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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
As the title says, I'll soon be moving to Denver for physical therapy school. As it so happens, my sister, who was taking care of my car while I was abroad, was involved in a hit and run and my Mazda 3 was totaled, so now I'm looking at picking up a TJ as my new daily driver and for weekend trips.

I don't have much experience in automotives, but have been doing research for a couple weeks now to help make sure I know what I'm getting into. After being brought to this forum several times I figured I'd jump on here to throw in a couple questions I have. Pardon if my questions aren't in a very logical order. I also know they won't necessarily be easy to answer since so many things depend on how the Jeep was treated by the previous owner.

1) Since I will be heavily in debt because of school, I'm looking at spending less than 10k on the purchase itself. At this price, what kind of mileage is a good deal?

2) I've seen Rubicons for a few thousand over my budget at around 100-110k miles. I've read on the Wiki what makes the Rubicon different but would the Dana 44s be wasted on someone like me if it's a daily driver with only light trail work? I don't plan on climbing up rocks or anything, but want to explore Colorado in my spare time.

3) I feel like a private sale could help me save a lot of money. If I'm cautious about looking for rust on the frame and leaks, is this the recommended route? The ones at dealerships just seem several thousand more expensive than what I'm seeing on Craigslist for similar vehicles.

4) My only experience with manual is driving a girlfriend's car a couple times 10 years ago. I was leaning toward manual just in case things go wrong I hear repairs are cheaper. I've read some that rock crawling is a bit easier with automatic, but for trails will manual be just as easy as on the road?

That's about all I have for now. I really appreciate anyone giving this a read and helping out.
 

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They tend to hold their value here. But with 10k you should be able to find a reasonable rig. Id expect to find one with 110k or more. Depends on how well it was taken care of by the previous owner(s). Frame rot isnt a big deal here, but dont let that stop you from checking the frame. Dont be afraid to bring a hammer and screw driver and poke around. What are you future plans with it? A rubicon is a great model to base a build off of, and if you ever want to build it more, the D44 will be a great start since it can accommodate a larger tire, but good luck finding one under 10K. Regardless...I would look for one with at least a dana44 rear axle and the 4.0 engine. The manual vs auto is entirely up to you. I have a 5 speed and get around the trails just fine.
 

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You'd be better off getting something else until you are out of school & financially more stable. Tj's are expensive to buy, expensive to run on a daily basis & tend to be mechanically fussy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thank you both for the replies:

Tworley: As for future plans for my TJ I would want to keep it probably around the 5 year mark while I establish myself financially and then looking into a newer (or new) Wrangler if I'm able to afford it. My brother and his wife ended up getting the 75th Edition Wrangler and have turned into Jeep fans themselves, and as such he's offered to let mine retire to his lake house. (Strange having a retirement plan for a vehicle I've yet to purchase).

AZ01TJ: I appreciate the financial concern and that was initially a big worry of mine. Luckily I managed to find an apartment 5 miles from campus so although the it'll chug gas, my daily habits will keep it minimal. I'll also have some help paying for school/expenses with the GI Bill, a scholarship, and have worked the last year to save up money. Financially the numbers work out as long as I don't have any major breakdowns. I've considered going the more "responsible" route but now that I'm decided I know I'll always think "What if".

Could you give a few more specifics on "mechanically fussy" so I can get a better idea on what the costs would look like?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I'm not sure how to edit so pardon for this second reply, but I feel like I might have answered your question completely wrong Tworley. As for future plans with it, it'll remain a daily driver. At this point I don't think I'd be looking to put anything bigger than 33s on it with a small lift, partially for looks and partially because the extra hardware might come in handy on the trails.
 

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Buy a book called Jeep Trails of Colorado or something close to it, and a Gazetteer. Denver has a GreenWay like noplace else, bike trails and walking trails. Not that you will have a lot of spare time in PT school.
 

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FWIW, I spent well over 3k last year in repairs. Cooling system, replaced rear end (locker went and took gears with it), Mechanical issues (misfires, no spark, various electrical) front and rear end bearings, ball joints, driveshaft...That was around 95k miles, and a lot of components were stock. So 20 years, 100k miles seems normal. I should be good to go for the next 100k. Mine a 97 model and it is my DD.

