Whenever you mention a pickup truck, I think it’s safe to assume that the Ford F-150 is the first one that comes to mind, at least if you’re from the US. This brand is the definitive truck, with eight generations under its belt and popularity that, dare I say, is only matched by the Hilux outside the US.
However, even the best vehicles have flaws, and the F150 is no different. Spark plug problems, brake failure, oil leaks, you name it, some years of this truck were a bane of owners’ existence. I dove deep into the world of Ford’s most popular truck to find out which Ford F 150 years to avoid so that you don’t have to go through the heartache that others have. I’ve also included a bonus list of the best years of the F150 to help you find the right models to buy.
Bottom Line Up Front
The Ford F150 years to avoid are 2004, 2005, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, and 2016. These model years have the most complaints reported on CarComplaints.com, with the main issues related to the engine, transmission, and electricals.
But First, Some Ford F150 History
Ford started working on pickup trucks in the early 1900s; this is over a century ago! However, the F Series didn’t show up on the roads until the late 40s, right after the dust of World War II had settled.
About 30 years later, the guys at Ford looked at their F series and wondered, “what’s missing in our lives?” and someone answered, “another pickup truck.” Thus the F-150 was born.
The F-150’s first generation was launched in the late 70s, 1975 to be precise, as an odd middle child between the F-100 and the F-250.
This started a successful run that saw it rise to the top of the pickup-truck segment and overshadow its siblings in the F-Series. Find out more about this truck’s journey in our Ford F150 models guide.
Interestingly, Ford got the F150 right from the start, with the older years presenting fewer issues than the later models. In fact, the years to avoid that I’ve mentioned in this article are all from the 2000s.
So, if you’re planning to buy an F-150, you can’t go wrong with a pre-2000s model. I’ve taken a deeper look at the best years of the F-150 later in this article.
Most Problematic Ford F150 Years
I’ve compiled data from CarComplaints.com and the NHTSA website to come up with a list of the most problematic Ford F150 years. The model years in the table below all have over 100 recorded complaints from owners.
|Model Year||No. of Recalls||No. of Complaints||Main Issues|
|2004||16||1,169||Engine and transmission faults.
Power window fault.
|2005||14||663||Engine and transmission problems.
Power window failure.
|2013||3||414||Engine, braking, and transmission problems.|
|2010||1||388||Transmission faults, rear window issue.|
|2015||13||344||Transmission and engine problems.|
|2011||6||309||Rear window defect, engine problems.|
|2016||13||302||Engine and braking problems.|
|2006||14||250||Engine and transmission problems.|
|2007||7||203||Engine and transmission problems.|
|2012||4||202||Engine and braking issues.|
|2008||2||169||Transmission and engine problems.|
|2014||6||162||Engine, braking, and transmission faults.|
|2001||20||143||Engine and transmission problems.|
|2017||15||135||Engine and electrical problems.|
|2018||15||128||Engine and transmission problems.|
Before you condemn all the F150 years above, not all the models are worth avoiding. So, to identify the F150 years to avoid, I considered the severity of the problems as well as the number of complaints. I also based my list on the number of recalls of the F150 model years.
Here’s my list of the Ford F150 years to avoid and why I think you should give them a wide berth.
Ford F150 Years to Avoid
If you enjoy a peaceful existence, then avoid the 2004 Ford F-150 at all costs. This is my overall worst year of the F-150 because it has the most number of complaints on CarComplaints.com, a whopping 1,169.
No other model has come close to this number of complaints. This model has also had the most recalls to date, at 16. We’ll get to the recalls in a moment; first, let’s talk about the complaints.
Owners of the 2004 F150 have had major issues with the engine. There were two engine options available, a 5.4L V8 and a 4.6L V8. Both engines had their fair share of issues, but the 5.4L V8 was more problematic than the smaller engine.
Owners have complained of the engine suddenly stalling or running roughly. Also, there were bizarre incidences of the spark plugs breaking off.
