Best & Worst Ford Ranger Years

We've ranked all Ford Ranger models for each generation so you can avoid picking the worst Ford Ranger years and pick the best one.

In this article, I’ll break down the latest Ford Ranger generations, revealing Ranger’s best years to buy and the worst Ford Ranger years to avoid.

Our comprehensive analysis draws on real owner experiences, maintenance costs, and extensive reliability data from trusted sources like NHTSA and Consumer Reports.

I’ll highlight the Ford Ranger’s best and worst years, considering performance, reliability, owner-reported problems, and recall history, ensuring you’re equipped with all the details.

Let’s dive right in!

Related:Best & Worst Ford Explorer YearsBest & Worst Ford F-150 YearsBest & Worst Ford F-250 Years

Table of ContentsShow

Ford Ranger Generations

The Ford Ranger launched its first generation with a promise of robust capability and dependability in a compact form, quickly establishing itself as a workhorse that could handle city and off-road terrain since its introduction.

Known for its straightforward, practical design and no-frills approach to the pickup truck segment, the Ranger became a steadfast choice for those needing utility over pomp.

Here’s a glance at the evolving generations of the Ford Ranger from 1998.

GenerationYears
3rd Generation1998-2011
4th Generation (T6)2019-2023
5th Generation2024-Present

Understanding these generational changes is crucial as each offers unique features, improvements, and sometimes setbacks, pivotal for prospective buyers and enthusiasts alike.

Ford Ranger Best, Neutral, and Worst Years

When assessing the Ford Ranger’s best and worst years, we draw upon a multifaceted set of criteria that paint a comprehensive picture of its standing:

  • 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

A forthcoming graph aggregates these diverse ratings, visually representing the Ranger’s performance across years.

Ford Ranger Car Smite Score Combined Overall Score

Subsequently, a table categorizes all Ford Ranger model years into best, neutral, and worst years.

GenerationBest YearsNeutral YearsWorst Years
3rd Generation2008
2009
2010
2011
2004
2005
2006
2007
1998
1999
2000
2001
2002
2003
4th Generation (T6)2020
2021
2022
2023
N/A2019
5th Generation2024N/AN/A

Neutral years indicate models that perform satisfactorily but may lack significant advancements or show minor inconsistencies.

Conversely, factors like extensive NHTSA recalls can markedly detract from a vehicle’s reliability score.

Now, let’s dive into the Ford Ranger’s best, neutral, and worst years.

Best & Worst Years for Ford Ranger 3rd Generation (1998-2011)

Ford Ranger 3rd generation 1998 model
The 1998 Ford Ranger

Introduced in 1998, the 3rd Generation Ford Ranger was a versatile compact pickup, offering configurations suitable for daily driving and work-related tasks.

In its third generation, the most reliable and best Ford Ranger years to buy are from 2008 to 2011, while 1998-2003 are the worst Ford Ranger years you should avoid.  

The Best Years: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011

Ford Ranger’s best years in this generation are undeniably 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011, with good overall ratings and fewer owner-reported complaints.

These models offered a choice between the fuel-efficient 2.3L Duratec I4 engine, delivering up to 143 hp with fuel economy peaking at approximately 21 city/26 highway mpg, and the more potent 4.0L Cologne V6, pushing out 207 hp with a slight dip in fuel efficiency.

Transmission options included a precise five-speed Mazda M5OD-R1 manual or a convenient five-speed 5R55E automatic.

These years introduced notable technological advancements for the model, such as the available SYNC infotainment system.

Safety was bolstered with the introduction of side curtain airbags and a tire pressure monitoring system, aligning with contemporary standards.

The Neutral Years: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007

The mid-generation Rangers – 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007 maintained a stable course with modest refinements.

The engine lineup continued from prior years, and adding a five-speed automatic option complemented the standard manual transmission, enhancing the driving experience with smoother shifts and maintaining decent fuel economy figures.

Trim levels from the practical XL to the more luxurious XLT offered variety to consumers, with the FX4 trim catering to off-road enthusiasts.

However, these years saw recalls related to airbag issues and frame rust concerns, which are critical to consider when purchasing a vehicle for longevity and safety.

The Worst Years: 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003

The early years of the third-generation Ford Ranger – 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003 were fraught with mechanical and safety problems; they are the years you should avoid like the plague.

