Thanks for all the input on this guys. I'm still torn; I'm absolutely OK with the 4 cylinder now, it's having the auto and how degrading it seems I'm more concerned about. This weekend however, I'm supposed to go see it, so I'll take it for a good thorough test drive, including a little highway ride, just to see how bad it could really be. If it is at the very least livable, I'm in 100%. The other night the owner sent me pictures of the engine bay and undercarriage; it's even cleaner than the exterior is in those pics! I'm just drooling over this thing right now haha.
Thanks again for all the different opinions, I always like to hear from people with first-hand, hands-on experience because they will tell it like it is, no assumptions.
'99 WJ Laredo 4.0L, 174K, NP242 (Current)