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Josh Rosenberg By Josh Rosenberg
Updated Jan. 18, 2024

Older Ford Ranger Overview (1998 - 2011), Reliability, Possible Maintenance Problems, Model Year Changes, Overall Pros And Cons

Related: How To Get The Lowest Price On A "Brand New" Ford Ranger

While historically high new and used car prices have forced buyers to look for "older" vehicles that may have aged well as a way of saving money, the issues of reliability and dependability have become even more crucial.

2009 Ford Ranger Sport FX4

And the Ford Ranger, with its solid reputation for reliability, may just fit the bill in the midsize truck category. And by "older", when it comes to the Ranger, we're really talking about its third generation (1998 - 2011) because it was then discontinued until the 2019 model year.

And overall, the 1998-2011 Ford Rangers gained a solid reputation for durability and longevity, and many owners have reported positive experiences. However, as with any vehicle, there can be variations based on factors such as maintenance history, driving conditions, and individual model years.

In fact, history is proven that with proper care and maintenance, it's not uncommon for a well-maintained Ranger to reach and exceed 200,000 miles. Some owners have reported their Rangers lasting even longer, with careful attention to maintenance being a key factor.

Still, all models have mechanical issues reported by some owners, including some that may be more specific to a particular model, even those with strong reliability reputations. That's just a natural part of car ownership.

So here, ...

- We'll do an overview of this earlier third generation Ford Ranger covering the 1998 - 2011 model years.

- Then we'll list possible mechanical issues that have been reported by some owners so they can be checked before buying one today.

- And then we'll summarize the overall pros and cons of an older Ranger worth consideration by potential buyers.

But first, and very importantly ...

Things To Do When Considering An "Older" Vehicle

Locate Lower Mileage Vehicles: They are certainly out there to be found with careful and patient shopping. Be willing to drive a distance if you have to.

Vehicle History and Maintenance: Ask for the vehicle history report (CarFax or AutoCheck) as well as documented maintenance and repair records. If not provided by the Dealer or private seller, it's usually best to move on.

Pre-Purchase Inspection: Have the vehicle independently inspected before making a final decision. This usually will cost in the $150-$200 range but is well worth it given the potentially thousands in savings over the long term.

Third Generation Ford Ranger (1998 - 2011)

Based on owner and mechanic feedback, the Ranger's reputation as a solid, durable and versatile performer at an affordable price has been well deserved. They're a very nice driving truck with multiple model choices and features, making them well-suited for most needs, while decent gas mileage is another plus.

That said, they're not for everyone, with downsides that include a cramped interior, an aged design both inside and out, and a lack of many convenience and safety features taken for granted today.

Ford Ranger Sport SuperCab Styleside (2007) praises these older models for driving ease, maneuverability and build quality. J.D. Power has given them it's top rating score of 5 for body and interior quality as well as overall quality.

During this production run, the Ranger was typically offered in four trims: XL, XLT, Sport and the off-road-leaning FX4. Also mixed in, depending on the year, was the monochromatic Edge, the sportier STX and audio system-oriented Tremor. In terms of body styles, there was no crew cab model. There were only standard and extended cab versions.

Regular cab trucks have either a 6- or 7-foot cargo bed, while the Super Cab has the 6-foot only. The flareside bulged-fender bodies was an option with either cab type with the short bed.

A 4-cylinder engine was standard in 2-wheel-drive Rangers, with an option for a 3.0-liter V6. The V6 engine was standard in 4x4 models. There was also a 4.0-liter V6 that can be found in some of all the models.

The standard transmission was a five-speed manual, however both the 4-cylinder and 3.0-liter V6 could have an optional four-speed automatic. The 4.0 liter V6 was equipped with a five-speed automatic transmission only.

The Ranger's fuel economy was 'decent' for a pickup truck, but not remarkable. Gas mileage ratings generally ranged from 15 mpg city and 21 mpg on the highway for a rear-drive manual to 14 and 18, respectively, with a 4X4 automatic.

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And while the 4WD system was equipped with a shift-on-the-fly capability, it is not intended for use on dry pavement other than with the FX4.

In terms of standard features, the base XL model was sparsely equipped with features such as 15-inch steel wheels, a 60/40 front bench seat (vinyl in the regular cab, cloth in the SuperCab) and an AM/FM stereo.

