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Jeep Cherokee XJ: The Next Highly Collectible Old SUV?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro March 2017

As someone who spends far too much time browsing the Internet for used SUV listings, I'm starting to think I've found the next highly collectible old SUV: the Jeep Cherokee "XJ," which was the boxy, lovable Cherokee offered by Jeep for nearly two decades throughout the 1980s, the 1990s, and all the way until 2001.

There are many reasons why I say this, but I'll start with the most obvious: Old SUVs are rising in value. I wrote about this back in November, and I told you that aging SUVs are starting to get noticed by people looking to escape the boring world of the look-alike family hauler. So old SUVs -- like the Toyota Land Cruiser, the Range Rover Classic, the Jeep Grand Wagoneer and the Land Rover Defender -- have all shot up in value over the last few years as SUVs have become more desirable.

But why the Jeep Cherokee in particular? One reason is its hilariously boxy styling. In 2047, the "XJ" Cherokee will be used in Ralph Lauren print advertisements as a symbol of what America "used to look like" back in its 1990s glory days. These days, SUVs are "windswept" and "curvy" and "forward-thinking" and whatever other names marketers use to convince people their car designs are highly distinctive, even though nobody from the general public can tell apart the seven most popular compact crossovers. But the Cherokee was just simple. Boxy, easy and simple. A relic from another era.

Nostalgia also plays a role. Sure, the Cherokee's design is distinctive in the world of modern crossovers, but it's also about what that design signifies. Millions of people grew up with XJ Cherokees in high school, or in college, or in graduate school, or in their first job, or whenever -- and a lot of people long to repeat those days. It's a lot cheaper to do it with an XJ Cherokee than an increasingly unaffordable Grand Wagoneer.

Another Cherokee benefit is that it's reliable. The Cherokee's 4.0-liter straight six may have produced a rather weak 190 horsepower (at its peak!), but the engine will simply run forever. So you can buy an old XJ Cherokee, and you won't really have to worry about it breaking down like you might with an aging Land Rover Defender or an old Range Rover.

Of course, there are the other benefits that generally surround an old SUV. It can haul the whole family, which can't be said for an aging sports car. It has a lot of cargo room, so you can use it to carry around your stuff, too. And it's fairly capable, so you don't feel bad using it in winter weather or on difficult terrain.

So those are the reasons why the XJ Cherokee should appreciate in value. Here's one reason why I'm certain it is appreciating: It's getting harder to find them for sale. While you used to occasionally find a really clean XJ Cherokee while browsing Internet forums or 'for sale' sites like Autotrader, nice ones simply don't exist anymore -- and when a nice XJ Cherokee does come up for sale, it's either priced very high or it sells incredibly quickly. Given the number of tattered, worn XJ Cherokee models out there, nice ones are going to start getting more and more valuable.

Although you might think I'm crazy for saying this about an SUV whose newest example is just 15 years old, here's my belief: If you're an XJ Cherokee fan, you'd better buy a nice example now -- before the market leaves you behind.

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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Jeep Cherokee XJ: The Next Highly Collectible Old SUV? - Autotrader