As car enthusiasts, we love to go fast and carve canyons. The lower and more nimble the car is, the better. But sometimes we get a call from beyond the tarmac begging us to go off-road for some adventure. And we all love to get dirty sometimes don’t we? That’s why we have cheap Jeeps!
Jeeps are all over the used market in pretty much any configuration you want. Want something that will last through the zombie apocalypse? There’s a Jeep for that. Want something to cruise the beaches with the top down? There’s a Jeep for that! Plus, if we all went out and bought a Porsche, Safari Porsche’s wouldn’t be as cool anymore. That’s why we want to give you list of cheap Jeeps you can own, to itch that adventurous scratch.
1996 – 2007 Jeep Wrangler – The Gold Standard
We’re starting off this list with the best! Then we’ll look at a few respectable Jeeps for your off-roading needs. That’s right, boys and girls, it’s time to look at the Wrangler. This is the off-road beast that we all know and love, the one that everyone has had fantasies of taking down to the beach, crawling in Moab or to your local campground.
The Jeep Wrangler is as old as the brand itself, and for good reason. It’s hard to find any other “best off-road SUV’s” list without the Wrangler making the cut. We can talk all day about the Wrangler’s history, from the very first Willy’s Jeep that inspired the brand’s identity and the Wrangler’s design, to the famous YJ’s and CJ’s, and the reason why you constantly see them whenever you’re down by the shore or in the backwoods. But, maybe that could be saved for another article.
For now, we’ll just talk about what you can expect when you’re looking for one of your own. The Wrangler is available in a few different configurations, from the classic two-door with removable soft-top, to the Wrangler Unlimited for the family conscience mudbug, all with both top- and doors-off driving or calm, protected driving in mind.
Almost all models you find are going to be powered by either Jeep’s legendary straight-six engine or a more modern V6. In any configuration, the Wrangler offers the ideal Jeep experience, a small wheel-base that’s perfect for climbing over rocks and curbs, with the aforementioned convertible options. You get to feel the wind in your hair and bugs in your teeth, if you’re into that.
Now, looking on the used market can be difficult purely because there are so many Wranglers to choose from. We decided to keep our search simple, looking for a two-door model with relatively low mileage. We found a 2002 model for $6,000. And considering the resale value on Wranglers, we think that’s a pretty good deal.
So, if you want to join in with millions of Wrangler owners out there, scoop one up while you can. Just make sure to wave to all your fellow Wrangler owners when you see them.
The Wrangler could be considered the first success story of the Jeep brand. It was easily identifiable, gave the manufacturer a face in the public eye, and became synonymous with off-roading. But then there’s the Wrangler’s younger brother, the Cherokee.
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1984 – 2001 Jeep Cherokee – Bread and Butter
The Jeep Cherokee was more sensible due to the fact that all of the doors and the roof stayed attached, and it brought Jeep into the modern age, giving the public a family SUV. Barring the first generation, which was actually a two-door with a sweet long rear window that flipped out depending on how it was spec’d, the Cherokee established the modern idea of what an SUV should be.
The design was unmistakable, and the unibody design still gave it the prowess off-road that buyers expected. The Cherokee was eventually replaced by the Grand Cherokee, instead of being sold as the Jeep Liberty in North America. The Grand Cherokee cemented itself as a “luxury off-roader” with niceties inside, and rugged, outdoorsy looks on the outside.
Most came with a 4.0-liter V8, and some could even have a 5-speed manual transmission. As with most other Jeep models, there’s a laundry list of different trim levels available with both the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee, including special editions to fit every need.
The Cherokee is another legendary off-road vehicle, proving Jeep has a talent for making really good off-roaders. So much talent that you regularly see Cherokees with insane mileage. 300,000 to 500,000 miles on one is not impossible.
