Ford Motor Company is one of the biggest automotive brands in the world. Its lineup includes a mix of compact cars, SUVs, and trucks. Ford vehicles have a long history of quality, offer innovative safety technology, and are mostly affordable.
Often, the company markets its vehicles as “Built Ford Tough” and touts the reliability of these models. However, how true are these claims?
Let’s find out.
How long do Ford vehicles last?
With proper maintenance, the average Ford vehicle should last well over 200,000 miles. If you drive 15,000 miles per year, that amounts to over 13 years of trouble-free motoring. However, if you subject your Ford vehicle to excessive abuse, it may not cross the 150,000-mile mark.
How Many Miles Can You Expect from A Ford Engine?
How long your Ford engine lasts depends on various factors, especially the engine type and use habits, and maintenance.
Ford diesel engines can last over 500,000 miles before they require an overhaul. Conversely, Ford gas engines will likely need a rebuild after reaching 200,000 miles. There is some level of uncertainty with hybrids, including Ford’s battery-powered models.
However, it is not uncommon to get 200,000 miles of head-ache-free service from Ford hybrid vehicles.
While Ford diesel engines are more expensive, they are more efficient, deliver more miles per gallon, and last far longer than petrol counterparts.
However, your riding habits and maintenance are important determinants of any engine’s longevity and reliability.
If you ride your Ford vehicle conscientiously and service it regularly, getting 200,000 miles (or more) from it is possible.
We cannot guarantee the same for owners who abuse their Ford vehicles, especially if such vehicles were not made to withstand rough handling.
For example, the Ford Mustang is a sports car and has an engine designed to handle extreme performance.
On the other hand, a regular passenger model like the Ford Fusion cannot handle high-speed drives.
If you buy a Fusion model and ride it aggressively, it will break down and won’t last long.
As said earlier, maintenance is key to extending the lifespan of any vehicle.
Without proper maintenance and upkeep, your Ford vehicle may start to develop problems even before it reaches 150,000 miles.
Finally, newer Ford models often last longer than older vehicles. This means you will probably get more miles from a 2018 or 2019 Ford Fusion than you would from an early 2000s model.
The difference in reliability is mostly due to the use of more advanced materials in production.
How Soon Should You Expect Rust On a Ford?
From our research, Fords may show signs of rust after three to five years, although this number may vary across different models.
For example, an aggrieved customer reported that his brand new Ford Explorer vehicle started rusting within the first six months. This means that time may not determine the rate of rust on your Ford vehicle.
Moreover, some Ford models are more prone to rust than others are. A good example of this is Ford Explorer, which has been found to rust easily. Particularly, Explorer models released in the early 2000s were infamous for rusting problems that gave owners headaches.
Some places users reported seeing rust on include the hatch, sunroof, door hinges, and seat frames.
While some vehicles did not suffer from rust, owners noticed that the paint in the roof and the hood area had bubbled up.
Even Ford trucks aren’t spared from rusting. In fact, we found many complaints of rust on the popular F-Series trucks. In those cases, the rust mostly occurred in the wheel wells.
Other rust-prone areas according to owners include the fenders, bumpers, rear wheel pass, and front rockers.
We also noticed that majority of owners witnessed rust within the first five years of ownership.
Like the Explorer, this rust problem is common on the older models.
Sometimes, these rust problems may result from poor manufacturing processes. An excellent example of this is the rust issue on the Explorer: a factory defect caused the front lip of the hood to hold water, inducing rust.
In addition, the region also determines how soon your Ford vehicle will start to rust.
Ford owners who live in the infamous “Rust Belt” of America reported experiencing rust as early as the second year of ownership.
The rust belt refers to regions where roads are salted in winter. Since salt is a corrosive substance, riding on salted roads inevitably leads to rust.
In addition, if you live in a coastal area your Ford vehicle may rust sooner than expected. Sea air contains salt particles which are corrosive.
Here, leaving your Ford model parked outside will significantly hasten the occurrence of rust on it.
How Long Do Ford Vehicles Last Compared to Similar Vehicles?
In its marketing campaigns, Ford advertises its models as “Built Ford Tough” indicating that they deliver exceptional reliability.
But how does Ford stack up to the competition in terms of reliability and durability? Let’s find out.
First note: While Ford’s performance reliability-wise has improved in recent years, it still lags most of its counterparts.
Below, we compare the American automaker to some of its competitors.
Ford vs. Toyota
Widely regarded as one of the most reliable automotive brands, Toyota beats Ford easily in terms of durability.
Toyota vehicles can last up to 250,000 to 300,000 miles with proper maintenance. The best you can get from most Ford vehicles is 200,000 miles, although many well-maintained Fords clock over 300,000 miles on the odometer.
On a Forbes article listing 10 cars that can go 250,000 miles, Toyota had three vehicles, more than any other brand.
