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Have You Ever Bought A New 4x4 Truck Or SUV?

Firing Order: I’ve always bought used 4x4s… except for one time.

I've owned numerous used 4x4s. Some of my friends might say most were more than used; they were used up. When I purchased my first one, a 1976 Chevy K5 Blazer, it was 8 years old. The next one was a 7-year-old 1977 International Scout II. Then came the 10-year-old Jeep Cherokee XJ. Through 1996, I had no desire to get a brand-new 4x4. But then I did something very uncharacteristic.

My First New 4x4 Was A 1997 Jeep Wrangler Sport

I was 33 years old when I purchased my first brand-new 4x4. That was a long time ago—I'm 57 at the time of this story—but there are some things in life you don't forget. The memory is as fresh as yesterday, as I recall spotting the black 1997 Wrangler Sport in a line of shiny new Wranglers at Lou Bachrodt Auto Mall in Rockford, Illinois. It was December 1996, and the northern Illinois weather was cloudy, cold, and damp. There were patches of glare ice in the dealership parking lot from recent thaw-freeze cycles. I remember that little tidbit because I almost slipped and fell as I angled over to the Jeep. I recall opening the driver door of that Wrangler for the first time and being greeted by the smell of new, mingled with the aroma of the canvas soft top. The Wrangler wasn't loaded with options. It had no A/C and a manual transmission. It was a "stripper" Sport model, and it suited me just fine. Even better, if I remember correctly, the price was around $17,600. I remember the test drive; how the warm air coming out of the heater smelled "new" and chased away the cold, the sound of the good 'ol single-file 4.0L as I rowed through the gears, and the sounds of outside noises permeating the soft top. It reminded me of a rental Wrangler I once had in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. The only things missing were the sound of stones shifting under the tires on the trail and the smell of pine.

A Wrangler Had Been on My Wish List for A While

A Wrangler had been on my wish list for a few years, but with a wife and young kids, the YJ was just too small. That changed with the larger TJ, most notably the overall width increase. The smoother ride of the TJ's then-new coil-spring suspension also grabbed my attention.

Pushed to Buy New After Dealing With Old

The thing that tipped the scales in favor of purchasing a new 4x4 was a busy work schedule—I was driving a semi full-time and freelancing for various newspapers and off-road publications—which left zero time to keep my 1984 Jeep Cherokee XJ running. And keeping that old Cherokee running took a lot of time. It was a never-ending wrenchfest. The XJ's 2.5L engine didn't like rain, snow, or cold; the rear brakes got grabby when wet; the heater core was leaking; the heater fan resistor was shot, the front axle vacuum disconnect was finicky, the clutch slave leaked, the driver door sagged, and on and on. And even all these years later, it's still painful to think about the frustration and financial decimation of rebuilding the Cherokee's five-speed transmission when it ground up some of its internals.

Adapting the Wrangler for Family Use

The Wrangler checked almost all the boxes for me. It was four-wheel-drive, a convertible, and fairly inexpensive. Of course, using a Wrangler as the main vehicle for a family had its challenges, but they were easily solved. We used a hitch receiver rack to haul gear and often used a 5x10 tilt trailer to carry our bicycles, dirt bikes, or whatever else. And when my oldest son broke both his legs in a dirt bike crash, the receiver rack easily carried his wheelchair.

Boomerang Back to Used

I never regretted buying the Jeep Wrangler, and it served our family well. But here's the thing: That Jeep was the first and last new 4x4 I've purchased. There's no denying the rush of owning a brand-new 4x4, but since then, I've reverted back to buying used 4x4s. I sold the Wrangler in 2003 and promptly replaced it with a very used 1992 Ford F-150 that came with a laundry list of issues and some rather unusual interior odors. I guess my love of old 4x4s never left; it was just on hold during a very busy time.

Have you ever walked away from an old 4x4 (figuratively or literally) and opted for new? If so, what was the catalyst to do so? Reliability? Power increase? Improved functionality? Size? Killer deal? Or have you been content with your old rig? Send me an email at the address below and tell me your story, and please include a photo of your 4x4, whether it's new or not.