Need Help Buying USED minivan

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Winthorpe
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Need Help Buying USED minivan

Post by Winthorpe » Mon Apr 25, 2011 11:08 pm

I haven't made a vehicle purchase in over 10 years, and I didn't know much back then. I am looking for any advice or tips you may have to offer to get a good deal and not get ripped off.

I am in the market for a used minivan, now that baby #3 is on the way. My plan is to pay cash for a ~3 year old minivan. Make/model is flexible.

Pleas help!

Thanks!
Winthorpe

epilnk
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Re: Need Help Buying USED minivan

Post by epilnk » Mon Apr 25, 2011 11:27 pm

Winthorpe wrote:I haven't made a vehicle purchase in over 10 years, and I didn't know much back then. I am looking for any advice or tips you may have to offer to get a good deal and not get ripped off.

I am in the market for a used minivan, now that baby #3 is on the way. My plan is to pay cash for a ~3 year old minivan. Make/model is flexible.

Pleas help!

Thanks!
Winthorpe
I don't think it's that easy to get a good deal on a recent model used minivan. They don't really turn over much during the first few years; the type of person who wants a minivan wants it for a while. And people who buy used minivans tend to be young families who put a high priority on reliability and safety, so they're not looking for very old ones. So 1-3 year old used minivans tend to hold their value.

Our 1 year old (at the time of purchase) Mazda MPV was a former rental. It was in great condition and a great deal; I'm guessing the stereotype of people abusing rental cars is perhaps a bit weaker for the minivan crowd. We are happy with the purchase.

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White Coat Investor
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Re: Need Help Buying USED minivan

Post by White Coat Investor » Mon Apr 25, 2011 11:28 pm

Winthorpe wrote:I haven't made a vehicle purchase in over 10 years, and I didn't know much back then. I am looking for any advice or tips you may have to offer to get a good deal and not get ripped off.

I am in the market for a used minivan, now that baby #3 is on the way. My plan is to pay cash for a ~3 year old minivan. Make/model is flexible.

Pleas help!

Thanks!
Winthorpe
Know what 3 year old minivans are worth. Don't pay more than that. Try to pay less. A ~ 3 year old minivan is probably coming off lease or was a rental, so those are the places to expect to find that age of vehicle. Few typical mini-van drivers feel the need to "upgrade" after just 3 years.

If you have a friend with access to the dealer auctions, that might be a great way to go. You can also try the public auctions, but they're not as good.

Otherwise, I search the local newspaper classifieds and craigslist and then go drive something that is reasonably priced and has everything I want. I take cash when I go and negotiate from a point of strength. (I.e. I need to buy the car less than they need to sell it.)
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interplanetjanet
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Post by interplanetjanet » Tue Apr 26, 2011 1:24 am

If you can be flexible, try looking for vehicles that, while solid, didn't sell well for one reason or another (and have very depressed resale value).

If you can stretch your 3 years a bit, an example is the Ford Freestar (made through 2007). It was basically a refined Windstar with folding third-row seating and a more reliable drivetrain, but not as many doo-dads (you usually didn't see them loaded with DVD players, multizone a/c, etc). They were a victim of Ford's great crusade to name almost everything in their lineup F-something - seriously, they even renamed their vehicles with big name recognition like the Taurus, and most of the renamed vehicles flopped. Its twin, the better optioned Mercury Monterey, sold so badly that it's hard to find them anywhere at all (but they tend to be cheap when you do). They both have excellent safety ratings and in reviews were considered solid, basic minivans.

They're very affordable on the used market compared with the "big names". Lots of people tow with them. I will probably buy an 06-07 Freestar myself in the next 2 months, at the prices they're going for I can afford to take a chance or two.

-Janet

TRC
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Post by TRC » Tue Apr 26, 2011 7:40 am

I'd suggest test driving different brands and see what you like. All are not created equal. We bought a new Honda Odyssey after looking at the Sienna. For us, it just came down to styling and that the Odyssey drove more like a car.

I did recently rent a Chrysler Town & Country and was totally unimpressed with the vehicle. It drove much more like a "bus".

I think you'll find that Honda & Toyota's are most commonly recommended. They're also on the more expensive side, but they should last you for a long time. My sister in law has an Odyssey with over 150K miles on it, with no signs of letting up anytime soon.