Curiously, none of Ford’s vehicles made the list. This only shows the disparity between both brands when it comes to reliability.
For a vehicle to last long, you need to carry out repairs. It is important that these repairs are affordable or you may be forced to abandon the car.
According to RepairPal estimates, Toyota vehicles cost less to maintain compared to Ford vehicles. The annual repair cost of the average Toyota is $441, which is around $300 lower than that of a Ford ($775).
Ford vs. Chevrolet
As part of the “Big Four” automakers based in Detroit, Ford and Chevrolet have a history of competition dating back decades. That competition continues to this day with our research revealing that both brands last for almost the same number of miles.
While Fords can reach 200,000 miles, Chevys too can reach the same number and still be in good condition.
However, in terms of reliability, Chevrolet edges out Ford. For example, J.D Power’s 2020 Vehicle Dependability Study found that Chevrolet, on average, had 123 problems per 100 vehicles.
Ford fared a bit worse and had 126 problems per 100 vehicles.
In addition, Chevrolet vehicles are cheaper to repair compared to their Ford counterparts. Per RepairPal data, you will spend $649 in annual repair costs on a Chevrolet, compared to the $775 you will spend on a Ford.
Ford vs. Honda
Along with Toyota, Honda was responsible for the production of reliable vehicles that took the American market by storm in the 70s. Even now, Honda still ranks ahead of most American brands, including Ford, reliability wise.
While a Ford typically lasts between 150,000 to 200,000 miles, you can get up to 250,000 to 300,000 miles with a Honda vehicle.
Moreover, Hondas are cheaper to maintain in the long run compared to Fords. According to RepairPal estimates, you will spend $428 on maintenance for a Honda which is almost half of what you would spend on a Ford model.
That said, Honda vehicles suffer from rust as much as Ford vehicles. In fact, the Japanese automaker has had to recall several vehicles due to rust-related problems.
Some Honda owners have reported severe rust problems within the 1-3 years of ownership, which is faster than Ford Vehicles (3-5 years).
How Reliable Is a Ford?
As we said earlier in the article, Ford’s performance in terms of reliability is mostly average. While it ranks well among American brands, it is behind many of its foreign rivals such as Honda and Toyota reliability wise.
For example, Consumer Reports placed Ford in the middle of the pack in its 2019 dependability study. The American automaker had below average scores on RepairPal’s reliability ranking, placing 21st out of 32 carmakers.
However, among the Big Four from Detroit, Ford is perhaps the most reliable.
For instance, it ranked ahead of every American model (except Chevrolet) on J.D Power’s 2020 Annual Vehicle Dependability Study.
Much of Ford’s lackluster performance on reliability rankings is because of the problems that have plagued many of its models over the years. For example, CarComplaints.com, a complaints aggregator recorded over 1,518 complaints relating to the transmission issues on the 2002 Explorer model. It also received over 700 complaints relating to Body/Paint issues on the same model.
Similarly, the site received close to 500 complaints about transmission issues on the Ford Focus in just two years (2012/2013).
What About Recalls On Ford Models?
Ford has had its fair share of recalls over the years. Just recently, it had to recall over two million vehicles due a design defect that caused a vehicle’s door to open while the vehicle was in motion. Models affected in the recall action are mostly those released between 2011 and 2016.
According to fordproblems.com, a site detailing recalls for Ford models, Ford has issued about 817 recalls for its various models since inception. The site also lists the popular F-150 as Ford’s most recalled model with 136 recalls to date.
Another article (based on NHTSA data) ranked the F-150 as the most recalled vehicle ever. Such things often mar the reliability record of Ford and lead others to doubt its “Built Tough” mantra.
We also noticed that bigger-sized Ford models (SUVs & trucks) have been involved in more recalls compared to their smaller counterparts. For example, the highest recalls for a Ford car is for the Focus (42), followed by the Mustang (50).
Larger-sized models like the Taurus (61) and the Explorer (74) have undergone more recall actions.
Finally, it’s important to note the number of recalls for Ford models has decreased in recent years.
This is partly because of the company’s use of stronger materials, and improvements in its quality control and assessment process.
Take, for instance, the Ford Escape; Ford issued 13 recalls for the model in 2013, a number that dropped to just one in 2017. Similarly, recalls for the F-150 dropped from a record 26 to just eight in 2018.
Here’s a list showing number of recall actions for some of Ford’s popular models:
- Explorer – 74 recalls
- Fusion – 37 recalls
- F-150 – 136 recalls
- Expedition – 50 recalls
- Focus – 42 recalls
- GT – 5 recalls
- Mustang – 50 recalls
- F-450 – 42 recalls
- Taurus – 61 recalls
Are Fords Expensive to Maintain?
Yes, Fords definitely cost a lot to maintain, compared to other models.
