Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

$350 Cross country Jeep

I am looking to move from Maryland to Colorado, and it is my goal to drive there. The ECU in my current car (Infiniti I30) is not working any more, and I have stumbled across a used 1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee (4wd) for $350. Having owned a 1988 Jeep Commanche before I am aware the inline 6 is a reliable engine, and from what I can find online it seems the transmission (Automatic) is pretty too. The body is a bit banged up (though not in bad shape, just used in a similar way you’d find an old pickup), and it’s about 250K miles which I am assuming is the reason for the low cost. Knowing it runs and drives, if the maintanence has been kept up on the Jeep, what are the chances it’s a good buy and will be able to get me cross country.

P.S. I am buying an older used car because once I have reached my destination it’s my intention to work on the vehicle, I figured a good 'ole jeep cherokee would be a great vehicle to pour my time into

If this is just you and you have time give it a try. If you break down you can turn it into an adventure. If you are traveling with family or have time constraints I would rethink this one. At a minimum have a look at the frame and see how much rust you have. At this age there may not be much frame left. It would be worth spending $100 or so to have your local mechanic give it a once over to see what their opinion is.

Have the Jeep checked out before you go. With all the fluids up to scratch, and driving at a relaxed pace the Jeep will likely make it there. Stay out of 4 wheel drive on pavement!!! Once in Colorado you will be busy keeping this machine road worthy for rough use. However, if you are handy it beats doing nothing in your spare rime.

Good luck!

I have owned many Jeep Cherokees and a few Grand Cherokees. The 2WD Jeep Cherokee is much more reliable than the Grand Cherokee (less things to go wrong). They are getting harder to find but they are out there. I agree that you need to get the Grand Cherokee fully inspected by a good, independent mechanic. Make sure to keep your cell phone battery charged during the trip.

Hahahahaha…oh, you’re serious? If by ‘$350, good buy, get me cross country’ you mean with an almost certainty of a breakdown(s) somewhere? Then yes. I worry that you’re asking, if you knew enough about cars to handle the breakdowns you wouldn’t ask, so I have to wonder what your ability to deal with them is. How much have you worked on cars? What do you plan to bring with you on the trip to handle problems?

It should make it if is in decent mechanical shape. I’d get the brakes checked, take a close look at wheel bearings, and make sure the front end suspension and steering gear are in OK shape.

Things that cause on the road breakdowns are V-belts and serp belts that break, leaks in the cooling system leading to overheating, under-inflated tires, and worn out tires. Most of these things can be visually checked out.

I’d suggest getting the car and putting about 1,000 miles on it prior to your trip to shake down any problems before heading out to CO.

The Grand Cherokees are known to be less reliable than the Cherokees, but at 250k it doesn’t matter. I would not trust a $350 car with over 200,000 miles on it no matter what model it was to get me home from where I bought it, much less survive a cross country road trip.

Couple years ago we picked up an 88 Mitsubishi pickup with almost 200,000 miles on it for light-duty yardwork hauling. Before I judged it ready to attempt a journey to my SO’s folks one state over, I replaced the brakes, the entire ignition system, the belt, and a bunch of other stuff, and spent a lot of time driving it around town within hailing distance of home. And even then I made sure my AAA membership was current before we left. It did great, but only because I put work into it beforehand.

This guy is selling that car for scrap value. You should expect it to be in (s)crap condition. It will need a lot of work done to it before you hit the road, not once you get there.

Exactly. Scrap car, if it was in decent shape it’d be $1,000+. So an inspection is mandatory, I’d be amazed if it didn’t need LOTS of work to make it road worthy. Of course, if someone is giving away a $1,000 vehicle for peanuts, that’s a different matter.

I neglected to mention I’m not going for a few months (about 4-6). I was expecting to put some basic maintanence into it (tune up, belts, brakes, oil change).

That’s a different matter. But spend $100 to have a mechanic inspect it before buying, see if the list of work needed can be done for a reasonable amount of $$.

edit - and I’d pay for a compression test. The engine could be worn out.

The crankshaft position sensors were somewhat problematical but cheap and easily replaced. But the transmission, at 200,000+ miles, could suddenly leave you on the side of the road considering a repair that would exceed $2,500 + the cost of spending the better part of a week in South Park.

Do it. Either it gets you there, or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, sell it to the nearest junkyard for the price of a bus ticket to Colorado.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to replace the ECU in your Infinity or does it have other issues?

Back in the 70s I drove cross- country in a 10 (not a typo) dollar car with no issues other than a flat tire. Maybe that can inspire confidence. :smiley:

If the car is basically solid then it should remain that way for a long distance trip unless it’s overheated or run out of oil. Tooling around in it locally for 6 months should be enough to give you a good feel for the car.

I don’t know anything about old Jeeps but I’ve never bought a cheap used car that didn’t need a lot of work right off the bat to make it reasonably reliable. Brakes, engine, tires, electrical, battery, water pump, alternator, bearings, exhaust, and so on can all prove to be issues until they are re-worked. Of course get it checked and likely will have oil leaks but drive it quite a bit before the trip to shake out the cob webs.

I bought a 67 Buick wagon for $250 once and after $350 for top engine work, new tires, upholstery, brakes, and other work, it was good for a daily hauler and out of town once in a while. My 61 Corvair for $150 stalled on the way home and required general carb and tune up work. And so on.

$350 is definitely a good buy. But will it get you from Maryland to Colorado? Perhaps. But think about it. Would you sell a Jeep for $350 you knew was well maintained, had no problems, and working so well that it would surely make that trip no problem? I’d bring along a well equipped tool kit and a credit card with a good sized limit. Get some pro inspection help if you need it to verify the tires, brakes, suspension, and steering are in serviceable condition. Spare tire too. Best of luck. If you can make it there, your fix it upper Jeep will definitely be fun to have in Colorado.

"$350 is definitely a good buy cheap."
There, I fixed it :wink:

lol … :smile:

I bought a 1957 Chevrolet 110 2 door post (235 cu in I-6, 3 speed M/T) in early 1968. I didn’t haggle the asking price of $100. There was absolutely nothing wrong with it! I didn’t even change the oil for 3 months as it was full and clean. I drove it for over a year until a buddy who really wanted it offered me $200. He drove it trouble free for 2 more years before he sold it. I’m confident it could have gone West to East coast and back with no problems. Of course there was much less to go wrong than a modern car. OP’s Jeep could be a steal or money pit. Definitely needs a good inspection.

I’d go for it. You have a couple of months to figure out if it will be good for the trip, and if its not, you can sell it to a salvage yard and get most of your money back.