Why Jeep? Why Now? Why Me? Why NOT?

I’ve always been a huge fan of Jeeps. A picture taken in 1984 depicts a child wearing a burgundy Jeep baseball hat while throwing rocks into the Rouge river, more proud of the hat than the ripples. That child is me, by the way, the same child that got a bunch of toy jeeps from Christmas ’84 on, a reliable gift that always brought joy.

It was my second cousin Rob that drove Jeeps; he was around enough that I caught on early that these vehicles are fantastic. Rob drove a CJ-7 Renegade, then switched to the CJ-2 Scrambler (“pickup-Jeep”), then on to a 2-door Cherokee Sport, etc… all as I paid close attention and dreamed of my first Jeep. It’s no wonder that in High School I once tried to drive my Volkswagen Jetta into a swamp, hoping so badly that it had locking hubs. It didn’t.

In fact, it wasn’t until Emily and I were married that we could finally get a 1993 ZJ (Grand Cherokee). We found it used and put a good 80,000 miles on it before trading it in for a ’97 ZJ, which I am driving now. Oh, and… there’s always the 1993 YJ, which we only had for a year. What a great year it was, too. But my lawn needed mowing and those riders aren’t cheap.

Incidentally, neither are Jeeps. And that’s my only rant: they hold their value too well. Try to find a Wrangler that you would trust your kids in for less than $3,000 and you’ve got your work cut out, thanks in part to the fact that these babies’ll rust up on ya!

So, if they’re not cheap and they tend to rust, why buy one? I struggle with the same question. It all draws back to that kid with the hat.

Here’s my pros and cons list for buying a Jeep:

PROS:

– Jeeps are Jeeps. This probably seems almost non-sensical. Because it is. Unless you like them.

– Jeeps are the original SUV. In fact, a Jeep Cherokee next to a Chevy Suburban looks like a School Bus parked next to a Fiat. You’re less likely to have an environmentalist throw paint on your not-very-gas-guzzling Cherokee.

– Jeeps are truly built to go off road. Sometimes you push a button and a truck is ready to go off road. You’re proud of this fact until you have to call your buddy… who happens to drive a Jeep… to get you unstuck. That happens quite a bit.

– Jeeps have a distinct smell. And I think it’s good. It smells sort of like a mix between front lawn and lunchmeat. Okay, that may not do the smell justice, but how do you really do a smell justice?

– There’s only one.

– The wave.

– Owner pride. People like me tend to stick with ’em. You don’t see the same level of commitment for, say, the Ford Explorer.

– the straight-6 4.0 L engine.

– You can find mechanics that specialize in Jeep repair. Yeah, you’ll still need to get it fixed. But Jeeps are unique, quirky vehicles that have their own way. Sure, this way has been adjusted as different manufactures (AMC, Chrysler, Daimler Chrysler, Chrysler, FIAT) have gotten their hands on it, but, for the most part, there’s enough love for Jeeps to learn the mechanics up, down, front, back. And flipped over.

CONS:

– Cost. Yeah. Mentioned that.

– The Compass.

– The Patriot.

– Space for tall people not unlike me.

– The mileage. New Wranglers get horrible mileage. It’s not like gas is cheap anymore.

– That smell of front lawn and lunchmeat can sometimes be mixed with the smell of hot, and that’s not good.

– The cost of accessories. If you need a new top, no problem — you can get them, but you’ll be spending about as much as you did on the Jeep itself.

– The cost of repair. A transfer case goes and you’re out $700. Transmission? Oh, set aside $1800. The engine, however, will run for eternity. And maybe that belongs on the PRO side. Yeah. I think it does.

– It’s hard to talk Emily into getting another one when we could buy a little car for 1/2 the price and 2-3 times the mileage. I agree. It wouldn’t be prudent.

So, there you go. I’m glad I got that off my mind.

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