Sounds like you have done your homework and weighed all financial options. Only you can do that and if you think (or know) that you can swing the cost of a used wrangler and keeping up with it while taking into the consideration of the cost of living here in CO, then by all means do it. Public transportation will help save money too.

Still be on the lookout for a 4.0, and a dana44 rear end. What starts out as a fun getaway vehicle can quickly escalate into an extreme build if you really do find yourself enjoying the CO mountains and rock crawling.
 

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As far a mechanicals go, certain years of the TJ have their quirks.

The 2000-2001 models had problematic cylinder heads that could crack. I have had three 2000 year models and one 2001 model and only one of them had a cracked cylinder head.

The 05 and 06 models have OPDA issues (not a big deal, as long as you replace the $100 part).

As well, the transmissions were also changed a couple times. I would stay away from an 04-06 automatics and maybe even the 6 speed. The 6 speeds are known for popping out of 1st gear and reverse, and are very expensive to replace. I have an 05 myself, I changed out the OPDA right away and my transmission very rarely pops out of gear. I just hold it in gear when in 1st gear and reverse to prevent this.

Some say that the sweet spot is 2002-2004 models.

But like everyone else said, try to find a 4.0, 5 speed, dana 44 model with no rust. One can easily be had for $10K or less. I prefer to buy a stock one, as buying one already built up can cause headaches trying to fix previous owners "mods".

For reference, I paid $11.5K for my stock LJ, which has a Dana 44 rear end and had less than 100K miles. They can also be more desirable than a TJ. Deals are out there, check craigslist religiously and you'll find one.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Appreciate all the info Clutch, I'll be on the lookout for a 2002-2004 just to try to be safe.

Could you expand on what you meant that the YJ is sometimes more desirable than a TJ? I've seen several for sale and wouldn't be against getting one, but figured since that model is much older perhaps it would be easier to grab a more reliable TJ.
 

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Appreciate all the info Clutch, I'll be on the lookout for a 2002-2004 just to try to be safe.



Could you expand on what you meant that the YJ is sometimes more desirable than a TJ? I've seen several for sale and wouldn't be against getting one, but figured since that model is much older perhaps it would be easier to grab a more reliable TJ.


The LJ can be more desirable due to it being about 15" longer. So you get 10" increased wheelbase, more storage room, more leg room in the back seat, all of them have the dana 44 rear end. The wheelbase makes the ride more smooth. And they only made them for 2.5 years, so they are more rare. Only built from 2004.5 to 2006
 

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Clutch,
I think we need to be careful on where people are shopping . A rust free, LJ under a hundred thousand miles, 4.0 , dana 44 is a 15K rig in Connecticut. The problem with Jeeps is that prices are all over the place depending on location. I also think that you probably got a smoking deal on you LJ even for Texas.
I would expect to pay around 10K at least for a decent TJ, 4.0, 5 speed with 100k on the clock in many areas. I would still be very careful of frame rust at that price point.
I paid 10k for an 03 TJ Sport, with 70k and a dana 44, auto, disc brakes all around with a mint frame out of Long Island. I had no idea what a deal I got at the time. It was for my daughter.
I also paid way too much for an 03 Rubicon Inca Gold with 19 thousand miles out of Pa. Always garaged and mint in every way. I didn't care because it was my toy and I sold my C5 Vette to buy it.
 

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They tend to hold their value here. But with 10k you should be able to find a reasonable rig. Id expect to find one with 110k or more. Depends on how well it was taken care of by the previous owner(s). Frame rot isnt a big deal here, but dont let that stop you from checking the frame. Dont be afraid to bring a hammer and screw driver and poke around. What are you future plans with it? A rubicon is a great model to base a build off of, and if you ever want to build it more, the D44 will be a great start since it can accommodate a larger tire, but good luck finding one under 10K. Regardless...I would look for one with at least a dana44 rear axle and the 4.0 engine. The manual vs auto is entirely up to you. I have a 5 speed and get around the trails just fine.
I agree, a TJ/ Rubicon is an excellent base to build off of here in Colorado. Several things that makes the Rubicon worth every penny here in Colorado are the D44's, Lockers and the 4:1 transfer case! The TC being a huge benefit climbing and descending hills etc.

