And the Most Complained-About Vehicle Is . . .

Car Talk Car Complaints

Car Talk Car Complaints | Apr 28, 2016

We’d like to propose a toast to the Ford Explorer, in honor of all the examples out there that have turned themselves into, well, toast.

The humble 2002 Ford Explorer is the most complained-about vehicle of all time. Congratulations?

Over at, the 2002 Explorer gets the dubious distinction of topping the list of worst vehicle overall. But it doesn’t stop there. The Explorer snags four of the top 15 spots in all, with ’03,’04, and ’06 models coming in at nos. 3, 7, and 14. The problems run the gamut from one end of the truck to the other, led by gripes about transmissions, bodies and paint. Together, they add up to a record no other model can begin to approach, making it our greatest hit, our undisputed all-star, and truly a turd among turds.

For some reason, the 2005 Explorer doesn’t make the list. But there’s probably not a bookie in ‘Vegas who would wager that one of those would be a good bet for the long haul.

Three times in the top 10! Congratulations! (

To determine a vehicle’s overall ranking, uses a proprietary PainRank™ algorithm, which factors in a vehicle’s average mileage at the time of the failure, the cost for parts and repairs to fix it, a relative analysis of all related complaints, and how owners’ rank their own vehicles on a one to five scale.

Between all model years, the Explorer has inspired an impressive 11,299 owners to drop us a line, with 7,000 of those coming from those stuck with 2002 models. Mercifully, many Explorers that old have already decomposed their way into oblivion, so the likelihood of running across one on a used car lot is slim. But we’re still getting letters about the ones that remain.

11,000+ complaints, or if every one of the 3800 Waldo impersonators in this Guiness Book of World Records attempt were to write us three times. (William Murphy, CC 2.0 via Flickr)

“This truck has been nothing but problems,” writes Melessa W. of Columbus, OH, who lists ongoing problems including electrical and transmission issues since her father bought their Explorer in 2004. “It is a nightmare, but a car payment isn't in the budget at this time or this headache would be gone.”

The good news is that the Explorer has come a long way, and newer models haven’t been making such frequent appearances on But that may be changing. The 2013 Explorer has recently landed in the number three spot on the trending problem list, primarily due to owners reporting peeling paint from their aluminum hoods. This is something that has been a problem on many Ford models for years, including some older Explorers.

Peeling paint is a common problem. On the plus side, we hear the "shabby chic" look is still in. (

A quick Internet search will return lots of links to reports of lawsuits and even Facebook pages for frustrated owners. To its credit, Ford has been addressing the issues and picking up the necessary repairs and paint for some owners, but not all. In addition, the 2013 Explorer has been the subject of six recalls and numerous Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs).

If the paint is peeling off your newer Explorer, the best bet is to contact your dealer. If that doesn’t help, try Ford Customer Service at (800) 392-3673. And let us know how you make out.

If on the other hand you’re on a budget and shopping for an older SUV, you might just want to Explore other options.

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