Since the Ford Explorer made its debut in 1991 it’s been a huge success in America.
Now in its sixth generation, the first-ever four-door SUV produced by Ford is roaring louder than ever with a commanding exterior design, a powerful engine and updated electronics.
JD Power has provided the Explorer with above-average ratings. In 2022, it received a consumer score of 81 out of 100, with great individual ratings for “resale” and “driving experience” of 83 (out of 100) for both.
To learn more about the best and the worst of this iconic midsize SUV, continue reading…
Table of Contents
Here’s The Short Answer To What The Best And Worst Years For The Ford Explorer Are:
The best Ford Explorer model years are 2022, 2021, 2019, 2018, 2007 to 2010, and the 2001 iteration. The worst model years of the Ford Explorer are 2020, 2013 to 2017, 2011, 2006, 2002, 2003, and 2004, and those that were produced between 1996 and 2000.
What Are The Best Years For The Ford Explorer?
Ford has produced a lot of great Explorers in the model’s long lifespan.
Listed below are those that deserve to be crowned the kings of kings.
2021 and 2022 Ford Explorer
The 2021 and 2022 Ford Explorer models take the greatest spots as the best-performing modern-day versions of the iconic SUV line. Both models come in different variants, have the latest safety and entertainment technologies, and have great driving mechanics.
If you had to go with the slightly more affordable model year, then the 2021 Explorer is a great pick. However, if you want all the bells and whistles that an Explorer can offer, choose among the variants of the 2022 model year.
The 2021 and 2022 Ford Explorer models share identical scores on JD Power and Kelley Blue Book, securing an 81 out of 100 and a 3.7 out of 5.0, respectively. Over at Edmunds, the younger 2022 model edges its 2021 counterpart, securing a slightly higher consumer rating of 4.3 out of 5.0 (compared to the 2021’s 4.0 out of 5.0).
One Explorer owner had this to say on Kelley Blue Book:
“I don’t think there is another SUV more powerful than this one, I got the platinum version. The technology is amazing you almost don’t need to drive. I’m waiting for the electric version to upgrade. I love my car”
Over at Edmunds, this vehicle owner chose the Explorer and shared his experience so far with it:
“I got this car a little over a week and a half ago and already have 2000 miles on it. Haven’t had any issues and I am already averaging above the window sticker ratings.”
2019 Ford Explorer
The 2019 Ford Explorer may not be the best, but it should be considered one of the best value in terms of pricing and vehicle age. It still features a powerful engine, a lot of variants and colors to choose from, and excellent handling.
Although the 2019 Explorer is a few years old now, there are plenty of models in the used car market that are almost as good as new.
The 2019 Ford Explorer captured a 4.3 out of 5.0 review rating on Kelley Blue Book and bagged a rating of 4.2 out of 5.0 over at Edmunds.
One Explorer owner dubbed the Explorer a “nice family SUV” and shared a few more details below at Kelley Blue Book:
“I’ve had this vehicle for 4 years, I bought it used when I purchased it. The car has been very reliable thus far…”
Over at Edmunds, this owner had only good things to say about their 2019 Ford Explorer:
“When you first see this vehicle, you would think it’s too big to drive (based on the length and width of the SUV). I couldn’t believe how smooth the explorer was, the navigation system is wonderful, spacious seats, and luggage room.”
2018 Ford Explorer
If you are willing to miss out on a few infotainment options but would still like to have great steering and handling and comfortable seating, then the 2018 model year is still a great pick (and a well-reviewed version as well).
If your budget is a bit limited but you would still like to stay relatively updated in terms of electronics and engine technology, then the 2018 Ford Explorer is a mighty option to look for in the used car market.
The 2018 Ford Explorer was awarded a 4.3 out of 5.0 on Kelley Blue Book. However, on JD Power, it scored 79 out of 100, which is the lowest of this best of the best batch of Explorer models (along with the 2008 Ford Explorer).
Over at Edmunds, this Explorer owner provided a rather surprising comparison:
“After 11 BMWs I thought to give an American car a try. My friends recommended the Explorer. What a total surprise. I simply love it. Wish I had bought one years ago… Mine is a 2018 XLT.”
2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 Ford Explorer
This quadruple combo from 2007 to 2010 still offers everything an Explorer is best known for – power, reliability, and a somewhat intimidating exterior design.
