I’ve been educating myself on the market for Jeep Grand Wagoneers, determined to become an expert before taking the plunge. My goal is that by the time my lease is up on my truck (16 months out), I’ll have a presentable and dependable daily driver Grand Wagoneer ready to take its place in my stable. I need to get started soon, because I’m assuming I’ll be doing some extensive work to get it ready. This has been the most frustrating auto search of my life. There are two major factors that are working against me.

Photo Credit: AutoTrader lister

Factor The First- Unreal Seller Expectations

There is a huge disparity between what sellers believe these are worth and what they actually sell for. You can find them listed for as much as $89,000, but that is not what they are trading hands for. After extensive research every day for the past couple months or so, I think I can definitively tell you the market value of any Grand Wagoneer. I’ve broken it down into three condition categories, and for each I will provide an example to support my valuation, as well as a ridiculous example of someone asking way too much. Values are for 86-91 models. For 84-85, the values are about 70% of the newer ones, and for 83 and back Wagoneers, the market is so thin that each one would have to be looked at case-by-case (but generally speaking they are not as desirable). Here goes:

  • Rough (meets any one of the following conditions: rusted through, non-running, trans out, interior destroyed, ran when parked, someone else’s project): These are worth almost nothing. Think David Tracy territory. Spend less than $2500, and only proceed if you’re just in need of the parts. Here’s one for $2495 to support my case that is sun-crusted and needs a carb rebuild (actually, that one is probably a good buy!) And here’s one with unknown miles, a quirky trans, needs a carb rebuild, has bondo popping off the quarter, rust throughout, failing electrics, and a previous hacked-together FRAME REPAIR that failed to bring the ridiculous $4000 opening bid (thank God!).
  • Original Condition Driver (has minor flaws like A/C out, dings, windows inop, needs headliner replaced, but overall is ok. You could drive it home and it looks great. Rust is very little or non-existent): These sell for between 5000 and 9000 dollars. As evidence, I present this buy-it-now auction for a lovely and rust-free 88 model for $8000 that probably would have sold if the owner was more experienced with Ebay, took better pictures, and didn’t falsely state that it had a “360 Ford Engine.” Here’s another 88 that did sell for $7101, and all it needed was a headliner and to figure out what to do with a defunct sunroof. In contrast, here’s an 85 for $14,000 that’s masquerading as a newer one and has the wrong grill, wrong wheels, and the dash was rattle-canned the wrong color. I actually really like this one, as I prefer the earlier interior, don’t mind a re-paint, and love that it’s been converted to fuel injection. But it didn’t sell the first time when it was listed for $15,500, didn’t sell the second time when it was listed at $15,000, and will not sell for $14,000 either, because it’s worth half that. Also here’s this one, and this one, and this one all at a consignment dealer in Colorado that have been listed at that 15k price point forever with no takers. They’re just not bringing that kind of money.
  • Fully Restored or Mint: I have found very little evidence of these actually changing hands, so it’s hard to say. I have not seen any Grand Wagoneer actually sell for over 20 grand, so I’m going to say their actual worth is in the upper teens, maybe low 20's. As evidence, I present this basically mint California beauty listed for $20,900 on Auto Trader (it’s the one in the lead photo up there). Offer them 19k and I bet they’d take it, and you’d have yourself probably the nicest original Grand Wagoneer on the road. This one may not be the best example, but here’s a mostly restored and very nice looking 86 for just $17,977. But this reality doesn’t stop people from listing them for sale at outrageous prices. Here’s a private seller asking $42,400 for a supposedly restored 88, and this dealer has had several listed in the mid-30's to no avail for months. Again, I have seen zero evidence that any actually sell in this price range.

You can see how this disparity between market reality and seller’s expectations and asking price can make this process very frustrating. Imagine shopping for a new Camry, but for some reason 90% of Toyota dealers think that they’re worth 90 grand.

Factor The Second- Location, Location, Location

There are none of these near me. I live in Ohio, and although I know they sold them here (the dealership that I work for was a Jeep dealer during this time, and I confirmed that we actually did deliver some), I can honestly say that I have never seen one in the wild. There are just none in my area. I’m guessing they rusted out like crazy and went into crushers. What I have discovered is that there are pockets of survivors in the upper northwest, southern California, Colorado, and Texas. Everywhere else is hit-and-miss. Since Craiglist seems to be the only place where people list these at reasonable prices, this makes finding one very difficult for me. Buying on Craigslist is all about watching it like a hawk, and pouncing with cash in hand when the right item comes up. How can I do that when the item is two days travel away, and requires a personal inspection and a trailer? Do you know how much it costs to ship a large SUV from Seattle to the Great Lakes? And would anyone near Colorado Springs like to inspect this 90 driver for a very reasonable $5500, negotiate a transaction, and drive it to Ohio for me? Didn’t think so.... maybe I’ll start looking at Camry leases instead.