Are you on the market for a Ford Ranger and you want to learn what is the best year for Ford Ranger? If yes, then you are at the right place because we are going to cover everything you need to know when it comes to purchasing a Ford Ranger.
Doing the proper research before you jump out there on the market is a good idea. Buying a car is not grocery shopping and you need to study everything about the model that you plan to purchase in detail before you make your decision and pay the money for it.
I’m saying this because there are a ton of models out there that are extremely poorly built and have a ton of factory defects in them. These factory defects can cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in some cases. This will result in immense frustration and your car will have your day ruined since you will have to pay a lot of money to fix the car. And you probably don’t want that.
That’s why in this article, we are going to learn what is the Ford Ranger and we will cover the most recent generations of this truck. Then for each of them, we will discuss the specs and also the problems that you could possibly encounter. Lastly, we are going to discuss the best year for Ford Ranger for each of these generations. So, let’s begin.
What Is The Ford Ranger?
But before we dive into the Ford Ranger problems and the best year for Ford Ranger. Let’s first cover what is the Ranger in essence. Since this is quite important for those who are not familiar with the Ford Ranger at all and want to learn in which category this truck belongs.
The Ford Ranger in essence is a mid-size pickup truck. This means that it is smaller than the F-150, the Chevy Silverado, and the RAM 1500. This makes the Ranger quite more compact and the way to go for those who want a pickup truck in a smaller form factor. Because not everything is about size.
Driving a compact truck also has a ton of benefits. It’s easier to find a parking space and also driving it in narrow streets is another benefit of owning a Ford Ranger instead of an F-150. In addition to this, the running costs of the Ranger are quite more affordable and cheaper than the ones of the Ford F-150.
The repairs on the Ranger are quite cheaper to do. Since it costs a lot less to purchase this truck. That’s why if you don’t want to spend a lot of money on repairs, the Ford Ranger should be on the top of your list. Even though, the Ford Ranger also has problems as well. Because no vehicle is perfect. All, of them, have issues, some more and some of them less.
It quite also depends on luck. But you shouldn’t rely on luck. Your best bet would be to learn the best year for Ford Ranger if you don’t want to get yourself a lemon. And we are going to help you out with that.
Ford Ranger Generations
Now let’s get to business. In the following chapters, we are going to cover the three most recent generations of the Ford Ranger. Why the most recent? Because these are the trucks that you will most likely come by while you are on the market for a new or used truck. Also, they are the most documented ones which means that there is a lot to cover about them. So, let’s start discussing.
Second Generation Ford Ranger
The second generation of the Ranger was introduced for the 1993 model year and this generation of the Ranger has carried a lot from its predecessor. What is strange for this generation of the Ranger is that Ford produced this model for Mazda as well. So, if you see a Mazda B-Series, there is no question that this is a rebadged Ford Ranger.
Nevertheless, this generation of the Ford Ranger was produced up to 1997 when it was replaced with the third generation.
This generation of the Ranger came in two body styles. A two-door regular cab. And a 2 door extended cab for those who needed extra seating space. And we conclude by this that the Ranger is a pretty small vehicle when compared to the F-150.
The styling was a common 90’s styling that you will see in many car products from that era. With cheap interior materials everywhere.
There were four trim levels when it comes to the Ranger. The base was the XL that included a big bench seat. Then there was the XL Sport. But what you really want is probably the XLT or STX that included far more conveniences than the base model of the Ranger. But what is the best year for Ford Ranger? More on that in a bit.
Engines And Transmissions
The Ford Ranger was equipped with a number of engines. The base engine was a 2.3L straight-4 engine that was borrowed from the Ford Pinto. This engine produced 98hp this number was bumped to 112hp from 1995 to 1997.
The more powerful engines were the V6’s. There were two of them. One was the Vulcan 3.0L V6 that produced 140hp while the other more powerful was a 4.0L V6 that made 160hp. This is the one you probably want if you want to get a Ranger since it is the most powerful one.
In terms of transmission, there are three transmissions available. There was the Mazda 5-speed transmission, and two automatic Ford transmissions. Namely, a 4-speed and a 5-speed automatics. But what about the best year for Ford Ranger? More on that in a bit.
The fuel economy on the Ranger was quite good. The 2.3L engine delivers a good fuel economy of 21 mpg in the city and 24 on the highway and a combined fuel economy of 22 mpg. The V6s are thirstier, they get around 15 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway with 17 mpg on average.
According to the NTHSA, the Ford Ranger got 4 stars overall. But remember that this was back in 1997 and the standards used back then are not the same as today’s standards. Today the Ranger from this generation has poor safety overall, if safety is your concern then this isn’t the model for you. But what is the best year for Ford Ranger? More on that in a bit. Let’s first discuss the problems that the Ranger has.
