What are the Best Years for the Ford Escape?

Looking to buy a used Ford Escape? How “used” should you go? Almost a quarter-million of these SUVs sold in 2019 alone, so you know that people like them. Is the fully redesigned 2020 Ford Escape the best model year, as some critics claim?

While the 2017 Ford Escape is one of our top choices for the best model year, the fully redesigned 2020 model year is already a favorite among buyers, especially since it offers a hybrid variant.

What are the Best Years for the Ford Escape?

The 2020 Ford Escape marks some vast improvements, especially when it comes to power and acceleration. With the hybrid variant back and better than ever, the 2020 model year offers buyers a ton of options. If price is an issue, try to find a 2017 Escape because of its good engine options (skip the 2.5-L base engine) and sedan-like handling and steering capabilities.

What makes the 2017 and 2020 Ford Escapes our top picks? Why do buyers and critics like them so much? And which model years should you avoid? Read on to find out.

Ford Escape Model Years to Avoid

Okay, cutting straight to the chase here – don’t be tempted to buy a 2014 Ford Escape. This was probably the Escape’s worst year. While the 2008 model year has the most complaints, the 2014 takes the cake as the Escape’s worst year due to the fact that its transmission problems are quite severe.

The majority of complaints lodged against the 2014 Escape’s transmission mostly revolve around the transmission suddenly stopping. The trade-in value can be anywhere around $3,500-$4,200 (granted there is a working transmission), which is about how much it costs to replace the transmission.

And that’s not to mention that some buyers have had the transmission go out for a second time with a year or so.

The transmission rarely gives warning when it is going out either, leaving many drivers stranded. A few lucky drivers were finally able to restart their Escapes and get moving again, and others experienced issues with odd noises, lurching, rapid deceleration, and hesitating to shift gears.

The transmission problems seem to set in between 70,000 and 80,000 miles, which is considerably low. Some buyers even had the transmissions go out around 20,000 miles, which is extremely low.

Considering that some buyers still owed money on their vehicles when the transmissions went out, this is a big, expensive problem. Most transmissions can go for at least 100,000 miles, if not more.

Just what did Ford do to rectify this problem? Absolutely nothing.

Dealerships were telling owners that they’d never heard of these problems happening or just weren’t sure what was causing them. A recall was never issued by the manufacturer, much to the chagrin of everyone who had a 2014 Escape’s transmission go kaput.

They would not even cover the cost of repairs or replacement transmissions. They would also argue that even a few miles outside of the warranty meant they would absolutely not cover the cost.

At least there are no records of these transmission failures causing an accident, but it is always a possibility.

The Best Escape Model Years

The 2017 Ford Escape does not share the 2014’s immense issues. It marked a mid-cycle refresh for the Escape – one that was much-needed. More active and passive safety features were added, as were new styling cues, a better infotainment system, and some more powerful engine options.

Despite being a smaller size than its predecessor, the base 1.5-L turbo engine is able to get 179 horsepower. The available 2.0-L turbo gets 245 hp and nets 25 combined miles per gallon. The 8-inch infotainment system runs Ford’s Sync 3 software and provides a user-friendly interface.

Now, if you want something even newer, the 2020 Ford Escape marks the beginning of the fourth generation. Ford made some pretty significant changes for it, including bringing back the popular hybrid variant, which had been axed a few years back.

The base 1.5-L turbo was tweaked to get 181 hp, and the 2.0-L turbo was set for 250 hp. The hybrid nets a combined 40 mpg, and the 2.0-L is rated for 26 combined mpg.

The 2020 Escape manages to pack in a lot of comfort (enough for a cross-country trip), and buyers are enjoying the return on fuel they get from the Hybrid. They are only slightly smaller than the Edge and offer plenty of cargo space.

The Ford Escape was first released in 2000 for the 2001 model year as a joint development project with the Japanese company Mazda. It was built on the Ford CD2 platform and offered a unibody design with rack-and-pinion steering and an independent suspension.

The Ford Escape Older Years

This made the Escape comparable to the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. Full-time all-wheel-drive (AWD) with a locking center differential was made available for light off-road driving. And, from 2005 to 2007, Ford ran a Hybrid model on the mid-range XLT trim level.

The second generation was released for the 2008 model year based on the Ford Escape Adventure Concept. A new 2.5-L DuraTec engine replaced the former 2.3-L, boosting power to 171 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque.

There was also a new rear stabilizer bar, a Hybrid that netted 34 mpg combined, and an optional sport appearance package. In 2009, the SYNC system started showing up on select models, and it expanded as time went on.

The third generation saw some interesting changes with the European market rebadging it as the Kuga.

The Ford Escape Recent Years

The fourth generation was introduced for the 2020 model year to quite a bit of success. There are a total of four powertrain configurations available, and there is even a plug-in that can go on about 100 miles of all-electric range.

Each new Escape comes with standard blind-spot monitoring, lane keep assist, and forward collision mitigation.

The 2021 Escape added the Hybrid powertrain to the SEL trim, and models with adaptive cruise control also now have traffic sign recognition. Critics have given this generation a somewhat luke-warm reception, but buyers seem to like them on the whole.

Best Years For Ford Escape

If you can swing it financially, opt for the 2020 Ford Escape. It marks some significant improvements over previous generations and feels very modern. The 2017 Escape is your next-best bet and is slightly more affordable. They are generous on cargo space and make for decent off-roaders when you equip AWD. Just be sure to steer clear of the 2014 Escape and its rampant range of transmission failure issues.

Kern Campbell

I've had a passion for four-wheel-drive vehicles since I was a kid riding in the back seat of my Grandfather's Jeep Grand Wagoneer. I have owned a lot of vehicles over the years. They each have their pros and cons and I look forward to sharing my knowledge with you so you can find the vehicle that's just right for your needs.

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