Stop! 5 Things to Check Before Buying a Used Jeep
When browsing used car dealerships in Colorado, a Jeep might catch your eye. Cherokees are among the fan favorites, and the Wrangler tends to stick out like a sore thumb on a car lot thanks to its legendary reputation. For some, buying used might mean changing your style. That style might be a Jeep. But, you have to stop and think about it for a second because buying a used Jeep is a lot different than buying other used car models. While it would be possible to use 90% of this blog and relate it to used car buying in general, Jeeps are a whole different animal. Why? Because, most of them have been used for off-roading. Therefore, you need to take extra care when inspecting these vehicles, and understand what exactly it is that you’re trying to buy.
With that in mind, here are five things to check before buying a used Jeep.
Like any car, the undercarriage should be the first thing you check on a used Jeep. This is a great way to tell how much life the vehicle truly has left. Without a frame for the vehicle to sit on, it’s useless. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if the vehicle has low transmission miles and a newly refurbished engine under the hood. If the undercarriage/frame is rusting through, or “rotting out” to use a more common term, then don’t buy it.
When it comes to off-roading vehicles like Jeep, you have a little bit more to look for. Most Jeeps have skid plates if they’re off-roading rigs. Skid plates are installed to help protect the guts of the vehicle from stumps, rocks, or any other hazardous objects found on the trail. Therefore, they’re going to take a beating. It’s important you take a look at the skid plates (if there are any) to see how hard the previous owner pushed the vehicle when off-roading. If they look like they’ve gone through years of punishment, it could indicate the Jeep is more worn-in than you might like.
Make sure to crawl all the way under and look for any scratches, scrapes, dents, or other signs of damage from hard trail use. Also, make sure to check for fresh paint, and recently replaced parts.
All of these are good indicators that the Jeep has been through some rough country. If you’re looking to get it for a fun daily driver and are inexperienced when it comes to repairing a used car, then you should look for a Jeep in better condition.
Modifications (If Any)
Perhaps the best (and most-fun) thing you can do with a Jeep is modify it. For those who might not understand the feeling, it’s like decorating for Christmas.
Therefore, you’re bound to come across a modded used Jeep Wrangler when perusing a used car lot. If you choose to buy a used modded Jeep Wrangler, you need to understand two things. First, it will be more expensive than a bare-bones Jeep. Second, there will be more parts you need to check.
Since these parts are aftermarket, the manufacturer doesn’t install them. There are dealerships with professionals where you can go to get them installed, but a lot of off-roading fans like installing the mods themselves. Which is great for them, but what if they installed a modification wrong, sold it, and the dealership failed to notice? Mistakes happen, and it’s your job to make sure you know what you’re getting. So first and foremost, check to make sure the modifications are installed correctly. If you don’t know how to check if the modifications were installed properly, then you probably shouldn’t be getting a heavily modified off-road Jeep in the first place.
One of the most common modifications that can be made is on the suspension. Therefore, check all parts of the suspension to make sure everything is ship-shape. This includes things like the bushings, control arms, and ball joints. That way, you can get a good idea of the condition of the suspension. A shot suspension (or close to being shot) is going to not only give you problems, but perform inadequately on and off the road.
Keep in mind, some off-road parts are purely aesthetic, but some affect the performance of the vehicle overall. Only buy a modded Jeep if you are looking to off-road. If you aren’t — or are just looking to start — it’s best to buy a used Jeep stock and get the parts put on or learn to install them yourself down the road.
Consumers will often overlook tires when browsing used cars. While you should make it a point to check them, it’s even more important on a Jeep. A little tire wear here and there is okay, but unless it’s a real killer deal on the vehicle, avoid a Jeep that has tires you’ll need to immediately replace. Especially if it’s an off-roading rig. Tires are already expensive enough, imagine how much a set of 33” tires would cost?
Apart form having extra costs added, it’s also important to go further when it comes to looking at the wear on the tires. Since different types of wear can indicate different problems, this is a good way to see what else might be wrong with the vehicle.
For example, if the tire tread is wearing unevenly on the edges or down the middle, this could indicate an alignment problem. If the front tires are more worn-down than the back tires, then they weren’t rotated properly. Meaning, the front-tires have been bearing the weight of the engine for the entirety of their life.
Point is, tire wear is not only expensive if you’ll need to replace the tires, but can also indicate a host of problems you might end up paying for.
I know, for those who are living down south, rust seems like a mythological creature to you. But, for those up north, rust is a real and serious issue thanks to the salt and sand put down on the roads in the winter. Naturally, a little rust is to be expected on a used vehicle. It’s once that little bit of rust here and there turns up in the cabin of the floor, trunk, or you can poke holes in the frame because of it that it starts to become an issue.
For Jeeps, checking for rust is even more important. Most likely, that Jeep your looking at (even if it’s stock) has left the pavement for some form of off-road action. Whether that was driving through the mud and getting the undercarriage caked in it or fording rivers. If the previous owner didn’t take care of it properly after repeatedly exposing it to these conditions, chances are it will have rust trouble.
If you do see a lot of rust on the Jeep, then it’s best to look for a different one because it’s just not worth the trouble and expensive repairs — if the repairs are even possible — so soon after you purchase it.
Just like other cars, checking for leaks should be a priority, too. Make sure to look at that used Jeep on a dry day so you can see any liquid that might be dripping underneath it.
Most commonly, the leaks you’ll see are engine oil and engine coolant. Check all of the hoses for any cracks, start it up, and see if you can see anything leaking out of the seals, and make sure to check under the vehicle like I said before.
Cars can spring leaks in many ways. But for Jeeps, all it takes is kicking a rock up the wrong way when it’s off-roading to split a hose, or potentially bust open the oil tank on a boulder in a rock-crawling-gone-wrong incident.
If you are vigilant about checking these five things on a used Jeep, chances are you’ll grab one that’s in good condition. If you decide not to buy a Jeep, make sure you look at any other used car with the same scrutiny.