As a replacement for the long-running Cherokee, the Jeep Liberty arrived in 2002 with a combination of unibody comfort and the trademark off-road abilities the brand is known for. Positioned between the no-frills Wrangler and the upmarket Grand Cherokee, the Liberty became a popular entry point for first-time Jeep buyers.
The Liberty offered a range of powertrains during two generations of production that lasted until 2012. As with any vehicle, some model years are more reliable than others. So, now is a great time to look back over 10 years of FIXD data to determine the best and worst Liberty model years.
Jeep Liberty Engine Reliability Score, Safety Ratings, MPG, and Value v.s. Maintenance & Repair Costs Year by Year
The first chart below, Jeep Liberty Reliability Score, is the main driver of our best and worst model year rankings. It is a combination of objective FIXD device data and subjective owner-reported information. Typically, the first year of a new generation – like 2002 – will struggle with reliability as the kinks are worked out, which is reflected in the chart.
We also incorporate market values from Kelley Blue Book (KBB) against owner-reported annual maintenance costs. That goes into the ranking decision along with owner survey answers and pertinent safety recalls. Lastly, with details on common Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTCs), we can create the final rankings below.
If you’re in the market for a car, take a look at our article on the USA’s most reliable and cheapest to repair cars in the U.S. Don’t get stuck with a lemon, use our data to help you shop.
Engine Reliability Score – Over The Years
The FIXD Reliability score (green line on the Jeep Liberty Reliability chart) is based on the number of CELs thrown by each model year. After tallying them up, we weight this objective score by mileage and convert it into a 1-10 scale where 10 is the best and 1 is the worst.
By asking Liberty owners, “How reliable would you say your car is?”, we can pull together a subjective reliability score for comparison. This multiple-choice question offers answers from “Just Point A to Point B driving” to “I could take a cross-country trip, no problem.” After converting the answer into a 1-10 scale, we create the gray line above.
As you can see, the objective and subjective reliability scores mostly move in the same direction. But occasionally, like in 2005, the scores diverge dramatically in what is typically a rebuke of the aforementioned positive owner sentiment. We’ll explain this in the relevant sections below but it helps illustrate the importance of analyzing both sets of data.
You can find out more about our reliability scoring process at the bottom of this article and learn about some of the most common CELs to expect from Jeep.
NHTSA Safety Score – Over The Years
As you can see on the chart above, the Jeep Liberty (green line) generally tracked the auto industry average (gray line) on safety until 2010. In 2011, the NHTSA instituted more strenuous testing protocols and Liberty safety dropped along with the rest of the market. We’ll look at the 2012 score in the relevant section below.
Both the gray line – average crash test safety rating across the industry – and the green line – Liberty safety ratings – illustrate published NHTSA data.
Understanding how a given model year of the Liberty ranks for safety is important as it plays a big role in keeping insurance premiums down. If you live in one of the states listed below, we can show you the cheapest vehicles to insure in yours.
|What Used Cars Are the Cheapest To Insure In:|
MPG – Over The Years
By averaging the combined fuel economy figures – from fueleconomy.gov – across all trims of each model year, we can create the above Jeep Liberty Average MPG chart. Normally, vehicles become more fuel-efficient over time as powertrain technology improves to counter the inevitable creep in curb weight.
However, Liberty’s fuel efficiency has generally hovered between 17 and 19 mpg during its 10-year lifecycle. This is mainly due to the 3.7L V6 – that was offered all 10 model years – not seeing much change over that period. The overall higher efficiency seen between 2002 and 2005 is due to Jeep offering a thriftier four-cylinder engine during this time. It was discontinued in 2006.
The gray line on the chart above represents the average fuel economy for the diesel-powered Liberty that was only sold in 2005 and 2006. For efficiency-minded Liberty buyers, these diesel variants promise fewer trips to the pump but are attached to model years we don’t recommend as detailed below.
