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. But not every production year of a vehicle is created equal. So are some Pilot years better than others? 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.

The Honda Pilot model year to stay away from

According to CarComplaints.com’s model year comparison of the Honda Pilot, there are plenty of owner-reported problems. Including all Honda Pilot model years dating back to 2003, CarComplaints.com finds that some model years have more problems than others.

The 2003 Honda Pilot earns more complaints than any other model year, at 254 total complaints. The 2003 Pilot is also ranked as CarComplaints.com’s worst Honda Pilot model year, “ranked on several factors such as repair cost and average mileage when problems occur.”

Though the 2003 Honda Pilot earns the unimpressive title as the worst model year, a few model years 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 “worst model year,” earning 143 complaints.

But the 2016 Honda Pilot has also earned a large number of complaints, which is more surprising due to its “newer” nature. The 2016 Pilot earns a cool 127 complaints. Maybe it’s not just the 2003 Honda Pilot you need to stay away from.

The Pilot’s biggest problems

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 occurring around 80,000 miles.

The 2003 Pilot has considerably more complaints within the interior accessories category than any other model, with 119 total. The 2003 Pilot is also home to CarComplaint.com’s worst-rated interior accessory problem for this car.

A problem with the Pilot’s ignition switch is not only the most common complaint within the interior accessory category for the 2003 model year, with 81 complaints, but is also ranked the worst problem within that category. CarComplaints.com gives this ignition switch problem a Severity Rating of 8.7 (out of 10).

The 2003 Pilot is also where CarComplaints.com places its number-one worst problem. Ranked as the worst problem (of all 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 more than $3,000. CarComplaints.com gives this transmission problem a Severity Rating of 9.1.

These problems are so bad with the 2003 Pilot that CarComplaints.com 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.”

But while these may be the worst of 2003’s problems, there are also 27 additional complaints about its transmission (in addition to transmission failure), seven complaints about electrical and engine problems, six reports of window/windshield or seatbelt/airbag problems, and more.

The most reliable Honda Pilot model years

Looking back at the model year comparison of the Pilot, it’s easy to see which model years to stay away from. Most older-model Pilots (2010 and older) have 60 or more complaints under each of their belts. However, the 2008 Honda Pilot receives an impressively-low number of complaints, at only 34.

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 almost-brand-new 2019 Pilot has received 42 complaints. Aside from the newest 2020 Pilot, the 2018 model receives the least complaints of any model year, at only six complaints.