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Jeep Wrangler vs Ford Bronco

A photo collage of a Jeep wrangler and a Ford Bronco in comparison.

As a kid, I drooled over sports cars. In early adulthood, my love turned to sporty four-wheel-drive vehicles because I became interested in outdoorsy pursuits that required a bit of off-roading or at the very least, the ability to handle a dirt road with lots of ruts well.

Today, I’m all mountain biking and walking because it’s superb for the environment and my personal environment. Although I occasionally toy with the notion of buying an electric vehicle, living in the city affords the luxury of grocery delivery and biking everywhere.

I still zip around occasionally in other people’s vehicles and, since most of my friends also love biking, hiking, and camping, they invariably belong to either the Jeep camp or the Ford camp. A certain set of people drew a line down the proverbial auto lot macadam long ago and decided that you could either love the Jeep Wrangler or the Ford Bronco.  

On the face of it, the two vehicles have a lot in common. When you delve deeper though, you find their differences make one or the other just right for specific needs.

Jeep Wrangler Features

Born out of the necessity of war, Jeep first developed its Wrangler during World War II, as an all-terrain vehicle with a tough nature that could zip along at top speed while dodging bullets. Those who served in the military sang the praises of these small, but feisty four-wheel-drive vehicles originally called the Willys MB.

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Typically designed with no top or a removable canvas top, the Jeep Wrangler remained a military-only vehicle until 1986. Jeep introduced the YJ, the first of the commercially available Jeeps in 1986. In high school at the time, I determined that I needed this vehicle in my driveway. My dad disagreed.

Today’s Wranglers come in hard top or soft top. Most models allow the driver to remove the doors and top for a true open-air experience. Known for abysmal gas mileage, Jeep improved its design under the hood in recent years to improve fuel efficiency.

Today’s Jeep Wrangler earns 18 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway if you buy the all-gas-powered version. Jeep introduced gas and electric hybrid Jeep Wrangler, though that earns an eMPG of 49.

Materials of a Jeep Wrangler

The strong and bold Jeep Wrangler Magneto captured in the rocky terrain.

Jeep uses good old-fashioned steel for the body of its Wrangler. You won’t find plastic and only three percent aluminum. The manufacturer uses a blend of 21.5 percent advanced high-strength steel, 57.3 percent high-strength steel, and 15.2 percent mild steel. The manufacturer uses high-strength steel for its roll-formed and stamped parts. It fashions the 6061-T6 cross member from aluminum.

Jeep Wrangler Design Features

Jeep focuses on interior style and comfort. It offers dual-temperature controls, a premium sound system, and a removable cargo floor, so you can stash some gear where prying eyes can’t see. Heated front seats help you stay warm while traveling and the removable top lets you enjoy the open air.

Outdoorsy pursuits get a vehicle dirty, so the Jeep includes weather-resistant removable carpets and one-way floor drain valves, so you can clean up after your trip in a jiffy.

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Durability of a Jeep Wrangler

Front view of a black wrangler with lights on.

In the past decade, Jeep lost some of its cachets due to a number of recalls. As recently as 2020, this Jeep model underwent recalls. Many owners experienced problems that come with a vehicle owned for many years in the Wrangler soon after purchase. 

Every consumer test and magazine review has come to the same conclusion. The brand stopped offering a reliable ride. It failed crash tests with the chassis crumbling on contact. Some of its recalls came due to a discovery of poor welding of axles and the vehicle carries an increased risk of fire.

Jeep Wrangler Cost

Although a new Jeep Wrangler costs just $30,295 to purchase, operating costs more than makeup for that. It costs 77 cents per mile to drive.

Benefits of a Jeep Wrangler

Although you can’t count on most SUVs to actually go off-road nowadays, you can do that in the Wrangler. Jeep admits that it makes offroad Wranglers and that’s just what its vehicle does best. It modified its off-roader to drive better on roads but didn’t make it a true road-worthy vehicle.

Its four-wheel drive makes it advantageous in any area that regularly experiences snow. Although the vehicle typically requires repairs early on, it does last a long time. Their long lifespan takes it to the vehicular limit of 400,000 miles on the odometer.

You can tow the heaviest items with a Jeep. The strong engine and four-wheel drive make them ideal for this. Jeep still offers a manual transmission, so those who love to clutch and shift get their jollies. Finally, these vehicles cost little to insure.

