Is Jeep reliable? An unbiased look at the American classic

How reliable is the off-roader really? We take a look...

  • Is Jeep reliable?
  • How reliable is the Jeep Grand Cherokee?
  • Is the Jeep Wrangler reliable?
  • Should I buy a Jeep?

The original Jeep was designed and built by the American Bantam Car Company in just 75 days at the request of the US Military. Over 100 bid requests had been sent out to companies across the US, but only two responded, Willy’s-Overland (who requested more time) and American Bantam. The military wanted a vehicle that was light, rugged and had the ability to travel easily over rough terrain.

Eventually, the contract to manufacture these vehicles was awarded to three companies, American Bantam, Ford, and Willy’s-Overland Motors.

Two manufacturers were left after it became clear that American Bantam was unable to keep up with military demand for the vehicles, Ford and Willy’s-Overland. And, in February 1943, Willy’s-Overland filed the original trademark for Jeep.

Following the war, things changed and Jeep started to experiment with new designs, including one that could actually drive underwater. However, Jeep, as we know it today, was released for civilian purchase in 1945, under the name CJ (or Civilian Jeep).

Given their auspicious beginnings, it’s not unreasonable to wonder what has changed. Jeep was a vehicle built for rugged terrain, it was necessary that the vehicles didn’t break down when they were needed, so what happened? Why are people now asking is Jeep reliable?

In this article, we look at whether Jeep is reliable and how this compares to their main rivals.

Buy, lease or finance a new Jeep

Is Jeep Reliable?

Honestly? Not really.

Jeep was reliable enough when first designed and built, however, the Jeep models people are familiar with today suffer from more issues. Whether this is because the vehicles were built for a single purpose during World War 2 and now the requirements and expectations have increased, is not clear. What is clear, however, is that when examined closely, the reliability of Jeep has dropped over recent years.

In their most recent dependability review, ReliabilityIndex placed Jeep 29th out of 40 manufacturers, with a reliability score of 173. This isn’t that much below the industry average; in fact, it’s similar to the score of brands like Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar and BMW, but it’s still not a great score.

Jeep Wrangler

In their most recent car survey, Which? found that when it came to Jeep reliability, reports were very mixed. Models that were less than 3-years old performed well, with less than 25% of owners reporting any issues with their vehicles. Where issues occurred they were minor, taking only a short period of time to fix. However, owners of models with slightly more age to them (between 3 and 8 years) told a different story. 43% of people who owned a slightly older model had experienced multiple problems across a 12-month period, including faulty dashboard displays, tyre-pressure sensors and windscreen wipers. Some of these faults, though not of a serious nature, led to drivers sometimes going up to 4-days without their Jeep.

In their most recent survey, US website, Consumer Reports, found Jeep to be one of the less reliable brands. In the list for “Worst car brands for 2019”, Jeep came 8th, with responsibility for this being laid at the feet of the Jeep Cherokee and Jeep Compass, both of which placed poorly on the worst SUV for 2019 list.

Though there are a number of issues reported with newer models released under the Jeep brand, many don’t occur until the vehicle is a little older. If you are thinking about purchasing a new Jeep then it is worth investigating lease options. With a lease lasting between 1 to 4 years and a full maintenance package you will be covered should anything go wrong.

Is the Jeep Cherokee reliable?

When you start to look at individual models in the Jeep range the picture doesn’t change very much when considering reliability.

First manufactured in 1974, the Jeep Cherokee earned 150 points on the ReliabilityIndex list in 2019. Though it, luckily, doesn’t spend very much time off the road when it requires repair, with the average being under 3 hours. According to the same report, the cost of repairs is also relatively low, at an estimated £313.92.

When it comes to the things most likely to go wrong with a Cherokee, it’s the electrics that suffer the most. 21.43% of issues that required repair in 12-months prior to ReliabilityIndex producing their list were to the electrical system, followed by the axle and suspension and the braking system, both of which were reported by 16.67% of respondents.

All of these things should be considered when looking for a new vehicle and are taken into account when reliability is being calculated.

When considering all the issues with reliability that owners experienced, it’s hardly surprising that over 2,000 complaints were lodged about the 2015 model, with the majority being regarding transmission problems, according to the website Car Complaints.