If you have a good eye for quality used vehicles in the second-hand market, then you may be able to find a great 2007, 2008, 2009, or 2010 Ford Explorer model at reasonable rates.
Among the four model years, the 2007 Ford Explorer secured an all-time high consumer review rating of 4.5 out of 5.0 (on par with the score of the 2001 Ford Explorer below). Over at JD Power, the 2009 Ford Explorer gets the nod as the highest rated of the bunch, with an overall rating of 83 out of 100. As for what Kelley Blue Book had to say, all four models surprisingly secured an identical rating of 4.3 out of 5.0.
On Kelley Blue Book, one review for the 2008 model was short and sweet:
“Overall a very good car, it only had one previous owner before me as far as I know and I haven’t had any major problems”
Over at Edmunds, this owner shared some interesting figures about his 2010 Ford Explorer:
“They are very comfortable – we have heated leather seats. Fuel mileage about 19.0 mpg. We have 128,000 trouble-free miles. Oil change every 7000, spark plugs 1st time since new, very good auto will probably buy another later.”
2001 Ford Explorer
The 2001 Ford Explorer is definitely up there in terms of vehicle age, but you’ll still find a few of these cruising the streets in retro style.
We would not recommend looking for this model year if you are inexperienced in the used car market. However, if you find a good deal at a reasonable mileage count, then perhaps you could risk the purchase (just make sure to consult with experts first).
Despite not having an overall rating on JD Power due to insufficient data, Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds awarded this model year with the highest review ratings, obtaining scores of 4.3 out of 5.0 and 4.5 out of 5.0, respectively.
One Explorer owner calls his Explorer an “absolute tank” and more below:
“This was my first car purchased nearly 10 years ago with 100k on the engine, currently sitting at 175k. In total, I think I’ve put maybe 2k of maintenance into the car over the ten years…”
Over at Edmunds, this SUV owner shared his experience with the longevity of the Explorer and how he and his Dad owned generations of this iconic SUV:
“Between my father and I, this would be the fourth Explorer in the family and they have never failed us…”
Consumer Scores For Best Ford Explorer Years
Below is a table that presents all the consumer ratings of the best Ford Explorer model years from reputable vehicle websites:
|Model Year||Edmunds’ |
|Kelley Blue Book’s |
|JD Power’s |
|2022 Ford Explorer||4.3 / 5.0||3.7 / 5.0||81 / 100|
|2021 Ford Explorer||4.0 / 5.0||3.7 / 5.0||81 / 100|
|2019 Ford Explorer||4.2 / 5.0||4.3 / 5.0||80 / 100|
|2018 Ford Explorer||3.8 / 5.0||4.3 / 5.0||79 / 100|
|2010 Ford Explorer||4.0 / 5.0||4.3 / 5.0||81 / 100|
|2009 Ford Explorer||4.3 / 5.0||4.3 / 5.0||83 / 100|
|2008 Ford Explorer||4.3 / 5.0||4.3 / 5.0||79 / 100|
|2007 Ford Explorer||4.5 / 5.0||4.3 / 5.0||82 / 100|
|2001 Ford Explorer||4.5 / 5.0||4.3 / 5.0||NA|
What Are The Worst Years For The Ford Explorer?
The Ford Explorer has also been the subject of alot of criticism due to its myriad problems or defects.
The models listed below are the versions of the vehicle that you may want to steer clear of.
2020 Ford Explorer
Issues with putting the vehicle into reverse were well known on the 2020 Explorer, among many other transmission-related problems such as rough shifting.
The 2020 Explorer had a total of 28 complaints at CarComplaints.com and 470 problems at CarProblemZoo.com.
The main problems of the 2020 Ford Explorer are the following:
- Transmission problems
- Faulty brakes
- Hard shifts
- All warning lights turn on then vehicle loses power
2017 Ford Explorer
Premature tire wear was the main issue for the 2017 model year, with significant signs of wear and tear appearing at an average mileage of 21,000 miles, costing around $1,000 to replace.
The 2017 Explorer had a total of 109 complaints at CarComplaints.com and 772 problems at CarProblemZoo.com.
