Should You Buy Your Son a Jeep Wrangler
Owning my 2008 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited was fun. Some of the memorable experiences included taking a trip to Moab with my dad, joining a Jeep club, and taking it through stuff that folks thought would be impossible. In truth, the Rubicon is absolutely incredible for off-road experiences. I also liked the ability to zip the rear window down, fold the back seat, and throw my windsurfing equipment in the back.
The main thing I really didn't like was comfort. It was uncomfortable to take the Jeep on long trips (1 hr plus). The back seat was terribly uncomfortable for passengers as the seat makes folks sit in a perfectly upright position. My wife referred to the head rests as bricks. No climate control. Finally, the gas mileage wasn't that great - probably averaged 15-17 MPG.
Regarding reliability - the automatic sway bar release broke twice. Fortunately, I was still in warranty both times. The last time I went 4-wheeling I actually smelled burning oil. This made me concerned and I starting questioning the long-term reliability of this vehicle.
In summary, we had some wonderful times in the Jeep. I'll miss having a vehicle that can go anywhere. A teen would absolutely love this vehicle. Would I buy my son a Jeep? Probably not as the temptation to take it places one should not be might be overwhelming and the gas would be expensive. I also think there is something to having your kids earn their first car and making "learning mistakes" on a vehicle that is partially disposable (i.e. old Honda Accord). For example, I remember helping the automatic antenna in the winter on my 1984 Toyota Celica and then accidentally ripping it out of place.
Regarding safety, I really can't speak to that. I know that there are some anti-roll mechanism that occur if a tire leaves the ground. I never tested this. The doors were super heavy when they were removed. This makes me think the Jeep has come a long ways in becoming safer than they once were. Riding with the doors and top off does make a person quite exposed - it wouldn't look pretty if you were in an serious accident with the doors off.
Hopefully, this article was helpful. Feel free to contact me if you have any quesitons.