What to look for when buying a used Ford Focus

NHTSA   crash tests: Frontal
Driver
Frontal
Pass.
Side
Driver
Side
Pass.
2000-2001 2-dr. HB 5 Star 5 Star 4 Star 1 Star
2002-2004 2-dr. HB 4 Star 4 Star 4 Star 1 Star
2005-2007 2-dr. HB 4 Star 4 Star 3 Star 4 Star
2008-2010 2-dr. HB w/SAB 5 Star 5 Star 3 Star 3 Star
2002-2004 wagon 5 Star 4 Star n/a n/a
2000-2001 4-dr. 4 Star 4 Star 3 Star 4 Star
2002-2007 4-dr. 5 Star 4 Star 3 Star 4 Star
2008-2010 4-dr. w/SAB 4 Star 4 Star 5 Star 4 Star

Safety: The Focus scored pretty well in the crash tests except for the 2000-2004 hatchback models; see the crash test results in table.

Pros: Value for the money, fun to drive, peppy engine, roomy interior, good on gas, variety of available body styles, reliability (2005-2011), tight turning radius, cargo space, available SYNC on newer models.

Cons: Budget-quality interior materials, road noise, tires wear fast, many models don't have rear seat head restraints, small cup holders, rear disc brakes are not standard on all trims, no trunk release in some models.

Overall: The 2000-2004 Focus had plenty of mechanical problems and should probably be avoided unless you can find one dirt-cheap in excellent condition. The 2005-2011 Ford Focus is a much better choice. Consumer reports rates the 2005-2006 and 2008-2011 Focus 'above average' for reliability, which makes a used Ford Focus the most reliable choice among domestic brands.

Common problems: A faulty ignition switch lock cylinder (tumbler) causing the key not to turn in the ignition was very common in earlier models. The repair cost: $300-$430. A bad engine mount could cause the engine vibration to be felt inside the car. Replacing the top engine mount is a $300-$350 repair. There are quite a few complaints about the dropped valve seats in the 2000-2004 2.0L SPI engine (the one with the aluminum valve cover); the repair is very expensive. A faulty DPFE sensor in earlier models could cause poor idle and Check Engine light with EGR-related codes. Suspension repairs including bad sway bar links and struts are often reported, electrical issues are not uncommon too. Squeaking noise from the rear of the vehicle in 2006 and newer models when driving over bumps can be caused by a parking brake cable bracket. The repair is simple and inexpensive; there is a TSB on this issue that recommends installing a plastic insert. Variety of other interior noises are mentioned frequently. Most of the reported problems are related to 2000-2004 models; the 2005-2011 Focus doesn't have that many issues.

What to look for when buying a used Ford Focus: During a test drive watch out for a humming or rumbling noise; it could be caused by unevenly-worn (cupped) tires or a bad wheel bearing. Check all the electrical accessories, including the radio, power windows and locks, and the rear window defogger. Avoid the car if you notice a blue smoke from the exhaust or if the engine makes a rattling noise. Watch out for rust spots.

Guides for used car buyers:

Maintenance: The 2004 Ford Focus Scheduled Maintenance Guide recommends changing engine oil and rotate tires every 5,000 miles. The same guide recommends replacing a timing belt (camshaft belt) in the 2.0L engine at 120,000-miles. The timing belt condition needs to be checked regularly, as it might need to be replaced earlier if the belt shows signs of excessive wear, cracks or if it's soaked with engine oil.
The Focus SVT requires 91-octane gasoline and 5W-30 Super Premium motor oil. The SVT engine oil capacity: 4.25L or 4.5 quarts, including the oil filter change.
For the 2008 Ford Focus, the 2008 Owner's Manual recommend using SAE 5W-20 Premium Synthetic Blend Motor Oil (US) or 5W-20 Super Premium Motor Oil (Canada). The 2008 Scheduled Maintenance Guide recommends changing engine oil and rotating your tires every 7,500 miles for normal operating conditions and every 5,000 miles for special operating conditions.
More on maintenance:

Related:
Used Mazda 3 2004-2009 review »
Used Honda Civic 2006-2011 review »
Used Mitsubishi Lancer 2008-2012 review »
10 best used cars/SUVs with good fuel economy »

Resources:
Recalls: Safety Recalls - NHTSA or Transport Canada - Road Safety Recalls.
Ford Owners - check maintenance schedule or download an electronic copy of the owner's manual.
FocusFanatics - online Ford Focus community
SVTperformance.com - SVT Focus Forum.


2005 Ford Focus sedan specifications

Dimensions:
Overall length:
Overall height:
Overall width:
Wheelbase:

175.2 in (4,450 mm)
56.9 in (1,446 mm)
78.7 in (1,998 mm)
103 in (2,615 mm)

Seating Capacity:

5

Engines:
Focus S, SE, SES, 2.0L:


Focus ST 2.3L:


2.0-liter, 16-valve DOHC I-4,
130 hp @ 6000 rpm, 129 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm

2.3-liter, 16-valve DOHC
151 hp @ 5750 rpm, 154 lb-ft @ 4250 rpm
EPA Fuel Economy:

2.0L manual:


2.0L automatic:


2.3L manual:

city: 22 mpg (10.7 L/100 km)
hwy: 32 mpg (7.4 L/100 km)

city: 22 mpg (10.7 L/100 km)
hwy: 29 mpg (8.1 L/100 km)

city: 20 mpg (9.8 L/100 km)
hwy: 28 mpg (8.4 L/100 km)

Recommended Fuel:

87 octane

Fuel Tank Capacity:

14.0 US gal (53.0 liters)

Engine oil capacity:
Oil Change including filter:
2.0L:
2.3L:


4.5 US qt. (4.3 liters)
4.5 US qt. (4.3 liters)

2008 Ford Focus sedan specifications

Dimensions:
Overall length:
Overall height:
Overall width:
Wheelbase:

175.0 in (4,445 mm)
58.6 in (1,488 mm)
67.8 in (1,694 mm)
102.9 in (2,614 mm)

Seating Capacity:

5

Engine: 2.0-liter, 16-valve DOHC I-4,
140 hp @ 6000 rpm, 136 lb-ft @ 4250 rpm

EPA Fuel Economy:

Manual:


Automatic:

city: 24 mpg (9.8 L/100 km)
hwy: 35 mpg (6.7 L/100 km)

city: 24 mpg (9.8 L/100 km)
hwy: 33 mpg (7.1 L/100 km)

Recommended Fuel:

87 octane

Fuel Tank Capacity:

13.0 US gal (49.2 liters)

Engine oil capacity with filter:

4.5 US qt. (4.3 liters)