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Old 06-20-2014, 07:37 PM   #1
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Buying my first Jeep

Hi all,

On Sunday I'm driving with a buddy of mine who knows a great deal about cars to hopefully if everything works out, purchase my first car (ever). I'm 26 and just got my license, and I always lusted for a wrangler. I'm a mechanical engineer so I'm not going to be completely lost, but assume I know nothing (because, I'm no mechanic. I can fix things, but not cars).

Anyhow, I'm looking at a '97 Wrangler with approximately 104k miles on it. The lady who I spoke to on the phone gave me all the details I asked for, which were:

Does everything work : yes
Is there any rust? : yes, in the 'usual places', (where) wheel well, rear tail light area, some on the frame but not rot (I asked)
Does it have good service records/documentation : no, they bought it from a dealer and they are an overstock kind of mom/pop dealership. (ran a carfax, looks clean. no accidents or anything that looked shady)
Is it mostly stock? : yes, it's mostly stock (as far as I can remember, it might be completely stock)


What I'll be checking for when I see it is:
does it cold start (if I can get there early enough that they wont have time to run it for a while)
check the belts and make sure they feel fine
check fluids
check for rust on the frame and see how bad it is (and if it is, in fact not rot)
test drive (which my friend will be doing, since like I said , I'm a new driver and all I would know from a test drive is that the pedals work - which, I suppose is important)


The asking price is close to 5k, and I'd like to get it for under the asking price. But more importantly than my final price is knowing I'm not going to need to put in massive amounts of shop work into it.

What are some of the things I missed that I need to look for when considering the purchase?

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Old 06-20-2014, 07:53 PM   #2
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For a 97 those are fairly low miles I've been told by countless people jeeps are good for 300k miles.. If it test drives good my next concern would be the rust.. But honestly for 5k (assuming I runs good) who cares! Since you won't have a car payment start putting aside a few hundred a month for repairs you could have the jeep for years.. Then when your done with it sell for close to what you paid for it and upgrade to better one.. I've had new and old jeeps and I would much rather have an old one I don't have to worry about scratching.

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Old 06-20-2014, 09:38 PM   #3
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For a 97 those are fairly low miles I've been told by countless people jeeps are good for 300k miles.. If it test drives good my next concern would be the rust.. But honestly for 5k (assuming I runs good) who cares! Since you won't have a car payment start putting aside a few hundred a month for repairs you could have the jeep for years.. Then when your done with it sell for close to what you paid for it and upgrade to better one.. I've had new and old jeeps and I would much rather have an old one I don't have to worry about scratching.
I got mine for 5500$ as a summer ride. Couldn't wait and once I maid my mind and got wife's approval I jumped on the first deal. Mine is 99 4 banger with 175k miles in it. Mechanically car is perfect but rust is bad my frame is almost done probably 2 more winters and it will crack. Anyways, get under the car and check the frame from A to Z get a rubber head hummer and bang it to the frame and see if anything falls on your head. Also frame has little holes that y can put your finger. Doing this y can check rust inside. And last main issue is rust rust and rust. Don't afraid to walk away from the deal
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Old 06-21-2014, 03:36 AM   #4
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seems like you have a good plan of attack for looking at this TJ and the asking price isn't too scary......have you researched TJ's to understand all of the improvement Jeep made to the TJ after 1997? there are a lot of changes that you might wish you had. 1997 being the first year of production is in my view the year to avoid not due to reliability but due to content.
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Old 06-21-2014, 11:08 PM   #5
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Ah, I called up today to confirm it was still available for me to come in tomorrow morning, and the lady sold it.

Now I'm bummed out, and I can't find another in that price range/miles around currently. Guess its back to CL to find another :/
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Old 06-21-2014, 11:55 PM   #6
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You'll find another one don't worry
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Old 06-23-2014, 04:39 PM   #7
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should I be wary of a `99 with a front right impact accident that the dealer lists at close to 8k? its got about 88k miles on it, and the accident happened in 2010 at (probably) 65k miles on it. Carfax isnt really telling too much about it. CF rates it at a +320

Part of the ad reads:
This vehicle will soon be on its way to the auction, if you would like to purchase it at a wholesale price call us. We are willing to sell it in as-is condition so you can save money and have it for a terrific price.

and also:
...and if you wish we can service the vehicle for a discounted price...



The dealer itself has good reviews on Yelp and other places.
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Old 06-23-2014, 05:13 PM   #8
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Ah, I called up today to confirm it was still available for me to come in tomorrow morning, and the lady sold it.

