So about a year and a half ago, I made a bad car decision. I was pregnant with our second and decided that I needed to sell my 2003 Mitsubishi Lancer and buy a minivan. I just wanted more space. So I sold the Lancer for 4K and bought a 2003 Ford Windstar for 3.9K. Sounds like a good idea, but it turned out that the Windstar was a complete piece of crap. Within a few days the check engine light turned on (500 to fix the vacuum system) and then the brake and ABS lights started going on and off (haven't fixed that). We fixed an oil leak and now there's already another one. There's a wheel baring that needs to be replaced immediately too. That's not even counting the more cosmetic things of the passenger "door open" sensor being stuck so it always thinks the door is open, the radio fading in and out as you drive, and the DVD player having a short. Including the maintenance catch-up we did in the beginning, we've spent well over $1000 on repairs to this car and there's more coming. I made a very, very bad decision in buying this. None of this is even accounting for the fact that this van has such bad gas mileage that I spend twice as much to drive it, and therefore my husband drives it his short distance to work instead (so it's not even fulfilling it's original purpose!). We need to get rid of this thing!
So I see us as having two options. Either we get an absolutely cheap car, like 1000-2000, and assume there will be some repairs. My friend who has a degree in something to do with cars said that she'll look over any car that we're buying first, so that'll help root out the ones that are about to implode and just get the ones that are old with high mileage. She said that when you have that kind of car that you should expect to spend some money on it a couple times a year to get things repaired, but it's the trade off for not having a car payment.
The second option is to get a bit of a nicer car and have a payment. I really don't like the idea of having a car payment, but I'm tired of always having cars that break down. If I have a car payment (I wouldn't be going for anything over $200 a month for sure), at least it's consistent. Maybe I could have a car that's under 100K miles on it again. It's been a while. Our other car is in really great condition (only previous owner was my FIL and he took great care of it), but it's getting older too (also 2003). It had it's first real repair (beyond maintenance stuff like oil and clutch) just a few months ago. So it would be nice to have one car that's a bit younger (maybe like 2008 or something?) and not be constantly repairing one or the other. Someone on here mentioned owning a Mazda5 and I think that would be great. Or maybe even something with really good MPG so that we're saving money there like a Toyota Prius. Still though, having a car payment stucks. Getting more debt sucks. But does having a car that's constantly breaking down suck more?