Best & Worst Lincoln Navigator Years

I've taken a look at every Lincoln Navigator model from 1998 until the latest model and categorized the best & worst years in this ultimate guide.

In this guide, I’ll break down all the Lincoln Navigator generations, revealing the best years for the Lincoln Navigator to buy and the worst years to avoid.

Drawing insights from reputable sources like NHTSA, Consumer Reports, and J.D. Power, we delve into user experiences, recall histories, and safety assessments, ensuring our conclusions are not just opinions but facts supported by data.

Highlighting specific Lincoln Navigator model years that stand out for their excellence or issues, we aim to guide potential buyers and enthusiasts.

Let’s dive right in.

Table of ContentsShow

Lincoln Navigator Generations

The Lincoln Navigator, introduced in 1998, quickly became a benchmark in the luxury SUV segment. Known for its elegant design, spacious interior, and robust performance, the Navigator set new standards for premium utility vehicles.

Below is a table providing an overview of the various Lincoln Navigator generations from 1998.

GenerationYears
1st Generation (UN173)1998-2002
2nd Generation (U228)2003-2006
3rd Generation (U326)2007-2017
4th Generation (U554)2018-Present

The generational shifts often play a pivotal role in influencing buyer decisions, as they mark significant upgrades in technology, design, and performance.

Lincoln Navigator Best, Neutral, and Worst Years

Our analysis encompasses a comprehensive range of factors when evaluating the best and worst years for the Lincoln Navigator. These include:

  • 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

Here’s a graph that will display the aggregate ratings from these sources.

Lincoln Navigator Car Smite Score Combined Overall Score

Next, we have a table categorizing each model year of the Lincoln Navigator into the best, neutral, and worst years based on the factors above.

GenerationBest YearsNeutral YearsWorst Years
1st Generation (UN173)2001
2002
N/A1998
1999
2000
2nd Generation (U228)20052004
2006
2003
3rd Generation (U326)2009
2010
2011
2013
2014
2015
2017
20122007
2008
4th Generation (U554)2022
2023
2024
2020
2021
2018
2019

“Neutral Years” neither stood out for exceptional performance nor were they notably problematic, offering a balanced mix of features, reliability, and overall satisfaction.

Some factors, such as NHTSA recalls, significantly impact the rankings negatively. A higher number of complaints and recalls indicates lower reliability and potential safety concerns.

Let’s dive into the best, neutral, and worst years for the Lincoln Navigator.

Best & Worst Years for Lincoln Navigator 1st Generation (1998-2002)

Lincoln Navigator 1st generation 1998 model
The 1998 Lincoln Navigator

The Lincoln Navigator’s first generation, introduced in 1998, marked Lincoln’s entry into the luxury SUV market. Its commanding presence, luxurious interior, and robust performance quickly became popular.

2001 and 2002 are the best years for the first-generation Lincoln Navigator, while the worst years to avoid span from 1998 to 2000.

The Best Years: 2001, 2002

The 2001 and 2002 Lincoln Navigator models stand out as the best years of this generation.

They featured a robust 5.4L V8 engine, offering ample power with 300 hp and a 4-speed automatic transmission, ensuring smooth handling and acceleration.

These models showed improved fuel efficiency for their class, averaging around 11 city/15 highway MPG.

Luxury trim levels, such as the Ultimate package, provided enhanced features like heated and cooled front seats, a premium sound system, and a sunroof.

Safety improvements included advanced airbag systems and parking sensors.

Despite these advancements, some issues persisted, such as minor electrical glitches and occasional suspension concerns, but these were significantly less severe than in earlier models.

The Worst Years: 1998, 1999, 2000

As the 1998, 1999, and 2000 Navigator models faced multiple problems, primarily with their reliability, they are wise to avoid.

The 1998 Navigator suffered from spark plug blowouts and transmission gear position indicator failures, leading to potential safety risks.

The air suspension system, though innovative, was prone to malfunctions, affecting ride quality.

The 1999 and 2000 Lincoln Navigator models struggled with electrical system issues, leading to battery drainage and start-up problems.

