Myself and my girlfriend are planning a 6 week trip from Canada down through the states to Utah, Vegas, across to LA, and then up the West coast to San Fran, Portland, Vancouver and back to where we started. Total distance around 12,000 kms over roughly 6 weeks staying mostly at camping spots and national parks etc. Right now we are looking at buying a car for the trip, probably a minivan so we can take out the back seats and make a bed for nights when we don't want to set up the tent.
We have up to about $4000 to spend on a vehicle. Right now we are trying to decide between buying a cheaper vehicle with more mileage (and having more money left over for repairs/reserve) or spending more money for a car with lower mileage (but having less reserve cash left over). For example, we know someone who is selling a 15 year old Toyota with 350,000+ kms on the clock but vehicle seems to be running well and would only cost around $1000. Alternatively, for closer to $4000 we could find a Dodge Caravan or similar with around around 150,000 kms on the clock (which we assume would be more reliable!?!).
Either way we would buy breakdown cover which as I understand would just tow us to the nearest town with a mechanic. To make our decision we are trying to understand - How bad would it be to break down in some of the places we are traveling through on that loop? We would be mostly sticking to major routes (the vehicle would not be 4x4 so no crazy back roads) but we will be traveling through the desert (Utah, to Vegas, to LA) and potentially we could be a long distance from the nearest major town.
Does anyone who has traveled through these areas have any advice? If breaking down would not be too much of a big deal then I think we are leaning towards a cheaper vehicle and more reserves but if a breakdown could be a big deal/dangerous then perhaps spending more on the car up front is the way to go.
Neither of us have much experience with buying used cars or road tripping so any advice is much appreciated!