The Worst Honda Pilot Model Year You Should Never Buy

The Honda Pilot is one of Honda’s most popular and best-selling SUVs. Family-friendly and spacious, the Pilot has been a flagship favorite for years. However, not every production year of a vehicle is created equal. So, are some Pilot years better than others? What’s the worst Honda Pilot? If you’re looking to invest in a Honda Pilot, here are its most common problems to expect and the one model year you should stay away from.

Stay away from the 2003 Honda Pilot

2003 Honda Pilot EX three-row mid-size crossover SUV in red is one of the worst Honda Pilot models
2003 Honda Pilot EX | American Honda Motor Co., Inc

According to Car Complaints‘ model year comparison of the Honda Pilot, plenty of owner-reported problems exist. Including all Honda Pilot model years dating back to 2003, the site finds that some models have more issues than others.

The 2003 Honda Pilot earns more complaints than any other model year, at 255 total complaints. The 2003 Pilot is also ranked as Car Complaints’ worst Honda Pilot model year, ranked on several factors, including maintenance costs and the average mileage when Honda Pilot problems occur.

Still, while the 2003 Pilot earns the unimpressive title as the worst model year, a few other models could give it a run for its money. With the most complaints by far, the 2003 Pilot is followed by the 2005 Honda Pilot in the fight for the worst model year, earning 145 complaints. Additionally, the 2016 Honda Pilot has also earned a large number of complaints, which is more surprising due to its more recent nature, with a staggering 179 complaints. So, maybe it’s not just the 2003 Honda Pilot you need to stay away from.

The Pilot’s biggest problems

According to Car Complaints, the worst problem category for the Honda Pilot, including all model years, is with interior accessories. This category earns more complaints than any other, with the average interior accessory problem costing $500 to fix and occurring around 43,000 miles. The 2003 Pilot has considerably more complaints within the interior accessories category than any other model, with 120 total. The 2003 Pilot is also home to the site’s worst-rated interior accessory problem for this car.

A problem with the Pilot’s ignition switch is the most common complaint within the interior accessory category for the 2003 model year, with 81 complaints. Additionally, it is also ranked as the worst problem within that category for all Honda Pilot models. For this ignition switch problem, the 2003 Honda Pilot received a Severity Rating of 8.7 (out of 10) on Car Complaints.

The 2003 Pilot is also where the Car Complaints places its number-one worst problem with the model. Ranked as the worst problem (of all Pilot model years), transmission failure earns 64 complaints for the 2003 model year. Occurring at an average of more than 100,000 miles, the typical repair cost is over $3,000. The site gives this transmission problem a Severity Rating of 9.1 (out of 10).

These problems are so bad with the 2003 Pilot that Car Complaints makes a special note: “Beware the 2003 Honda Pilot once the odometer reaches 100,000 miles, when two problem defect trends have shown up: transmission failure and ignition switch problems.”

The most reliable Honda Pilot model years

Looking back at the model year comparison of the Honda Pilot, it’s easy to see which model years to stay away from. Most older Pilott models (2010 and older) have 60 or more complaints under each of their belts. So, what’s the best Honda Pilot year? Well, the 2008 Honda Pilot receives an impressively-low number of complaints, at only 36.

This is surprisingly impressive, considering the 2008 Honda Pilot’s age. For model years newer than 2010, you may be hard-pressed to find a Pilot without numerous problems. Even the more recent 2019 Honda Pilot has received 61 complaints. Aside from the newest 2020, 2021, and 2022 Honda Pilot models, which may take more time before problems surface due to lack of mileage on the vehicles, the 2018 model receives the least amount of complaints of any model year, with only 14 complaints.

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