Best & Worst Ford Explorer Years

The Ford Explorer has been a staple of the SUV market for decades and has a touch of rugged elegance. It has undergone numerous changes and improvements, making it a classic and ever-evolving SUV.

Understanding the best & worst Ford Explorer years is essential for making an informed decision about your next vehicle purchase. Each model year has a unique story, from groundbreaking advancements to disappointing setbacks.

Ford Explorer Generations

The first generation of the Ford Explorer was a trailblazer in the SUV market. Its rugged body-on-frame construction and optional engine made it a formidable off-road vehicle.

Best & Worst Ford Explorer Years

As the years passed, Ford honed in on comfort and refinement with each new generation, culminating in an increasingly smooth and elegant driving experience.

2nd generation (UN105/150)1995-2001
3rd generation (UN152)2002-2005
4th generation (U251)2006-2010
5th generation (U502)2011-2019
6th generation (U625)2020-Present

Ford Explorer Best, Neutral, and Worst Years

In assessing the top, middle, and bottom-performing years of the Ford Explorer, we consider various criteria.

These criteria encompass:

  • Yearly maintenance expenses
  • VehicleHistory and Kelley’s Blue Book owner ratings
  • Safety assessment
  • Reliability as reported by the owner (through surveys)
  • Consumer Reports satisfaction rating from owners
  • Edmunds and JD Power owner ratings
  • Consumer Reports reliability rating

Here’s a table summarising our categorizations:

GenerationBest YearsNeutral YearsWorst Years
2nd generation (UN105/150)200119951996, 1997, 1998
1999, 2000
3rd generation (UN152)200520032002, 2004
4th generation (U251)20092007, 2008, 20102006
5th generation (U502)2012, 2018, 20192014, 2015, 20172011, 2013, 2016
6th generation (U625)2022, 202420232020, 2021

Best & Worst Years for Ford Explorer 2nd Generation (1995-2001)

The Ford Explorer’s second generation managed to leave a lasting impact on the SUV market by setting new standards for performance and versatility during those years.

The Best Years: 2001

Its rugged yet refined exterior design and spacious interior perfectly blend style and practicality. The powerful V6 engine in Ford provided strong acceleration and towing capability, making it a versatile choice for daily commuting and outdoor adventures.

Best and Worst Ford Explorer Years

The model 2001 is the best year Ford Explorer significantly improved safety features, including standard front-seat side airbags and stability control. These enhancements added an extra layer of confidence for drivers and passengers alike.

The Neutral Years: 1995

With minimal changes in model 1995 from its predecessor, this model maintained a sense of reliability and consistency. While some may view this era as uneventful, it should be appreciated for its steadfast performance.

The Worst Years: 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000

The late 90s and early 2000s were not the best years for the 2nd Generation. These model years were plagued by safety concerns and mechanical issues that tarnished the vehicle’s reputation.

From reports of faulty tires leading to rollover accidents to transmission problems and engine malfunctions, these years were a roller coaster ride for many Ford Explorer owners.

There were widespread complaints about transmission failures and engine troubles, further souring the experience for owners.

The 1998 model suffered from a notorious problem with its vehicle speed control, which posed serious safety concerns for drivers and passengers alike.

Best & Worst Ford Explorer Years 3rd Generation (2002-2005)

The 3rd generation of the Ford Explorer, from 2002 to 2005, presents a mix of the best and worst years for this popular SUV.

The Best Years: 2005

The 2005 model stands out as one of the best regarding reliability and durability. Its robust build quality and strong engine options made it a favorite among drivers seeking a dependable and capable vehicle.

The Neutral Years: 2003

The 2003 model year faced significant transmission issues that plagued many owners. This caused a major dip in consumer confidence and cast a shadow over what could have been another best year for Ford Explorer.

Best & Worst Ford Explorer Years

The Worst Years: 2002, 2004

The most notable problem was the high incidence of tire blowouts, which led to numerous accidents and fatalities. This issue was exacerbated by the controversial Firestone tire recall, creating a perfect storm of negative publicity for the Explorer.

These Ford Explorer years to avoid because of increased reports of transmission failures and electrical system malfunctions. These recurring issues raised serious safety concerns and significantly impacted consumer confidence in the Ford Explorer brand.

Best & Worst Years Ford Explorer 4th Generation (2006-2010)

Showcased commendable improvements in structural integrity and safety features compared to its predecessors.

With a more robust frame and enhanced crash protection, this iteration aimed to offer consumers a secure and reliable driving experience. 

The Best Ford Explorer Year: 2009

Marked a significant milestone in the model’s evolution, particularly its improved structural integrity. Enhanced with engineering, this iteration delivered a secure on-road experience and a new standard for SUV safety.

This resulted in a more rigid chassis, enhancing crashworthiness and contributing to a smoother driving experience. The 2009 Ford Explorer became an example of durability in its class standards.

The Neutral Years: 2007, 2008, 2010

The Neutral Years of the 4th generation Ford Explorer, spanning from 2007, 2008, and 2010, were marred by troubling issues that frustrated and dissatisfied many owners. 

Reports indicated that the transmission would suddenly slip into neutral while driving, posing a serious safety hazard and resulting in costly repairs for affected individuals. They may not have brought groundbreaking changes during this period, but they served as a foundation for the future.

The Worst Years: 2006

The 2006 is notorious for its numerous mechanical and safety issues, earning it the title of one of the worst years for this iconic SUV.

From transmission failures to engine problems, owners have faced a plethora of costly repairs and unexpected breakdowns.

The Ford vehicle’s poor fuel economy and lacklustre performance only added to its dismal reputation, leaving many drivers disappointed and frustrated.

