So you’ve reached that exciting milestone and are ready to buy your very first car. Congratulations! As fun as this rite of passage can be, choosing that inaugural vehicle is also a big decision – and one that goes beyond just budget. You want reliable transportation that’s reasonably affordable, safe, practical for your needs, and maybe even a little adventurous. In short: a great first car.
The quick answer? While beloved for its iconic styling and off-road grit, the Jeep Wrangler compromises too much daily drivability to make a great choice as a teen’s main squeeze. The Wrangler’s expensive purchase price, poor fuel economy, and rough ride quality make more sensible, efficient cars better options for most young drivers. A used Wrangler can be a fun weekend toy later on for those weekend getaways and outdoor adventures.
This article will cover everything you need to consider when choosing your first car and how the unique qualities of the Jeep Wrangler measure up. We’ll overview key factors like affordability, reliability, safety, drivability and more. You’ll also learn the pros and cons of choosing a Wrangler, see how it compares to other top first car options, and get our final verdict on whether it truly makes good transportation for a newly licensed driver. Let’s hit the road!
Table of Contents
What To Consider When Buying Your First Car
Shopping for your first car requires balancing a lot of factors beyond just price or looks. Prioritize must-haves versus nice-to-haves given your budget. Here are the most important considerations for teen drivers and parents:
For young drivers still in school, affordability reigns supreme in that first vehicle purchase. Consider both the purchase price and ongoing ownership costs like insurance, gas and repairs:
- Purchase Price: Focus on used cars that are 5-7 years old in the $10K-15K for the best value. Consider financing terms if needed.
- Insurance: Costs will be higher for teen drivers; factor this in. Get quotes on any car you’re serious about buying.
- Fuel Efficiency: Gas and maintenance are the highest ongoing costs. Prioritize fuel efficiency and economy.
- Maintenance Records: Review maintenance history on used cars to anticipate repairs needed.
[Jeep Wrangler purchase price and ownership costs are higher]
Reliability and Safety
You’ll want a dependable vehicle that will last through college without many major repairs. Key indicators of longevity include:
- Proven reputation – research vehicles with long history of reliability.
- Low mileage on used models. Under 100k miles is ideal.
- Modern safety features (electronic stability control, airbags, etc).
Off-road focused vehicles like the Wrangler compromise stability and accident avoidance technology for ruggedness.
[Jeep Wrangler safety and reliability varies by model year]
Passenger and Cargo Capacity
As a young driver you’ll want a flexible vehicle good for carrying friends with room for everyday cargo like sports gear, dorm room items, road trip luggage and small apartment moves.
- Seating for 4-5 passengers
- Folding or split rear seats to handle larger items
[Jeep Wranglers provide ample passenger and cargo volume]
Ease of Driving and Handling
Opt for an easy-to-drive vehicle as you build confidence behind the wheel, with:
- Composed handling and maneuverability at high speeds
- Good outward visibility
- Easy parking in tight spots
- Simple controls and displays
- Smooth, quiet ride for daily commuting
[Jeep Wranglers prioritize off-road prowess over on-road drivability]
Gas prices go up and down, but good fuel economy saves money for young drivers in the long run:
- 25+ MPG combined is ideal target
- Compare highway vs city efficiency based on your driving
- Research cost of premium/regular gas
[Jeep Wrangler gas mileage is quite poor for everyday driving]
For adventurous types who plan weekend escape to the mountains or beach, off-road credentials like these may hold some appeal:
- High ground clearance
- Four-wheel drive capabilities
- Skid plates and underbody protection
- Short front and rear overhangs
[Jeep Wrangler off-road credentials are as good as they come]
Now let’s see how the unique capabilities of the Jeep Wrangler align with the needs of teen drivers.
Jeep Wrangler Overview
The Jeep Wrangler is designed first and foremost for serious off-roading. Currently in its fourth generation, the iconic Wrangler stays true to its 71-year history with the ruggedness, functionality and open-air fun that makes it so popular. Let’s look at some key specs:
Jeep Wrangler Key Specifications
|2.0L Turbo 4-cylinder (<keyword>), 3.6L V6, or 2.0L Turbo 4-cylinder PHEV
|270HP – 375HP
|17/25 – 50/49 MPGe (PHEV)
|8.3″ – 10.8″
|36.1o – 44.5o / 26o – 37o
- The Wrangler Unlimited 4-door model provides more cargo room and easier access to rear seats
- Three trims available: Sport, Sport S, Sahara, Rubicon, 392
- Available features: Tow package, cold weather group, LED lighting, premium audio
As you can see, those off-road stats are impressive with high ground clearance, steep approach/departure angles and solid axles front and rear. The robust structure, truck-based platform and body-on-frame design make it an exceptional rock crawler. But how do these rugged capabilities translate to real-world drivability?
The Pros of Choosing a Wrangler as First Car
There’s no questioning the Wrangler’s cool factor and popularity, especially in the western U.S. where the top comes off as soon as winter ends. If you’re set on joining the Jeep wave, here are some advantages the Wrangler offers over traditional sedans or crossovers:
Iconic Styling and Design
The Wrangler keeps its iconic retro style but modernizes just enough with each redesign. Round headlights, seven slot grille and square-edged wheel flairs make it instantly recognizable for that adventurous, fun-loving image. teens dig it.
Excellent Off-Road Capability
With standard 4WD, hi-lo gearing, locking differentials and massive suspension travel, the nimble Wrangler scrambles over boulders, charges down trails; crosses streams without breaking a sweat or flipping end-over-end.
Removable Top and Doors
Who doesn’t love open-air driving? The Wrangler’s removable hardtop and doors let you enjoy sun and wind in your hair all year long. Just beware: it gets cold in winter and you’ll feel those bumps in the road.
