What's the used Jeep Wrangler 4x4 like?
If you stop and think about it, the Jeep has done more to shape modern life than almost any other vehicle built to date. It played a crucial role in WW2 getting troops and supplies to the front line; it’s given birth to the idea that cars can be recreational vehicles and, without Jeep, we wouldn’t have Land Rover. However, the world it once saved has moved on, which begs the question, does a used Jeep Wrangler still make sense today?
When the Jeep was initially conceived, it was a simple, rugged off road vehicle – traits that can still be seen in this third generation Wrangler. In terms of like-for-like rivals, the Wrangler has few challengers; if you don’t mind something smaller, you might include the Suzuki Jimny. Or, if you need something equally big, then the Land Rover Defender would also fit the bill.
Neither rival has quite the power of the Wrangler, though. Most second-hand examples you'll find will be powered by a 174bhp (later 197bhp) 2.8-litre diesel engine. The more off road-worthy version, meanwhile, named Rubicon after the famous overland trail, comes with a choice of two petrol engines: a 199bhp 3.8-litre six-cylinder or a 284bhp 3.6-litre V6 after a facelift in 2011. Few will have the rather agricultural six-speed manual; most examples imported got the five-speed automatic as standard fit.
Alongside the traditional two-door short wheelbase variant, this was the first generation of Wrangler to include a more practical four-door body. While the shorter Wrangler is well suited to those who off road, the bigger four-door is a better all-rounder. Passengers gain easier access to the rear seats, and there’s a decent sized boot behind the rear bench.
Interior quality isn’t the Wrangler’s greatest asset; there's lots of hard, cheap feeling materials covering every surface. This is partially justified, though, by the fact that you can drive the two-door Jeep with its doors and roof removed and windscreen lying flat against the bonnet, so it has to be able to withstand a bit of rain and be hardy enough to wash mud out with a hose. Mind you, neither the Defender nor Jimny are known for luxurious interiors, either. Things did improve slightly from the 2011 facelift when a better infotainment system was added.
As you’ve probably guessed by the extremely short front and rear overhangs, the Wrangler is not primarily intended to be used on the road – it’s built with hitting the trail in mind. To that end, you’ll have to forgive the steering that's deliberately vague to prevent the wheel from being ripped from your grasp over tricky off-road obstacles. Similarly, its soft, long travel suspension – fitted for maximum axle articulation on . rough terrain – does nothing to help agility on tarmac. This all makes for a rather miserable on road drive, especially if you’ve got a Rubicon version – its chunky mud/terrain tyres generate a lot of road roar.
What used Jeep Wrangler 4x4 will I get for my budget?
An early 2007 Sport model can be found for about £10,500. Prices vary quite a lot depending upon mileage, but £15,000-£17,000 should find you a 2009-2010 model with average mileage.
If you spend around £19,000-£21,000, post face-lift Wranglers are available. Rubicon models with the 3.6-litre engine will set you back £30,000, while the very latest 2018 models with delivery mileage cost around £33,000.
Check the value of a used Jeep Wrangler with What Car? Valuations
How much does it cost to run a Jeep Wrangler 4x4?
A lot, sadly. Even with the most economical diesel engine, you’ll struggle to crack 30mpg, even with the manual gearbox. If you can find a 3.8 or 3.6-litre Rubicon model, don’t expect to get any more than 20mpg – its off road tyres and altered axle ratios do nothing to aid fuel economy.
Most diesel models will sit in the £315 per year tax band, but there are some high-spec autos that cost as much as £540. Both the 3.8 and later 3.6 petrol engine spit out enough CO2 to qualify for the £555 bracket. Wranglers registered after 1 April 2017 actually get a reduction in road tax because they’re charged under a different system with a capped fee of £140.
Servicing a Wrangler will not be cheap, but there are service plans you can arrange with a Jeep dealer to help spread the cost.
Which used Jeep Wrangler 4x4 should I buy?
Depending upon what you need your Jeep will inluence which one you buy. If you want to do some serious off road driving, then you’ll need a Rubicon model and just have to live with its thirsty petrol engine.
If you want something for mere posing, perhaps a cheaper two door Sport would suffice. In all other respects, the four-door Unlimited Sahara model at least comes with the basics to make the vehicle more useable on a daily basis, and it has the added practicality of proper doors to the rear seats and a respectable boot.
Overland spec models introduced after the facelift add leather upholstery, sat nav, heated front seats and a premium stereo system. However, no matter how many luxuries you shove onto a Wrangler, you’ll never turn it into a luxury vehicle. We’d suggest you save your money and go for a cheaper Sahara.
Our favourite Jeep Wrangler: 2.8 CRD Unlimited Sahara auto
What alternatives should I consider to a used Jeep Wrangler 4x4?
If all you need is something small, reliable and good in a field, then the lightweight Suzuki Jimny should fit the bill. It’ll be no more uncomfortable than a Wrangler on road, although that’s not saying very much.
Comfort isn’t something the Land Rover Defender provides either, or performance or any of the electronic gadgets that top-spec Wranglers have. But it is a match for the Jeep in terms of what it can do away from public roads. In fact, come to think of it, it’s just as unrefined on the road, too.