A TJ is not an off road beater. All of them are what you make them. They are old and some have been seriously molested others can be found pure stock. It all depends on what you want to do mud rocks trails.
The biggest difference is the getting to and from the trails. Long trips in my YJ are work and not as they would be in a new JK. That's the big drawback. But once off road the fun begins.
The new Jeeps are amazing and you can do a lot with them.
89 2.5 TBI, 4" RC lift, 1" Booms, SYE, Adams Driveshafts front and rear, Ford 8.8 with 4:88s, BFG 33X12.50X15, and a ton of other stuff.
Wait are we talking jeeps here or what!?! Dont beat it up, dont want to break it, CHEAP Mods!! Blasphemy!! jeeps are offroad beasts point and fact, shouldnt be babied (minus of course still being able to drive them if its dd) but if its dd just dont go crazy rockcrawling haha and if you mud it then clean it... Good as new!
If you want a sports car jeep is the wrong place. Maybe this is why the jeep brand is on a down turn with new models...
I use my JK for easy stuff for the same reason you gave but I originally had a YJ that I use for more difficult trails.
You can find YJ's for descent prices and with little upgrades you can have fun with that
Don't know how well this translates over, but I'm a long time motorcycle rider and it usually seems to be trouble when you get too crazy on your DD. Riders will keep their DD comfortable, and buy a used (maybe slightly beaten) offroad ride that doesn't hurt much if it gets badly damaged or severely beaten. Maybe it's because I'm living like a married college student, but I know I wouldn't want to pour out money on my DD (after messing something up) so that I could still make it to work/school.
I bought an '03 a year ago, it only had 29k on it. The top was sun damaged to the point of replacing it. The body didn't have a blemish anywhere, and the paint was perfect (being black, that's saying something), no rust anywhere, AND HAD THE ORIGINAL WINDSHIELD WITH NO CHIPS OR CRACKS!!!!!
Being said, I've gone wheeling a half-dozen times in it, and it's my DD (now with 80k) the paint looks like someone used a rake to scrub it clean, windshield has two sm cracks and countless rock chips in it, the grill paint looks like someone used it for a BB GUN target practice, and a couple of small dings in the body.
NONE of this came from the trails I explored, all highway collateral damage. Looks better to me now, than when I got it.
Take the best care of it you can, don't abuse her, and don't sweat the small stuff.....