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Since its launch in 1997, the Ford Expedition has been very popular. But is there a model that stands out? Which is the best year Ford Expedition?

In terms of the best value for money, the later third-generation models from the years 2015-17 are the best. But if you are looking for more technologically advanced features, you will be pleased to see the refined luxuries on the fourth generation, which started production in 2018.

If you are looking to buy an Expedition, it is important to pay attention to the vehicle's overall condition. Expeditions are built to last but require proper care. Even If you find a shiny vehicle, but the owner does not have a service history, or you suspect that the car has hardly received any maintenance under the hood, it is best to steer clear of it. Poorly maintained Expeditions will be more of a burden than a blessing and can quickly drill a hole in your wallet.

Many mechanics love to work on the Ford Expedition because it shares a lot of parts with the rugged F-150 truck. Among the many advantages is that you will not have any issues finding spare parts or trusted mechanics for this vehicle. Any mechanic repairing your vehicle will likely have adequate experience with the same job, meaning your car will be in safer hands.

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Should I Buy the Ford Expedition?

Ford Expedition is exceptional when it comes to durability. In addition to transporting large families with comfort and safety, the Expedition also has magnificent towing capabilities. However, we need to keep in mind that they are not ordinary or pocket-friendly SUVs.

If you are looking for an SUV that can take you places without taking too much out of your pocket, the Expedition will probably not be a choice. But, if you are looking for something long-lasting, cutting-edge that comes with top-rated road capabilities and entertainment features, the Expedition will be a perfect choice.  

First Generation (1997 – 2002)

The first generation came with two V8 engine options; the 4.6 liter producing 215 HP and the 5.4 liter producing 230 HP. The 5.4 liter was upgraded to 260 HP in 1999. If you are more into luxurious features, higher-end trims of the Expedition offer leather seats, power-adjustable pedals, sonar parking assist, power moon roof and Ford’s signature keypad entry system.  

If you can find a first-generation Expedition that has been kept with proper care, you can get outstanding value for your money. With a price range between $2,000 and $5,000, they offer comfortable seating for eight people, a smooth ride and above all, the power of a V8 engine. But this luxury and space come at the cost of fuel economy. You are lucky if the early Expedition squeezes out anything above 13 miles per gallon.

Second Generation (2003 – 2006)

The second-generation Ford Expedition was launched at the 2002 Detroit Motor Show. It featured modern styling and a more boxy design. Since the third generation did not receive significant upgrades in terms of aesthetics, it means that the second generation aged well.

The second-generation housed upgraded versions of the first generation engines. The new engines were quieter and had less vibration. The cabin was also reinforced with soundproof insulation to make the Expedition quiet and comfortable.

But what made the second generation stand out was the independent four-wheel suspension. It was the first of its kind for large SUVs. As expected, the revolutionary suspension became quite controversial initially. Many believed that towing capacity would be compromised as the new suspension focused more on comfort. But what happened was the opposite; the towing capacity was increased to 8900 pounds.

The second-generation flaunted many cutting-edge technologies like Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), Antilock brake system (ABS), stability control, and traction control. Ford Expeditions for the model 2003 – 2006 has a five-star safety rating.

Ford added further upgrades to the engine in 2005. The new 5.4 liter V8 produced over 300 HP and featured VVTi or Variable Valve Timing. This technology slightly improved the fuel economy and made the large SUV more environment-friendly. The four-speed transmission was also revamped to make shifting smoother. The 4.6 liter version was discontinued.

Third Generation (2007 – 2017)

Since Ford was selling one-fifth of its Expeditions in Texas, it decided to launch the third generation at the Houston Auto Show. This generation did not offer significant differences as compared to the previous generation. Ford decided to carry forward the familiarity and kept things simple.

In 2007, the Expedition offered a refreshed exterior and housed a Tier 1 ladder frame design, making the SUV stronger and more rigid. Inside, better quality materials and a solar-tinted windshield were added. To compete with the GMC Suburban, a longer EL model was introduced.

Under the hood, the Expedition was still powered by the 5.4 liter V8 beast, and the transmission was upgraded to a six-speed 6R75.

In terms of reliability, the third generation had a surprisingly low number of recalls. No vehicles were recalled from the years 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2014. The year 2008 saw four, and 2012 saw only three recalls. The low number of recalls speaks about the reliability of the Ford Expedition from these years.

But it does not mean that the third generation was all problem-free. Some issues were common in the third generation. By far, the most common issue was spark plugs getting stuck in the engine block. Many owners have also reported malfunctioning of the airflow sensor, which results in high gas consumption and rough idling. However, a simple cleaning of the sensor and its wires is enough to solve the problem.

Ford used aluminum hoods and trunks to save weight for the larger body, which did not go as well as expected. The aluminum started to corrode with time leading to bubbling paint. As ugly as it looked, it did not have any effect on the structural rigidity of the Expedition.