Recalls during this period were significant, including risks of rollaway due to transmission cable assembly issues and potential fire hazards from overheating speed control deactivation switches.

The 1999 model also faced recalls due to fuel leaks, highlighting the challenges these early models faced regarding reliability and safety.

See NHTSA 1998, 1999, 2000 Lincoln Navigator recalls and complaints.

Best & Worst Years for Lincoln Navigator 2nd Generation (2003-2006)

Lincoln Navigator 2nd generation 2003 model
The 2003 Lincoln Navigator

The second generation of the Lincoln Navigator, from 2003 to 2006, saw the Navigator becoming more refined and technologically advanced, solidifying its position in the luxury SUV market.

2005 is the second generation’s best Lincoln Navigator model year, while 2003 is the worst year to avoid.

The Best Years: 2005

For those looking for an older and more affordable Lincoln Navigator, 2005 is one of the best model years to buy.

Equipped with a 5.4L V8 engine, it delivered a robust 300 hp and a smooth 6-speed automatic transmission, enhancing its performance and driving experience.

Fuel efficiency was improved slightly, averaging 11 city/17 highway MPG.

Safety features, including advanced airbags, traction control, and parking sensors, were upgraded.

The 2005 Lincoln Navigator also introduced luxurious trim options, such as the Ultimate package, premium leather seats, a power sunroof, and a state-of-the-art DVD entertainment system.

While there were some complaints like air suspension failures, the overall reliability and luxury experience of the 2005 Navigator were highly appreciated by consumers.

The Neutral Years: 2004, 2006

The 2004 and 2006 Navigators served as transitional models, maintaining a balance between the issues of the earlier models and the improvements seen in 2005.

They continued to feature the 5.4L V8 engine with a 4-speed automatic transmission in 2004, which was updated to a 6-speed in 2006.

Fuel efficiency remained a challenge, with similar mileage to the 2005 model.

These years introduced luxury features like power-adjustable pedals and a premium audio system. Safety enhancements included an improved airbag system and rear parking sensors.

However, air suspension issues persisted in the 2004 and 2006 model years. Some owners reported engine misfiring and stalling in the 2006 Lincoln Navigator.

The Worst Years: 2003

Our research through NHTSA recalls and complaints revealed that the 2003 model has the highest number of owner complaints among the second-gen Lincoln Navigator models.

This model was plagued with electrical system issues, including problems with the door latches and instrument clusters and transmission concerns with gear shifter failures.

The air suspension system faced frequent failures, affecting the vehicle’s stability and ride comfort.

The 5.4L V8 and 4-speed automatic transmission provided adequate power but were criticized for fuel consumption and spark plug blowouts.

See NHTSA 2003 Lincoln Navigator recalls and complaints.

Best & Worst Years for Lincoln Navigator 3rd Generation (2007-2017)

Lincoln Navigator 3rd generation 2007 model
The 2007 Lincoln Navigator

The third generation of the Lincoln Navigator, from 2007 to 2017, marked a significant evolution in design, luxury, and performance. This era saw the Navigator solidifying its status as a premier full-size luxury SUV with enhanced features and capabilities.

2007 and 2008 are the worst third-gen Lincoln Navigator model years, while the generation’s best years for the Lincoln Navigator span from 2009 to 2019.

The Best Years: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017

What are the best Lincoln Navigator years to buy? I recommend model years from 2009 to 2011 and 2013 to 2017 as the best years for the third-gen Navigator, with fewer recalls and complaints and higher owner-satisfaction and reliability scores.

The 2009-2017 Lincoln Navigator models were powered by robust 5.4L V8 and 3.5L V6 engines, delivering around 310 and 380hp, respectively, and paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission.

This powertrain provided a smooth and responsive driving experience, though fuel efficiency remained modest, averaging 14 city/20 highway (5.4L) and 15 city/21 highway (3.5L) MPG.

Safety features, including multiple airbags, stability control, and a rearview camera, were advanced.

