It depends on what you are looking for. If you want a fun vehicle and you don't want all the bells and whistles then you will like this vehicle. It is fun to drive and easy to work on, which is important if you drive off-road in isolated areas and if something goes wrong you're on your own to fix it. This is a utility vehicle so you shouldn't expect it to a refined luxury vehicle. It may be a little difficult to get in and out of and have a pretty basic interior, but that simplicity is what makes it a great vehicle to drive in remote areas and allows for endless personal customization.
Its awkward getting in and out, leaves a lot to be desired in freeway driving, and gets poor milage, but getting behind the wheel changes your perspective. I've been driving mine for 19 years - they really do seem to last forever. The short wheelbase, wide track, and high center of gravity make for unsettled travel at 70mph, but it's a minimally compromised drive aimed at the off road. A turn off the pavement turns the just tolerable highway cruiser into the master of its environment. Even if you don't spend a lot of your time in the back country, it's alway there in the back of your mind.
I picked up a stock 97 TJ SE (2.5L, 5-speed, No A/C) with 140k for $4k. I then spent $8k and two years of hobby time on full lockers, gears, suspension, winch, rack, bumpers, etc, etc.
It is highly reliable; starts fast and never hicups. The engine is easy to work on, and striping out the interior bits is also quite easy for upgrades and fixes.
A Reman motor will only cost you $1500 and a weekend to swap it, or half that for a transmission, so long term cost to run it is dirt cheap, vs. the 6cyl w/auto at twice that price, or my 1/2 ton truck, which costs three times that to rebuild.
It's not plush or fast, but it crawls up anything, gets lots of admiration and ride requests! FUN!
- Lots of elbow room in the engine compartment
- Simple and durable interior
- Lots of aftermarket support
It's a Jeep. Any "improvements" will just be pricey comfort and convenience items for city folks trying to look like they off-road. Keep it simple, Keep it Jeep!
Bought my 97 wrangler SE a couple weeks ago with 115k miles on it. it had a 4" lift and 33x 12.5 tires on it. over all it is a fun ride and even better when i drop the soft top. the only issue i have is a common one with jeeps. the infamous death wobble. every now and then i the jeep will go into a violent shake that is only stopped by slowing down. after plenty of research i have found that is a moderatly easy and cheap fix. about $375. kevinsoffroad has kits for this specific problem that are supposed to fix it completely. i will be installing mine tomorrow and im sure ill see an improvement. even with this problem i still can rely on it for a everyday driver.
easy to drive, easy and cheap to fix, and its unstoppable offroad.