Other issues in the 2004 models were related to the transmission: it would fail to shift to certain gears or spontaneously shift to neutral while driving.
2005 was the second year of the 6th-gen F-150, and just like its predecessor, this model year still bore numerous faults. This is why I recommend avoiding the 2005 Ford F-150.
This model year had over 600 complaints, and 14 recalls.
The same engine issues persisted in the 2005 model. So, expect spark plug problems, stalling, and rough idling in this vehicle. Some owners also complained of a loud thumping noise in the engine.
This vehicle also had a faulty power window regulator, which resulted in the windows failing to roll up or down. There are also dozens of incidences where the window would suddenly fall into the door.
Transmission problems were also common in the 2005 F-150, similar to the 2004 model.
2010 to 2013
Avoid any model from 2010 to 2013, all of which are part of the F-150’s 7th generation. I’ve decided to lump these models together because they presented similar issues.
The craziest issue reported was the rear window shattering spontaneously. Yes, you read that right. Owners would be driving along one minute and dealing with a broken rear window the next. This would also happen if the vehicle was parked. It’s presumed that this problem is caused by the rear defroster, which activates itself and ends up breaking the glass.
These models also had engine issues similar to those found in the model years above. The transmission was also problematic, and the power steering was prone to fail without warning.
2015 & 2016
The 2015 and 2016 Ford F-150 models were part of the truck’s eighth generation. In fact, these were the first years of the new generation, meaning that they were bound to have some issues stemming from the redesign.
Indeed, both model years had over 300 reported issues on Car Complaints and 13 recalls both years, as recorded on the NHTSA website.
These years were plagued with transmission problems, with issues like rough shifting and failure to shift into certain gears. The engine was also notorious for stalling while driving. There are also complaints of the vehicle suddenly losing power because of a fault in the throttle body.
Other problems with the 2005 and 2006 models include a failure of the power doors and the sear cooling system.
However, the most unnerving issue reported was with the braking system, with reports of the brake pedal becoming light and depressing all the way to the floor. This was due to a failure of the brake master cylinder.
So now you know which Ford F-150 years to avoid. But I don’t want to leave on a negative note, so let’s take a look at the best Ford F-150 years that you should consider.
Ford F-150 Years to Consider
The models below have the fewest complaints recorded on CarComplaints.com and are considered the most reliable. I also took into account the vehicle’s safety rating and modern tech that boost the driving experience.
Therefore, my list of Ford F-150 years to consider has a mix of the old and new.
1993 was the second year of the fourth generation of the Ford F-150, so a lot of the gremlins that plagued the 1992 model were addressed. This is confirmed by the number of complaints reported on CarComplaints.com; 1993 only had 7, while 1992 had 17.
Don’t get me wrong, the 1992 model is also a reliable beast of burden, but if you’re looking for a 4th-gen F-150, I recommend going for the 1993 model.
Ford gave this model three engine options; a 4.9-liter I6, a 5.0-liter V8, and a 5.8-liter V8. All these engines are considered reliable, with the main problems being oil leaks and rough idling. With proper maintenance, these engines can last well over 200,000 miles.
The transmission was also well-built. There was the option of a five-speed manual, a four-speed manual, and a four-speed automatic. All these are hardy, but the manual transmissions are able to better withstand a beating and are easier to maintain.
If you’re going to get a 1993 Ford F-150, I suggest going for one with a five-speed manual transmission.
The 1998 Ford F-150 has proven itself for close to 25 years and is still seen as a reliable model from the vehicle’s 5th generation. This new generation (which started in 1997) came with a major redesign of the F-150. The truck evolved from a boxy vehicle and got smoother angles that made it less intimidating.
Under the hood, Ford offered a 4.2-liter V6, a 4.6-liter V8, and a 5.4-liter V8. The 5.4-liter engine was the most problematic of the bunch, with the main complaint relating to spark plugs ejecting. Still, this is the only issue with this engine that the owners reported.
The smaller engines, however, are more reliable so consider these if the spark plug issue is a deal breaker for you.