Now I'm bummed out, and I can't find another in that price range/miles around currently. Guess its back to CL to find another :/
Happened a million times on my hunt, don't jump on anything too fast. The perfect one will show up, I waited 2 years for it to happen. New ones show up every day. Good luck!
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Old 06-24-2014, 04:38 PM   #9
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going out again tomorrow for a 2000 with 150k miles on it. Looks like its in fine condition with some surface rust. Bonus: found out a distant relative of mine lives close to the dealer, and hes a mechanic, so I lucked out on that (and hes riding with).

dealership itself has some not so great yelp reviews, and so I'm a little wary about that - but if the car runs fine I'm ok with a bit of back and forth jabbing.

edit: heres a picture of the rust


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Old 06-25-2014, 03:15 AM   #10
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^rust? that is not "TJ rust", it is just cosmetic surface rust as you pointed out.....but check the frame very thoroughly and also under the carpets, those are the spots to be concerned about.
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Old 06-25-2014, 08:20 AM   #11
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^rust? that is not "TJ rust", it is just cosmetic surface rust as you pointed out.....but check the frame very thoroughly and also under the carpets, those are the spots to be concerned about.
I suppose one's idea of rust is relative to their local. In other words rusty in Tennessee might be considered pristine in Connecticut.
Hobgoblin, your profile doesn't state where you're from. I'm going to guess a larger northern US city since you seem to be facing significant rust on early TJs (and the fact that you made it to 26 without needing a driver's license ).
As already stated, just make sure you inspect the frame carefully. Look for rust-through on both sides, where the rear wheel arch part of the frame meets the middle section. Chrysler engineers (take note here) didn't specify drain holes at this critical point on the early TJs. As a result water collects here internally and causes the frame to rust from the inside out. Use a flashlight to look into the frame through the factory cutouts in the side of the frame. Also look at the underside of the front fenders. The attachement point for the fender brace is bad to rust out here as is the lower radiator brace and the back suspension components.
Having "settled" for a '97 myself I can tell you from first hand experience that this model is every bit as good as its succesors. I honestly think its reputation stems from the simple fact that the climate controls are slide operated rather than knob. In my experience this is actually not a bad thing as the slide system uses simple cabling whereas the knob utilizes servos that are notorious for failing.
You've also not mentioned whether you're looking at 4 cylinder, 6 cylinder, automatic, or manual. A/C equipped or non A/C equipped. These variables all affect the price of Jeep dramatically and is why one can find any given model year with a roughly 2-3 thousand dollar variance in price.
When posting just let us know the details and I'm sure you'll get more advise than you ever imagined (or wanted for that matter).
One detail you did mention is:
Quote:
But more importantly than my final price is knowing I'm not going to need to put in massive amounts of shop work into it.
To that I say:
Just teasing of course but do bear in mind that often times, when purchasing used, money spent up front will be money saved later on. Also remember the infamous Jeep acronym: Just Empty Every Pocket
Just my 2 cents and good luck with your search. At least you're on the right track by asking questions.
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It's for looks, I don't trash it.
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Old 06-25-2014, 03:22 PM   #12
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I suppose one's idea of rust is relative to their local. In other words rusty in Tennessee might be considered pristine in Connecticut.
Hobgoblin, your profile doesn't state where you're from. I'm going to guess a larger northern US city since you seem to be facing significant rust on early TJs (and the fact that you made it to 26 without needing a driver's license ).
As already stated, just make sure you inspect the frame carefully. Look for rust-through on both sides, where the rear wheel arch part of the frame meets the middle section. Chrysler engineers (take note here) didn't specify drain holes at this critical point on the early TJs. As a result water collects here internally and causes the frame to rust from the inside out. Use a flashlight to look into the frame through the factory cutouts in the side of the frame. Also look at the underside of the front fenders. The attachement point for the fender brace is bad to rust out here as is the lower radiator brace and the back suspension components.
Having "settled" for a '97 myself I can tell you from first hand experience that this model is every bit as good as its succesors. I honestly think its reputation stems from the simple fact that the climate controls are slide operated rather than knob. In my experience this is actually not a bad thing as the slide system uses simple cabling whereas the knob utilizes servos that are notorious for failing.
You've also not mentioned whether you're looking at 4 cylinder, 6 cylinder, automatic, or manual. A/C equipped or non A/C equipped. These variables all affect the price of Jeep dramatically and is why one can find any given model year with a roughly 2-3 thousand dollar variance in price.
When posting just let us know the details and I'm sure you'll get more advise than you ever imagined (or wanted for that matter).
One detail you did mention is:

To that I say:
Just teasing of course but do bear in mind that often times, when purchasing used, money spent up front will be money saved later on. Also remember the infamous Jeep acronym: Just Empty Every Pocket
Just my 2 cents and good luck with your search. At least you're on the right track by asking questions.
Well, thanks for your reply, and let me address the following bolded.

