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The Ford Ranger re-entered the American lineup in 2019, so we only have a couple years to look at in terms of reliability. What we found is kind of interesting.

For a completely new model returning after an 8-year hiatus, we’d expect to see some glaring problem, like we did with the Jeep Gladiator.

But we didn’t.

Looking at issues logged on CarComplaints.com as well as recalls on NHTSA.gov and overall reliability on Consumer Reports, the new Ford Ranger actually comes off looking pretty good in the reliability arena. However, the Ranger isn’t without a few minor issues – and it is still lagging behind its competitors.

Recalls from NHTSA

So far, the Ranger has only had eight total recalls for 2019 and 2020 models – six of those were for the 2019 model. The biggest recall covering most of the vehicles sold (72,718 out of 83,571) pertained to inoperative taillights. That’s not ideal, and sure, there’s crash potential, but this isn’t something like an exploding engine that will set your vehicle on fire. To us, this is a fairly minor and easily fixed (for free) issue.

Speaking of fire, however, there were two separate recalls for the blower motor – one to fix a potential short (17,965) and one to fix the fix in some of the repaired vehicles (5,384).

There’s also a not insignificant recall for improperly installed front passenger seatbelts (7,579).

The final two recalls are much smaller, affecting less than 3k vehicles each, but relate to the gearshift either incorrectly indicating the vehicle is in park or shifting out of park unintentionally.

Ford Ranger Reliability

Screen shot from the NHTSA.gov website that shows a summary of recalls, complaints and investigations for Ford Ranger and Jeep Gladiator.

Fast forwarding to 2020, and there have only been two recalls so far – one on the rearview camera and another for the gearshift.

The latter recall hearkens back to the first gearshift recall in February of 2019, as it specifically relates to the 10-speed transmission and the transmission selection not matching the indicated gear selection. Because F-150s and Expeditions are also included in this recall, it’s unclear just how many Rangers were involved, but the total recall is for 55,158 vehicles.

It’s also worth noting that in these first two model years, the Ranger has only had a total of 50 customer complaints on the NHTSA website. As a reference point, if we compare this to the final two model years of the current-gen F-150, you’re looking at a total of 12 recalls and 131 complaints.

Low rankings from Consumer Reports

With minimal complaints and recalls logged, that means the Ford Ranger has to be high on the Consumer Reports reliability lists, right? Wrong.

The 2019 model got a 1 out of 5 for overall reliability, and while it fared better for 2020 at 4 out of 5, it still ranks at the bottom of the midsize pickup truck reliability list.

So, what gives?

Well, Consumer Reports looks at how models have performed in the past to get a current ranking. Considering that the last Ranger was a 2011 model, which was at the end of its lifecycle, you have a big gap in time and technology to consider.

Plus, the reliability score is based on subscriber feedback. So, you not only have to own a Ranger but also subscribe to Consumer Reports, and there is no indication of how many people are providing feedback – it could be 1, or it could be 83,571.

2020 Ford Ranger (Image courtesy of Ford Motor Co.)

The transmission, power equipment and drive system get the largest dings for 2019, and in-car electronics and the HVAC system get the largest dings for 2020. So, there are no consistent trouble spots between the two model years, and there is a vast improvement between predicted reliability from 2019 to 2020.

What’s really weird about the Consumer Reports rankings, however, is that even though Ranger scores a 4 out of 5 for 2020 in terms of predicted reliability, it’s ranked last on the list of 2020 midsize pickup trucks with the – get this –Jeep Gladiator scoring the first.

What in the huh?

Nothing against Consumer Reports, but this is probably the most skewed raking system in existence – again, because there’s no indication of how many people are contributing to the results. If only one Ford Ranger owner responded and 20 Jeep Gladiator owners responded, and both had one person who had problems – well, you see the issue.

Ford Ranger Reliability

A screen shot of the CarComplaints.com data on the Ford Ranger.

But what does this mean?

Frankly, we think it means the Ford Ranger is pretty solid.

We haven’t mentioned CarComplaints.com yet, and really, that’s because it only lists three complaints total for both 2019 and 2020 model years. All three are from 2019, none are egregious, and none mirror the recalls.

If you’re trying to figure out how Consumer Reports factors in, we’d say the overall reliability rating of 4 out of 5 is what matters. Yes, other trucks are getting 5 out of 5, but considering Ford Ranger had an 8-year break, we’re ok with 4 out of 5.

That being said, we’d likely opt for 2020 over 2019.

A word (or 126) about the old Ford Ranger

If you are looking at the older Ford Ranger, however, there are significantly more complaints and recalls. But you have to remember, those vehicles have had time to steep at this point. So, you’ll want to do more research into the specific vehicle you’re buying (do a VIN check!) because all these vehicles will be out of warranty, so all the repairs will be on you.

That being said, looking only at the 2000s – all of which fall in Ranger’s third generation – this midsize truck from Ford fares pretty will in 2010 and 2011. It gets horrible rankings in 2000, 2001 and 2004. It also appears there were some major engine complaints in 2002, and Consumer Reports logged issues with engine cooling for that same year.

The bottom line on Ford Ranger reliability

The Ford Ranger’s rivals include the GMC Canyon, Chevy Silverado, Toyota Tacoma, Honda Ridgeline and Nissan Frontier – and four of the six trucks got 5 out of 5 predicted reliability scores from Consumer Reportsfor 2020. Only Ranger and Ridgeline did not – but they both scored 4 out of 5.

Every model has a lemon or two, so you always have to take rankings and complaints with a grain of salt. But what we were looking for was some kind of huge recognized problem – like the steering issue logged and subsequently fixed in the Gladiator – but there wasn’t one.

Related posts:

VIDEO: 5 Good/Bad Things About 2019 Ford Ranger

How is 2020 Jeep Gladiator reliability so far? Early reports suggest a consistent issue

How reliable is the Ford F-150 pickup truck?

 

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Jill Ciminillo

Jill Ciminillo is a syndicated automotive writer. Jill also manages the “Drive, She Said” blog for ChicagoNow and posts reviews to DriveChicago. She is the president emeritus of the Midwest Automotive Media Association and has the distinction of being the first female president for that organization. She also serves as a judge for the Automotive Heritage Foundation Journalism Awards. Previously, Jill has been the automotive editor for the Sinclair Broadcast Group, the Chicago Sun-Times News Group and Pioneer Press Newspapers.

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1 Comment

  1. Edward J Wullschleger April 12, 2021

    Thanks for the article, Jill. I’ve noticed odd things with Consumer Reports as well, relative to my own experience with Rangers. I bought a 2008 Ranger in Oct. 2008 and drove it over 130,000 mile, towing a 3500 lb trailer for about 10,000 of those miles before trading it in on a new 2019 Ranger in Feb. of 2020. I’d fixed a number of things on the 2008 Ranger over the years (mostly the A.C. and some steering components) but never had any problems with the engine or transmission.

    Now I’ve put 12,000 miles on the 2019 Ranger, including 2000 miles of towing the same trailer and I just love it! The 2019 solves the “squirrely” steering issues that the older Rangers had with bumpy roads and everything else seems better as well. Apparently, this 2.3L turbo engine and 10 speed transmission have been reliable over the past years on other Ford vehicles, so I’m hoping they hold up well on these new Rangers. By the way, I’ve been watching closely and don’t see any significant differences between the 2019, 2020, and 2021 Rangers in terms of their specifications. I would expect them to all have essentially the same reliability.

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