Here Are The Jeep Liberty Years To Avoid

in Year Model Comparison
Blue Jeep Liberty

Jeep Liberty by RL GNZLZ — CC BY-SA 4.0

Jeep is one of the most well-known and recognized brands in the world. Famous for its unique amphibious capabilities, the 5-passenger Liberty debuted in 2002 as the next compact SUV in a long line of successful vehicles. They continued to produce this model with updates and slight redesigns until 2012, when it was officially phased out.

Two versions of the Liberty appeared during this period, with the 2008 Jeep Liberty models representing a significant departure from previous years. It had a shorter lifespan than most, so what are the Jeep Liberty model years to avoid?

Quick Answer: 2002, 2004, and 2012

Jeep was famously first used as an American military vehicle from 1941 through 1945; the four-wheel-drive Jeeps were used for various tasks, including medevac and armed caravans; they literally did it all. The success in battle zones quickly led to commercial success as well.

Initially, three trim levels were available for the Liberty: the top-of-the-line Limited, a more robust “Renegade,” and the entry-level Sport. All of them were available in either 2WD or 4WD. All Liberties received a slight makeover in 2005. The Renegade trim came with a distinctive hood and grill that was eventually removed in favor of a more urban look and made it blend in more instead of standing out. Even though the Liberty was nominated for the North American Truck of the Year award in 2002, there were still concerns regarding its styling, dependability, and safety recalls. 


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The Jeep Liberty is generally considered a more cost-effective SUV, with inventory prices ranging from $5000 to $18,000, with most competitors averaging around $25,000. There are reasons that they typically are cheaper, mainly for their size and average fuel economy. The Liberty peaked in only its second year on the market in 2002, with just under 175,000 total sold in the US. Sales would steadily decline every year following, and safety ratings that didn’t quite match consumer expectations contributed to the model’s discontinuation.

Jeep Liberty Model Year To Avoid: 2002

Problems:

  • Airbags and seatbelt recalls
  • Fluid leaks
  • Below average NHTSA safety ratings

This was the first year offered to the general public, and despite its popularity and cult following, the 2002 was the first Jeep Liberty model year to avoid. This is primarily due to issues with the vehicle’s airbag system, seat belts, and general safety rating. The airbag light would sometimes turn on randomly, and they did not always deploy during a collision.

While the airbag problems were severe enough, the 2002 model also had other recalls and issues with fuel leaks. These resulted in fires, and crash test scores were below-average, particularly at the back.

Jeep Liberty Model Year To Avoid: 2004

Problems:

  • Defective ball joints
  • Power window failure
  • Faulty rear reflectors

The 2003 Jeep Liberty outperformed the 2002 model in terms of reliability, except for premature window failure and defective ball joints. Unfortunately, the 2004 model did not keep the trend and became known for its difficulties and recalls. The same issues that plagued the 2002 and 2003 versions were present in the 2004 model, and many recalls for the 2004 model were a bit more pricey due to a scarcity of components.


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While Jeep took measures to make this model safer, the changes were minor and still gave drivers plenty of problems. An uncommon but significant driver hazard came from the gasoline tank and reflectors. While the 2004 model had more appealing aesthetic options, potential fires from gas leaks and brake reflector failure make it a Liberty model year to avoid.

Jeep Liberty Model Year To Avoid: 2012

Problems:

  • Fuel economy
  • Suspension
  • Transmission failure

It’s probably not the first thing you think of when looking at SUVs, especially Jeeps, but the fuel economy is well below average for the 2012 Liberty. Other similar SUVS average around 25 miles per gallon for city driving and 27 miles per gallon on the highway; the Liberty reports as low as 18 miles per gallon in the city and 23 miles per gallon on the highway.

Sadly, the 2012 Jeep Liberty did not have a graceful exit, and this is one of the worst model years in the Jeep Liberty’s history. Before Liberty was discontinued in 2012, numerous issues from previous years were still common. Based on consumer complaints, the suspension issues of earlier versions are still prevalent, and the ball joints and control arms are likely to fail before 50,000 miles. These can be expensive repairs if the vehicle is no longer covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, which at 50,000 miles likely be out of pocket.

Transmission difficulties plagued the 2012 model as well, and a significant drop in sales led to its replacement. The automatic transmission is renowned for lagging and failing prematurely, and the gears move slowly. In addition, transmission fluid leaks must be changed more frequently than in other cars to avoid premature component wear. Even with improved crash test scores in 2012, it was apparent that the vehicle still had several safety issues. The airbags didn’t even deploy in some incidents, and the airbag light warning was defective.

The Jeep Liberty was produced until the end of the 2012 model year when it was ultimately replaced by the Jeep Cherokee, which it ironically replaced many years earlier. Overall, the 2012 is one of the Jeep Liberty model years you need to avoid.


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What Would Be Considered The Best Year?

Although the car has received negative ratings for various reasons, the 2009 model is still an excellent choice if you’re set on the Liberty. It has a nicer appearance than its predecessor, and it’s one of the rare models that performed well in safety and at the pump. The 2009 model achieved the rare five-star ANCAP safety certification and provided a comfortable ride while providing exceptional performance. Although there were some issues with the car throughout manufacturing, most Jeep Liberty owners had a positive experience with their vehicle.

What’s Wrong with the Jeep Liberty and Why Was It Discontinued?

In general, you can do better than the Jeep Liberty when it comes to reliability and overall value. Although it initially had a relatively successful run, things went south for the now-defunct SUV. The most reported problems with the Jeep Liberty were the fluid leaks, illuminating check engine lights, and misfires due to the faulty intake valves – and that’s just a few of its mechanical woes.

The Jeep Liberty was introduced and was technically the third generation of the Cherokee. It was given the name “Liberty” so it doesn’t get confused with the Jeep Grand Cherokee. The five-passenger SUV was in production up to 2012 and was shortly discontinued.

Like everything that met with an untimely end, the Jeep Liberty was discontinued because it wasn’t the best-seller the manufacturer had hoped it would be. Sure, many Jeep enthusiasts enjoyed the Liberty look (especially the second generation’s boxy redesign), but it wasn’t enough to move sales numbers. Plus, it struggled with meeting the safety standards of many consumers.

The company went back to producing the Jeep Cherokee instead, which remains in production as of now.



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