Yes, you read that right: cars. As in, automobiles, mini-vans, people-movers, wheeled transportation powered by internal combustion engines, whatever.
Here's the situation: after eight and counting years of loyal service, our family mini-van is starting to exhibit those charming squeaks and rattles that...cost us over $3000 to fix last year. It's a Toyota, so I expect it will be around a while longer (hey, it's only got 120,000 miles on it! It's practically a baby!)--but up to now, we've been a one-car family, so having something reliable is sort of necessary.
We theoretically have three options here:
1. Keep driving the mini-van and do nothing else. This is probably only an option for the next year or so.
2. Trade the mini-van for another biggish car. Though we are a five-person family, four of the five people are taller than my 5'2" height--and, as everyone knows, a so-called "five-passenger car" mostly means a four-passenger car with the possibility of squeezing a smallish extra person up against what is otherwise the arm-rest in the back seat, and belting him or her with a lap belt.
3. Keep the mini-van for our soon-to-be driving teens (one fifteen, one fourteen, and one who will be 13 this summer!) and buy a smallish second car that could squeeze all of us in it in the event that the mini-van dies or is in the shop.
Bearing in mind that we are a one-income family on a limited budget, which of these options would you choose? Why? Are there specific vans/cars you would recommend in the event you vote for "2" or "3"? Do you love your present car? Do you hate it? And so forth...
Looking for advice and recommendations here. All welcome!