Best & Worst Ford Escape Years

We've ranked each and every Ford Escape model for every generation so you can avoid picking the worst Ford Escape year and go for the best Ford Escape year.

In this guide, I’ll break down all Ford Escape generations, highlighting Ford Escape’s best and most reliable years and the worst Ford Escape years to avoid.

With robust data from credible sources like NHTSA, VehicleHistory, and Consumer Reports, I’ll provide an exhaustive exploration, delivering information on Ford Escape’s reliability, owner satisfaction, and common issues across diverse model years.

You’ll know exactly which Ford Escape years have transmission issues, why 2013 and 2014 are the Ford Escape years to avoid at all costs, and more.

Let’s jump right in.

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Table of ContentsShow

Ford Escape Generations

The Ford Escape debuted in the automotive world in 2001, introducing a compact SUV that balanced performance and comfort with its nimble handling, reasonable fuel efficiency, and comfortable interior.

Here is a table showcasing all Ford Escape generations from 2001.

GenerationYears
1st generation (BA/ZA/ZB)2001-2007
2nd generation (CD2)2008-2012
3rd generation (C520)2013-2019
4th generation (CX482)2020-Present

Generational shifts entail notable changes in design, technology, safety features, and driving dynamics, which are pivotal in influencing purchasing decisions.

Ford Escape Best, Neutral, and Worst Years

In determining our rankings and categorizations of Ford Escape’s best and worst years, we consider various aspects to gauge the overall experience and reliability, including:

  • Owner-reported reliability (surveys)
  • Annual maintenance costs
  • Safety ratings
  • Consumer Reports reliability scores
  • Consumer Reports owner satisfaction scores
  • NHTSA recalls, investigations, and complaints
  • Edmunds owner ratings
  • JD Power owner ratings
  • Kelley’s Blue Book (KBB) owner ratings
  • VehicleHistory owner ratings
  • Cars.com owner ratings

The forthcoming graph combines data from the sources above, providing a comprehensive view of the Ford Escape’s yearly performances.

Ford Escape Car Smite Score Combined Overall Score

In the subsequent table, I categorize each model year of the Ford Escape as the best, neutral, or worst year, drawing from the compiled data.

GenerationBest YearsNeutral YearsWorst Years
1st generation (BA/ZA/ZB)2007N/A2001
2002
2003
2005
2004
2006
2nd generation (CD2)2012N/A2008
2009
2010
2011
3rd generation (C520)2016
2018
2019
2015
2017
2013
2014
4th generation (CX482)202320212020
2022

The “Neutral Years” may reflect a balanced mix of positive and manageable aspects.

Certain factors, like NHTSA recalls, negatively influence our evaluations: a higher tally of complaints, recalls, and safety issues correlate to reduced reliability and, potentially, owner satisfaction.

Let’s dive into Ford Escape’s best, neutral, and worst years.

Best & Worst Years for Ford Escape 1st Generation (2001-2007)

Ford Escape 1st generation 2001 model
The 2001 Ford Escape

The inception of the Ford Escape in 2001 brought about a new player in the compact SUV market, providing a blend of practicality, off-road capability, and urban maneuverability.

Due to substantial reliability issues, 2001-2006 are the Ford Escape years you should avoid, while 2007 is the Ford Escape’s best year in this generation.

The Best Years: 2007

Despite some transmission and engine problems from the earlier models, with fewer recalls and owner complaints on NHTSA, 2007 was Ford Escape’s best year in the first generation.

The 2007 Ford Escape offered a 2.3L Duratec 23 I4 engine producing 153 hp and a 3.0L Duratec 30 V6 engine producing 200 hp, alongside a 4-speed automatic or a 5-speed manual transmission providing fuel economy of 21 city / 27 highway mpg driving.

Various trim levels, including XLS, XLT, and Limited, allowed customers a range of feature options, like Ford’s Intelligent 4WD System, providing enhanced stability and traction.

Despite its reliability improvements, it had issues, like specific reports regarding transmission and powertrain problems.

The Worst Years: 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2004, 2006

With over 1000 owner-registered complaints for each on NHTSA, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006 are the worst Ford Escape years of the generation you should avoid.

The 2001 Ford Escape was embroiled in mechanical and safety issues like engine stalling and transmission failures, accentuated by various recalls affecting various vehicle components, like problems with speed connector cable interference, fuel line leaks, and brake fluid leaks from the master cylinder.

A particularly dangerous recall concerned the stuck throttle, which posed significant safety risks to occupants.

