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Baby Makes Three – 10 Takeaways From a Private Jeep Purchase

By size and mileage standards, the newest addition to our Jeep family is just a baby, although by age it could certainly be the parent of our rigs. Our son had obtained his learner’s permit a few months ago, at which point we began the daunting search for another Jeep so he’d have plenty of practice driving his own vehicle by the time he gets his license. This was my first private Jeep purchase, and did I learn a lot!

But first, the nitty gritty details! Our newest add is an ‘05 Wrangler Sport with the oft-coveted 4.0 L Inline 6 Cylinder, an engine that I’ve been told will run practically forever. No joke, my hub accidentally ran a Jeep with that engine without oil back in the day for two weeks and it kept going. And, you gas-powered aficionados know that the Straight 6 just sounds bad-ass, and it’s got the git-up to boot!

The 6-speed manual transmission makes for a fun drive, although I had to brush up on my stick shift skills, which quickly returned after 20 years (just like riding a bike). And the best part is whoever owned this Jeep from 2005 – 2021 didn’t drive it much so with around 33K on the odometer at purchase it’s bound to give our son a reliable ride for quite a few years yet.

Now, finding the perfect used vehicle wasn’t easy or quick, and here are 10 lessons I learned from this new experience!

1. Have a rough idea of desired vehicle specs to narrow the field. Car? Truck? SUV? Automatic? Manual? New? Old? Older? Brand and model? Know what you’re looking for, at least in general. When we asked our son what kind of car he’d ideally like to drive, he replied, “A Jeep.” What, are you surprised?! We then started searching for an older used Jeep – a CJ model from 1975 and earlier, or a TJ from around ‘97 through ’06. We did look at some newer Wranglers also, just for comparison.

2018 Jeep Kid – I knew he’d have his own someday!

2. Utilize your network and a variety of for-sale resources. We browsed a lot on Facebook Marketplace, eBay Motors, and Craigslist, as well as local car dealership websites. Set up filters on the for-sale sites like Facebook and save your searches so you’re notified automatically when new vehicles are posted for sale. Some of them move fast so the more efficient you can make your search, the better. As far as our experience, all the sellers we interacted with on FB Market and Craigslist were responsive and well-mannered. We also told our trusted auto repair shop what we were looking for, so they could keep us in mind as they heard about Jeeps for sale. In the end, our friends at All Tech actually sent us the Craigslist posting for the Jeep we ended up buying! It pays to use your network...

3. Ask questions before arranging to see the vehicle in person to make the process more efficient. Here are some we figured out (after trial and error) to ask up front:

A. Do you have the title in hand? (Or, is there a loan on the vehicle?)

B. Does the vehicle pass emissions? (This depends on your State and county of residence; for us it was a requirement).

C. What are the after-market mods and specs? (As applicable, and if not already listed in the ad).

D. Did you complete the after-market mods yourself, or what shop did the work? (As applicable).

E. Can you send under-hood and interior photos? (If not already provided).

F. What issues does the vehicle have that you know about?

G. If we take a look at your vehicle and are interested in next steps, would you be okay with our auto shop doing an inspection of it at our cost?

H. Why are you selling? (Of note, hub didn’t care about this but I did. Although, now that I think about it, this question is kind of like asking for a job applicant’s references – they never give a bad one so it’s really pointless).

4. Test drive a variety of vehicles to get a better idea of desired specs. We drove everything from a 1972 CJ that had a propane tank stored behind the driver’s seat – for use with a heater in case the Jeep got stuck in mountain terrain – to a high-mileage 2010 JKU. We drove a super built '97 ranch-use rig (that ended up not passing emissions), a stock '06 TJ at a dealership, and an ‘08 JK that looked nice but needed a lot of repairs.

5. The vehicle’s interior matters! This is one more reason to see the vehicle in person and to take it for a drive. Some of the Jeeps we drove were a filthy mess inside and obviously not cared for, which correlated to a multitude of mechanical issues. The Jeep we ended up buying had a squeaky clean interior and was obviously well maintained. The seller was an upstanding guy who was a military Veteran and knew how to take good care of his stuff! His pristine housekeeping was also reflected in very few mechanical issues, and the problems that needed fixing were simply due to the age of the vehicle.

