Used Guide: 2012-2018 Jeep Wrangler

5 tips for finding a prime example of this used off-road SUV

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If you’re looking for a last-generation Jeep Wrangler, the 2012 and newer model years are the best place to look—if it’s within your budget.

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For the 2011 model year, the Ohio-built Jeep Wrangler’s interior underwent a dramatic overhaul with new styling, features, comfort and materials—as well as larger rear windows.

Jeep overhauled the powertrain next, fitting a proven Michigan-built 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine to all units for a notable increase in both power and fuel efficiency over the outgoing engine.

Many model grades and special packages were available, including high-capacity models such as the Rubicon and Willy’s Wheeler.

Follow the related links for more information, specs, prices, news and reviews on the so-called “JK” Jeep Wrangler, and read on for five tips to help you find the best used model you can for your dollar.

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Tip #1: Assume the suspension is drilled

Look, the suspension on the used Wrangler you’re considering is probably fine — but given reports within the owner community, test drivers are advised to run a few checks before buying, just to be sure.

Most owners have not reported premature wear of ball joints, bushings and other suspension components, nor have most reported the sudden onset of a dangerous and startling “death roll” that could mean serious problems.

Still, some have, which is why it’s important to assume that the suspension in the Wrangler you’re considering is in need of some professional care and maintenance, until you have proof to the contrary.

For maximum confidence, have a technician inspect the suspension on any Wrangler you choose for consideration before purchasing, and avoid any used model that exhibits unwanted suspension noises, such as clanking and popping, on a bumpy road or trail.

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2018 Jeep Wrangler Sahara
2018 Jeep Wrangler Sahara Photo by Peter Bleakney

Tip #2: Engine Leakage

The 3.6 liter V6 engine used to power this generation of Jeep Wrangler is one of the most mass produced powerplants in the world and is used under the hood of many cars and trucks.

Most owners do not report serious problems with their engines, although a notable number have complained of an engine oil leak caused by a faulty oil cooler. If present, this problem will cause a visible oil leak into the engine, possibly onto the ground below.

Replacement parts are required to fix this problem, and it can be difficult to find in time. Having the used Wrangler you’re considering professionally inspected for this potential leak before you buy can save you money and headaches.

The four-door Jeep Wrangler proved to be the perfect vehicle for a family outing on the island of Lanai.
The four-door Jeep Wrangler proved to be the perfect vehicle for a family outing on the island of Lanai. Photo by Andrew McCredie

Tip #3: Changes

The Jeep Wrangler is one of the most modified vehicles on the road. Owners around the world customize their Wranglers with add-ons and electronics and enjoy them every day.

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Please note that certain modifications may adversely affect the durability, ride comfort, handling and reliability of the Wrangler, void remaining warranty coverage, or even result in expensive damage to other vehicle parts.

For maximum peace of mind, the average shopper is advised to stick with a “stock model” that has not been modified.

Tip #4: Tire Check

A thorough inspection of a vehicle’s tires is an important step when buying a used car – and a thorough inspection of the tires on a used Jeep Wrangler can reveal two potential problem areas.

Uneven tread wear across the width of one or more tires usually indicates an alignment problem, which can contribute to accelerated tire wear and accelerated wear of suspension components.

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Furthermore, any rips, tears, gouges or lumps in the inner or outer sidewall of a tire is a sign of damage, possibly in an off-road environment. If you find any tire damage, have it professionally assessed and factor it into your price negotiations.

2018 Jeep Wrangler Sahara
2018 Jeep Wrangler Sahara Photo by Peter Bleakney

Tip #5: Stay dry

Because of its features and construction, which includes many removable body parts, the Jeep Wrangler is an excellent candidate for a pre-purchase leak inspection.

Some owners have reported water leaks caused by drainage passages in the windshield being blocked by mud and debris. Others report leaking ceiling panels, doors and more. Most people don’t.

Although leaks seem relatively rare against overall sales volumes, test drivers are advised to carefully inspect all mats for signs of moisture, standing water or mold. Inspect the rear cargo area under the floor for signs of water leakage as well.

Water leaks can cause damage to your vehicle, reduce its residual value, and they are rarely a good time to fix. If you notice any signs of water leakage, the best option is often to move to another unit.

Last thought

These tips are designed to help test drive buyers more easily identify possible problem areas reported by some owners. A careful test drive and shopping process that focuses on the areas above can help you find a prime example of a used Jeep Wrangler.

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