When it comes to safety, the Jeep Cherokee was last tested by Euro NCAP in 2013. The Jeep model was awarded 5 stars and was found to have better than average provision for passenger safety.

How reliable is the Jeep Grand Cherokee?

The Jeep Grand Cherokee certainly sounds grand, it even has the word in the name. Unfortunately, it’s not the most reliable car on the market. The model now for sale is the fourth generation, with the first having been produced in 1992 for release the following year.

Jeep Grand Cherokee

In the most recent review from ReliabilityIndex, the Grand Cherokee was awarded 190 points, placing it lower on the index than the Cherokee.

Unfortunately for the Grand Cherokee, and its owners, the part most likely to wrong is the axle and suspension, with over 19% of respondents stating this as the main issue they experienced. Faults with the engine were the second most commonly reported, with almost 18% stating that they had been forced to get theirs repaired.

Figures from ReliabilityIndex put the average cost of repairs for the Grand Cherokee at £415.28, with an estimated time for these repairs being just over two and a half hours which, in the scheme of things, isn’t all that long when the type of issues being fixed is taken into account.

According to Car Complaints, 2011 was the worst year for the Grand Cherokee. Almost 750 reports were made about problems experienced by owners. Just over 200 of those were about issues experienced with the electrical system, the second most common issues that people reported were with the engine.

Is the Jeep Wrangler reliable?

The Jeep Wrangler is probably the only one in the Jeep line that can trace its origins back to the original Willy’s-Overland model designed and used in World War 2. Though, it wasn’t until 1987 it was officially given the name Jeep Wrangler.

Things don’t look great for the Jeep Wrangler, especially when it comes to safety and reliability. In fact, Euro NCAP tested the Jeep Wrangler at the end of 2018 and awarded the latest generation model just 1 star for safety. It was found to be lacking general safety systems and had poor crash protection.

The Jeep Wrangler is the first car, new or old, to receive one star for overall safety from Euro NCAP since the overall safety rating was introduced in 2009.

Reviews for the Jeep Wrangler are all very clear on one thing, it’s a vehicle that’s been designed to be as comfortable off-road as it is on-road. However, unfortunately for the Wrangler, this doesn’t improve its rating when it comes to reliability.

When it comes to issues, the Wrangler’s main problem is with its electrical systems. According to the website Car Complaints, the worst year for new owners was 2012, when over 1,000 complaints were received, with a high percentage of these being about the electrical systems, and others ranged from problems with airbags to issues with the air conditioning system.

The Jeep Wrangler is also the originator of the renowned ‘Death Wobble’, the worst year for this being 2007.

What is the Jeep Death Wobble?

The so-called ‘Death Wobble’ is where the front axle starts oscillating, violently. It causes the car to shake, or wobble, in such a manner that it can be difficult to control.

There are a few reasons why you may experience the Death Wobble;

 

  • Poor alignment
    • If you experience the Death Wobble you should check this first and foremost
  • Unbalanced tyres
    • This can throw the axle around
  • Loose steering stabiliser bar
  • Worn ball joints

Why do Jeeps experience the Death Wobble?

Why is this isolated to Jeeps? Well, it’s mainly isolated to Jeeps, but other cars can experience this. However, the main reason it tends to happen to Jeeps the most is due to the fact that they are coil-sprung with a track bar setup. This can throw the suspension out of equilibrium.

How can I fix the Jeep Death Wobble?

If you think that your Jeep is suffering from the Death Wobble then it’s highly recommended you take it to a garage where they can fix it for you.

If you’re thinking about purchasing a second-hand Jeep, it’s vital that you enquire about the Death Wobble. It will also be worth giving it a once over to make sure everything is in order to avoid this happening after you buy it.

However, if you’re thinking of purchasing a new Jeep then don’t be scared off by the thought that it may develop an issue in the future. A lease with a maintenance package is a worthwhile investment, and there are multiple options available to you if this is the direction you choose.

Why is Jeep unreliable?

So why has Jeep fared so badly?

There are a few reasons for this. Some have put it down to the fact that their infotainment system is slow and has glitches that you simply don’t see in competitor vehicles in the same class.

