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Here's How Much It Cost to Own My $300 Jeep Cherokee for 1 Year

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author photo by Tyler Hoover May 2018

This is probably the most disappointing post I've ever written, but after one year, I've decided it's time to part with my 1998 Jeep Cherokee. After a promising beginning followed by a catastrophic failure, I let it sit for months before fixing it. Since then, I've barely driven it, and I've never taken it off-road. This is pretty surprising when you consider how much I love this Jeep -- but allow me to explain.

To review the past year, I bought this Cherokee non-running at auction for only $300. It had 360,000 miles on it at the time of purchase, but was in amazing condition, with no rust or damage and a very clean interior. Remarkably, a new starter is all that was needed to bring the engine back to life, and it ran so well that I opted to install a 3-inch suspension lift and knobby tires to unlock its full off-road potential. I then trailered it out to Colorado and attempted to climb a ski mountain -- but the head gasket failed in dramatic fashion before reaching the summit. Dejected by its mountainside eruption, I trailered it home, and after months of sitting, eventually had the head gasket replaced, along with a bunch of other leaky seals.

I spent $2,500 for the initial repairs, the suspension lift and the tires -- and the next round of repairs following the failed head gasket set me back another $1,500. Since then, it's been a very reliable Jeep -- but that's not saying much, because I've barely driven it. The main reason for my lack of use is geography. Kansas is a horrible place for an off-road enthusiast, as the majority of the state is flat prairie. What few off-road courses exist in the area are two hours or more away from me -- making a weekend off-road adventure pretty risky if something were to break on the trail.

Preservation is another reason I haven't been seriously off-roading this Jeep. Even though it's not worth a whole lot and I don't have a ton of money invested, clean XJ body Cherokees are nearly impossible to find nowadays -- and I would hate to be the guy that ruins this Jeep, especially considering how well it was preserved after 361,000 miles. Unfortunately, I don't want to use it around town either, as the suspension lift shocks are pretty harsh, and the air conditioning doesn't work. My mechanic suspects the leak in the AC system is somewhere behind the dash, which would require tearing the interior apart to investigate. I chose to skip that repair -- and as the summer season starts, I'll certainly favor my cars that have working air.

The final reason I'm not keeping this Jeep is the fact that I've recently purchased two more. Considering my history of compulsive buying, this shouldn't come as a surprise -- but with the reality show financially backing a 24-car-buying binge, I've brought home two of my dream Jeeps. One is a 1984 Jeep Grand Wagoneer, and the other is a 1994 Wrangler modified to be a screen accurate Jeep from the movie "Jurassic Park." There's no way I'm parting with either of these anytime soon -- so the Cherokee has become the weakest link. I've also nearly completed building my 1999 Lexus LX470 into a formidable expedition vehicle -- and it will be a lot more comfortable for long distance drives.

Still, just because I want to sell something doesn't mean I'll actually do it. It'll be tough to find a buyer that can see past the epic mileage -- and actually have the means to purchase it. I don't expect it to fetch the $4,300 I have invested, but I'm not going to let it go cheaply, either, and risk it falling into the hands of someone who would ruin it. So, most likely, my hoarding tendencies will keep this Jeep from going anywhere anytime soon. But I'm going to try.

Tyler Hoover went broke after 10 years in the car business and now sells hamburgers to support his fleet of needy cars. He lives in Wichita, Kansas.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Here's How Much It Cost to Own My $300 Jeep Cherokee for 1 Year - Autotrader