Thank you for all your comments and help.
I took everything into consideration, and I did take much of your advice.
For example, I asked for and got a Carfax report. I had a mechanic check it out. I did a lot of internet searching before I went to a dealer.
I bought on a three year contract.
In the end I did get another Dodge Caravan.
I found it (and several other Caravans) on Craigslist.
Why not a smaller car?
There appears to be some liklihood that I may wind up with my daughter's two older children (who currently live with their father four hours away) as well as the two who live with me and their father now. If that happens, a sedan just won't cut it.
Plus, I admit it--while I like the idea of a small, fuel efficient car, I LOVE driving a minivan.
And you should see the one I got!
Unlike the very basic model I bought new ten years ago, this baby is loaded! It's a 2005 one-owner minivan with 62,000 miles on it, and every power option known to man. It has cruise control, a tilt wheel and a radio that tells me what song and what artist is playing. It has a casette player (so I don't have to throw away my oldies collection or all the grandkid's "Wee Sing" tapes, though some days, if I have to listen to another chorus of "This Old Man," I am dearly tempted!) and a CD player. It even has a computer to tell me how many miles I have left to go before I run out of gas.
I'm pretty excited, though one of my daughters pointed out that those options are on most vehicles these days.
How did my budget fare? The vehicle lists in Kelly Blue Book for $9700. I got my minivanfor exactly $8000 after paying the licensing fees. I tried but failed to dicker. The dealer said the price had been reduced because it had been on the lot for more than 90 days and it was now as low at they could go. Is that true? Who knows. It felt like a good deal to me. My mechanic said it was clean and looked to be in good shape. He pointed out that the water pump had been replaced (which I knew because the Carfax report noted it) and there was a new battery (which the dealership said they had put in a week ago when I asked).
I resisted all the service contracts, theft insurance (What? Some errant soccer mom will try to steal my mini-van?) and various add-ons the salesman assured me would be wonderful things to have. And I financed at 4.49% through my credit union.
The payments will be $161 a month for 36 months and my debt load has increased considerably.
Along the way, I discovered I have a Beacon Score of 770 though I am not quite sure just what a Beacon score is.
First thing on my agenda now that I have wheels? Get a Christmas tree and try out that dazzling roof rack!