Current Market Value of All Jeep Liberty Years & Cost Per Year to Repair and Maintain Each
This chart plots current Jeep Liberty market values from KBB against annual maintenance costs per owner surveys. It’s a valuable set of data points in defining why some model years are best avoided. For example, values drop into 2003, which is one reason these Libertys are on our list of models to avoid as we look at below.
When shopping for a used Jeep Liberty it’s important to keep in mind that not all vehicles are cared for equally. To protect yourself from lemons, take along a FIXD Sensor on your test drive. FIXD connects to a free app on your smartphone to tell you more about the vehicle you’re checking out, including check engine lights and other hidden issues that the owner or dealership may be attempting to hide. Click here to learn more and get FIXD for only $19.99 (regular price $59)!
Important Features Timeline
2002: 1st-gen Liberty debuts with 4- and 6-cylinder powertrains
2003: Four-corner disc brakes made standard
2004: Newly available tire-pressure monitoring system (TPMS)
2005: Mid-cycle facelift, diesel powertrain added to lineup
2006: Four-cylinder engine discontinued, stability control now standard
2007: Diesel engine and Renegade trim line both discontinued
2008: Larger 2nd-gen Liberty lands, Sky Slider giant sunroof debuts
2009: Manual transmission discontinued, suspension re-tuned
2010: Active Head Restraints made standard on first-row seats
2011: Three new infotainment interfaces added
2012: Upscale Jet trim level added to final year of production
The Best Years of the Jeep Liberty
Taking into account FIXD and Owner reliability, government safety scores, fuel efficiency, and Liberty owner survey responses, we’ve come up with this list of the best Jeep Libertys. Pertinent recall information and notes about common DTCs are included as well.
2009 Jeep Liberty
FIXD App Engine Reliability: 7/10
Owner-Reported Reliability: 9/10
KBB Value: $3,996
Fuel Economy: 18 mpg
Annual Maintenance/Repair: $583
Safety Rating: 4.3/5
One year after the 2nd-gen model debuted, the Liberty reliability moved up considerably with a 3-point increase for the FIXD Reliability Score and a 1-point bump on the owner side. Both figures are at all-time highs. As well, annual maintenance costs come in nearly $200 below average and the safety score is one of the best.
Market values dip this year, which is a negative, but there is no objectively obvious reason behind this. The 2008 Liberty may be more desirable as it was the final year for the 6-speed manual transmission, which may be driving up 2008 prices and skewing the overall trend.
But, fuel economy is on the high side at 18 mpg, there was just one recall in 2009 for 44 vehicles related to an aftermarket suspension kit, and these Libertys benefit from a more robust chassis. And it was in 2009 that Jeep beefed up the rear axle shafts, tightened up the suspension, and revised the brake system for improved brake-pedal feel.
Those upgrades combined with a 5,000-lb towing capacity offered by the single powertrain – a 3.7L V6 and 4-speed automatic – likely contributed to the 33% of owners who mostly use their Liberty for trailering. That’s two times higher than average and the highest of any model year.
These 2009 Libertys, though going on 15 years old and showing over 190,000 miles on the clock, average just one day in the shop each year, which is half the average. That correlates with all three of the most common DTCs for 2009 leading to relatively inexpensive repairs.
DTC P0456 means the EVAP System Integrity Monitor Assembly (IMA) is due for replacement as we cover in this DTC P0456 explainer video. Expect to pay between $200 and $560 at a shop for this. DTC P0300 is triggered when a misfire is detected and indicates you need new spark plugs. Our DTC P0300 DIY guide can help you save money on this repair.
2007-2008 Jeep Liberty
FIXD App Engine Reliability: 4/10
Owner-Reported Reliability: 8/10
KBB Value: $3,799-$4,692
Fuel Economy: 17-18 mpg
Annual Maintenance/Repair: $563-$679
Safety Rating: 4.2-4.3/5
The 2nd-gen Jeep Liberty launched in 2008 and typically, all-new vehicles lead to reliability challenges as the manufacturer works out kinks. Not so here as the 2008 Liberty held fast with the 2007 model year reliability, which itself improved versus 2006. Additionally, the Owner Reliability Score ticked up two points for 2007 and stayed there into 2008.