I'm from NY, so you are correct in your assumption of northern, and not needing a license.

I'm looking for a 6 primarily, would settle for a 4 (automatic ) a/c equipped would be ideal.

This is what I'm getting at. I would rather pay more upfront to not spend it later. I have a flexable budget for this, and while I'd like to stay within the sub-8k range I will spend more if it is worth the cost.



The one I posted pictures of was completely rotted through the chassis - I could count maybe 10 or more places where I could poke a hole through with a key if I really wanted to - and thats not including the 1000 other issues it had. Ah well, back to the search
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Old 06-25-2014, 03:37 PM   #13
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umm, serious question- how do you reach 26 years old without the ability to drive a vehicle? How do you get places?...
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Old 06-25-2014, 03:43 PM   #14
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umm, serious question- how do you reach 26 years old without the ability to drive a vehicle? How do you get places?...
He's from NY prob the city. Which is why he doesn't have a car or license. You don't need one subway /cab is the norm. Also go drive in NYC. No thank you.
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Old 06-25-2014, 04:25 PM   #15
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umm, serious question- how do you reach 26 years old without the ability to drive a vehicle? How do you get places?...
Ways to get around in NY(city or Brooklyn, where I'm from)

-Find a friend with a car, or the ability to drive their parents car
-Metro (if going to long Island, or surrounding states)
-subway (intra-brorough)
-Bus (lol, nah I'll walk or bike)


thats about it. its not a necessity to drive anywhere if you can utilize two of the above, which I have been doing. I just figured its probably about time to get it done and as well not have to depend on people/mass transit all the time.
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Old 06-25-2014, 04:29 PM   #16
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Well don't give up Hobgoblin. I commend you for making the effort to find a decent purchase up front and knowing when to walk away from something that will just cause you problems. You could always search outside the "rust belt". You could find a relatively rust free example and turn your purchase into a road trip.
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Old 06-25-2014, 04:35 PM   #17
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Well don't give up Hobgoblin. I commend you for making the effort to find a decent purchase up front and knowing when to walk away from something that will just cause you problems. You could always search outside the "rust belt". You could find a relatively rust free example and turn your purchase into a road trip.

thats the plan really. Im looking at approximately a 200mi radius, and taking my mechanic cousin with me. I'm in no rush, and I'm sure the right one will show up sooner or later (but its getting warm and the thought of the top off and cruising is such a nice picture - and then theres all the Lowes/Home Depot trips I need to make this summer :/ )
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Old 06-25-2014, 07:37 PM   #18
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Good luck with your search HobgoblinSteve. Having a Jeep in brooklyn sure is sweet. Don't feel too bad about missing out on that one, there's always another about to go on the market. And if you think missing out on the summer months is bad, I just went through the nasty winter we just had on my BICYCLE! Surfing and searching and the constant calls and callbacks and calls that don't get returned and hearing about how it got sold this morning and checking out in person and seeing all the dog hair or rust or body damage or sketchy drivers. By the time I found something I liked( 04 X auto, 53k) haggled over the price (I did not talk the seller down as much as I had hoped to) checked it out in person (which meant taking a day off of work and getting on metronorth), haggled a bit more over some things not shown in the listing (soft top a bit roughed up, speakers shot, a couple other little things) and shook hands in the seller's garage, by then February was pretty much done and all the frost and snow was over with. But driving off in my sweet, sweet Sapphire made it all worthwhile. Not a quarter mile had I driven before I came across a tj at a light on a curve and we both waved almost simultaneously, like it was the most natural thing in the world. Good luck!
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Old 06-26-2014, 12:56 AM   #19
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=

Part of the ad reads:
This vehicle will soon be on its way to the auction, if you would like to purchase it at a wholesale price call us. We are willing to sell it in as-is condition so you can save money and have it for a terrific price.

and also:
...and if you wish we can service the vehicle for a discounted price...
What they are trying to tell you basically is that it is an older vehicle and things could be wrong with it, they really aren't going to spend time/money finding out what it could be (if anything). Pretty much it's a disclaimer of "buyer beware". There may be nothing to at all wrong with it, you just need to do your due diligence when inspecting it.
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Old 06-26-2014, 07:36 AM   #20
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He's from NY prob the city. Which is why he doesn't have a car or license. You don't need one subway /cab is the norm. Also go drive in NYC. No thank you.
didn't realize he was from NYC.
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Originally Posted by HobgoblinSteve View Post
Ways to get around in NY(city or Brooklyn, where I'm from)

