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Best beater SUV thats cheap and reliable?

What’s the best price/value proposition out there in used SUVs?
Cheap and reliable.
I do care about reliability and cost of maintenance.
I do not care about rust or dents.

I am thinking a cheap Jeep Cherokee might be what I want?

Bingo, or a grand Cherokee. Near Bullet proof motor, tons of cheap parts, easy to work on, plenty full. AND cheap to buy. Triple word score!!

Can someone tell the differences between the various models?
Grand Cherokee
Sport Cherokee
etc

I see a bunch around here,
and $3000 gets you a nice low miles Jeep (2000 with 120k miles, for example)

Grand Cherokee and Cherokee are two different trucks. They share a drive line but not much else. The grand Cherokee is larger, rides better and can come better equipped. The grand can also come with a V8 the very reliable 318, or in some cases the 360. At least in the vintage you are talking about.

As for the Jeep Cherokee, the 4.0L 6 cylinder with the Japanese transmission and 2 wheel drive seems to be the most bullet proof model. A 2 wheel drive Blazer with the 4.3L engine might equal the Cherokee but I have owned both and preferred the Cherokee. The Cherokee could consistently deliver 22+ mpg and failures were rare and foreshadowed.

Don’t buy a Jeep Cherokee if you expect trouble free operation. Sure, the motor is tough and the chassis was built for legit off roading. But if you use it for a daily driver, you will frustrate with the peripherals including air, heating, cooling , electrical, brakes, body integrity etc. I personally have know at least a dozen owners and they all tell the same story. The Liberty is an extension, it suffers from the the same problems.

The difference bettween the Cherokee and the Grand Cherookee is in the price of upkeep. It’s a bigger dog and even more expensive and frustrating to keep running. And gas mileage ? Forget it like ALL old SUVs.

You want a cheap reliable SUV type vehicle, get and older extended cab 4 cyl Tacoma 4 wd pick up and put a cap on it. The Next in line is an older Nissan Pathfinder with the older body style or any XTerra. The were very simple, and similar to the Cherokee with part time 4 wd but much better engineered for longevity. They are the cousin of the UN Nissan Patrol vehicles you see running around on news clips. All are still gas hogs by today’s standards. The only other option may be a Chevy Tracker or Suzuki Sidekick or Grand Vitara. Tough but hard to find parts…like anything made by Suzuki it seems.

Be aware…older SUVs like most part time 4 wd pick ups are terrible in 2wd on slippery roads to the uninitiated and find themselves in a ditch quickly if you skimp on winter tires.

BTW, you had better care about rust if you care about breathing carbon monoxide or passing inspection in an older enclosed SUV. That may be their biggest reason for being cheap…they can be rust buckets.

At 120K miles, the automatic transmissions will be nearing the end of their useful lives in ALL of these vehicles…Better have $3000 ready for that, or buy one that has already passed that milestone…

The Liberty and the Grand Cherokee have entirely different power trains I think. But they are both tough vehicles. Anything that old is going to have problems and quirks. The Jeeps are likely to be the cheapest to repair. Gas mileage will be fairly miserable with either–probably about 17 city and maybe 21 hwy. Don’t bother with a 2WD version, or you’re get all the poor weather driveability of a pickup without the hauling capability.

Words that sometimes mislead are the tough and reliable. I feel the Jeeps are tough for towing and off road capability, but not particularly reliable. I had a 4wds that could go through some of the worse mud holes and rock climbing unscathed…then suffer AC and other unrelated problems that made them unreliable for normal driving. They were tough but not reliable.

IMO,cheap and reliable are not in the same sentence when describing old SUVs.

For cheap SUV you want the one that sold the most, meaning a lot of for sale now at good prices. That would be the Ford Explorer. In general the Explorers have held up well over time. As for price and value I think an Explorer would be hard to beat.

“Cheap and reliable” are really conflicting terms in old and cheap used cars. Having lots of Explorers to look at and choose from means you can avoid a trashed out one. Remember to pay for a mechanic to presale inspect the final choice. If you get very lucky you might get cheap and reliable in the same vehicle.

Ok, so Explorers are not lemons that are to be avoided at all costs. USA cars had a very bad rap for a very long time.

For Explorers, is there a range of years that are desirable (or to be avoided?)

Ok, so Ford Explorer is a better bet if one wants a cheap and reliable SUV/truck?

I have seen many high mileage explorers, but I still prefer the jeep. They both run 4.0 6 cyls, vastly different, both great motors. It’s the trans that is the weak spots on both, and I think the explorer is just a little worse. Both would be fine choices.

At 120K miles, the automatic transmissions will be nearing the end of their useful lives in ALL of these vehicles.

Please tell me where you keep getting the crap information from Caddyman. Maybe with the vehicles YOU buy…I currently have well over 200k miles on my SUV…and the tranny is fine. I know at least 20 people with SUV’s with well over 150k miles and no one has ever had a tranny problem. If there were problems as you say I should be able to find them in junk yards…Trust me I can’t. I’ve been looking for a part to the rear arm rest on my 4runner that my son broke off years ago. I found a total of 2 that had a salvageable interior anywhere close to where I live…There should be HUNDREDS if what you say is even close to being accurate.

My personal experience with Jeep Cherokees has been quite pleasant. Of the 5 I have owned one had a transmission failure at 190,000. All were driven well beyond 200,000 miles, one well beyond 300,000. It was my understanding that the OP was from the Bay area and had little use for 4WD.

Consumer Reports has one list I pay heed to. Used Cars to Avoid and I would make to pay really close attention that makes that list and research further why:

http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine-archive/april-2009/cars/best-and-worst-used-cars/overview/best-and-worst-used-cars-ov.htm

Scroll to bottom of page for the duds.

@raj I dont put much stock in that list, there are some cars on that list that are fairly reliable.

Bottom line is that when you talk about a used car CONDITION and PREVIOUS ownership means EVERYTHING !!

Opinions do vary

Things just seem to work out better when form follows function and the high torque I-6 engine, bare bones suspension and drive train with readily available parts, easy servicing and few idiosyncrasies made the Cherokee king of the SUVs for over a decade. The Grand Cherokees with 318 V-8s were gas hogs and their reputation rubbed of on the base model.

We had Jeep Cherokees at work, however the cost of ownership was too high and the reliability…well, it was like owning a WWII Willey’s Jeep. IMHO Jeeps are for people who love Jeeps. They’re not for people looking for affordable, reliable transportantion.

I’ve driven at least one Grand Cherokee when on a business trip. There were times we had 4 people with bags and golf clubs that needed…It rattled…it had at least 2 air leaks…didn’t handle particularly good. One of the cherokee’s had less then 20 miles on it…Wasn’t impressed.