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The grille of a 2021 Jeep Wrangler Willy is shown at a Jeep dealer.

Both Old and New: Why the Jeep Wrangler Is My Favorite Daily Driver

When you drive by your local Jeep dealer, you may be surprised by how many Wrangler models you will consistently see on the lot. The Jeep Wrangler is a good daily driver because it is easy to navigate, it’s incredibly durable, and it can handle rough roadways with ease. Whether you’re dealing with snow and ice, mud and gravel, or standing water, a Wrangler can tackle the commute better than your average SUV. The bottom line here is that you don’t have to be an off-roading pro to appreciate a Jeep Wrangler. In fact, you don’t have to go off-roading at all to enjoy the Wrangler’s benefits.

My Own Personal Wrangler Obsession Story

People jokingly say that Wrangler drivers are part of a cult, but the truth is that once you get behind the wheel of a Jeep Wrangler, you’re addicted for life. I’ve been driving a Jeep Wrangler since I was old enough to get behind the wheel. At age 16, my dad took me car shopping with the goal of getting me something both reliable and capable. When you live on a farm in rural Kentucky, you can’t exactly trust any model that doesn’t have four-wheel drive.

I was originally looking at the Chevy Colorado and the GMC Canyon, assuming that a small, single-cab pickup truck may be the way to go. That was until we saw a group of red Jeep Wranglers on the corner of the dealership. We decided to take one for a spin, and it’s all history from there. Since that day, I’ve sworn I’ll never drive anything other than a Jeep Wrangler.

Ten years later, once I finally became both old enough and financially stable enough to buy a new vehicle on my own, I decided it was time to upgrade. I sold my 2012 Sport Wrangler to my younger cousin (which made it slightly less painful to part with) and eagerly yet emotionally made the decision to upgrade to a 2021 Sarge Green Willys Wrangler. Now, I’m cruising the same roads I learned to drive on in my Willys while teaching my cousin how to drive in the old 2012 model. The truth here is that both models perform amazingly, and I can’t say that one is necessarily “better” than the other.

Today, I’m going to give you an overview of both models, recommending one when you’re on a budget and the other when you’re ready to make a bigger purchase.

A green 2021 Jeep Wrangler Willy shows a 4 wheel drive sticker in close up.

The 2012 Two-Door Jeep Wrangler Sport Model: Rowdy and Resilient

There’s a reason why Wranglers hold their resale value so well. Actually, there are several reasons why. I drove my 2012 Wrangler back and forth to college for six years without a single mechanical issue. Keep in mind that when you live in a rural community, that college commute ranges from 30 to 40 minutes. I racked up over 150,000 miles by the time I decided to sell it, and even then, the most expensive garage visit I had was for my wheel alignment.

Speaking of alignment, let’s talk about potholes for a second. Unless you live right smack dab in the middle of the city, you probably experience a pothole or two. You may even come across them on city streets as well. Whatever the case, they’re not fun and can leave your vehicle damaged and misaligned.

I live on a 2-mile long backroad that is half paved with blacktop that was laid 15 years ago and half patched up with chipseal. There are potholes so deep that you can get a free direct line to the devil himself. It’s safe to say that I’ve hit my fair share of potholes in that 2012 Wrangler, and I can honestly say that this sucker can bounce out of potholes like it’s nothing. You can definitely feel the bumps a lot more than you can in the newer 2021 model due to suspension differences, but hey, free amusement park rides, am I right?

This final opinion is based on personal experiences, so please don’t sue me if your Wrangler gets destroyed. Let me tell you a little story about a giant Beech tree in an ice storm versus a 2012 Jeep Wrangler.

We experienced a horrific ice storm in February of 2021, where 10+ trees came down on our property, our home, and our vehicles. A full-grown Beech tree decided to come down onto our house, then toppling over onto my 2012 Wrangler and my girlfriend’s 2020 Nissan Versa. For reference, Beech trees grow to be up to 70 feet tall, and a Beech is also a hardwood tree, meaning that it’s incredibly heavy. On average, a Beech tree weighs roughly 45 pounds per cubic foot.

