Jeep Trail Rated vs Non Trail Rated

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Have you ever wondered what Jeep Trail Rated means? In this article, I am going talk about the Jeep Trail Rated vs non Trail Rated jeep comparison.

If you are like a lot of people out there, you may be wondering what exactly jeeps trail rated means and if its of any relevance to you. Well, by the time you finish reading this article, you’ll have a clearer understanding of what it all means.

In short, Jeep Trail Rated is a measurement methodology to establish and predict off-road capability for Jeep vehicles. In simple terms, its a way of establishing just what your jeep vehicle is capable of in an off road environment. It rates performance are based on water fording, traction, maneuverability, ground clearance and articulation. It was introduced in 2003 and is considered an industry leading standard.

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What Does it Mean to be Trail Rated?

So, what exactly does it mean to be Jeep Trail Rated? For your Jeep to be considered as Trail Rated, it needs to have gone through some tests at the Nevada Automotive Test Centre (NATC).

This is an organisation which has been involved in testing the capabilities of off-road vehicles for the past 45 years. They don’t only test Jeeps but other off road vehicle brands as well.

The NATC is held in such high regard that they set standards for the army. They have rough terrain at their facility that mimics those found around different locations around the world. What it means is that they are able to realistically determine how a vehicle is able to perform in different situations.

To be Jeep Trail Rated, a vehicle has to pass tests in the following criteria:

  • Traction
  • Maneuverability
  • Articulation
  • Ground Clearance
  • Water Fording

Let’s take a look at what each of these categories mean.


This is a measure of how well your Jeep is able to navigate sharp inclines and descents. To receive the badge, a vehicle has to match or beat the criteria set for it.


This is the ease with which your Jeep is able to navigate tricky rough terrain. When you are in an off-road environment, this is an important aspect you want your vehicle to have.


This is the ability for all 4 wheels to operate autonomously while the vehicle maintains balance especially on uneven surfaces. In Jeep Wranglers, for example, the wheels can have an articulation of more than a foot. If we putting jeep cherokee into 4 wheel drive low position then this will help the neutral lever position to disengage the front and rear driveshaft from the powertrain.

Ground Clearance

This is the distance from the ground to the lowest part of the Jeep. Ground clearance is really important when you are navigating a lot of off-road rough terrain. You’ll have a much easier time if your vehicle is higher up from the ground.

Water Fording

This is a measure of the depth which a Jeep can go through without stalling the engine. Most Jeeps can go through 3 feet of water.

When a vehicle passes these tests, it receives the trail rated badge. Having said that, no one knows how the grading system works or how different vehicles stack up against other makes and models.

Both Jeep and the NATC are tight lipped with regards to their grading systems. Most trail rated jeep come trail rated ready straight from the factory. Others receive trail rating after going through some modifications.

What is the Purpose of Trail Rating?

The purpose of Trail Rating, therefore, is to show that the Jeep 4x4s have undergone testing in different challenging conditions and passed.

Contrary to belief in some sections that this is simply a marketing ploy, it is much more than that. For starters, the fact that the tests and subsequent awarding of the badge is done by the NATC speaks volumes as to the validity of the rating.

When you buy a Trail Rated Jeep, you can be assured that your trail rated jeep is well equipped to handle some of the roughest terrain trails out there.

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Is My Jeep Trail Rated?

You may be wondering whether or not your Jeep is Trail Rated. Well, the simplest way to tell is by looking for the trail rated badge on your Jeep to see whether or not it is Trail Rated. Your Jeep also has to be a 4×4 in order to receive the badge. As they say at Jeep, the Trail Rated badge is not given, it is earned.

The following models in the Jeep stable are trail rated vehicles:

  • Jeep Cherokee
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • Jeep Wrangler
  • Jeep Compass
  • Jeep Gladiator
  • Jeep Renegade
We already compared the Jeep Compass vs. Jeep Renegade!

Are All Jeep Wranglers Trail Rated?

When it comes to off-road performance, the Jeep Wrangler is the standard as far as the Jeep brand is concerned. All Wranglers come trail rated and able to tackle those off—road environments.

Contrary to what most people believe, a Jeep does not have to go through the challenging Rubicon trail for it to be trail rated vehicles.

If you are looking to put it through really challenging conditions such as the Rubicon trail, you may want to add some extra modifications such as steel bumpers and skid plates if it doesn’t already have them installed.

Trail Rated vs Non Trail Rated  Which One is For You?

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Now, to address the big question; should you go for the trail rated jeep or the non trail rated Jeeps?

It’s hard to believe for die hard Jeep enthusiasts but not all people buy a Jeep to take it off-road.

Some prefer to use their Jeep as an every day car. Maybe this is you and you may not actually be interested in Jeeps ability to handle steep inclines or to water ford.

Are There Any Disadvantages to Buying a Non Trail Rated Jeep?

The Jeep has gone a long way in terms of styling and comfort when compared to when it first launched as a military vehicle.

This, in turn, has led to a lot more people getting it because of its stylistic appeal and comfort and have adopted it as an everyday or family car.

Another consideration is that Trail Rated Jeeps come with a slightly higher price tag than their non Trail Rated jeeps counterparts. T

his is one advantage of a non trail rated edition if you are not interested in off- road action. The price tag is much lower and you get the Jeep experience while you’re at it. If you do change your mind at a later point in time, you can always make some modifications to it to give it off- road capability.


Whether you go for the Jeep Trail Rated vs non Trail Rated option, it all boils down to how you intend to use it. If you are an avid or part time off road enthusiast, you definitely want to go for the trail rated vehicles option.

Even if you don’t have a trail rated Jeep and decide you want to try the off-road experience, you can have some modifications done to it though this can be quite pricey especially if you are not making the mods on your own.

You can still get the Jeep experience while using it as your everyday car. You don’t have to take it out on the trail. Your Jeep can also be the King of the Concrete Jungle (one of the best trail rated vehicles).

Who Worked on This?



A master of organization, Brian helps keep everything running smoothly for Your Jeep Guide.

No Jeep yet but we’re working on that!



Cory loves his XJ and frequently thrashes it through the hills. He’s constantly fixing something.

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