You've been there... you see a Jeep drive by you with the roof off, good tunes and just a sense of freedom in the air. So you decide you want to buy a used Jeep. If you have no experience in Jeeps, you can easily fall into a money pit, fast.

First you need to decide on your budget as this will play a big part in the make and model Used Jeep you will be able to afford. For this article I'm working on a budget of $5,000. You think that's not a lot of money, however you can pick up a nice budget Jeep for that price range and still have a few dollars to make it your own. I will cover the making it your own in my next article. In this price range you are looking at an early 90's Wrangler in the US or YJ's in Canada. Once you've found a potential Used Jeep here are the areas you'll want to check out.

Verifying the Outside of a Used Jeep Body
Jeeps have their rust problem areas that will be affected differently depending on where you are located, aka rust belt or not. Starting from the front of the Jeep working your way back, first run your fingers underneath the front fenders where the fender flares meet the metal fender. What you're looking for here is rust, holes and/or loads of bondo. Water, dirt and salt gets stuck between the fender flare and fender and basically rots it out. This is easily repaired of the fenders can be replaced. Use this as a negotiating tool in your offer.

Next is to get a visual of where the front fenders attach to the body or tub. This should be a straight seam. If it is bulging, be aware there is rust between the panels that will need to be addressed. Another good spot to check from outside the Jeep is the windshield frame. Check in bottom center of the windshield where the seal meets. Look for signs of repair and buckling of of the seal. Also, if the Jeep has a softop, check the top channel where it is attached via screws to the windshield frame. This needs to be properly sealed or water will seep in from under the channel and into the windshield frame rotting it from the inside out.

Last trouble spot from the outside to do a visual is in the rear. The rear quarter panels have a seam that joins to the bottom of the floor just under the rear swing tailgate. This seam is also succeptible to rust and will buckle. If the Jeep you're looking at has no seam there be very weary and ask many questions. There should be 2 rubber flaps under the rear quarter panel just under the rear lights. Pull these back to see if there are chucks of mud and other crap stuck there. This is a catch all area for mud, water and salt that will rust the Jeep from the inside out if not cleaned thoroughly.

Verifying the Inside of a Used Jeep Body
Inside the Jeep there are a few areas to check. First don't be afraid to pull up the carpets. starting from the front again you want to lift the carpet and check where the front floor panel joins to the side of the tub. Pretty much where the Jeep logo is stamped. There are 3 seams in that one location that are very prone to rust. Next is to check under the carpet for the seat brackets. Make sure the floor is sound and ask questions if you see signs of patching. Also check under the Jeep where the mounts go through the C-channel. Next is the roll cage. This is an important safety item. Again pull the carpet and double check where the cage is bolted to the floor. Check the seatbelt mount as well as water, mud and salt will gather at these locations, settle and rot. Also check under the Jeep for patching from the underside to cover any holes or weak spots. Last is to lift the rear seat and carpet to check the floor, seat mounts and seatbelt mounts.

As always, don't be afraid to spend some time under the Jeep looking at all the seams, patching and anything that looks chopped or "booty fab". Depending on what you see from the outside, I would also suggest getting under the dash with a flashlight to see if any water got in there via the air ducks or rotted windshield frame. Rust under there could be well hidden and cause bad grounds, cracked/frayed wires and general electrical gremblins.

This would conclude the body check. Jeeps will have trouble spots and in this price range you will most likely have to put up with some body work and preventative maintenance to help reduce the rust and rot. Depending on your skills, tools and comfort level, these can be used as negotiation tools to get a better price on something you can easily fix. If you're not so comfortable at least you now know where to check and what to look out for so you not buy a money pit.

Hope this was informative and helps you discover the Jeep addiction!