Ford Explorer Years to Avoid (Read First)

Ford Explorer is a mid-size crossover/SUV that’s perfect for families thanks to its comfortable and spacious interior, and an array of safety features.

If you’re planning on buying a used Explorer, it’s important to know which years are reliable, and which years you should avoid.

In this article, we’ll look at the best and worst Explorer years, and also provide a brief summary of the problems faced by each model in the last 15 years.

Which Ford Explorer Years to Avoid: Quick Answer

Based on our research, The Ford Explorer years to avoid are most of the fifth-generation models (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017) Simply put, these years are clunkers with lots of customer complaints, recalls, and average reliability scores.

The fifth-generation Ford Explorer model years (2011 through 2017) are some of the least reliable vehicles in their class. A faulty water pump that leaks coolant into an already unreliable engine can result in catastrophic engine failure. What’s more, these models are so poorly built that they’ll sporadically lose pieces of window trim while in motion. A known Ford power steering issue didn’t skip the fifth-gen Explorer either.

Additional Explorers that you might want to avoid are the newest sixth-gen 2020 models and the inaugural fourth-gen units from 2006.

Although not covered in this article, third-generation Explorer models (2002-2005) should also be avoided at all costs as they’re some of the worst vehicles to come out of Dearborn in recent years. The less said about them, the better.

You might also like: Ford Escape Years to Avoid (Revealed)

Which Year Explorer is the Best?

In our opinion, the best Explorer year is 2009 due to fewer reported issues compared to other years. The 2009 Ford Explorer also gets the highest combined reliability scores from J.D. Power (83/100) and user ratings from Edmunds (4.3/5) of any Explorer year in the last 15 years.

Its fourth-generation counterparts from 2007, 2008, and 2010 are also very reliable and typically suffer from minor problems. The former two are known to have some potentially serious transmission issues, though.

Finally, if you’re looking for a more contemporary mid-size crossover instead of an old-school SUV, 2019 Explorers are your safest bet. Like most fifth-gen models, they might develop the exhaust fumes cabin leak, but that’s about it.

Do Ford Explorers Have a Lot of Problems?

Some Ford Explorers, like most of the third and fifth-generation models, have plenty of problems, but others like the second and fourth-generation models are generally reliable.

This peculiar trend has something to do with significant structural changes in production. Before 2010 and the fifth-gen models, the Explorer was still a body-on-frame SUV, while current Explorers are built upon a unibody crossover platform.

Ford Explorer Problems by Year:

Further below, we’ve listed some of the most common problems that plague Ford Explorers.

The data comes from carcomplaints.com and NHTSA.

2020 Ford Explorer Problems

  • hard-shifting transmission
  • brake issues
  • various electrical system issues

Total complaints: NHTSA 274, car complaints 25.

2019 Ford Explorer Problems

  • exhaust fumes in the cabin
  • roof rails may detach

Total complaints: NHTSA 46, car complaints 10.

2018 Ford Explorer Problems

  • exhaust fumes in the cabin
  • roof rails may detach

Total complaints: NHTSA 164, car complaints 24.

2017 Ford Explorer Problems

  • a faulty water pump may leak coolant into the engine
  • roof rails may detach
  • window trim may detach
  • premature tire wear (OEM Hankook)
  • exhaust fumes in the cabin

Total complaints: NHTSA 589, car complaints 102.

2016 Ford Explorer Problems

  • engine stalls while driving
  • a faulty water pump may leak coolant into the engine
  • power steering failure
  • window trim may detach
  • exhaust fumes in the cabin

Total complaints: NHTSA 1254, car complaints 427.

2015 Ford Explorer Problems

  • engine stalls while driving
  • a faulty water pump may leak coolant into the engine
  • power steering failure
  • exhaust fumes in the cabin
  • window trim may detach

Total complaints: NHTSA 987, car complaints 210.

2014 Ford Explorer Problems

  • engine stalls while driving
  • a faulty water pump may leak coolant into the engine
  • power steering failure
  • paint is bubbling
  • exhaust fumes in the cabin
  • window trim may detach

Total complaints: NHTSA 977, car complaints 271.

2013 Ford Explorer Problems

  • engine stalls while driving
  • a faulty water pump may leak coolant into the engine
  • power steering failure
  • exhaust fumes in the cabin
  • window trim may detach
  • brake issues

Total complaints: NHTSA 1478, car complaints 499.

2012 Ford Explorer Problems

  • engine stalls while driving
  • a faulty water pump may leak coolant into the engine
  • power steering failure
  • paint is bubbling
  • exhaust fumes in the cabin

Total complaints: NHTSA 546, car complaints 135.

2011 Ford Explorer Problems

  • engine stalls while driving
  • a faulty water pump may leak coolant into the engine
  • power steering failure
  • paint is bubbling
  • water leaks into the cabin
  • exhaust fumes in the cabin

Total complaints: NHTSA 833, car complaints 203.

2010 Ford Explorer Problems

  • unintended acceleration
  • rear differential failure

Total complaints: NHTSA 104, car complaints 44.

2009 Ford Explorer Problems

  • unintended acceleration

Total complaints: NHTSA 33, car complaints 15.

2008 Ford Explorer Problems

  • transmission lurches and is prone to failure
  • unintended acceleration
  • faulty ignition switch

Total complaints: NHTSA 143, car complaints 108.