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Post by FafnerMorell » Tue Apr 26, 2011 8:10 am

You can probably find a decent deal on a lightly used Town & Country, but likely a lot tougher to find a similarly-used Honda/Toyota. We got a one-year old T&C awhile back, and have been very happy with it - very practical & reliable (knock on wood) (downside is gas mileage is about 17-19 MPG). While a lot of folks really praise the Honda/Toyota, the downside is this translates into high demand - and economics does the rest.

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Post by smackboy1 » Tue Apr 26, 2011 8:14 am

We own a 2007 Toyota Sienna (bought it new). We also test drove the 2007 Honda Odyssey. Both are great cars, but the AWD on the Toyota broke the tie. They are the two highest rated minivans for the past few years. Everybody knows both companies make reliable cars so bargains are less common. Both manufacturers have recently released new models, which may help with pricing on the older models. The 2007 Sienna was the first year they introduced a new engine. If you go with the Sienna, I suggest looking at 2008+ MY. Our engine had to be repaired under warranty for some issues. In my experience the first year a manufacturer introduces something new there can be bugs.

Almost everybody who owns a minivan has small kids. Small kids can wreak havoc on a car's interior. Make sure to check under the front seats for evidence of water damage to the electronics (sticky spots, stains, wire/plug corrosion, mildew smell). Make sure all the optional equipment works (bring your own CD, DVD to test drive) e.g. stereo, DVD, headphones, GPS, front/rear HVAC etc..

Minivans are often used for lots of short trips which can be hard on the engine if it never properly warms up. Towing can also be harder on an engine. I would pay a bit more for a minivan with proof of regular maintenance and a clean mechanical pre-purchase inspection (PPI).
Disclaimer: nothing written here should be taken as legal advice, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

Erwin007
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Post by Erwin007 » Tue Apr 26, 2011 10:21 am

We recently went through the tirade of buying a new minivan. We were open to both newer "pre-owned" and new minivans. I used a lot of advice on this forum for negotiating. I found Truecar.com to be a great resource if you are thinking at all about going the new car route.

We looked exclusively at Toyota Siennas (which we ended up buying) and Honda Odysseys. There has been good advice given on this already in this forum. The other models (Volkswagen, Chrysler, Mazda) did not rate well with Consumer Reports and have had reliability issues, which is something we were not interested in.

I have a friend from high school who buys at dealer auctions. He looked for us, and unless you're willing to buy a van with >40K miles on it (which we weren't), there isn't a huge savings right now for buying used vs. new. For us, the difference, with all the features we wanted, would have been about $2K for a new car vs. a 1-2 year old car with 15-20,000 miles on it. We were willing to pay the extra $40 or so a month for the new car. Plus with dealer financing being less than what I could get for used car financing, it was really an easier decision.

Be forewarned though that due to the recent catastrophes in Japan, the costs of Hondas and Toyotas, both new and used, are likely to go up. In fact, in one place I researched, there is going to a be a $900 increase in cost of new Toyotas starting in May (don't specifically remember which models, but thought it included the Sienna). Good luck.

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interplanetjanet
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Post by interplanetjanet » Tue Apr 26, 2011 11:42 am

smackboy1 wrote:Almost everybody who owns a minivan has small kids. Small kids can wreak havoc on a car's interior.
My carpet cleaner (a Hoover with an optional small head with scrubby brushes for cleaning in tight areas) has easily been one of the best purchases I've made since having kids. It works so well on car carpeting, mats, seats and the like that I go over the car with it at least every year. When buying used it's a godsend. They're quite cheap, too:

http://www.amazon.com/Hoover-SteamVac-T ... B000ASB3QM

I find their cleaning solutions are overpriced, what works well is a dilute solution of liquid HE (to cut down on foaming) Tide. The crud that's pulled out of the carpet and ends up in the recovery tank is amazing.

-Janet

wilked
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Post by wilked » Tue Apr 26, 2011 11:49 am

The best advice I can give is that once you figure out what you want, and then find a car you want, take it to a local mechanic to get a once-over. It should be between $20 and $50 for him (or her) to do it. I can almost guarantee that you will get that $50 back (the mechanic will itemize a list of things he recommends fixing, and you now have an excellent bargaining chip to bring the price down). And the mechanic may find a red flag that saves you from buying a bad car.