Though the V6 powertrain was a carryover model for 2008, minor improvements helped bump up average fuel economy by one mpg, and newly standard side-impact airbags that same year lent a hand in boosting the safety score to all-time highs. Other highlights include market values moving up and maintenance costs coming down.
Owners noticed the relatively low annual upkeep as well with a higher percentage than average saying they think their Liberty is cheap to repair and a lower percentage than average saying it’s expensive to repair. These owners are also universally optimistic that their Jeep will hit 200,000 miles even though the odometers show less than 145,000 miles.
When it comes to causes of CELs for these Libertys, it’s the usual suspects – the EVAP system and spark plugs. DTC P0456 and P0457 are both related to EVAP system leaks. In the case of the Liberty, this means it may be time to replace the EVAP System IMA, but check to see if the gas cap is loose first.
There were seven recalls issued for the 2007 Liberty including one related to potential fires in the event of a rear-end collision due to leaking gas tanks. It impacted more than 1.5 million vehicles. A drive shaft failure problem that affected some 63,000 vehicles was one of the five recalls on the 2008 Liberty.
Any Jeep dealer should repair outstanding recall work free of charge on vehicles up to 15 years old. You can use this NHTSA VIN tool to determine whether your Liberty has been affected.
2012 Jeep Liberty
FIXD App Engine Reliability: 6/10
Owner-Reported Reliability: 7/10
KBB Value: $7,715
Fuel Economy: 18 mpg
Annual Maintenance/Repair: $958
Safety Rating: 2.6/5
The 2012 Jeep Liberty makes our list of best model years due to solid FIXD and Owner Reliability Scores and for being an excellent purchase value. Even with the highest KBB value of all models – about $7,700 – these 2012 Libertys average only 112,000 miles making them a solid contender for those looking to buy.
But the 2012 Liberty is also marked by poor safety scores, which is why it lands at the bottom of our “best of” rankings. This is partly explained by two recalls in 2012, both of which were for a problem with the active head restraints (AHR) that impacted over 800,000 vehicles. The AHRs were made standard in 2010 but were then recalled in 2011.
Additionally, the NHTSA attached a special safety concern note to the crash test results for these Libertys regarding an especially poor result in the side impact pole test. So, these 2012 Libertys are reliable, but have had safety issues, so keep that in mind while shopping.
In good news, the rollout of all-new touchscreen infotainment interfaces in 2011 was well received as twice the average number of owners think the entertainment system is easy to use and the sound system rocks.
This new system, which offered a 30 GB hard drive and navigation, likely contributed to 10% of owners using their 2012 Liberty as an “office on wheels”. That’s more than three times the average for this category and the highest of any model year.
Looking at the most common DTCs reveals a theme – the EVAP system and spark plugs tend to struggle. DTC P0456 pops when a leak in the EVAP system is detected as we discuss in this DTC P0456 video. Expect to pay upwards of $560 if the IMA needs replacing.
You’ll know it’s time to swap the old spark plugs for a new set if the DTC P0300 lights up. Our DTC P0300 explainer video goes on a deep dive of this issue and our DTC P0300 guide will walk you through the DIY route if you want to save some dough.
DTC C0077 is one of the most common Jeep CEL culprits that could mean one of the tires needs air or a TPMS sensor is malfunctioning. On the whole, these three most common DTCs are relatively inexpensive fixes which correlate with the 2012 LIberty spending less time than average in the shop each year.
The Worst Years of the Jeep Liberty
Working with the same information to determine the best Jeep Libertys, we’ve compiled a list of model years to avoid. You can expect more issues with reliability, higher maintenance bills, and in some cases lower safety ratings with these poor-performing Libertys. We are starting from the absolute worst and progressing to the “best of the worst”.