My suggestion is ride along on a harder trail here in Colorado BEFORE you buy, why? Because if you're like most, you say you won't climb rocks today but 6 months later you've been infected with the itch to hit the harder trails! And, yes you can DD a properly built rock crawler.

Now, from a practical standpoint...they are not the most desirable vehicle in snow. I have a 06 Rubicon and an 07 Subaru and unless we get 18"+ of snow I'm taking the Subaru every time! Just something to consider...

Oh, don't believe Tyler when he say he gets around the trails just fine! :mooning:
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I wanted to add a couple more questions.

1) Is the Dana 44 a deal breaker if I don't intend on going off trail?

2) Besides asking people how much they've spent on maintenance, is there any online resource for Wranglers in particular that helps estimate expected maintenance costs on a year to year basis? Again, I know things rely so much on how well it has been taken care of over the years but I figured I'd ask anyways.

3) This is a bit Denver specific: I can afford to be patient because I'll be taken care of my girlfriend's Mazda 2 while she is abroad so I have a vehicle in the meantime, but is it realistic to wait for an awesome deal in the Denver area? I feel like demand must be pretty high out there.
 

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Oh, don't believe Tyler when he say he gets around the trails just fine! :mooning:

:flipoff:


I will admit its easier to navigate when you know the difference between passenger and driver.
 

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I wouldn't have my Wrangler if I didn't live in Colorado. I don't know if its a rock crawler yet, but it is my daily driver going on 4 years and can't imagine having anything else right now. A Wrangler is a money pit that is as deep as you allow it to be.

The t-case is my favorite part of the Rubicon. The factory lockers do the job, but I sometimes feel like they are a ticking time bomb.
 

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Appreciate all the info Clutch, I'll be on the lookout for a 2002-2004 just to try to be safe.

Could you expand on what you meant that the YJ is sometimes more desirable than a TJ? I've seen several for sale and wouldn't be against getting one, but figured since that model is much older perhaps it would be easier to grab a more reliable TJ.
Clutch is talking about an LJ, officially the Unlimited, which is the CJ-8 Scrambler of the TJ line. The extra room would sometimes be nice, but I personally appreciate having a smaller vehicle.
 

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A Wrangler is a money pit that is as deep as you allow it to be.
Very true. Ill never get rid of mine. Three years ago I never thought I would be doing the stuff I put it thru now. I also remember thinking I wouldnt need a tummy tuck, chromo shafts, or even a gas tank skid cause "I wont do that kind of wheeling". Once you get a taste for the wheeling here it can escalate quickly. Be careful with your wallet OP.


:lmao: When you putting that axle in?
I am in between houses right now, so the axle is in Mikes garage until I can get mine back next Friday. Or unless he is free this weekend:)
 

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I wanted to add a couple more questions.

1) Is the Dana 44 a deal breaker if I don't intend on going off trail?

2) Besides asking people how much they've spent on maintenance, is there any online resource for Wranglers in particular that helps estimate expected maintenance costs on a year to year basis? Again, I know things rely so much on how well it has been taken care of over the years but I figured I'd ask anyways.

3) This is a bit Denver specific: I can afford to be patient because I'll be taken care of my girlfriend's Mazda 2 while she is abroad so I have a vehicle in the meantime, but is it realistic to wait for an awesome deal in the Denver area? I feel like demand must be pretty high out there.

You could always run with a d35 until you find a 44, that is, if you do actually find yourself getting into this hobby. They pop up from time to time here.

I want to say there is a thread somewhere in here that someone put together with a number of maintenance related issues/mileage/cost. Ill see if I can find it.

My dad used to always say (still does), "Where there is one, there is always another". If you do find one you like, I would say inspect it carefully, if its what you want, jump on it. But dont purchase the first one you find without fully looking it over and realize what you are getting into. If you miss the opportunity, another one will arise.
 

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I would also suggest buying an unmodified stock Jeep. Especially if this is your first time with a vehicle like this. Mine was my first foray into building up one of my own vehicles. There are a troubling amount of bad modifications available to us. I found it much easier to dive in when there were no weird surprises from a previous owner. I do remember telling myself that I would leave it stock. That only lasted a couple months...

Mine was an impulse buy and was the first and only one I looked at, btw. Don't do that! :)
 
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