I would first do what you are doing now.....ask questions and RESEARCH the differences in these Jeeps. It looks like you narrowed it down to the CJ-7. ...so that gives you 76 to 86 for the years. Next, find out what was available during what years. Compare this to your needs in the long run. For example, if you want a full trail rig with tube fenders, swapped drivetrain, and huge tires, why ruin a garage kept mint CJ.....look for avarge or even semi built one and go from there. If you want to daily drive it, a hardtop, AC, 5 speed or auto may fit the bill better. Heres a quick run down on some basics. 76 to 80 was narrow axles, V8 available, 3 speed manuals or 3 speed autos via quadratrac systems, fender mounted roll bars, thicker hardtops with lever handle hard doors, dana 20 t case, 6 bolt hubs on front dana 30 axle, some had low back seats, etc, etc, 82 to 86 saw wide track axles, 5 bolt hubs/ center capped chrome rims, higher geared axles, 4 and 5 speed manuals, 3 speed autos and dana 300 t cases, better roll bars, hard door differences, and more interior and exterior comforts like cruise control, dome ligts, under hood insulation/ lights, delay wiper, etc, etc Start with the end in mind and find a CJ close to it. I have several CJs and really like the 82 to 86 best.....but thats just me. In your area, body rust and inner frame rot will be a BIG concern. Look at as many as you can and unless it is the one, don't impulse buy the first one you see. Not all CJs (or even CJ-7s) will drive or feel the same. gearing and tires will play a big roll in the way the CJ handles and feels compared to the next.
1975 CJ-6 304 T15 Dana20 30/44 3.73
1983 CJ-8 258 T5 300 30/44 3.31 Looking for full or half hardtop buy or trade
1986 CJ-7 Laredo 4.6 stroker T5 300 30/44 3.31
1986 TJ-7 Trail Jeep project in the works
2003 Inca Gold TJ Rubicon