So, we went looking for the cheapest running XJ we could find! And, lo and behold, we found one for only $1,000. It runs. It’s got a V8. It’s got 4-wheel drive. Cool red paint. And only an electrical gremlin to deal with! Sounds like a steal! Now, of course, you should spend more, but finding a running XJ ready for the less-beaten path for under $3,000 is par for the course.
The Cherokee is one of the most recognizable Jeeps ever made, but our next choice may help you command a little more respect on the trails. It’s the Jeep Commander.
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2006 – 2010 Jeep Commander – Going Commando
The Commander is as imposing as its name suggests. It’s a massive 3-row SUV made from 2006 to 2010, fully loaded to take you, your family, and your friends off the grid. The Commander was the top-of-the-line from the Jeep range, only two inches larger than the Grand Cherokee and fully loaded with all kinds of toys. Electronic stability control, traction control, electronic roll mitigation, back up sensors, UConnect infotainment system, a Boston Acoustics sound system, and heated seats for the first two rows of seats. Plenty of electronics to make sure you’re as well taken care of as possible on your way to the campgrounds.
Engine options were pretty sweet too. The same 3.7-liter V6 from the Liberty, and a larger series of V8 engines making up to 360 horsepower. Oh, and we should mention that the larger of the two engines is a 5.7-liter Hemi. The Commander also had three different four-wheel drive systems, each offering different off-road capabilities based on whatever tickles your fancy.
Quadra-Trac I required no driver input and was available on models with the 3.7-liter engine. Quadra-Trac II was a little more complicated, with a low range as well as a neutral position for towing. Quadra-Drive II is the most complex with an electronic limited slip differential for both front and rear axles, and skid plates for the fuel tank, front suspension, and transfer case.
So, whether you’re a casual weekend off-roader or you live and breathe mud and dirt, there’s a Commander for you. Now, I know you’re thinking that all of this comes as a cost right? Well, we may have a surprise for you, basically any Jeep that isn’t a Wrangler is insanely cheap.
And the Commando might be the most Jeep you can get for the money, especially if you get the Limited with a freaking Hemi in it for only $3,500! Sure, it’s got some miles, but you’re going to tear this thing apart anyway, why ruin a low-mileage example?
If you want to command attention on the trail, this is the SUV for you. Our next choice on this list will help you get over the rough stuff in classic Jeep style. The boxy bodies are back, baby, thanks to the Jeep Patriot!
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2007 – 2017 Jeep Patriot – Foxy Box
Our next choice is the Jeep Patriot, the little Jeep that was replaced by the Renegade. You may be asking why we’re including both the Renegade and its predecessor on our list. Well, it’s because they both offer the same small footprint ideal for off-roading. The Patriot is built off of the same wheelbase and chassis as the Compass, but the boxy styling may appeal to fans of older Jeeps. It sort of looks like a Jeep Cherokee that had its middle removed.
The compact SUV came with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder with just enough horsepower to get you over most obstacles. Available with either front-wheel or 4-wheel drive, but you’re obviously going to want the 4-wheel if you plan on doing anything off-road.
There isn’t much else to say about the Patriot. It’s a good all-round SUV for budding off-road enthusiasts. The boxy design is what is sure to draw people in, harkening back to the older days of squared-off Cherokees and older Wranglers. Nostalgia is a powerful thing, and that’s why we have this boxy little off-roader on our list.
The one saving grace of the Jeep Patriot is that it’s dirt cheap. You can find them under $10,000 all day. And if you want one with a stick shift, 4-wheel drive, and you aren’t afraid of a few miles, we even found one for about $4,000!
We’re on a little bit of a patriotic streak here, so let’s keep it going. The Liberty will help liberate you from any worries of getting stuck off-road. Man, that was cheesy.
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2002 – 2008 Jeep Liberty – ‘Tis Of Thee
The Jeep Liberty first came out in 2002 and wasn’t the best looking thing, but it did have a short wheelbase and fully independent front suspension, the first system used in a Jeep since the Jeep Wagoneer. The design of the Liberty was heavily based off of the Dakar and Jeepster concept cars.
