Everything You Need to Know Before Buying a Jeep

Want a new Jeep? Start your research process here.

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Jeep

If you're considering buying a new SUV or crossover from Jeep, it's important to start with a solid foundation of knowledge on the brand's history, prevalent terminology and an overview of its current model lineup. This guide covers everything you need to know before buying a Jeep, to help you arrive at the dealership prepared, confident...and possibly more knowledgable than the sales associate you deal with.

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The History of the Jeep brand
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Jeep

Jeep is an American SUV and truck manufacturer. It is a division of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The company started when Willys-Overland began producing civilian jeeps, commonly abbreviated to “CJ,” after World War II. Willys received the trademark for “Jeep” in 1950 and merged with Kaiser Motors in 1953 to form Kaiser-Jeep. That company was later bought by American Motors Corporation in 1970, then Chrysler in 1987.

WWII-era Jeeps were designed to go anywhere. That plucky off-road capability has defined the Jeep brand since. The first CJs were boxy, two-door off-roaders, modestly upgraded from their military versions. Jeep expanded its oeuvre in later years, producing wagon-style SUVs like the Cherokee and Wagoneer. In recent years, Jeep has branched out further into road-dwelling crossovers. On various occasions, Jeep has also dabbled with pickup trucks.

Jeep helped initiate two massive automotive trends: accessorized off-roading, and the-SUV-as-family-vehicle. Recent moves to bring Jeeps more upmarket and make them more practical have led to the division’s strongest sales ever. Jeep is not just FCA’s most valuable brand; by some estimates, it may be more valuable than the entire rest of the FCA lineup combined.

Important Jeep Terminology
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Gear Patrol

Aftermarket: Parts and accessories manufactured by a third party.

Air Conditioning Bypass: Jeep lists air conditioning as a $1,295 option on the base “Sport” model of the Wrangler. The standard has “air conditioning bypass” selected. This allows Jeep to market the Wrangler with a base price below $30,000.

Death Wobble: A heavy shaking of the front suspension and steering components. It happens when a solid axle-equipped vehicle hits a large bump at highway speed. Whether and why it happens is controversial, and tied up in lawsuits. It’s rare, not as dangerous as the name suggests, and can be resolved by stopping the vehicle.

Jeep Wave: A social convention where Jeep Wrangler owners acknowledge one another on the road with a quick wave. Not applicable to other Jeep vehicles. Also a Jeep owner membership program with select benefits.

OEM: Original Equipment Manufacturer. Jeep has been a forerunner of OEM customization, grabbing profits from the robust Wrangler aftermarket by accessorizing its vehicles in-house.

Solid Axle: The Wrangler uses a dependent “solid axle” suspension, instead of the independent suspensions found in most cars. Opposing wheels are connected by a bar into a single unit. This setup offers advantages for off-roading. It is simpler and easier to repair. But it also hampers on-road ride quality, which is why other Jeeps converted to independent suspensions.

Some of Jeep's Unique Trim Levels
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Jeep

Jeep offers many trim levels, often with names that sound evocative but don't explain what they are. (And sometimes they combine them into new trims — i.e. the Sahara Altitude merges those two trim levels into a separate one). Here are a few examples to help clear things up.

Altitude: An appearance upgrade offering slick, trendy blacked-out detailing.

Black and Tan: A Wrangler variant with black paint and a tan top and upholstery.

Freedom: A variant of the Wrangler Sport S that pays tribute to members of the armed services.

High Altitude:
A high-end luxury edition.

Jeepster: A variant of the Renegade Sport with visual upgrades.

Mojave: Like the Rubicon, but designed more for high-speed desert running. Only available on the Gladiator, for now.

North Edition:
Models with cherry-picked features for colder climates, like heated seats and tow hooks.

Overland: A premium luxury trim offered for the Grand Cherokee, Cherokee, and Gladiator.

Rubicon: A premium off-road performance trim for the Wrangler and Gladiator. These vehicles come loaded with upgraded 4×4 systems and heavier-duty components for leaving the pavement.

Sahara: A premium trim.

Summit: A top-tier luxury trim for the Grand Cherokee starting above $50,000.

Trailhawk: An upgraded trim level for the Grand Cherokee, Cherokee, Compass and Renegade. It offers a distinctive off-road style and an enhanced off-road capability not found on the standard model.

Upland: A styling variant trim for the Grand Cherokee, Cherokee, Compass and Renegade. It incorporates off-road style from the Trailhawk without the performance upgrades.

Willys: A retro-inspired off-road trim for the Wrangler.

Jeep Wrangler Shopper Overview
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Jeep

The Wrangler is Jeep’s iconic body-on-frame SUV, descended from the original CJ line. The latest “JL” generation debuted for the 2018 model year. The Wrangler is the most off-road capable SUV of Jeep’s lineup. Its capability and ample charm have outweighed concerns about efficiency and on-road driving dynamics. The Wrangler has among the best resale values of any vehicle in the U.S.

