Potential problems with buying used 1991 Jeep Cherokee

I’m looking to buy an XJ cherokee, and I’ve found a 1991 Jeep Cherokee Limited (4.0L V6) and I’d love some advice, especially from the Jeep people. The post had been up for 8 months already, so I’m not going to be offering the full $1200 he’s asking for it. It hasn’t been registered in 4 years, it needs a battery, the drivers window, and the new muffler welded on. The ad says he got it as a hunting rig, did some work to it, like spark plugs, thermostat, etc, and it runs great but he doesn’t have time to fix it and just wants to get rid of it. I plan to use my toyota corolla battery to start and test drive it because the amperage (CCA) is about the same as most batteries for the cherokee. He said I can drive it around the property to test that the 4x4 works, but theres not enough room to get up to speed to make sure that the transmision goes through all gears and there’s no death wobble. I’m curious if these '91 XJ cherokees are known for automatic transmission failures, and if there is anything else I should watch out for besides electrical issues. It only has 125,000 miles, and the interior looks great, but the outside is faded and missing both bumpers. The front bumper seems to have been replaced by two beams welded to the frame and sticking out like a weapon. I’m also wondering what the cost of renewing the 4 year old registration might be in California. Thanks in advance! Take it easy

In all honesty, this sounds like a money pit to me. There’s a reason it’s been listed for 8 months already.

I’d run away from this one, myself.


A 30 year old Jeep that hasn’t been driven in 4 years, if he pays you to take it away, you’re still on the losing end of the deal.

Before you can even register it, It will have to pass a pollution test and a safety inspection, there’s a reason it hasn’t been registered in 4 years.

I wouldn’t even go look at it.


At 1200.00 this thing is over priced by 1500.00 .

And how would anyone but the DMV know what the registration penalties are ?

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I was a big fan of the Cherokees beginning with the '90 model I bought in 1992 that my family drove 190,000 miles on top of the 90,000 on it when purchased. I’ve owned several since then but despite my familiarity and appreciation of those vehicles I wouldn’t buy another one as they are very expensive to keep repaired once they begin to decline. If you price a transmission repair and calculate the likelihood of a 30 year old unit failing the dazzle of their grand reputation will fade fast.

And for the record the 4.0 was an inline 6, not a V-6. For the PURISTs that a critical distinction.

This might (MIGHT) be a fun project for someone with the time, money (thousands), and expertise to fix up all the problems that have accumulated in the last 29 years. But the OP isn’t that kind of person, I’m guessing.


Too many downsides.
Eight months listed and no takers yet.
Replaced the thermostat and says no room to get to speed could mean the engine has been fried.
Four years of non-registration could mean he discovered he bought a pig in a poke and threw in the towel.
Regarding the transmission, age is also a factor as internal seals are now 30 years old.

I suspect the guy may know more than he’s letting on; which is not uncommon at all. To me, it’s a 500 dollar rig and I’d have to think long and hard before even going that much on it.


If it was GIVEN to you, you should still turn it down.

You will avoid a bottomless money pit and frequent problems as they arise.

I have given away 3 such vehicles to handy relatives as project cars with and “as is” condition warranty.


If you lived anywhere else but California, I’d say to make an offer of $400-500. Unfortunately, you live in the one state which will require YOU to pay all of the back registration fees and penalties from when the last registration expired until the time when you attempt to register it in your name. That could easily be $1000 or more. RUN, don’t walk away from this “deal”!


I’m also curious if all the emissions gear has been removed. A California cat is more expensive, along with who know what else. They just had a 'Wheeler Dealers" where they brought a Nissan 300ZX back in CA emissions spec after it had a lot of aftermarket stuff added. They had to pull the engine/transmission and replace lots of parts. Fun to watch, but boy that was a lot of work.

This smells like a very iffy proposition and I feel the others have already said what you need to know, but will add my 2 cents anyway… If you’ve decided it’s a turkey (and it is), no need to read farther.

Unless your’e buying a vehicle just for parts (meaning you’re only paying for parts you can see are good, maybe a door or a headlight housing but not the driveline) and never intend to register it (and are certain of CA DMV rules concerning such sales), you should always have a vehicle evaluated by a competent mechanic which in this case might mean a flat bed tow to a shop located where it can be driven at speed off the highway, maybe at a speedway or abandoned airport. Be sure to check for frame straightness, properly (might involve a body shop) - even bent and straightened cars sometimes can measure correctly but still handle weird and wear tires unevenly. I think a wise person would move on.

You didn’t mention tires but that wont be your biggest problem. Any car battery will crank it. Acquaintence bought a bargain vintage Cherokee for his granddaughter. Looked great, ran great. Just needed reupholstering. About a year later I saw his granddaughter driving a different car and I asked him what happened to the Jeep? He said after a few months it started cutting off intermittantly and the dealer told him that it needed a new computer and programming for $4000.