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

Thinking of buying a Wrangler

I am a 26-year-old soon-to-be-married teacher. Next summer, after my fiance’ and I are married, we plan to move around the country for a while before finding a place to set down permanent roots. Two of our planned temporary residences include Colorado and California.



My current car is a 1999 Honda Accord with around 140K miles. It still runs well because I take good care of it, but it is looking worse and worse. My future sister-in-law has a newer model (2003 or later, I think) Jeep Wrangler that she loves, and after one ride in it with the top down I shared her sentiments. It’s such a fun vehicle, and she swears by it’s reliability and ease of driving.



Down to the nitty-gritty: For the kind of atmospheres I plan on moving (cold in Colorado, hot in California), is a Jeep Wrangler a good idea for a purchase? I have never owned a Jeep and know relatively little about them, except that I am now jealous of the fun my future sister-in-law has in hers!

Glad to hear your future sister-in-law has had such good luck with her Wrangler.

Consumer Reports rates the Wrangler’s reliability as “much worse than average,” and the '06-'08 models are on their list of “used cars to avoid.” Keep that in mind, and do some research on this issue before you sign anything.

Having said that, a coworker leased one about a year ago and he absolutely loves it. He’s wanted a Jeep for a long time, and he finally got one. He’s a happy camper.

I’d never consider buying one myself, but I don’t see why you shouldn’t buy one if it’s what you really want. Do it now while you’re young. When you get older all that bouncing around, wind, and noise won’t be so appealing.

As far as the Colorado cold and the California heat, there is an optional hardtop. I wouldn’t want to go through a Colorado winter without a hardtop. Unless you’re in the non-mountainous part of Colorado, in which case it probably doesn’t matter.

Here’s a thought: Rent a Wrangler for a few days, or a week, and see if you’re still so enamored after you’ve lived with it, day in and day out, for a while. One short ride, top down on a sunny day, is not the same as living with a vehicle every day.

Plenty of people in California drive Wranglers, but they can’t drive them on the lawn, let alone off road where it’s supposed to be. It isn’t the most reliable car that you can buy either.

Mcparadise has summed it up very well.
However, I want to ask the OP a relevant question, namely–Do you plan to do most of your driving “off road”?

If the answer to that question is yes, then the Wrangler would be an ideal choice, warts and all. However, if you plan to drive on paved roads most of the time, it is a very poor choice.

If I told you that I was going to purchase an old rear-drive Buick Electra to drive off-road, you would probably laugh because it is so inappropriate for that type of use. However, in a similar vein, a Jeep Wrangler is inappropriate for someone whose usual routes are on paved roads and highways.

When a manufacturer designs a vehicle’s drive system and its suspension, they optimize it for the type of use that it can be expected to experience most of the time. Since a Jeep Wrangler is probably the best vehicle for off-road conditions, it is also poorly suited to driving on paved roads and highways.

The rock-hard suspension and short wheelbase will yield a really terrible ride, as well as handling that is not particularly good. And, the part-time 4WD system means that you cannot safely use the 4WD system on dry roads or even on roads that are partially covered with snow. Its drive system is great if you need to get out of a ditch, but once you are back on the road, you will need to put it back into RWD, which is not good on slippery surfaces, especially with the short wheelbase of the Wrangler.

When you throw in this vehicle’s relatively poor side-impact scores, and its dismal reliability rating, it is not a good vehicle for anything other than off-roading, where it excels.

Lots of vehicles including the Wrangler and your Accord are fine in both those cliimates.

Yeah, the Jeep rides like a rock and is not know for stellar reliability. But…you had a blast riding in it and want one. If your soon-to-be feels the same, take one on a long test drive. If you still feel strongly that you want one, I say “go for it”. Don’t let an opportunity for fun pass you by. Don’t find yourself 10 years from now with two kids and a mortgage still holding memories of this thing you were afraid to do, and unable then to afford it on your teacher’s salary. If you buy one and it’s a mistake, it isn’t the end on the world.

You’re 26. This is the time to enjoy life. You can get “responsible” later on.

Since your future sister-in-law has the Jeep Wrangler, ride around with her and enjoy her Wrangler. Then you won’t have the expensive of owning one. I was in your position at one time. I always wanted an MG Midget. My neighbor was a salesman for a import car dealer. He was in the National Guard and had guard duty once a month. He would leave the keys to his demonstrator with me on week-ends that he had guard duty and tell me to make sure that the MG got its exercise. On a teacher’s salary, I couldn’t afford the MG, but I was able to at least partially satisfy my desire for one.