The Ford F150 Truck’s Best and Worst Years. The Ford F-series truck has been one of the top trucks on the American market for more than seven decades. The F-150 made its debut in 1975 and has since become one of the most popular models in the entire series. They are well-known for being a dependable work vehicle that can withstand a beating while transporting a family. However, not every F-150 has lived up to the reputation, and there have been a number of duds. So, which years are the greatest and worst for Ford F150 trucks?
While the answer is disputed, we’ll use our years of F-150 knowledge to try to reach a decision. Our criteria are straightforward. We’ll start with the official list of complaints from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for each year. We’ll combine it with what we know directly about Ford’s F-series trucks, as well as some in-depth study. Let’s get this party started.
The best and worst years in Ford F150 truck history
Before we go, we must realize that this is a highly contentious topic. Throughout our investigation, we came across numerous users who said that the same year and trim level were the best and worst years for Ford F150 pickups. With that in mind, let’s go over the full history of the Ford F-150 truck.
The first three iterations of the F-series
On November 27, 1947, the first Ford F-series rolled off the assembly line. The Ford Bonus-Built debuted for the 1948 model year, with four distinct engine options. These engines produced 95-145 horsepower and varied from a Flathead straight-six to a Flathead V8. The most powerful engine was the 155 horsepower 317 cid first generation Lincoln Y-Block V8, which was only available in 1952.
Ford unveiled the second iteration of the F-series in 1953. The new F-series was dubbed the Triple Economy, replacing the Bonus-Built designation from the previous generation. The naming strategy for trucks was also altered in the second generation F-series. The first generations were known as the F-1 – F-9, and the second generations were dubbed the F-100 – F-900. An optional automatic transmission was also added for the second generation.
Ford released the third generation in 1957, modifying the nomenclature scheme even again. The versions that were available at the time were the F-100 and F-350, with the F-100s being 12 ton trucks and the F-350s being 1 ton trucks.
The F-150 from the 1960s through the 1980s
The fourth generation of the F-series was introduced by Ford in 1967 and lasted five years, until 1972. Ford introduced the first officially titled F-150 in 1975, during the fifth generation. It was a somewhat heavier duty version of the F-100 truck that has remained in the lineup ever since. In contrast to the conventional F-100 12 ton truck, Ford referred to it as a “heavy” 12 ton truck.
The seventh generation F-series was produced from 1980 to 1986, and it included more than a dozen engine options. Ford also completely redesigned the F-150 this year, making it more square and boxy – the pinnacle of 1980s style, just look at the Foxbody – which lasted through the 1990s. The F-150 was the smallest model available in the F-series during the seventh generation, as Ford discontinued the F-100.
F-150 SVT Lightning versions and current F-150s
The eighth generation ran from 1987 to 1991, and the ninth generation ran from 1992 to 1997. Ford released the F-150 SVT Lightning in 1993, during the ninth generation. This was a high-performance model with 240 horsepower and 340 pound-feet of torque. Ford sold over 11,500 units during its three-year production run from 1993 to 1995, and it is now regarded as one of the most iconic F-150 models of all time.
Ford fully redesigned the F-150 to kick off the tenth generation in 1997. They abandoned the boxy and flat design in favor of a more modern rounded shape and a fresh new chassis. Ford reintroduced the F-150 SVT Lighting from 1999 to 2003. This time, though, it has a supercharged 5.4 L V8 engine with 360 horsepower and 440 lb-ft of torque. For 2002, Lincoln also debuted the short-lived Blackwood truck, which is essentially a Lincoln-badged F-150.
Ford introduced the eleventh generation F-series in 2004 and completely redesigned it. This is by far the most reviled generation of the F-150, and it was plagued by engine and quality control issues from the start. Ford debuted the first EcoBoost engine, the 3.5 L EcoBoost twin-turbo V6, during the twelfth generation, 2009-2014. The twin-turbo V6 was launched in 2011 and has remained in the range ever since. That same year, Ford introduced the 5.0 Coyote engine, which is still available today.
Current F-150 models, as well as Raptor, Raptor R, and electric Lightning variations
In 2015, Ford unveiled the thirteenth generation. In addition to the Coyote and 3.5 EcoBoost Nano, Ford debuted the first turbo-diesel, the 3.0 L Powerstroke V6, in 2018. The Powerstroke is rated at 250 horsepower and 440 pound-feet of torque. This is Ford’s smallest Powerstroke ever, designed to compete with the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel. It is only available in the F-150 and can tow up to 11,440 pounds while achieving 22/25 mpg.
The current fourteenth generation began in 2021 and will enter its third model year in 2023. Optional engines include the 2.7 and 3.5 EcoBoost twin-turbo V6s, the 3.3 L Cyclone V6, and the 5.0 Coyote V8. The high-performance F-150 Raptor, which was first unveiled in 2010, is also available. It now has a twin-turbo 3.5 EcoBoost V6 engine with 450 horsepower.