The 2013-2017 Navigator models enhanced luxury with higher-quality interior materials, updated infotainment systems, and additional features like heated and cooled front seats.

With the highest Kelley Blue Book owner ratings, 2009-2017 Lincoln Navigators are the most reliable in the third generation.

The Neutral Year: 2012

The 2012 Lincoln Navigator balanced the earlier and later models of the third generation.

It retained the 5.4L V8 engine and 6-speed automatic transmission.

Safety features and luxury amenities were similar to the earlier years, including a premium audio system and GPS navigation.

However, the 2012 model saw transmission problems like intermittent down-shifting. Ford issued a massive recall for this problem in 2016.

The Worst Years: 2007, 2008

While offering reasonably good dependability than some of the previous generation’s models, 2007 and 2008 are categorized as the worst years for the third-generation Lincoln Navigator.

These models were criticized for their build quality, with common issues including problematic air suspension systems and less refined interior materials.

Recalls during these years were significant, focusing on issues like fuel leaks and door latch failures, which impacted these model years’ overall reliability and reputation.

See NHTSA 2007, 2008 Lincoln Navigator recalls and complaints.

Best & Worst Years for Lincoln Navigator 4th Generation (2018-Present)

Lincoln Navigator 4th generation 2018 model
The 2018 Lincoln Navigator

The fourth generation of the Lincoln Navigator, commencing in 2018, marked a revolutionary redesign for this iconic luxury SUV. This generation set new standards in its class by emphasizing luxury, technology, and performance.

Model years from 2022 to 2024 are the best and most reliable Lincoln Navigator years to buy, while 2018 and 2019 are the worst years to avoid.

The Best Years: 2022, 2023, 2024

The most recent years of the Navigator have showcased the pinnacle of Lincoln’s luxury SUV craftsmanship.

These models are equipped with a powerful twin-turbocharged 3.5L V6 engine, delivering a robust 450 hp and 510 lb-ft of torque, paired with a smooth 10-speed automatic transmission.

Though not a strong suit for vehicles in this category, fuel efficiency averages about 17 city/23 highway MPG.

Safety features are top-notch, including advanced driver-assistance systems like adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, and a 360-degree camera system.

The interior is a haven of luxury, with top-tier materials, a Revel Ultima audio system, and an advanced SYNC 4 infotainment system with a 13.2-inch display in the latest models.

These years have seen fewer recalls and have been praised for their improved reliability and cutting-edge technology.

The Neutral Years: 2020, 2021

The 2020 and 2021 Lincoln Navigator models bridge the initial fourth-generation models and the latest iterations.

They retain the powerful 3.5L V6 engine and maintain fuel efficiency similar to that of the best years.

The 2020 model was subjected to recall concerning rearview camera images, windshield wiper failures, and inoperative pre-collision assist.

The 2021 model has fire risk when parked, according to the NHTSA Recall Number 22V346000.

These years represent a solid choice for those seeking a balance between the latest technology and value.

The Worst Years: 2018, 2019

With the highest number of recalls and complaints, 2018 and 2019 are the worst fourth-gen Lincoln Navigator years to avoid.

These early models were plagued with teething problems, including concerns related to the engine, such as rattling sounds probably due to cam phasers and transmission glitches.

These years were also subject to multiple recalls, including issues with the rearview camera images, fuel pump assembly welds, and seat structures.

While they marked a significant leap in design and luxury, the initial reliability concerns make these years less desirable than their successors, earning the lowest satisfaction scores on VehicleHistory and Cars.com.

See NHTSA 2018, 2019 Lincoln Navigator recalls and complaints.

Lincoln Navigator Resale Values

Explore this graph to understand the Lincoln Navigator’s resale value trends across different model years.

Lincoln Navigator Average List Price

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Lincoln Navigator shines in its later models, particularly those from 2009-2017 and 2022 onwards, offering enhanced reliability and features.

Conversely, Lincoln Navigators, especially from the 1998-2002, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2018, and 2019 model years, present more issues and are wise to avoid.

What features do you value most in a luxury SUV like the Lincoln Navigator?

Share your experiences or questions 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.