The Wrangler has been around since 1987 when the first generation hit the market. The third generation now called the Wrangler JK was first introduced in 2007 which spawned the introduction of a four-door version called the ‘Unlimited’ offering more space and a longer wheelbase. This direction was aimed more at the family than enhanced practicality for off-road adventures however, while the short wheelbase two-door models were still being produced with the unique fold-down front windscreen, removable doors, and roll bar. The JK had introduced new safety features such as stability control and traction control. Although these were a long time coming, they were a token effort considering the poor safety ratings of marginal (mediocre) to poor for over half of the tests given by crash-testing safety company IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety). A score of six doesn’t bode well, but it turns heads and is a great option for off-roading.
1. Off-road capabilities take you more places other off-roaders can’t
2. More stability than earlier models
3. Great variety of colors and trim levels
4. The JK Models also come in a 4-door ‘Unlimited’ with a longer body and stretched wheelbase
5. The updated 2007 model came with a new, modern 3.8 liter V6 engine or a 4-cylinder 2.8-litre turbo diesel
6. In 2012, the upgraded 3.6 liter V6 provided even more power and torque – mainly in the manual
7. Stability and Traction Control added
8. Great Jeep exterior styling
1. You will pay between $15,000 and $20,000 for a decent model with less than 100k miles
2. Poorly designed interior and limited ride comfort
3. Steering could do with improvement
4. The longer body and stretched wheelbase of the ‘Unlimited’ means it’s not as good as the two-door on rugged terrains
5. The JK lacks standard side airbags to protect the head and chest from contact with side structure and outside objects
6. Common complaints about the 2007-2008 models included a leaky fuel tank, problems with airbag deployment, and odd electrical problems
7. 2009-2011 models had the common ‘death-wobble’, again faulty airbags, and a fuel filler problem – but only half as many complaints as the previous model
8. Hefty repair costs
Take care when looking at one with a pumped-up suspension, larger-than-life tires, and tell-tale signs of rust (including bubbling paint). The raised suspension isn’t good for the Jeep over prolonged periods, neither are tires that are not built for its chassis. The modifications can sometimes be cheap and nasty, and it could have been thrashed for the sake of looking cool to friends or other drivers. Thoroughly check the doors sit correctly and open and shut securely, the bumper corners, and the undercarriage bash-plates for any signs of collision with the rugged terrains. They may be built to take off-road, but when you’re buying one, you don’t want to find out that there are cracks in the axle, too much rust, or jagged doors that need fixing or replacement. If you are looking at an automatic, check for gears that are slow to change as this could mean it’s time for an overhaul. When test-driving, listen for crunches when changing down gears in the manual, and a reluctance to want to go into fifth gear. This also means transmission problems. Test the adjustments of the seats and that the seat doesn’t shift when driving – again a sign of wear on the vehicle.
Nissan Xterra (2005-2015), Toyota FJ Cruiser (2005-Present)
Be very wary. Jeep doesn’t have the best track record for reliability, and safety issues only add to the problems. The best years to go for are between 2015 and 2018, but you will need to raise your budget for these models, and have a reserve pool of funds for common repairs. While it’s a great vehicle to look at and go for a drive or ride off-road, for the money you spend and the time it will be in the workshop (unless you only want an off-roader), I’d suggest checking out some of the competitors on the market.