What Is the Jeep Wave? Everything You Need to Know

Are you a proud owner of a Jeep or considering buying one? Then you certainly have heard about the Jeep wave, either as a camaraderie gesture or as the VIP program offered by Jeep themselves. Since off-roading is such a great team pursuit, where you can enjoy the open trails and nature with friends, it’s no wonder there is a friendly wave from one Jeep owner to another. After all, you’re just recognizing each other’s great choice of car! However, the Jeep wave goes deeper than a friendly hello you’ll have seen with bike or motorbike riders as well. 

What is the Jeep Wave, and what do you need to know about it? The Jeep Wave can be two things: first, it’s a camaraderie gesture from one Jeep owner to another, made as you pass each other on the road. Second, it is also a VIP program put in place by Jeep to reward its car buyers and foster a community feeling.

What started as a wave between Jeep owners driving specific models (the CJ, YJ, TJ, and JK) has expanded to owners of any Jeep vehicle. As for the official Jeep Wave program, its complete membership set-up offers a range of benefits we’ll look at below.

Jeep Wave

What is the Jeep Wave?

You’ll often hear people saying: “The Jeep Wave is an honor.” If you search for it online, most Jeep enthusiasts will share the same view: for as long as Jeeps have been around, there’s been a tacit acknowledgment from driver to driver that they’re part of a family, as kindred spirits. But where did the Jeep Wave come from?

During World War II, doing the Jeep Wave (which we’ll explain below) was a way to salute a passing officer without doing the full military salute. This way, should an enemy spy be out watching the passing Jeep, they wouldn’t be able to tell that a high-ranking official was present. It also became a way to acknowledge one another as friends in an uncertain time.

Later on, returning from the War, many soldiers wanted to own their own Jeeps, having experienced the great driving they provided and perhaps also as a form of nostalgia. When they passed other Jeep owners, most often, they would also be fellow veterans. So, doing the Jeep Wave was another way to recognize each other in the civilian world.

How to Do the Jeep Wave

Whether the war history of the Jeep Wave is true or just a romantic explanation, the Jeep Wave is part of owning a Jeep today. How do you do the Jeep Wave then? It sometimes depends on the region, and there are a few variations. You would either raise a hand waving or keep your hand on the wheel, raising four fingers and extending your thumb, without any more movement than that. In other parts, only two fingers might come up from the steering wheel. In the southern US or more rural locations, one or two fingers are used, accompanied by a nod.

However varied, it’s safe to say other Jeep owners will instantly recognize what you’re doing and respond. 

Are There Jeep Wave Rules?

This is an interesting question, as there are Jeep owners out there who stick by the rules, while others don’t. The first and foremost rule of the Jeep Wave is that you must wave back. It doesn’t matter if you’re driving a Grand Cherokee or a Wrangler.

There shouldn’t be any discrimination around the Jeep Wave, despite some rumors about how some Jeeps are “more worthy” than others when it comes to the wave. However, opinions vary. Some say a lifted Wrangler is the only Jeep that owners should do a wave for. Some people also believe that only muddy Jeeps should be waved to, and that, if you own a pristine car, you’re most likely a “mall crawler” and don’t deserve to be waved at.

Two Finger Jeep Wave
Credit: thefuntimesguide.com

Is the Jeep Wave just for Wranglers? Absolutely not! If you’re driving any other Jeep and you see one coming towards you, feel free to wave and prepare to either get an answer or not. Jeep Wave etiquette shouldn’t be snobbish: it’s meant to be about recognizing kinship first and foremost.

Finally, there is no shame in displaying some Jeep Wave pride while driving your Jeep around. There are many Jeep Wave decals and stickers you can add to your car. They’ll signal your adherence to the Jeep Wave crowd from miles away, so there will be no doubt that you believe in the wave. For example, you can put one on your wing mirror, and you’ll be mirroring it when you’re waving at a fellow Jeeper.

Do Only Jeep Owners Wave?

Owning an off-roading vehicle does create a community feeling, as you’re likely to be heading off into nature to tackle challenging terrain and have fun on challenging trails. This is why you might expect any 4×4 off-roading car owner to feel a camaraderie with other drivers, regardless of whether they own a Jeep or not.

The truth is, just like there are some Jeep drivers who don’t do the Jeep Wave, there are some non-Jeep drivers who will do it. It’s all about recognizing each other as similar, part of a group of people interested in a particular lifestyle and who respect each other when they meet on the road. If a Toyota driver waves to you on the road, don’t be surprised – simply wave back and enjoy the knowledge you have a tacit friend out there.

What Is the Jeep Wave Program?