There are two versions: the two-door and the four-door. The latter has become the preferred option for most buyers. The Wrangler offers three powertrains: a base 285-horsepower 3.6-liter V6, a 268-hp 2.0-liter inline-four turbo with and without an eTorque mild hybrid system, and a 3.0-liter turbodiesel that makes 260 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque. The four-pot and diesel get better gas mileage, but it only comes with the eight-speed automatic. You need the V6 to get the six-speed manual.

Models:
• Sport
• Willys Sport
• Sport S
• Black and Tan
• Sport Altitude
• Willys
• Freedom
• Sahara
• Rubicon
• Sahara Altitude
• North Edition
• Rubicon Recon
• High Altitude

Available Engines:
• Turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four
• 3.6-liter V6
• Turbodiesel 3.0-liter diesel V6

Base MSRP: $28,045

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Jeep Grand Cherokee Shopper Overview
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Jeep

The Grand Cherokee is Jeep’s range-topping midsize SUV. The fourth-generation Grand Cherokee, which launched for the 2011 model year, has been a strong seller. It uses a 3.6-liter V6 engine making 295 hp. Upper trims can be optioned with a 5.7-liter V8 making 360 hp. The Grand Cherokee can come with either 4WD or RWD.

The Grand Cherokee has two additional on-road performance editions. The SRT uses a 6.4-liter V8 making 475 hp. The Trackhawk edition employs a supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi V8 making 707 hp and accelerates from 0-60 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds.

Models:
• Laredo E
• Upland
• Altitude
• North Edition
• Limited
• Limited X
• Trailhawk
• Overland
• High Altitude
• Summit
• SRT
• Trackhawk

Available Engines:
• 3.6-liter V6
• 5.7-liter V8
• 6.4-liter V8
• Supercharged 6.2-liter V8

Base MSRP: $32,195

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Jeep Cherokee Shopper Overview
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Jeep

The Cherokee is a storied nameplate in Jeep history. The XJ generation (1984-2001) modernized the SUV with its unibody construction. That vehicle then spent two generations as the Liberty before Jeep revived the Cherokee name for the fifth generation.

The modern car is a compact crossover. It looks much improved after a 2019 facelift. The Cherokee has three different powertrains: a base 2.4-liter inline-four making 181 hp, a 3.2-liter V6 making 271 hp and a 2.0-liter inline-four turbo making 270 hp. It comes with either FWD or 4WD.

Models:
• Latitude
• Latitude Plus
• Upland
• Altitude
• Latitude Lux
• Trailhawk
• Limited
• North Edition
• High Altitude
• Trailhawk Elite

Engines:
• Turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four
• 2.4-liter inline-four
• 3.2-liter V6

Base MSRP: $25,740

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Jeep Compass Shopper Overview
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Jeep

The Compass is Jeep’s less venerable compact crossover. It’s shorter than the Cherokee; the seating is more cramped seating, but it does offer more cargo capacity. A second-generation redesign in 2016 greatly improved the aesthetics, converting it from a Dodge Caliber look-alike into a baby Grand Cherokee. Not coincidentally, sales improved dramatically.

There’s only one Compass engine option, the 180 hp 2.4-liter inline-four known internally as “Tigershark.” Most trims offer a disliked nine-speed automatic transmission, though lower trim Sport and Latitude versions come with a six-speed manual. The Compass can be equipped with either FWD and 4WD; the Trailhawk edition provides more extensive 4WD settings.

Models:
• Sport
• Latitude
• Sun & Wheel
• North Edition
• Sun & Safety
• Altitude
• Limited
• Trailhawk
• High Altitude

Engines:
• 2.4-liter inline-four

Base MSRP: $22,095

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Jeep Renegade Shopper Overview
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Jeep

The Renegade is Jeep’s subcompact crossover. It’s not technically “entry-level,” as it starts out a hair more expensive than the Compass — but it’s Jeep’s smallest vehicle. The Renegade has more Italian DNA than its brethren, and is the only Jeep manufactured entirely outside North America.

The car received a facelift for 2019, with two big changes. It added a 1.3-liter turbocharged inline-four engine making 177 hp as an alternative to the 2.4-liter Tigershark shared with the Cherokee and the Compass. The Renegade also dropped the optional six-speed manual. It can come with front- or four-wheel-drive.

Models:
• Sport
• Jeepster
• Orange Edition
• Upland
• Latitude
• Altitude
• North Edition
• Trailhawk
• Limited
• High Altitude

Engines:
• Turbocharged 1.3-liter inline-four
• 2.4-liter inline-four

Base MSRP: $22,275

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Jeep Gladiator Shopper Overview
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Jeep

The Gladiator is Jeep’s all-new Wrangler-based midsize pickup. It currently comes with one engine option, the 285-hp 3.6-liter V6, for now, although a turbodiesel V6 is forthcoming for the 2021 model year.

The truck is intended to be a direct competitor for the Toyota Tacoma and the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2. It’s projected to rival the Taco and the Wrangler for the best resale value of any used vehicle in the United States, which should make it affordable to lease.

Models:
• Sport
• Sport S
• Altitude
• Overland
• North Edition
• Rubicon
• Mojave

Engines:
• 3.6-liter V6

Base MSRP: $33,545

Learn More

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