For a lot of people the Jeep Wrangler is what they think of when they imagine off roading. In the past there were only a few trucks available. Nowadays there is a huge market for off road vehicles. What was once the standard is now one of many in a crowded field. But what if you don’t want a Wrangle? Are you die-hard GM or Ford? Or maybe you always had a thing for the quirky Samurai. So what are some Jeep Wrangler alternatives?
Even the older models like the Ford Bronco and the Toyota FJ are useful options. There are many Jeep alternatives that cost less. Some may even provide better value, lesser brand appeal, and cheap generic aftermarket parts.
What trucks have as many aftermarket or OEM parts available as a Wrangler?
Jeeps have such a long history it’s hard to find aftermarket part stores with catalogs rivaling those of the Wrangler and toe community that share the same passions of Wrangler owners. 4Runners do come close though. They have over forty years of history with a very solid following. Most off road stores have a wide range of accessories and performance parts for the Toyota off roading machine.
Models that have a multi decade history such as the Suzuki models, Blazer, Pathfinder & Xterra all have a decent offering of OEM replacement and direct fit aftermarket parts that can be readily available online. While Ford mostly focuses on performance off road parts for their popular F line of pickup trucks.
Can I work them if I can’t afford a mechanic and they’re not as reliable?
One of the best parts about owning an old Jeep or similar off road truck is the joy of fixing them with your bare hands. Well a lot of times you will find yourself tinkering with them even when nothing appears wrong except for the fact that you can’t ignore getting greasy.
Ask any true Jeep owner what shop they take their Jeep to and they’ll point to themselves. The physical toll these off road machines are put through and the love they require are parts of the satisfaction of owning a Jeep.
The reliability of these trucks go as far as the wrench swung at them. A daily driver with 300,000 miles isn’t unheard of. the AMC 4.0 inline 6 engine is a tank. Older Jeeps can be unreliable but it is usually due to an electrical failure or the suspension taking a dump.
The simplicity of Jeeps is one of their biggest strengths. The ability to work so well and handle and be so reliable for how simple they are makes the Jeep a wonderful home project. Newer and forever more complex trucks may require advanced knowledge and schooling. Some even need a computer to change to dang oil.
For the purpose of this article we are looking at cost. Cheaper Jeep Wrangler alternatives usually means older models. Think pre 2001~. Jeeps are still highly desired and they hold they value longer than other trucks (even though they may not warrant the higher resale price. Keep reading).
First generation 4Runners are great for engine swaps, suspension upgrades, interior work, and remove the rear “camper” shell to make it an open rear summer cruiser. Upgrading with the availability of non OEM parts makes the 4Runner one of many excellent Jeep Wrangler alternatives.
Can these trucks handle off roading?
If you’re looking for a replacement with less investment than a Jeep but with the ability to have fun off the pavement you’re in luck! Some older trucks excel in the mud.
4×4 Ford Rangers with their 3.0 Vulcan engine with 155 hp and 186 lb⋅ft of torque. It was used in models from 1986-2008. It is virtually indestructible. The more season driver may desire more HP but it is an excellent option for a novice on a budget.
First generation 4Runners with lift kits can be found sold for those on a budget. Check craigslist or even maybe you can get lucky on autotrader.com. 4Runners are great overall vehicles and they do very well in the mud. I’ll include the T100 here as well as older models are basically a striped down 4Runner.
Mid 90’s Blazers are readily available and can be got for under $2k. Their weight distribution and size makes them a viable option for off roading. If you add a lift kit, and some tires you may be the most comfortable person out there. The Blazer is a road SUV that is built to go off-roading if absolutely necessary.
The price point and availability of the older (and lighter) Mitsubishi Montero equivalent of the Wrangler is almost astronomical compared with the Wrangler so we won’t say much more than that. Xterras and Pathfinders have off roading ability but you won’t have as much fun as in the others in this section.
Of course Suzukis and other Jeeps can be great for off-roading as well. If you are thinking about racing in the Baja 500 then a Jeep will get you home in days instead of hours. They are just not build for speed.
If you have visited any local parks or off roading scenes you will have noticed a lot of different trucks being thrown about and tested to their limits and beyond. A T100 with a big winch or maybe even a lesbian Suzuki driver making all the other drivers look bad and jealous.
Nowadays it is common to show up with many Jeep Wrangler alternatives. Style, preference, price, and many other factors come into play.
Is buying a Wrangler with a salvage title OK?