Best and Worst Ford Explorer Years 5th Generation (2011-2019)

The 5th generation Ford Explorer, produced from 2011 to 2019, has had its fair share of high and low points. 

The Best Years for Ford Explorer: 2012, 2018, 2019

The 2012 Ford Explorer underwent a major redesign, featuring a more modern exterior design and enhanced interior comfort.

This refresh brought a new level of sophistication to the vehicle, appealing to a broader range of consumers looking for both style and functionality in their SUVs.

The Ford Explorer 2018 model continued to impress with technological advancements such as updated infotainment systems and advanced safety features.

Best & Worst Ford Explorer Years

More powerful engine options also contributed to its appeal by providing an exhilarating driving experience while maintaining fuel efficiency.

Ford further 2019 year elevated the Explorer by introducing even more innovative features, such as enhanced towing capabilities and improved off-road performance. Adding hybrid powertrain options showcased Ford’s commitment to sustainability without sacrificing power.

The Neutral Years: 2014, 2015, 2017

The 2014 model year saw consistent performance and maintained the tech and safety standards set by its predecessor. 

From faulty door lock actuators to unpredictable dashboard displays, these problems caused frustration for owners and raised concerns about overall reliability.

The 2015 and 2017 models of the Ford Explorer have maintained their reputation for excellent performance, but a few owners have shared their experiences with minor issues related to the infotainment system.

While these problems did not significantly impact the vehicle’s overall performance, they highlight areas where improvement could be made.

It’s important to note that every vehicle model may encounter some issues, and it’s ultimately up to the manufacturer to address these concerns promptly.

The Worst Years: 2011, 2013, 2016

The 2011 Ford Explorer was significantly redesigned, but numerous mechanical problems marred it. Drivers reported frequent transmission issues, electrical malfunctions, and other quality control problems that tarnished the vehicle’s reputation.

Fast forward to 2013, Ford made some improvements to address these concerns, but the model still faced its fair share of issues. 

Ford Explorer Years to Avoid

The 2016 model year was no exception. While it attempted to address ongoing issues like power steering problems, new concerns emerged with the exhaust system.

Owners reported a persistent sulfur-like odour seeping into the cabin, creating an unpleasant driving experience.

Worst & Best Ford Explorer Years 6th Generation (2020-Present)

There have been standout years that have both impressed and disappointed consumers.

The Best Years: 2022, 2024

Best Years for Ford Explorer

The 2022 model boasts a sleek exterior design that exudes sophistication and ruggedness in equal measure, making it an ideal choice for those who crave style and substance in their vehicle.

The spacious interior offers comfort for drivers and passengers, while innovative features such as the SYNC 4 system ensure automatic connectivity.

The 2024 Ford Explorer with the 3.0L EcoBoost V6 engine delivers impressive power with 400 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque. It also offers decent fuel efficiency at 20 mpg city and 27 mpg highway.

Equipped with SYNC technology, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto, this SUV ensures a connected driving experience. Standard safety features include Ford Co-Pilot360, Automatic Emergency Braking, and Lane-Keeping System for added peace of mind on the road.

The Neutral Years: 2023

It integrates technology and comfort, and the 2023 neutral-year edition presents a balanced approach to the modern model.

The unassuming yet sophisticated exterior reflects a shift towards understated elegance, departing from the ostentatious designs of previous models.

While not introducing groundbreaking features, its commitment to maintaining the proven aspects that make it a reliable choice is evident.

The emphasis on Ford’s advanced safety suite speaks to its dedication to passenger security and continues to set a high standard for its competitors.

The Worst Years: 2020, 2021

2020 and 2021 brought significant challenges, with various concerns affecting performance. Among the most notable issues was the widespread transmission problems reported by many drivers, leading to jerky shifts and unexpected stalling.

Numerous complaints regarding interior quality, including loose trim pieces and malfunctioning infotainment systems, have tarnished the vehicle’s reputation.

Ford Explorer Average Resale Values

The Ford Explorer has long been a stalwart in the SUV market, renowned for its rugged capabilities and family-friendly design. Regarding resale value, the Explorer stands out as a solid investment.

With its reputation for reliability and versatility, the average resale value of the Ford Explorer remains remarkably high compared to other vehicles in its class.

best year Ford Explorer

The demand for used Explorers continues to be strong due to their proven track record of performance and durability.

This allure maintains higher average resale values, making the Ford Explorer an attractive option for buyers and sellers in the second-hand car market.

Ford Explorer Reliability:

The Ford Explorer has a reliability rating of 3.5 out of 5.0. While this is above average, it is important to note that the Explorer has had some reported issues with transmission problems and electrical issues in some model years.

Regular maintenance and timely repairs can help mitigate these potential issues. The Ford Explorer is a popular SUV choice known for its spacious interior, powerful engine options, and off-road capabilities.


The Ford Explorer has had its highs and lows over the years, with certain model years standing out as exceptional while others have faced reliability issues.

The best & worst Ford Explorer years include 1995 to 2023, known for their impressive performance, safety features, and overall reliability. Potential buyers must carefully consider the factors above when choosing a Ford Explorer.


Which Ford Explorer Years to Avoid?

The Ford Explorer years to avoid are 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2011, 2013, 2016, 2020, and 2021. These years have been associated with various mechanical issues and reliability concerns. It is recommended to consider other model years for a more reliable vehicle choice.

What are the Best Years for Ford Explorer?

The 2001, 2005, 2012, 2018, 2019, 2022 and 2024 models are considered among the best years for Ford Explorer. These years are known for their durability and overall quality.