Best Used Winch Values for Your Jeep
These are some of the best deals in used winches
Body and undercarriage armor, winch, lift, and tires in that order: Those are the first four modifications we recommend to anybody asking, "Where should I start my Jeep build?"
Notice that a winch is before fancy lighting, chrome geegaws, and bigger tires and a lift. Why? Because as long as your rocker panels, undercarriage, and body is fairly well protected, there aren't many trails we can think of that we wouldn't hazard driving an otherwise stock Jeep over, providing it had a winch to get us unstuck.
There are dozens of good quality winches available on the market today with pull ratings reaching up to and over 10,000 pounds. But despite Moore's Law permeating into the world of winches, the old rule of thumb that says your winch should be capable of pulling at least 1.5 times the weight of your fully loaded (gear and passengers) vehicle still rings true.
For most Jeeps that weigh between 3,000-6,000 pounds, that means any of the number of 8,000- to 9,500-pound winches that have been on the market for the past several decades will provide more than ample pulling power. So don't feel obligated to cram a 16,500-pound winch on your early CJ. Although by now the bugs have been worked out, we'd advise steering clear of winches equipped with early MOSFET control boxes unless you really know what you're buying since the earliest versions could suffer issues. It's much easier to replace a faulty solenoid than a printed circuit board. With that said, here are some of our favorite options you'll find on the used winch market.
WARN XP SERIES
The Warn XP series of winches are a top-shelf performance winch still manufactured today. With a 9,500-pound rating, a super-fast 6-hp motor, and an external control pack that can be remote-mounted off the winch for a compact, sleek install, it's hard to do better. These winches sell new with steel cable for about $1,500, so finding a used one at a fraction of that price gets you a whole lot of bang for your buck.
SUPERWINCH EP SERIES
The Superwinch EP series of winches can be found with 9,000-pound rating and feature an external solenoid pack, a 4.6-hp motor, and all the performance features you'd need like an automatic load holding brake, ability to power in and out, and so on. They're not as common on the used market as Warn and Ramsey winches, but Superwinch still stocks replacement parts and if you stumble on one for sale they're well worth a couple hundred bucks.
WARN POWERPLANT 9.5
Sadly, no longer in production, the Warn Powerplant was an ingenious design that featured a high-performance twin-screw compressor mounted atop a premium Warn winch. By flipping a lever on the front, the electric motor was disengaged from the winch planetaries and instead powered the compressor. Warn Powerplants are exceptionally well-built, and the air compressor is quite fast. Their big downfall was their height. Unless you're using a submerged winch mount, a Powerplant can easily cover over two-thirds of the grille. Additionally, because of its operating design, you can't really use the compressor to power an onboard air system that continually pressurizes the system while driving, so if you're running air lockers you needed an additional compressor for that function. Still, there are thousands of Powerplants floating around on the used marketplace. We see them for sale sometimes as little as $800, which is a small fraction of what they sold for new.
WARN M SERIES
The Warn M-series of winches is a no-nonsense, no-frills workhorse that has been in production for decades and is still manufactured today. Available in a variety of pulling ratings, it's very easy to stumble on a 6,000- or 8,000-pound version that's perfect for use on a Jeep. These winches feature simple externally mounted solenoid packs and durable motors and drivetrains. Replacement parts are offered from Warn.
WARN XD SERIES
Like the XP series of high-performance Warn winches, the XD series features high-performance motors, fast line speeds, powerful planetary gearing, and exceptional longevity and durability. Over the years, there have been different motors and other small changes made to the XD lineup, but pretty much any Warn XD will be a great winch that will last well past the life of the average Jeep.
WARN VR SERIES
Still manufactured today, the VR series is Warn's affordable offering to the winch community. Manufactured in the US with imported parts, the VR series is available in several versions including the 10,000-pound version shown, which is extreme overkill for the 3,200-pound Wrangler to which it's mounted. The Warn VR series uses standard Warn winch controllers and can be had with Warn's excellent Spydura synthetic winch line. If you're looking for Warn quality at a less-than-Warn price, a used VR Series winch is a great way to get your foot in the quality winch door for only a couple hundred bucks.
BELLEVIEW/WARN 6000/WARN 5687
Not to be confused with the Warn 8200s, these predecessors to the exalted Warn 8274, were initially built by the Washington-based Belleview company for a number of years before the company was purchased by Warn and dubbed the Model 6000, M6000 series. These 6,000-pound-capacity winches were eventually upgraded to 8,000-pound capacity and renamed once again to the Model 5687, M8000 series. In reality, there are only few differences between any of them. Lumped affectionately under the simple name, Belleview, these old-school winches lack many of the modern conveniences winch operators have come to expect like remote control, an automatic brake, and the ability to reverse under power.
Replacement cables to operate the winch functions are available, but these winches won't hold load on the cable because of the lack of internal brake, so you must be sure the external brake components are there or be prepared to fabricate something. Although these winches require a greater understanding to properly operate and lack the convenience of a modern winch, they can often be scooped up for less than $100 and make the perfect period-correct complement to an older Jeep build.