Chuck
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Post by Chuck » Tue Apr 26, 2011 12:17 pm

I'm currently looking at vans, and one compelling option is the sales arm of Enterprise, which sells former rental cars. In my area, the minivan fleet is mostly 2008/09/10 Grand Caravans, and they are being sold far below blue book dealer price. (Not for the Honda lovers, but the GC is a great vehicle for the price. Consumer Reports has nothing bad to say about it except it's kind of boring, and sometimes the interior is squeaky.)

With a rental car, you know it has had all regular maintenance and service, and I don't believe the demographic that rents a minivan would treat it too abusively.

norm
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Post by norm » Tue Apr 26, 2011 12:33 pm

Last year I tried to find a 2008 KIA minivan but there were none available in the Northeast. I was able to get my second choice a 2008 Toyota Sienna (and in the color that I wanted). I am extremely happy with it.

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verbose
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Post by verbose » Tue Apr 26, 2011 3:12 pm

interplanetjanet wrote:If you can stretch your 3 years a bit, an example is the Ford Freestar (made through 2007). It was basically a refined Windstar with folding third-row seating and a more reliable drivetrain, but not as many doo-dads (you usually didn't see them loaded with DVD players, multizone a/c, etc).
I drive a 2004 Ford Freestar. It's a big, ugly box with road noise, roaring engine, turning lean, and creaking (seriously, if the radio is off, you hear constant plasticky creaking noises). I keep the radio turned up. It was cheap and it runs. Mostly. The transmission didn't make it past 100K--we had it rebuilt after the van suddenly stopped moving forward one day.

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interplanetjanet
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Post by interplanetjanet » Tue Apr 26, 2011 4:44 pm

verbose wrote:I drive a 2004 Ford Freestar. It's a big, ugly box with road noise, roaring engine, turning lean, and creaking (seriously, if the radio is off, you hear constant plasticky creaking noises). I keep the radio turned up. It was cheap and it runs. Mostly. The transmission didn't make it past 100K--we had it rebuilt after the van suddenly stopped moving forward one day.
I think the transmission was redesigned after the first year, in '05 - can't swear to it though. My neighbor has an '06 and while not as refined as an Odyssey or a Sienna seems to do pretty well when I've had rides in it - but thanks for the tips, I'll be on the lookout for those sorts of things. My old Windstar had plenty of turning lean and some noise, but was otherwise rock solid for 12 years.

The kids make enough noise I doubt I'd hear the road. ;)

-Janet

Cody
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Post by Cody » Tue Apr 26, 2011 4:50 pm

I've had nothing but Dodge Grand Caravan's. My current is a 2001 model. So I've test driven some (including a 2007). The road noise was awful. And seemed like poor workmanship. It had terrible reviews as it should.

Cody

Chuck
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Post by Chuck » Tue Apr 26, 2011 6:05 pm

jenny345 wrote:I see a black dot
I don't recall what that means.

Edmunds has the same complaints about the Grand Caravan, yet it has the 5 year maintenance cost (2009 model) at $4624, compared with $4972 for the Toyota Sienna, and $4120 for the Honda Odyssey. I wonder how they come up with these numbers...

http://www.edmunds.com/dodge/grand-cara ... 54&ps=used
http://www.edmunds.com/toyota/sienna/20 ... 61&ps=used
http://www.edmunds.com/honda/odyssey/20 ... 75&ps=used

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Aptenodytes
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Post by Aptenodytes » Wed Apr 27, 2011 5:22 am

You don't say what part of the country you live in. In the New York metro area there are loads of 3-year-old Honda minivans available at what seem like reasonable prices. Maybe you should consider expanding your search radius a bit.

isaidit
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Post by isaidit » Thu Apr 28, 2011 1:28 pm

Odysseys and Siennas are the only vans worth buying. I got a 2007 Odyssey in December for $23,000 cash that had 45,000 miles on it. Used car prices are way up right now but I got a good price on a loaded van.

epilnk
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Post by epilnk » Thu Apr 28, 2011 6:25 pm

isaidit wrote:Odysseys and Siennas are the only vans worth buying. I got a 2007 Odyssey in December for $23,000 cash that had 45,000 miles on it. Used car prices are way up right now but I got a good price on a loaded van.
Our minivan was not worth buying? Or are we mistaken in being happy with it?