On CarComplaints.com, there are only 54 reported issues, which is a positive sign for a vehicle that’s been around for over two decades.
Most of the 6th-generation Ford F-150 models (2004 to 2008) were problematic. So, when the 7th-generation was launched in 2009, Ford sought to resolve a lot of the issues in the previous generation.
As a result, the 2009 model came with a lot of improvements, including a new look that closely resembles the present-day models. Interestingly, the 2009 Ford F-150 has the fewest recorded complaints among the 7th-gen models (2009 to 2014), and this is why it’s on my list of F-150 years to consider.
Indeed, there are some engine issues, like the notorious spark-plug ejection, but these aren’t as widespread in the 2009 model. Speaking of the engine, Ford offered two options; a 4.6L V8 and a 5.4L V8.
Sadly, there’s no manual transmission, but you get two automatic transmissions: a 4-speed automatic and a 6-speed automatic. My recommendation is the 6-speed auto, which is better at carrying loads and towing.
Although the 2016 F-150 is a year I suggest avoiding, the 2017 model sought to redeem its older sibling by making improvements on issues that plagued the previous year. For starters, there was a new engine added to the lineup, a turbocharged 3.5-liter V6. Ford also offered a 10-speed automatic transmission that was an option for those who were underwhelmed by the 6-speed automatic.
The 5.0L V8 engine was retained, but this was the most problematic in the 2016 model. Sadly, this never changed in the 2017 model, with most of the complaints on engine issues relating to the 5-liter.
The most reliable engine in the 2017 lineup is the naturally-aspirated 3.5-liter engine. I would also still recommend the 5L V8 over the turbocharged engines; the addition of turbo increases the number of components that are likely to break down in the future.
Finally, the 2020 model has been around for two years at the time of writing, meaning that it’s had enough time to prove itself. And, certainly, it continues to show that it’s worth considering if you’re looking for a modern Ford F-150.
With just 14 complaints on CarComplaints.com, the 2020 F-150 is showing signs of being one of the best of the 8th generation. Since it’s a modern vehicle, it’s packed with tech that makes it safer and more comfortable than its predecessors. In fact, the NHTSA gave this model an overall safety rating of 4 out of 5 stars.
Four engines are available: a turbocharged 2.7L V6, a 3.3L V6, a 3.5L turbo V6, and a 5.0L V6. There are only three complaints related to the engine, with two of these involving the turbo 2.7L. Still, if you buy a 2020 model, you’ll most likely find one with low mileage, lowering the chances of any issues.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Which Ford F-150 engine is most reliable?
Answer: The 5.0L Coyote and the 3.5L EcoBoost engines are considered to be the most reliable Ford F-150 engines. However, the 5.0L Coyote is slightly more reliable than the turbocharged 3.5L EcoBoost engine, which has more components that increase the chances of breaking down.
Question: How many miles will an F-150 last?
Answer: On average, a Ford F-150 pickup truck can last up to 300,000 miles if well taken care of. This also depends on the model year, with the less reliable years lasting fewer miles.
Question: Is the Ford 5.0 V8 a good engine?
Answer: Ford’s 5.0 V8 engine, named the ‘Coyote,’ is a tough and reliable engine that has powered Ford F150 trucks since the start of the 8th generation in 2015. The Coyote was a successor to the more problematic Triton engine, which was a 5.4L V8 found in Ford F-150 models up to 2014.
Every car has its ups and downs but the Ford F-150 years to avoid above have more downs than ups. The main thing to consider when looking for an F-150 is the engine. The 5.4L Triton engine in 7th-generation models and earlier was the most notorious for engine problems. So, if you’re looking for a model from that era, avoid this engine.
Also, consider an F-150 with a clear maintenance history to track how well the past owner took care of the truck. These are workhorses that are built to handle heavy tasks. So, a well-maintained F-150 is more likely to live longer.
If you’re thinking about getting a Ford F-150, check out our Ford F-150 models and years’ guide to learn more about this truck.
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