The main problems of the 2017 Ford Explorer are the following:
- Premature tire wear
- Exhaust fumes in cabin
- Window spontaneously shattered
2016 Ford Explorer
An interesting issue of the 2016 Ford Explorer was an electrical defect, with the wrench light staying on even after the annual maintenance servicing, typically occurring at around 8,000 miles.
The 2016 Explorer had a total of 435 complaints at CarComplaints.com and 1,688 problems at CarProblemZoo.com.
The main problems of the 2016 Ford Explorer are the following:
- Transmission failure
- Power steering failure
- Wrench light on
2015 Ford Explorer
A scary and hazardous issue of the 2015 model year was power steering failure while in transit. Reports have shown this to occur at an average mileage mark of 44,000 miles. This cost owners around $1,800 to fix.
The 2015 Explorer had a total of 214 complaints at CarComplaints.com and 1,305 problems at CarProblemZoo.com.
The main problems of the 2015 Ford Explorer are the following:
- Power steering stopped working while driving
- Popping noise when turning
- Exhaust smell in cabin
2014 Ford Explorer
Paint bubbling was a very common occurrence for the 2014 Explorer. This cost owners around $1,200 to assess and repair.
The 2014 Explorer had a total of 274 complaints at CarComplaints.com and 1,276 problems at CarProblemZoo.com.
The main problems of the 2014 Ford Explorer are the following:
- Power steering failure
- Paint is bubbling
- Exhaust fumes in cab
2013 Ford Explorer
The 2013 Explorer amassed hundreds of complaints for power steering failure and the model was so problematic it was awarded Car Complaints ‘Beware of the Clunker’ award.
Aside from the common issue of paint bubbles (typically on the hood), rust bubbles were also a big issue. Both cost hundreds of dollars to correct.
The 2013 Explorer had a total of 506 complaints at CarComplaints.com and 1,932 problems at CarProblemZoo.com.
The main problems of the 2013 Ford Explorer are the following:
- Paint on hood bubbling
- Engine problems
- Rust bubbles on hood
- Exhaust odor in cabin
2011 Ford Explorer
Power steering failure was a very common occurence at around the 76,000-mile mark. This warranted a visit to the service center for a lot of owners and cost approximately $1,800 to repair.
The 2011 Explorer had a total of 205 complaints at CarComplaints.com and 1,104 problems at CarProblemZoo.com.
The main problems of the 2011 Ford Explorer are the following:
- Loss of power steering
- Mysync system not working properly
- Engine overheating
2006 Ford Explorer
Transmission lunges and hard jolts were hand-in-hand issues for the 2006 model year and appeared at around 49,000 miles for most Explorer owners.
The 2006 Explorer had a total of 776 complaints at CarComplaints.com and 719 problems at CarProblemZoo.com.
The main problems of the 2006 Ford Explorer are the following:
- Transmission lunges
- Hard jolt when shifting
- Radiator leak
- Transmission hesitates
2002, 2003, and 2004 Ford Explorer
Transmission issues plagued these three model years with thousands of Explorer owners leaving negative reviews, especially by those with mileage counts of around 100,000 miles, which is when a lot of issues arose.
This batch of Ford Explorers have a total of 8,284 problems at CarComplaints.com and a combined total of 6,070 problems at CarProblemZoo.com.
The main problems of the 2002, 2003, and 2004 Ford Explorer models are the following:
- Transmission slipping / shifts hard
- O/D light flashes
- Transmission failure
1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000 Ford Explorer
Based on reviews and statistics online, the major flaw of the 1996 – 2000 Ford Explorer models revolved around their faulty transmission systems.
This batch of Ford Explorers have a total of 738 problems at CarComplaints.com and a combined total of 7,533 problems at CarProblemZoo.com.
The main problems of the 1996 – 2000 Ford Explorer models are the following:
- Transmission failure
- Transmission slipping
- Transmission shifting
- Won’t shift into drive or reverse
- Not shifting properly
What Years Have The Most Complaints?
There are several Ford Explorer model years, both old and new, that have received numerous complaints through the years.
