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The competition to be the leading choice for midsize SUVs is fierce, with many quality models vying for the top spot. And this year, the 2023 Ford Explorer earned the title of the best-selling midsize SUV. Unfortunately, it has a glaring weakness. In owner surveys, the Explorer is also the most unreliable one in the segment.

The best-selling midsize SUV is the 2023 Ford Explorer

Front view of white 2023 Ford Explorer, best-selling midsize SUV and also the most unreliable
2023 Ford Explorer | Ford

The Ford Explorer helped pioneer the midsize SUV segment over three decades ago — and it’s still going strong. In the ensuing years, many other models arrived in the segment. However, the Explorer continues to be a competitive choice with its rugged styling, potent engine options, a roomy and comfortable interior, a high-performance ST model, and off-road capabilities.

In 2022, the Explorer lagged behind other models in the segment for sales, including the Toyota Highlander and the Jeep Grand Cherokee. However, in 2023, it’s a different story. The 2023 Ford Explorer is the best-selling midsize SUV through the first quarter of the year, per Car and Driver. The 2023 Toyota Highlander is second, while the 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee earns the third spot.

Some midsize SUVs benefited from more upgrades and refreshed designs, such as the 2023 Kia Telluride and the 2023 Hyundai Palisade. However, the Explorer vaulted to the top of the best-selling list despite no major changes for the new model year.

2023 Ford Explorer is the most unreliable SUV

Cabin in 2023 Ford Explorer, best-selling midsize SUV and also the least reliable
2023 Ford Explorer | Ford

The 2023 Ford Explorer has many strong points, which helped it become the best-selling midsize SUV. However, for reliability, it leaves much to be desired. It has the ignominious distinction of being the most unreliable SUV following the Consumer Reports Auto Reliability Survey, per USA Today

For the Auto Reliability Survey, Consumer Reports collected hundreds of thousands of surveys from real owners over the previous 12 months. In the surveys, the vehicle owners identified various problem areas, such as leaks, brakes, paint, engine, noises, and electrical system.

Unfortunately, the Explorer had more issues in these problem areas than any other model in the segment. Consequently, owners rated it the least reliable midsize SUV.

The Explorer is expensive to repair

The unreliability of the Explorer has several negative impacts. The more frequent problems translate to more costly repairs, which makes the best-selling midsize SUV expensive to own. 

Per RepairPal, the average annual cost of repairs for the Explorer is $732. This is higher than the $573 average for the midsize SUV segment — and $652 for all model types. The repairs tend to be more severe, too. There’s a 14% chance of the repair being a significant problem. For all midsize SUVs, it’s 13%, and for all model types, it’s 12%.

Another adverse effect of the unreliability is a shorter life. An SUV with poor reliability is less likely to last many miles and years. Other negative implications include safety and performance issues. Also, there’s a greater likelihood of getting stranded on the side of the road.

The 2023 Ford Explorer did a remarkable thing this year by becoming the best-selling midsize SUV. However, this success is dampened by it being the most unreliable midsize SUV in owner surveys.


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