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The Ford Escape has been around for decades, so there are plenty of examples to choose from on the used market. When picking any used car, it’s important to research its reliability rating. The more reliable your vehicle, the less you’ll spend on yearly maintenance and unexpected repairs.

Overall, most drivers don’t have many problems with their Ford Escape SUVs. Still, some frustrating maintenance issues plague certain model years. Based on reviews from real drivers, here are the worst Ford Escape models that should be avoided.

1. 2005 Ford Escape

We looked at CarComplaints and found that the 2005 Escape typically experiences the most problems. CarComplaints catalogs over 100 issues related to excessive wheel well and shock tower rust. Because it can cause potential safety problems, many drivers had to have the wheel wells replaced entirely to the tune of $1,260.

At around 101,900 miles, many drivers reported that their Escape’s PCM computer failed entirely. This system monitors essential vehicle diagnostics and controls the fuel system’s air-to-gas ratio, so you can’t drive without it. Replacing this unit on the 2005 Ford Escape usually costs around $2,050.

Some drivers reported even more alarming problems, including stuck gas pedals and the engine shutting down while operating the vehicle. After you’ve got over 87,000 miles on the odometer, you may have to watch out for an exploding back window. 

2. 2008 Ford Escape 

CarComplaints users warn that transmission failure is very common on the 2008 Ford Escape, usually close to the 87,000-mile mark. Most drivers report that the issue presents itself without warning, despite pristine inspection reports shortly beforehand. Replacing the transmission is usually the only option, which might cost between $3,000-$4,000.

Once this Escape model has accrued around 108,100 miles, the power steering also starts to malfunction. Most drivers had to replace the power steering column, while others addressed the issue by replacing a few sensors. The 2008 Ford Escape also typically has rust and paint problems, commonly starting around 54,000 miles.

3. 2009 Ford Escape

A 2009 Ford Escape compact crossover SUV model driving down a highway framed by rocky mountains
2009 Ford Escape | The Ford Motor Company

CarComplaints confirms that the 2009 Ford Escape shares the same worrying transmission problems as the previous model year. Some drivers also reported that their transmission starts shifting roughly around 21,000 miles. 

However, drivers were informed that the transmission was fully functional after taking their car to a dealership. Other mechanics provided relatively cheaper repair solutions, like a computer update or a new axle shaft. Unfortunately, drivers often found themselves back at the dealership a month later.

4. 2013 Ford Escape

If you buy a 2013 Ford Escape, CarComplaints says that you’ll have to worry about the engine and the transmission. Near the 51,000-mile mark, the engine experiences overheating problems and has even been reported to shut down while you’re driving. While most drivers didn’t end up replacing their engines, many experienced a lot of headaches thanks to repeat dealership visits.

In most cases, replacing the fuel sensor (which costs an average of $590) fixed the issue. However, one driver reported needing to replace that sensor three times.

5. 2014 Ford Escape

CarComplaints considers the 2014 Ford Escape the worst model because it’s prone to expensive problems relatively early in its lifespan. The transmission usually only lasts for an average of 83,700 miles and costs over $4,000 to replace.

To make it worse, despite several complaints and reported issues, the 2014 Ford Escape was never recalled over this specific transmission problem. The only thing that Ford eventually did replace was a faulty shifter cable. 

In all, every Escape model on this list has been included in several more recalls than the average SUV. None of them are worth your trouble, especially when other used Escape and SUV options have relatively fewer complaints.