Other issues include poor handling and limited comfort and though neither of these has much to do with dependability they have a bearing on overall satisfaction.

Jeep has also said that the reason that the Wrangler has been found to have a low dependability rating is due to the fact that owners romanticise the model. This is a bizarre concept, but it does make sense. Some owners may buy a Wrangler with an idyllic view of the car, but at the end of the day, it’s still an off-road SUV. It can be noisy and there are problems with the suspension and transmission, and this can lead to a much higher level of disappointment. Essentially, there’s too much of a high expectation, according to Jeep.

These are just a few reasons why Jeep are considered less dependable than other SUV and 4WD vehicle manufacturers.

Should I buy, lease or finance a Jeep?

However you look at it, Jeep is iconic. With origins dating back to the second world war and a body-style that could be easily picked out of a line-up, Jeep has made it from a military vehicle designed for solely practical purpose to a family car brand that many have incredible loyalty to.

The Jeep name carries with it images of battle, survival and hard work, so it’s easy to understand why it’s a best-selling vehicle that, in 2016, sold over 1.4million units globally.

If you love the look of Jeep and have dreams of driving through rough terrain – perhaps you’re headed for a drive in hilly or mountainous climes – then there is no denying that a Jeep will definitely make it, and will make it intact!

If you’ve been thinking about getting a Jeep; you like the look of them, love their historical relevance and find their off-road capabilities fit your needs perfectly, then a lease might be the perfect route for you to take. And, even better, if you decide to go with a fully-maintained lease you will have peace of mind that any of the issues that may occur with your Jeep are covered. So you can have all of the excitement of the iconic 4×4 without any of the anxiety.

Conclusion: Is Jeep reliable?

In conclusion, Jeep is not classed as a dependable brand. They were once very reliable, but this is no longer the case for a number of reasons. One of these reasons is that the infotainment system is slow and glitchy, and this can cause a huge amount of dissatisfaction amongst customers and lower the dependability score. There is also the dreaded Death Wobble, which can occur when the suspension is thrown out of equilibrium. Of course, many people will buy a Jeep because of the brand’s heritage and prestige, not for dependability.

If you want a Jeep, the chances are you will buy a Jeep. And if you want a car that comes with as much history as that, then you can’t go wrong. If reliability is at the top of your requirement list when looking for an SUV then you should look elsewhere. However, leasing is an option you should consider if Jeep is the brand you really want. You can drive from new, and with the addition of a maintenance package, you can be assured that the cost of repairs will be covered, making it the ideal way for you to get the car of your dreams without breaking the bank.

Reliability ratings and repair costs were compiled in September 2019.

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Rachel Richardson

Rachel has been writing for as long as she can remember. She loves the written word and likes nothing more than to research something until she knows all she can about it.
Rachel Richardson

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77 Comments

  • Franklin Beck| 19th January 2020 at 10:18 pm Reply

    From 1998 to now, I have owned 5 Grand Cherokees and there were some issues not uncommon to machines. Still own the 1998 and the 2014 Grand Cherokee. From my experience the Grand Cherokee is a reliable vehicle.

  • Tom| 5th January 2020 at 6:22 pm Reply

    I own a 1995 grand Cherokee V-6, and I’ve had to replace the starter twice. On my 90,000 mile checkup I had to replace 2 engine belts that were going out. That’s it….it’s been a great vehicle! Consumer Reports always reviews the V-8, not the 6 cylinder model. Jeep has never gotten the V-8 right, but their V-6’s are very dependable. Gas mileage isn’t great, but what the hell.

    • Rachel Richardson| 6th January 2020 at 1:49 pm Reply

      Hi Tom,

      Thank you for this information. We are looking at the newer models, which many have found to be more unreliable in comparison with the models manufacturered over 20 years ago, and this may be where the difference lies.

  • Mark Freeman| 21st November 2019 at 5:20 pm Reply

    I had a 2009 Wrangler JK , which I had for 3 years . Never , ever let me down , couple of niggles , a leak from a power steering pump hose and a squeaky rear right caliper . Everything else worked exactly as it should . Local dealer was biggest problem really, totally incompetent and now no longer JEEP dealer . I traded my JEEP for an INFINITI G37S with which I have lost count of faults and niggles among which is infotainment system and is still not as it should be . However it is a lovely thing to drive and look at , when I come to replace it , I will try to find another low mileage late model Wranhlr JK .

