With a budget of $6000, you can even get a good condition 97-99 TJ.
Nice! Glad to know I can, with decent luck, find a TJ. I'd be happy with a YJ, but won't complain about nicer creature comforts.
Proof. That's great. Thanks for pointing this one out.
The early YJ Wranglers are capable off-road vehicles. In stock form they are good, but with a little modification they can do much more. It's part of the reason that they hold their value so well as people can reasonably ask $6000 for a vehicle that may be up to 26 years old and have 130,000 miles on it. How capable depends on how you modify it.
There are some things to consider when considering an early yj (1987-1990). Older Jeeps will likely need more TLC to get them to the level of reliability that one expects from a brand new vehicle (some states consider the early YJ to an antique for registration purposes). Also seeing as you are in California you need to be aware that the 6 cylinder 4.2L (87-90) has a computer controlled Carter BBD carburetor setup that cannot be swapped out for any other carb. The system is a complex Rube Goldberg contraption that can be finicky to deal with and a PITA to diagnose. Plus, some parts for the OEM carb setup are no longer made and are only to be found as used/junkyard deals. So if considering a 89-09 4.2L to drive on the street, take into account that if you want a 4.2L with better performance/reliability than the stock Carter BBD setup, an upgrade to Howell TBI or Mopar MPFI are your only options. Else, swap in a 4.0 MPFI engine from a newer YJ.
As far as beginner off-road abilities go, having fancy gadgets like downhill brake assist and hill start assist, 8 speed transmissions and all the like are nice luxuries, but they don't make a person a more capable off-road driver, they just make the vehicle easier for a wider range of people to use. Knowing the limits and abilities of the vehicle you are driving, and having the knowledge and skills to utilize the vehicle to it's best abilities is more important than gadgets and gimmicks. Think of some of the new fangled gadgets out there today as the vehicle equivalent of auto correct. Auto correct let you blindly type words into your computer/phone without paying real close attention to the keyboard and voila! It's been corrected. BUT... it leaves you with the habit of sloppy typing, and when found without the benefit of a computerized autocorrect, you are at a disadvantage.
Really helpful info. Thank you. So these could-be-challenging carburetors... are they only found on the '87-'90 models?? Or, are they standard on all 6-cyl models up to '09? From a reliability, fewer things have a chance of needing repair perspective, is the 4cyl a better way to go? I read the 6cyls are very reliable, but the carb issue concerns me a little.
Jeeps are reliable if they are taken care of and maintained. A stock jeep is very capable off road, especially with a good set of tires. I'm running 32s on a 2 inch lift, not much different than stock and mine goes anywhere I need it to within reason. Know your limits and learn to drive the jeep and you can have serious fun without modifying it at all.
Also I'd advise against a Land Rover, they are expensive to maintain if budget is what you're after.
Yea, I'm becoming more familiar with how well these Wranglers can perform. Good to know in relatively stock trim they can tackle a lot. LR would be a new RRS that would replace my DD and serve as a here-and-there off roader. I'm definitely leaning towards a second vehicle (wrangler) in addition to my current DD.
^This. While they were good carburetors, their age is showing and parts are hard to find. Trying to replace OEM ends up with a close approximation that is a nightmare to run perfectly.
The YJ didn't and I don't think the CJ came with any option for lockers, neither had advanced systems like Hill Assist, and had classic 5 speed manuals.
My dad has an 89 with the 4.2 seeing over 270k miles. It still runs good considering the carburetor on it but idles a little rough. I drove a 93 4cyl that ran pretty good for the hills and dirt trails where I lived. The 4.0 Inline 6 is considered one of the best off road engines made, and saw only light changes in design in it's entire run (EFI, Computer Timing etc).
This carb issue... I've searched for threads about this. Are there years I should avoid (think NonRubicon mentioned 87-90)?
Thanks everyone! Really helpful. I appreciate it.