Power originally came from a 2.4-liter straight-4 making 150 horsepower, but that was discontinued in 2006. From then on, the only option you had was the 3.7-liter V6 that made 210 horsepower. More power, more better! This version of the Liberty lasted until 2008, when the updated KK model was introduced. The new Liberty only had the V6 engine available, matted to either a 6-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic.
You could easily tow 5,000 pounds and ride in comfort with Sirius satellite, Bluetooth and a navigation system. Who said going off-road can’t be classy? Oh, and some models came with a Sky Slider fabric moonroof, so you get to watch the stars as you roll on down off the beaten path.
The best part of the Liberty? They’re cheap! You can get the first generations between $1,500 and $3,000! We even found a Renegade Edition Liberty for only $3,000! And it’s just getting started with a little over 110,000 miles!
This next choice isn’t much of Jeep at heart, but it still bears the legendary name. The Renegade lives up to the name, completely separating itself from the rest of the Jeep family.
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2015 – 2020 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk – Renegade of Funk
This is one of the more unusual Jeep models because it’s not really a Jeep. Let me explain. During the Renegade’s production, Chrysler had already started its relationship with Fiat. Chrysler, now known as FCA, was producing vehicles using shared parts. So, when we say that our next option is not really a Jeep, we mean it’s a Fiat. Yeah, big red flags there.
This is the Jeep Renegade, the baby Jeep that’s a more soft-road grocery-getter than off-road monster. But that doesn’t mean you should rule it out completely. You see, the Renegade is built off a Fiat platform. That platform is related to the Fiat 500X. Don’t stop reading just yet! We promise this will get better.
The Renegade was sold in either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Several different trim levels were available, but the one we want to focus on is the Trailhawk. The Trailhawk had the standard equipment from the Latitude, plus a badass-named TigerShark 2.4-liter inline 4-cylinder.
What makes the Trailhawk really special is the additional off-road-focused mods, including red-finished front tow hooks, off-road suspension, underbody skid plates, and a more rugged interior. Plus, the Trailhawk has removable roof panels, so even this half-French Jeep has classic Jeep open-top driving with an emphasis on freedom and feeling the open sky in your cabin.
How much does the baby Jeep cost? Well, because it’s a small Jeep that’s based off of a Fiat, you can’t expect to pay much. A 2017 Trailhawk edition costs around $12,000 with decent mileage. So, take your top off, head on down to the beach or campground, and feel the wide outdoors get even wider around you.
Okay, that may have left a bad taste in your mouth. Rebadged Fiats can do that. So, let’s wash that nasty taste out with something true to the Jeep name, and our little project for you to take and make your own.
Your Jeep Project – A V8-Powered CJ
Now, we’ve spent this entire list talking about Jeeps you can buy and immediately start daily driving. What if you’re looking for more of a toy? Something you really wouldn’t mind beating the crap out of on the backroads? Well, we have one for you.
The CJ is one of the many legendary Wrangler models made throughout its lifetime. Well, its recognizable as a Wrangler, but technically it’s a Willy’s model, made between 1944 and 1986. Available as either a two-door SUV, convertible or pickup truck, the CJ is a jack of all trades that came straight from the battlefield into civilian service.
The model you want to keep a lookout for is the V8 version. The V8 adds that extra power to keep up with other SUV’s, since speed wasn’t exactly the highest priority when Willy’s was designing something built for war.
Most CJ’s you find for cheap won’t be in the best driving condition, but that’s not what we’re looking for. Maybe you’ve already bought your daily after looking at this list? Anything found for cheap could have massive rust issues, cracked frames, or even some unwelcome pests living in the back seat. But once you make the purchase and put some love into it, a good CJ will prove to be one of those cars that you’d hate more than anything to sell.
You can find them for around $1,000, but it would be safe to have some money tucked away for some repairs. The joys of car ownership, am I right?
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