A white 2020 used Jeep Renegade Trailhawk is parked on a rock in the woods after leaving a pre-owned Jeep dealer.

5 Of The Best Off-Roading Jeep Models To Buy Pre-Owned

Are you looking for a pre-owned Jeep dealer? Then you’re probably interested in heading off-road. It’s always a good idea to get a used model if you’re interested in hitting the trails. Who wants to scratch up a brand-new vehicle? But it can be difficult to figure out which pre-owned Jeep is right for you, especially when it comes to off-roading. You may think that Wrangler models are all you can choose from, but there are actually multiple Jeep off-roading options out there. While Wrangler is, of course, the best overall, that doesn’t mean you have to stick with it only. It all depends on your budget and your style. Let’s look at these models and their specs to find out why they’re ideal for heading off-pavement.

The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

Alright, yes, we told you that you’re not only going to see the Wrangler here today. But that definitely doesn’t mean you won’t be seeing it! By far, the best off-roading Jeep out there is the Wrangler Rubicon. No matter what model year you choose, the Rubicon is designed specifically with off-roading in mind. Sure, the regular Wrangler is made for heading to the trails too, but the Rubicon offers even better specs for off-roaders. Here’s why.

First off, the Rubicon comes with the Rock-Trac system, where other Wranglers include the Command-Trac system. The main difference? Rock-Trac adds in Tru-Lok locking differentials and a low gear ratio that aids in rock climbing. Those locking differentials help distribute power to all wheels, giving the Rubicon much more power to push forward.

In addition to these features, the Rubicon also comes with special skid plates, a fancier interior with standard leather seating, and performance suspension to help smooth over those intense bumps and bounces. This is one of Wrangler’s more expensive trims, but the good news is that they go all the way back to 2003. So, if you want to take it back a few years to match your budget, that’s definitely doable.

A grey 2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited is parked on a dirt road next to two hikers.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk

While the Trailhawk used to be its own model, it now stands as a trim badge for several jeep models. However, the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk is by far the most ideal for off-roading. On this model, you’ll get over 10 inches of ground clearance, along with Jeep’s Quadra-Drive II 4X4 system. In short, this allows you to cover slippery terrain with ease thanks to the Electronic Limited Slip Differential feature.

This model also happens to be the largest Jeep available, so if you’re looking for both off-roading capability and interior space, the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk has you covered. Just make sure to remember that this is the Trailhawk trim specifically! Most other Grand Cherokees are more designed for commuting and family-friendly travel than for off-roading. Well, except for one other trim option.

The Grand Cherokee Overland

Yes, we just looked at a Grand Cherokee Trailhawk trim, but the Overland is impressive as well. This one runs on a Quadra system like the Trailhawk, but it also adds several driver-selectable modes into the mix. Two of these five modes include Quad-Trac I and Quad-Trac II. Without getting all technical, these modes essentially make it easier to maintain traction no matter what road or weather conditions you’re facing. In other words, it’s definitely off-road capable. While the Overland and the Trailhawk are great for off-roading, the Overland is a bit pricier and offers smoother suspension, while the Trailhawk is more affordable, but the Trailhawk is overall the better off-roading option.

The Wrangler Willys

Did someone say, “mudding?” While the Rubicon is known for its stellar rock-climbing capabilities, many off-roading enthusiasts enjoy hitting the mud and dirt. If that’s the case, then a Wrangler Willys trim is perfect for you. This model is based on the classic original army Jeep, which was originally designed for (you guessed it) off-roading. The Willys trims come with rock rails, huge mud-terrain tires, and Trac-Lok differentials, just like the Rubicon.

Plus, you get standard all-weather mats with the Willys model, so a little dirt and mud won’t cause much harm here. This model is a nice balance between a Wrangler Sport trim and a Rubicon. You’re getting all the mudding features you really need, but you’re saving money that you won’t save when you choose the Rubicon. Unless you’re planning on climbing up some rocky hillsides, the Willys trim offers all you really need, especially if you’re on a budget.

A blue 2020 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk is off-roading on a rocky dirt hill.

The Jeep Renegade Trailhawk

Are you really off-roading on a budget? Instead of buying a 1997 Wrangler to fix up, first consider trying the Jeep Renegade Trailhawk. This model debuted in 2015, so it’s relatively modern yet lower on the price tier. Plus, unlike many off-roading models, the Renegade Trailhawk’s fuel economy stays out of the teens, even in its earliest model years. This model comes with towing equipment, and it can handle up to 2,000 pounds max as well, meaning that you can winch ATVs with ease.

The great thing about this model is that since it is newer, you’re going to get much of the new entertainment technology, along with Selec-Terrain modes. This even includes Rock Mode! While you can by no means handle rock climbing as well as the Wrangler Rubicon, it’s still comforting to know that when things get a little rough, the Renegade Trailhawk will pull through for you. Budget Jeeping has never been better!

How Do I Pick Between These Models?

It’s difficult enough to pick which model you want, let alone which trim. We get it. The bottom line here is that all Jeep models are off-roading capable. In fact, it’s well-known that even the Jeep Wrangler Sport base model is great to take off the pavement. However, we know that some models perform better than others. We also know that many drivers are on a budget. Your decision needs to be based on three different things: how much you can spend, what type of off-roading you’re doing, and how frequently will you be heading off the pavement?

The Renegade Trailhawk is by far the best budget-friendly option. Wranglers can get expensive quickly, so unless you’re getting a base-level Sport Wrangler with no add-ons, affordability will be an issue. Another financial factor here also depends on what year you decide to go with. Jeeps do hold their value, especially Wrangler models, but even then, older Wrangler models do prove to be affordable. When you’re on a budget, it’s also smart to purchase an older Rubicon model and fix it up over time. Where off-roading is concerned, older models are actually quite appealing, especially because of scratches and damage.

Those who fall somewhere in between on the price scale can confidently purchase a Willys Wrangler. This model isn’t as proficient with rock-climbing as the Rubicon, but casual east-coast mudders will find that it gets the job done with ease. Overall though, if you’re looking for the most superior Jeep off-roading experience, you’ll want to go with the Wrangler Rubicon. While this model does get better and better with age, it’s been off-roading capable from the very start. When you visit your local pre-owned Jeep dealer, remember to ask about the Rubicon and see what configurations and years they have in stock. While buying one of these models brand-new can get pricey, pre-owned Jeep Rubicons are far more affordable and just as capable.