Pros & Cons of Buying a Jeep Wrangler

Pros & Cons of Buying a Jeep Wrangler

Last Updated April 30, 2020 | Alison Smith
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As with any vehicle purchase, there are plenty of things to consider before making a decision. Buying a Jeep Wrangler is no different. Price, reliability, fuel economy, style, and versatility are all important factors to keep in mind. Let’s see where the Jeep Wrangler falls in those categories.

Why Buy a Jeep Wrangler?

The Wrangler is known for its versatility and ability to go off the beaten path. Unlike most vehicles, Wranglers can take you nearly anywhere you want to go. Within the limits of the law, of course.

But there are also reasons why it may not be the best fit for you. Wranglers are known to be gas-guzzlers, less comfortable on the highway, and less reliable than other comparable SUVs.

Are Jeep Wranglers Good Cars?

The Jeep Wrangler was the 2019 MotorTrend SUV of the Year, so it has to be pretty good to beat out all the competition. As with everything though, whether the Jeep Wrangler will be a good car for you is subjective and dependent on your needs.

Those who want a comfortable vehicle to drive to work every day might be disappointed with the Wrangler. Although the newer models certainly have more creature comforts, they still lack the smooth handling of other vehicles built just for on-road use. But you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more versatile vehicle than the Wrangler.

Are Jeep Wranglers Reliable?

J.D. Power rated the 2019 JL Wrangler Sport 4x4 a 65/100 for quality and reliability, which is average. It received an 82/100 in driving experience, 88/100 in resale, and 69/100 for dealership experience. The Wrangler’s total overall score was a 74/100. This ranks it 15th in comparison to competing SUV models.

Reliability also boils down to whether you’re looking for a new or used Wrangler. What model year you’re considering is a key factor. Used Jeeps have a much higher chance of being unreliable as you don’t know the vehicle’s history, what accidents it’s been in, or what modifications have been done under the hood.

People love to mod their Wranglers, but you may not know everything they’ve done to it. You don’t want to inherit someone else’s problem by buying an overly modded used Jeep. Older models will also lack the safety features of newer Wranglers. But they may be easier to work on as they’re less complicated than modern vehicles.

Jeep Wrangler Pros

Let’s start with the good news first. There are many pros to Wrangler ownership, the most obvious one being off-road performance.

Unrivaled Off-Road Capability

It’s no secret the Wrangler’s off-road performance is unmatched by many SUVs in the same price range. There is no real competition to the Wrangler, although Ford’s new Bronco might change that.

With a Command-Trac® 4x4 System, Dana® axles, and skid plates, even the most basic Wrangler can tackle the trails without issue or further modifications.

Although any Wrangler is built to go off-road, Jeep’s most capable model is the Rubicon. Here are a few features that come standard on the Rubicon:

  • Locking front and rear Dana 44 heavy-duty axles
  • Electronic sway bar disconnect
  • Rock-Trac® 4:1 transfer case with a crawl ratio of up to 84:1
  • 33-inch all-terrain tires
  • Steel off-road rock rails and skid plates
  • A vented power dome hood

The Rubicon is great for experienced off-roaders or those who are interested in doing more extreme trail riding. But you don’t have to spend extra on added features or an upgraded model if you want to do some light to moderate off-roading.

Available as a Two-Door or Four-Door Model

Another unique feature of the Wrangler is that it comes in both two-door and four-door options. The four-door model is known as the Wrangler Unlimited. It was introduced in 2007 for the release of the third-generation JK Wrangler. Older Wranglers were only available as a two-door.

If you’re looking to purchase a vehicle for off-roading, then the two-door Wrangler is your best bet. With a shorter wheelbase, it’s got a better breakover angle, more maneuverability, and a tighter turning radius.

The four-door Wrangler is more suitable for those who are looking for a family vehicle or need extra space. But don’t be fooled. You can still do plenty of off-roading in a four-door model. The increased stability of the longer wheelbase allows the four-door to climb effortlessly over hills. It just won’t be as nimble on the trails. Plus there’s more room for the kids and your dog!

