Oh yeah, a lot of the newer 1/2 tons have frame rust issues as well. If you want a serious off-road machine, you need to go back to the models with the straight front axles, and of course, they're getting harder to find in decent shape too. Especially in the rust belt. You can still find solid older trucks if you head west, young man...
Just to be clear- The wrangler wasn't introduced until 87 so at least compare apples to apples and having owned ford,chevy and dodge trucks of the Wrangler era I can testify they all have issues. My 08 Ram had more frame and fender rust than my older Jeep. The Chevy's have plenty of frame issues as well. Yes. It's a concern but if you want something like this,there is no better alternative.
Good questions. You have 3 body style configurations to choose from.
The YJ body was made from 87-97 and that had either a 4 cyl or an inline 6. It had leaf springs and a pretty spartan interior IMO. Some serious off roaders liked the leaf springs but they rode pretty rough IMO.
I feel the 4 cyl is anemic especially with bigger tires. The 4.0 inline 6 is bulletproof, has decent torque and power and fits the Jeep about perfectly. In the YJ series the manual transmission seemed like a better option in my experience.
The TJ ran from 98-06. This version replaces leaf springs with coil over shocks. Mine is an 06 and has the dana rear with the 4.0 and auto trans. I have BFG AT KO 32x10s and on gravel they have taken out 2 side mirrors by throwing rocks at them.
I prefer the TJ series. It has better suspension and interior than the YJ while keeping the original drive train. Fuel economy pretty much sucks as you are essentially driving a brick. I probably get about 12 MPG. If they had done a diesel I would think the wrangler could get 30 but...
The JK series replaced the TJ and was a pretty radical redesign. The body is wider, the drivetrain is totally different and the interior was upgraded quite a bit as well. They went to a pentastar V6 instead of the inline 4.0. trans was upgraded as well. They also started to sell the 4 door unlimited which gives more interior space as well. The new ones are much more civilized and refined which is great for taking the top off and driving to the lake or beach. OTOH they are expensive and harder to justify taking off the top and heading into the woods to hunt or find mud.
Not sure about the new V6, but the old inline 6 was bulletproof, and had a lot of low end torque, which is a desirable feature in an off-road vehicle.
Any 1/2 ton pickup truck from the 70's and early 80's in particular, had a much better frame than a Jeep. Body panels rust in all of them.
Not saying this is a deal-breaker for a Jeep, just something to watch for, since it is a very common problem.
After doing a little looking there are a lot of options to these things. Anyone know how that new V6 compares to the in line 6? Some of the stuff I would like is the bigger tires and because I would consider putting a plow on it a lower rear end gear. The Dana 44 rear axel would be nice and would want a hard and soft top. I'm in no hurry to get one so Ill wait till the right one comes around. There are a lot of them out there that never leave the tar. More options in the later models as far as transmissions to. So it also comes down to how much I want to spend on one and how late of a model to buy. Sure don't want to spend 35K on a new one.
Well yeah but can you name a vehicle built for off road including any domestic pickup truck that doesn't have issues with rust. Fenders, rockers, frames etc. If you play in the mud and salt you need to maintain them. UTVs are no different. Ask yourself why Polaris would put the air filter canister intake in the rear wheel well so it is sucking in the air from the dustiest area they could possibly draw it from resulting in a 4k bill when the motor grenades.
Jeeps are fun, used ones can be had at a reasonable price but by their nature you need to be careful when you purchase because if the previous owner drove them the way they were marketed then they may have some issues.
But the aftermarket has an amazing amount of mods,upgrades and accessories to make your Jeep into anything you want and because the generally go 10 years between major design changes there are a large number of parts available if you need them.