According to RepairPal, Ford owners should expect to spend, on average, $775 on annual maintenance costs. This is over $100 higher than the average for all models ($652).
Moreover, around 15% of problems on Ford vehicles turn out to be severe, compared to the market average of 12%.
This is particularly disturbing, considering that severe repairs often require hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to fix.
Here are some common problems on recent-year Ford models and corresponding repair costs, based on RepairPal data:
Model: Ford Escape
Problem: Faulty head gasket
Model: Ford Explorer
Problem: Bad alternator
Model: Ford Mustang
Problem: Faulty AC compressor
Model: Ford F-150
Problem: Bad axle shaft
How Long Does the Brakes Last?
From our research, the brakes on your Ford vehicle should last between 30,000 to 60,000 miles. However, this number may vary depending on your driving habits and mileage of your car.
Ford itself provides an 18,000-mile warranty coverage for brake pads and will replace the pads if they wear out within the warranty period.
The company also recommends servicing the brakes at every 15,000-mile interval. This includes general inspection and topping of brake fluid.
How Long Do the Hybrid Batteries Last?
Ford hybrid batteries typically last up to eight years or 80,000 miles, and Ford will replace them if they fail within that period.
However, you can get your hybrid battery to last up to 100,000 miles by keeping it in a cool storage area.
How Long Do the Tires Last?
Going by Ford’s claim, your tires should last up to 36,000 miles. Usually, tire makers say tires can last up to 10 years provided you have them checked yearly after the fifth year.
However, the longevity of your tires mostly depends on how hard you ride your car. Ride gently and you may not have to replace the tires for a long time.
Ride hard and you may find yourself buying new tires repeatedly.
Ford recommends replacing tires once they are below 2/32’’ tread. Once the tires reach that tread depth, they can fail if they encounter a pothole or curb.
How Long Do the Transmissions Last?
The average lifespan of transmissions on Ford models is 150,000 to 200,000 miles, but some owners have even reported higher numbers.
On a Ford owners forum, we visited while researching for this piece, a user said his transmission was still going strong at 225,000 miles. Another of the forum’s members also reported that his transmission was in excellent condition at 347,000 miles.
Like other components on your vehicle, how long your transmission lasts depend on use and maintenance.
If you tow heavy loads or drive aggressively, your transmission will have a shorter lifespan. In addition, if you never service the transmission as at when due, be prepared for it to fail prematurely.
Ford recommends changing the transmission fluid once every 30,000 to 60,000 miles or once every two to four years. Note that this is a recommendation, not an order. If your riding habits or daily vehicle use warrants replacing the fluid at, say, 15,000 miles, do it.
For example, towing heavy items frequently will put the transmission under stress, hastening the breakdown of transmission fluid.
In this case, it is best if you replaced the fluid more frequently.
How Long Do the Spark Plugs Last?
Per Ford’s claims, spark plugs on Ford vehicles should last up to 100,000 miles under “normal driving conditions”.
However, if the vehicle in question frequently hauls trailers or spends lots of time in stop-and-go traffic, the lifespan of the plugs will reduce to 60,000 miles.
What About Insurance Cost?
From our research, it will cost you $117, on average, to insure your Ford vehicle. This adds up to $1,404 in annual insurance costs. This number may vary based on the model in question, region, and insurer.
Tips to Prolong the Life of Your Ford
Here are tips to increase the service life of your Ford vehicle:
1. Regular maintenance
If you want your Ford vehicle to last long, it is important that you service it regularly at intervals specified in the service manual.
We should add that you should ensure your vehicle is serviced properly. This means taking it to a reputable Ford dealership for scheduled servicing.
2. Proper driving habits
While a newer Ford is more reliable than ever, subjecting it to constant abuse will shorten its lifespan.
Except your car is a model optimized for performance such as a Ford GT or Ford Mustang, we advise that you avoid riding it aggressively as this will increase the rate of wear and tear and ultimately reduce its service life.
3. Avoid extensive modifications
It may be tempting to outfit your Ford vehicle with the latest performance-enhancing gizmo, but this will ultimately reduce its lifespan.
Increasing a vehicle’s performance often puts additional stress on the engine and transmission, leading to increased wear on those components.
Be careful about making modifications on your Ford car. The small gains in performance cannot make up for the disappointment you will get when your vehicle breaks down earlier than expected.
4. Store it properly
Prolonging your vehicle’s life involves ensuring it is stored well. Leaving your vehicle outside, exposed to the elements, will cause several problems.
Heavy rain can damage some, if not several, electrical components on your car.
This will cause these components to malfunction and reduce the overall reliability of the vehicle.
More importantly, if you live in a coastal area, parking your vehicle outside will make it susceptible to rusting. Keeping it in a garage will prevent salt particles in air from corroding the car’s body.