Silver Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon with all four doors removed

Open-Air Experience

How many other SUVs have removable doors and tops? Not many. Although Toyota tried to bring back the FJ Cruiser, it didn’t have a removable roof or doors. That’s probably one of the reasons it had such a short production run, only lasting from 2006 to 2014.

Jeep knows the market well and has made sure to keep the open-air capability of the Wrangler. Off-roading with an open-air SUV allows you to connect more with your surroundings. It’s also just really fun and looks cool, too.

Good Resale Value

We all know that as soon as you drive a new car off the lot, the value instantly depreciates. For Jeep Wranglers, that depreciation is less than most other new vehicles. This means that a Wrangler will keep its value better over time.

The Wrangler actually topped Road & Track’s list of “New Cars That Depreciate Least” in 2019. Using data from iSeeCars, they stated that the average car loses around 50% of its value after the first five years. For the Jeep Wrangler, that average is much lower at 30.75%.

Not only will Jeeps hold their value, but the parts are relatively affordable and repairs are usually reasonably priced.

Classic Pedigree

The Jeep Wrangler is a classic, plain and simple. Its roots date back to World War II and the Civilian Jeeps (CJs) that were sold afterward. The first Wrangler generation was released in 1986 as a successor to the well-loved Jeep CJs. Now, four decades later, the Wrangler has a history of its own.

Red YJ Wrangler with Top Removed

Four-Wheel Drive Capability

For a Wrangler to take you anywhere and everywhere, it’s got to have a good four-wheel-drive system. Jeep actually offers three different 4WD systems for the Wrangler. First, there’s the Command-Trac® 4x4 System. This part-time, shift-on-the-fly system can switch easily from 2WD to 4WD at speeds up to 45 mph.

The Selec-Trac® Full-Time 4x4 System features an active 4WD transfer case. This smart system will analyze the road conditions and send torque to the wheels that are producing the most grip. With continual traction, you can easily conquer the snow, mud, or rocks. Smart Lock capabilities ensure your 4WD will stay intact when tackling challenging terrain.

Finally, there’s the Rock-Trac® 4x4 System. Not surprisingly, this is the most extreme system Jeep offers. A 4:1 low-gear ratio grants an incredible amount of torque and will help you maintain control when crawling over rocks at a lower speed.

Strong Enthusiast Community

When you buy a Wrangler, you aren’t just getting a vehicle. You become part of the Jeep Family. The Jeep community is tight-knit and welcoming to all, especially off-roading beginners.

There are tons of online forums and local Jeep clubs that you could join. You’ll never feel alone on the open road. Just don’t forget to do the Jeep wave when you pass by a fellow Jeeper!

Tons of Aftermarket Parts

Jeep Wranglers are easily modifiable, which means aftermarket parts are abundant. You can customize your Wrangler exactly how you want from suspension components to off-road LED lights. There are plenty of aftermarket parts available for both new and classic Wranglers.

Fun Paint Colors

Over the years, Jeep has come out with a wide variety of paint colors for the Wrangler. From Crush Orange to Xtreme Purple Pearl, Jeep’s played with every shade of the rainbow. New shades for the JL Wrangler included Punk’n Metallic, Hellayella, and Bikini. What’s not to love about cheeky shade names and bright paint colors?

JL Wrangler with multiple paint colors shown

Jeep Wrangler Cons

Although there’s much to love, there are also some drawbacks to buying a Jeep Wrangler. Its poor fuel economy, higher price point, and lack of cargo space are the main disadvantages.

Poor Fuel Economy

Jeep Wranglers are notorious for their poor fuel economy. Of course, this has gotten better over the years as Jeep has worked to improve it. Even so, the Wrangler still doesn’t get great gas mileage. The standard 3.6L Pentastar V6 engine gets up to 17 city and 25 highway mpg.

