What are the Best Years for the Honda Pilot? (Explained!)


Thinking about purchasing a used Honda Pilot? If so, you can take your pick of almost any model year and get a solid vehicle.

Key word: Almost.

Which model years are best for the Honda Pilot, and which are the worst?

What are the Best Years for the Honda Pilot?

Choosing a model from the end of the first generation or any period of the second generation is usually a safe bet. The 2008 and 2015 models stand out as being particularly capable and reliable.

What makes the 2008 and 2015 Honda Pilot the best years to buy? And exactly which model years are best avoided? Read on to learn more.

The Worst Honda Pilot Model Years

Let’s just cut right to the chase; there are several model years that you need to avoid. The 2003, 2005, and 2016 Pilots are the ones you need to be wary of. While the Honda Pilot is, on the whole, a good SUV, some years have way more flaws than others. 

We’re especially eyeballing you, 2003 Pilots.

What is so wrong with the 2003 Pilot, you ask? Well, for starters, interior accessories are a massive problem per consumer reports. Many accessory problems happened around the 80,000-mile mark.

A huge accessories problem the 2003 has is with the ignition switch. In fact, it is both the most commonly reported and worst accessories complaint for the model year.

This problem happens around the 100,000-mile mark. 

The worst problem overall is without a doubt the transmission failure. The transmission tends to go at around 100,000 miles (right along with the ignition switch), creating a time-consuming and expensive (around $3,000) problem. 

In addition to utter transmission failure, buyers have also experienced engine problems, electrical issues, seatbelt and airbag problems, and inexplicable windshield cracks.

Other issues consumers report on the 2003 Honda Pilot include warped front brake rotors that cause the vehicle to vibrate while braking, an overheated wire harness that can cause low beams to fail, stabilizer link issues, and a failed power resistor that leads to the rear blower not working.

The Best Honda Pilot Model Years

So, where did Honda go right with the Pilot? The end of the first generation (the 2008 Pilot) and the end of the second generation (the 2015 Pilot) are where Honda really got things right. 

Honda has a tendency to build better vehicles as each generation progresses, and this is certainly true for the Pilot. And it is hard to beat the Pilot’s spacious interior design.

On the whole, the third generation (2016-present) has relatively few complaints. The 2016 did endure a few recalls for things like fuel leaks caused by improperly welded fuel tanks. 

But, by 2017, a lot more features were made standard, such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – things that attract buyers wanting newer used vehicles.

Buyers note that the 2008 Honda Pilot is mostly reliable and safe to drive. Routine maintenance is helpful at keeping these vehicles running smoothly, and the interior still comes off as luxurious all these years later. 

Owners with families cite this vehicle as a great family-hauler capable of doing some light off-roading. Visibility is excellent in all directions, and the optional rear seat entertainment system is a hit with many parents. 

To this day, many vehicles still don’t even offer rear-seat entertainment as an option.

The 2015 Pilot is also a hit with consumers. Critics have downplayed its excellence over some “cheap” interior components and its tendency to feel sluggish when accelerating.

However, most buyers have been able to look past that. The center console is a hit with drivers since it allows them to organize items without taking up too much space itself. 

Again, the rear seat entertainment system is a hit with parents and kids alike. Also, drivers note the Pilot’s ride quality is pleasantly smooth. Repairs also tend to be inexpensive compared to other third-row SUVs.

More Recent Models

So, how has the third (and current) generation of Honda Pilots fared? The 2016 started it off and is not worth investing your hard-earned money in. 

There have been way too many reports of transmission problems. The transmission can slip every now and then, which can potentially create a road hazard.

Things started to look up on the 2017 model as Honda managed to smooth out transmission issues. 

They also decided to include standard smartphone app integration – a smart move indeed. 

The 2018 line-up lacks the stellar handling we expect from Honda but gives you a ton of standard driver aids with Honda Sensing and LaneWatch.

The 2019 line-up is rather hit-or-miss. Recalls were made for the fuel pump, tires, incorrect central network software programming on the rear-view camera, improper welding of the front frame to the unibody, timing belt teeth separating from the timing belt, and roof pillar problems.

While the 2020 line-up is mostly the same as the 2020, the 2021 standardized the 9-speed automatic transmission, which is known for its smooth shifts.

The Pilot’s Past

The Honda Pilot first hit the North American market in the 2003 model year. The 2003 clearly had a few significant issues, which is why the Pilot didn’t get off to a great start. 

A 5-speed automatic transmission came standard, and Honda’s Variable Torque Management 4WD system was optional. 

In 2004, Honda added more adjustability to the front seats, and 2005 saw revised steering, upgraded airbags, electronic stability control, and tire pressure monitoring get added. 

2006 brought a big facelift with a totally redesigned grille and front fascia. A few more color options came in 2007, and 2008 brought in the VP (Value Package) and SE trim level.

The second generation debuted in 2009 and was larger in size. A higher-powered 3.5-liter V6 i-VTEC engine was equipped, and memory settings were added to the driver’s seat. 

2012 saw another facelift, with the front fascia being accompanied by new alloy wheels, changes to the bumper, and updates to the interior appointments. 

2013 brought in the rear-view camera, which is now standard issue on every Honda vehicle.

Best And Worst Years Honda Pilot

The Honda Pilot is one of Honda’s more mixed-bag vehicles. Depending on the model year, you could either be getting a capable family hauler or a lemon. 

We recommend sticking with either the 2008 or 2015 model years and trying to find one of the higher trim levels that offers the rear seat entertainment system. The kids will thank you. And even if you can’t get that feature, you’ll still be getting a safe and reliable SUV.

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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