5 Big Jeep Wranglers to Buy Used (5 to Stay Away From)

The Jeep Wrangler has come to symbolize the kind of sense of freedom and adventure that no sports car or motorcycle can quite match. This vehicle is one of the most popular SUVs, well known for its reliability and low maintenance cost. But while some Jeep Wranglers are truly amazing and unstoppable, some models have recorded significant issues over the years.

If you’re looking for a used Jeep Wrangler, there are a variety of options to choose from. The SUV has been in production since the dawn of World War II and continues to grace the market in 2022. Used Wranglers are known for being powerful and can handle almost anything – the snow, the mud, the slush, the rocks, the rain and the sand. Some are also much easier to repair than others. Unlike newer models, there is no annoying onslaught of electrical components with the older models. They are much easier to work with and fix yourself.

Of course, buying used Jeep Wranglers isn’t just fun. Some will only aggravate your pain points further. To shed some light on this dilemma, here are five Jeep Wranglers to buy used and five to avoid.

10/10 Buy Used: 1954-1983 CJ-5

via Rally Tops

Wrangler lovers have a lot to look forward to in a CJ5—reliability, comfort and efficiency. First introduced in 1954 and leaving the market in 1983, the CJ-5 is a fun, reliable vehicle that still performs competently. Its design was based on the round-shielded ’51 M38AI. However, it is more robust, versatile and comfortable compared to its predecessor.

rugged 1954 Jeep CJ-5

The most likely engine you’ll find in a ’60s model is the Buick 3.7-liter V6 pushing out 155 hp. But in 1970 when the company was sold to American Motors, the new owners replaced the engine with its unit. A variety of engines were released during the 1970s, including a 5.0-litre, 4.2-litre and 3.8-litre V8. The CJ-5’s easy-to-find parts and cheap repair costs are also selling points for the long-retired Jeep.

Related: A detailed look at the 1972 Jeep CJ-5 facelift

9/10 Stay away from: 2012 Wrangler

2012 Jeep Wrangler
via caranddriver.com

For the 2012 model year, the Wrangler disappointed owners with a slew of reported complaints. Most problems revolve around the powertrain.

2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport Convertible SUV

Some owners experienced stalling or random braking while driving, while others had their engines fail, cylinders fail, and more. The 2012 Wrangler had 9 recalls; for fire hazards, Takata airbags and transmission fluid leaks, to name a few. However, the biggest factor is the huge cost of fixing these problems. Replacing entire modules, radiators or engine heads altogether meant substantial repair costs for the owners.

8/10 Buy Used: 1976 CJ-7

1976 Jeep CJ 7

The CJ-7 Wrangler is another pretty solid choice. Although considered a longer-wheelbase CJ-5, the CJ-7 featured a number of new features and upgrades, making it a common choice in the used market.

1976 Jeep CJ-7

The 1976 Jeep CJ-7 brought improved stability and handling, now with the quadra-trac four-wheel drive system, which turned the Jeep CJ7 into an off-road monster. Its interior has been revamped to offer an enhanced stylish and luxurious ride. It also came with a tilt steering wheel, high back leather seats and attractive chrome package. Potential buyers may be overwhelmed by the engine variants, a 2.5 liter Iron Duke 14, a 4.2 liter AMC 16, a 5.0 liter AMC V8 and many more. In addition, it has good reviews from previous owners.

7/10 Stay away from: 2020 Wrangler

2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited North Edition
Via Mopar Insiders

The newest Jeep Wrangler appeared on this list because it was awarded a 36 out of 100 and an overall rating of 28 when it went through tests by Consumer Reports – not exactly good for a ride with a high price tag. A used 2020 Jeep Wrangler is estimated to cost around $45,900.

2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon EcoDiesel

Another problem you may have to contend with is the high maintenance and repair cost. A 2020 Jeep Wrangler will cost you about $11,661 in repairs and maintenance over the first five years of service. There is also a 30% chance that the Wrangler will require major repairs during that time.

Related: Motorweek test drives the 2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave

6/10 Buy Used: 1987 YJ

1987 Jeep Wrangler YJ
Via: Jeep Manufacturer

The Jeep YJ replaced the CJ model, and while the reactions weren’t encouraging, owners appreciated most of its features.

1987 Jeep Wrangler YJ

Although this model was particularly controversial for its square headlights and raised windshield, owners quickly learned to love it for its width, lower ground clearance and roomier interior. For the 1987 model year, Jeep YJ owners had a 2.5-liter AMC 150 14 engine or the more optimal 4.2-liter AMC 258 straight six engine. Also, the Jeep is affordable, around $10,450 with cheap repair and maintenance costs compared to other models.

5/10 Stay away from: 2007 Wrangler JK

2007 Jeep Wrangler JK
drive mag

Although the third-generation Wrangler remains Jeep’s iconic vehicle, it may be nearing the end of its life cycle. Although the Wrangler JK is known for its outstanding off-road performance, it was plagued by problems on several fronts.

2007 Jeep Wrangler JK

In addition to several recalls affecting many Wranglers, this model year had problems with everything from fuel systems to steering. Common problems reported revolved around powertrain, handling and safety. According to owners who suffered engine failure, repairs cost them about $4,400.

Related: 10 Used Jeeps No One Buys (But Should)

4/10 Buy Used: 1996 Wrangler TJ

1996 Jeep Wrangler TJ Sport

The TJ model was produced between 1996 and 2006 as a replacement for the YJ Wrangler. Besides being a reliable option, similar used models can be found at quite affordable prices.

1996 Jeep Wrangler TJ

Most still exhibit high performance levels due to their robust build quality. 1996 TJs featured upgrades such as 4.0-liter AMC 242 inline-six engine capacity, better suspension for smoother rides, roll bars for improved safety, and more.

These Wranglers were built for speed, power and capability. Repair and maintenance costs are also affordable.

3/10 Stay away from: 2015 Wrangler

2015 Jeep Wrangler
car blog

While the used 2015 Jeep Wrangler has impressive off-road performance with a well-built cabin, it also had its fair share of problems. The driving experience was uneven and the handling clumsy.

2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
auto influence

Additionally, the Wrangler was not as fuel-efficient as car-based crossovers and has had two recalls. In 2016, Chrysler recalls that a cut or separated seat belt webbing can break and separate from the seat frame, increasing the risk of injury during a crash. Additionally, the model year clock spring assembly may be contaminated with dust, resulting in a possible failure of the airbag circuit.

2/10 Buy used: 2004 LJ

2004 Jeep Wrangler LJ
rally tops

The Jeep LJ is one of the coolest Jeeps of all time. It’s a rare, stretched version of the regular 1997-2006 Wrangler. Jeep enthusiasts are often willing to pay a pretty penny for this model. An extended wheelbase, a Command-Trac 231 transfer case, and a Dana 44 rear axle are a few features you’ll find in this vehicle.

2004 Jeep Wrangler LJ
rally tops

Its sharp handling characteristics and efficient engine with an automatic four-speed transmission make this Jeep a catch. Considering there were no recalls for this model, spending around $15,000 for a used one is worth it.

Related: What we can expect from the upcoming Jeep Small Electric Crossover

1/10 Stay away from: 2018 Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon

2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon
car blog

While the 2018 Wrangler Rubicon came completely redesigned with a more comfortable interior, it’s not without flaws. According to an Edmunds review, the ride’s steering is slow and feels loose, it has less cargo space and poor handling and ride comfort.

2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon

The Jeep’s engine failure combined with problems with the electronic throttle and radiator fans attracted negative comments from owners. So if you are thinking of buying this model, think twice.

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