Buying a salvaged vehicle, or a vehicle that has more damage than that vehicle is worth, can sometimes be an excellent way to find a great deal on a normally much more expensive vehicle.
Samcrac on youtube has an excellent channel where he buys and repairs salvaged high end vehicles. Watching his channel makes it seem anyone can buy a flattened Land Rover and make it new and shiny again.
If you’re handy with the wrench and you don’t need your off roader as a daily driver then buying a salvaged 4×4 can give you great a great option. The most important thing to keep in mind is type of damage. Was it in a wreck? Was it water damaged? Can you find out directly from the owner what happened? Were the repairs done? And if so, ALWAYS have a trusted mechanic check the work quality.
If the $2,500 Wrangler rear ended someone on the way home and insurance put a salvage title on it, this could be an excellent find where you can buy and tow the truck home and do some minor framework yourself. On the other hand if it was in an accident where there could be frame damage you’ll have to ask yourself if this is work you can successfully do.
Water damage can be very expensive to fix since it can affect so much of the vehicle. This means possibly replacing the interior, the dash, and electronics. Flushing or even rebuilding everything under the hood. Or it could be as simple as ripping out everything that smells, a thorough cleaning and lots of lube.
It really depends on the situation and the extent of the damage. Sometimes buying a salvaged Jeep can be the best option. You will be forced to learn how to fix your car in case (or when) the situation happens in the future.
You will have to invest in tools and knowledge of your new found hobby. “Necessity is the mother of invention” and in the matter of fixing older Jeeps “necessity is the guardian of ability“.
Here is all the information you need to compare what we find to be the top four Jeep Wrangler alternatives. Broken down into table in direct comparison. Stats include the Jeep Wrangler, CJ, XJ, and equivalents from 1970 until present day.
So what is a cheaper alternative to Jeep Wrangler?
- Toyota 4Runner
- Suzuki Samurai
- Chevrolet Blazer
- Nissan Xterra
How do each compare to the Wrangler? Lets take a look at each in detail to see how they compare:
Wrangler good. Suzuki bad.
In a head to head matchup the Samurai is pretty meager. On it’s own the Suzuki is a fun ride for a select group of people. It’s severely limiting capabilities are too much to warrant any type of comparison in any aspect to a Jeep.
The quaint ride can be fun and a joy if you don’t need to haul a lot of stuff or are a grand group of 2-4 looking for a sweet day trip.
Cargo space with four people is made up of little more than cup holders. RVers commonly tow these bad boys (emphasis on boy) behind their campers for quick trips in and around town.
They barely haul 1000 lbs. on a good day. They are torquey for how they’re built and the drive train allows for slow but high grade ascents. The 4×4 makes it so they can get in and out of a lot of foolish roads.
When comparing these guys its completely one sided. The Wrangler is a specialized ride being ideal for slow moving steep and crazy ascents and descents. In any other application the Wrangler is always lacking. The Samurai even more so.
Little more than a glorified shopping cart the Samurai can be a great off road vehicle. The largest engine it was equipped with is a 4 cylinder 12 valve 2.1L turbo diesel yielding the power of 108 clydesdales. They can be easily converted to run on vegetable oil as well.
Finding aftermarket parts to widen the axles is easy as are suspension lifts and body lifts. Engine upgrades are less common unless you can throw a wrench. Suzuki has never really developed a large aftermarket business like the other brands have over their histories.
The market is kind to Samurai’s overall. Inventory is plentiful for used vehicles given its history from 1981-1998. Pricing is also wonderful.
For as little as $2,000 you can buy one of these guys and have some fun with it without too much upkeep. If you are game, forget about everything and snatch up one of these strange and quaint rides.
The Chevrolet Blazer is a great option for a lot of reasons. The Blazer can be modified and used as an extreme off road machine. The affordability and availability of aftermarket parts is motivating. You can make one as stock or modified as you want.
The universal fit parts are almost endless. Performance parts fitted specifically for you year and model type Blazer are boundless. It is a Chevrolet and the line has been around for decades.
Its practicality also makes it more of a weekend warrior, family lugger. IF you want to go camping and fit a fair amount of fixings for your weekend get away, you will be better equipped than a Jeep. The Blazer is more the size of a Grand Cherokee to give you an idea. Plus it will give you a much smoother on road ride, quieter cabin, and more heat of A/C convenience than a Jeep ever could.
Performance wise the Jeep will give you more in certain aspects. Torque, engine choices, gear ratios all favor the Jeep. This way the Jeep performs much better off road.
