What You Should Look for When Buying a Used Jeep Wrangler (A Buyers Guide)


When purchasing any used vehicle, you need to be cautious about what you look for. The same is true for a Jeep Wrangler. However, Jeep Wranglers are unique from other vehicles, and purchasing a used one can be different from your previous vehicle purchases.

Make sure to pay attention to the undercarriage, model, modifications, and any damages when buying a used Jeep Wrangler. Making sure these specific areas are up to par will help ensure that you have purchased a Wrangler that will last.

Knowing what to pay special attention to when buying a used Jeep Wrangler will help you steer clear of the less than ideal vehicles. While this alone is useful, it is even better to understand what to specifically check for on the vehicle you have your eyes on.

1. Issues with the Undercarriage

The undercarriage is one of the most important things to check on any vehicle, but it is even more important on a Jeep Wrangler because of its frequent use as an off-road vehicle.

Because the Wrangler is frequently driven in extreme conditions, it is important to make sure the previous owner did not damage the undercarriage on any off-road adventures. The undercarriage is a great indicator of how old the car really is. When checking the undercarriage, here are some things to look for.

Rust

Rust is obviously something that you do not want anywhere on your vehicle, especially in the undercarriage. If you find rust on any portion of the vehicle it will eventually need to be replaced.

Those with experience repairing cars may not see this as an issue; however, for those with no experience working on cars, replacing rusted parts will be a costly endeavor.

Jeep Wranglers are popular in areas that get a lot of snow because they function well in that weather. This can cause a more serious rust problem as being covered in slush for several months every year can take its toll on the metal. This is especially true in areas where road salts are used on wintery roads.

Exhaust

Although the exhaust may not seem like a crucial part of the undercarriage, it is. Check the exhaust system for rust, dents, or other apparent damages. If the exhaust pipe is no longer intact, do not jump on the vehicle.

Rather, speak with the seller and ask if they would be open to lowering the price, paying for repairs if they arise after purchase, or replacing the parts before you make the purchase. If they agree to one of these circumstances then there is little need to worry about any damage to the exhaust.

2. New Paint or Parts

When looking over the vehicle, pay careful attention to any new paint or parts. These can be evidence of prior damage. New paint may even be concealing some damage or other problems. If you spot areas anywhere on the vehicle that have been painted or upgraded, proceed with caution before purchasing the Wrangler.

Though new parts might sound like a good thing, it could mean that the vehicle was in a wreck or that the part failed. Both of these situations could be indicators of other damage. If some parts already needed to be replaced, chances are others will soon need to be replaced as well. Use new parts as a reference for how much life the vehicle has left.

The same thing goes for new paint on the undercarriage. New paint might indicate that there was rusting of the undercarriage so the seller covered it up. While new paint can make the undercarriage look much nicer, it could be hiding any number of rusted, dented, or damaged areas in the undercarriage. Paint will cover it up, but it will not fix those issues.

3. Intact Skid Plates

Skid plates are one of the clearest signs of a Jeep Wrangler’s age and how well it was taken care of. Skid plates are a cool feature installed in many off-road vehicles. They are meant to protect the car’s undercarriage and guts from any major damages from obstacles on the trails.

If the skid plates have holes, from rust or damage from trails, you might want to consider a different vehicle.

If you find scratches and slight dents in the skid plates, that is normal. Skid plates are meant to take some hits. They are a huge indicator of how hard the Jeep has been driven, and how long it has been used like that. If the skid plates have holes, rust, or damage from trails, you might want to consider a different vehicle.

4. Any Modifications to the Vehicle

Before purchasing any vehicle, but especially a Jeep Wrangler, ask the seller if they have made any modifications to the vehicle. Modifications are common among Jeep Wranglers as drivers work to make them perform better off-road.

After asking the seller about modifications, inspect the vehicle. If the seller concealed any information about upgrades done to the vehicle, be cautious in continuing the purchasing process.

When modifications have been applied to a Jeep Wrangler, it is imperative to know what they all are, even the really small ones. You need to know what the modifications are so you can check to see if they are working properly. If the modifications are having trouble, you might be paying more for mods that don’t even work right.

With modifications, you should consider the year of the car. Newer Jeep Wranglers should have few or no modifications as they have been shown to cause problems with how well the vehicle functions at its base level. If modifications have been made, check to see if any other part of the jeep has suffered because of them

5. Obvious Damages

When buying any used car, you are going to check for damages to it. Finding damages can help lower the price, or show you how it is not the vehicle you want to buy. Damages really show the age of a car and how well it has been treated. The answers to these areas for a damaged car are usually very old, and not very well.

While Jeeps can be great vehicles in most situations, they have a reputation for having a variety of issues while only having a few miles on them. These are some things to keep in mind and ask the seller about when looking at used Jeep Wranglers.

