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Here Are The Ford Explorer Years To Avoid

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The Ford Explorer is one of the longest-running models from Ford. The first model debuted in 1991. It was a four-door SUV made to replace the outgoing two-door Bronco II. Today, it fills the gap that exists between the Ford Expedition and Ford Edge. 

Having been in production for a long time, the Explorer boasts one of the largest datasets for complaints regarding its model years. In this post, we’ll provide all the information you need on Ford Explorer years to avoid. This will help you get the right model when shopping for a used Explorer. 

Quick Answer: Avoid Ford Explorer Year Models 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006

Based on the number of complaints filed for each model year, we recommend avoiding the 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006 Ford Explorers. All of these have complaints regarding the transmission, body/paint, interior accessories, wheels and hubs, drivetrain, windows and windshields, engine, brakes, and AC/heater. 

Serious transmission problems plague the 2002 Ford Explorer. As for the 2003, 2004, and 2005 model years, body/paint problems represented the highest number of complaints. The 2006 model year falls in the same category with the 2002 Explorer with the most number of problems involving the transmission. 


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Which Year Models of Ford Explorer Are Safe to Buy Used? 

The Ford Explorer has been produced and marketed for about 30 years. It has remained a reliable vehicle that many buyers have fallen in love with. Most of the model years produced have recorded few complaints. Below are the examples that are safe to buy:

  • 1991 Ford Explorer
  • 1992 Ford Explorer
  • 1993 Ford Explorer
  • 1994 Ford Explorer
  • 1995 Ford Explorer
  • 1996 Ford Explorer
  • 1997 Ford Explorer
  • 1998 Ford Explorer
  • 1999 Ford Explorer
  • 2000 Ford Explorer
  • 2001 Ford Explorer
  • 2007 Ford Explorer
  • 2008 Ford Explorer
  • 2009 Ford Explorer
  • 2010 Ford Explorer
  • 2011 Ford Explorer
  • 2012 Ford Explorer
  • 2013 Ford Explorer
  • 2014 Ford Explorer
  • 2015 Ford Explorer
  • 2016 Ford Explorer
  • 2017 Ford Explorer
  • 2018 Ford Explorer
  • 2019 Ford Explorer
  • 2020 Ford Explorer
  • 2021 Ford Explorer

Most of the models sold in the first generation (1991-1994), second-generation (1995-2001), fourth-generation (2006-2010), fifth-generation (2011-2019), and sixth-generation (2020-present) have recorded very few problems. They are, therefore, the ideal models to choose from when looking for a used Ford Explorer. 

For the first-generation models, the most common issues experienced were transmission problems and engine problems. The second generation had an equal share of similar problems, including issues with the windows and windshield. Interior accessories also posed a slightly high number of complaints at the start of the 2000s. 

All the fourth-generation models record a low number of complaints except for the 2006 model year. The 2007 to 2010 Ford Explorers recorded more transmission and interior accessory problems when compared to other issues. Transmission problems stopped being a major concern once the fifth generation debuted in 2011. 

Fewer complaints are seen in the fifth and sixth-generation Ford Explorer. Records show that the most common problems vary from year to year. They are, however, few and not as prevalent. This means that these model years are reliable. 


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Which Ford Explorer Years to Avoid?

There are very many Ford Explorers that will serve you for a long time without experiencing major problems. Only a few are problematic. Below is a list of the most problematic Ford Explorer models and some of the worst problems that they face. 

  • 2002 Ford Explorer
  • 2003 Ford Explorer
  • 2004 Ford Explorer
  • 2005 Ford Explorer
  • 2006 Ford Explorer

The 2002 Ford Explorer has recorded the highest number of complaints since the SUV was launched into the market in 1991 and should be avoided. Most owners experienced issues with the transmission, suspension, and drivetrain. Two of the worst issues reported were a blinking O/D light at 109,000 miles and a crack below the rear window at 79,000 miles. 

The issues most complained about in the 2003, 2004, and 2005 model years include body/paint problems followed by drivetrain and transmission problems. For the 2006 Explorer, engine and transmission problems are the most prevalent. The model is ranked worse when compared to the 2002 model because it has problems that appear at a lower mileage and higher repair costs. 

Some owners reported having a transmission that lunges and jolts when shifting. This cost about $1,800 and was experienced at 49,000 miles. Others had to fix the transmission for hesitating, and this cost on average $2,800. Radiator leaks were also common and would pop up at about 63,000 miles. 


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Ford Explorer Problem Counts by Year

We gathered the number of complaints filed for all Ford Explorers since 1991. This information was crowdsourced from,, Car Talk Community, and similar platforms. You’llYou’ll notice that the third generation models made between 2002 and 2006 produced the highest number of problems.



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