What Are the Best Years for the Ford Ranger (A Buyers Guide)

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Looking for a Ford Ranger and aren’t sure where to start? You’re probably wondering which models are the best and what model years have been most popular.

What are the best years for ford ranger What Are the Best Years for the Ford Ranger (A Buyers Guide)

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What are the best years for the Ford Ranger?

Overall, the Ford Rangers have loyal customers with mixed reviews. Some say the earlier models are the best, whereas some argue the newer trucks are more cutting edge. Where everyone agrees, though, is on which pickups make the top three: the 1986 2WD, 1999 Manual, and 2011 4WD.

Maybe one of these years could include the Ranger you’re looking for? Check out the details below for all the information you’ll need to make your choice!

The Ford Ranger

Starting back in 1982, Ford created the very first Ranger. Now (as of 2021), we’re seeing what is the fourth generation of models for Ford Rangers, and it’s on par with other trucks so far as quality and towing abilities go.

Many agree that the very best models of Rangers were made earlier on when Ford was just coming out with the new car. Back in the late ’80s to early 2000s, Rangers were extremely popular and branded as the “best-selling compound/midsize pickup truck in the United States”.

Ford Ranger Specs

What makes a Ford a Ranger?

Here are some the specs for your average midsize pickup:

  • Large Cab (some supercabs or extended)
  • 3-5 Seats
  • 2WD or 4WD, depending on model
  • Large Towing Capacities

Ford Ranger Pros

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Most reliable midsize

As we mentioned before, Rangers were some of the all-around best-selling pickups during 1986-2004. These sales and good PR were what made Ford Rangers so sought after. Not only were they precious, but Rangers were also known to be hard-working cars and ones that you could trust.

They were stocky and reliable, and there was something very no-nonsense about the earliest models back in 1982. They were rugged and built for wear, and you knew they weren’t going to fall apart after one outing.

Last 20+ years

Some people, out there in the world, are lucky enough to still have 1988, or better yet 1986 Rangers. Though by now they are probably looking a little rusty and in need of some major TLC, the 80’s Ford Rangers were made to last and they did just that.

Besides the senior citizens still rolling around, the newer models (2011 Ranger), are known to be in pretty good shape after all these years, so long as they have been taken good care of.

Solidly built

Back in the day, the Rangers were made a bit differently than they are now. Though made up of the same materials (roughly), the older models were made to last a bit better, and that’s something the 2020 model is trying to bring back.

Some complain that the insides are a bit too plastic-y for their tastes (and it’s not good plastic). Since this feedback, Ford has tried to up their game and add a bit more quality to the interior than they have in recent years. As for the exterior, now the Rangers are made with steel instead of aluminum, to give new cars a sleeker yet heftier look.

Last 300,000 miles

As noted, the Ranger is a car that lasts. Sure, there have been some hiccups along the way (some minor, most major), but Ford has rectified their mistakes and come out with cars tougher than before.

Lasting for 300,000 miles and not flinching too much if you go over even that, Rangers are taken with the road and won’t die on you for quite a few years. (Most consumers say that if any issues come up inside the car, it’s not going to be for at least 10,000 miles).

Hauling + Towing

Because the Ford Ranger is a truck, these babies can pull their own weight. Though it depends on which Ranger you’re looking at to get a specific average, the Rangers are all known to lug around big ole trailers, even with lots of heavy equipment in their cab.

To give you a rough estimate, these trucks can tow anything from 1,400 pounds to 8,000 pounds.

Off-roading Connoisseurs

Designed to look ruggedly handsome, Rangers are more than capable of “taking the scenic route”. Ford Rangers can and will off-road without too much unease, especially those models with 4WD. None of the Rangers are scared of a bumpy ride, and though smaller than other off-roading trucks, Rangers can hold their own. There are even add-ons available to make the ride smoother, and none of the options are too expensive.

Ford Ranger Cons

Bad Suspension

Depending again on the Ford Ranger year, suspension related-issues were the leading problems consumers faced with their vehicle. And though it mostly was suspension generic problems, what most people faced was rusting-gone-really-wrong with springs, resulting in front suspension struggles.

Choppy Transmission

More times than not, the Ford Rangers’ engines would outlast their transmissions, making for rough rides and lots of problems. Another common mishap is an underwhelming experience with the strength of the engine and taking too much time to get up to specific speeds. (This is probably more of a torque problem than a transmission issue, but the two go hand-in-hand).


Others have reported that the mid-2000’s Rangers suffered from lots of leaking. This could be because the transmission seals weren’t put on tight enough, or because the quality of the seal itself isn’t too good. Thankfully, this issue has been addressed in more recent models.


Unfortunately, rust is a thing that a lot of vehicles have to deal with. It’s. a very common problem in Ford Rangers. Though there can be preventative measures taken to help, if rust comes, it will spread like a disease.

Airbag Issues

Over the Rangers’ lifespan, there have been many fights with airbags. Or maybe lack of fights is a better way of putting it, because the airbags weren’t deploying properly. Many a recall was made to fix the problem, seeing that almost all the airbags installed were faulty ones.

