Trucks & SUVs

The 2021 Ford Explorer Has a 1% Reliability Score on Consumer Reports

There’s arguably nothing more important about a vehicle than its reliability. Sure, excellent fuel economy and a spacious cabin are nice, but having a car with staying power ultimately trumps all. That’s why it’s so shocking that people continue to purchase the 2021 Ford Explorer, despite its predecessor’s widely reported issues.

For years, Ford has made the Explorer a linchpin for its brand. However, Consumer Reports’ data indicates that car shoppers may want to stay away from this popular model. The publication gave the SUV a predicted reliability score of just 1% and an overall vehicle rating of 42/100.

The Ford Explorer has long been a household name. But what was once a praised midsize SUV has met an unfortunate curve in the road. And by the looks of things, it’s a curve this vehicle wouldn’t handle well. What exactly is going on with the 2021 Ford Explorer, and is it actually one of the least reliable SUVs of 2021?

2020 has been tough on the Ford Explorer

A family unloading the cargo area of a grey 2021 Ford Explorer in their driveway
The 2021 Ford Explorer on display | Photo via Ford

The Explorer has been nothing but a headache for the American manufacturer this year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recalled the 2020 Ford Explorer 10 times within the past year.

But just as with everything, a new dawn presents a new day. Even though the 2020 Ford Explorer was an objective failure, this doesn’t automatically spell out disaster for the 2021 model. Some may disagree, siding that the problems plaguing previous model years should impact how buyers look at the new 2021 Ford Explorer. Experts certainly have plenty of cause for concern. 

Consumer Reports takes its assessments very seriously. So for it to publish any vehicle with such a low score is undoubtedly alarming. That’s especially true considering how Consumer Reports vastly favored most Ford SUVs over Chevy models.

Let’s take a look at the model’s past issues to determine if you should still consider buying this troubled three-row SUV.

Past troubles may be a sign of issues to come

Recalls vary in severity, and they don’t affect all models within a vehicle’s lineup. Some of the 2020 Explorer’s recalls aren’t too severe, such as the one for a distorted/inoperative rearview camera. However, other issues raise an eyebrow and may dissuade some shoppers from buying a 2020 or 2021 Ford Explorer altogether.

For example, the NHTSA recalled the 2020 Explorer in August for a potentially loose side airbag in the seatback. Other significant recalls include a loose motor mount, improperly welded fuel tank inlet valve, potential driveshaft fractures, and more.

The dealership would fix the vast majority of these problems before a shopper would purchase a new 2021 Ford Explorer. However, it’s safe to assume that the abundance of issues in the 2020 model put a stain on the nameplate’s reputation.

Here’s why shoppers may still consider buying a 2021 Ford Explorer

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Recalls are undoubtedly frustrating for owners to deal with. These problems take time to have fixed and can leave owners feeling uneasy until they are resolved. However, recalls don’t tell the entire story of a vehicle’s actual reliability.

Even with all of the issues it had, J.D. Power still gave the 2020 Ford Explorer a 74/100 quality and reliability score. The organization has not yet rated the 2021 model.

There’s no denying that the Explorer is an appealing vehicle. It’s got a sharp, rugged design that turns heads. Plus, Ford offers an impressive array of powertrain options that’s sure to capture the attention of any gearhead. After all, Consumer Reports gave the Explorer a positive 78/100 score in its road test.

For instance, the 2021 Ford Explorer ST features a twin-turbo V6 engine that kicks out 400 hp, making it one of the sportiest options in the midsize SUV class.

Proceed with caution

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Buying a three-row SUV is a huge investment, and you shouldn’t pick a model only based on looks or features. If you’re risk-averse, then don’t fret. There are plenty of more dependable alternatives to the 2021 Ford Explorer. 

Models like the Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade don’t deliver as much of a punch as the Explorer ST. But these vehicles have a higher predicted reliability rating and come with a much longer warranty should anything go wrong.