Becoming a Jeep owner is much more than just buying a set of wheels. Jeepers is a culture of their own. They are known for their unwavering loyalty to the brand, mutual respect, long-standing clubs and associations, and, of course, the Jeep wave.
Things to remember before you go shopping for a Jeep.
Buying a used Wrangler or a Cherokee is a popular way of joining the Jeep family. These vehicles are known to retain value well, thanks to their durability, performance, and strong demand. However, being careless with choosing a used Jeep is a recipe for failure. Don’t forget that you are buying an off-roader that might have seen some extensive use. Getting a rusted-out lemon will sour your Jeep experience. Be prepared to do more legwork compared to buying any other pre-owned car, but a well-chosen used Jeep is worth the trouble.
From a financial point, buying a used Jeep is a little different than buying any other vehicle. You may suffer from limiting factors when it comes to buying used cars: no down payment, bad credit, shaky job history, lack of a cosigner or collateral for the auto loan. If you hit bingo — well, tough luck. But if you are saddled with just two or three of these factors, you will still have buying options with the right dealership. You could try to find a seller that specializes in used Jeeps, but in most cases, any used car dealer will do, as long as they have the model you want and provide reasonable buying options.
Gather information online
If you are new to Jeeps, and you are looking to get into four-wheeling, consider visiting online owners’ clubs and off-roading forums. These are great places to ask for tips on choosing a used vehicle. Experienced users post extensive guides on buying and maintaining off-roaders and share their personal stories. Visiting the Jeep manufacturer’s website is another great way to familiarize yourself with the history of the brand. Take a look at the full Jeep lineup, including rare models and cult classics, to find the one that rocks your boat.
Inspect the vehicle
You have found yourself a Jeep you like and can afford. Now what? Before you drive off the dealership’s lot behind the wheel of your new (used) Wrangler, Grand Cherokee, Compass, or Jeepster Commando (imagine that) take some time to inspect the vehicle. Off-roading vehicles are a whole different animal. You have to understand what exactly it is that you’re trying to buy.
Driving off-road leads to extra wear and tear. Mud, rocks, water and sand test the vehicle’s endurance and have a negative impact on its overall condition. On the other hand, not every used Jeep was taken for an off-road adventure. While many 4WD owners scoff at urban Jeep drivers, they do exist in quite large numbers.
Driving conditions are more important than mileage. A Jeep with a few miles under the hood could have ‘earned’ them rock-climbing or getting down and dirty in a swamp. Another one could have covered a much greater distance staying on paved roads only.
Don’t look at the odometer before examining the body and taking a peek under the hood. If you can’t call yourself a gearhead or simply don’t have the time to tinker about, anything rusty and dusty under the hood is a deal breaker. Choose a clean, functioning Jeep, if you plan on driving away right after the purchase.
Here are five things you need to check before making a buying decision:
- rust spots,
The undercarriage is the most important area and you should check it first. Get under to look for signs of rust and rot. If you are inspecting an off-roader pay attention to the skid plates that protect the vehicle’s underside. If they look like Mike Tyson went at ‘em with a hammer, think twice before buying. Severely dented and scratched skid plates mean that this 4WD had a very adventurous youth and might have quite a worn-out frame.
Jeep tires are rather expensive. A little wear and tear are fine, but if they are completely chewed up and need replacing, avoid buying the vehicle. Tire wear can also indicate a host of other problems. Uneven tread wear down the middle or at the edges is most likely a sign of an alignment problem. If the back tires are much less worn-down than the front ones, they weren’t rotated properly.
Owners love to modify their Jeeps. It is very likely that you will come across a modded Wrangler or a Cherokee browsing through a used car lot. This means two things: it will cost more and there are more parts to inspect. It’s wise to ask a professional mechanic for advice. Cosmetic mods are generally okay. Mods that affect performance need thorough checking. Buying a heavily modded Jeep as your first off-roader is getting a pig in a poke. Taking a bare-bones version and installing mods later (if you want them) might be a better option.
Jeeps exposed to elements for long periods of time without proper care tend to have large, visible rusts spots. If you see rust spreading to the door and window frames or eating at the floorboards, no deal. If the vehicle was not taken care of properly, you will spend more time (and money) fixing it than driving it. Sometimes the repairs are not even possible.
If there are puddles of engine coolant or oil under the Jeep, it has leaks. It might take a single rock to bust open a hose or penetrate the tank while off-roading. Inspect hoses for cracks, start up the Jeep to see if it springs a leak. Leaks can also indicate problems with major car systems, including the engine and transmission.
Take it for a test-drive!
If you hear repeated strange noises while test driving or experience other performance issues, think about looking for a different vehicle.