In 2002, the Jeep Liberty replaced the much-loved Jeep Cherokee model. After a strong 11-year run, however, Jeep will be sending the Liberty out to pasture and reincarnating the Cherokee in its place. The 2014 Jeep Cherokee won't simply be a refreshed, rebadged Liberty, though. It's all new and shares virtually nothing with the outgoing Liberty it replaces. If you are shopping for a used SUV, you should know that there is no 2013 Jeep Liberty, 2012 was the last year for the Liberty.

This model change poses a difficult question for buyers: Opt for a certified pre-owned (CPO), tried-and-true Liberty or wait for the new Cherokee this fall? Will the Cherokee be worth the wait? Let's take a look.

    

Fuel Economy

In the past, customers who wanted the 4x4 capability and peace of mind in all weather conditions had to pay a price at the pump. Four-wheel-drive systems were often heavy and inefficient, which zapped fuel economy. This was true, too, for the 4x4 Jeep Liberty. The Liberty's 3.7-liter 210-horsepower engine with a 4-speed automatic transmission was rated to achieve 15 miles per gallon city/21 mpg hwy when optioned with 4-wheel drive.

The 2014 Jeep Cherokee offers two engine options: a 2.4-liter inline 4-cylinder and a 3.2-liter V6. Regardless of engine choice, Jeep includes a new 9-speed automatic transmission -- a first for an SUV. As this article is written, official fuel economy estimates from the Environmental Protection Agency are not available for the Cherokee. However, Jeep estimates that the new Cherokee will reach 31 mpg on the highway.

Although official fuel-efficiency numbers are not yet known for the Cherokee, it's safe to say it will easily best the outgoing Liberty in both city and highway fuel economy thanks largely to its efficient 4-cylinder engine and new 9-speed automatic transmission. Jeep brags the Cherokee will be more than 45 percent more fuel-efficient than the Liberty and will have a driving range of close to 500 miles.

We'll go ahead and call this one for the Cherokee.

    

Safety

Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has performed crash tests on the new 2014 Cherokee as this article is written. The Dodge Dart, which shares the same modular FIAT Group architecture as the 2014 Cherokee, has received a Top Safety Pick rating from IIHS and a 5-star crash rating from NHTSA. The Cherokee will be constructed of high-strength steel, making it lightweight and strong. We don't yet know how the Cherokee will fare in crash testing, but we're confident it, too, will score highly.

Aside from its robust structure, the Cherokee has a slew of safety features to help keep passengers safe that the Liberty simply doesn't offer. First, the Cherokee includes 10 standard airbags. On the Cherokee, Jeep also offers Forward Collision Warning-Plus, a system that will deploy the brakes to avoid or mitigate a collision if it detects an impact is imminent. Also offered is Lane Departure Warning-Plus, which will use the electronic power steering to keep a driver from merging into another vehicle.

The Liberty made Good marks in both NHTSA and IIHS crash testing, but the Cherokee easily outpaces the Liberty in safety features and technology, making the Cherokee the clear winner for overall safety.

    

Reliability

The Liberty has not fared well in long-term reliability ratings from J.D. Power. With a CPO Jeep, however, buyers are given some peace of mind, as the Jeep has to pass a 125-point inspection. Along with the purchase of a Jeep CPO, buyers receive a CARFAX report along with a 7-year/100,000-mile powertrain limited warranty, 24-hour roadside assistance and a car rental allowance, should your Jeep need servicing.

As for the 2014 Jeep Cherokee, it will be covered by a factory powertrain limited warranty, so ownership will be worry-free for quite some time.

Customers not eager to gamble on an unknown entity such as the Cherokee will be best suited to exploring a CPO Liberty.

    

Value

The improved value of the Cherokee over the Liberty will be apparent as soon as customers open the driver's door. The Liberty interior was notorious for being a sea of sharp, ill-fitting gray plastic. The Cherokee, on the other hand, has an interior that mimics the interior quality of the larger Grand Cherokee with soft-touch materials, intuitive layout and high-quality design.

Believe it or not, the 2014 Cherokee will carry a lower base price than the Liberty. The Liberty Sport model starts at $24,155, while the Cherokee Sport will start at $23,990. Despite the lower price tag, the Cherokee will offer more technology and safety features, as well as improved fuel economy and off-road capability.

As this article is written, 646 CPO Jeep Liberty vehicles are for sale, ranging from a $13,000 2008 Liberty Sport with 56,000 miles to a $25,955 2012 Jeep Liberty 4x4 Sport with 11,657 miles. Although the 2012 Liberty 4x4 Sport is priced higher than a base-model Cherokee, it offers 4x4 and a neat visual appearance package.

Buyers who don't need the latest and greatest would be wise to check out a CPO Jeep Liberty, as it can represent a large savings over buying the brand-new Cherokee.

    

Technology

It's clear the 2014 Cherokee is very different from the outgoing Liberty. Concerning technology, though, the two couldn't be further apart. If the Liberty is a tractor, the Cherokee is the space shuttle.

On the interior, the Cherokee far surpasses the Liberty with technological options. In the center stack, Jeep offers an 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen with navigation, voice recognition, Bluetooth and even voice-to-text. In place of the standard analogue instrument cluster, Jeep includes a customizable full-color 7-in thin-film transistor (TFT) screen. Perhaps even more intriguing is the optional, factory-installed wireless smartphone charging station. The Liberty offers an onboard hard-drive-based music storage system, but it's not nearly as advanced as the Cherokee's system.

Underneath the bodywork, the 2014 Jeep Cherokee further differentiates itself from the Liberty. The Liberty is offered with two 4x4 systems, while the Cherokee comes with three -- Active Drive I, II, and Active Drive Lock with a 2-speed power transfer unit and locking rear differential. What's more, the Cherokee can be fitted with the 5-mode Jeep Selec-Terrain traction control system. If you're wondering why we're discussing 4x4 systems in technology, it's because the new Jeep 4x4 systems, though built from robust mechanical components, are operated through clever and capable electronic control units.

Which Jeep summits the technological mount? Clearly, the Cherokee takes top billing.

AutoTrader's Advice

The Liberty vs. Cherokee isn't just a tale of two trucks; it's also the tale of two kinds of buyers. The Liberty was for those who wanted rugged capability above all else and were willing to sacrifice comfort and fuel economy. The Cherokee offers the same legendary Jeep utility with off-road performance improvements. At the same time, the Cherokee achieves more refinement, versatility and technological savvy than has ever been seen in a midsize Jeep.

Buyers put off by a FIAT-based Jeep -- or those not in need of the latest and greatest -- will be wise to steer toward a CPO Liberty. Other buyers who might have never considered a Jeep but rather shopped for a Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4 will find the Cherokee comparable if not superior to its competitors in many ways.

Ultimately, it comes down to refinement and bang for your buck. For those two factors, the Cherokee beats out the Liberty.

Find a Jeep Cherokee for sale

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Nick Jaynes developed a passion for writing about cars working his way through Journalism School as a Volvo mechanic. When he's not writing, Nick can be seen hosting the popular automotive web-show DownForce Motoring. In his free-time, Nick collects vintage cars, trucks, and motorcycles.

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