The Blazer is more rounded out, so while you won’t create the best rock crawler with a Blazer, it will perform pretty good on the dirt, and much much better everywhere else compared to the Jeep.
Plus if you are seriously planning to have fun on your next vacation, you will be able to drive 60MPH through the Rockies no problem hauling a 5,000 lb trailer loaded up with ease in the Blazer.
The Jeep will give you more trouble than its worth making you think it would be easier to just rent locally than haul your own goodies.
The Jeep will of course make you look cooler, so if a certain image plays a factor then you can’t go wrong with a Jeep Wrangler. And if you don’t need to ride comfortably on asphalt or have a daily driver the Jeep can be a much better choice.
The Blazer is an SUV. It is designed to meet a long list of requirements, while each performing at an acceptable level, it simply won’t wow in any single category. From a daily driver to a weekend warrior it will do it all like a 40 year old with no health insurance. There are many Jeep alternatives and this comes up as the second worse on our list.
The Nissan Xterra proves a worthy competitor to the Wrangler. It scored dead even against the Wrangler in the head to head.
Its greatest value over the Wrangler would be its resale value. You can find bargain Xterras on the market for pennies compared to the Wrangler. The reliability is also superior to that of the Wrangler.
The resale value difference may be due to the legacy of the Jeep name more than that of the actual product. It is hard to argue with that.
Though one may have a legitimate argument if they are looking at their Jeep in pieces in their garage while their friend in a lifted Xterra is riding in the backcountry every weekend.
Aftermarket parts are plentiful for both maybe the advantage going to the Wrangler.
Engine choices and resources available heavily favor the Wrangler so for novices an Xterra may not be the best choice but depending on one’s aptitude or tenacity an Xterra may be exactly what you are looking for.
Performance specs heavily favor the Xterra equipped with a V6. Towing is rated at 5000 lbs while the Wranglers greatest towing capabilities have been about half of that.
Cargo space is also very pro Xterra. It is a closed cabin SUV while the Wrangler is typically a two door open 4×4 that has to fit a back seat with a limited trunk.
Add to the fact that adding anything on the roof would require special racks while on an Xterra you would need to buy some straps or be really lucky with some shoelaces or duct tape.
Overall each truck has their strengths and weaknesses. The Wrangler excels at the Xterra’s weaknesses and vice versa.
Overall, unless you need something specific, you can’t go wrong with choosing either. Except for looks the Xterra is one of the most equal Jeep alternatives.
The Toyota 4Runner and the Jeep Wrangler has a shared history. The Wrangler comes from a big family of post WWII classic vehicles made for the mud. The 4Runner is based off the Hilux which is an off road focused pick up truck.
The 4Runner debuted a year after the Wranglers in 1984 but the Wrangler has outsold the 4Runner by about 1,000,000 units overall.
The off roading culture for Jeep is common with the 4Runner less so. Aftermarket options are plentiful for both.
Wranglers are more common in the used marketplace (including 4 cylinders) but comparing V6 models the 4Runner is slightly ahead.
The overall reliability between the two models isn’t as close as the overall numbers show. The reliability of the 4Runner isn’t a good as the overall Toyota brand. But it still is more reliable than that of the Wrangler or Jeep. 4Runners inventory of reliable is much higher than that of Jeep’s.
Off roading abilities for both are about even. Jeep for slow moving 4x4s may have the advantage, 4Runners in all other aspects.
Online resources and engine choices favor the Wrangler most likely due to it having a longer brand history.
Overall performance including payload, towing capabilities, and cargo space heavily favor the 4Runner.
Not including paved road handling the 4Runner still takes the cake in overall performance and ability over the Wrangler.
The Wrangler is at a disadvantage being owned by multiple companies throughout its history. Sold to Chrysler in 1988 the Wrangler line has changed manufacturing hands over time.
If you are looking for a truck that you can load the family up for a week of camping, haul a trailer of quads and motorcycles, and take the 4Runner off roading as well, this will serve you much better than a Wrangler can. The 4Runner barely squeaks by as our pick of the best of many Jeep Wrangler alternatives.
So are you chomping at the bit for a new project? Or maybe you’re tired of watching others have fun climbing rocks or wading through mud in their 4x4s? If you are dead set on a Wrangler, great! But there are many Jeep Wrangler alternatives that fit any need. I hope you have found this information helpful in your decisions to get a Wrangler or the many other options for on and off road fun.
If you have had experiences you would like to share then leave a comment below!
Have a good one and stay dirty.