Abundant Cargo and Passenger Space
Thanks to its boxier proportions, the 4-door Wrangler Unlimited offers ample room for passengers and gear, making it surprisingly practical. The fold-flat rear seats and easily washable interior help handle messy adventures and oversized cargo.
Manual Transmission Available
Unlike many crossovers and SUVs, Jeep still answers the call for manuals in select Wrangler models. So for aspiring stick-shift drivers, learning on 3 pedals is a possibility in a Jeep.
Holds Resale Value Extremely Well
Wranglers command incredibly high resale values, thanks to brand loyalty and scarcity. The average for a 5-year old wrangler is 20-30% higher than competitors. If you opt for a Wrangler, you’ll recoup more cash when it comes time to sell or trade up.
The Cons of Choosing a Wrangler as First Car
Now for the realities of owning a Jeep Wrangler, especially as an emerging driver. Their single-minded off-road dedication imposes trade-offs for everyday use – some pretty serious.
Expensive Starting Price
Base Wranglers start around $30,000 and run up near $75,000 for the high power V8. Even used, you won’t find too many deals. Limited budget means settling for 15+ year old models with over 100k miles.
Rock Hard Ride Quality
Let’s just say the Wrangler emphasizes stones over stones. Beefy off-road components make for an extremely stiff ride. You’ll feel each crack and bump, bouncing and jostling constantly – especially at highway speeds.
Difficult Handling at Highway Speeds
Easily thrown off-line by ruts and grooves. Floaty steering feel with delayed inputs. Braking distances are long too. Wranglers just don’t handle high speeds as safely or easily as typical cars. Less room for error.
Noisy Cabin Environment
The squat shape and convenient removable top come at the cost of noise intrusion – from engine, wind, other vehicles. It’s no pampered luxury SUV inside. Constant drone wears on you after awhile. Conversation is a challenge.
Poorer Fuel Economy
Inevitably, off-road readiness hampers mpg. Expect 17 city / 21 highway for the V6. The thirstier upgrade V8 gets 15/19. Better than decades past but it still guzzles gas, hurting your wallet at the pump.
Higher Insurance Costs
Brace yourself if adding your teenager as primary. Between collision risk, vandalism and higher rates for Wranglers, premiums will be steep – often 30%+ over comparable vehicles.
Frequent and Costly Maintenance
Rugged applications means more repairs needed. Short window to replace wear items like ball joints, steering gear box, wheel bearings. Fluids need changed twice as often. $$$
Is a Wrangler a Good Match As Your First Vehicle?
Best for Adventurous Types Wanting Off-Road Chops
For those needing to satiate that wanderlust with excursions away from pavement – to rarely-seen fishing holes, surf spots down ragged trails, remote campsites, the Wrangler has no equal. Just know it’s a compromise.
Tough for Teenage & College Buyers Budget-wise
Between new models too pricey and older ones needing hefty maintenance, cost-conscious high schoolers and college kids face major hurdles getting a Wrangler as first vehicle. Repairs especially can get overwhelming financially.
Compromises Daily Drivability
Make no mistake, the Wrangler gives up on-road composure for off-road talent. Routine driving will punish you with a stiff ride, vague handling, excessive noise, and poor fuel economy. It wears on you.
Not Ideal as Only Vehicle
Given its compromises, for most young drivers the Wrangler works better as additional transportation rather than sole vehicle relied on for daily commuting, driving friends around, road trips, and hauling larger items.
Consider Used Wrangler to Start
Gently used with mods already, older Wranglers let first-time buyers get the style and some capability for fewer $$$. Learn to handle trails while maintaining affordability. New lifted models can come later!
Other Great First Cars To Consider
The Wrangler makes for a fun later vehicle once you’ve gained experience behind the wheel and need 4WD less often. For now, our top recommendations as first cars provide that magic combo of reliability, efficiency, tech and value:
Proven reliable compact affordable to buy and own. Great MPG, safety tech, roomy interior handling. Timeless styling and fun to drive too.
Classic first car. Today’s Corolla gets over 30mpg combined and offers responsive handling plus Toyota’s reputation for quality and reliability at a reasonable price.
The AWD hatchback Impreza splits the difference nicely for teens wanting some ruggedness without extreme compromises on road. High safety scores too.
An affordable crossover alternative to bulkier truck-based SUVs, the Escape offers generous cargo capacity and gadgets while earning solid mpg.
Hyundai’s Elantra compact sedan keeps winning over buyers with sleek styling and loads of features for the money. Plus that awesome 10-year warranty for peace of mind.
Quick, upscale German-engineered hatchback that goes big on tech, handling prowess and fuel efficiency. More practically sized than flashier sports cars.
Final Verdict: Jeep Wrangler As First Car
So back to our original question after weighing the pros, cons and alternatives:
While beloved and capable off-road, the Jeep Wrangler’s expensive price tag, rough ride, poor fuel economy and design trade-offs make it generally not ideal for newly licensed teen drivers – unless you plan to take the doors and roof off and go adventuring every weekend.
As exciting as the rugged Wrangler seems for a 16-year old, a cheaper more practical car or crossover better fits most needs for daily transportation, commuting, hauling friends and gear. Then later on when you have more disposable income and driving experience, a used Jeep to take topless on mountain trails makes for a great second vehicle.
- Jeep Press Kit Specs
- Kelley Blue Book 5-Year Cost to Own Data
- Car & Driver Comparative Reviews
Weigh your priorities carefully as you search for that first car. Identify must-haves versus nice-extras accessories given your budget. And don’t get too caught up on style over substance. Happy shopping future drivers!