6. Unless you’re a trained mechanic, have your trusted auto repair business complete a pre-sale inspection. Most auto shops will do this and have a set price to complete a full mechanical inspection. Hub and I know a fair bit about Jeeps, but we aren’t mechanics by any stretch of the imagination, so we had the folks at All Tech Automotive inspect two Jeeps (one of which we purchased) so we’d know any repairs needed up front. Some of the other Jeeps we looked at had obvious issues upon test drive, and one guy didn’t want us to have our mechanic look at his rig so that was a red flag and a deal breaker. After All Tech inspected the vehicles, they sent us an inspection report and repair recommendations which we then provided to each seller as a courtesy as well. Yes, this was a little money out of our pocket before purchase, but well worth it to know just what kind of vehicle we would be buying.

7. Utilize Kelly Blue Book and CarFax to determine a fair value for the vehicle. KBB will give you a range based on year, mileage, etc. which you can consider along with any after-market modifications that may have already been done. CarFax will give you a solid repair history to indicate any ongoing issues (note that the VIN is required for the CarFax report, and there is a small fee which we found to be worthwhile; we only pulled the CarFax on our final choice just before making an offer). Then, give the seller a call and discuss what you're willing to pay!

8. Documents, documents. Okay, on to the fun part! Once you’ve made a decision on The One and have a verbal agreement with the seller on a price, it’s time to get your documents in order. Note that some of the following items are specific to Colorado, so do your research on any State requirements where you reside.

A. Bill of Sale – here in CO the purchase price can be listed by the Seller on the title when it’s signed over, in which case a Bill of Sale (BOS) isn’t a requirement for the Buyer to register the vehicle. However, a BOS is strongly recommended to document the purchase, particularly when there are complicating factors in the sale such as an outstanding loan amount to be paid. You can write your own BOS or you can download State-specific forms for free online from websites such as LawDepot. Most allow for a free trial period, so as long as you cancel your account before the payment date, you can complete your BOS form at no cost. For our purposes, there was a loan on the Jeep we bought so our BOS outlined loan payment arrangements, how the vehicle would be stored until the title was received, and when the final remaining money would be paid. I’m sure not all Sellers may be as cooperative as ours was – we had a frank discussion about how to pay the loan, and we ended up meeting for loan pay-off via phone, then he parked the Jeep at our house but retained the keys until receipt of the title, at which point he signed the title over to us, gave us the keys, and we paid the remainder of the agreed selling price. This ended up working out great, and details were outlined in the BOS and signed by both Seller and Buyer up front. Even though all parties in our Jeep purchase were honest people, a “handshake deal” is a thing of the past, and documentation provided peace of mind on both sides.

B. Odometer Disclosure Statement – usually included in the Bill of Sale if you download a form for that online. This Statement is required by Federal and State laws upon transfer of vehicle ownership.

C. Branded Title Disclosure Statement (CO Form DR 2710) – if the Seller’s title is branded as damaged or salvage, this form must be provided by the Seller and signed by both parties.

D. Vehicle Inspection Report for emissions – dependent on your Colorado county of residence; if the Buyer resides in an AirCare Colorado area, then the Seller must provide current proof that the vehicle passes emissions before purchase. You won’t be able to register / title the vehicle without this.

E. Statement of Transfer (CO Form DR 2445) – in lieu of notarization of the title; in Colorado the title does not have to be notarized so it turns out this form isn’t actually required. However, I found mention of this on one website so we went ahead and had the Seller complete it. Better to have too much paperwork when you go to the DMV, right?

9. Now that you have the signed title, arrange to visit the correct Department of Motor Vehicles office. You’ll want the Motor Vehicle registration office, NOT the driver licensing office. Where we live these are different locations so do some googling before you go. Also, we made an appointment thinking the Motor Vehicle department would be busy, but no one was there when we arrived a few minutes early yet we then had to wait until our scheduled appointment time while the government employees sat there apparently doing nothing. Our tax dollars at work?! Honestly, just walking in might be better.

10. Enjoy your new-to-you ride! After all the work, you’ve earned some fun!

Personally, that the kiddo is now driving has been somewhat of a tough adjustment (he’s growing up too fast!). But, I’m happy he has a reliable Jeep of his own now and I can’t wait to take him out in the backcountry for some off-road adventuring!

Thanks for reading, and Happy Trails!


by Dawn Gallegos

Dawn Gallegos is the founding editor of the Chicks On The Rocks blog. When she's not working to fund her Jeep habit she's thinking up new ways to inspire others to explore the great outdoors!


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