The Ford Explorer consistently ranks among the best-selling midsize SUVs, offering versatility and space. However, Ford Explorer reliability varies depending on the model year for long-term ownership. No one wants their SUV to become a money pit of unexpected breakdowns and expensive repairs. Understanding the Explorer’s history and assessing its reliability over various years can help you avoid potential headaches and find a model that provides peace of mind and the utility you need.

Overall General Ford Explorer Reliability

Are Ford Explorers reliable? The Ford Explorer has a mixed record. RepairPal gives the Explorer a reliability rating of 3.5 out of 5 stars, which isn’t bad considering the average rating for midsize SUVs is 3.8 stars. Still, several years are notorious for recurring problems, especially issues related to the transmission, engine, or electronics.

Alternatively, the Explorer’s best years are dependable and known for longevity, with many vehicles surpassing 200,000 miles with proper maintenance. Getting the most out of your Explorer goes beyond the model year. As with any SUV, sticking to recommended service intervals and promptly addressing minor problems can maximize your Explorer’s lifespan and reduce ownership costs.

The Ford Explorer’s reliability is average compared to the reliability of other vehicles in its class. Consider climate, driving habits, mileage, and maintenance records when buying a used car. Extreme temperatures can cause vehicle stress, causing early and excessive component wear. Aggressive driving with hard acceleration and harsh braking can strain the engine more. Greater mileage can indicate an increased and more frequent need for maintenance, and lax maintenance records may signal poor ownership history.

Despite the many potential issues that can affect Ford Explorer reliability, the model year is a significant indicator of possible troubles. 

What Are the Most Reliable Ford Explorer Years?

ford explorer reliability by year

Ford Explorer reliability by year varies, experiencing significant ups and downs over its long history. That said, several model years stand out as remarkably dependable.


The 1993 Ford Explorer was the model’s first generation and featured a straightforward design. It comes standard with a 4.0L V6 engine, renowned for its durability and longevity. The body-on-frame construction contributes to overall durability in demanding driving conditions.

Despite the 1993 Explorer’s reliability, it’s crucial to remember it’s an older vehicle. If interested in the model, look for one with a thorough maintenance history.

2010 and 2011

The 2010 Ford Explorer improved on older designs and flaws by overhauling the powertrain and improving the build quality. Ford addressed significant transmission issues of earlier Explorers and refined the engine. By improving the build quality, the company eliminated common problems with previous generations, like faulty components and irritating sounds. The improvements resulted in fewer recalls and happier owners.

The 2011 model capitalized on the significant upgrades made in the 2010 model and continued to build on its progress, overhauling the transmission, improving engine design, and focusing on build quality. Ford kept the fresh, modern design introduced in 2010, still appealing to modern buyers.


Regarding Ford Explorer reliability, the 2012 model continued the positive trends in the previous two years, benefitting from the same powertrain and build quality. However, the newer model differentiates itself with refinements to the MyFord Touch system and other technological features. The model also marks the introduction of the EcoBoost engine, combining fuel efficiency and power.


The 2019 Explorer represents the model’s sixth generation. Buyers have a choice of engines, from the fuel-efficient turbocharged four-cylinder to a hybrid option. 2019 also marked the introduction of the high-performance Explorer ST, featuring a 400-horsepower engine and sport-tuned suspension.

What Are the Least Reliable Ford Explorer Years?

are ford explorers reliable?

No generation in the history of the Ford Explorer was plagued with more problems than the third generation, specifically the 2002-2006 models. These models notoriously experienced significant transmission troubles, with owners often shelling out over $2,000 for repair or total transmission replacements. 

Beyond the transmission issues, many owners complained about engine trouble, electrical gremlins, and premature wear. Specifically, the timing chain and head gasket failures were common, and the model often experienced malfunctioning power windows and door locks. Many third-generation models suffered from accelerated wear on suspension components, such as the ball joints and control arm bushings.

While Ford Explorer reliability was an issue in the 2002-2006 models, reliable models can still be found. To protect yourself, you should always investigate vehicle history and have a mechanical inspection before purchase.

Understanding the Disadvantages of the Ford Explorer

While the Ford Explorer is a popular vehicle, consumers must understand its potential drawbacks before purchasing. Many of these issues do not concern Ford Explorer reliability but are still important to consumers. For example, the SUV is powerful, with a versatile powertrain and some off-roading capabilities. However, many buyers’ potential concerns are fuel economy, limited third-row space, and lateral handling.

Despite the praise for many of the model’s generations, the midsize SUV offers an average of 28 mpg, with some models falling to 20 mpg. Hybrid Explorers can counter this disadvantage, but the hybrid engine in earlier models has some challenges.

The third row of the Explorer is not as useful as it could be. The narrow gap between the second and third rows and the minimal headroom means the second row is likely best for children. Even with Ford’s E-Z entry technology, the third row has limited use.

As with most SUVs, the Explorer is at risk of rolling over. Newer models reduce the risk by lowering the center of gravity and integrating Roll Stability Control, which helps prevent rollovers in emergencies.

Finally, buyers should know that specific Explorer model years are more prone to expensive repairs than others. To reduce the risks of costly repairs, avoid the third-generation models.

Improving Ford Explorer Reliability with Vehicle Protection Plans

When buying a used Explorer, there is no guarantee it will come with a Manufacturer’s warranty; if it does, it might offer limited coverage. To ensure Ford Explorer reliability and avoid unexpected repair costs, purchase an autopom! vehicle protection plan. Depending on your choice, our plans cover the powertrain, electrical, and other critical and noncritical systems. Check out our coverage options and select the one that’s right for you.