Similar issues persisted in the 2002 Ford Escape. They even expanded into additional areas like possible fire incidents in the engine compartment due to compromised seals in the ABS control module wiring harness electrical connector.

As for the 2003 Ford Escape, subframe corrosion became a significant issue, persisting and permeating the 2004, 2005, and 2006 Ford Escape models.

See NHTSA 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 Ford Escape recalls and complaints.

Best & Worst Years for Ford Escape 2nd Generation (2008-2012)

Ford Escape 2nd generation 2008 model
The 2008 Ford Escape

The 2nd generation Ford Escape (2008-2012) made a pivotal transition in its design with enhanced interior quality, new technological features, and improved driving dynamics.

2012 is Ford Escape’s best year in this generation, whereas 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 are Ford Escape years better to avoid.

The Best Years: 2012

With significantly fewer NHTSA owner complaints and recalls and good Consumer Reports reliability and owner satisfaction scores, 2012 is undeniably the best Ford Escape year of the second generation.

The 2012 Ford Escape was offered with several powertrain options: a 2.5L Duratec 25 I4 engine producing 171 hp, a 3.0L V6 delivering 240 hp, and hybrid variants that combined a 2.5L I4 with an electric motor, offering a total system output of 155 hp.

Paired with these were choices between a 5-speed manual and a 6-speed automatic transmission, providing an average fuel consumption of 20 city / 26 highway mpg driving.

Regarding trim levels, consumers could select between the base XLS, a mid-level XLT, or the luxurious Limited edition. The hybrid model was offered in a base or Limited trim.

The Worst Years: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011

The worst years of the generation – 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 have the highest figures for owner complaints on NHTSA, so they should be avoided without any doubt.

The 2008 Ford Escape preceded itself with substantial problems, particularly with the power steering system, which numerous owners cited for unanticipated losses of power steering assist.

A significant recall targeting this widespread issue spanning from 2008 to 2011 highlighted potential safety risks due to unexpected increases in steering efforts.

The 2009 Ford Escape perpetuated the mechanical issues from the previous year, with particular emphasis on engine stalling, transmission failures, and erratic loss of throttle response.

The adversities continued into the 2010 and 2011 Ford Escape models. Recalls impacted models with 3.0L engines due to potential cracks in the fuel delivery modules, presenting risks of fuel leaks and subsequent safety hazards.

See NHTSA 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 Ford Escape recalls and complaints.

Best & Worst Years for Ford Escape 3rd Generation (2013-2019)

Ford Escape 3rd generation 2013 model
The 2013 Ford Escape

Embarking on its third generation (2013-2019), the Ford Escape departed from its traditional SUV look and adopted a sleeker, more modern aesthetic.

2016, 2018, and especially 2019 are Ford Escape’s best and most reliable years in this generation. 2013 and 2014 are the Ford Escape years to avoid at all costs.

The Best Years: 2016, 2018, 2019

With outstanding VehicleHistory, Cars.com, and J.D. Power scores, 2016, 2018, and 2019 are the best Ford Escape years of the 3rd generation.

The 2016 Ford Escape offered a base 2.5L I4, a turbocharged 1.6L EcoBoost I4, and a more potent turbocharged 2.0L I4 engine.

Paired predominantly with a 6-speed automatic transmission across its S, SE, and Titanium trim levels, the 2016 model offered respectable performance and fuel efficiency, gauged at 22 city/31 highway mpg for the 1.6L engine.

It also came with the praised SYNC 3 infotainment system, which replaced the previous MyFord Touch system, delivering a more intuitive and responsive user interface.

The EcoBoost technology introduced in the 2018 and 2019 Ford Escape models aimed to maximize efficiency without compromising performance.

Safety technology also took a front seat, with features like adaptive cruise control and a forward-collision warning with brake support available.

The Neutral Years: 2015, 2017

In the neutral realm, the 2015 and 2017 Escape models offered commendable aspects yet were not entirely exempt from owner-reported issues and recalls.

The 2015 Ford Escape, while appreciated for its agile handling and potent engine options, faced some scrutiny over its MyFord Touch infotainment system, often criticized for its complexity and slow response times.

Moreover, some owners pinpointed issues related to the body and interior, such as malfunctioning door latches, a widely recognized problem, prompting recalls.

Conversely, the 2017 Ford Escape made strides in addressing some of these concerns, introducing the more user-friendly SYNC 3 system and offering a new 1.5L turbo-4 engine.

