So you have $20,000 burning a hole in your pocket and you’ve decided to spend it on a Jeep Wrangler. Great! The Wrangler offers endless configurability and utility, making it one of the most fun vehicles on the market. But with a number of different generations, trim levels and configurations to understand before plunking your hard-earned cash down on a used example, deciding which one is right for you may not be so easy. Below we’ve outlined what we think any Wrangler shopper should look for at the $20,000 price point.
While the all-new 2018 "JL" Wrangler is excellent, the starting price of a base model is close to $30,000, and the few used examples that may exist are still too new to have depreciated much, so you won’t find one for anywhere near $20,000 quite yet. That leaves the previous-generation "JK" model as the best option for anyone looking to spend $20,000 on a Wrangler. The Wrangler JK was produced for the 2007-2018 model years. The JK generation introduced the four-door Wrangler Unlimited, along with many of the creature comforts absent on previous generations. While the JK is still a little rough around the edges, it offers all the configurability and customizability one might expect from a Jeep, and it should handle any terrain with ease.
Right now, there are around 1,400 2007-2016 Wrangler JKs for sale on Autotrader for around $20,000.
While the Wrangler JK went without many major changes over its 11 model years, it did receive a much improved and upgraded engine for the 2012 model year. 2007-2011 model year Wranglers came with a 3.8-liter V6 making 202 horsepower and 238 lb-ft of torque. For 2012, Jeep upgraded the Wrangler’s powerplant to a new 3.6-liter V6, referred to as the ‘Pentastar’ engine and featured prominently throughout the Chrysler family of brands. The Pentastar V6 made 280 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, while automatic transmission models received an extra gear, going from a four-speed to a five-speed unit.
While this may come as a surprise to some, it should be noted that a two-wheel-drive Wrangler JK Unlimited was produced through the 2010 model year. While these 2WD examples will cost considerably less than their four-wheel-drive counterparts, we feel that the added utility of a 4WD Wrangler is too much to pass up. That said, if you’re certain that your needs are only of the on-road variety, one of these rare 2WD Wranglers might present a good value.
Currently, there are over 400 2012-2018 Jeep Wranglers for sale on Autotrader for around $20,000, all of which offer 4WD and the potent 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine.
Configuration, Trim Level and Mileage
As we’ve mentioned, the Wrangler JK was offered in two- and four-door body styles. We can’t help but recommend the four-door for its added practicality. That said, many will still enjoy the two door, and two-door models are far more attainable at the $20,000 price point. Of the 400+ 2012-and-newer Wrangler JKs listed on Autotrader for around $20,000, about 300 are of the two-door variety, while just over 100 are four-door Unlimited models.
The 2012-and-newer Wrangler JK was offered primarily in three trim levels, although a number of special editions were also offered. At the bottom of the pile was the entry-level Sport model. Next up was the more luxurious Sahara model, which offered body-colored fenders, power windows and locks and an Infinity sound system. Many Sahara models are also fitted with the quieter and more durable hardtop roof. The top-tier Wrangler is the mighty off-road-ready Rubicon model, which offers off-road gearing, locking front and rear differentials, disconnecting sway bars, Dana 44 axles and rock rails, among other things.
Buyers will have a much easier time time finding a Wrangler Sport or Sahara that meets our aforementioned requirements. Due to their off-road ability, Rubicons tend to carry a price premium. In fact, there are only eight listed on Autotrader for under $20,000, all of which come with around 100,000 miles on the odometer.
Due to their immense utility, Wranglers hold their value exceptionally well, meaning that in order to find anything other than a base trim level, buyers will likely have to sacrifice considerably on mileage. That said, a 2012-2016 Wrangler JK Sahara or Sport model in either two- or four-door configuration with around 60,000 miles is attainable at the $20,000 mark and should satisfy most buyers’ needs. Right now, there are around 200 such Wranglers listed on Autotrader. If you’re willing to spend a couple thousand dollars more, off-road-ready Rubicon models come into play.
One final note on the Jeep Wrangler: If you were planning on doing modifications to your Wrangler, it’s worth looking for a used example that has already been customized, as buying a vehicle that’s already been modified is a far more cost-effective approach than doing the modifications yourself. That said, always be sure to get a pre-purchase inspection to make sure that any modifications have been done correctly and professionally.