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Ford and Toyota have been competing for quite some time. The most recent has been this year when the Explorer became the best-selling midsize SUV in 2023 overtaking the Highlander. However, not everyone wants to plop down a chunk of money for a brand-new vehicle.

Many prefer to go to a dealer with used cars on the lot. So, what about a five-year-old SUV? Most are pretty affordable and come with low miles. Here, we’ll look at the two used three-row SUVs on the market to see what each has to offer and which one you should consider buying. 

What does the 2018 Ford Explorer have to offer?

For $18,816 to $33,288, you can get a 2018 Ford Explorer. This model comes standard with a 3.5-liter V6 engine producing 290 hp and 255 lb-ft of torque. Front-wheel drive is standard, but you can upgrade to 4WD if you choose. Paired with the engine is a six-speed automatic transmission, which enables the SUV to get 17 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway when you have the FWD version. 

If you chose the 4WD model, you would get 1 mpg less on city roads and 2 mpg fewer on the highway. Critics, like J.D. Power, gave the 2018 model of the Ford Explorer an overall rating of 80/100.

For the Quality and Reliability segment, the publication scored it with 82/100 points. As for common problems, the Explorer didn’t have much in the way of severe issues. It was reported that owners struggled with the windshield trim flying off while driving, and a leaking water pump. The water pump problem is costly because the part is located within the engine. The paint chip issue sparked a lawsuit with Ford. 

How well does the 2018 Toyota Highlander compare to Ford’s used three-row SUV?

The 2018 Toyota Highlander received a fairly high rating from J.D. Power, who gave them an overall score of 84 out of 100 points. For the Quality and reliability category, the SUV received a rating of 86 out of 100. The average price for this model runs anywhere from $23,271 to $37,510.

Powering it up are two engine choices. The 2.7-liter four-cylinder produces 185 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. Paired with it is a six-speed automatic transmission. This combination lets the SUV get 20 mpg in the city and 24 mpg when traveling on the highway. The available engine choice is a 3.5-liter V6 generating 295 hp and 263 lb-ft. Paired with it is an eight-speed automatic, according to U.S. News

When it comes to fuel economy the six-cylinder can get 20 mpg on city roads and 27 mpg on the highway for the front-wheel drive version. If you choose AWD, you can expect 1 mpg less on both city and highway roads. 

When it comes to problems that have plagued the 2018 Toyota Highlander, there haven’t been too many to speak of on CarComplaints’ website. The most common have been bubbling paint on the hood and roof of the vehicle, and low power in the braking system. Some owners were able to get the hoods replaced on their SUVs due to the chipped paint, but most had to pay out of their pocket to do it. 

The braking problem plagued quite a few drivers, who found they couldn’t start their car due to the error code message coming up informing them of the low power problem in the brakes. One owner was quoted $2,500 to replace the brake booster pump. 

Should you choose the 2018 Ford Explorer or the 2018 Toyota Highlander?

You get a little more fuel economy with the standard four-cylinder engine on the Highlander, but you don’t get much power. The Explorer has the V6 (standard even on the base), which offers more power than the Highlander. Sure, you can upgrade to the V6 model with the Toyota, but you will have to pay more to get it. 

The 2018 Ford Explorer can be had for a bit less money than the Highlander, which will get you the more powerful engine right off the bat. As for fuel economy, it’s better with the Toyota, but there really isn’t that much difference between the two. The biggest drawback to the Ford model is that its reliability isn’t quite as strong as Toyota’s SUV. 

In the end, we’d recommend the Explorer if price and performance are important to you. If they aren’t high on your list and you value reliability more, the Toyota would then be the choice to consider. 

The 2018 Ford Explorer and 2018 Toyota Highlander are two popular three-row SUVs. Both models have plenty to offer, but the Ford Explorer comes with a bit more with its entry-level version. 


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