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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi,

I would like to purchase a 2-door Jeep Wrangler as a second car and was hoping to get some basic info on what I should look for, what to look out for, etc. so I can make an informed purchase.

Background
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-live in south Florida, so warm, rainy weather year round
-Wrangler will be stored outside (i.e. not garaged)
-will drive about 3-5k mi per year, primarily stop-and-go suburban driving, with perhaps 20% highway miles (though no long-distance highway driving, typically trips of 10-20mi or so)
-will do very little off-road riding
-dont plan to tow or winch anything, though may want a hitch to carry a bike rack or similar
-I have decent mechanical skills, to fix or upgrade parts when I have time, but do want something mechanically reliable so that I'm not tinkering all the time or taking it to a shop
-Would like to spend about $5-$10k (purchase + any fixes/mods), which a quick scan of Craigs List in FL seems to yield a Wrangler from approx 99-04 or so
-expect to keep the car for ~5 years; would like to have good resell price but not a primary factor at this time.


Questions
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-What kind of things should I look for in a used Wrangler?
-What problems have Wranglers from 99-04 had that I should keep an eye out for?
-What mods would be worthwhile to look for in a used Wrangler - i.e which ones would be helpful given my description above? Which ones are easier/better to buy already installed instead of installing myself?
-Any suggestions for good places to look for used Wranglers other than Craigs List, etc.?
-Pros/cons of getting the 4.0L engine versus the 2.5L (IIRC) one?

I know these are very basic - and broad - questions, but will be very helpful for me.

Thanks.
 

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Well the obvious thing to look for is rust on the frame/undercarriage and look in the engine and floorboards for rust spots. Drive it around at all speeds to make sure everything seems right and doesn't wobble or make strange noises.

I like doing all the mods myself so I know that I know there weren't any shortcuts and that quality parts were used. There are plenty of writeups on this forum that will help guide you through doing anything on the Jeep.

You can look into local Jeep clubs, and see if any people there have TJs for sale. If not, Jeep clubs usually keep their eyes open for wranglers on the market. They could help you out too.
 

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$5,000 budget for a 99-04 TJ is not going to get you much more than a beaten down Wrangler. You could get a decent older one (pre-99) for 5 grand.

However for your top $10,000 budget you can find a nice '99-'02, but probably not a nice 2003 or 2004 unless those are very high mileage and/or very rough.

Other than the obvious rules that are applicable to any and all used-car shopping, what I learned as a newbie (I am on my 1st Wrangler that I got this summer) is that you have to physically inspect and test drive LOTS of Wranglers before you really can appreciate what a good deal is on one of these vehicles. Do not be tricked by internet ads that boast a mint-condition Wrangler for cheap dollars, I know I was lured many miles away several times only to find the so-called "excellent condition" vehicle was essentially crap. There are a lot of beaten up Wranglers out there, so watch out. Test drive them at highway speeds to detect suspension/steering issues which can be costly to fix. Get on your back and literally crawl under it with a flashlight checking the frame for rust. Lift the carpeting in all areas to inspect for rust and damage. Operate the 4WD on dirt to ensure it is functioning. Any seller who wont let you do all these things is hiding something.

It took me 7 months, looked at 25+ Wranglers in person, before I was able to find the right combo of price, mileage, and condition. Good luck it is worth the effort.
 

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I would recommend the 4.0 as the 2.5 has much less power and doesn't yield better gas mileage. As stated above a TJ (97-06) are going to be pushing your 10k budget. My 00 was $10,500 and that was 95,000 miles if your looking to spend the lower end of that price then you may want to look at the YJ (like 85-95ish) they are leaf springs which is the down side to having them for highway trips to some as they are less comfortable. From your description above I'd look for a stock height late 90s sitting on 30" tire maybe 31" as that means it should not have a lift and that's ideal for the highway DD aspect of a Jeep. There is the obvious personal preference of manual or automatic transmission. For Florida weather I'd definitely say get a soft top/no top and then purchase a rampage frameless soft top as they have a space in the roof to store the windows while always covering your roof after the first install (well worth the investment to always have your windows in the event of a sudden rain. You would probably prefer half doors if you want to be able to quickly and easily take them off and on (full doors are easy too, just not AS easy) other than that I'd say just look at the SE or Sport trim levels as the rubicon a will be out of your price range and also the Sahara is strictly if you want the colored flares or not is what that boils down to mostly. Always check for rust (like said above), make sure if you do get a lifted one to ask lots of questions about what kind of lift it is etc, then don't hesitate to ask questions here (or use the search bar above ^) . Good luck with your endeavor, and don't forget the Jeep Wave :wavey:
 

