It is not uncommon for people to come to the realization that dollar-for-dollar, pound-for-pound not many vehicles can come close to an older Jeep. Exemplifying this perfectly is my 1998 5.9 Limited Grand Cherokee pictured above. It is fast as hell on the street, easily capable of smoking the 2-point-nothing litre Honda shit boxes driven by my misinformed friends. Not to mention it can haul 80 cubic feet of luggage, tow 6500 pounds, and will dominate any terrain. By the way, while all of this awesomeness is going down, the passengers are sitting on heated seats that could double as couches in a penthouse. That isn’t even the best part. The best part is that all of this can be had for around $2,000. The only problem is that finding a “good one” can be tough.
Here are some things to check when looking for your next Jeep
Rust is bad! If it looks like this run! (My 2000 Grand Cherokee ☹)
This applies to the Wrangler/Cherokee/Grand Cherokee models. Unless the motor is a 4.0L it should not tick all. Knocking is indicative that a catastrophic failure is looming, however it could also be the symptom of smaller issue like a loose flex-plate, or cracked exhaust manifold. Head gasket issues are common amongst all engines. So, check the coolant, if it is milky, this indicates a bad head gasket, which is not good! CV Joint failures are also common, if they are torn, they will need to be replaced. Other common issues include the control arm, and tie-rod bushings. These components should have no play in them, and the rubber should be intact. Use these small issues as a bargaining tool. Also, if the Jeep whines when driven this could mean a bearing is bad. If it whines only under load this could mean a bad pinion bearing which means a full differential rebuild is needed. Most V8 equipped Jeeps have worn out rear ends as the Dana 35 is trash, and like a girl with daddy issues, cannot be trusted. The Dana 44a whilst being slightly stronger is commonly worn-out in Jeeps because their V8 engines have too much torque. As a rule of thumb, stay away from the 4.7L because they are essentially ticking time bombs. For 4x4 systems, avoid the full-time transfer cases as they sap fuel economy, and wear out more quickly.
So while it may seem as if there are no "good" Jeeps, there are however. When it comes to Grand Cherokees try to find a rust free 4.0L model with a tow package for better axle gearing. If you desire V8 power go for the older 5.2 or 5.9 models as they are pushrod engines and are not prone to failure. For Wranglers, the ideal package would be a 4.0L/5 speed preferably with the Rubicon package. For XJ's, just try to find one without rust, they are all optioned out similarly.