Trucks & SUVs

Ford Escape: The Worst Model Year You Should Never Buy

The Ford Escape is the Blue Oval’s most popular crossover SUV. It’s had a strong showing in the compact crossover segment since its inception in 2000. But while many owners are happy with their Escapes, others have had major problems with a certain model year. Read on to find out which Ford Escape model year you should never buy and why.

A very bad year for the Ford Escape’s transmission

A 2014 Ford Escape on a car dealership lot.
A Ford Escape on a car dealership lot | Carl D. Walsh/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

According to CarComplaints.com, the 2014 model year was a terrible one for the Ford Escape and this is the model year you should never buy. Surprisingly, it isn’t because of the number of complaints, which totaled only 227. This number pales compared to 2008, which had the most complaints of all model years with a total of 608.

The reason why 2014 was so awful for the Escape is because of the severity of its transmission problems. CarComplaints.com noted that this was the crossover’s worst problem category, even though owners reported only 67 complaints all told. These problems were extreme enough for this category to earn the “Beware of the Clunker” badge.

Of these 67 complaints, 40 of them were specifically about how the SUV suddenly stopped while it was being driven. 13 owners reported a related problem of the SUV’s transmission fault warning light coming on.

Both problems had a severity rating of 9.0 or more, which CarComplaints.com designates as “pretty awful”. The remaining complaints were about the SUV not shifting properly, losing all acceleration plus a couple of other transmission-related problems. Both manual and automatic transmissions were affected by these problems.

When did the transmission problem occur?

Unhappy Ford Escape owners told stories of their vehicles stopping in the middle of traffic or out on the highway with no warning. Some owners had to turn their vehicles off and restart them repeatedly in order to get to their destinations. Others had trouble shifting, experienced sudden acceleration or deceleration, or heard odd noises. Several had to have their vehicles towed.

The Escape’s transmission problems seemed to kick in between 70,000 and 80,000 miles for many owners. An unlucky few had bad transmissions with odometer readings of 20,000 miles or lower. Regardless of the mileage that these owners had on their Escapes, some of them paid close to $4,500 on average to fix the problem.

Usually, this meant replacing or rebuilding the transmission. Considering that many transmissions last 100,000 miles or more, this is an expensive repair for such relatively low mileage. 

Did Ford fix the problem?

Not really. According to some owners’ complaints, Ford dealerships weren’t always able to come up with a solution on the first try. For example, mechanics at one local dealership replaced one Escape owner’s spark plugs, which proved useless when the vehicle stopped running again shortly after the owner began driving it. The vehicle had to be returned to the dealership for another attempt at repair.

Other owners were told by the dealerships that they had never heard of this problem or that they weren’t sure what it was. Only three owners reported that mechanics were able to figure out a possible cause of the problem, which was the torque converter.

Ford never issued a recall for this problem. But the problem persists because a few of the complaints were made recently. And neither Ford nor its dealerships offered to cover the cost of transmission repairs or replacements. The automaker also seemed unphased by the five NHTSA complaints submitted by fed-up owners.

The only positive thing that’s come out of this problem is that none of these vehicles have been involved in accidents when they stopped working. But that doesn’t mean that it won’t happen in the future. Given the severity of this known problem and Ford’s reluctance to address it, it’s a smart move to never buy a 2014 Ford Escape.