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^good advise. Saharas will be more expensive because they come standard with these items which are not standard on any of the other TJ's (although some, not all, of these are available as options on the Sport):

-4.0L engine
-special seats w/ unique shape and fabric
-larger wheels and tires (30" tall tires)
-heavy duty suspension (others come with sandard duty suspension)
-a/c
-top-line sound system w/ 7 speakers and cd player
-full length console
-extra interior lighting and underhood light
-unique colored sports bar
-fog lights
-wider fender flares, body colored
-carpeted floor mats
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Many thanks for the great advice.

As for price, I'm ok spending $10k or even a little more and certainly seems worth getting a TJ rather than a YJ. I was basing the $5-$10k on a quick scan of what was for sale on Craigs List in S. Fl.

Sounds also as though there are no "typical" problems with TJ's, so other than standard used car engine checks and checks for rust, it will be a standard used car purchase.

Will start looking in earnest and may come back with some follow up questions.

Thanks again.
 

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On the search for rust issue, lots of state that salt for ice, not an issue for you, or may have been run on the beach, possible issue for you, will develop rust where the transfer case cross member bolts to the frame. Seen many gnarly pics of the bolts pulled right out of the frame in that spot.
 

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I LOVE my jeep but if you dont like tinkering with it and dont plan to offroad it what draws you to it? When it comes to on road there are several nicer options. its off the road that jeep shines
 

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I LOVE my jeep but if you dont like tinkering with it and dont plan to offroad it what draws you to it? When it comes to on road there are several nicer options. its off the road that jeep shines
Like a lot of others, I will not be modifying (tinkering) my TJ or taking it on serious off-road courses however what does draw me to a Wrangler is the fact I can remove the top, load up the beach gear and the dog, and cruise in an American icon on the cheap. Wranglers are a blast to drive due to their simplicity, versatility, small size, and overall sense of strength they have. No need to modify, tinker, and rock crawl to enjoy one.

Wow that rust above is nasty and looks so familiar on many Wranglers that I looked at. If you can find one that was undercoated when new (like mine was) that is a huge plus.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I LOVE my jeep but if you dont like tinkering with it and dont plan to offroad it what draws you to it? When it comes to on road there are several nicer options. its off the road that jeep shines
I don't mind tinkering with it to modify/upgrade/customize (and would like to) but would prefer not to tinker for the purpose of repairing or worrying about being stranded.

I do like the idea of having a fun, versitile auto that can take advantage of the year-round sunshine in FL. Also, since I'm not garaging it, weather can be tough on a "typical" car.

Happy to know what other suggestions you'd have for a similar on-road car. Seems to me that Wranglers are unique in the market, but I could be wrong.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I identified a 97 with about 95k mi and some customizations (chrome front bumper, fog lights, large wheels) that's at a (seemingly) good price, though it has the 4 cylinder engine in it.

Going to look at it on Sunday, but few questions:

1. owner says the A/C doesn't work and needs a new compressor. I looked up compressor prices, etc. Is it easy to replace myself and then just get a freon charge from a pro? Or, should I budget about $500 total to fix it (assuming pro labor).

2. says the car has a "body kit" which lifted the frame 1-2". Is this a good thing? sounded like it was not a true lift kit, which I imagine involves new shocks/springs/etc.

3. if i understood right, it has 32" wheels. Will that help or hurt gas milage? On the one hand, I'm sure they are heavy and increase rolling resistance. On the other hand, it will lower the rpm of the engine at a given speed. What should I expect gas mileage to be?

4. Other than rust and other suggestions above, anything specific I should check for?

Thanks again.
 
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