What To Look For In A Used Honda Pilot? (Explained!)


What To Look For In A Used Honda Pilot?

The Honda Pilot came in 2003, and it surprised many. It was, and still is, the biggest SUV Honda had ever produced. So, with the reputation and so much room, it was promising. And, with the years, the Pilot has shown it’s a commercial success. But it still has had some issues. In this article, we’ll talk about some of them.

What to look for in a used Honda Pilot?

If you’re buying a used Honda Pilot, you should look for excessive oil leaks, noisy suspension, and faulty transmissions. It’s important to note that, while Honda is an excellent brand, the Pilot has had some issues. Because the Japanese manufacturer is expensive, repairing these can take a toll on your wallet.

The Honda Pilot entered the market in 2005. That was right around when the SUV craze was hitting its stride. It was Honda’s biggest SUV and came with third-row seating. While the engine wasn’t surprisingly powerful, it proved its worth and haled the Pilot adequately. Plus, the transmission shifted smoothly.

The first generation came only with one powerplant, the 3.5L V6, and it originally was only front-wheel-drive. But, in 2005, Honda included an AWD option. With a decent towing capacity and fuel mileage, the Pilot proved its worth.

By 2009, Honda launched the second generation, which came with a new 3.5L V6 engine with more power. Also, the transmissions had upgrades for better performance. This second-generation performed just as well as the first in safety aspects.

The third-generation Honda Pilot came in 2016 with impressive new looks, which actually helped reduce drag. In addition, heaps of driver aids made the car a breeze to drive. Plus, Honda also included the option of a new 9-speed automatic, ideal for long trips and highway driving. In 2019, Honda put the Pilot through a significant redesign.

The new version included more features and a sleeker design. Plus, it left only the 9-speed transmission across all models.

The Pilot is reliable. In a 2020 study, iSeeCars wanted which vehicles frequently exceeded the 200,000-mile marker. Honda showed in several categories, and the Pilot was no exception.

In the SUV sector, the results showed that 2.4% of all Honda Pilots exceeded 200,000 miles. While this might not sound as impressive, it’s important to highlight that the national average is 0.9%.

What To Look For In A Used Honda Pilot?

Plus, Honda ranked second in brands that reached more than 200,000 miles. The study showed that 1.6% of all Honda vehicles out there surpassed this famed mark. The national average is 1.0%.

So, we all know that Honda is a reliable brand. The Pilot as well. But are there any issues that we should look after? Let’s find out in the following section.

These are common issues with the Honda Pilot.

One positive thing about the Honda Pilot is that, so far, problems are easy to pinpoint. So, we have listed them in this section.

Oil Leaks

Sure, most cars leak oil at some point in their life. But, the Honda Pilot showed particularly excessive oil leaks at low mileage.

This problem is frequent in the 2003 Pilot, the earliest model out there. The problem is due to a highly porous engine block. Sometimes, Honda used lighter steel to have less weight on the front. But, this composition can also fall victim to leaks.

Honda did fix some Pilots that had this issue, but not all of them. So, if you’re buying a 2003 Honda Pilot, you should check for oil leaks. Also, be sure to go through all the service history.

Transmission problems

This is another prevalent issue in the Honda Pilot. Users reported that the vehicle shifted aggressively, lost power, or slipped between gears. In some cases, the Pilot stopped working altogether.

No driver wants to face this problem. So, it’s best to check the engine and transmission. Then, go for a test drive and check for proper shifting and power.

This problem is expected in the 2003 Pilot. Car Complaints warned that this model may present catastrophic transmission failure. In addition, repairing this component can be expensive, around $3,000.

The symptoms show at about 100,000 miles. So, if you’re buying a 2003 Pilot, it’s ideal that you check the mileage.

The 2005 Pilot also showed excessive transmission leaks at about 120,000 miles. While this problem isn’t as critical, it can lead to severe damage. If you notice leaking, it’s best to change the gaskets and seals, which can be an expensive fix.

The newer 2016 showed considerable transmission problems. But, it centered around jerky acceleration. Concerningly, the problems began showing up at about 31,000 miles. But, it was mainly due to sensors, which cost less than a total transmission fix.

Ignition issues

If the first thing you want to do is get up and go, then the Pilot might not be ideal. Many drivers have reported that the Pilot struggled to start or had a rough idle. Others said the “CHECK ENGINE” light turned on when turning the key.

The reason for this problem is a faulty EGR valve. Though it’s easy to replace, it can be a nuisance. Strangely, this issue shows up across many generations. Pilots from 2003 to 2016 have presented this problem.

Fuel injector issues

The 2016 Honda Pilot also ran into injector issues. Abismal fuel economy, lack of power, and unstable engines are some of the signs. The problem showed up as early as 50,000 miles and could incur costly expenses. The average price to fix this issue is around $1,800.

Another sign that could point out injector issues is an “Emission System Warning” light coming up on the dash. If this problem shows up, it might mean that you need to replace the injectors before expected.

This is a costly job, at around $1,500. And, some of the trouble years are 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019. Unfortunately, though, most happened in 2016 and 2019.

Some of the issues that we’ve seen here are pretty serious. Plus, they incur costly repairs. But the Honda Pilot still has a reputable image in the market. So some Honda Pilot years are worth buying. We’ll discuss them in the following section.

The best year to buy a used Honda Pilot.

Regardless of the year, the ideal Honda Pilot has low miles and hasn’t lived in the Rust Belt. This decreases the change of rust and body damage plus allows you to catch any potential issues early.

