What is the Best Generation of Jeep Wrangler to Buy Used?

April 17th, 2020 by

A tan 2017 used Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon with no roof is parked in a desert at sunset.

Looking for a used Jeep Wrangler? Well, you’re certainly not alone, there are plenty of drivers out there who are a big fan of this incredibly rugged SUV. Considering the Jeep Wrangler has been around since the mid-1980s, there are plenty of generations and models to a potential purchase. Many of our customers at McCluskey Auto ask us which model year would make the best purchase. It is a fair question to ask, especially considering that the Jeep Wrangler has changed a lot over the years. There are many things to consider when purchasing a used Jeep Wrangler, but many potential buyers opt for one of these SUVs because of their sheer capability. They offer substantial ground clearance, robust 4×4 drivetrains, and engines that won’t quit when put to the task. For this reason, our auto experts at McCluskey Auto have put together this brief guide to picking out the best generation of Jeep Wrangler.

How Long Has the Jeep Wrangler Been Around?

Before going into the details of which generation model of the Jeep Wrangler might make the best-used buy, we figured it’d be a good idea to look back at the history of the Jeep Wrangler. While the body styling and performance of the Jeep Wrangler may seem unique in comparison to other vehicles on the road today, it isn’t completely original. The Jeep Wrangler was born from the roots of its predecessor, the Jeep CJ series, which went out of production completely in 1981. The Jeep CJ Series was much like the Jeep Wrangler in that it was a rugged two-door SUV that specialized in the off-road experience. Even still, the Jeep CJ Series has a stylistic and performance makeup that goes all the way back to the Second World War, when Jeep was producing vehicles predominantly for the US Military.

So, the Jeep Wrangler has got deep roots, but what are the different generations within the Jeep Wrangler’s long history?

Generations of the Jeep Wrangler

A gray 2014 used Jeep Wrangler Willy's with no roof is facing away at the ocean.

The first generation of the Jeep Wrangler was the Jeep YJ. The Jeep YJ looked quite different than modern iterations and was in production from March 1986 until December 1995. The Jeep Wrangler YJ featured rectangular headlights, which was a huge departure from the classic round lights of models past. There was also reduced ground clearance in the Jeep Wrangler YJ as well as an increased focus on interior comforts, safety, and handling.

Following the Jeep, YJ was the Jeep TJ, the Jeep Wrangler’s second generation. The Jeep Wrangler TJ ran in production from January 1996 to July 2006 and returned to the styling so beloved in the Jeep CJ series. The Jeep TJ utilized a 4.0-liter inline-6 engine, as well as a coil-spring suspension, which replaced the previous leaf-spring suspension. Towards the tail end of the Jeep Wrangler TJ’s time in production, Jeep unveiled the first Unlimited model, which had a much longer wheelbase.

Replacing the Jeep Wrangler TJ was the Jeep Wrangler JK, which was in production from August 2006 to April 2018. For the first time, Jeep introduced a four-door model into the Jeep Wrangler series, which was a pretty big deal at the time. For much of the past, vehicles like the Jeep Wrangler and the Jeep CJ only existed as two-door models. Adding two additional doors was a complete game-changer for the brand. The Jeep Wrangler 4-Door JK Unlimited was a hit, providing substantial interior space, and a wheelbase that was 20 inches long.

Running today is the Jeep Wrangler JL generation, which expanded upon what the JK generation introduced. First issued for production in November of 2017, the Jeep Wrangler JL offers the same 2 and 4-door body variants. This generation seeks its power from a 3.6-liter V6 engine, as well as a 2.0L turbocharged inline-4.

From the 1980s till now, the Jeep Wrangler continues to be a massive hit amongst consumers across the board. And if you’re hoping to purchase one of these vehicles used, you’ll find plenty of models to choose from.

So, What Is the “Best” Generation?

The Jeep Wrangler JK Series

If you’re looking for a 4-door Jeep Wrangler that is a modern-day classic, we’d highly suggest the Jeep Wrangler JK series. While the newer JL series offers a four-door model as well, the JK series still gets that 3.6-liter V6 engine that provides plenty of power when needed. This slightly bigger engine really comes in handy when traversing over the rough terrain of the outdoors.

The Jeep Wrangler JK series also gets a considerable amount of ground clearance, measuring in 10.2 inches in total. Rear-drive is standard in the four-door version of the Jeep Wrangler JK, which is particularly useful if you want to take advantage of the Jeep Wrangler JK’s 3,500-pound towing capacity. With a 116-inch wheelbase, the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited JK is certainly spacious and is an optimal choice for any driver who wants a rugged Jeep SUV that also comes with top-tier comforts.

A blue 2017 used Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Chief Edition with a white hard top is parked on a dirt road outside Cincinnati, OH.

Jeep Wrangler YJ Series

If you’re a fan of classics, and you can catch one of the models passing through our dealership, we highly suggest the Jeep Wrangler YJ series. While newer models certainly come with their own appeal, there is nothing quite like the first Jeep Wrangler. The Jeep Wrangler YJ series sported a unique styling that few Jeep models have tried to emulate. The Jeep YJ series used a 2.5-liter or 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine (depending on the model year), and offered the option of an inline 6, to deliver some pretty decent performance across the board.

The simple leaf springs, and classic body frame, also makes the Jeep Wrangler YJ simple and easy to modify without breaking the bank. Better yet, the Jeep Wrangler YJ offered up a classic 4×4 drivetrain, which is hard to find in many modern off-road vehicles. So, if you’re in the market for a Jeep Wrangler that can handle its own off the trail, we’d recommend digging through our inventory to find a Jeep Wrangler from the YJ generation.

Buying a Used Jeep at McCluskey Auto

If you’re still unsure of which used Jeep Wrangler might best fit your automotive needs, our team at McCluskey Auto is here to point you in the right direction. Our team is made up of big Jeep fans who know all there is to know about the Jeep Wrangler line of SUVs, and there is a lot to choose from.

While we’ve focused on the generations of the Jeep Wrangler, there are many additional variations between each year of production. Fortunately, we provide plenty of models on our lot that you can check out first-person. We believe in the power of choices, and at McCluskey Auto, we pride ourselves in providing you with more than enough choices so that you can find the SUV of your dreams. On top of that, our services and parts department will help you keep that used model purring for hundreds of thousands of miles to come. We break the mold when it comes to dealerships, and are excited to blow your expectations out of the park. From used Jeeps to professional financing, we offer it all and more here at McCluskey Auto, here in Cincinnati, OH.

Posted in Used Cars