These are great, great vehicles. There's a reason you still see them running around the Caribbean, Africa and Latin America with a gajillion miles on them. The 4 Cyl engine is actually a forklift engine and designed for extreme, long term durability.
Working on them isn't all that bad, if ya get the right books. You gotta get used to the engine being under the seat; for more serious repairs, you can unbolt the passenger side floor for more access. For other stuff, you have to put it on the lift.
Two big considerations for anyone buying one of these in the year 2008...
Chances are, it's going to be high mileage. Don't let that discourage you- these things were made to go forever and if it was well maintained, it will have plenty of life left in it- but be aware that certain parts can be a real pain in the butt to obtain. A lot of the standard stuff you can still get at auto parts retailers, but there are A LOT of parts that are dealership only and brother, does the dealership ever let you have it for old 'yota van parts. Since these aren't exactly "standard" at any junkyard, if you need to replace a weird or esoteric part, you will have to go to the internet and pray somebody is parting one out.
Second, for more in-depth repairs (beyond standard stuff- replacing alternators, igniters, etc) understand that a lot of mechanics haven't ever seen one of these before and won't know what to do. If you're intent on buying one of these and keeping it running, move heaven and earth to lay hands on the TOYOTA FACTORY service manual (beware- these aren't cheap). There's a real chance that the mechanic you take it to will need this manual. Unfortunately, Chiltens manuals are inadequate and the factory book doesn't come cheap, but they're almost a must-have unless you have access to someone who knows how to work on these.
With that said, if you're prepared to be a little patient when it breaks and you can find a factory service manual, you will be hard pressed to find a cooler, more efficient vehicle. Gas mileage is insanely good, there is plenty of room, they run smooth and last darn near forever if they've lived a well maintained life.
Sure wish all were were made this way.