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Ford Bronco Features

Classy and cool Ford Bronco Sport parked at a farm with a beautiful sun set at the background.

The Ford Bronco also has its earliest formation in the war. During World War II, the folks at Ford also worked on the Wyllis MB project. They also saw the need for an off-road vehicle when so many veterans chose to purchase surplus Jeeps once they returned stateside.

As the US highway system underwent improvements, these Jeep fans reported wanting a better ride. In 1962, Ford surveyed owners of the Harvester Scout and the traditional Wyllis vehicle. The months-long survey process culminated in an internal memo that detailed their design complaints and provided the American manufacturer with a starting point for the design.

Scout and Wyllis owners cited “poor comfort, ride, noise, and vibration qualities” in their current four-wheel-drive vehicles. They needed off-road capabilities, yet they also wanted road comfort. 

The ensuing vehicle earned the codename, Bronco. An internal memo from October 23, 1963, titled “1966 G.O.A.T” played on the terminology for greatest of all time with a new term for acronym – goes over all terrain. Ford described their project as a utility vehicle and in 1966 the first Ford Bronco hit the road.

Its initial configuration lets drivers choose from three vastly different trim levels, each using a different body style. Ford offered a Roadster, an open-air model with no roof or doors, a sports utility vehicle featuring a pickup truck bed, and a Wagon with two doors, a tailgate, and a full top.

In 1973, the SUV received power steering and automatic transmission, then went unchanged until 1978. The F-series Bronco offered many improvements that helped it perform better on and off the road. Ford offered two V8 options and a more luxurious interior with bucket seats.

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The new design proved so popular that Pope John Paul II chose the vehicle for his Popemobile. Ford customized three of its Broncos for him, delivered via the US Secret Service.

The end of the original Bronco came with its 1980 to 1986 generation. It more strongly resembled an F-150 body style and improved the gas mileage to 14 mpg in the city and 16 mpg on the highway.

After many years without a Bronco on car lots, Ford brought back its popular SUV. Today’s Ford Bronco looks more like Hummer also called a Humvee, but it gets essentially the same gas mileage that it did in 1986 – 15 in the city and 17 on the highway. Choosing the Sport trim gets you a combined 26 mpg.

Materials of a Ford Bronco

A side angle red ford bronco parking a an open field.

Ford uses a different approach to its Bronco, comprising it of steel-fiber-reinforced composite and thin steel. Its two thin outer layers use a specially developed material created by the Material Science Company that can handle traditional resistance spot welding even though it features a composition making it 40 percent lighter than standard steel. These two thin layers feature the steel-fiber-reinforced composite in their center.

Ford Bronco Design Features

Go with two- or four-door designs. The latter seats five, while the two-door seats four. Roomy cargo bays in both options let you pack tons of gear for a trip. The two-door offers 22.4 cubic feet of cargo space with all seats in place. Folding the rear seats nabs you 52.3 cubic feet. Steel bash plates protect critical components.

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Durability of a Ford Bronco

Ford offers a reliable vehicle that earned a US News and World Reports reliability score of 82 out of 100. The magazine projects the typical current year Bronco to provide at least 200,000 miles with proper maintenance.

Ford Bronco Cost

A brand new Ford Bronco in black and red colorway for sale.

The base model Ford Bronco costs $31,300 and its operating costs won’t keep it parked in the garage or break your bank. It costs a fraction more than 19 cents per mile to drive.

Benefits of a Ford Bronco

The base model engine rocks. So does the upgraded V6. The base model also comes loaded with a lot of off-roading features for which other manufacturers make you pay extra.

The manufacturer’s four-door model makes an ideal family vehicle, seating five comfortably. You can take the top off for convertible fun, plus the vehicle looks cool on the outside and the inside. It costs much less to operate.

Similarities Between a Jeep Wrangler and a Ford Bronco

Although the body styles offer similarities in the 2020s, and both vehicles offroad, there end the similarities of today’s models. Initially, both vehicles offered a tough vehicle based on the Willys Jeep used during World War II.

Today, they’ve diverged from one another. Jeep offers a much less safe vehicle, while the Bronco focused on becoming a family vehicle capable of off-roading. Both offer four-wheel-drive and options that make the vehicle handle all terrain better, but Ford’s Bronco had better develop into a modern vehicle that you could use for a commute just as easily as for rock crawling or exploring sand pits.

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