1. Not that easy to install compared to a quality aftermarket front bumper: The fact is that you will have to remove the factory bumper anyway to install the mount. And you will have to deal with surprises, like having to buy and install a relocation bracket for the brake pump. So, get ready to work a bit.
2. Thieves will like you: A surface-mounted winch is way easier to steal (five minutes tops) compared to a winch recessed in a steel bumper. Trying to save money at all cost could actually force you to buy a second winch eventually.
3. No protection against impact (for the winch): Your surface-mounted winch will now offer some protection to your Wrangler’s grille. That’s cool for the grille but not cool for the winch. Stray branches and small rocks will constantly hit that vulnerable winch. An animal collision could also occur. Winches are not “armored” because they are actually designed to be as light as possible. Unless you carry a very cheap or an old winch you don’t value much, it would be a terrible idea to spend from $600 to $1,000 for a top-of-the-line winch and not protect your investment at all. Especially, if you are a solo Jeeper used to scouting the remote wilderness all alone. Damaging your winch is something you could regret bitterly. I personally consider my XRC Winch as my primary recovery system, and I take great care of it. It’s hell of a precious thing in my life.
4. Reduced airflow: An external winch mount somehow blocks airflow to the radiator, A/C, and transmission cooler. Of course, it won’t impact much, but you should keep that in mind before making a final decision.
5. You can’t use the factory bumper as a ram: The factory plastic bumper is not designed to take severe hits that come with extreme off-roading. Also, it can’t be used to push heavy obstacles out of the way. It’s important to mention because, in some situations, you won’t need to pull but to push. Don’t take for granted that you could just turn back if you are ever facing a heavy and insurmountable obstacle. It doesn’t work like that. A trail washout, a fallen tree, or a closed gate on a logging road could get you stranded for good, and there won’t be any other option but to keep moving forward and clear a path. Most aftermarket steel bumpers are constructed of steel plates that are welded on both the inside and the outside and are mounted to the Wrangler’s frame with sub-frames. That’s why they have so much resistance.
6. No grille guard: With the factory bumper, your only option to add extra front-end protection is to mount a bull bar under the bumper. The problem is that it reduces your clearance. It costs money too. On the other hand, there are plenty of aftermarket bumpers that already come with a grille guard, a stinger, or an overrider. If you keep the stock bumper but want to mount a winch and a bull bar, you are just wasting your time, money, and clearance.
7. A high pulling point is not optimal: Some would argue, but spending so much time winching alone made me realize that pulling from a high profile brings the nose of my Jeep down into the mud, water, or snow. And that’s not good. With a lower pulling point, it’s easier to get unstuck. And to achieve that goal, the only way is to use a low-profile winch mount.
8. Appearance: A surface mount looks cluttered, less capable, and unprofessional. If you are looking for a job in the remote wilderness that involves driving your own off-road vehicle, I recommend you upgrade your bumper to show that you mean business.