Home » Bright Lights, Big SUVs: 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee vs 2000 Ford Expedition

Bright Lights, Big SUVs: 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee vs 2000 Ford Expedition

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Good morning, and welcome back to Shitbox Showdown! Today we’re traveling to Reno, Nevada to look at a pair of green SUVs that won’t cost you a lot of greenbacks.

First, let’s see who you liked in Friday’s face off:

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Looks like you chose cute over creepy, but not by a lot. I’m not sure which car is Travolta and which one is Cage in this analogy, but I do know they’re as far apart in size as those two actors were in that movie, and there isn’t a tow cable in the world strong enough to suspend my disbelief about that. For what it’s worth, I’d rather have the Corvette, after the seller drops the price a little.

All right, let’s move on. Today’s choices come from “That Nevada Town That Isn’t Vegas” or Reno, as the residents probably prefer you call it: home to casinos, silver mines, and a sheriff’s department of questionable effectiveness. Lovers of economy and efficiency look away; these are both gas-guzzlers.

1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee – $1,900

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Engine/drivetrain: 4.0 liter overhead-valve inline 6, four-speed automatic, part-time 4WD

Location: Dayton, NV

Odometer reading: 186,000 miles

Runs/drives? Sure does

For some unknown reason, the seller of this vehicle has it listed as a “Jeep Liberty,” but we all know better. Anyone who has followed David’s exploits over the past few years will recognize this instantly as a first-generation Grand Cherokee  (also, it’s right there on the door), or ZJ in Jeep-speak. There’s nothing Holy Grail-like about this one, though; it is merely grail-shaped.

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At least it has the correct engine – Jeep’s classic inline six – and it’s the correct color. Why does no one buy dark green cars any more? It’s a tragedy, and our roads are poorer for it. Anyway, this ZJ is in decent shape, and the seller says it runs well (and I must thank them for phrasing it that way, and not the more common, grating, and grammatically incorrect “runs good”). No mention is made of any specifics, so bring a mechanic friend along to check it out if you’re not handy yourself.

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Like some of David’s Jeeps, this one appears to have started life as more than one vehicle, and been pieced together. The interior is in respectable shape, but it isn’t all one color. This doesn’t bother me any; I’d rather have mismatched but nice furniture than ripped-up seats hidden under covers.

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There is what appears to be a wad of electrical tape around the transfer case shift lever, and I think I know why. I’d bet that the trim/shift indicator is missing, but the light still works, and it was distracting them at night, so they just taped over the opening. My own Chevy truck had the same issue when I bought it, but I solved it by removing the light bulb.

2000 Ford Expedition Eddie Bauer – $1,900

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Engine/drivetrain: 5.4 liter overhead-cam V8, four-speed automatic, part-time 4WD

Location: Minden, NV

Odometer reading: 178,000 miles

Runs/drives? Yep

Yes, I know we just did an Expedition recently. But this one is an Eddie Bauer! (ooooooh…) The Eddie Bauer package, from what I understand, includes a bunch of extra luxury toys, comfy leather seats, and the all-important green-over-tan color scheme. Oh, and some badges, because how else would everyone know it’s an Eddie Bauer Edition?

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This Expedition wears seat covers over its leather chairs, and I doubt the covers came from Eddie Bauer (how many more times can I say “Eddie Bauer” in this?), unless they recently bought out Pep Boys. There is a slim possibility that the seats are immaculate under those covers because they’ve been on there since the truck was new, like your grandmother’s plastic-covered sofa, but I doubt it. The seller also says the third-row seat is missing entirely.

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The seller says they took this car in trade, and as such, don’t know much about it other than that it runs well. “Not everything works,” they say, “but the essentials do.” So you’ve probably got some electrical gremlins to banish. Maybe you can ask Eddie Bauer to help?

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Powering this brute is Ford’s 5.4 liter Triton V8, and I believe this is the earlier version that prefers to keep its spark plugs attached to its heads. It’s backed by a four-speed automatic and an electronically-controlled transfer case that shifts with the turn of a little plastic knob on the dash. Not as satisfying as yanking a lever on the floor to get 4WD, but it works. At least, I assume it does.

So that’s the 411 on our Reno SUVs: One “non-Grail” Jeep, and one big designer-label Ford. What’s your pleasure?

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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37 Responses

  1. One of the worst mistakes I have made in life was buying a 1998 Dodge Intrepid with the horrible 2.7l V6. Despite my careful maintenance the engine did as expected and grenaded itself at 125,000 miles. I mention it because it was in the same forest green / tan interior as the ZJ, which I loved. I have to imagine that the ZJ has the exact same paint, also being a Chrysler brand.
    I went with the ZJ because of the color and lack of rust (sorry, David), hopefully this time, the siren song of that green/tan combo won’t end in tragedy.

  2. Having had some experience with the ’97 GC Limited my dad had from around ’99-’09….YJ all the WAY. O.G. Grand Cherokees drive better than they have any right to. The Expedition drives like an earthmover compared to the Jeep. Also, 4.0. No question here.

    1. Good point that I forgot to mention. The comfort, handling, and packaging/footprint of the ZJ is just really good. I still remember my ’04 WJ I got and that felt a lot like the ZJ, just bigger with additional refinement. The WK, on the other hand, I’m not so big a fan of.