The short version of this story is that my girlfriend’s brand new car was totaled, while mine had nothing more than a shallow 3-inch wide hood dent. This Wrangler was also the only vehicle that could make it off my road without slipping and sliding all over the place during the worst part of the snowstorm. (I promise we’re not recklessly stupid, we had to leave for an emergency).

Do keep in mind that this model can get up to 17 miles a gallon, but if you’re like me and you love the big wheels, you may average around 14 MPG. Fuel economy is definitely the only actual downside I see with this model.

In my experience, a 2012 Sport Wrangler is one of the most physically durable used models you can buy. It can tackle any road condition, it’ll last for miles without breaking down or requiring expensive repairs, and to top it all off, it can turn on a dime. It’s the perfect used SUV when you need a reliable and durable commuter.

The 2021 Two-Door Jeep Wrangler Willys

What I like about the new Willys is pretty much everything that I love about my old 2012 Sport model and more. I live on the same road that I always have, so now, when I bounce out of those potholes, I can hardly feel a thing. In fact, my girlfriend reluctantly agreed with me that her 2021 Bronco Sport rides rougher than my new Wrangler does. Score!

As far as the drive goes, the best part about Wranglers is that they don’t change their style and set up; they just improve upon what matters most. So, driving the 2021 Willys feels just like driving the 2012 Sport, except the side mirrors are a bit higher, and I’ve got a wider rear window view. Plus, I can appreciate the new standard rearview camera and touch-screen infotainment system that has yet to glitch out on me versus the old school standard style radio in the 2012 model.

Another reason I love the 2021 Willys model is that the three-piece hardtop is much lighter. The inserts are easier to remove for this reason. Since I got the Willys model, I didn’t even need to upgrade my tires and rims like I did with my last model. It comes with some awesome 17-inch wheels and 32-inch mud tires that can tackle muddy fields and ditches like it’s nothing. (I know this from personal experience since I bypassed a road work-related roadblock by trotting along through my neighbor’s field, then back up onto the main road).

The Willys is, of course, designed more for off-roading than the Sport model, with those mud tires and an underbody skid plate. But I continue to use mine as a commuter 95% of the time, rarely heading off-pavement. Oh, and most importantly, I get 23 miles per gallon on average, so fuel efficiency is more favorable with these newer models. No one can use the “JeEp’s GaS MiLaGe SuCkS” argument against you when you choose this model.

This model is even more exciting to drive than the Sport model because it doesn’t drain your fuel tank, yet it offers just as much power and more than the 2012 Sport model, and it has those fun additional off-roading assets. It’s got a turbocharged I-4 rather than a V6, yet it offers more horsepower. Plus, it has more modern features, its seats are comfier, and it’s a new model in a higher trim level.

A black tire is shown on a 2021 Jeep Wrangler Willy.

Why Both Models Make Great Daily Drivers

I’ve used both of my Wranglers as daily drivers, rarely needing their off-roading powers. When life takes an unexpected twist, and I do need those perks, though, neither Wrangler has ever let me down.

Oh, and remember that two-door Wranglers are highly underrated. Unless you’ve got kids, these models are ideal because they’re shorter and easy to navigate. I’ve backed up 100+ feet on a single lane backroad for other drivers more times than I can count because the Wrangler’s driver mirrors catch pretty much everything. That square design not only looks cool, but it’s a great setup for avoiding blind spots and difficult-to-navigate driving situations.

When you’re not ready to drop tons of money on a brand new model, I highly recommend checking out the 2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport for your daily drive. However, when it’s time to loosen those purse strings, I wouldn’t pick anything over the 2021 Jeep Wrangler Willys model. It’s much more affordable than the Rubicon, yet it offers all the perks you’ll ever need for your daily commute. Whichever route you go, you can trust that the drive will go smoothly, except for when you have to bounce out of a pothole or two.