2007 Ford Explorer Problems

  • transmission slipping and is prone to failure
  • engine stalls while driving
  • unintended acceleration
  • power seats malfunction

Total complaints: NHTSA 204, car complaints 190.

2006 Ford Explorer Problems

  • transmission shifts hard and is prone to failure
  • engine stalls while idling
  • unintended acceleration
  • radiator leak
  • ABS ring may crack

Total complaints: NHTSA 630, car complaints 771.

What Is The Most Reliable Ford Explorer Year?

The most reliable Explorer year is 2009. They boast the fewest reported problems of all Ford Explorer models over the years and have been affected by only one recall (294 vehicles total).

Aside from some of the highest marks from J.D. Power (83/100) and Edmunds user reviews (4.3/5), the 2009 units also boast the best “problems reported per thousand vehicles per year index (PPMY)” score of 0.14.

The mentioned PPMY index values user satisfaction by taking into account the sales figure of a particular model, alongside its age and number of reported problems. The older the vehicle is, the more likely a chance of developing problems. Moreover, the higher the production number of a particular model, the higher the odds of more issues being reported.

You’ll find a table of “problems reported per thousand vehicles per year index (PPMY)” for the past 15 Ford Explorer model years further below.

Model YearNumber of problemsSales FiguresVehicle AgePPMY Index
2020412226,21720.78
201960184,65330.15
2018203250,69040.2
2017732271,13150.41
20161,591248,50760.95
20151,255249,25170.8
20141,196209,99480.71
20131,863192,39790.86
2012710164,207100.82
20111,068135,704111.17
201013160,687120.15
20094652,190130.14
200820278,439140.16
2007238137,817150.15
2006716179,229160.25

Ford Explorer Reliability By Year:

As it’s the case with most vehicles on the market, some Explorers are more reliable than others. The following analysis of Ford Explorer’s reliability by year comes from the data collected from

 Car Problems, J.D. Power, and Edmunds user reviews.

J.D. Power uses a scale from 1 to 100. Edmunds user reviews use a scale from 1 to 5.

Car Problems PPMY index is simple – the lower, the better.

2020 Ford Explorer Reliability

  • J.D. Power rating: 79
  • Edmunds rating: 3.2
  • Car Problems PPMY index: 0.78

2019 Ford Explorer Reliability

  • J.D. Power rating: 80
  • Edmunds rating: 4.1
  • Car Problems PPMY index: 0.15

2018 Ford Explorer Reliability

  • J.D. Power rating: 79
  • Edmunds rating: 3.8
  • Car Problems PPMY index: 0.20

2017 Ford Explorer Reliability

  • J.D. Power rating: 78
  • Edmunds rating: 4.1
  • Car Problems PPMY index: 0.41

2016 Ford Explorer Reliability

  • J.D. Power rating: 75
  • Edmunds rating: 3.5
  • Car Problems PPMY index: 0.95

2015 Ford Explorer Reliability

  • J.D. Power rating: 78
  • Edmunds rating: 3.8
  • Car Problems PPMY index: 0.80

2014 Ford Explorer Reliability

  • J.D. Power rating: 80
  • Edmunds rating: 4.1
  • Car Problems PPMY index: 0.71

2013 Ford Explorer Reliability

  • J.D. Power rating: 75
  • Edmunds rating: 4.0
  • Car Problems PPMY index: 0.86

2012 Ford Explorer Reliability

  • J.D. Power rating: 80
  • Edmunds rating: 4.0
  • Car Problems PPMY index: 0.82

2011 Ford Explorer Reliability

  • J.D. Power rating: 77
  • Edmunds rating: 3.8
  • Car Problems PPMY index: 1.17

2010 Ford Explorer Reliability

  • J.D. Power rating: 81
  • Edmunds rating: 4.0
  • Car Problems PPMY index: 0.15

2009 Ford Explorer Reliability

  • J.D. Power rating: 83
  • Edmunds rating: 4.3
  • Car Problems PPMY index: 0.14

2008 Ford Explorer Reliability

  • J.D. Power rating: 79
  • Edmunds rating: 4.3
  • Car Problems PPMY index: 0.16

2007 Ford Explorer Reliability

  • J.D. Power rating: 82
  • Edmunds rating: 4.5
  • Car Problems PPMY index: 0.15

2006 Ford Explorer Reliability

  • J.D. Power rating: 80
  • Edmunds rating: 4.0
  • Car Problems PPMY index: 0.25

Final Thoughts – Ford Explorer Years Not To Buy

Ford Explorer is an oddball when it comes to reliability ratings. Its third and fifth-generation models can be extremely unreliable, whereas the second and fourth-generation Explorers perform quite well. Oddly enough, one of the most reliable models stems from the late fifth generation.

Although all models from 2007 to 2010 can be sound choices, the 2009 Explorer takes the prize as the most reliable. Barring the dreaded but rare unintended acceleration, it has no potentially significant issues. 2019 Explorers are another fine choice, but they also command a premium price tag.

On the other hand, you’d do well to avoid every single model from the third generation

(2002-2005), as well as most of the fifth-gen models – specifically 2011 through 2017 models. They tend to spend more time at the mechanic than on the road, and you’ll likely regret purchasing any of them.

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