Persistent problems with engine performance, including spark plug ejection and oil leaks, were significant drawbacks.

Transmission issues were notable, with many reports of failure and erratic behavior in both manual and automatic variants.

Recalls ranged from brake system faults to serious safety hazards involving exterior lighting and fuel leaks.

These issues and widespread reports of excessive frame corrosion make these years less advisable for those seeking a reliable used pickup truck.

See NHTSA 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 Ford Ranger recalls and complaints.

Best & Worst Years for Ford Ranger 4th Generation (2019-Present)

Ford Ranger 4th generation 2019 model
The 2019 Ford Ranger

After a hiatus, the 4th Generation Ford Ranger marked a significant return for the model, re-introducing it to North American markets in 2019.

Choosing the worst years in this generation, 2019 would be the worst Ford Ranger year compared to 2020-2023, which are Ranger’s best and most reliable years.

The Best Years: 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023

2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023 Ford Ranger model years are considered the best years for the fourth-generation Ford Ranger, showcasing the maturity of the lineup.

Equipped with a 2.3L EcoBoost engine, these Rangers offer a substantial 270 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque, paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission that elevates fuel efficiency and driving dynamics.

Fuel economy averages a commendable 21 city/26 highway mpg, making them quite economical for their class.

Trim levels range from the base XL to the well-appointed Lariat, with the Tremor Off-Road Package available for those seeking adventure.

These models also boast Ford’s Co-Pilot360 suite of driver-assist technologies, ensuring enhanced safety and convenience.

The Worst Years: 2019

The 2019 Ford Ranger’s debut year faced some teething issues as it re-entered the market.

While it featured the same powertrain as its successors, early adopters reported transmission shifting irregularities and minor electrical problems.

These issues were quickly addressed in the following years, improving overall reliability.

However, the 2019 model was subject to recalls, including one for an improperly secured transmission shift cable bracket, which could lead to unintentional vehicle movement, posing a safety risk.

As such, while still a competent vehicle, the 2019 Ranger is generally viewed as less favorable than the subsequent years that benefited from refinements and updates.

See NHTSA 2019 Ford Ranger recalls and complaints.

Best Years for Ford Ranger 5th Generation (2024-Present)

Ford Ranger 5th generation 2024 model
The 2024 Ford Ranger

Entering the market with a fresh design and updated capabilities, the 2024 Ford Ranger marks the beginning of the pickup’s fifth generation. Built on a refined T6 platform, the latest Ranger promises enhanced stability thanks to a longer wheelbase and wider track.

The Best Years: 2024

With the 2024 model, Ford retains the tried-and-tested 2.3L EcoBoost inline-four engine and introduces an optional 2.7L EcoBoost V6.

This powerhouse, already proven in the F-150 and Bronco, is adapted for the Ranger to churn out an impressive 315 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. The pairing of these engines with Ford’s refined 10-speed 10R80 automatic transmission ensures that the Ranger delivers a blend of efficiency and performance.

For those with a penchant for high-octane adventure, the Ranger Raptor steps up with a twin-turbo 3.0L V6, boasting 405 horsepower and 430 lb-ft of torque.

Equipped with paddle shifters and a suite of drive modes, including Baja, this variant is tailored for thrills on any terrain.

The technology suite is equally impressive, featuring Ford’s trailblazing trailer tech and Active Park Assist 2.0. Safety and assistance features like forward collision warning, evasive steering assistance, and adaptive cruise control are part of the package, making the Ranger a leader in its class.

The central touchscreen, available in 10.1-inch and 12-inch variants, runs the latest Sync 4A infotainment system. While USB ports may not be abundant, wireless charging and a standard household outlet in the rear ensure all passengers stay powered and connected.

Ford Ranger Resale Values

See a graph of the Ford Ranger’s value retention with our graph on the average resale values over time.

Ford Ranger Average List Price

Conclusion

It’s clear that not all Ford Ranger model years are equal. Aim for the best balance of reliability and features with Ford Ranger’s best years, which are the 2008-2011 models and the 2020-2023 models. Avoid 1998-2003 models due to their engine and transmission problems.

Have you owned a Ford Ranger from one of our best or worst years?

Share your experiences 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.