Let’s look at some of the best years to buy a used Honda Pilot.

First Generation, 2007-2008

2008 is the last of the first-generation Honda Pilot, and the company managed to weed out most of the problems. So, it ranks highly in some magazines, like Car Complaints. Plus, Consumer Reports shows it has the highest reliability rating and customer satisfaction.

The 2007 Pilot shows similar performance, with only a slight increase in issues like interior problems.

Second Generation, 2012

The 2012 Honda Pilot has shown above-average reliability performance. Also, it has amongst the lowest complaints of the second generation. Most of the problems revolve around chipped paint, which is not costly to fix. This problem is one reason it’s best to avoid Pilots that lived in the Rust Belt.

Second Generation, 2015

The 2015 Honda Pilot has shown the least amount of issues of its generation. Reliability is above average, and customers have reported they’re satisfied. Look for a low mileage vehicle that has a good service history.

These are some of the better used Honda Pilots to buy. So, it’s time to look at the other end of the spectrum. The following section will see which the worst years are to buy a used Honda Pilot.

The worst year to buy a used Honda Pilot.

In this section, we’re mentioning the worst years to buy a Honda Pilot. And, unfortunately for Honda, it’s easy to point them out. So we start with the most problematic and one you should avoid.

First Generation, 2003

It’s hard to say whether Honda was learning as it went. But, the first-ever Honda Pilot had many issues.

Consumer Reports ranks it with average reliability, and customer satisfaction is above average. But, once you start digging in deep, you realize that there are some significant issues.

First of all, significant oil leaks were common from the start. Not only did this become a nuisance, but improper engine lubrication could lead to further damage. In addition, transmission problems started at about 100,000 miles, incurring expensive repairs.

In fact, this car holds the dubious honor of being the worst-ranked Honda Pilot on Car Complaints. The site warns possible buyers, urging them to avoid this year if it has less than 100,000 miles.

Second Generation, 2009

The new engine brought new problems for the Honda Pilot. In addition, excessive oil consumption led to other performance issues, even engine failure at about 114,000 miles.

This year is also one of those with excessive brake issues. It was common to see warped rotors, worn-out pads, and uneven braking.

Interestingly, the previous model, 2008, was highly ranked with few issues. So, it seems that the transition cost Honda dearly.

Magazines like Consumer Reports and Car Complaints have ranked the lowest amongst all of the Honda Pilots. In fact, oil issues were so frequent that Car Complaints removed it from the recommended list.

Third Generation, 2016

Again, Honda stuck to its routine. 2016 was the first year of the third-generation Honda Pilot and, guess what? It’s considered the worst Honda Pilot. That’s right, not even the issue-prone 2003 model had such a bad rating.

Consumer Reports ranks it as having the worst reliability verdict of all of them. Customer satisfaction is also the lowest. Similarly, Car Complaints rates this as a clunker. And, unfortunately for Honda, the reasons why are plenty.

First of all, it’s one of the most problematic transmissions out there, which led to expensive repairs. Some of the more frequent issues were jerky shifting, but the more serious could include total transmission failure.

The bad thing about these issues was that they came at relatively low mileage. Many users have reported transmission failures at 30,000 miles.

Another significant problem that came with the 2016 Honda Pilot was fuel injector malfunction. While this problem showed itself as lousy fuel economy and low power in some cases, it could lead to engine failure. Plus, the injectors themselves aren’t cheap. Solving these issues can cost about $1,300 or more. Again, just like with the other problems, it comes at low mileage, with most users reporting it at about 55,000 miles.

Third Generation, 2019

The 2019 Honda Pilot doesn’t have as many problems as the 2016 version. But, it continues to show some of the more significant ones, mainly around injectors. But, again, the issues and symptoms are similar to those that we explained in the 2016 summary.

What To Look For In A Used Honda Pilot?

But this model also came with newer issues, mainly around the infotainment system. Users reported a total malfunction, with some unable to access it at all. Unfortunately, this happened at very low mileage, with some reports coming as low as 2,000 miles.

With these results, it’s safe to say that these are some of the worst Honda Pilots you can buy. Even if you find them with low mileage, the possible expenses you go through should cause concern.

Closing thoughts

Honda has an excellent reputation for high-quality vehicles. However, many people ask whether it’s worth buying their biggest SUV, the Honda Pilot. This article looks to help those possible buyers by answering the most critical questions.

The Honda Pilot holds its value decently. Studies like iSeeCars show that it ranks highly amongst mileage, but this doesn’t mean it’s perfect.

Unfortunately, several of the Honda Pilot models out there have shown significant issues. The first-generation Pilot had substantial oil leaks and transmission problems. One model to avoid is the first-ever Pilot, the 2003 model.

But, it seems that Honda goes through major redesigns and learns about its mistakes as it goes. Because the first model from the second generation, the 2009 model, also showed several issues. And the routine repeats itself with the 2016 version, the first of the third generation.

That’s not to say that there are no good Honda Pilots out there. Instead, each generation has a couple of hidden gems. This article provides an in-depth analysis of these positive examples and explains why they’re worth buying.

The Honda Pilot has a lot of positives going for it. First, it comes from an excellent brand with a long-lasting reputation. Second, it’s comfortable and comes loaded with driver aids. Plus, it’s aesthetically superior to other SUVs.

But it also has its issues, and some can be very serious. So, if you’re looking for a used Honda Pilot, be sure to read this article and inform yourself. That way, you can avoid buying a money pit that will sour your driving experience.

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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