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A dark green 1994 used Ford Explorer is parked on a beach.

The Fifth Generation Ford Explorer – What Every Savvy Shopper Should Know

The popular Ford Explorer has been around since the early ’90s, with the first generation Explorer being introduced in 1991, giving this SUV a proven track record that has only gotten better with time. The Explorer has come a long way since its earliest conception, and the fifth generation surpasses all previous expectations. Ford’s Explorer has been around for more than 30 years, and with more than 8 million vehicles sold, it is, without a doubt, the best-selling SUV of all time. That’s why when it comes to buying a used car, you can’t go wrong with a used Ford Explorer.

But why are automakers and car shoppers all over the world being drawn to this crossover SUV? Why are used car buyers flocking towards the Explorer rather than Ford’s top competitors? What sets the fifth generation Explorer apart from all the rest?

Why Consider a Fifth Generation Ford Explorer?

To understand what makes a fifth generation Explorer worth considering, we must first take a look at the key features of some of the older models. After all, with a 30-year track record, it’s no question that a lot has changed over the last three decades. A lot of improvements have been made, and a few unpopular features have been eliminated, proving that Ford has the end-driver at the front of its mind 100% of the time.

First Generation: 1991-1994

Like the Bronco ii, the original Explorer was modeled after the Ford Ranger but with a few distinct differences, the most obvious of which is the larger size. Boasting a 4.0-liter engine, 145 horsepower, and 225 pound-feet of torque, this V6 came in a five-speed manual transmission as well as a four-speed automatic transmission. Getting a respectable 16 MPG, the first generation Explorer also came with a beautiful two-toned trim that was quickly dubbed the Eddie Bauer trim, after the popular outdoor clothing store.

The early Explorer came in both two-door and four-door models. With four-door models offering up to six seats, the Explorer quickly became a well-known and reliable family vehicle. Sales of this first generation Ford doubled from its first year to its second, with sales cresting 300,000 by the end of year three.

Second Generation: 1995-2001

Because of the first generation’s popularity with families, the second generation Ford Explorer moved farther away from its early similarities to the Ford Ranger and became even more family-friendly. While it still got 16 MPG, the second generation increased to 160 horsepower for Sport Utility styles and an impressive 210 horsepower for Eddie Bauer Sport Utility styles. Unfortunately, this generation of Explorers had some bad publicity regarding tires and rollovers that it would have to overcome. Even so, it was still popular with car shoppers, achieving more than 445,000 sales in the year 2000.

A couple is loading hiking gear into a black 2001 used Ford Explorer.

Third Generation: 2002-2005

By the time the third generation Explorer was introduced in 2002, its Ranger roots were almost forgotten, and this SUV was definitely a family vehicle. Thanks to the space-saving independent rear suspension, this is the generation that introduced the third row of seats, bringing the passenger count up to a comfortable seven. The third generation Ford Explorer still offered drivers 16 MPG and between 210 and 239 horsepower, depending on the style chosen. These model years discontinued manual transmissions in favor of the automatic transmission. Unfortunately, this is also the generation that faded in popularity as consumers gravitated towards new crossover models instead.

Fourth Generation: 2006-2010

The fourth generation Ford Explorer saw a small drop in fuel mileage, bringing it to 14 MPG, but with this drop in fuel mileage came even more power. Limited Sport Utility styles offered a V8 4.6-liter engine, and all models came in seven-seater options. Furthermore, the fourth generation model years came equipped with an even tougher frame than previous models. In an attempt to keep up with the competition, this generation of Explorers offered drivers even more tech features, including traction control, rear parking sensors, and more. However, these features did not resonate with consumers, and this was Ford’s least popular Explorer to date.

Fifth Generation: 2011-2019

Which brings us to the most popular generation model yet – the Ford Explorer fifth generation. These are the years that Ford really listened to what the driver wanted and adopted a more crossover-friendly model. This new Explorer brought a drastic change in look and style, abandoning the sharp and rugged look of the Ranger for a softer, sleeker body.

Another new change the fifth generation Explorers brought to the table is in regards to the frame. All previous models years thus far have come with a body-on-frame, similar to a truck. No surprise there, as this SUV was first modeled after a truck. This time, however, Ford is bringing us a unibody construction setup, making for a more comfortable driving experience.

The fifth generation Explorer saw a huge jump in MPG, coming in at an impressive 20 MPG along with 290 horsepower, thanks to the new V6 3.5-liter engine. This huge improvement in MPG probably had a lot to do with its rise in popularity. Of course, the increase in safety and tech features certainly didn’t hurt its image either. With features such as adaptive cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, and inflatable seat belts, it’s no question that the fifth generation Explorer is the best of the bunch.

A blue 2019 Ford Explorer is parked in front of a barn.

Key Benefits of a Used Ford Explorer

When it comes to buying a used Ford Explorer, there are several generations to consider. So why is the fifth generation the best of the used Explorer options? What can this model really offer drivers that previous models cannot?

One of the best reasons to consider the Explorer when used car shopping is the reliability this vehicle offers. Unlike other vehicles that struggle to hold onto their value as they age, the Ford Explorer has such a long history of consumer dependability that buying a used Explorer will get you a car you can depend on, without breaking the bank. This is especially true when you gravitate towards the fifth generation model years.

Top 13 Features of the Fifth Generation Explorer

  1. Rearview camera for safer backing and parking
  2. Inflatable seat belts for increased driver and passenger safety
  3. Collision-mitigation braking that uses sensors to help prevent collisions and accidents
  4. Adaptive cruise control for a safer and more comfortable driving experience
  5. Automated parallel parking to allow drivers easier access to difficult-to-reach parking spaces
  6. Lane-keep assistance to help tired and distracted drivers stay safely in their lanes
  7. Automatic high-beams to help drivers see in the dark without accidentally blinding oncoming traffic
  8. Telescoping steering wheel so drivers of varying sizes can more easily, and more safely, reach the steering wheel
  9. Top-of-the-line head curtain airbags for front and back seats
  10. Six-speed automatic transmission for top-of-the-line fuel economy and power
  11. Towing capacity of 5000 pounds, making this family vehicle multi-functional
  12. 12V power outlet for even more access to electronics while on the road
  13. Customizable MyFord Touch for premium communication and entertainment capabilities

Is a Used Ford Explorer Right For You?

At the end of the day, only you can decide if a used Ford Explorer is right for you. There are many popular crossover SUVs out there, from many reputable dealers. But if you’re looking for a reliable vehicle with a user-friendly infotainment system that combines family comfort with towing capacity, all wrapped up with an exceptional safety rating of 5.0, you can’t go wrong with a fifth generation Ford Explorer.