Leaving aside the informal Jeep Wave etiquette, Jeep themselves have adopted the idea of the wave and created a benefits program for owners, using the icon of the Jeep Wave. The Jeep Wave program is an exclusive membership program that you become part of when you buy or lease a Jeep.

Nowadays, if you buy or lease any of the following Jeep models, you’ll automatically be enrolled for free in the program for 24 months:

  • Wrangler – all models
  • Grand Cherokee – standard on Overland, Trailhawk, High Altitude, Summit, SRT and Trackhawk
  • Cherokee – standard on Overland and Trailhawk
  • Compass – standard on Trailhawk
  • Renegade – standard on Trailhawk and DesertHawk
  • Gladiator – all models

On the Jeep Wave program, you’ll receive 24/7 customer support from scheduling services, getting assistance, and more. You also receive four oil changes and tire rotations for as long as you’re a member.

There are also many Jeep Brand events across the US, and you’ll receive preferred treatment if you choose to attend any of them.

If you’re getting your car serviced, you’ll also have access to no-charge same-day rented vehicles for the day. Finally, you’ll benefit from a trip interruption coverage, which means that Jeep Wave will cover up to $1,000 per occurrence for lodging, meals, and emergency transportation for you and your family if you’re on a journey and your car breaks down.

How Much Does Jeep Wave Cost?

If you have an older model, from 2015 and before, you still have access to the Jeep Wave program through an annual fee. You can also renew the Jeep Wave program membership after your initial 24-month free period. The cost of an annual membership is $150.

The Jeep Owners Community

Owning a Jeep includes you in an informal community, whether or not you want to attend the events you’re eligible for via the official Jeep Wave program offered by Jeep. There are many other community options beyond the more commercial ones.

Jeep Clubs are one of the most popular sorts of communities of Jeep owners. Enthusiasts can join even if they don’t own a Jeep, but simply love the brand. They organize activities and events like meetups, camping, car shows, and even group drives on off-road trails where you can learn skills and have fun.

Red Jeep Wrangler on Road

In the US, you can use this website to find Jeep Clubs by state.

The Jeep Wave Hierarchy

In addition to the Jeep Wave concept, some clubs adhere to the idea of a hierarchy based on a scoring system over three categories:

  • The vehicle itself – taking into account the nostalgia factor, the discomfort tolerance quotient, and the amount of owner dedication required to maintain the car. This is where CJ models rank higher than TJs or Cherokees.
  • What you do with your Jeep – Do you have the top on or off? Is your Jeep covered in mud? More points are given for muddier cars, or for the less protected Jeep occupants are from the elements. Like we mentioned above, you’ll be penalized for having a sparkling clean Jeep.
  • Equipment adjustments – This is basically any extra work you’ve done on your Jeep, such as changes to the engine, new tires, raising it further off the ground, you name it. The more accessories and work, the more this points to someone who spends a lot of time on their Jeep.

The light-headed inclusive way to look at the hierarchy is not to suggest the Jeep Wave should be reserved to some Jeeps only, but rather that the owner of a lower-scoring Jeep initiates the wave. It’s a matter of respecting what seems to be seniority in someone else’s Jeep. However, this is not an exact science, and no one is expected to be calculating scores in the few seconds it takes to cross another car. It’s best always to initiate a Jeep Wave anyway, and open up to being part of the Jeep drivers’ family.

Conclusion – It’s a Jeep Thing

Have you ever heard the phrase “It’s a Jeep thing?” It basically means that you wouldn’t understand, as you’re not part of “the gang.” This is an extremely popular phrase with Jeep owners and as relevant as the Jeep Wave for showing adherence to the club.

On any drive, you’re highly likely to find stickers with “It’s a Jeep thing” or the Jeep Wave on a Jeep driving past you. Jeep enthusiasts also buy the Jeep Wave shirts or T-shirts mentioning this phrase. It’s all part of the same community mindset that you’re part of a family.

So, what is a Jeep thing?

  • Not worrying about curbs or obstacles
  • Carrying mud on your car from your last adventure, and leaving it to land where it falls
  • Fording flooded roads
  • Parking on the opposite side of the parking lot just to be next to another Jeep
  • Missing a turn because you’re doing a Jeep Wave to another Jeep driver

Ultimately, owning a Jeep and embracing the off-roading lifestyle will mean that you’ll be an enthusiastic fan displaying Jeep pride, and the above are just a few ways of doing this. Driving a Jeep connects you with a history of adventure, and that is why the Jeep Wave and phrases like “It’s a Jeep thing” exist.

Kris Peter

Adventure seeker and off-road enthusiast. I love the thrill of going off-road and taking on the elements.

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