What to look for when buying a used Ford Explorer

Overall rating:4 Star Rating
Updated: April 10, 2017
2006 Ford Explorer
2006 Ford Explorer.

Not many SUVs can beat the ride comfort of the Ford Explorer, which is one of the reasons why it has been the best selling SUV for 15 years (1991 to 2006). With a quiet roomy cabin and powerful optional V8, it's one of the best vehicles to take your family on a long road trip.

That is of course, if you don't mind paying more for gas, as the Explorer is thirsty. The Explorer is a solid, mid-size truck-based SUV, available in 5, 6, or 7-passenger configuration, with V6 or V8 power.

The V8 Explorer is a good choice for towing. Maximum towing capacity ranges from 3,500 lb. to 7,300 lb. (when properly equipped) depending on the drivetrain, rear axle ratio and number of seats. Is a used Ford Explorer a good choice? How is the reliability and what are the common problems? Read further to find out.

Ford Explorer 2006 interior
Ford Explorer 2006 interior.
Ford Explorer third-row seats
Ford Explorer third row seat

Interior: The 5- and 7-passenger models have a bench seat in the second row. The 6-passenger Explorer comes with second-row bucket seats and a large fold-out center console.
The interior feels rich, although there is plenty of hard plastic. Seats are comfortable. Second- and third-row seats fold down flat. Third-row seats are low to the floor and have thin padding, but the head- and legroom is pretty good. The liftgate glass opens separately. Available features include power-adjustable pedals, rear climate controls, rear DVD and power folding third-row seats.

Mechanical: The Explorer comes as a rear- or four-wheel drive, with an independent front and rear suspension. Powertrain choices include a V6 with a five-speed automatic or V8 with a six-speed automatic. The base 210-hp 4.0L V6 is adequate for daily driving. The optional 292-hp 4.6L SOHC V8 is more powerful and quiet. Both the V6 and V8 are solid engines and with regular maintenance can last very long.

Fuel Economy: The EPA rates both the V6 and V8 4WD 2007 Explorer at 13/18 mpg (18.1/13.1 L/100 km) city/highway. This is about average for a truck of this size, but well behind car-based 4-cylinder SUVs like Honda CR-V or Subaru Forester. With mostly highway use, the 4WD Explorer can go up to 344 miles (554 km) on a full tank (22.5 US gallons or 85.2 liters).

Ford Explorer second row seats
Ford Explorer 2006 interior.
Ford Explorer V8 engine
Ford Explorer third row seat

Handling and ride: The Explorer handles well, but not sporty. The ride is smooth and very quiet. Bumps, potholes and cracks in the ashfalt are soaked well by the suspension.

We took the 4X4 Explorer on a few snow-covered trails with steep hills and it handled with confidence; the all-wheel drive system worked very well.

Safety: Antilock brakes and AdvanceTrac stability control system are standard. Side and side curtain airbags are available. Trailer Sway Control is standard from 2009.

The 2006-2010 Ford Explorer received five out of five stars in the NHTSA front and side-impact crash tests, and three out of five stars in rollover tests.

Pros: Ride comfort, V8 power, quiet roomy cabin, available third-row seating, standard stability control, sound system, towing capacity, off-road capability, visibility.

Cons: Gas mileage, reliability is not better than average, cup holders are too close to the transmission shifter, dirt from the front wheel splashes on the doors, limited cargo space behind the third row.

More reviews:

Ford Explorer Reliability and common problems: Consumer Reports rates the 2006 Explorer poorly for reliability, with Engine Cooling getting the worst marks. The 2007, 2008 and 2010 models are rated 'average'.
Common problems include various transmission issues, leaking radiators in the 2006 model, electrical problems, faulty ignition switch, bad wheel bearings, bad ignition coils, throttle body and emission control system faults.
Read about what to look for in a used Ford Explorer on the next page.


Ford Explorer second row seats Optional rear DVD player Ford Explorer rear seats up Ford Explorer cargo area