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The Ford Explorer is your basic midsize sport utility vehicle, but which ones are worth seeking out? Unfortunately for this Ford SUV, there are more years to avoid than reliable options. But it isn’t all bad news. Keep reading to find out which year was the best used Ford Explorer SUV year but didn’t get high scores from important safety groups.

The best used Ford Explorer SUV year to look for is 2012

The best used Ford Explorer SUV years like these 2012 SUVs
2012 Ford Explorer SUVs sit on display | Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

When Consumer Reports rated all of the Ford Explorer SUV years, the 2012 version had the highest scores in the bunch. Those scores were not overly impressive and landed in average territory. The Explorer seems to focus on utility more than reliability.

With that said, the experts at Consumer Reports gave the Explorer high marks in the areas of ride, noise, and seat comfort. The cargo/trunk area also proved to be positive. The Ford SUV received good scores in reliability trouble spot areas like the engine major, transmission minor, and engine cooling. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the 2012 Ford Explorer SUV an overall safety rating of four stars. That makes 2012 one of the best used Ford Explorer SUV years to look for.

Price range: $10,625 – $13,700

The best used Ford Explorer SUV years do not include 2011

Even though 2012 was a positive year, 2011 is a good year to avoid. Both the reliability verdict and owner satisfaction score were below average, and the owner-reported mpg only came out to 19 overall. The ride, seat comfort, and cargo areas received average scores. For this Ford SUV, the reliability history is all over the place. Only the engine minor received a positive score for this year.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) didn’t give the 2011 Ford Explorer an overall score, but “good” scores on some individual tests. The NHTSA did not rate the Explorer for this year. Unfortunately, the best used Ford Explorer SUV years do not include this one.

Price range: $8,875 – $12,800

While the 2021 version is modern, it doesn’t have a history of reliability

Even though the 2021 Ford Explorer is pretty new, it still doesn’t have great scores. Between the low-reliability score and only getting 22 mpg overall, there are better options out there. Some of the owner reported trouble spots include power equipment and body integrity. The ride is described as “rough,” and the price is pretty steep for all those issues.

The IIHS gave the 2021 Explorer the Top Safety Pick Plus award, which is good news. Ford’s SUV received “good” scores on those crashworthiness tests. In addition, the NHTSA gave this version mostly five stars on its crash testing.

Price range: $31,400 – $54,450

The best used Ford Explorer SUV years are probably the ones with low miles and perhaps a warranty. If you can find a certified pre-owned version, that’s always a good bet. It might not be the most reliable SUV on the market, but it will get you from point A to point B.


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