2002-2005 Jeep Liberty
FIXD App Engine Reliability: 1/10
Owner-Reported Reliability: 5-8/10
KBB Value: $2,325-$3,334
Fuel Economy: 17-19 mpg (gas), 21 mpg (diesel)
Annual Maintenance/Repair: $618-$1,050
Safety Rating: 3.8-4.2/5
Yikes, the first four model years of the Jeep Liberty do not paint a pretty reliable picture. The FIXD Reliability Score sits at 1 out of 10, while the owner score meanders a bit. That meandering becomes dramatic in 2005 when the Owner Reliability Score hits an 8 out of 10, but the 2002 model sits at 5 out of 10 while the 2003 and 2004 sit at a 7 out of 10. Why the huge divergence from the FIXD score?
Well, looking over the survey data, we can see that 25% of owners felt their 2005 Liberty could drive cross-country with ease. Just about 38% think their Jeep can handle a 500-mile road trip problem-free. And exactly no one thinks their Liberty is only good for puttering around town. So, subjectively, owners think their 2005 Libertys are very reliable.
But, objective data collected by thousands of FIXD devices installed in 2005 Libertys tells a different story. These Libertys have generated DTCs at a rate that is 42% higher than the average across all model years. One of them is for an expensive transmission problem as we’ll cover below. So, be sure to consider both the objective and subjective reliability scores before buying a used Jeep Liberty.
It’s not all bad news as the diesel powertrain that arrived in 2005 brought a strong increase in fuel efficiency, safety scores are on par with the industry average each year, and KBB market values move steadily up after dipping in 2003.
However, the 2002 Liberty posted the highest annual maintenance costs of any model year at over $1,000 and the 2005 model is well above average for this metric. And both of those model years sit in the shop for nearly three days each year, which is quite a bit longer than the average of two days.
Unsurprisingly then, 33% of 2002 Liberty owners think it’s expensive to repair as do 30% of 2005 owners. And though a mid-cycle refresh in 2005 brought improved seat comfort thanks to dual-density foam, 20 to 25% of 2002 to 2004 Liberty owners find those older seats to be uncomfortable.
DTC P0442, for an EVAP system leak, is one of the most common trouble codes on these Libertys that is likely caused by a loose gas cap. And DTC P0302, which is triggered by an engine misfire, indicates you need new spark plugs. Both of these issues tend to be cheap repairs, but that’s not the case for DTC P0700.
This severe issue means there is a problem with the automatic transmission, a problem that can cost up to $3,000 in repair bills. The 2004 and 2005 Liberty have exceptionally high incidences of DTC P0700, so if you own one of these model-year Libertys make sure to stay on top of transmission service.
Ensuring the 2002 to 2005 Jeep Libertys take home the “worst of the worst” title is the exceptionally high number of safety recalls issued during this period. Of the 14 recalls in 2002, there were three related to ball joint failure that impacted more than a million vehicles. There are also 10 investigations and over 1,000 consumer complaints recorded for the 2002 Liberty – both of which are very high
Of the 13 recalls issued for the 2003 Liberty, a combined 1.7 million vehicles were affected by three separate recalls that all had to do with inadvertent airbag deployment. Of the 13 recalls issued for the 2004 Jeep Liberty, the most significant was one for rear lower control arm failure that affected some 240,000 Libertys. And a problem with the automatic transmission was one of the eight recalls in 2005 that impacted 256,00 vehicles.
2006 Jeep Liberty
FIXD App Engine Reliability: 3/10
Owner-Reported Reliability: 6/10
KBB Value: $3,369
Fuel Economy: 17 mpg (gas), 21 mpg (diesel)
Annual Maintenance/Repair: $781
Safety Rating: 4.2/5
Though the 2006 Jeep Liberty posted a 2-point increase in the FIXD Reliability Score versus 2005, that figure is still just 3 out of 10. As well, the Owner Reliability Score dropped two points year-over-year, market values went flat, and the average gas-powered fuel economy dropped by two mpg.
That fuel-efficiency decline was caused by Jeep discontinuing the smaller four-cylinder powertrain for 2006, a decision made less impactful by the option for the 21-mpg diesel setup.