Listed below are complaints and problems listed for each model year:
|Model Year||Complaints (CarComplaints.com)||Problems (CarProblemZoo.com)|
|2022 Ford Explorer||0||19|
|2021 Ford Explorer||8||75|
|2020 Ford Explorer||28||470|
|2019 Ford Explorer||10||73|
|2018 Ford Explorer||26||228|
|2017 Ford Explorer||109||772|
|2016 Ford Explorer||435||1,688|
|2015 Ford Explorer||214||1,305|
|2014 Ford Explorer||274||1,276|
|2013 Ford Explorer||506||1,932|
|2012 Ford Explorer||139||727|
|2011 Ford Explorer||205||1,104|
|2010 Ford Explorer||44||135|
|2009 Ford Explorer||15||46|
|2008 Ford Explorer||110||202|
|2007 Ford Explorer||190||238|
|2006 Ford Explorer||776||719|
|2005 Ford Explorer||829||552|
|2004 Ford Explorer||2,467||1,429|
|2003 Ford Explorer||1,852||1,206|
|2002 Ford Explorer||3,965||3,435|
|2001 Ford Explorer||116||402|
|2000 Ford Explorer||186||974|
|1999 Ford Explorer||155||1,362|
|1998 Ford Explorer||177||1,984|
|1997 Ford Explorer||108||1,744|
|1996 Ford Explorer||112||1,469|
What Problems Do Ford Explorers Have?
Based on the information we have gathered online, here are the most common issues that you may encounter with a Ford Explorer:
- Transmission lunges
- Hard jolt when shifting
- Transmission failure
- Transmission slipping
What Are The Best Alternatives To The Ford Explorer?
The Ford Explorer is a strong contender in the midsize SUV segment, ranking fifteenth overall, scoring the same as the Nissan Murano.
However, there are also a lot of great alternatives. Take a look at some of the interesting models to check out if you want to explore other options:
|Make & Model||Score||MSRP||Fuel Economy (MPG)|
|Kia Telluride||8.6||$33,390 – $45,190||City: 19 – 20 /Highway: 24 – 26|
|Hyundai Palisade||8.6||$33,600 – $48,990||City: NA / Highway: NA|
|Honda Passport||8.4||$37,870 – $45,430||City: 19 – 20 /Highway: 24 – 25|
|Mazda CX-9||8.4||$35,280 – $47,210||City: 20 / Highway: 26|
|Hyundai Santa Fe||8.3||$27,200 – $43,110||City: 21 – 25 / Highway: 25 – 28|
|Chevrolet Traverse||8.3||$33,700 – $53,400||City: 17 – 18 / Highway: 25 – 27|
|Honda Pilot||8.3||$38,080 – $51,870||City: 19 – 20 /Highway: 26 – 27|
|Jeep Grand Cherokee||8.3||$39,000 – $61,675||City: 14 – 19 /Highway: 22 – 26|
|Buick Enclave||8.1||$42,800 – $57,100||City: 17 – 18 /Highway: 25 -26|
|Dodge Durango||8.0||$36,995 – $68,195||City: 13 – 19 /Highway: 19 – 26|
|Volkswagen Atlas||8.0||$33,635 – $51,505||City: 17 – 21 /Highway: 23 – 25|
|Subaru Ascent||8.0||$32,295 – $45,445||City: 20 – 21 /Highway: 26 – 27|
|Kia Sorento||8.0||$29,590 – $43,190||City: 21 – 24 /Highway: 25 – 29|
|Toyota Highlander||7.9||$35,405 – $49,510||City: 20 – 21 /Highway: 27 – 29|
|Ford Explorer||7.7||$33,745 – $55,995||City: 16 – 27 /Highway: 23 – 28|
|Nissan Murano||7.7||$33,310 – $46,560||City: 20Highway: 28|
|GMC Acadia||7.5||$34,800 – $48,600||City: 19 – 22 /Highway: 26 – 29|
|Chevrolet Blazer||7.3||$33,400 – $44,000||City: 19 – 22 /Highway: 26 – 29|
|Toyota 4Runner||7.1||$37,605 – $52,420||City: 16 / Highway: 19|
|Ford Edge||NA||$36,145 – $44,945||City: 19 – 21 /Highway: 25 – 28|
|Jeep Grand Cherokee L||NA||$40,325 – $62,300||City: 18 – 19 /Highway: 25 – 26|
|Nissan Pathfinder||NA||$34,640 – $49,040||City: 20 – 21 /Highway: 25 – 27|