Hey fellas... I've been a muscle car guy for the last decade and am looking at getting a Wrangler. I actually owned a 99 Sahara for about 1 month until i realized it was competing financially with my muscle car so I had to sell it. But I can afford one again now and am done with my muscle car project for the most part....
Anyhow I was looking at the 1998-2003 Wranglers. I would really like to get a Sahara but may get a Sport. I mainly like the Sahara's for their seats and already come loaded. The Wrangler will be used for weekend driving and taking it to the beach. I want to keep it relatively stock with factory rims/tires etc and keep it in good running long lasting condition.
I would everyone's opinions on which year they feel is the most reliable or any issues to look for when buying one. I would also like to know how reliable and long lasting the automatic transmissions are vs the manual transmissions. Are the wranglers with row up windows usually worth more than the ones where you pull the plastic window off the low cut door? What are the main things to go or need replaced on a Wrangler at the 125k mark besides the obvious like battery, plugs etc..
Welcome to the club - Jeep TJ's in stock form are some of the most reliable vehicles out there. THe 4.0 engine will easily go 300k w/o any major work. The automatics are stout too if you don't intend to abuse it off road.
As far as best year - newer is better - because it is newer. Otherwise they are all the same as far as reliability.
The thing I always tell people when looking to buy a jeep is this. Hard doors, soft doors half doors can all be purchased after your jeep & they can all be removed. But - they are expensive. If you want full doors find a jeep with full doors because your going to pay $1000 for a set aftermarket & then you have to paint them to match.
The same goes for the hard top. You can buy one if it didn't come with your new jeep - but they run anywhere from $800 to $2500. If you want one find a jeep that has one included. They do raise the price for the jeep you want to buy - but no where near what you'd pay later.
Inspection - The worst problems any jeep has come from modifications previous owners do. Find a stock rust free jeep & you will be in good shape. Be wary of a lifted jeep on a used car lot. More than likely something isn't right. Look for rust on the frame under the drivers door where the steps attach, also look for rust in the floors & just behind where the front fender attaches (below & in front of the door). Once you find the jeep you want - hit us back & we'll tell you how to 'enhance' it for your pleasure!
I've got a 99 TJ 4.0 with the 5 speed, Have 146k miles, havent ran into any problems with the clutch or transmission. This jeep has been in the family for about the last 45k miles and as far as I know its on the stock clutch. Only problem I have run into with my jeep was the front drive terrain due to lift and big tires.
Drive as many as you can, with the different options.... full doors/half doors, hard top/soft top. During all kinds of weather, not just nice sunny days.... This will help you decide. I thought I wanted full doors and a hard top, till I found mine w/half doors soft top, now I wouldn't trade for either Love my half doors, and love the ease of the soft top, plus not having to find a place to store a hard top. Yes the zipper windows are just "Part of the Charm" of owning a Jeep, but I love being able to just pull them out in 2 seconds when ever the notion strikes.... nice place to rest my arm, and soft uppers weigh next to nothing... I can do it myself. Others love their full doors and hard tops, it's all personal preference. Good luck with your purchase and welcome to the forum
I bought my 99 TJ Sport in Nov of 2009 with 139k and have 143k on it and it runs and drives like new. White with a black soft top is not a bad way to go if you ask me. As for mods like lift and what have ya, you will be pleasantly surprised at what a stock TJ can do. Bottom line find the one you want, equipped the way you want and you will won't regret it.
I'm the same age as you, I wanted a yellow for the longest time, but when I bought my 05 Unlimited the yellow wasn't available. I LOVE my Impact Orange and the extra wheelbase really makes the ride smoother. Full doors with both hard and soft tops. It's truely a Jeep thing.