Nonetheless, 60% of 2006 owners think their Liberty is expensive to repair and 20% are unimpressed with the entertainment and sound system. All these factors play a role in pushing the 2006 Liberty onto the list of models to avoid.
There were also 10 recalls issued by the NHTSA for the 2006 Liberty, which is relatively high. Of those, an issue with overheating HVAC blower motors leading to vehicle fires was the most serious. It affected about 149,000 vehicles.
And when it comes to trouble codes, the 2006 Liberty is unfortunately one of the few models that sees DTC P0700 pop with frequency. It means the automatic transmission is having issues that could lead to repairs costing between $2,500 and $3,000.
Related to DTC P0700 is DTC P1684. Commonly found on the period Chrysler 300 – a corporate cousin to the Jeep – it likely means the transmission control module is malfunctioning. And as ever, DTC P0300 is present here. Triggered by an engine misfire, this trouble code means it’s time for new spark plugs.
2010-2011 Jeep Liberty
FIXD App Engine Reliability: 5-6/10
Owner-Reported Reliability: 8-9/10
KBB Value: $4,806-$6,151
Fuel Economy: 18 mpg
Annual Maintenance/Repair: $833-$875
Safety Rating: 3-4.3/5
Towards the end of 2nd-gen production, the 2010 and 2011 Jeep Liberty experienced a steady decline in reliability. There are no clear correlations with known manufacturer vehicle updates, but the FIXD sensors can’t lie and relative to the odometer readings, these Liberty models are more trouble than they’re worth.
That aligns with annual maintenance costs that are above average in both years and annual time spent in the shop skewing high. To that point, the 2010 Liberty has the dubious distinction of most days in the shop each year at a bit more than three days.
Market values move strongly up over this period, but safety moves strongly down in 2011, which is never good. Granted, the NHTSA unveiled a more rigorous testing protocol in 2011 that caught most manufacturers flat-footed. But as you can see on the safety graph, the 2011 Jeep Liberty took a major safety hit in comparison to the industry as a whole.
An interesting point on these Libertys is that Jeep added a new Interactive Decel Fuel Shut-Off system as standard equipment in 2010. Its stated purpose was to improve fuel economy by shutting off the fuel supply during deceleration. And yet, there was no movement on fuel economy figures in 2010 or 2011. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does seem to correlate with repair work.
That’s because the 2011 Liberty has a 14% chance of an expensive repair being related to the fuel system. This may not seem high but it’s almost four times higher than the average for this metric and the correlation continues when reviewing common trouble codes.
Two of the most common DTCs in 2010 and 2011 are P0456 and P0457. Both are related to the fuel system, specifically the EVAP system, and both indicate a leak. Sometimes this is caused by a loose gas cap, but it could also be a malfunctioning Integrity Monitor Assembly that runs upwards of $560 to fix.
Our old friend DTC P0300 continues to strike with frequency on the 2010 and 2011 Liberty. This code means the spark plugs are due for replacement as we cover in this DTC P0300 explainer video. If you want to go the DIY route, but don’t know where to start, consult our DTC P0300 DIY guide.
Helping these model-year Libertys earn the “best of the worst” title is a low recall count. There were two issued in 2010, both of which were for a problem with the brake booster that impacted 20,000 vehicles. Of the three recalls in 2011, two big ones for active head restraints combined to affect over 800,000 vehicles.
What years of the Jeep Liberty have engine and/or transmission problems?
The 2002 and 2005 Jeep Libertys have a higher degree of engine problems than any other model year. 2002 models have a 33% likelihood of a $500+ repair being engine-related and 2005 Libertys come in at 25% for this metric. It correlates with 2002 being year one of the Liberty and 2005 marking the arrival of a new diesel engine.
As for transmission problems, the 2005 Jeep Liberty also skews high for this with a 30% chance of an expensive repair being transmission-related. This goes hand-in-hand with the 2005 model year posting a notably high number of P0700 trouble codes, which are related to malfunctioning transmission.
