Last Updated on May 23, 2023
Ford Motor Company reported earlier this year that sales for the Ford F-Series trucks surpassed 640,000 units in North America. That is equivalent to selling one truck every 49 seconds. The Ford F-Series—and the F-150, in particular—has been the top-selling truck in the US for 41 years! Without a doubt, the vehicle is a great truck, but not all F-150 model years are good purchases. Some model years, you should even avoid. If you’re in the used marketplace currently, you’re likely to find generations 10-14. Here are the best and worst Ford F-150 model years.
Complaints and problems after Generation 10
The Ford F-150 could have ended on a high note with Generation 10 (1997-2003). Trucks from these model years were generally reliable with few significant complaints. Then Ford introduced its worst generation in the truck’s 57-year history (at that time)—Generation 11 (2004-2008).
Ford built the Generation 11 F-150 on a new platform—a fully boxed-in frame. They introduced rear shocks for improved ride quality and vacuum-driven front wheel hubs on the four-wheel drive (4WD) versions for fuel improvement and better operability. Additionally, Ford changed the two-valve, 5.4-liter V8 engine on the previous generation with a three-valve version.
More than 2,000 complaints have been filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) against the 2004 Ford F-150—the highest among all F-150 model years. About 500 complaints concern the engine, transmission, propulsion, and fuel system, which are all significant components for momentum.
A spark plug failure was commonplace, caused by a faulty aluminum cylinder head design. This routinely caused other engine problems. Engines tended to fail at around 100,000 miles and repairs cost nearly $6,000 on average. Gas tank straps easily corroded and detached, which would drag on the road until noticed. Power windows also failed to work properly.
Many of these problems trickled down into later models. Research shows Ford made only tweaks to the troublesome components and designs instead of an overhaul. That’s why future trucks in this generation experienced many of the same issues as the 2004 model, albeit oftentimes to a lesser degree.
By the generation’s final model year—2008—many of the complaints had been worked out. However, the truck required some significant updates, so Ford introduced the next generation.
The U-turn became an S-turn
Similar to the previous generation, this generation is easily recognizable by their Super Duty-style grilles and Edge-style headlights. Their standard-cab models again have two doors instead of four. Ford also dropped the V6 engine on some trims in favor of making V8 standard on all trims.
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The model year 2009 F-150 proved to be another low-complaint truck, receiving about 300 NHTSA complaints. It seemed perhaps Ford had put the worst of their troubles behind them. And then they released the 2010 model year F-150.
With it came a return of the spark plug failure, as well as other engine issues. Many of them resulted from various leaks. Common coil failures also caused the engine to misfire or not start entirely. Truck owners sometimes experienced transmission failure as early as 35,000 miles. And models with an automatic transmission suddenly downshifted into second gear without warning.
Ford changed the electronics in model year 2010 and introduced a touchscreen display called “My Ford Touch Screen,” but that carried faults too. Owners complained of general touchscreen unresponsiveness, the backup camera image failing to appear when the truck was in reverse, and difficulty digitally connecting one’s smartphone to it.
Ford reacted more swiftly and thoroughly this time, and these problems were largely absent from following model years. However, model year 2013 featured significant and costly transmission problems, as well as gear slippage, and gear shift failure.
The last of the worst
Ford launched the 13th generation Ford F-Series with model year 2015, which saw some significant complaints, except this time, Ford made them worse for the following model years, 2016, and 2017 especially.
One of the biggest complaints was about brake failure. Several drivers claimed their master cylinder needed to be replaced after the brakes suddenly stopped working. The truck’s dashboard displayed a “low brake fluid” warning, and the truck prevented drivers from using the brakes for several minutes. Drivers of model year 2016 and 2017 F-150 pickups also complained of engines with less than 30,000 miles on them stalling.
The rest of the generation (model years 2018-2020) were pretty reliable model years, as are the current generation models so far.
The best and worst years
Below is a list of the six worst model years since model year 2000:
And, below is a list of the six best model years since model year 2000:
Model years 2021 and later (Generation 14) were not included in either list.
Is the F-150 reliable?
The Ford F-150 has been a mixed bag when it comes to reliability.
According to RepairPal, the F-150 has a reliability rating of 3.5 out of 5.0, which places it in seventh out of 17 trucks. Consumer Reports rates the F-150’s reliability two out of five. Edmunds ranks the truck at three out of five. All ratings are middle of the pack, but model year will be your greatest indicator.
The F-150 is twice as likely to reach 200,000 miles compared to the average vehicle. Although, there’s a lot of room for improvement. The Toyota Tundra, for example, which has the highest rating for reaching 200,000 miles, is almost twice as likely as the F-150 to reach that milestone.
Which year of F-150 is most reliable?
The most reliable model years for the F-150, not including 2021 or later, include: 2011, 2012, 2014, 2018, 2019, and 2020.
What year F-150 has engine problems?
If you want a F-150, but also want to avoid engine problems, then steer away from getting model years 2004-2008, 2010, and 2015-2017.
The evolution of features
Besides reliability, people like comfort and safety features, as well as fuel efficiency and torque. Those aspects favor later-model trucks.
Model year 2014 is a reliable truck year that features hill descent control, decent towing capabilities, and the outdated MyFord touchscreen infotainment system. Model year 2017 introduced Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and MyKey, which allows owners to limit certain functions, such as speed limits, radio volume and constant seat belt alert. Model year 2020 F-150 features pre- and post-collision safety systems, as well as the FordPass app, which allows you to connect your phone and truck dashboard.
What is the best year for F-150?
While the Ford F-150 could have ended on a high note with Generation 10, later model years like 2020 offered more modern technology without much of the mechanical failures. That year along with 2011, 2012, 2014, 2018, and 2019 are all good choices.
Now that you know more about the Ford F-150, you may fancy buying one, or you could be in the mood for another truck altogether. Head on over to Municibid’s catalog and take your pick on some automotive government surplus today.