Top Ten Best Rangers

  1. 1986
  2. 1988
  3. 1994
  4. 1999
  5. 2000
  6. 2003
  7. 2007
  8. 2009
  9. 2010
  10. 2011

Though those are the top ten, to narrow it down even further, the top three spots go to these Rangers:

1986 Pickup

  • 5 Speed Manual Transmission
  • V6 Engine
  • 20 (city)/ 25 (highway)
  • Towing Capacity (up to 8,000 pound trailers)

*Known for being ultra reliable

1999 Manual

  • 5 Speed Manual Transmission
  • 4WD
  • 22 (city)/ 27 (highway)
  • Towing Capacity (from 1,400 to 2,400 pounds)

*Known for smoother performance

2011 4WD

  • Automatic Transmission
  • RWD, 4WD
  • 18 (city)/ 24 (highway)
  • Towing Capacity (from 1,600 to 3,100 pounds)

*Known for ample space and carrying heavy loads

The 2011 Ford Ranger was the last model before they were discontinued in 2011 for eight years. The 2011 Ford Ranger was very similar in design to its 2010 predecessor. It can tow up to 5,800 pounds with its V6 engine. The 2011 version came in both rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive options with the option of a manual or an automatic transmission.

The 2011 Ford Ranger is ranked #3 in mid-size pickups for its year. It has an 80/100 J. D. Power overall consumer rating and a quality/reliability score of 86/100.

A con of the 2011 Ford Ranger is its outdated design, a problem consistent throughout the Ranger series.

It’s difficult to understand why Ford discontinued the Ranger when the last models received such high ratings. Ford warranted this discontinuation because of a lack of sales. In other words, there is no reason to shy away from the Ford Ranger models produced right before the series discontinuation.

2009 Ford Ranger

The 2009 Ford Ranger is one of the last models made before the Ford Motor Company discontinued them for eight years. This model has a powerful V6 engine good for moderate towing or hauling up to 6,000 pounds. It was available in both rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive. Additionally, the 2009 Ford Ranger was available with a manual or automatic transmission.

According to J.D. Power, the 2009 Ford Ranger is #4 in mid-size pickups for its year. The J. D. Power Consumer Rating is 80/100 overall. It has a quality and reliability rating of 86/100. 

A couple of cons for the 2009 Ford Ranger are its outdated design and a cramped extended cab backseat.

2010 Ford Ranger

The 2010 Ford Ranger was the second to last Ford Ranger before that generation of Ford Ranger was discontinued in 2011. It also comes with a powerful V6 engine like its 2009 predecessor. The 2010 Ford Ranger can tow up to 6,000 pounds, just like its 2009 predecessor.

In addition to the features of the 2009 Ford Ranger, the 2010 Ford Ranger gained seat-mounted side airbags and standard electronic stability control. Just like the 2009 version, it came in both rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive with the option of a manual or automatic transmission.

According to J. D. Power, the 2010 Ford Ranger was #2 in mid-size pickups for its year. It has an 81/100 J. D. Power overall consumer rating. It has a quality and reliability score of 87/100.

A couple of cons for the 2010 Ford Ranger are its outdated interior design and cheap interior materials.

2021 Ford Ranger

After eight years of discontinuation, Ford decided that it was time to reintroduce the new and improved Ford Ranger series. The best of this new series is the 2021 Ford Ranger.

The 2021 Ford Ranger is one of the top compact pickup trucks. It has high towing and hauling capacities, easy-to-use features, and comfortable seats.

The 2021 Ford Ranger has a potent engine and handles well. For a truck, it also has good gas mileage. It comes in both a rear-wheel-drive version and a four-wheel-drive version. The four-wheel-drive version performs very well off-road.

What are the best years for ford ranger

According to J. D. Power, the 2021 Ford Ranger is #1 in mid-size pickups for the year 2021. The J. D. Power Consumer Rating is 83/100 overall. The 2021 Ford Ranger has a safety rating of 8.9/10 and a quality and reliability rating of 85/100.

A couple of cons for the 2021 Ford Ranger is its uninspiring cabin and a firm ride.

Notable Differences

Most Ford Rangers have a cramped backseat, even in the extended editions. Up until the newer generation of pickups, there was not much legroom in the backseat of extended cab Ford Rangers.

The newer 2021 model, however, has significantly more room in the backseat. Not as much as full-size Ford trucks, but much more room compared to older Ranger models.

The first three Ford Rangers on this list also have an aging design on the inside, although it is a very simple design. The new 2021 Ford Ranger has a more updated interior, along with some of the latest in technology on its dashboard.

Each of these four mid-size pickup trucks has its differences that have made them the best of the Ford Ranger series. Each of these trucks is also among the best compact pickup trucks on the market. In other words, these beat out any mid-size trucks sold by Chevy, Nissan, or other manufacturers.

The Ford Ranger series has evolved much over the decades that it has been around. These represent the best of the Ford Ranger series.

These trucks are built well and built to last. Buying any one of the trucks on this list is well worth it. Their reliability on the road is remarkable. The four-wheel-drive version of the 2021 Ford Ranger handles well in snow and off-road.

The Ford Ranger has long been considered a great, mid-size truck. 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2021 Ford Rangers are the best of their series. These are trucks rated for their reliability that you can trust as you drive them. These Ford Rangers are great vehicles. Whether you need them for hauling or for off-roading, these Ford Rangers are the truck for the job.

Ford Ranger Years to Avoid

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You should be extra way if you look at any of the following Ranger years.

  • 2001
  • 2002
  • 2004
  • 2005
  • 2006
  • 2019

This is mostly because of the number of recalls, some of these models were the ones to deal with the “airbag crisis” and had the choppiest transmissions of them all.

Overall, it’s best to stick with the ten models mentioned above.

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