      1. Had a WK for a very short period and can back you up, there. I fell for its dark green paint, Hemi(!), and leather interior, but it was a nightmare. Countless electrical gremlins, and catastrophic ball joint failures turned me off to these forever. After a little over a year, I just wanted something that WORKED and ended up in a newish Jetta TDI with a 6-speed which served me well. I still think they are pretty, but I’ll stick with the older generations!

    1. 2004 3V’s were also the ones that spit plugs or the plugs just broke due to plug design. 04 is also the Cam Phaser start, and with high miles, that is just a nightmare waiting to happen. these 2000 models were better than the 04 to 08 problematic units.

      1. I agree that the 2V is better in that regard but not in your assertion that 3v’s spit plugs out. I have the Cal-Van kit and have extracted many broken ones over the years but I’ve never personally seen a 3v spit a plug on it’s own. They have plenty of threads as opposed to as little as 4 threads per spark plug hole on some 2v’s and often carbon sieze themselves to the head.

      2. 2 valves spit em out. 3 valves don’t, the two piece design Ford used to “fix” them breaks in half. Do agree that the old gutless 2Vs are the better motor for not having phasers.

  3. It causes me actual, physical pain tot say it, but the Expedition isn’t a TERRIBLE buy at least as this one presents. That said, 4.0 LYFE, so the Jeep is the pick of this litter. Also, the seats on those ZJs are fantastic. If you’ve never sat in one, you owe it to yourself.

    1. A 4.0 under 200,000 miles is a deal. If the Jeep has lived is life in the desert, it should only have minimal rust. If I were not in Canada, I would be looking up one way flights to Reno.

  4. I’m going Expedition solely because of nostalgia. If you grew up middle or upper middle class in the 90s/early 2000s there’s about a 90% chance you were driven around in one of these at some point or another. They were everywhere and along with the Tahoe/Suburban were one of the defacto choices for family haulers for folks who didn’t want a minivan and/or had too big of a franchise for a Volvo or Subaru wagon.

    I spent hours upon hours of my life in these. One of my best friend’s parents had one and a close family friend had one in a magnificent light green color that I’ve only ever seen on his example. He drove it until like 5 years ago as well…the damn thing got up near 300,000 miles without needing anything major.

    Are they good cars? Meh. This was back when American interiors were a sea of the cheapest plastic around, all of these family SUVs fell apart on the inside pretty quickly when they had to deal with kid/dog duty, and the Triton V8 isn’t anything to write home about. But I can still see the interiors of these in my head, hear the Flagpole Sitta blasting over the speakers, and feel the shin guards I’m putting on for soccer practice. So it’s Expedition for me for no logical reason at all.

    1. Same here. My mom had a 2000 XLT 4.6L and sold it with ~316,000 miles. It was the most reliable vehicle anyone in our family has owned with almost nothing needing to be fixed other than an alternator late in its life. And considering its size it wasn’t too bad to drive as it had good visibility, especially looking out the back compared to today’s vehicles.

  5. I was leaning GC, then came this line from the EB “don’t know much about it ” , and that’s all. Jeep by a landslide. Sellers making broad vague disclaimers is a hard no.

  6. The closest experience I have with the first-generation Expedition is my manager at my first job out of college drove one. One morning he pulled into the parking lot and we all watched from the windows as it spontaneously burst into flame and burned to the ground.

    I didn’t much care for his management style, either. I voted for the Jeep.

  7. The Ford was probably in a collision given the mismatched body panels… with some being shiny and some not.

    Plus the Jeep is more sensibly-sized and likely gets a bit better fuel economy. So the Jeep for me.

  8. The Expedition has disappearing clear coat on the hood, roof, and liftgate but the left rear door and quarter are magically shiny and in sharp contrast to the driver’s door? That is not at all suspicious. 😐

    Jeep it is, then. It was going to be the Jeep anyway (because of the straight 6) but this solidifies the position.

  9. I voted for the Jeep, since I have one (’97) that still runs and drives great. The little lock box in the back is interesting — was that an aftermarket accesory?

  10. Jeep, without question. It will rust to death before the drivetrain gives out. The styling has aged better than the Explorer and if it as it is presented, it’s a way better value.

    Also, I was raised “never Ford”. It’s a generation spanning sentiment.

    1. That generation had a cosmetic redesign in 1996. The grill is different and the interior is nicer from’96 up. That was long after they dropped the manual transmission so we only see DT’s older versions.

      I had a ’96 Grand Cherokee Limited V8 for a long time and it was a fantastic SUV. Wish I still had it.

      1. Oh, I was referring to familial generations! My grandfather passed it to my father, who passed it to me.

        My Dad tried to go against that sentiment one time and purchased a Ford Escort when I was a kid. He sold it 8 weeks later. Buy anything you want. Don’t buy a Ford.

  11. Terms and conditions be damned, I’d vote for the jeep even if it were in David’s other favorite color!(rust) it’s the far superior vehicle!
    As a side note , I’d rather have a cared for but mis-matched Jeep interior than an Eddie Bauer green lump with un-Eddie Bauer green door and fender.

    I took the Liberty of voting for the Green Grand Cherokee, cause I know what he’s got!

  12. Speaking as the owner of not one but two ZJ Grand Cherokees back in the day, I love those to death. In fact, just yesterday my wife was just reminiscing how much she missed our first ZJ, a 4WD in Laredo trim but with the 5.2 V8 instead of the 4.0. We also had an XJ in the forest green color of the Jeep shown above. Jeep all the way.

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