (not including taxes and installation), plus I would still have to buy hoses and new timing belt.
The engine mount is also broken, but that's common on these and new ones aren't too expensive.
These vans are even heavier than Fords larger Windstar and guzzle gas in city driving. Highway fuel mileage is better and large gas tank means good driving range (It got 16-18 city mpg and 23 hwy mpg or 20 combined, over half of the 1900 km's we put on it was hwy driving with 4-5 adults).
I've driven a lot of minivans, and this one handles better than most, but braking distance is really long and front rotors tend to overheat and warp easily. New rotors were installed for safety inspection when I bought it, less than 2K later they were warped again, calipers weren't sticking and it wasn't driven hard (rotors are too small for the vans 3980 lbs, as they were designed for Maximas).
There's lots of electrical problems, but most can be repaired by a DIY owner. It's like you get Fords bad electrical and rust problems mixed with high cost Nissan parts and unreliable under powered engine. I would rather buy a newer and yet cheaper Dodge Caravan next time. And I could put the extra money away for repairs.
P.S. I fixed the common stalling and hard start problem by cleaning the throttle body and MAF sensor with throttle body cleaner, and I replaced the old fuel lines and evap cannister vacuum hoses.
I've a used Mercury Villager 1994. It's a good one and in the right condition. I think, the biggest problem is with fuel economy. My car drinks about 14 liters /100 kms on the highway (too much).
Mercury Villager... where do I start?
I bought one of these used; not expensive, turned out a decent buy at the time, but I would never buy one again...
Way too cheaply made, too many electrical problems... They make Dodge Caravans seem like a quality vehicle..
The engine and transmission designed by Nissan is great, good on the highway and the steering is very sporty.
The drivers seat is comfortable, that's about all for pros.
The exhaust manifold is a big problem on these vans, pretty much every second Villager you see sounds like it has no muffler. It's a very common problem..
Electric seatbelts suck! Not only are they unsafe and awkward, they stop working intermittently! I've even been pulled over by the police because of this and only had my stupid van to blame!
SO MANY ELECTRICAL PROBLEMS!!! My rear hatch locked on its own and wouldn't open, never did, had to pry it open with a crowbar. All dash lights just died one day. All rear lights (except for 4 way flashers) died one day! Reverse lights never worked. Just imagine driving at night with no dash lights and your 4 ways on just so cars can see you! Awful... Starter relay switch failed, expensive repair so I just decided to jumpstart the relay to the battery when I needed to use the van.
Finally the fuel pump died and I was happy to send this piece of junk to the wreckers... If you are looking for a cheap minivan... go with Dodge!