Not without its critiques, some owners indicated issues with the vehicle’s power equipment and air conditioning system.

The Worst Years: 2013, 2014

What year is the Ford Escape to avoid? 2013 and 2014 are undeniably the worst Ford Escape years to “avoid like the plague.” Here is why:

Is 2013 a good year for the Ford Escape? Not. Unfortunately, the dawn of the third generation in 2013 was met with notable adversity, chiefly due to significant engine issues.

Coolant leaks led to overheating and subsequent cracks within the engine cylinder head, further risking oil leaks and potential fire hazards.

This resulted in an extensive recall to mitigate the pronounced risk and addressed over a thousand owner complaints to the NHTSA.

Additional recalls relating to wiring splices causing stalls during driving and faulty door latches further tainted the reputation of this model year.

The 2014 Ford Escape notably sustained critical recalls related to airbags and seat belt pre-tensioners that could increase the risk of injury in a collision.

Mechanical issues continued to linger, with some owners citing transmission failures and issues related to the vehicle’s electrical system.

See NHTSA 2013, 2014 Ford Escape recalls and complaints.

Best & Worst Years for Ford Escape 4th Generation (2020-2023)

Ford Escape 4th generation 2020 model
The 2020 Ford Escape

The fourth generation of the Ford Escape, commencing in 2020, aimed to elevate the crossover SUV experience, blending fresh aesthetics, enhanced technology, and diversified powertrain options.

With a surprisingly high number of recalls, 2020 is the Ford Escape year you should avoid. 2023 is Ford Escape’s best year in the generation.

The Best Years: 2023

With good J.D. Power and Cars.com ratings, 2023 is the best Ford Escape year of the generation.

This model year garnered attention for its robust powertrain lineup, featuring options such as a 1.5L EcoBoost engine, a 2.0L EcoBoost engine, and a hybrid variant, accommodating a spectrum of driving preferences.

A new plug-in hybrid variant, boasting an EPA-estimated electric-only range of 37 miles, marked a significant step forward in Ford’s electrification journey.

With a design that leans into sleek and city-friendly aesthetics, the 2023 Escape drew praise for its ample passenger space, user-friendly technology, and competent handling.

Advanced safety technologies through the Ford Co-Pilot360 suite—encompassing Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Information System, and Lane-Keeping System—boosted its appeal among safety-conscious consumers.

The Neutral Years: 2021

The 2021 Ford Escape embodied a harmonious iteration, showcasing advancements in technology and safety while not being entirely devoid of concerns.

Adaptive Cruise Control and a Voice-Activated Touchscreen Navigation System were highlighted features, yet some consumers voiced grievances about the vehicle’s reliability and build quality.

One notable recall, centered around the potentially reduced braking performance due to improperly cured rear brake linings, questioned its reliability.

Nevertheless, its ergonomic design, versatile powertrain options, and moderate reliability placed it squarely in the neutral category.

The Worst Years: 2020, 2022

With low owner ratings on platforms like J.D. Power, VehicleHistory, and Consumer Reports and many recalls, 2020 and 2022 are the Ford Escape years that should be avoided.

Concerns regarding the build quality, notably issues with the driver’s side door welds breaking, prompted queries about its production quality.

Significant recalls related to the potential for engine failure in hybrid versions, cracks in fuel injectors, oil leaks, and malfunctioning rearview cameras further dented its reputation, alongside reports of inoperative displays and issues with the start-stop system.

The 2022 Ford Escape was not free from notable issues. Recalls such as a potentially misaligned rearview camera impinging on rear visibility and improperly tempered rear brake caliper pistons jeopardizing brake function clouded its overall reputation.

See NHTSA 2020, 2021, 2022 Ford Escape recalls and complaints.

Ford Escape Average Resale Values

Explore the comprehensive graph below, illustrating the Ford Escape’s average resale values across various model years.

Ford Escape Average List Price

Conclusion

After going through the Ford Escape’s journey, we have a clear recommendation for you. You should consider the 2007, 2012, 2018, and 2019 model years of the Ford Escape as they are the Ford Escape’s best years and are known for robust reliability and minimized issues.

Which model year of the Ford Escape would you vouch for, and what stands out about that variant?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Jonathan Eckert

Jonathan is an ASE-certified mechanic with over 22 years of hands-on experience in the automotive industry. His expertise spans a wide range of vehicles, but he specializes in diagnosing and repairing Japanese cars. His previous workplace highly commended his meticulous attention to detail, and that's exaclty what he uses at Car Smite to craft the best guides for each purpose.