What's the best year (pre 2000) of Jeep Wrangler to buy?


I’m looking to buy a 2nd vehicle and like the idea of getting an old Wrangler to take camping and do a little off-roading in. Is there a year in the early to mid-90’s that is any better than another or perhaps a year that had more problems than others and ought to be avoided? I’m definitely looking for a manual/standard transmission. Thanks!


It really depends on what you think is important, but I personally would look for a TJ, which is 1997 or newer. These were a quantum leap over the previous YJ, primarily due to the improved suspension.

YJs were really modified CJs and had leaf springs on front and back. The TJs have coils and ride much better. It’s also very simple to do a 2" budget suspension boost which will let you run 32" tires.

The YJs and TJs through 2003 had the 999RH 3-speed automatic as an option. Don’t be too quick to disregard autos, especially if you are going to be doing offroading. Every Jeep discussion board has articles on how to replace your manual with either the 999RH or the AW-4 out of an XJ. I have had both auto and manual on my Wranglers and don’t see myself going back to a manual. The 3-speed is quite durable and can be rebuilt cheaply.

If the one you like best has been lifted or driven extensively off road, have it checked out by someone who is familiar with Jeeps. Both body and suspension lifts have potential issues that can result in vibration or “death wobble.” Just because it has been offroaded doesn’t mean it isn’t worth considering.

My advice would be to get the best TJ you can find. Rust hasn’t been a big problem but some of them can be pretty well beaten up from serious offroading.

You might also want to visit some of the Jeep forums such as wranglerforum.com, jeepforum.com and 4x4wire.com for some additional input.

Finally, don’t pay any attention to anyone who says to get a Toyota, Nissan, Hummer, etc. I’ve owned Jeeps since 1987 and have two now. Remember, there is a big difference between people who are Jeep owners and people who own jeeps. Jeep owners can be quite fanatic. Owning a Jeep is a Jeep thing and they just wouldn’t understand!


Skip the 1990 version with the 4.2L carb version. Its incredible offroad with an incredible amount of torque however is carb’ed. We owned two cars with this engine AMC Eagle and Jeep CJ-7 it always was hard to start and ran crappy along with poor fuel mileage AND no power when driving at upper speeds. The choke plate on both cars would jamb up due to worn carb body. The 4.0L is very reliable and offers the best of both worlds.


The real reasons for wanting the manual transmission are 1) I really enjoy driving a manual, much fun IMO and 2) I’m considering flat towing the jeep behind a Motor-home. I’ll definitely give some thought to the automatic though. There is a 97 for sale in my area that seems like it’s a decent deal. I’ll check it out. Thanks for the info, I’m going to go let my employer pay me to read up on those websites you listed. Thanks again!


Remember with a Jeep you just put the transfer case in neutral when you tow. You can leave the transmission in park or whatever. They are very easy to flat tow behind RVs.

I own a '97 Sahara. I do recommend the 4.0 6-cylinder as well.

Good luck with your purchase!