The Complete Jeep Buying Guide: How to Discover the Best Jeep for You

What is the best Jeep model for you to buy? Start your research process here.

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Jeep

There are many different SUVs (and one pickup truck) on offer at Jeep. That, of course, leads to the question: what is the best Jeep for you to buy?

Well, it's essential to start with a solid foundation of knowledge and research. Here, we present a complete overview of the Jeep model lineup from off-roading trucks and SUVs to family crossovers, including the brand's history and terminology.

This guide covers everything you need to know before buying a Jeep to help you arrive at the dealership prepared, confident...and possibly more knowledgeable than your Jeep sales associate is.

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The History of the Jeep brand
willys mb gear patrol
Jeep

Jeep is an American SUV and truck manufacturer and a division of Stellantis. 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. American Motors Corporation later bought that company in 1970, then Chrysler in 1987. Fiat Chrysler merged with Group PSA to form Stellantis in 2021.

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 industry 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 most robust sales ever.

Jeep Terms to Know
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Gear Patrol

4xe: Pronounced "4-by-eee." This is the branding for Jeep plug-in hybrids such as the new Wrangler 4xe.

Aftermarket: Parts and accessories manufactured by a third party.

Desert Rated: New badge created for the Gladiator Mojave that adds intense heat and sand resistance to Jeep's Trail Rated testing.

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 special 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.

Trail Rated: Badge given to off-road capable Jeep vehicles that meet a five-standard test for traction, water fording, maneuverability, articulation and ground clearance. Wranglers and Gladiators have a Trail Rated badge. Crossovers will have a Trail Rated version better for off-roading.

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.

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 enhanced off-road capability not found on the standard model.

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

Jeep Wrangler
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Jeep

The Wrangler is Jeep's iconic body-on-frame SUV. It descends from the original CJ line. The latest "JL" generation debuted for the 2018 model year. The Wrangler is the most off-road capable SUV in Jeep's lineup. Its capability and ample charm have outweighed concerns about driving dynamics. The Wrangler
has among the best resale values of any vehicle in the U.S. It has a new rival in the Ford Bronco.

Jeep offers two Wrangler body styles: the two-door and four-door "Unlimited model — now preferred by about 90% of buyers. You can buy a Wrangler with four and six-cylinder gas engines, a six-cylinder diesel, a four-cylinder 4xe plug-in hybrid or a Hemi V8 in the Wrangler 392. The 3.6-liter V6 gas Wrangler can come with a manual. All other Wranglers have an eight-speed automatic.

Engines: 2.0-liter inline-four turbo (270 hp, 295 lb-ft), 3.6-liter V6 (285 hp, 260 lb-ft), turbo-diesel 3.0-liter V6 (260 hp, 442 lb-ft), 2.0-liter inline-four turbo PHEV (375 hp, 470 lb-ft), 6.4-liter Hemi V8 (470 hp, 470 lb-ft)

Transmissions: 8-speed automatic, 6-speed manual

Models: Sport, Willys Sport, Sport S, Islander, Willys, Sport Altitude, RHD, Sahara, Rubicon, Sahara Altitude, High Altitude, Rubicon 392

Base Price: $29,070

LEARN MORE READ OUR REVIEW

Jeep Gladiator
jeep gladiator mojave gear patrol lead slide 1
Jeep

The Gladiator is Jeep’s Wrangler-based midsize pickup. It debuted as a new vehicle for the 2020 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.

Jeep fits the Gladiator with two engine options, a 3.6-liter V6 or a turbodiesel 3.0-liter V6. Like the Wrangler, the Gladiator can have a six-speed manual with the 3.6-liter V6 engine. Unlike the Wrangler, Jeep does not yet offer a hybrid or V8 version.

Engines: 3.6-liter V6 (285 hp, 260 lb-ft), turbodiesel 3.0-liter V6 (260 hp, 442 lb-ft)

Transmissions: 8-speed automatic, 6-speed manual

Models: Sport, Willys Sport, Sport S, Willys, 80th Anniversary, Freedom, Overland, Rubicon, Mojave, High Altitude

Base Price: $34,645

LEARN MORE READ OUR REVIEW

The Jeep Wrangler 4xe Is the Best Wrangler, Whether You Care About Gas MIleage or Not
Will Sabel Courtney

More powerful, more efficient and more fun, the 4xe is the Wrangler to buy.

LEARN MORE

Jeep Grand Cherokee
2022 jeep® grand cherokee summit 4xe
Stellantis

The Grand Cherokee is Jeep's midsize crossover SUV. It's perennially the best-selling vehicle Jeep makes. And the fifth generation is all-new for the 2022 model year. Currently, it is available with either V6 or V8 engines and either 4WD or FWD. A plug-in hybrid 4xe model is due to arrive in early 2022.