Cosmetic

Cosmetic damages include anything that changes the appearance of the vehicle but has no effect on the overall function of the car. Some cosmetic damages are very minor and should not be dwelt upon too much. Minor cosmetic damages are things like mild scratches, dings on the body, and scraped bumpers.

Even though the vehicle should still function properly with these cosmetic damages, it is still important to check for them because they can be an indicator of how well taken care of the car is. If there is an excess of any of the minor damages mentioned, you might want to keep a suspicious eye open as there could be bigger, non-visible damages that will cause bigger problems for you down the road.

Jeep Wranglers are interesting to think about when it comes to cosmetic damages. Because it can be taken off-road, there might be a higher frequency of cosmetic damages. Still be aware of the chance that there are bigger issues, but do not let these minimal damages deter you.

Breaking Parts

Jeep Wranglers, and other models, have been known to have random parts break with very little use. Steering wheels have broken on relatively slow, shallow turns. Parts of the undercarriage have started leaking without having even gone off the roads. Seat belts have broken, which is a huge concern as they are a very important safety feature.

If you find any broken or breaking parts on the Wrangler, ask the seller if they are willing to lower the price or consider purchasing a difficult vehicle.

6. Internal Damage

Internal damages are much more serious than cosmetic damages. Instead of just making the car look worn, internal damages hinder the car’s ability to function properly. Any and every internal damage should be investigated thoroughly before deciding to buy the vehicle or not.

While most cosmetic damages are not necessary to fix, internal damages need to be repaired. Whether that is the responsibility of you or the seller is something you should have a discussion about as it varies for each transaction and situation. Consider the price you are paying and how much it will be to fix those damages for either party before placing the responsibility on either of you.

While you are checking for damages under the hood, it is a good idea to check for good general care. A car that has had regular maintenance is going to be a much better buy than one that has been neglected. A good way to tell if a car is serviced frequently is if the coolant or other fluids are low. If they are low, then the car has probably not been taken in very often as most places top off fluids with a standard oil change.

Check for leaks and ask about oil consumption. Jeeps are known to have problems with both. If a Jeep leaks minimally and has moderate oil consumption, then there is nothing to worry about. If there is excess leaking or the oil consumption is very high, that Jeep might not be the one that you want.

7. What Wrangler Model it is

The model of the Jeep Wrangler you are planning on purchasing makes a big difference in the quality of car you are getting. There are a few years of Jeep Wrangler models that should be avoided because of some bad engine designs. Anything made before 2012 is a good option and will function better than most of the later Wranglers, up until 2018 at least. The exceptions to this are Jeep’s made before 2002. There were some questionable engines used in those.

When browsing for Jeep Wranglers, it might be a good idea to scroll through the different series’ from Jeep over the year. The ones that you want to look out for are the YJ series and the JK series. These are both known to not have the greatest engines installed. You want to look for Wranglers from the TJ and JL series as these are made with more reliable engines.

In terms of model instead of year, there are three to look at, the Sport, the Sahara, and the Rubicon.

Right off the bat, the Rubicon is well-loved and highly recommended by owners of this vehicle for its excellent off-road performance. The 2005-2006 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon will be a great vehicle that will work well for a long time as long as it is taken care of.

The Sahara is known to be pretty mediocre. Some people love it while others wish they had never bought it. Some Saharas are known for having transmission problems on occasion. It is a pretty reliable vehicle outside of those issues and is worth a try if you have checked for all of the previously covered things and have decided it is in good condition.

The Sport is much less loved than the other two models. While all models vary from year to year, the Sport does not have the greatest reputation for being durable even though it works well when taken off-road. It is nimble, but that is not necessarily something that beats having a reliable car.

8. Is the Wrangler Stalling

One of the most dangerous problems of the Jeep Wranglers is that they sometimes stall in the middle of driving. There have been a lot of documented incidents where drivers have been on a highway, or even just on surface streets and their Jeep has just given out.

Some drivers lose control of their vehicles and wind up in accidents. Be sure to test drive the Wrangler you are considering purchasing at a wide range of speeds to ensure this issue is not happening in the vehicle. Additionally, speak with the vehicle owner to see if this instance has ever happened to them.

9. Does the Wrangler Lock Up After a Bump

Jeep Wranglers have an issue that has come up frequently enough that it has been named The Death Wobble. This is a huge problem for drivers.

On occasion, the vehicle will hit a bump or pothole, and the whole vehicle begins to shake. It is almost impossible to steer in this state. The only way to get the vehicle to function properly again is to come to a complete or almost complete stop.

Once again, ask the seller if this is a problem they have experienced. Pay attention to how the Wrangler handles during the test drive. If this problem occurs, do not purchase the vehicle.

Will Turner

Will has an absolute passion for 4x4s and loves discovering all of the small details about each model. Will joined the Four Wheel Trends team in early 2021 and has been a valuable contributor ever since!

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