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Ford Escape Transmission Problems: Which year models of Escape should you avoid?

in Reliability

Ford Escape owners weigh in on which models are the most likely to have transmission issues

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Since its introduction 20 years ago, the Ford Escape has been a top contender in the increasingly competitive compact SUV space. Shoppers looking for a budget friendly vehicle that is practical, fuel efficient, and fun to drive have found much to love with the Escape. Ford has sold millions of these vehicles over the years, but even best selling vehicles like the Escape are not free of mechanical issues.

Among the most common (and costly) issues with the Escape are automatic transmission troubles that range from minor sensor errors, to complete transmission failures that can leave a driver stranded on the side of the road.

Here’s what you need to know about Ford Escape transmission problems – which years are prone to having issues with the transmission, average Ford Escape transmission repair costs, and how to avoid driving a Ford Escape with an unreliable transmission off the lot.

Quick Answer: Avoid 2005, 2008, and 2013 Ford Escapes

Ford Escapes model years 2005, 2008, and 2013 have high numbers of owner-reported transmission problems. Other year models are much more reliable.

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Which Years of Ford Escapes Have The Most Transmission Problems?

According to Ford Escape owner complaints on forums such as carcomplaints.com and Reddit, model years 2014 and 2008 are the most common years for transmission problems in the Ford Escape, although year models 2006-2009 were also more prone to transmission problems than other model years.

Ford Escape Year Models With The Least Reliable Transmissions

2014 is especially notable due to the severity of the issues, with several reports of Ford Escapes ceasing to function while on the road. Ford Escape owners like u/regularfellar on Reddit report that the vehicle suddenly displays a “Transmission Fault: Service Now” which renders the vehicle unable to drive. Other users have reported that the vehicle comes to a complete and total stop on the road without warning.

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The 2008 Escape is prone to a wide variety of transmission issues, with users on forums such as carcomplaints.com and Reddit reporting a bevy of issues ranging from complete failure to lurching into gear and hunting for gears on the road. We recommend avoiding any vehicle prone to “in motion” errors such as this that could put the operator in danger.

Additionally, owners of 2006-2009 models report higher rates of transmission problems than other years, so it might be a good idea to steer towards 2010 models and later.


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Do Ford Escapes Have More Transmission Problems Than Similar Models?

Overall, Ford Escapes are slightly more prone to problems (most notably, transmission problems) than similar models of similar years.

The Ford Escape has a total of 4,167 reported issues on CarComplaints.com, with transmission issues accounting for many of those. In terms of reliability by model year, the 2006-2009 Ford Escapes have the highest numbers of transmission issues, with many customers reporting needing a new transmission after approximately 80,000 miles.

When comparing the Escape’s transmission to other full-size SUVs like the Pathfinder and Enclave, the Escape tends to be less reliable than other models.

The Pathfinder has 2,044 total complaints, with the most common transmission-related problems being coolant leaking into the transmission with 424 complaints. This typically requires a transmission replacement at around 80,000 miles. While the severity of the problem is equal to the Escape, the Pathfinder has fewer numbers of reported transmission failures.

The Enclave, on the other hand, tends to be much more reliable than the Ford Escape, with one notable exception. The 2008 Buick Enclave was plagued by transmission problems, with owners reporting the need for a new transmission at roughly 90,000 miles. If you’re looking for a large SUV with a reliable transmission, the Buick Enclave is a better bet than a Ford Explorer – just avoid unreliable 2008 Enclaves.

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What Is The Average Cost To Repair The Most Common Ford Escape Transmission Problems?

Repair costs for the Ford Escape range greatly depending on the diagnosis and type of repair needed. However, average transmission repair costs across all Ford Escape models tend to average around $4,000 (since a new transmission is commonly needed), and these repairs tend to be needed in the 80-120K mile range.

According to OpenBay.com, the average repair cost to replace a transmission on a 2008 Ford Escape is $2950. This is an average cost that is inclusive of complete replacement work and minor repairs as well.

For the 2014 Escape, a user on Fordescape.org reported that her daughter paid $5400 to have the transmission replaced. Several other reputable sites also indicate a replacement cost of north of $5000 is common, with some users reporting costs north of $6000.


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How to Avoid Buying a Used Ford Explorer With Transmission Problems

There are several ways to test for issues with a transmission prior to purchasing a used vehicle. Since most transmission issues can only be detected while the vehicle is moving and shifting through gears, it’s important to set up a test drive before buying any used vehicle that might be prone to transmission issues. During the test drive, pay close attention as the vehicle moves through gears during acceleration and slowing down. If you feel lurching, surging, or shuttering while driving, it’s best to have it checked by a mechanic.

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Another common way to tell if the transmission is having issues is if it “slips” during acceleration. Simply put, if your engine is increasing its output but you are not moving forward or you are moving forward at a slower pace than expected; the transmission on that vehicle may need attention. During your test drive, make sure to hop on a freeway/highway where you can accelerate more aggressively than in town.

However, your best way to avoid issues with a transmission on a Ford Escape is always to get it inspected by an independent, local mechanic prior to purchasing. This smart option allows you to have the peace of mind necessary to confidently spend your hard earned money on a vehicle. These inspections are often comprehensive and can unearth other potential issues with the vehicle that you may not catch during a test drive.

Should you buy a used Ford Escape?

Overall, the Ford Escape is a well-loved and reliable SUV, although there are a few older model years that should be avoided due to reliability problems. With a very sharp decline in the number of problems reported by Ford Escape owners of year models 2017 and newer, we absolutely recommend buying a newer-model Ford Escape. They’re proving to be quite reliable, and many of them are still eligible for CPO offers.

Which year models of used Ford Escapes are safe to buy?

Based on complaints submitted by Ford Escape owners, the following models are safe to buy. These year models are less prone to complaints than other year models, and the complaints against them are less severe.

  • 2001 Ford Escape
  • 2002 Ford Escape
  • 2003 Ford Escape
  • 2004 Ford Escape
  • 2007 Ford Escape
  • 2009 Ford Escape
  • 2010 Ford Escape
  • 2011 Ford Escape
  • 2012 Ford Escape
  • 2014 Ford Escape
  • 2015 Ford Escape
  • 2016 Ford Escape
  • 2017 Ford Escape
  • 2018 Ford Escape
  • 2019 Ford Escape
  • 2020 Ford Escape

Ford Escape year models to avoid

We recommend avoiding purchasing the following year models of Ford Escape due to high numbers of user-reported reliability problems.

  • 2005 Ford Escape
  • 2006 Ford Escape
  • 2008 Ford Escape
  • 2013 Ford Escape


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