Unlike the Wrangler, Gladiator and Wagoneer, the Grand Cherokee uses a unibody crossover platform. But when equipped correctly in Trail Rated form, it can still be a formidable off-roader. Every trim is available as a three-row L model (see below) except the Trailhawk.

Engines: 3.6-liter V6 (290 hp, 257 lb-ft), 5.7-liter V8 (357 hp, 390 lb-ft)

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Models: Laredo, Altitude, Limited, Trailhawk, Overland, Summit, Summit Reserve

Base Price: $37,390

LEARN MORE READ OUR REVIEW

Jeep Grand Cherokee L
all new 2021 jeep® grand cherokee l summit reserve left and all new 2021 jeep® grand cherokee l overland right
FCA

Jeep debuted the fifth-generation Grand Cherokee with the three-row Grand Cherokee L. It's a rival for family SUVs like the Toyota Highlander and the Kia Telluride. The all-new two-row Grand Cherokee version will arrive later this year. The Grand Cherokee L can seat either six or seven passengers.

The Grand Cherokee L offers V6 and V8 engine options. A hybrid 4xe version should arrive soon. The Grand Cherokee L is also the first production vehicle in years to partner with McIntosh on a premium sound system.

Engines: 3.6-liter V6 (290 hp, 257 lb-ft), 5.7-liter V8 (357 hp, 390 lb-ft)

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Models: Laredo, Altitude, Limited, Overland, Summit, Summit Reserve

Base Price: $39,220

LEARN MORE READ OUR REVIEW

Jeep Wagoneer / Grand Wagoneer
jeep grand wagoneer 2022 model year on sale summer 2021
Jeep

The Wagoneer is Jeep's all-new full-size luxury three-row SUV, with a super-lux Grand Wagoneer version designed to compete with the Cadillac Escalade. Unlike the Grand Cherokee, the Wagoneer is a body-on-frame truck riding on the Ram 1500's pickup platform. And Jeep designed its interior to match with pretty much anything on the road.

The Wagoneer will have a lot of screens, tech and premium finishes, and the McIntosh audio system. The top-trim Grand Wagoneer Series III will start at a staggering $105,995. Does that all sound a bit much for a Jeep? Well, Jeep thought so too. The vehicles don't carry any Jeep branding on them.

Be aware: fuel economy is not a strong suit. The Grand Wagoneer earns just 15 mpg combined.

Engines: 5.7-liter V8 (392 hp, 404 lb-ft), 6.4-liter V8 (471 hp, 455 lb-ft)

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Models: Wagoneer Series I, Wagoneer Series II, Wagoneer Series III, Grand Wagoneer Series I, Grand Wagoneer Series II, Grand Wagoneer Obsidian, Grand Wagoneer Series III

Base Price: $59,995

LEARN MORE READ OUR REVIEW

Jeep Cherokee
jeep cherokee
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. It has a new rival in the Ford Bronco Sport.

The modern Cherokee is a compact crossover. It looks much improved after a 2019 facelift. It has three engine options and is available in either FWD or 4WD.

Engines: 2.4-liter inline-four (180 hp, 171 lb-ft), 3.2-liter V6 (271 hp, 239 lb-ft), 2.0-liter inline-four turbo (270 hp, 295 lb-ft)

Transmission: 9-speed automatic

Models: Latitude, Freedom, Latitude Plus, Altitude, Latitude Lux, 80th Anniversary, Limited, Trailhawk, High Altitude

Base Price: $28,135

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Jeep Compass
jeep compass gear patrol
Jeep

The Compass is Jeep’s less venerable compact crossover. It’s shorter than the Cherokee; the seating is more cramped, but it does offer more cargo capacity. A second-generation redesign in 2016 significantly 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.” Jeep eliminated the manual transmission option for the 2021 model year. The Compass can be equipped with FWD or 4WD. The Trailhawk model provides more extensive 4WD settings.

Engine: 2.4-liter inline-four (177 hp, 172 lb-ft)

Transmission: 9-speed automatic

Models: Sport, Latitude, Freedom, Altitude, 80th Anniversary, Limited, Trailhawk

Base Price: $25,240

LEARN MORE READ OUR REVIEW

Jeep Renegade
2020 jeep® renegade limited
FCA US LLC

The Renegade is Jeep's entry-level subcompact crossover. It's the smallest vehicle in the Jeep lineup, sharing more Italian DNA than its brethren. It is the only Jeep vehicle manufactured entirely outside North America.

Jeep facelifted the Renegade for 2019, including two significant changes. The company added a 1.3-liter turbocharged inline-four engine option. Jeep also dropped the Renegade's six-speed manual transmission. The Renegade can come in FWD or 4WD.

Engines: 1.3-liter inline-four turbo (177 hp, 210 lb-ft), 2.4-liter inline-four (180 hp, 175 lb-ft)

Transmission: 9-speed automatic

Models: Sport, Latitude, Freedom, Jeepster, 80th Anniversary, Islander, Limited, Trailhawk

Base Price: $24,965

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