The ultra-high performance Raptor R will be available in 2023. The Raptor R is powered by a supercharged 5.2L V8 engine with 700 horsepower and 640 lb-ft of torque. Beginning in 2022, Ford will offer the All-electric F-150 Lightning, the world’s first electric F-150 truck. Despite mixed reviews, it produces 452-580 horsepower and 775 pound-feet of torque. It has a 230-300 mile range and a towing capacity of up to 10,000 pounds depending on the trim.
Criteria for the best and worst years of Ford F150 pickups
Now that we’ve covered the history of the F150, let’s look at the best and worst years for Ford F150 trucks. We’ll start with the ninth generation in the 1990s because they’re the oldest ones still available on the used market.
We took several factors into account while determining the greatest years of the Ford F150. The engine comes first and foremost. Whatever else a truck has, it must have a powerful and dependable power plant to guide it. We took into account not just peak horsepower but also towing capacity and, most crucially, torque-power band. If you want a good truck, you need a lot of torque early on, so we accounted for that.
Following an examination of the engine and towing capacities, we concentrated on appearances, interior quality, suspension and gearbox considerations, electronics, and overall dependability. While early F-150s lacked infotainment systems and beautiful HD displays, their interiors were nevertheless adequate for the time and price range.
Furthermore, for many Ford enthusiasts, the various transmission options, suspension reliability, and overall looks might make or break a generation of the F-series. Not all of Ford’s transmissions have received favorable reviews, and some of them have significantly harmed the F-150’s drivability/reliability. Furthermore, some years have experienced dangerous suspension difficulties, which can lead to pricey repairs.
Best Ford F150 Engines
The most apparent alternatives for the greatest modern F-150 engines are the current 3.5 EcoBoost twin-turbo V6 and 5.0 Coyote V8. Both are regarded very reliable engines that create a lot of power. The 3.5 EcoBoost is the same V6 engine found in the Ford GT, however it is significantly less powerful and tailored for truck usage. The 5.0 Coyote engine is also included in the Mustang GT and is considered one of the best engines of the previous two decades.
Peak torque is produced by the Coyote in the F150 at 3,850-4,500 RPM, depending on the variant. In the F150, Ford rated it at 360-395 horsepower and 380-400 pound-feet of torque. It features a wide power spectrum and plenty of low-end torque. In some ways, the twin-turbo 3.5 EcoBoost is even better, producing 365-400 horsepower and 420-500 lb-ft of torque. It produces torque significantly sooner, at 2,500 RPM in the first generation Ecoboost, and is ideal for hauling – or racing.
The modular 4.6 L V8 offered from 1997 to 2010 is regarded a reliable earlier engine. These engines produced 220-290 horsepower and 290-320 pound-feet of torque. Ford provided the F150 with two and three-valve engines, which are among the best the F-150 has ever had. They have a lot of useable low-end torque and can tow a lot of weight.
Worst Ford F150 Engines
The 3-valve 5.4 L Triton V8 is at the top of the list of the worst F150 engines ever produced. Ford launched the 5.4 Triton V8 in 2-valve form in 1997, and to be honest, it’s not awful. The true issue is the 3-valve variant Ford released with the F150 in 2004. Because of the numerous complaints, this variant is known as the worst F150 engine ever. Ford retained a version of the 3-valve 5.4 Triton until 2010, when it was phased out.
Except for the 5.4 Triton, most F150 engines are regarded reliable. Some of them, such as the 4.2 Essex V8, have had minor issues with head gaskets or spark plugs, but they are not endemically problematic engines in general.
Ford F150 Years of Excellence
The Ford F150’s greatest years are 1993-1994, 1996, 1997-1998, 2001, 2003, 2009, 2012, 2014, and 2018+. Beginning with the ninth and tenth generations in the 1990s, the F-150 experienced a string of successful years. The ninth generation of the F150 is largely regarded as one of the best in history.
The 4.9L straight-six, 5.0 L V8, and 5.8 L V8 engines were available as options for the ninth generation. Though they lack in horsepower, they are quite dependable and capable of hauling reasonable amounts on a constant basis. There are several ninth generation F150s still on the road today, demonstrating how good they are.
The tenth generation produced some excellent vehicles, particularly in 1997-1998, 2001, and 2003. The entire front suspension was rebuilt and modified, and the 1997 F150 was named Truck of the Year by Motor Trend. Ford equipped it with the 4.2 Essex, 4.6 Triton, and 5.4 Triton V8 engines. Alternatively, for the F-150 Lightning, there’s the supercharged 5.4 Triton. Ford introduced the King Ranch trim in 2000, and it is now one of the most popular F150 models.
