Jeep TJ vs YJ (Head to Head Full Comparison)

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The Jeep TJ vs YJ. Which one will you opt for? Buying a brand-new Jeep can be ridiculously expensive. Because of this, many people opt to go for a used one and if you are going this route, it is very common to do some research so you can decide which Jeep to buy.

One of the most common Jeep models that have sold very well over time is the TJ and the YL. I cover these in this article to help you make an informed decision so that you get the best option based on your requirements.

The Jeep TJ and YJ were the first 2 Jeep Wranglers to come onto the market. The Jeep YJ ran from 1986 to 1995 and was succeeded by the TJ which ran from 1997 – 2006. The YJ succeeded in the much-loved CJ7 and was supposed to be a better daily driver.

This was a drive to increase sales of the Jeep. The YJ was the first Jeep in the Wrangler line. To make the YJ more street-friendly, they slightly reduced ground clearance, added a track bar and sway bars while also increasing axle width.

Other modifications were introduced when the TJ came onto the market and the rest of this article is going to look at these features and what really differentiates these 2 models.

Frame and Engine

The frames of the Jeep YJ and TJ are, to a great degree, similar. The major difference between the 2 is the headlamps and the grill. Jeep YJ air conditioning is also different than Jeep TJ.

The YJ has square headlamps and went against tradition as all Jeeps before it had round headlamps. The grill on the YJ is higher when measured from top to bottom than on the TJ.

The square headlamps on the YJ proved to be one of the most hated features on the Jeep Wrangler and they reverted back to the round headlamps on the TJ.

Both of these models came in 4-cylinder 2.5 liter engines as standard and 6-cylinder 4.2-liter option on the YJ and 6-cylinder 4 liter on the TJ. Up until 1991, the YJ had a 4.2 liter straight 6 which was then changed to the now-iconic 4 liter straight 6 engine. The Jeep TJ’s one problem stems from the frame’s tendency to rust and corrode, which can weaken the structural integrity of the vehicle and lead to safety hazards. Jeep TJ frame problems can also lead to costly repairs or even total frame replacement.


One of the major differences between the 2 vehicles has to be the suspension. The TJ is fitted with a modern type coil suspension which makes for a smoother ride while the YJ has a leaf spring design.

The ride in a TJ feels more rugged than in its successor. You can really tell the difference when you go off-road as you will feel every little bump in the YJ.

Some people actually like the raw and rugged feel of it and if that’s something you also appreciate, then the YJ is definitely for you.

The suspension also plays a big part in the articulation you get from the wheels. If you are looking for a “rock crawler” where each wheel can move separately over rugged terrain, then the TJ will perform a lot better in those scenarios.

The TJ also brought about the introduction of the Rubicon model which was designed for hardcore off-road action. If you want a daily use Jeep and something that is also family-friendly, the TJ is the option for you.

The smoother ride provided by its suspension makes it the ideal choice in this scenario as it was engineered to be more comfortable than the YJ.


The other major difference between the 2 models in the interior. The YJ has a very utilitarian feel to it with hard plastics and thin seats.

In most cases, it didn’t even come with carpets. If you want to make it look really cool, you can get the plastic dash swapped out for a metallic one which is something which you can’t really do on the TJ.

The TJ underwent an interior makeover. It has an entirely new dash with center console and better, more comfortable seats. That, coupled with the coil suspension transformed the TJ into a more modern and comfortable car.

Off-Road Performance

Regardless of the Jeep Wrangler you own, you are generally getting a great car with awesome off-road capabilities. When you compare the YJ and TJ, there are a few considerations to note.

As already mentioned earlier, the suspension on the TJ gives it a slight edge in off-road performance when staked against the YJ and you’ll get better off-road performance if you get the Rubicon model.

The TJ will have an easier time navigating rocky terrain because the suspension allows the wheels to have a certain level of autonomy whereas the wheels on the YJ tend to move more rigidly.


Now for the big question; how much does it cost to buy a YJ or TJ. A general price range for a Jeep TJ is $8,000 for a stock one and $10,000 to $12,000 for a lifted one.

It is not uncommon though to get a lifted JT for as low as $6-$7k. You can expect to buy a stock YJ for around $4,000 to $5,000 while a lifted one can range from $6,000 to $7,000.

Since the biggest difference between the YJ and the TJ has to be a suspension. 

Because leaf springs don’t offer much articulation in comparison to coil springs, you can do a modification to a YJ like stretching the wheelbase, leaf spring swaps as well as shackle relocations.

The difference in the prices for the 2 Jeeps will give you enough leeway budget-wise in order for you to make the modifications.

That being said though, making these modifications will not get you as good articulation as on the TJ. Another point to note is that modifications for the TJ are also more expensive than for the YJ.

This means that the YJ is not only cheaper to purchase but to modify as well. Keep this in mind if you intend to add some mods down the line.

Check out our article on ‘How to Make a Jeep Wrangler Ride Smoother’ by Cory.

Final Thoughts on Jeep YJ vs TJ

I hope this article has helped you make a better, more informed decision on which one you want to go for. No matter which one you end up going with, it’s going to be fun to drive and very dependable.

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