Most people, including myself, consider the Odysseys and Siennas to be the best of the lot. But to us they were not worth an extra 10 grand. (We paid $13K cash for a less than 2 year old MPV a few years ago.) To the OP they may be. But they are not the only ones worth buying. And the premium commanded by the Odysseys and Siennas probably means that the bargains in the used minivan market are to be found among the other vehicles.

biasion
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Post by biasion » Thu Apr 28, 2011 7:46 pm

Get a brand new Mazda 5.

We just got a 2011 Toyota Sienna, it's overpriced and underpowered and very mediocre for 38k. It's very roomy for fat people, but leg room leaves a lot to be desired (designed for short wide people). Also ergonomics mediocre, and have had many quality glitches, check engine lights coming on, seats breaking, stupid stuff you'd expect out of an American car etc.

Also note that in a smaller car, you can reach back to get stuff for little kids, you can have a conversation. In the Sienna, you are so far apart from the 2nd row you can't turn enough to see your children and conversation is difficult, not due to noise, but just distance and the fact that you're facing away.

We only have 2 kids my my wife was hankering for the DVD and leather.
I hate automatic transmissions, and I dislike Toyota's design philosophy and the way they drive with a passion (superficially nice, but hollow, cheap and mass produced in a negative and cheap kind of way), but I gave in.

Please note I could go out and buy literally almost any car (and pay cash for it). The Sienna w/ leather and climate control and cheap, brittle plastic and buttons has immunized me from any kind of luxury car.

Also note Sienna does not have All Wheel Drive, even the ones that supposedly have it. This is because it has a haldex center differential: the rears only engage if the fronts slip. This is not a very traction engaging mechanism to begin with and gives barely more than just FWD. However, the traction control is so aggressive that the fronts never end up spinning and therefore the rears are never used and the AWD just becomes another useless 300lbs on board.

If you're in the snow or ice, especially uphill the traction control kills all the power so the rears never get to engage and the car basically loses power from the traction control cutting fuel, so you end up stopping as if you were spinning the fronts anyway without the AWD ever working its magic.

I drove a Mazda 5 as a rental several years ago, and I was shocked at how fun it was to drive despite the automatic, how maneuverable, and how practical it was for a 18k car with 6 passenger capacity. It is also the only 6 passenger vehicle that comes in a manual transmission.

Strongly recommend the 5, a steal at the price. With 2 kids we never needed the minivan, even with 3 you can get away with the 5. I wish I had gotten the Mazda, you can take that to the bank.
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isaidit
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Post by isaidit » Thu Apr 28, 2011 10:13 pm

epilnk wrote:
isaidit wrote:Odysseys and Siennas are the only vans worth buying. I got a 2007 Odyssey in December for $23,000 cash that had 45,000 miles on it. Used car prices are way up right now but I got a good price on a loaded van.
Our minivan was not worth buying? Or are we mistaken in being happy with it?

Most people, including myself, consider the Odysseys and Siennas to be the best of the lot. But to us they were not worth an extra 10 grand. (We paid $13K cash for a less than 2 year old MPV a few years ago.) To the OP they may be. But they are not the only ones worth buying. And the premium commanded by the Odysseys and Siennas probably means that the bargains in the used minivan market are to be found among the other vehicles.
How many Odysseys have you owned? Own just one and you'll know what I mean. Just don't go tasting a steak anytime soon, or your ground beef won't taste as good anymore. It's kind of like people that have never owned a Camry but they love their Ford Taurus (that they have to trade in every 5 years b/c it falls apart). But if you love your Mazda (which at least aren't total crap like Fords and Dodges) then that's all that matters. That sounds like a great price on that Mazda you bought. The funny thing is I'll still be driving my 1999 Camry when the doors fall off your much newer Mazda.

tlmprnpg
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Post by tlmprnpg » Thu Apr 28, 2011 11:23 pm

Last year I paid around 14k plus tax for 2008 Kia Sedona LX. The van was 2 year old with 35K miles.

I looked for both new van and used Honda / Toyota. This was the best choice. 2 year old Honda/Toyota vans were around 23K at that time.

The van still has 3 year old /15k warranty left when I bought it. No problem so far.

biasion
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Post by biasion » Fri Apr 29, 2011 6:00 am

isaidit wrote: That sounds like a great price on that Mazda you bought. The funny thing is I'll still be driving my 1999 Camry when the doors fall off your much newer Mazda.
That was 1999. Toyotas the last decade have taken a big hit in quality control.

