What are the Best Years for the Ford Explorer? (Revealed!)


The Ford Explorer is a classic SUV that has earned a place on America’s roads by being dependable and enjoyable to drive. The original Explorer model debuted in 1991, but there have been lots of tweaks and different releases since then. Let’s take a quick look at the best choices if you’re picking out a used Ford Explorer.

The two best years for the Ford Explorer are 2010 and 2011. The 2010 Ford Explorer is a little older but has a very reliable engine. 2011 is much the same but has more modern features that many people find useful. Both older and more recent models have several noteworthy issues.

But let’s go a little more in-depth on the particular attributes that make the 2010 and 2011 models such standouts, and why you should probably avoid anything from between 2001 and 2008.

Vehicles to Avoid

In order to explain what makes the 2010 and 2011 models so good, we need to talk about what makes the 2001-2008 models unbuyable.

Starting in 2001, New Ford Explorers started to have really bad problems with their transmissions with the worst offenders being the 2003 and 2005 models. These models tended to need repairs fairly early in their lifetimes, which made them expensive to keep for even short periods of time.

In 2007 Ford seems to have started trying to fix whatever they had done earlier to make their cars break easily and by 2009 the problem was pretty much solved. However, there are still lots of earlier Ford Explorer models on the market.

I would suggest that you avoid buying anything before 2009 if you don’t want to end up blowing your paychecks on expensive repairs (or even another new car if you have bad enough luck).

Aside from the cursed years between 2001 and 2008, there are a few more recent models that have developed some notoriety. The 2017 Explorer had engine, transmission, and even paint problems that could end up haunting you. 2013 also saw problems with the body and the paint, although they weren’t quite as bad as 2017.

A Better Future

The 2009 Ford Explorer was the first Ford Explorer since the turn of the century to not have crippling problems, which means it’s also the first model since 2000 that might be reasonable to purchase in the year 2021. The 2009 model is actually good enough to rival the last car of its generation, the 2010 but is edged out by a few small quality of life improvements on the former.

Now, depending on where you go you’ll hear that 2011 is a better buy. It really depends on what you’re looking for. The 2010 model is really the last classic style Ford Explorer, meaning that it has a certain feeling to it among people who enjoy a more physical driving experience.

With lacking the problems which plagued its predecessors in the early to mid-2000s, it really is the pinnacle of this kind of driving experience.

In particular, 2010 is the last year to have the classic AWD/FWD switch before 2011 introduced a terrain choice dial. For a lot of drivers, this is a big deal especially if they’re offroad enthusiasts. 2010 is also the last in the Explorer line to have the option for a V8 engine, which really helps with towing and is generally considered to be better than the V6.

Finally, it’s also the last Explorer to use back wheel drive as a default, which affects boaters more than anyone else. If nothing else, for some people this will be a deal-breaker.

The 2011model on the other hand is a slightly more technologically advanced vehicle and equally durable to its big brother. It also has a pretty big advantage in bad weather and a more comfortable interior. By all means, the 2011 explorer is a fine vehicle, but in my opinion, 2010 is better in a large number of situations.

I’m not going to have space to mention it anywhere else, but the 2012 model is also fine. It might even be a little better than the 2011 in some ways, although its life span seems to be a little shorter. If it comes down to it, 2012 is probably a perfectly acceptable choice in vehicle.

More Recent Years

Since 2011, the Explorer has been going in more of an SUV direction than anything else. As such, it’s introduced several different frames and styles just like any other car that’s survived to the present day. This makes buying a Ford Explorer from the past eight years or so quite a bit more complicated.

Starting in 2013, Ford introduced multiple frames to their new model. If you’re considering buying a 2013 Ford Explorer this is something that you need to keep in mind so as not to accidentally spend too much (or miss out on something you needed.)

In the most recent case, tons of 2020 Explorers were recalled for being prone to leaks. I shouldn’t need to explain why this is something that you want to avoid.

If you do want a more recent model, the 2019 has reviewed quite well and doesn’t have any notable problems. 2018 was also quite a good year for the Explorer, so that’s another viable choice.

Ancient Days

What are the Best Years for the Ford Explorer? #FORD #Explorer #SUV

When buying an especially old car, you’re always taking a bit of a risk that it will break down and you won’t have what you need to repair it. This is the case for the Ford Explorer as much as it is for any other vehicle. However, Pre-2001 vehicles without the notorious transmission problems are known for being quite durable.

Of the pre-millennial models for the Ford Explorer, 1999 and 2000 tend to be the longest lasting. They’re also just a bit closer to the present day’s Ford Explorers, meaning that if something does go wrong with them you’re more likely going to be able to get the vehicle fixed.

There are plenty of 2000 Ford Explorers running even now, twenty years after they were built, and if that isn’t a testament to their construction then I don’t know what is.

Going back even further, of all the years before 2000 Repair Pal rates 1993, 1995, and 1996 as the most reliable. When looking at cars this old, reliability really is key since if they ever break you could end up find yourself looking for a new car. However, if that’s what you’re looking for, these three years seem to be the best.

Will Turner

Will has an absolute passion for 4x4s and loves discovering all of the small details about each model. Will joined the Four Wheel Trends team in early 2021 and has been a valuable contributor ever since!

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