What is considered high mileage for a Jeep Liberty?
Across 10 years of FIXD data, the Liberty averages 150,000 miles and the 2009 model comes in the highest with about 192,000 miles on the clock.
Given that, it’s reasonable to say 140,000 miles is considered high mileage for a Jeep Liberty. That may leave you as much as 50,000 miles to work with before the engine bites the dust. Keep in mind that the year of the Liberty you buy may determine whether you can afford to drive those extra miles.
What other vehicles should I consider?
The Jeep Liberty straddles the line between daily commuting crossover and weekend off-road adventures, which means there is a lot of competition. If you lean to the daily driving side, consider a Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4, but if you see yourself spending more time off the beaten path, a Subaru Forester or Nissan Xterra is worth looking at.
What owners of the Jeep Liberty like to use their car for:
|Frequent Use Categories:||How Useful? (Out of 5 Stars)|
|Lots of Driving (travel/long commute)||***|
|Office on Wheels||*|
A Note About Data and Information Sources
This article has many details about Jeep Liberty’s reliability; here’s what we used for our assumptions and recommendations.
- FIXD Reliability Score & Data: Engine reliability information is captured via the FIXD App.
The FIXD Reliability Score is calculated using the number of DTCs per year, weighted by mileage. This is then turned into a scale of 1-10 for easy graphing.
This is an objective score.
- Owner Reliability Score & Data: This data is the result of surveying Jeep Liberty owners who use FIXD.
The Owner Reliability Score comes straight from owners of the Jeep Liberty.
This is a subjective score.
To determine the Owner Reliability Score we ask each car owner:
How reliable would you say your Jeep Liberty is?
a. Just point A to point B driving
b. A Daily Commuter
c. Good for a 100-mile road trip
d. Good for a 500-mile road trip
e. I could take a cross-country road trip, no problem
From here we translate their answers into the Owner Reliability Score:
a. = 2
b. = 4
c. = 6
d. = 8
e. = 10
Keep in mind, owners may think their car is more or less reliable than it actually is.
One potential problem is that people often buy the same make or model they are used to when they go car shopping, just a newer year.
Ford, for instance, has a number of consumer loyalty awards for the Ford F-Series, Ford Mustang, and Ford Expedition.
Car owners may be so loyal to the make or model they currently own that they would have trouble accurately comparing their cars’ reliability to others.
It’s for this reason that we ask car owners a question that is relative to mileage rather than relative to other cars.
Still, be mindful of the accuracy of these Owner Reliability Scores, people’s perceptions and unconscious blindspots can skew data.
We suggest looking at both the FIXD Reliability Score and the Owner Reliability Score for this reason.
- KBB Value: Average private-seller valuations as supplied by Kelley Blue Book (KBB), based on a Jeep Liberty with typical mileage for that respective model year.
- Fuel Economy: Mileage-per-gallon estimates according to the EPA MPG on Fueleconomy.gov
- Annual Maintenance/Repair: Upkeep expenses as reported by surveyed Jeep Liberty owners
- Safety Rating: Crash test data collected and reported by NHTSA. We average all ratings for each year to come up with a simplified, average safety score. This makes it easier to look at on a graph.
- Jeep Liberty model-specific information. Retrieved July 25, 2023, from https://www.edmunds.com/
- Jeep Liberty model-specific recall information. Retrieved July 25, 2023, from https://www.nhtsa.gov/recalls
- Jeep Liberty model-specific information. Retrieved July 25, 2023, from https://www.auto-brochures.com
- Jeep Liberty model-specific information. Retrieved July 25, 2023, from https://media.stellantisnorthamerica.com/homepage.do?mid=1
Niel Stender grew up doing replacement work on his old Cherokee and sweet Mitsubishi Starion, which led to a degree in mechanical engineering and a job at Ford as a vehicle dynamics engineer. His writing infuses that automotive background with sales and marketing experience. Writing about cars for close to a decade now, he enjoys digging into some of the more technical mechanical systems under the hood and throughout a vehicle.