Did You Know? The Story Behind the Jeep Wave

If you’re a new Jeep owner, you might wonder: Why are all these Jeepers waving at me? Little do you know, you are experiencing that famous and friendly salute from one Jeep enthusiast to another: the Jeep wave. In this article, we dig deep into the legend, the history, and the science of the Jeep wave, one of the most iconic driving gestures of all time.


What Is The Jeep Wave?

The Jeep wave is a friendly greeting between Jeep owners as they drive past each other. While there is supposedly a Jeep wave hierarchy about which driver waves first (more on that below) the Jeep wave is simply a way to show respect from one fellow Jeeper to another.

Why Do We Wave?

We wave because we love our Jeeps and we love how they enable our adventurous lifestyle. We appreciate other drivers who share our awesome taste in off-road vehicles. We want to show our comradery and respect for others in the Jeep community, especially if they have a particularly sweet Jeep. Giving and getting respect is one of the many perks of Jeep ownership. That’s on top of getting to drive the ultimate vehicle.

How To Wave

It depends on your wave style and driving circumstances. A Jeep wave can be as simple as extending two or four fingers from the steering wheel and giving a nod. But you might also wave with your whole hand, especially if you’ve got your top down and doors off and want to raise your hand above the windshield or outside the body of the vehicle. Whatever your style, your fellow Jeep owners will appreciate the greeting and will return the love.

When Did We Start Doing It?

There are three leading theories. Theory #1: The Jeep wave started back in WWII, when soldiers would wave to one another in solidarity while driving Jeeps on patrol or for transportation. Theory #2: The Jeep wave stared after the war, when returning soldiers purchased their first CJ or VJ models and waved to acknowledge one another for their honorable service. Theory #3: The wave started much later in the 1960s and 70s, with the advent of off-roading culture as a way to salute another kindred spirit. We find this last theory most probable because many car brand communities have similar waves, especially for relatively rare vehicles. In the early years, the Jeep wave was mainly the domain of CJ/YJ/TJ owners but has since expanded to any Jeep model, from off-roaders to daily drivers. Now that Jeeps have exploded in popularity, the Jeep wave is the preeminent automobile greeting.

Other Famous Gestures

Vehicle owners love to show respect to members of the same tribe. There are other well-known vehicle gestures (not counting that most famous and inappropriate one). The motorcycle wave has been around at least since the 1950s, when motorcycles were less ubiquitous and driving a bike was seen as part of the counterculture. This hog-riding salute consists of dropping your left arm towards the road with two fingers outstretched. There’s also the Corvette Wave and the Porsche Wave, used to acknowledge a fellow driver who was also willing to shell out at least $60,000 for a new luxury car that can’t even go off-roading. In addition, there’s the MX5 Miata Flip, in which Miata owners pop up their trademark flip-up headlamps in greeting. Other car brands claim to have their own waves (Subaru, VW Beetle, Honda Civics, Mini Coopers, Hummers) but they’re only cheap imitations of the one and only iconic Jeep wave.

Frequently Asked Questions


Where did the Jeep wave come from?

The hard evidence on Jeep wave origins is difficult to come by (see above) but the Jeep wave probably started in the 1960s or 70s with the advent of off-road culture, as a way for adventurous kindred spirits to acknowledge their mutual love for their Jeep brand vehicles.

What are the Jeep wave rules?

If you go by the Jeep wave hierarchy, the inferior Jeep always waves first. Here are some handy guidelines for Jeep etiquette rules:

Rule #1: Respect your elders. The older the model, the more love you must give. This particularly applies to classic or vintage Jeeps. If you drive a JK Wrangler and see a CJ or VJ, you throw up that wave first. If you see an original Willys MB, get out of your vehicle and genuflect.

Rule #2: Accessorize. The more accessories you have that signal “serious off-roader,” the higher you are on the Jeep hierarchy. Extras and modifications beyond the standard equipment like winches, jacks, snorkels, body armor, lift kits, and large tires all increase your Jeep score.

Rule #3: Get Dirty. If your Jeep is squeaky clean from the car wash or you haven’t taken it out mudding in weeks, you best defer to the Jeep that’s still caked in mud fresh from the trail. The more visual evidence that your Jeep is well-used and well-loved, the more props you should get.

Rule #4: Model Matters. All Jeep models, from Wranglers to Renegades, can participate in the Jeep wave but not all Jeeps are equal. There is a distinct difference between a city-friendly daily driver like the Grand Cherokee versus a rugged Wrangler used for rock crawling. We all love Jeep brand vehicles but the less off-road ready Jeep waves first.

Is the Jeep wave only for Wranglers?

Your Jeep Wrangler might elicit the most enthusiastic waves, especially if it’s tricked out with modifications, but the Jeep wave is for every member of the Jeep community, regardless of make or model.

Is there a secret Jeep wave?

Yes, though it’s not much of a secret anymore. The Jeep wave is simply used to acknowledge another Jeep owner who has similarly excellent taste in SUVs.

What do you get with the Jeep Wave program?

The Jeep wave is so popular that Jeep named their exclusive service contract after the famous hand gesture. Jeep Wave membership offers a bevy of exciting benefits to qualifying vehicles. Jeep Wave members get free routine maintenance services (oil changes and tire rotations); trip-interruption coverage of up to $1,000 per occurrence; no-charge same day rental vehicles and vehicle delivery if your Jeep needs servicing or repair; and 24/7 roadside assistance and access to the Jeep elite customer service hotline. Jeep Wave membership also removes the miles allowance from the factory warranty, so you can drive your Jeep as much as you want without losing vehicle protection coverage. Plus, you get VIP treatment at Jeep brand-exclusive events and contests across the USA. You can also take advantage of discounts on hotel stays, restaurants, merchandise, and other deals from businesses participating in the Jeep Savings Network.

New this year, Jeep has extended the Jeep Wave program from two years to three years. To celebrate Jeep’s 80th anniversary, Jeep is gifting the program to all 2021 Jeep vehicle models. But if you have an older Jeep, you can still buy into the program. All Jeeps manufactured in 2016 or later are eligible to enroll for the low cost of $150 at your local Jeep dealers.

Even if you don’t take advantage of the Jeep Wave program, the important thing is to keep its namesake alive. Show respect for other Jeepers and the beautiful vehicles that we all love. If another Jeep owner waves at you, wave back. And pass it on.