Buying a Used 2002 Ford Ranger Is Like Asking for Expensive Repairs

Ford has a long history of loyal customers. The automaker is widely known for its hoss trucks and muscle cars. Unfortunately, even the best and brightest can make mistakes. Enter the 2002 Ford Ranger

To say this model is challenged is putting it lightly. Cursed? Maybe. Strangely, several of the reviews aren’t that bad. Kelly Blue Book gave it a generous 4.5 stars out of a possible 5. Edmunds rated it a 4.4 out of 5, as did 

Perhaps the first three had on rose-colored glasses. Consumer Reports certainly disagreed, giving a strong dissenting vote by scoring the 2002 Ford Ranger with a three out of five for reliability and only a one out of five for owner satisfaction. Even their road test summary was harsh, stating that it would not be a bargain even at a discount of thousands of dollars due to its noisy, rough ride, cramped seating, and inefficient engine.

The Ford Ranger’s common complaints

The complaints read like a rap sheet ranging from petty crimes to hard-core jobs. Our ever-vigilant automotive enthusiasts previously reported on the numerous problems plaguing the Ranger. breaks the top offenses down this way: transmission (hard shifting, overdrive light flashing, transmission (failure), and broken frame.

The first transmission category of problems tends to occur at an average of 115,000 miles. The average cost to repair is approximately $1,500. The transmission failure seemingly occurs at an astonishing average of 63,000 miles and costs around $1,700 to fix. Broken frames occur at an average of 120,000 miles, racking up a repair bill averaging $3,500.

Ok, that doesn’t sound great (particularly the last two), but that’s not all. Let’s look a little deeper. 490 complaints have prompted seven recalls. According to Car Complaints’ numbers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports these issues as the most reported problems:

  • 90 engine complaints 
  • 54 seat or airbag malfunctions
  • 44 body or paint issues
  • 35 suspension complaints
  • 34 wheel or hub problems
  • 31 drivetrain complaints
  • 26 transmission issues
  • 24 brake malfunctions

Over one-half of the engine complaints were for speed control, so it makes sense that two of the recalls are for that. One recall was for the powertrain problem that could cause the wheels to lock. Two recalls are oddly around exterior lighting. 

Brand loyalty

A Ford Ranger truck rushes through "The Orange Crush" freeway intersection in Orange, CA,
An older Ford Ranger | David McNew/Newsmakers

Buying a New Ford Ranger Instead of Used Might Not Be a Terrible Idea

Despite the dismal reviews and the extensive list of complaints by Ranger owners, there are still some satisfied customers out there. It seems to defy logic since having a complete transmission overhaul at 63,000 miles seems like a case for the Lemon Law.

The Street explains that anomaly, finding that Ford was the top automaker for brand loyalty, with 44.1 percent of repeat customers. In one five-star review entitled “great work truck” on KBB, the reviewer mentions that it is the third Ranger he has owned.

AutoTrader even wrote that the relatively rare Ranger Tremor edition was a vehicle for truck driving audiophiles, calling the 6,000 produced in 2002 “unicorns.” If the Tremor is cursed with the same issues as the regular Ranger, perhaps the high quality of the music soothed the savage breast of the exasperated owners. Either way, this is just an example of the conflicting opinions on Ford’s well-documented problem child. 

What to think about the 2002 Ford Ranger

Is the 2002 Ford Ranger the worst model? Car Complaints thinks so. It is undoubtedly in the top worst for the number of complaints. Perhaps the deciding factor was the severity of the problems.

Will it make a difference to hardcore Ford fans? Probably not. However, if you are in the market for a used truck, you might want to swipe left on this model. If you don’t want to pay for expensive repairs, the 2002 Ford Ranger should be a hard pass.