What are the Best and Worst Years for the Ford F-150?


The Ford F-150 is the most popular vehicle in the United States. Hundreds of thousands of new models are sold each year, and the F-150 has had new models each year for almost half a century. With such a plethora of vehicles and a lengthy history, it can be hard to decide which F-150 to buy.

The best years for the F-150 are 1993, 1994, and 1996. Each of these vehicles performed well as new, and still perform well today. The worst years for the F-150 are 2004, 2005, and 2006. All three of these vehicles were plagued with mechanical failures causing severe trouble for the owner.

There is a great deal of information on F-150 years, and the car has generally been really reliable, but there are a few years that stand out for how great they are, as well as a few who stand out for their shortcomings.

The Best

1993

In the year 2021, looking back at a car from the early 90s, it can seem a bit ridiculous to say that this 28-year-old vehicle is better than what we might have today, but there is always something to be said for reliability.

Sure, this 1993 F-150 might not be as pretty or comfortable as something that came out this year, but the 1993 model is often more reliable, and that seems to be the case in Ford’s F-150s. It is not uncommon for F-150s from 1993 to be driving around today.

Those F-150s can even still be running on the original engine, some owners claiming to have clocked over 400,000 miles on the vehicle. This vehicle really is the embodiment of the “Built to Last” slogan that dominates car commercials nationwide.

While its horsepower of 145 hp at 3400 rpm and maximum torque of 265 lb-ft at 2000 rpm may not appear quite as impressive as the specs that come from the newer models, this truck is still capable of towing an impressive 7500 pounds.

Reliability seals this F-150s place as one of the best to ever be made and allows it to hold its place as a great vehicle, even today.

1994

Another great advantage to these older vehicles is the fact that the stock model of the car is the only model of the car. With the way that current releases go for the F-150, you have the base F-150 and several subcategories, each one with a higher price point than the last.

Today, to get the optimal model of F-150 for you, you may be paying a great deal more than the stock price. This is simply a non-issue with these older vehicles.

The specs for the 1994 F-150 are almost identical to the specs for the 1993 model, and again the primary advantage to this model is reliability. There are loads of stories online of people who have driven their F-150 for decades, and it is still going.

The common practice with people who get this much life out of their nearly 30-year-old vehicle isn’t any fancy repairs or modifications, it’s simply consistency in maintenance on the vehicle. With basic maintenance, it seems like these F-150s can drive forever.

1996

Here’s where the F-150 started to evolve a bit. First off, there was a slight increase in horsepower and towing capacity for this model year. This F-150 still isn’t competing with the modern models in this department, but it did improve over the previous models.

Another addition was a second fuel tank in the vehicle. While this isn’t an improvement on gas mileage, it is a substantial improvement on the range of the vehicle, making it plausible for travel as well as work.

Once again, however, the primary advantage to the model over others is its reliability. Yes, people are still driving them today, and many still run extremely well.

I have a close family friend who owns a 1996 Ford F-150, and it still runs well today. Now he uses it as a work truck, but he sent his kids to school in it when they were in high school. It still runs well, and it is still safe to drive.

These older vehicles obviously lack the bells and whistles that newer cars do, but in this article, I write about other F-150 model years that came out after these ones and most likely aren’t still running today, so there is obviously something to be said for reliability.

The Worst

2004

When it comes to the world of automobiles, there are many different words that no owner whats to hear in describing their vehicle. Perhaps among the very worst of these to hear are the words “engine failure”. That is the problem that many owners of the 2004 Ford F-150 end up facing.

Some 2004 F-150 owners have given accounts of engines completely dying before driving 90,000 miles. 90,000 miles is far, far below the number F-150 owners have come to expect from their vehicles, and it’s a problem that is unique to F-150s within a few years of this specific model year.

Beyond engine failure, owners of this F-150 have given accounts of issues with stalling while driving, along with a host of other problems. Imagine coming up on an intersection when the engine in your vehicle stalls. In addition to the stalled engine, you lose power steering, and your breaks start to fail. There is nothing you can do.

This is the kind of situation that can happen with a 2004 F-150, which isn’t even to bring up the fact that this truck tends to “spit spark plugs”, and is prone to all sorts of leaks and other failures. Needless to say, this isn’t the best option for an F-150–it’s actually one of the worst.

2005

The 2005 Ford F-150 suffered many of the same ailments that its predecessor did, as well as a few of it’s own.

