This third-gen Wrangler JK is one of the most popular of the modern Jeeps, as it brought numerous upgrades while retaining the design we all love. Bet
This third-gen Wrangler JK is one of the most popular of the modern Jeeps, as it brought numerous upgrades while retaining the design we all love. Better yet, since the fourth-gen Wrangler JL came out in 2018, used JKs are now more affordable than ever.
But should you buy a Wrangler JK? To help you make an informed decision, I prepared a brief buying guide, where I’ll talk about the best models in the lineup, reliability, and, crucially, running costs. Buying any secondhand vehicle means you’ll have to be prepared for more repairs, and the Wrangler JK is no exception. Fortunately, you can keep that under control with a Jeep Wrangler repair manual, provided you have some DIY know-how and do not worry about getting your hands dirty.
With that said, let’s dive in!
The JK Wrangler was produced from 2007 to 2018 and sold over a whopping 2.1 million units worldwide, holding the record for being the best-selling Wrangler generation ever — not a small feat.
Diesel and Gas Powertrain Options
During its first five years of production, the JK adopted Chrysler’s 3.8-liter EGH V6 engine, producing 202 hp and 237 lb-ft of torque. Jeep paired the engine to a 6-speed manual or 4-speed auto transmission, and you could choose between a RWD or 4WD configuration.
However, for the 2012 model and up, Jeep started using the more powerful 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine with 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. Moreover, the automatic gearbox was upgraded to 5 speeds, and 4WD became the only drivetrain option.
Jeep also offered a 2.8-liter turbodiesel from Italian manufacturer VM Motori, producing 177 hp and an excellent 302 lb-ft of torque. It’s by far the most efficient engine, and thanks to the strong pull from low revs, it works reasonably well on the trail. Still, it’s not as reliable as Wrangler’s gas engines.
While the traditional 2-door Wrangler looks fantastic, the JK was the first generation to offer a 4-door body style, and it was an instant hit. People loved the better practicality — getting to the comfier rear seats was easier, and the cargo space was much larger. Besides, you could configure both body styles with a soft-top or hardtop roof, which you can still take off if you fancy a convertible.
Jeep offered three trim packages for the JK Wrangler — X/Sport, Sahara, and Rubicon. The Sport (initially known as the X) was the base and most affordable package with limited standard equipment.
Meanwhile, the Sahara added a few features to make it look and feel more premium, like cruise control and stability control, larger 17-inch wheels, leather upholstery and heated seats, and a high-end sound system.
Finally, the Rubicon was a model geared toward the off-road enthusiast and included massive 32-inch all-terrain tires, Dana 44 front and rear axles, a disconnecting front sway bar, and a Rock-Trac part-time transfer case as standard.
In addition, Jeep would occasionally offer some special/limited edition JK Wranglers. However, they were still based on one of the three main trim packages with a few cosmetic changes and add-ons.
Things to Consider When Buying a Used JK Wrangler
History tells us the JK Wrangler’s resale value has been pretty steady. Older models from 2007-2011 with over 100,000 miles on the odometer may start under $10,000. But if you want a decently healthy JK as a daily driver, seek those with the newer engine (preferably the 2015 model year or younger) and under 80,000 miles mileage, which may cost you around $20,000-30,000 depending on the package and overall condition.
Worth noting, with the discontinuation of the 2-door Wrangler since 2017, this model has gotten a bit rare, especially the ones with the Rubicon trim. So you may have to pay extra for these models and do some more hunting to get your desired trim.
Maintenance and Repair Costs
Keep in mind that running a JK Wrangler is a bit costlier than most trucks of its size. Other than the poor MPG rating of 17 city/23 highway, RepairPal also stated its $694 annual maintenance cost is slightly above average for a compact/midsize SUV. Moreover, according to CarEdge, Wrangler’s questionable reliability meant there’s a 31% chance it’ll require a significant repair during its first ten years of service, which could easily add more dollars to that yearly running cost.
So to minimize the risk of facing those massive repair bills, you’d want to be extra careful with its maintenance. A section on the Jeep Wrangler owner’s manual should have the recommended maintenance plan you can follow to keep your SUV running smoothly (and if the owner’s manual didn’t come with your secondhand Wrangler, eManualOnline got some for cheap).
Model Years to Avoid
Although RepairPal gave the Wrangler a decent reliability score of 3.5/5.0, that wasn’t always reflected in some JK models. Not all model years were created equal during the 11 years of production; hence the reliability of each year may vary.
Notably, most of the earlier 2007-2008 models were cursed with issues like brake system failure, excessive engine oil usage, and the fearsome death wobble (a shaky steering wheel problem occurring at high speed due to unproperly fitted suspension parts). Additionally, the facelifted 2012 model also had frustrating and wallet-draining issues like TIPM failure, misfires, severe oil leaks, water leaks from the A-pillar, and a few electrical problems, causing the engine to stall occasionally.
Jeep anticipated those issues by doing several recalls on the faulty units. However, such problems may still reoccur anytime and are often unnoticeable when inspecting a used model. So it’s best to avoid those Wrangler years if you can.
Still, no one will blame you for finding a good deal and feeling prepared to face the troubles. The great thing about owning a Wrangler JK is the community, which can help you with any issue. And in addition to reading forums and meeting like-minded enthusiasts, you can acquire a cheap Jeep Wrangler service manual and fix any issue yourself. I have a close friend that owns a JK and a 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited service manual, which helps him with repairs even when he is in the middle of nowhere. For obvious reasons, he is also a star on Jeep JK forums.
But still, the safer route is to go for the 2015-2018 Wranglers. Not only did they get the newer engine and transmission, but with fewer complaints from NHTSA, it seems like Jeep had figured out how to fix some of those terrifying issues.
Buying a used vehicle can be a chore, but fortunately, it’s easier with a second-hand JK Wrangler. Since the online community is so strong, chances are high that you’ll find information on how the owner took care of the SUV and if it has some glaring issues. Sure, a detailed inspection is always recommended, but you’ll have much more information beforehand.
Besides, people tinker with these SUVs daily to improve their already stellar off-road ability. And fiddling with the JK Wrangler will inadvertently create issues, which you should then solve. It’s an ongoing battle to achieve a balance between performance and reliability, which is part of owning a JK Wrangler in the first place.
Hence, if you just want a dependable daily off-roader and you don’t plan on tinkering with it, you might want to have a look at the reliability champion, the Toyota 4Runner. For all other purposes, the JK Wrangler is a great SUV to own!