"What the hell is a Tabor," you may be asking? Before Warn had its VR Series value line of winches, it offered these well-built Tabor units assembled from imported parts. We ran a Tabor 9K on the front of "Project Why-J" for about 10 years, using it to recover a couple rollovers and pull countless Jeeps up steep climbs. We're here to tell you these little winches, though uncommon, are one of the biggest bangs for the buck in the import winch field. With an external solenoid pack and simple twist engagement knob, the Tabor is simple, compact, easy to package, and durable. If you find one at a good price, don't hesitate to stab it on the front of your build.
SMITTYBILT XRC Series
Smittybilt winches are one of the least expensive winches on the market which we'd still consider reliable. At only $300 brand new, we're not exactly sure what these winches fetch on the used market, but even at half the cost of a showroom-fresh model, any Smittybilt XRC is gonna be a bargain. These winches can commonly be found in 8,000-, 9,500-, and 10,000 pound versions. We absolutely punished an 8,000-pound Smittybilt XRC8 over a year of testing and never had a hiccup. The winch sounds kind of funny when it's running compared with a more expensive winch, but they just keep chugging along.
Mile Marker is one name in winches that's easily overshadowed by the marketing blitz of other manufactures, but these relatively simple winches odder good performance value for the dollar. We ran a PEC8 8,000-pound unit for a couple trail rides and had no complaints. With pricing on the company's new SEC line of winches coming in well under $700, we expect you can find some real bargains on a used Mile Marker that won't bust the budget.
RAMSEY PRO/PLATINUM/PATRIOT SERIES
Ramsey winches kick ass, especially the older Pro, Platinum, and Patriot Series from the mid-to-late-1990s and onward. Offered in 9,000 and 9,500 pound capacities, we've been running these winches for 20 years without so much as a hiccup. This author used a Patriot 9,500 to haul a 5,500-pound Ramcharger up the waterfall on Upper Helldorado and tug a 10,000-pound Super Duty on 46-inch Micheline XML tires during the third Ultimate Adventure event, so you can imagine tugging a little Jeep around the trial wouldn't be a big deal for one of these winches. These integrated solenoid pack winches are super durable, dependable, and powerful.
RAMSEY RE SERIES
More commonly found on the back of flatbed tow trucks, the industrial Ramsey RE series winches are strong, no-nonsense workhorses that were actually offered as a dealer-installed option on some fullsize Jeep models. Although the winches themselves can be found relatively easily, the mounting brackets for 1970s-1980s era fullsize Jeep pickups, Wagoneer, and Cherokee Chiefs aren't all that common. If you see something like this for sale in your local or online parts trader, just the brackets alone could be worth the price of the winch. Expect to pay between $300 and $800 for a working RE FSJ setup like this, with most of that price going towards the brackets.
Before the advent of electric winches, engine-driven PTO winches that were connected to a power take-off (PTO) unit on the transmission or transfer case were common. A PTO winch can be extremely fast and surprisingly powerful, but you do need to be able to have the engine running to operate it. Still, if you've got the ability to affix a PTO unit to your manual transmission or transfer case, a PTO winch like this old Ramsey unit that came on a 1948 Willys pickup we purchased can be a great period-correct and highly functional part of a vintage Jeep build. We've seen dual-output PTO units for Spicer 18 T-cases sell for an average of $150-$300 depending on rarity and PTO winches as little as $100-$400. Expect to perhaps pay more for rarer models or units in pristine condition.
Not to be confused with its Warn 8200 predecessor that sort of bridged the gap between the 8274 and Belleview winches, the 8274 is the granddaddy of all modern performance winches and is still manufactured by Warn today. Rated at a laughable 8,000-pounds, the upright 8274 delivers absolutely blistering line speeds with all of the modern winching conveniences one would expect like a remote controller, break, ability to power out under load, and more. Although a brand new 8274 is quite expensive, we've seen used winches in need of repair for under $150 and good working units for around $700. Warn still stocks pretty much any replacement part you'd need to repair or upgrade an older 8274 going back to when the winch was introduced in 1974, so there are plenty of good deals out there to be had if you're able to do a little repair work yourself if the winch you find needs something.
WARN SDP 6000
Warn's little 6000-pound sleeper, the SDP 6000 stands for "Short Drum Portable." These winches were intended to mount on a cradle that came with the winch and have a quick-disconnect connector system that can easily be run to the front and rear of any vehicle, allowing the winch to be plugged into any 2-inch receiver hitch. We've used this same SDP 6000 Warn as our dedicated trailer winch, as well as having it hard-mounted for a couple years on a 1971 CJ-6 project rig. The short drum holds 50 feet of 5/16-inch wire rope, and the little winch features the same 4.6hp motor that powers the larger winches. We've used this little workhorse to haul dozens and dozens of vehicles up onto our trailer deck as well as on the trail either hard-mounted to the '71 CJ or on its Warn cradle plugged into the receiver hitch of a TJ Wrangler. Trust us, if you find one of these little winches for sale, scoop it up. You'll always find a use for it, and the pulling power will surprise you.