Used Jeep Wrangler buying guide

So, you’ve read the lowdown on the new Wrangler, but the asking price seems a bit too steep. You’re in luck, because there are hundreds of examples from past to present available, with prices starting from a mere R35 000.

With styling that’s instantly recognisable and an off-road heritage that stretches all the way back to the second world war, the Wrangler and CJ are motoring icons.

Finding the right car for you starts with an important question that will determine what model you buy and how it will be used going forward. Are you buying a piece of history you want to preserve, or will this be a weekend toy that’s going to express your personality to the world?

If you answered yes to either question, we’ve got you covered.

We looked at the hundreds of Jeeps on offer and found a few that will cater to the needs of distinguished collectors and oom Frikkie who simply wants to go play in the mud.

Frankenstein’s monster

1947 CJ-2A

A few of these first “civilian Jeeps” have survived through the years and are available either as whole, or as spare parts. If you’re willing to look around, you could easily put one together for R50 000.

The model we found is an empty shell, but we like to think of it as a blank canvas rather than a collection of rusty bodywork.

This Jeep’s basic body means you can make just about any engine fit in there. Buy a 2.7 Toyota four-cylinder and manual gearbox and you’re ready to go. With a curb weight of less than one tonne, you don’t need much to get it going.

Price: R35 000 (just the bodywork).

Year: 1947

Engine: A few options, but probably best to stick with tried and trusted.

Mileage: N/A

The Good: You could have any engine you want, including a Chevy V8.

The Bad: Small body, large V8 and no safety features. Could get nasty.

Completed project

You could skip the above step and buy someone else’s finished work.

There are loads of these examples around, but we recommend sticking to the CJ-7. It’s modern enough to be semi-reliable, but not so modern that you lose the ability to easily modify it with a spanner and some duct tape.

At this price point, one can also afford not to have mechanical sympathy, which, as we’ve stated before, is the best 4×4 driving aid in the world.

We found an early 80s CJ-7 body bolted on a Hilux chassis, complete with locking diffs front and rear and 2.2-litre petrol engine.

Price: R70 000

Year: 1980

Engine: 2.2-litre four-cylinder petrol, as found in the Hilux.

Mileage: N/A

The Good: It’s based on an 80s Hilux, so you know its good for 1000 years.

The Bad: Is it really still a CJ?

Bit more modern

The early cars look magnificent and can be had for a song, but if safety and comfort are main concerns, it’s worth investing a bit more cash.

Jeep Wrangler’s registered around the turn of the millenium retail from around R80 000 to R120 000, depending on mileage, condition and service history.

The majority of these models are powered by a 4.0-litre inline six, producing 140kW and 301Nm of torque. That’s decent, even by modern standards.

The automatic gearbox is tragic by modern standards, so stick to the five-speed manual option. This engine also had a bit of a drinking problem, averaging around 20l/100km.

It makes up for this habit by having power steering, air-conditioning, seat belts and airbags as standard.

Price: R88 000

Year: 2002

Engine: 4.0-litre inline six petrol

Mileage: 210 000km

The Good: Nearly as easy to live with as a modern Wrangler.

The Bad: The horrifying fuel consumption.

Collector’s item

Within the Jeep community, it’s a big deal if the engine and chassis number match. It immedialty escalates the value of the car by a huge margin.

The first CJ-2A we looked at was just a body worth R35 000, but what if it still had it’s original engine and gearbox.

One example is currently available in South Africa and it has been immaculately restored to better than original condition.

It’s fitted with the factory four-cylinder petrol, three-speed transmission and the steering on the left-hand side.

You know, the kind of car that’s only allowed out on special occasions…

It retails for R279 000, which may seem steep, but it can only go up in value as it gets older.

Price: R279 000

Year: 1947

Engine: 2.2-litre four-cylinder petrol

Mileage: N/A

The Good: It doesn’t get more authentic than this.

The Bad: You’ll be too scared to drive it.

Bargain hunting

For a car with iconic status, you’d expect the most modern Wrangler currently on sale in South Africa to cost a bit more…

Truth is, it’s a bargain, even if equipped with a few additional niceties, such as spotlights, alloys and replacment bumpers.

We found more than a few nice examples for sale at the R400 000 mark. In Rubicon specification, with a 3.6-litre V6 and an automatic gearbox.

As it they were made a mere four years ago, R400k Wranglers are equipped with navigation, Bluetooth, cruise control and even a reverse camera.

The engine is so perfectly suited to the car, Jeep is going to use it in the next model as well. It’s a bit heavy on the juice, but once you get it off-road it’s absolutely in its element.

Price: R389 900

Year: 2014

Engine: 3.6-litre V6 petrol

Mileage: 56 000km

The Good: Not as good as the brand-new car, but still a lot of car at R400k.

The Bad: Other than the fuel consumption? Not much.

Ultimate expression

Because the Wrangler is so easily modified, there are a number of examples out there that take it to the next level. You might have seen a few of them on display in this magazine before; Wranglers with Hemi V8s, massive tyres, replacement bumpers, roll cages, body kits and light bars.

These are the ultimate expressions of Wrangler, so don’t expect to pick one of them up for less than R1 million.

In return you’ll get a car that will turn heads and literally tower out above everything else in a parking lot.

Yes, it doesn’t make sense, but most of the finer things in life don’t.