The F150’s eleventh generation is another strong one, particularly the model years 2009, 2012, and 2014. Beginning in 2011, the 3.5 EcoBoost twin-turbo and 5.0 Coyote V8 engines were available as options. The 4.6 and 5.4 Tritons were also phased out. The F-150 Raptor, a high-performance version of the F-150, was introduced in 2010.
Since the 2018 F-150, the thirteenth and fourteenth generations have been quite reliable. They include the same 3.5 and 5.0-liter engines, as well as new safety measures and significantly improved technology in the cabins. Despite the fact that the 2018+ and fourteen generations are still relatively young, the returns on them have been very positive.
For the F150, the best years were those in which it was manufactured.
The Ford F-150’s final top years are 1993, 1996, 1997-1998, 2009, and 2018+. These years offer the ideal combination of strong engines, dependability, decent interiors, and good value. While the other years listed are certainly excellent, these are the true cream of the crop. We can’t promise they’ll be perfect, but you should feel reasonably safe trying them out.
A remarkable number of F150s from the ninth generation are still on the road today, a monument to their dependability. It may seem unusual to recommend a truck that is over three decades old, but mileage pending, they can be excellent investments. Yes, it’s a touch underpowered and technologically antiquated, but it’s still dependable and capable of doing the job.
The tenth generation was likewise good, but after 1998, they were just mediocre trucks. We’ll skip the eleventh generation for the time being because it was pure rubbish. Since the release of the 2018 year, the twelfth and thirteenth generations have been stable. However, the broadcasts are not without flaws.
Avoiding Ford F150 Years
Now comes the F-150’s darkest years. The Ford F150’s worst years include 2004-2007, 2010-2011, 2013, and 2015-2016. The F150s from 2004 to 2007 were all part of the eleventh generation of F150s. These are widely regarded as the worst of the F150 versions. There were several problems with the spark plugs in both Triton engines, resulting in more than 16 NHTSA recalls. Aside from spark plugs, many folks had catastrophic engine failures before 100,000 miles.
The most serious problem with the Triton is the needle bearings in the rocker arms. They deteriorate over time, causing the rocker arm to sink and generating a great deal of vibration and noise. The rocker arms will eventually seize and fail, inflicting extensive damage to the entire valve train. In the worst-case scenario, the cam lobe will come into contact with a seized rocker arm. It detonates the valve springs, causing your piston to collide with your valve, resulting in catastrophic destruction.
In the eleventh generation, even the windows experienced problems. There were also multiple airbag issues and recalls, and many customers had issues with automatic gearboxes.
In the early years from 2010 to 2011, the twelfth generation also had various faults, the most serious of which were with gearbox shifting, the infotainment system, oil leaks, and spark plugs. Even though the 3.5 EcoBoost and 5.0 Coyote engines were introduced in 2011, they were not particularly helpful at initially.
The thirteenth generation’s first two years were also a flop. This was primarily due to braking troubles and further automatic gearbox shifting concerns. This generation saw the introduction of the 10R80 automatic gearbox, which is still in use despite having issues. Brake problems affected both fluid and pads and were widespread in 2015-2016.
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F150’s Worst Years
The F150’s absolute worst years are 2004, 2010, and 2015-2016. Despite winning Motor Trend’s Truck of the Year title, the 2004 F150 is possibly the worst F150 ever made. If you have the 5.4 or 6.8 Tritons, God help you. Not only were the engines prone to breakdowns, but so were the transmissions. The NHTSA’s 16 recalls encompassed everything from airbags to the fuel system/tank. Making the 2004 look really shoddy.
Because of the gearbox, return of spark plug troubles, and defective infotainment system, the 2010 F150 made the final list. The infotainment system is known for failing to recognise smartphones, having troubles with the rearview camera, shutting down and restarting, and generally being slow to respond. The touch screen also has a lot of issues with command recognition.
The brakes are the most problematic aspect of the 2015-2016 F150s. Brake failure has been all too common in recent years, with many individuals complaining that the master cylinder needs to be replaced after only a few thousand miles. Drivers would frequently receive unexpected “low brake fluid” alerts, which could result in limp mode troubles. There have also been instances of engine stalling. While not as problematic as the 2004 F150, the 2015-2016 vehicles were still prone to breakdowns.
Summary of the Best and Worst Years for the Ford F150
Since its introduction, the Ford F-150 has been one of the most popular and dependable vehicles on the market. The 1993, 1996, 1997-1998, 2009, and 2018+ F150s are the greatest options available. They feature high dependability and dependability, as well as robust and dependable power trains. They feature decent interiors that are free of flaws, and they are overall excellent selections.
You should definitely avoid the F150s from 2004, 2010, and 2015-2016. Ford didn’t get much right these years, from engine troubles to spark plug issues to braking and infotainment failure. These F150s, particularly the 2004 model, do not live up to Ford’s reputation. While some have experienced minor issues over the years, they are widely recognised as the worst of the worst.