Second-Generation Ford Ranger Problems
The first generation of the Ranger was not plagued by big problems, fortunately. But there are a few issues that are worth covering before we discuss the best year for Ford Ranger. In the following chapters, we are going to cover these issues and see if they are serious or not.
1. Warm Engine Won’t Start
This is one of the most common problems with these Rangers. Why does it happen nobody knows. The engine simply doesn’t want to start when it’s hot.
For example, you drive for a few hours on the highway and you stop to fill up the tank. Then the engine doesn’t like to start. But soon after it cools off, the engine starts with no problems whatsoever. This is one of the most peculiar problems I have ever seen. But that’s how it goes with the Ranger. Some people report that they have fixed this problem by replacing the fuel pump. So, if you have this problem, this might be worth a try.
2. Electrical Problems
There were also electrical problems with this generation of the Ranger. Some people had complaints about the dome lights and the door ajar light. They claimed that the lights do not turn off when the driver wants to.
Overall the Ford Ranger from this generation is pretty much bulletproof. No major issues around this model. Only wear and tear problems that are normal. And considering the age of the Ranger problems can become more and more frequent.
Best Year For The Second-Generation Ford Ranger
The best year for Ford Ranger of this generation would be 1997. This is the case because this year is the most recent one. This means that you will have the best that this generation of the Ranger can offer in terms of performance and safety.
When going out on the market, make sure that you find the most sorted one. Inspect the frame rails and avoid trucks with major rust issues at any cost. I’m saying this because these are notorious for developing rust on the frames. Overall, it’s a pretty good truck.
Third Generation Ford Ranger
The third generation of the Ford Ranger was introduced in 1997 for the 1998 model year. The previous generation and was a very outdated 80’s design.
The new generation of the ranger brought significant changes to how this truck drives. As well as drive train upgrades and chassis upgrades. This truck has implemented a fully boxed frame that made this truck quite safer in comparison to other trucks.
This new generation implemented 3 body styles. A 2-door regular cab, 2-door extended cab as well as 4-door extended cab pickup.
The body was also more modernized and implemented some contemporary styling cues. The trim levels stayed the same. There were the XL, XLT, SXT but what was new was the FX4 and also the Tremor trim package. But what is the best year for Ford Ranger? More on that in a bit. Let’s first discuss engines and transmissions.
Engines And Transmissions
The base engine was the 2.5L straight-4 that was making 119hp. In 2001 was introduced another straight-4 engine. This was the 2.3L in displacement and this was a Mazda engine. The 2.3L was more powerful and was making 135hp.
Then there were the V6 engines. More precisely three different ones. The base 3.0L V6 was making 145hp. Then there were two 4.0L V6 engines. One was producing 160hp and 207hp.
In terms of transmission, there were three available. The Mazda 5-speed manual, one 4-speed automatic, and also one 5-speed automatic. But what about the best year for Ford Ranger? More on that in a bit.
The 2.3L has the best fuel economy of all of the models that were produced. This Ranger delivered 27 mpg on the highway, 21 mpg in the city, and 23 mpg combined.
The V6 engine produced slightly worse fuel economy with 16 mpg in the city, 21 mpg on the highway, and 17 mpg combined fuel economy. Overall, slightly worse in this category for this generation.
The safety was slightly improved in comparison to the previous generation. But nothing major. The Ranger only scored an acceptable grade on the IIHS tests.
Third-Generation Ford Ranger Problems
Before we cover the best year for Ford Ranger. Let’s first cover the problems of this generation of the Ranger. Just to note that this generation was slightly more problematic than the previous generation. Since more electronics were introduced a lot of them can fail. But let’s see what are the major issues concerning this model.
1. Electrical Problems
A lot of electrical issues were reported on this generation similarly as with the previous one. There are a ton of issues with dome lights, door lights, display on the dash doesn’t work as it should, the whole cluster shuts off, wipers activate by themselves, check engine lights for no reason. Overall, a ton of issues that can be really frustrating to deal with since the wiring is bad and creates these problems.
2. Cracked Cylinder Heads
This problem most often appears on engines that are over 100,000 miles and can be a real pain to fix. Namely, because this repair is crazy-expensive. It could easily cost you more than $2,000 to get this issue sorted. That’s why before you buy, pay attention to the cylinder heads of the truck that you intend to purchase. A good inspection will tell a lot about it.
3. Automatic Transmission Problems
People also reported problems with the automatic transmission of the Ranger. Precisely the one on the 4.0L V6 engine. They claimed that the O/D light was flashing all the time. This was reportedly due to a bad solenoid in the transmission that had to be replaced in order for the transmission to continue working as it should.
