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Despite its exceptional off-road ability and popularity for off-road enthusiasts as well as families, the Jeep Cherokee is a used car bargain which also means a lot of questions need to be asked, and here we will answer them to ensure an informed decision can be made before any potential purchase.
The KJ/KK Jeep Liberty/Cherokee, and the KL Cherokee, are cheap due to their higher sales figures when compared to the SJ and XJ models before, giving customers plenty of choice for finding good examples. The other big reason for their poorer resale values are a range of reliability issues that went against the reputation of the early cars for toughness and durability.
While the Cherokee is no different to any other mainstream vehicle and the above factors play a big role in how much an individual vehicle can be bought for, thought must also be paid to the fact that it was also a cult figure in its early years which should have had a more positive effect on prices. The best examples of the XJ Cherokee climb every year, contradicting the popular opinion of low used Cherokee prices.
There are a number of points that have a positive (or negative) effect on the prices of used cars, on both individual vehicles and across an entire model range.
The concept is simple; if more customers want a vehicle than the number actually available, prices stay high or climb higher. Conversely, if there are more vehicles than potential customers, prices drop. The Cherokee was able to outsell its Wrangler cousin by nearly 50%, but it was convincingly outsold by the bigger Grand Cherokee year after year.
It wasn’t just the Grand Cherokee outselling the Cherokee; in 1999, for example, Jeep sold 165,261 Cherokees, one of its biggest sales years before the current KL model. In contrast, Ford was able to move nearly 430,000 Explorers in the same year. Even Chevrolet’s S-10 Blazer was able to sell at a nearly 50% higher rate than the Cherokee, with over 230,000 examples in the US alone. So, with less cars sold, less good examples are offered for sale which helps keep values relatively high.
The KL Cherokee was a much more popular vehicle than the earlier models, and over 200,000 examples were sold in the US for 2015, 2016, and 2018. This means potential buyers have a wider range of cars to consider, and competition to sell is strong so prices come down accordingly.
Reliability has long been a bugbear for Jeeps, and this reputation for causing owners trouble has meant used car values are often much lower than what is probably fair for the entire model range.
Before the KJ and KK Liberty/Cherokee, the Cherokee was a paragon of durability and toughness, recording very few problems and nothing regular. This was in part due to simpler systems onboard (the XJ was sold since the 1980s after all) and engines that, while old and lacking some culture and refinement, were famous for being practically bulletproof.
However, the KJ Liberty’s infamous Totally Integrated Power Module (TIPM) and the KL Cherokee’s troublesome 9-speed automatic transmission changed all that and the Cherokee name, along with its value, was dragged down. Recalls were issues for thousands upon thousands of cars to replace parts and remedy issues to appease the ownership base.
These are just the biggest problems. Safety recalls occur frequently for a myriad of vehicle models, but the KJ-KL cars seem to be especially afflicted with them (but this is a problem for post-2000 Jeeps generally). Window regulators breaking (KK), engines randomly stalling (KL), and suspension component recalls (KK/KJ) may only afflict a few hundred vehicles, but bad news spreads in the blink of an eye thanks to the internet, and a few bad eggs tarnishes the entire model.
What this perceived sense of poor quality control did, more than any brilliant marketing campaign could save, is paint a picture of Jeep as a brand being unreliable. It doesn’t matter how easy life is with the older cars, because the damage was done and while problems can affect competitors, it is hard to lose a stigma.
Daily running costs can amount to more than just fuel in the tank and oil in the engine. General wear and tear on a vehicle is multiplied when that very vehicle is used off-road or to work hard towing, and the Cherokee was marketed as a “trail-rated” vehicle. Owners were encouraged to push them to the limits and, consequently, if it has been used it’s possible it has also been abused.
Cherokees that have been used to trundle about town and do school and grocery runs are definitely out there, but the reputation that will ruin the values of the real off-road examples will still impact on the better cars, too.
While early Cherokees are simple enough and sold in reasonably-high numbers (with many components shared with other vehicles), most parts should be readily available for years to come. However, for the newer cars in the last 10-20 years, even if parts are plentiful they are complex and often more expensive to begin with. History tells us some are also likely to fail, like the more common issues mentioned above.
Keeping a conventional internal combustion engined-vehicle on the road is only going to get more expensive as governments around the world seek to curtail carbon emissions. As electric car ownership becomes more accessible and palatable, the government will more willingly begin to restrict ownership of these fossil-fueled dinosaurs. This makes buying an older car much less appealing for potential owners, thus reducing further resale value.
Additionally, it is important for many people to have something new parked in the driveway, as a social status symbol which further deflates prices on cars, especially in the first five years. Prices begin to plateau for most used cars after that first five years, unless a bad reputation continues to drag values further down.
A brief history of the Jeep Cherokee
When the Cherokee nameplate was first used back in 1974, it was a smaller, two-door version of the Jeep Wagoneer, which was considered the “family SUV”. In fact, in the early Cherokee advertising literature, the term “Sport Utility Vehicle” was used for the first time, essentially paving the way for the civilized and comfortable SUVs we see today. The Wagoneer on which the Cherokee was based pre-dated its contemporaries like the Range Rover Classic by seven years (it was 18 years before a four-door Range Rover rolled off the production line).
Sharing much with the Wagoneer (and Gladiator/J-series pickup truck), the Cherokee was also powered by a range of AMC 6-cylinder and V8 engines coupled to either 4-speed manual or 3-speed automatic transmissions.
The second generation Cherokee was a significant model not only for Jeep but for four-wheel-drive vehicles in general. Its smaller size and unibody construction were revolutionary and introduced the Cherokee to a range of customers never previously interested in a high-riding, off-road-ready vehicle.
The XJ Cherokee was a smaller vehicle than the SJ it replaced, with a six inch-shorter wheelbase, some 20 inches less overall length, and between four and seven inches less width. The monocoque construction not only saved weight (it was over 1,000 pounds lighter than the SJ predecessor), but it was stiffer and, thanks to the iconic square design, still offered 90% of the SJ’s interior space in a significantly smaller body.
It was a revolutionary concept to release a model smaller than its predecessor and at the time it set a new benchmark in road manners and dynamics.
The KJ Liberty (it continued to be known outside of North America as the Cherokee) was a radical departure from the 18-year-old XJ, with somewhat controversial looks but modernized underpinnings; things like rack-and-pinion steering and independent front suspension making the KJ even more car-like than the XJ before it.
New engines and transmissions designed to attract new customers and keep old ones, along with a greater focus on refinement and driving comfort without losing its off-road ability.
The KK was essentially a facelift of the KJ in a bid to fix what many consider were the many wrongs of the earlier car and with it, the Cherokee was given chiseled, square looks yet again. It carried over transmission and engine choices from the KJ, and added features like side airbags and GPS navigation.
After new ownership (FIAT) and a change in customer priorities, the current Cherokee is a car-based crossover SUV with road-biased underpinnings. Significantly more modern than any Cheroke before it, the KL can be optioned with features like a 9-speed automatic transmission,and touchscreen infotainment with WiFi connectivity.
The KL Cherokee was, however, a backward step in terms of off-road ability, in a concession from Jeep that better efficiency and on-road dynamics are of more concern to most buyers ( the 4×4 purists could still choose either the Wrangler or Grand Cherokee from the Jeep stable).
The most-recent models of the Jeep Cherokee are cheap and, as now written above, a combination of high production numbers and poor reliability records caused this to happen. It has, however, strengthened the values of the older XJ Cherokees and only enhanced the reputation of this model, along with other older Jeeps.
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