I went and test drove a CJ 5 today, all in all I really liked it, and more importantly my wife liked it.
One issue is that the steering seems to be really loose. There is a lot of play in the steering wheel, I only went about 45-50MPH and faster than that and it seemed like it would get scary. The current owner agreed and said that he liked to keep it at 55 at the most. Is this a common problem? Is it hard to fix?
That is definitely a common problem for the CJs (and really all the older Jeeps). Every situation is different. You may have a slap worn out steering box, or it may be your tie rods or something else. I've just learned to keep both hands on the wheel and be very careful at speeds over 60...
1986 Jeep CJ7 4.2L I6 T176 (restoration in progress)
1961 Willys 4x4 Wagon L-226 I6 T90 (restoration also in progress)
Tie rod ends, ball joints, wheel bearings, spring bushings, steering box, cracks in frame where box mounts to. Any or all of these things will contribute to loose steering. All easy fixes though. Price out the possible repairs and knock that off your offer.
I had exactly the same thing....an absolute death machine at 30mph+.....fixed 2 tie rod ends $40.00, all 4 ball joints $80.00, lower steering box brace $50.00,replaced steering box $260.00 (seals blown due to rusted ball joints), installed missing sway bar and new bushings $75.00, and tightened the loose steering box brace bolts inside the frame $aggrivation$. Steers perfectly now. Put a lot of hours into it too because of the rust, but overall the mechanical aptitude required to fix all the above is low. You may have fewer worn parts than I did, you may have more. PLUS I was able to convince my wife that I NEEDED a 20 ton press ($210.00) to do the ball joints..