Highlander vs. Explorer: Which Is More Reliable?

The top-two selling SUVs this year so far are the Toyota Highlander and the Ford Explorer. They’re very similar midsize SUVs that that have three rows of seats, optional all wheel drive, and more that makes them popular choices for families. But, when it comes to reliability and cost of repairs of the Highlander and Explorer, does one come out on top?

Which is better, Highlander or Ford Explorer?

J.D. Power ranks the 2022 Highlander as great, and it earns a score of 81 for quality and reliability, which measures defects, malfunctions and design flaws. The score covers the entire vehicle, from the engine to the radio. The driving experience, however, is only rated average, and that’s one reason the Highlander comes in second to the Ford.

However, the Ford beats the Toyota by one point at J.D. Power, and it has a score of 82 of 100. However, it ranks great for quality and reliability and gets a much higher driving experience score. Where the Ford is let down is in the resale value category. It still earns a great ranking, but the Toyota is worth more after a few years compared to the Ford.

Repair Pal ranks the Highlander as the winner

At Repair Pal, a site that gathers repair information and ranks vehicles, the Highlander ranks as above average, with a four (of five) star ranking. The average repair cost for a Highlander is $489 and owners take them to the shop 0.3 times per year, mostly for minor issues. The 2022 Toyota Highlander comes with a 3-year, 36,000 mile warranty, and the powertrain is warrantied for up to 5 years or 60,000 miles.

The Ford, however, earns a solid average score of 3.5 stars. The average annual repair cost is $732 for the Explorer. Though the frequency of shop visits is lower than the Highlander, at 0.2 times per year, the repairs are generally more costly on the Explorer. The Explorer comes with a 3-year, 36,000 mile warranty, and the powertrain is warrantied for up to 5 years or 60,000 miles.

How much should you pay for a Ford Explorer or Toyota Highlander?

The interior of the Toyota Highlander in tan and black.
2023 Toyota Highlander interior | Toyota

The Ford Explorer was completely redesigned for 2021  and that update has made it the best-selling midsize SUV in America this year. It’s easy to see why with a variety of engine choices and trim levels, as well as good cargo room, the ability to tow up to 5,300 pounds and seats six or seven with three rows. It starts at $36,760.

The Toyota Highlander seems to be the large SUV that many others benchmark their three-row SUVs on. It seats seven or eight people, but the way back seat only has 27.7 inches of legroom, making it a kids-only spot. Also, for such a large SUV, the Toyota Higlander cargo hold is less than many others on this list with 84.3 cubic feet with the back seats folded. But, it does come with a 295 horsepower V6, optional all-wheel drive in the Hybrid version, and it comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense. In base trim it starts at $39,555.

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