-Find a friend with a car, or the ability to drive their parents car
-Metro (if going to long Island, or surrounding states)
-subway (intra-brorough)
-Bus (lol, nah I'll walk or bike)


thats about it. its not a necessity to drive anywhere if you can utilize two of the above, which I have been doing. I just figured its probably about time to get it done and as well not have to depend on people/mass transit all the time.
understood- and the last part is where I would have the biggest issue; I agree with not having the car but i would still want to have a license anyway
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Old 06-26-2014, 08:55 AM   #21
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There is one 04 jeep 4 cyl manual in south jersey with 34 k frame has no rust all the suspension parts looks perfect jeep is almost new. Guy is asking 3500$ for it it. Jeep was in accident need new bumper fenders hood grill and etc. y probably end up putting 2-3 k in it to bring it in stock condition and if y get this jeep on the road you can always sell it for 9/10k since it has very low mileage
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Old 06-26-2014, 11:06 AM   #22
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There is one 04 jeep 4 cyl manual in south jersey with 34 k frame has no rust all the suspension parts looks perfect jeep is almost new. Guy is asking 3500$ for it it. Jeep was in accident need new bumper fenders hood grill and etc. y probably end up putting 2-3 k in it to bring it in stock condition and if y get this jeep on the road you can always sell it for 9/10k since it has very low mileage
could you PM me the listing? I've never driven a manual, but the guy Ive been going to check these out does. It cant be that hard to figure out
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Old 06-26-2014, 12:51 PM   #23
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As others have said, don't be in a hurry. I found a great deal on mine on CL. Just took some time to watch listings. Cash in hand is huge for negotiating. Good luck.
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Old 06-26-2014, 11:41 PM   #24
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As others have said, don't be in a hurry. I found a great deal on mine on CL. Just took some time to watch listings. Cash in hand is huge for negotiating. Good luck.
As I've stated, I'm in no hurry. What I want is a relatively rust free Jeep that will run solid for me.

What I've learned so far is:

People on CL LOVE to try and scam you for an extra dollar

Dealers LOVE to lie to me, and therefore I've had no luck there. (but everyone says I get the "death glare" easy, and people tend to not bs me long. Honestly - I don't believe it, but thats what my gf/friends say so :shrugs

Ebay motors sucks in my area.

Rust and rot are *sometimes* difficult to sift through. I've been taking a pocket screwdriver with me and prodding and poking with it to see if I can break through. So far of the 5 I've seen that had "No rust" I've poked through every one either under the carpet or on the frame somewhere.Some places where I thought was bad ended up flaking away and looked mechanically sound, so..I dunno. I guess it's a matter of looking everywhere.
[again I'm an engineer, I'm lost, but I'm not "I just hit a 3wood into the forest" lost]

I will wait as long as it takes to get my hands on the perfect one. I fully believe that my picky-ness will prevail

Take my mechanic cousin EVERYWHERE. I'm looking at the frame and hes looking in the engine - Between the two of us and what I've learned from this forum I'm confident I(we) can find a great jeep. (and of course, He will be the only one other than me touching it, so it's kind of his jeep too)
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Old 06-27-2014, 03:25 AM   #25
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^i think you are well prepared now......post up your new TJ when you get it.
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Old 07-06-2014, 11:34 PM   #26
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Well it took some time and sifting through a bunch of "rust free" ones, but I found one with a great looking frame, a pretty much perfect engine (cousin mechanic approved, computer hookup and all), no electrical problems(that we or the computer could tell). (1998)The lady was super nice (and really good looking), so it was a pleasant experience.


some cons:
small areas of body rust - I can take care of this

hole in the friggen side panel - got a bit of a discount, but it sucks. I'm going to cut it out, weld a plate behind it and cover the damn area with some diamond plate or something. Suggestions?

hard top is in not the best shape - Wanted a soft top anyway, and most of the damages I can likely fill,sand and paint. The wiper motor is busted though.

small damages here and there that will need some attention, like some cable clip on the engine that doesnt seem to like to stay (cause well..yknow, its broken), and some plastic thing that holds the headlight which looks also like it might need replacing sooner rather than later. Nothing that I havent found to be more than about 5-10$parts, so not a huge deal.


I think when its all said and done, and I've touched up the areas that need touching up it will be a nice looking jeep. Now I just need some half doors, a soundbar,a softtop,some seat covers...



heres a few pics:

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Old 07-07-2014, 11:27 AM   #27
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thats a very good deal assuming its an l6 engine and minor problems

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