But some people even reported that they had to change the whole transmission in their Ranger which is crazy. Others have reported that they replaced the clutch drum. Be aware of this problem!
Another transmission problem concerns the transmissions on the 3.0L V6 engine. Some owners have reported rough shifting that annoyed a ton of owners. Some of them also reported that the transmission has failed as well.
4. Rust Issues
Frames on this generation are also notorious for rusting. They simply disappear when they are exposed to salty roads in the winter. That’s why if you plan to get a Ranger from the east coast, better forget it. It’s highly likely that it is full of rust issues and driving like this is pretty dangerous.
Imagine that your frame crumbles in the middle of the traffic. I would stay away from anything that looks rusted below. Also, be aware of trucks that are painted with rust resilient paint. This in fact isn’t painted but some kind of coat that traps the moisture between the metal and develops rust like crazy. But what is the best year for Ford Ranger? That’s what we are going to cover next.
Best Year For The Third-Generation Ford Ranger
When it comes to the best year for Ford Ranger from this generation. The newer the better. I would strongly recommend you to go only for 2009 models and above. These models are the best when it comes to problem-free ownership.
Also, beware of rust on the Rangers from this generation. Their frames tend to rust pretty heavily. The frame is the component that is holding the body and without it, the truck will simply crumble and will be unusable. It could also be dangerous for you and your occupants. That’s why pay attention to this if you don’t want to get a rust bucket.
Ford Ranger T6
The Ford Ranger T6 is the newest in the lineup of Ford’s pickup trucks. This generation is a fresh start for the Ranger. The last of the US Ranger was produced in 2011 and up until 2018, the Ranger was on a hiatus in the North American market. That was the time when Ford has decided to introduce the Asian model of the Ranger into the market in 2018.
This model is in production from 2011 up till now. In 2023 it will be replaced with the next generation of the Ranger.
As we said, this is a whole new platform and it is day and night when it comes to the previous Ranger that incorporated boxy design. This Ranger is more modern and full of technology. The safety is also excellent and it delivers quite a lot in comparison to the older models.
This model is sold as a 4-door SuperCab and as a 4-door SuperCrew body style. When it comes to looks it strongly reminds me of the Hilux made by Toyota.
This generation shares the same trim levels as its predecessor, the base is the XL then is the XLT, while the top trim is the Lariat. There are also Sport, FX, and Chrome packages. These packages are available for all three trims.
Engines And Transmissions
There is only one engine in the US model of the Ranger and that is the 2.3L straight-4 engine that is turbocharged. This engine is making about 269hp which is plenty it is also equipped with a 10-speed automatic transmission that is one of the best out there.
The Ranger also performs quite well when it comes to fuel economy. It gets 26 mpg on the highway and 21 mpg in the city. With a combined fuel economy of 26 mpg. Making it a good choice for those who want a fuel-efficient pickup truck. But what about the best year for Ford Ranger? More on that in a bit.
According to the IIHS, the Ford Ranger performs quite well with an overall evaluation of “Good” which is their highest grade when it comes to safety. Only slight note, in the lower leg area the Ranger only got a Marginal grade. So, it’s worth noting this.
Ford Ranger T6 Problems
Since this model is fairly new to the US market there is not a lot to report on it. We did good research when it comes this model and there was nothing serious to cover on it. These trucks are practically brand new. So, we cannot expect that they will develop issues this soon.
We also went on Edmunds and the 2020 model there gets 4.1 stars out of five and a lot of the owners are telling positive things about this model.
Best Year For The Ford Ranger T6
When it comes to the best year for Ford Ranger for this generation, any year is a good year. Both 2019 and 2020 have good feedback on Edmunds. Many of the owners as we mentioned are saying good things about it and they are not reporting any major problems whatsoever.
When getting a used Ranger, just make sure that you find a good example with low miles and all the services done regularly. That is the beginning of a happy ownership.
In this article, we have covered a lot when it comes to the Ford Ranger. First, we learned what is the Ford Ranger and why is a good option for you if you are in the search for a mid-size pickup truck.
Then we have covered the last three generations of the Ranger and we learned everything about them when it comes to trim levels, engines and transmissions, fuel economy, safety, and other interesting specs that a buyer wants to read. Then we have covered the most common problems for each separate generation and lastly, we have covered the best year for Ford Ranger for each of these generations.
The newest Ranger is an excellent buy if you are asking for me. This new truck offers a lot at quite an affordable price point. And on the second-hand market, you could find one for an even better deal. It’s up to you to look and find a nice example.
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