When Jeep released the JL Wrangler, they added a more fuel-efficient 3.0L EcoDiesel to the engine lineup. The EcoDiesel can get up to 22 city or 29 highway mpg. Jeep has announced plans for a full plug-in hybrid Wrangler, which would make it much more competitive in terms of fuel economy.

Expensive

Despite maintaining their value, Jeep Wranglers don’t come cheap. People often ask why Jeep Wranglers are so expensive. We already know they maintain their value, so that could be one reason.

Prices tend to increase as vehicles add more modern technology and design features. Bluetooth connectivity, Wi-Fi functionality, large touch screens, navigation systems, premium audio, and LED lights are just a few things that drive the price up.

As one of the few off-road centric SUVs on the market, there’s also not much competition for the Wrangler. Other than the Toyota 4Runner, the main Wrangler alternatives are the pricier Toyota Land Cruiser, Mercedes-Benz G-Class, and Range Rover.

The Wrangler actually has a lower starting cost than any of those vehicles. The price of a Wrangler starts at around $28,000 for a basic two-door model and can go upwards of nearly $47,000 for a limited edition. Buying used is always an option as well, but even used Wranglers can go for a hefty price.

Lack of Cargo Space

Open rear door of a JL Wrangler displaying the amount of cargo space

The lack of cargo space is one of the Wrangler’s biggest issues. The two-door, of course, has much less cargo space than the four-door Wrangler. The JL offers the best cargo specs of any Wrangler made so far. Previous generations will have even less cargo space.

The two-door JL Wrangler has 12.9 cubic feet of cargo space with the seats up and 46.9 cubic feet with the seats down. The four-door JL offers a much larger amount of cargo space at 31.7 cubic feet with the seats up and 72.4 cubic feet with the seats down.

If you know you’ll need the extra cargo space, the Wrangler Unlimited is the way to go.

Less Comfortable on the Road

Wranglers are not known for their on-road comfort. Expect a bumpier ride in comparison to SUVs with longer wheelbases. The shorter wheelbase results in less time between the front and rear wheels hitting bumps in the road. This causes an overall clunkier driving experience. The four-door Wranglers have a longer wheelbase and will ride smoother.

The type of tires you’re running also play a role in ride comfort. A good pair of tires that are suited for both on- and off-road use can make a huge difference.

Road Noise

Road noise has always been an issue for Jeeps due to their lack of insulation and boxy design. Wind noise is especially loud because of the lack of aerodynamics. There are steps you can take to soundproof a Wrangler that help lessen road noise though. This usually involves installing headliners along with window and door insulation.

Lack of Engine Options

For years, the lone engine option available for the Wrangler was the 3.6L Pentastar V6. When the JL Wrangler was released, Jeep added a few new engine options. Along with the staple Pentastar engine, there’s the four-cylinder 2.0L Turbo and 3.0L EcoDiesel V6.

If those choices don’t suit your fancy, you can always do an engine swap on the JL Wrangler. I mean, what’s cooler than a Wrangler with a HEMI?

Should You Buy a Jeep Wrangler?

Only you can decide if you should buy a Jeep Wrangler. Talking to other Wrangler owners, doing research, and going for a test drive can help you make that decision easier. You could even rent a Jeep Wrangler for a few days before committing fully.

Pros of buying a Wrangler include it’s good resale value, off-road and four-wheel drive capabilities, and the widespread availability of aftermarket parts. Cons include the road noise, poor fuel economy, and lack of engine options.

If you do make the decision to buy a Wrangler, half the fun is adding your own personal touches. Subscribe to our newsletter to get deals on all the newest Jeep Wrangler parts and accessories.

Newsletter sign up graphic with Jeep Wranglers and accompanying text

Sources: JD Power, Jeep | Image Credit: Jeep

Pros & Cons of Buying a Jeep Wrangler

If you’re considering buying a Jeep Wrangler, there are several pros and cons to consider. Advantages of the Wrangler include its off-road capability, removable top and doors, and open-air potential. The Wrangler’s high price and poor fuel economy are some of the disadvantages.

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