I just sold my SxS for more than I owed and plan to use the extra cash to buy a Jeep. I love my SxS but the problem is the lack of places to ride legally. I've collectively spent about a month at Windrock over the last couple years w/my Maverick X3 and love the place. I have about 80 miles of legal trails around where I live. They get stale fast. I'm solving the problem w/a street legal Jeep. Although I had a fast SxS I really got it for the suspension and clearance it had stock. I really enjoy easing over obstacles and rough terrain in low gear. I'm not into mudding per se but here in fl.us there will be plenty to contend with that I can't go around. I'm finding tons of used ones out there in my price range and need to know what would be the best year/model to look at.


I'd like to get an automatic for several reasons including that my wife may need to drive it on occasion. Having said that - this won't be a daily driver...strickly a toy for the weekends. Any road-trips with it will be on a trailer. I'm sure I'll make lots of mods over the years but I don't plan on a huge lift - just enough clearance, winch and tires to make it capable of entry-level off-roading in the rocks. I'm 52 so I won't be concerned with cosmetics...just capability. It's probabably going to get beat up a bit over time.
I told my wife I needed to spend $7000 so it'll need to be something in that range or cheaper....marriage is hell :)


What I "think" I want/need:
Straight 6 engine/possibly 4cyl would be ok. I like the idea of a light engine and would think the lack of power could be helped with gearing.
Coil spring front suspension.
Automatic transmission(seems less common on the used market in my area)


I would really appreciate any opinions you folks can offer on any of this. I want to make a good purchase.