First on this vehicle’s list of problems is its tendency to randomly deploy airbags. Yes, you read that correctly, this vehicle likes to shoot off airbags for no reason at all. I have tried, and I have difficulty imagining exactly how this situation would go down.

You’re traveling down the freeway at 75 miles an hour, and you look back over your shoulder as you change lanes to pass. Suddenly, without warning, you hear what sounds like a gunshot as you’re struck in the face with an airbag expanding at full force.

What comes next is too terrible to attempt to describe, so I leave it to you to imagine the aftermath of such a terrible event. Nobody should ever have to experience such a thing. This is the most terrible problem with the 2005 F-150, but it is far from the only problem.

One of the most common complaints about this F-150 is transmission. Specifically, the transmission in this vehicle has a tendency to fail really early on, right around 81,000 miles. This is an expensive repair, and those expenses continue to add up as the truck ages.

Loud knocking from the engine bay and grinding in the back are also common issues with less common solutions. Even the automatic windows tend to fail, leaving you with no window power and another expensive fix. With every expense that’s added it becomes more clear, this is one of the worst F-150s of all time.

2006

When looking at the 2006 Ford F-150, you may start to feel like you’re experiencing a bit of deja vu. You aren’t, the 2006 F-150 simply didn’t address the problems of the two previous models.

When you look at this model year all you see loads and loads of problems in the engine. As we all know, engines are kind of important when it comes to the auto industry, so anything that might cause an engine failure is a pretty big deal.

Unfortunately, with this specific model year of F-150, engine problems can start as early as 63,000 miles. If you drive an average amount every year, you probably add about 13,000 miles every year, which means that you won’t even be getting a full five years out of the truck before it starts to fall apart.

The average 2006 F-150 makes it to about 100,000 miles before the engine completely fails, which is better than the 2004 model managed, but is still way too early for the comfortable purchasing of a vehicle.

One last point of concern for this vehicle is the fact that it too has a tendency to lose spark plugs while driving. Replacing a sparkplug in and of itself is not the end of the world, but these plugs can fall down into some troublesome locations. Once there, it can be impossible to move without major disassembly.

Major disassembly is expensive; engine replacement is expensive; any extensive repair is extensive. Save yourself the heartache and just avoid any of these F-150 model years. Purchasing any of these three F-150s is a sure ticket to losing money and putting yourself in danger.

Newer Trucks:

It’s no secret that not everyone wants a vehicle from the early-mid 90s, and that is totally fine. You might want an XM radio, or heated seats, or even Bluetooth audio. That is totally fine and totally understandable, so I’ve added a couple of F-150 model years that are still great, if not as great as those from the 1990s.

2009

It’s odd to think that this vehicle may now be considered older, and thus may not be able to make this list, but it’s my list, and I think it’s new enough to fall into this category.

The best thing that can be said, which is not to say this is a bad truck, about this truck is that it doesn’t have the major failings of the 2004-2006 model years. It is a good, reliable truck that isn’t likely to have a catastrophic failure before you even get going with it. It is a great option for an F-150.

The size of the truck was expanded for this year, making it bigger, roomier, and more comfortable. In addition to a size increase, the horsepower for this truck jumped from the mid 100s to 248. This massive jump makes the 2009 stand as a giant alongside the 1990s F-150s

This is one of the best F-150s made since the turn of the millenium, and is a great option for many.

2012

This is where the F-150 really starts to become a high-tech vehicle. In this model year, functions like hill assist and tow-assist make it even more desirable, as it makes it more accessible without specialized knowledge of how to drive while towing or similar knowledge.

Certain versions of this model year are even equipped with automatic 4×4, which again helps eliminate the need for specialized knowledge in operating your vehicle. It makes this optimal for pretty much any driver.

Additionally, this specific year has one of the best resale values of any F-150 ever, which makes it one of the best possible investments you could make in an F-150.

If all that wasn’t enough, it also doesn’t have deadly and car-killing failures that earlier model years have had. This is a great all-around option for most people.

2018

This is a truly modern vehicle. Bluetooth, backup cameras, heated seats, cooled seats, this vehicle can have just about everything you could ever want for your own comfort while you are on the road.

While it can be a very luxurious vehicle, it doesn’t lose its practicality in towing capacity and horsepower, and still beats past F-150 model years.

This vehicle makes the cut because, when it comes to the modern F-150 vehicles, this seems to have the fewest mechanical issues, making it the best option for those who want a truck with the most modern benefits.

When it comes down to it, there is a good reason that the F-150 is America’s most popular vehicle. They are excellent vehicles, so long as you make sure to pick up the right one.

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