The Wrangler Wave: How, When and Why?

The Jeep Wave
The Jeep Wave

If you’re a new Jeep owner, you may have noticed there’s something called a Jeep Wave or commonly known as the Wrangler Wave. If you’re just going about indiscriminately waving at fellow Jeep owners, you’re probably doing it wrong.

Most Jeep owners will simply wave back at you out of courtesy, and it may be that you’re accidentally following protocol, but perhaps not. There are somehow, when, and why elements to the Jeep Wave, and it will behoove you to know what they are.  Otherwise, you may be subject to this warning, issued by Jeep Nation:

Warning: Owning, registering, insuring, or driving a Jeep implies knowledge of and intent to abide by the following rules, regulations, and guidelines. Failure to obey the letter or spirit of the rules may result in your being ignored by other Jeep owners as you sit along the side of the road next to your stalled vehicle in a blizzard surrounded by Saturns, Yugos, and Hyundais.

While this might not happen to you, offer the wave at the wrong place or time, or worse snub the wave of another Jeep owner, and you could find yourself in a heck of a spot.

The Jeep Wave
The Jeep Wave

The Jeep Hierarchy

The rules related to this Jeep hierarchy have much to do with who waves first. In general, the inferior Jeep initiates the wave, which is returned by the driver of the higher-ranking Jeep. Lucky for you, it’s easy to determine the score of another Jeep in just a few moments at a stoplight or passing on a trail. Here are some important rules to know and follow:

  • Age Matters

    The older the Jeep, the higher its ranking, in most cases. See an original Willys out there? You wave first. CJs get a higher score than JKs, etc. In the newer realm of Jeeps this does vary a bit though.

  • Dirt Matters

    Is your Jeep spotless, just out of the car wash? You best be waving to all those Jeepers who still bear the dirt of the previous weekend. The dirtier the Jeep the better. This can get a little tricky, as a dirtier JK covered in mud may outrank a sparkling clean CJ. It depends.

  • Top or Topless?

    The topless Jeep passengers are more exposed to the elements than those in a Jeep with the top on, so they rank higher in the hierarchy. A topless Jeep covered in mud top to bottom? That’s a tough one to beat.

  • Accessories

    Winches, jacks, light bars, lift kits and larger tires, replacement bumpers, and snorkels all have an effect on your hierarchy score. The more accessories you have that scream “rock crawler” and “serious Jeeper” rather than daily driver, the higher your rank. See a decked-out CJ rolling toward you on the trail? You initiate the wave.

  • Model Matters

    A decked-out Cherokee? That driver defers to the Wrangler driver.

Whatever your Jeep score, the key is to be a courteous member of the Jeep family. That is, after all, what the Jeep Wave is all about.

How Do You Wave?

Usually, the wave consists of raising a couple of fingers off the steering wheel, most often with your left hand, although doing it with the right is not frowned upon. From time to time, you’ll get a topless Jeeper or one with the window down who’ll give you the outside of the Jeep wave, also a perfectly acceptable alternative.

Some purists say the three-finger wave, giving the “W” for Wrangler is best for Wrangler owners, but there’s no hard and fast rule that you have to do so. In fact, there are variations like the one-finger wave and even the enthusiastic “princess” wave, with your arm out the window and in the air like you just don’t care.

Just be sure to wave and acknowledge your fellow Jeep drivers.

The Jeep Wave
The Jeep Wave

Why Some People Don’t Wave

Some new Jeep owners who have bought into the popular practice of buying a cool looking Jeep, and whose primary off-road excursions involve running over the curb into the flower garden at the supermarket, may not get it.

“Get it” means the whole Jeep thing. The pride in the name and the capability of Jeep vehicles is all part of the Jeep community. There are some solutions you can try with to help out a newbie:

  • Educate Them

    When you see them in a parking lot after a no-wave incident, let them know about the Jeep Wave and why it matters.

  • Ignore Them

    One option is to overlook the ignorance. Those Jeep owners may not know what they’re missing.

  • Keep Waving

    Eventually, hopefully, they’ll catch on.

For many Jeep owners, the Jeep Wave is serious business. If you’re a new Jeep owner, learn the hierarchy, and start to wave if you haven’t already. If you’re a seasoned owner and take things seriously? Have patience with those who don’t know better.

It takes all types to make up a family, and the Jeep family is no different. Pass along these tips when you can. The more you know about the Jeep thing, the easier it is to get it.

The Jeep Wave
The Jeep Wave