is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Jeep Trail Rated vs. Non Trail Rated

jeep trail rated vs non trail rated

It is an open secret that most Jeep owners acquire the vehicle for its durability and off-road capabilities. These are car enthusiasts who like adrenaline-pumping adventures such as driving on complex and challenging terrain. But to satisfy their cravings, they must use a vehicle built to withstand the challenges of all these off-road activities. And the answer to their needs is a car built around durability and its off-road capabilities, the Jeep Wrangler.

But how do you measure the capability of the Jeep Wrangler off the road? Is the off-road capability a marketing ploy for the manufacturer? Is there a way that a vehicle will be tested for its off-road capability? We will be answering all these questions once we tackle the difference between Jeep trail-rated vs. non-trail rated.

Probably, some of you have heard the term Jeep trail-rated before, while others may not. But if you own a Jeep Wrangler or passionate about the vehicle, learning the trail-rated badge should be of interest to you. This article will compare the difference between Jeep trail rated and non-trail rated and its effect on a Jeep Wrangler’s off-road capabilities.

Explained: Jeep Trail Rated Vs. Non Trail Rated

As I’ve said, if the phrase “Jeep Trail Rated” is still new to your ear, then I will discuss with you the meaning of it and its importance in owning a Jeep Wrangler. In the most simple term, it is a system that measures, predict, and established the off-road capability of all Jeep vehicles. The system was introduced in October of 2003 to communicate the Jeep capability that is designed in every 4×4 Jeep model.

The best thing about the Jeep Trail Rated system is the support given by the Nevada Automotive Test Center (NATC) in the testing process. The testing center itself has more than 45 years of experience in testing off-road vehicles, including the testing standards of the U.S. military. The vehicle with a Trail Rated Badge is an indication that the vehicle was manufactured to withstand different challenging off-road conditions.

How Does a Jeep Vehicle Earn a Trail Rated Badge?

The Jeep with a Trail Rated badge simply means that the vehicle is worthy when used on different types of trails. The vehicle will be able to handle other off-road challenges and conditions being plan by the Jeep owner. I personally like the badge because it gives a sense of security to the Jeep owner and the confidence that it can handle the challenges of off-road driving. We all know that driving off-road is not easy, but having to drive an already tested vehicle in similar conditions will give you a sense of security.

But how does a vehicle get a trail-rated badge? The Jeep will be tested on five different elements and conditions in an off-road setting to determine its capability. Please check below.


In this condition, the Jeep is tested in its ability to handle the roughest terrain, steepest slopes, and the most severe snowstorms. To be able to pass, the Jeep must pass on the specific criteria that are set for these conditions.

Water Fording

Most of the regular vehicles will not travel across any body of water. With a trail-rated vehicle, sealing all the body openings and electrical connections is highly required. Also, air intake must be higher to give the vehicle a chance to drive on floods, streams, and rainstorm spills.


The Jeep must have a suspension that can handle the shock of rough terrain, construction, and potholes. The vehicle must have the ability to take a few bumps, and the passenger must be comfortable. In other words, the vehicle must be able to maintain its balance on uneven surfaces.


This condition is all about the driving quality of the Jeep Wrangler. It refers to the precision of the steering, the excellent turn radius, and the optimized wheelbases allowing the vehicle to navigate difficult obstacles, handle unexpected situations, and a lot more. The way the Jeep navigate challenging terrain is essential and is part of the process.

The Ground Clearance

jeep models with trail rated badge

Ground clearance refers to the distance from the ground to the lowest part of the Jeep. It is a fact that the Jeep has the highest ground clearance of the cars in the market. The logs, rocks, debris, and other obstacles should not be a problem when the Jeep navigates in a terrain. This situation is where the ground clearance comes in as the Jeep should drive in the trail and navigating any obstacles without damaging the underbody of the vehicle.

For a Jeep Wrangler to get the Trail Rated Badge, the vehicle must be tested on the NATC facility and pass the five different conditions mentioned above. When these vehicles are tested, the vehicle has no requirements to modify and upgrade and make it stronger and trail-ready. However, part of the recommendations of the NATC for Trail Rated Jeeps are modifications for the vehicle to be more trail-ready and robust.

But to be clear about this topic, the Jeep’s trail-rated vehicles were subjected and tested to an independent testing facility conducted by the NATC. They have set their criteria depending on the five factors we have mentioned earlier. And the truth is, we do not have any idea of the specific criteria that they have set on the five different conditions. The standards and particular numbers of each criterion are unknown to the public. Only the NATC and the company knows the standard that they follow.

Jeep Models with Trail Rated Badge

Since you already know the conditions to earn a Trail Rated badge, it will be best to know the different Jeep models earning the said badge. They are as follows:

  • Jeep Wrangler
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • Jeep Cherokee
  • Jeep Compass
  • Jeep Renegade
  • Jeep Gladiator

Looking at the Rubicon Trail in California

The Rubicon Trail in California is where the Jeep vehicles’ testing is held to get the Trail Rated badge. Located at the Sierra Nevada Mountains, this place promises to test the limits of all the vehicles looking to get the badge. The trail is 22 miles long and has one of the most challenging and rocky terrains in America. The place is popular among off-road enthusiasts due to its most demanding paths and rugged terrains.

The place is also full of history in which glaciers were carved out millions of years ago, which left the formation of boulders and rocks behind. The Rubicon Trail is one of the most challenging paths to conquer, with the weather altering the terrain every year. This situation will make all the vehicles different for each Jeep as they try to get the trail-rated badge.

Jeep Trail Rated vs. Non Trail Rated: Which is the Best for You?

After you learn the information and importance of having a trail-rated badge, the next question that may pop your mind is looking for the right vehicle that fits your needs. Will you go with the Trail-rated vehicle or settle with the non-trail rated? To answer this question is to know what is your purpose in buying the Jeep.

If you are buying it to use for your daily transportation only, then a non-trail rated Jeep should be fine. But if you are an outdoor enthusiast who is keen to use the Jeep on off-road activities, I would suggest getting the trail-rated vehicle. If you plan to do both, then a trail-rated Jeep should be your vehicle.

You should also know that there is a big difference between the two vehicles. Trail Rated Jeeps are more expensive compared to the vehicle without the badge. So, it all depends on you, your purpose, and your budget when buying the vehicle.


Choosing between Jeep Trail Rated vs. Non Trail Rated depends on the person planning to acquire the Jeep Wrangler. It all goes down to the intention, purpose, and budget of the buyer. But in my experience, most people who purchase the Jeep Wrangler are all about experiencing the thrill and excitement of driving off the road. If this is you, I would suggest that you go for the Jeep with the trail-rated badge.

If you just want the Jeep for your private transport, then a non-trail rated Jeep will be fine. The best thing about the vehicle is you can still do some modifications to make it more challenging and trail-ready. Although, you need to spend a good amount of money to do it.

4.3/5 - (44 votes)

Leave a Comment