    • Rachel Richardson| 22nd November 2019 at 5:01 pm Reply

      Hi Mark,

      Thank you for the comment on your experiences with Jeep reliability. Unfortunately, Infiniti will no longer be available in Europe from 2020, and marketing has dropped, so will soon disappear from showrooms.

      If you are looking for a new vehicle going forward, please contact Amanda on 01903 223391 and she will be able to help you.

      • Stephanie Hueseman| 25th November 2019 at 4:28 pm Reply

        Thank you so much for this HONEST article. We have a much older Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo but EVERYTHING you mention as problematic has occurred beginning with a blown engine/rebuilt in 2015, followed by axle and bearing the following year, and electrical problems both minor and major. In fact the entire electrical system somehow burned itself- it was a nightmare watching smoke coming out of the engine hood, the wipers were going on and off, the lights on and off. it was like a Poltergeist, blowing fuses and essentially frying the system, requiring a rebuilt computer. But just 6 months ago, more electrical problems with the windows not working and our dashboard was not working or at times lighting up like a christmas tree, resulting in another rebuilt computer about 4 months ago. And I sit here now and type this while this Jeep is being towed to a mechanic for what I think might be a trans axle issue making it undriveable. But the real kicker: i am now seeing it emit light blue smoke with significant moisture out of the tailpipe (and she’s warmed up). And I’m hoping the engine warranty is still good. But I’m also calling Junk Yards. LIVE AND LEARN

        • Rachel Richardson| 26th November 2019 at 8:01 am Reply

          Hi Stephanie,
          Thank you for your feedback on this article about reliability. We write them with a hope of giving people the information that will help them to make an informed decision. Of course, not everyone will have the same experiences, however, we aim to remain unbiased when it comes to all manufacturers.

  • Earl| 16th November 2019 at 6:06 pm Reply

    The death wobble is not a “coil spring/track bar” thing. It is a solid front axle thing. Coil or leaf springs, and hopefully a track bar. You will find that on a Toyota Land Cruiser, a F350 or even a motorhome also. However your fixes are correct.
    The new Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator use a ZF 8 speed for the automatic transmission. This transmission has a very good reliability record. Hopefully it will prove to be so in the Jeep also.

    • Rachel Richardson| 18th November 2019 at 4:28 pm Reply

      Hi Earl,

      Thank you for your comment on Jeep reliability. The Gladiator is not a model available in the UK and the information we are using has been made available over the last 12 months. Only time will tell if the amends to the car make a difference to performance and reliability.

  • Chuck| 12th November 2019 at 10:09 pm Reply

    I am a 61 year old male and only ever owned two new vehicles in my life….1982 Jeep CJ7 and 2001 TJ. The CJ had a 4 cylinder 5 speed manuL and I had a temporary serious issue with the hydraulic clutch which required replacing the whole system! Then I took if on SERIOUS OFF-roading in the country of Panama and it was reliable.. My TJ was a 6 cylinder with manual transmission and it was very reliable in the rocky desert of Southern California with SERIOUS off-roading. It never gave me issues. Jeeps are not perfect but operator capabilities are often a big factor for reliability. I am too beat up from military service to do the Wrangler life much more but Jeep has carried AMC, Chrysler, Etc and it is sad to see weakened axles and other cost savings used to carry profit v capability but most Wrangler owners do not really need 4×4 except for beaches or snow. I got a full decade out of the CJ and the TJ.

    • Rachel Richardson| 13th November 2019 at 8:08 am Reply

      Hi Chuck,
      Thank you for your comment on the reliability of the Jeep. In this article we are looking at vehicles that are available on the UK market and using information referring to the issues reported by owners here. However, we acknowledge that older models (much older than the 8 years looked at by consumer reports) have a stronger record when it comes to reliability. Unfortunately, the data is not available for those using the resources we have at our disposal.

      I am sure that people will find your experiences with the older models helpful if they are looking to purchase an older used model in the US.

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