The 2008 upgrade added more features like a running board and a much-needed backup camera. The engine was also upgraded to produce 310 HP and supported E85 FlexFuel. The transmission was also revamped to the 6R80, which was more robust and had a tow mode.

On the inside, Ford SYNC technology was introduced, and the infotainment system received major updates.

A facelift of the Expedition was released in 2014 with the introduction of four-level trims; Platinum, King Ranch, Limited and the XLT. The facelift featured thinner headlights, a new grille and a fancy bumper. The SUV now came with four-wheel drive, hill start assist and hill descent control.

The 5.4 liter engine was replaced with a 3.5 liter twin-turbo V6. The modern double overhead camshaft engine produced 365 HP. The new technologies improved the fuel economy of the Expedition to 18 miles per gallon.

Modern SUVs and trucks are very complicated and have a variety of systems. It is common to see at least seven to ten recalls a year. But for the Ford Expedition, the years 2015, 2016 and 2017 saw zero recalls, which in itself is a demonstration of the SUV’s reliability.

Fourth Generation (2018 – Present)

Carrying forward the tradition, Ford launched the fourth generation Expedition at the Dallas Cowboys Training Facility in Texas. The new Expedition uses a Tier 3 platform, constructed using boron steel. The body is composed mostly of a much lighter aluminum alloy. This alloy allows weight savings of up to 300 pounds over the previous generation.

Incorporating modern technology, Ford added a hybrid version to their lineup for fuel saving. The transmission was also upgraded to a ten-speed 10R80, controlled using a rotary dial on the dashboard console.

Carrying on the legacy of passenger comfort, the fourth generation Expedition houses a lot of technical gadgetries. The vehicle offers:

  • An in-built WIFI hotspot that can support up to ten devices within a fifty feet radius
  • Six USB Outlets for charging at different locations inside the vehicle
  • Wireless charging pad
  • Household plug socket
  • Optional dual-screen rear seats for streaming content directly from your phone

With complicated technology and advanced systems, more things can go wrong. The new Expedition saw six recalls in 2018, three in 2019 and seven in 2020. The recalls were mainly for the following issues:

  • Automatic Emergency Braking System - The company needed to refresh and upgrade the software
  • Seat Issues like weak welds and other seat support issues
  • Door Chime needed to be reprogrammed

Transmission issues

  • The transmission indicator on the console often showed a different gear than the one the vehicle was in
  • The Park (P) function on the transmission failed, and the vehicle would start rolling even with the transmission in Park.

Rear Toe Link Replacement

This was the most crucial recall of all. If you are looking to buy an expedition, make sure that this replacement has been completed. A broken toe link on the rear suspension can cause you to lose control of your vehicle, resulting in a crash or even a flip.

Is Ford Expedition Worth the Price?

Generally, the Ford Expedition is a very rugged and reliable vehicle. If you are looking to buy the earlier generation, make sure to consult with the previous owner regarding how they have maintained their vehicle. It is important to pay attention to the oil change intervals and also when the spark plugs were changed.

First generations, although exquisitely stylish in the nineties, maybe old now. But if you are lucky enough to find one that has been cared for properly, it will be an amazing value for your money.

Middle gens like the second and third are remarkable when it comes to reliability. As discussed above, model years 2010, ’11, and 2013 – 2017 did not see any recalls. It will be hard to find an Expedition for 2015 – 2017 in the third generation as they are most sought after due to the new 3.5 liter engine.

Fourth-generation Expeditions have seen the most recalls in the history of the vehicle. But it is also important to remember that they are far more technologically advanced and feature a more up-to-date design. You will also find some with very little mileage on the odometer, adding to their reliability.

Our Verdict

If you are looking to get the most value for your money, we recommend opting for the later third generations. Models from the years 2015 to 2017 saw no recalls and flaunted the new 3.5 liter V6 engine.

Which Models of Ford Expedition to Avoid

Keeping in view customer complaints and expert reviews, 2006 was the model that had the most complaints, and most of them were related to engine problems and bubbling paint.

The owners complained that the engine would repeatedly break down and sometimes even stall on the highway. Numerous owners suggested solutions like throttle body or sensor replacement. But these repairs could range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

The second generation of the Ford Expedition was the one that lasted for only three years. This was mainly due to the engine problems the vehicle had. If you choose to buy a second-generation Expedition, you might end up spending so much on repairs that you could have easily bought a newer generation.

How True are The Rumors of Transmission Issues?

The 2018 Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator both are known for their transmission problems. Many owners report that the vehicle erratically shifts down to a lower gear without any reason, causing the engine to run into the red line and shut off.

Ford curbed the problem with their recent software updates, and this issue has been resolved. But some owners still report the vehicle shifts poorly between gears.

Overall, the Expedition transmission is not bad, but some owners have reported the problems discussed. If you want to buy a 2018 Expedition, it is best to have the transmission inspected to uncover any hidden problems. Taking the necessary precautions can save you from unwarranted problems and expenses in the future.

Best Year Ford Expedition

About The Author

Charles Redding

Charles Redding

I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.

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