For many, nothing has that outdoorsy and adventurous look more than a Jeep Wrangler. Its external lineage to the Willys-Jeep of World War II and the popular Jeep CJ that is its immediate predecessor also makes it a part of American history.
The Wrangler is by no means a comfortable vehicle. And calling it practical really depends on your definition of that word. But few cars out there are so freeing and so iconic. With serious off-road skills and a simple design, it’s also one of the least pretentious. If you’re getting ready to buy a used Wrangler, here’s a look at how much Jeep you can get for your hard-earned dollar.
For $15,000 or less, you’re probably looking at a pre-2007 Wrangler, the last-generation model rooted in Jeep’s American Motors history. That’s not a bad thing for enthusiasts, however, because it’s the last vehicle to use the heralded 4.0-liter straight-six AMC engine that is virtually bombproof, yet powerful. It’s the most back-to-basics Jeep.
Yes, this era of Wrangler can trace its lineage to a time when Jeep was tied with Renault and local car commercials were tiring.
If you’re looking at the Wrangler code-named “TJ” (1997-06 models), you’re winding up your own windows (if you’re not zipping them up) and locking each door yourself. Apart from a CD player and alloy wheels, there isn’t much in the form of niceties on this Jeep or even much cargo space with the rear seat up. A longer Wrangler Unlimited model was released in 2004 and comes with a sense of cargo hauling ability should that be on your priority list. But if you value the simplicity and have to have that straight-six, this is a cheap way to go.
Around $20,000 should put you firmly in 2007-11 Wrangler territory. The second substantial redesign in the Wrangler’s history, the “JK” as it was code named marks the next signs of modernization to the iconic Jeep. And if you’re going to use it every day, those traces might be appealing.
Yes, this Wrangler was definitely pitched as more of a “lifestyle” Jeep, rather than something a cartographer would drive around the world. But the four-door Wrangler Unlimited model proves you can have your cake and keep it practical, too. Plus, it’s the only four-door convertible on the market now.
It’s still not a car-like driving experience and the 3.8-liter V6 is a little underpowered, but features such as power windows and locks and even navigation became available with the 2007 Wrangler. The 2011 model even has an almost-nice interior with available automatic temperature control. It’s like a car! But not.
Starting from around $22,000 and up to $30,000, however, gets you a 2012 or newer Wrangler which is what you want if you still really value some sense of civilized comforts.
Again, lifestyle. And nothing is as lifestylish as Lenny Kravitz, right?
Out went the minivan-derived V6 for the modern 3.6-liter V6 that’s found in, well minivans. But it’s also in the latest Jeep Grand Cherokee, and it’s mated here to a five-speed automatic that’s an improvement over the old four-speed. And this really improved the Wrangler’s livability on a daily on-road basis.
It’s the most expensive option, that’s for sure. But the modern Wrangler is the best attempt Jeep has made at making a vehicle that’s capable of much more than your work commute, without beating you up because it’s dying to go play in the mud.