We have had to take our 1 year and 16k mile old Sienna back 3 times to the dealer to fix stuff. Once the check engine light came on (no answer found), once the "stability control off" came on (no answer found) and once one of the reclining seats broke (at 400 miles!). Now there is a recall for the rear brake light.

Plus the Sienna chore to drive. Compared w/ the 2010 Sienna that I drove around as a loaner, I think the 2010 Sienna is a better "family" vehicle. Despite being shorter, it is more roomy, has better legroom, more responsive, just easier to drive. The 2011 is also rife with blind spots due to the "swagger wagon" styling, which is a bore to drive on the highway w/ other cars next to you that you cannot see or around town.

The 2011 Sienna is more "refined", it's a little quiter and smoother riding but very superfically "nice". But that's it. It was meant to have showroom pizzazz, but it wears off in about 30 minutes, and fast! When it counts, it doesn't deliver. I have driven over 250 cars in my life (not owned, but have had the chance to drive) and for 38k brand new the 2011 Sienna strikes me as very lackluster in all respects, reliability included.

I would not recommend the 2011 Sienna based on my experiences of having had one for about a year.

Stick with the Mazda or the Honda.
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Chuck
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Post by Chuck » Fri Apr 29, 2011 9:45 am

Is there no efficient market in minivans? I would assume that on the balance, each vehicle is worth what you pay. Everyone has their anecdotal experience about what car has been no trouble, or has everything broken, but that's not worth much because you can't go back in time and buy that car in that condition. Buying a car now is based on your best guess about how it will perform in the future, and just like mutual funds, past performance doesn't guarantee future results.

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Post by bungalow10 » Fri Apr 29, 2011 10:11 am

We looked at the Mazda 5 last year and no one we talked to was happy with it.

The biggest complaint was that the third row of seats took up the entire cargo area, there was no room for gear or luggage at all. This is fine if you have just two kids and don't plan on using the third row, but it wasn't an option for us as we plan on a third baby next year.

The price was good though, you can get them for just a little more than our Honda Fit cost, which is amazingly cheap.

We plan to save up a buy a newish Odyssey (the 2011 has great gas mileage - which is a bonus for us since we are high mileage drivers), since we know we will be driving it for many years.

edit: the Mazda 5 has 2nd row captains seats, so even if you want to squeeze all three kids on one seat to make room for cargo you can't.

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tadamsmar
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Post by tadamsmar » Fri Apr 29, 2011 12:44 pm

For safety evaluations, you can use these sites:

http://www.iihs.org/ratings/tsp_archive.html

www.informedforlife.org

epilnk
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Post by epilnk » Fri Apr 29, 2011 1:14 pm

isaidit wrote:The funny thing is I'll still be driving my 1999 Camry when the doors fall off your much newer Mazda.
Fine by me. When the doors fall off my Mazda (actually my husband's Mazda) we'll be ready for a different vehicle. I have no issue with paying half as much twice as often. Especially during this phase of family life; our boys are growing and changing so rapidly that we seem to have a completely different lifestyle every few years.

epilnk
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Post by epilnk » Fri Apr 29, 2011 1:22 pm

bungalow10 wrote:We looked at the Mazda 5 last year and no one we talked to was happy with it.

The biggest complaint was that the third row of seats took up the entire cargo area, there was no room for gear or luggage at all. This is fine if you have just two kids and don't plan on using the third row, but it wasn't an option for us as we plan on a third baby next year.

The price was good though, you can get them for just a little more than our Honda Fit cost, which is amazingly cheap.

We plan to save up a buy a newish Odyssey (the 2011 has great gas mileage - which is a bonus for us since we are high mileage drivers), since we know we will be driving it for many years.

edit: the Mazda 5 has 2nd row captains seats, so even if you want to squeeze all three kids on one seat to make room for cargo you can't.
The Mazda5 is on my shortlist as a replacement for my aging Jetta (which I am resisting replacing). It seems like a great option for a family of four since it has a large cargo area that can also be used to haul a couple of extra kids to baseball practice. But I wouldn't consider it for a larger family.

Winthorpe
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Post by Winthorpe » Fri May 20, 2011 3:22 pm

THANK YOU to everyone who responded to this thread. You all gave me plenty of new angles to consider!

Sidney
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Post by Sidney » Fri May 20, 2011 3:36 pm

snyder66 has one he might sell you.
I always wanted to be a procrastinator.

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