Used Jeep Buyer's Guide Just driving a new car off the dealer lot typically results in an instant several-thousand-dollar loss of value. So maybe you've decided to go with a used '07-present Wrangler or Wrangler Unlimited (four-door) to save a few bucks. Many people often wrongly believe that they should avoid the first year of a new model. In some cases it can be a good move, but the truth of the matter is that there are often continual running changes made throughout the model years. For example a mid-year '08 may be pretty much the same as an early '09.
The '07 JK has an advantage, or disadvantage, depending on who you talk to. From 2008 on, the Wrangler received tire-pressure monitors in the wheels. The sensors are expensive (compared to a common rubber valve stem), and the system can be a pain in the ass when aftermarket tires and wheels are swapped on. However, the system can be altered or completely deactivated with aftermarket controllers, so don't let it be a deciding factor. We have an '07, so of course we're a little biased.
Besides the tire pressure monitor, available colors and minor trim pieces, there really are not that many changes from '07-'10. All of these Wranglers have the same 3.8L engine, all of them have the same six-speed manual or four-speed auto, and all of them have the same reliable NV241 transfer case and axles unless you opt for the Rubicon model. With that you get Dana 44 axles all around and a 4:1-geared NV241OR transfer case. Most JKs have 4.10 axle gears, although a few will have the less-desirable 3.21 gears. The six-speed manual tranny will typically get about 1 mpg better fuel economy over the optional four-speed automatic. If you're going to hack your new JK up anyway and plan to swap the engine, tranny, T-case, axles and so on, then maybe look for a good deal on a two-wheel-drive version. Overall, the real difference will be in how well the '07-present Jeep in question has been treated and maintained.
As with any used car purchase, check the basics. Inspect the engine and automatic tranny oil. Does it smell burned? Is it really dirty from poor maintenance? Is it foamy from water contamination? Are the tires worn, is there any visible body damage, are there missing parts, and so on.
Look for and avoid Jeeps with mud and other debris packed into strange places, especially in the interior. Check the vents, under the carpet, and anywhere that might lead you to believe it's been left out in a flood or hurricane to become a submarine. If you see any signs of submersion, it's best to find a different Jeep.
Looking at the underside of a Jeep is a good way to understand its history. Eyeball the front end from a distance. Do the tops of the tires lean in? Bigger tires and speedy off-road adventure in a JK can result in a bent front axlehousing. Are the framerails and crossmembers packed with mud? Is the muffler dented? Do the control arm brackets, frame, and crossmembers look bent, twisted, and jagged like they've been dragged over an industrial cheese grater? Have the track bar brackets been broken off and rewelded? If so, the Jeep shouldn't fetch top dollar. There are plenty of clean JKs out there, so don't fall in love and pay full price for a Jeep that's not like new.
Check the hard top parts. Do they look like they have been removed and tossed around by gorillas at the airport? Are the seals cut, worn, missing, or damaged from poor handling and storage? Do the soft top window zippers function properly? If the doors have been removed and poorly handled, you'll notice paint chips missing around the hinges and the outside edges.
The MyGIG multimedia radio and navigation system found on the '07 to '09 models may seem like a cool feature, but it's notoriously finicky and unreliable. You'll likely be much better off with an aftermarket navigation unit. Look for the single CD player or six-disc CD changer. Both units feature an auxiliary input jack for MP3 players and iPods. The jury is still out on the new Uconnect multimedia head unit found in the '10 Wrangler.
Inspect the tailgate and spare tire carrier for damage, especially if a larger aftermarket tire and wheel has been bolted up. Even more so if a spacer was added. A JK spare tire spacer and a heavy spare can cause many problems, ranging from a cracked spare tire carrier to a bent tailgate and broken spot welds in the tailgate itself. You can run up to a 35x12.50R17 on the stock tailgate-mounted spare tire carrier as long as you use a 17x8.5 wheel with around 4.5-4.7 inches of backspacing. It fits with the stock rear bumper if you deflate the tire. For 36-inch and bigger tires, the JK should have a bumper-mounted swing-out spare tire carrier.
As with any used car purchase, take the Jeep for a test drive and try out every lever, button, knob, and switch to make sure they function properly. Try the four-wheel-drive system either in a dirt lot or in a parking lot. If it's a Rubicon model, make sure the lockers engage and disengage and that the sway bar disconnect functions. A more thorough inspection up front will save you time, money, and frustration in the future.
New for 2010
• Available Uconnect navigation with UConnect phone, six-disc stereo, MP3 player and SIRIUS Satellite Radio
• Available power windows and door locks are designed so that doors may be easily removed
New for 2009
• Sunburnt Orange Pearl Coat
• Deep Water Blue Pearl Coat
• Drop-in bin added to full center console
• Storage nets added to lower center stack and side of center console
• ULEV II emissions replace LEV II emissions on manual transmission vehicles
• Standard Hill-Start Assist (HSA) prevents rollback on steep surfaces
• Available Trailer-Sway Control monitors vehicle movement relative to the intended path and activates the Electronic Stability Control (ESC) if the trailer begins to sway outside set parameters
New for 2008
• Sahara Appearance Group - 18-inch aluminum wheels, bright steering-wheel spokes and air-conditioning outlet rings, front and rear bumper overlays
• Detonator Yellow exterior color (Wrangler X and Rubicon models)
• Sunrider soft top standard on Sahara and Rubicon models
• Remote Start available
• Tire-Pressure Monitoring (TPM) system standard
• Right-hand drive Wrangler X available for U.S. and Canada