What's the Cheapest New Wrangler?
We dig into the most inexpensive Wrangler.
Jeeps are obscenely popular. It seems like everyone and their sister has—or wants—a newish JK Wrangler, a newer JL Wrangler, or a JT Gladiator. We've driven these vehicles, and we understand the draw, but what are you getting for your money especially when you opt for the high-end models with all the bells and whistles? You can spend close to $70,000 on a new Gladiator. That's great if you don't mind large payments or have the cash to toss around, but what other options are there? Options for those of us who might like to pay off a Jeep at some point before meeting our maker, before the sun sets on that final Jeep ride still exist. What is the cheapest Jeep Wrangler model an enthusiast could buy? We'll follow that up with what you are missing out on, what you are not, and what it would cost to regain some trail cred in the least expensive Wrangler. Truth is, the bottom of the Jeep heap, a two-door Jeep Wrangler Sport is pretty darn capable off-road, and with a little modification it can be a bear in the woods.
The Cheap Jeep
The base price we found on Jeep.com for a white two-door JL Wrangler Sport with a soft top was $28,315 with a $1,495 destination charge. We assume any dealer will tack on some dealer fees and or new vehicle preparation fees to the top of that, and you have taxes to worry about.
Our local Jeep dealership, Moore Chrysler Jeep in Peoria, Arizona, had an MSRP of $31,510, with the only obvious (in Arizona) option of air conditioning ($1,295) and a $1,575 Moore discount available for a total online price of $29,935. Course, the fine print says there is also an $895 dealer prep fee, a doc fee of $479, plus tax, title fees, and license documentation. There is also a $1,000 fee for paying cash if you go that route; otherwise, the buyer must finance through this specific dealership and register the vehicle within the state to get the online fee. Is that enough catches, clauses, and payments?
What You Do and Don't Get With the Most Inexpensive Wrangler
You don't get a bunch of fancy options; you don't get the locking differentials, axle gearing or the 4:1 low range of a Rubicon. You don't get the upgraded shocks that more equipped Wranglers have. You won't get the 392 Hemi, the 2.0L turbo, the Eco Diesel, the 4XE hybrid system, or the 3.6L V-6 with eTorque. You will get the 3.6L V-6 with a six-speed manual transmission. You won't get the eight-speed automatic, the optional limited-slip rear differential, or the optional 3.73:1 gears (available with the 3.0L Eco Diesel). You don't get power windows or a hard top (on an open-top Jeep). You also probably will get the smaller rear axle, an axle that, like the JL Dana 44 (it's not really a 44), has been totally redesigned. Still, it's smaller than the JL Dana 44, which has a 220mm ring gear diameter, while the JL Dana 35 has a 200mm ring gear (larger than the old Dana 35) and has the unfortunate name of the JL Dana 35. Still, it's not a Dana 35 and has 29-spline axles (as opposed to the 32-spline of the JL Dana 44 and 27-spline axles of the old Dana 35). Up front this cheap JL will have the same axle as any non-Rubicon JL, an axle that should hold up decently but won't ever be a JL Dana 44 front axle. You also do get traction control that in our experience works pretty darn well off-road. It's not as good as full lockers, but it's less expensive.
Making the Cheapest Wrangler More Trail Ready
With our hypothetical inexpensive JL two-door Wrangler, we'd look into making some 37-inch tires fit. For that we'd head to Skyjacker for one of their Jeep Wrangler JL two-door 4WD 2-2.5-inch dual-rate long-travel lift kit systems with Black MAX shocks. This is a high-quality yet inexpensive kit that should help us clear 37s, although they may rub a little when flexed off-road. For tires, go for what works well in your area for the type of off-roading you want to do. You may also want to add a winch from Warn Winches, bumpers, rock sliders, and skidplates to save the belly of the Jeep from the trail.
Photo courtesy of Skyjacker
Skyjacker, 318.388.0816, skyjacker.com/