The XLT model added air-conditioning, a CD player (MP3 as well in later years), an auxiliary audio jack (in later years) and chrome exterior trim, all of which can be found on some XLs as options.

The Sport model then went on to add some unique styling elements, a Class III trailer hitch, different wheels and satellite radio in later years.

2000 Ranger Edge SuperCab

Some of these models can be found with the optional Power Equipment Group which added full power accessories and keyless entry, while the FX4 Off-Road came standard with these features plus 16-inch alloy wheels, a limited-slip rear axle, heavy-duty shocks, skid plates, cruise control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, bucket seats and a center console.

All in all, while its compact size led to a degree of nimbleness on the road as well as capable off-roading with the FX4, the Ranger remained dated when it came to features and body styles, even in its last years.

From America's top-selling compact pickup from 1987 to 2005, sales decreased significantly as Japanese rivals surpassed it with the availability of more powerful and fuel-efficient engines as well as a more comprehensive list of modern amenities. Ford decided to pull the plug following the 2011 model year.

Year-To-Year Changes:

2000 Ranger: A 2WD model took on the look of a 4WD. The XL Trailhead option gave 2WD regular-cab short-bed models a raised suspension, 16-inch wheels, and exterior trim used by 4WD Rangers. In addition, the 4-door cab style became available in base trim levels, not just as an XLT.

2001 Ranger: The Ranger Edge model, both 2WD and 4WD, was added. The Edge was equipped with body-colored bumpers, available fender flares, and 4WD height.

In addition, 2WD models went from rear-wheel antilock brakes to 4-wheel ABS, as offered on 4x4s. A new ohc 4.0-liter engine was also introduced and the 4-cylinder was replaced midyear with a new design. And a new Premium Off-Road Package was offered for the Ranger XLT 4x4.

2002 Ranger: The off-road XLT FX4 was introduced with 4WD, heavy-duty suspension, 31 inch tires, heftier skid plate, and tow hooks. Also newly available was a MP3/CD audio system. And Tremor SuperCabs with an upgraded cassette/CD system were introduced midyear.

2003 Ranger: Power was upped by 8 horsepower on the base and 3.0 liter V6. The XLT FX4 off-road gained a Level II version with heavy-duty shock absorbers, Torsen limited-slip axle, and special wheels and tires. In addition, all models received thicker glass and added insulation.

Ford Ranger Tremor SuperCab Styleside (2004)

2004 Ranger: A new grille was added and there was some revised interior styling. Leather upholstery became an option and a CD player that reads MP-3-formatted discs became available.

2005 Ranger: Little changed.

2006 Ranger: Some modest design changes to bumpers, grille, fenders, and lights.

2007 Ranger: Unchanged.

2008: Primarily unchanged, but there was some slight front styling revisions.

2009 Ranger: The 3.0-liter V6 engine was dropped, leaving the 2.3-liter inline-4, good for 143 horsepower and 154 pound-feet of torque as well as the 4.0-liter V6, rated at 207 horsepower and 238 lb-ft of torque.

2010 Ranger: Air-conditioning, a Class III trailer hitch, stability control and side airbags became standard for all models, while a 7-foot bed was only available for fleet buyers.

2011 Ranger: There are no significant changes in its last year of production.

1998 - 2011 Ford Ranger Possible Mechanical Problems

While generally known for their reliability, these Rangers did have mechanical issues reported by some owners over the years that should therefore be included in a pre-purchase inspection.

Timing Chain Tensioner Issues (2001-2003): Some owners of Rangers from these model years reported problems with the timing chain tensioner, which could lead to engine damage.

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Transmission Issues (2001-2004): Certain model years experienced transmission problems, including issues with the automatic transmission slipping or not shifting correctly.

Ball Joint and Control Arm Wear: Some owners reported premature wear of ball joints and control arms, especially in 1998-2000 models.

Fuel Pump Problems: In some instances, owners reported fuel pump failures, causing starting issues or stalling.

Rust Issues: Rangers from this generation, especially those exposed to harsh climates, were prone to rust, particularly on the frame and undercarriage.

Blend Door Actuator Failure (2002-2011): The blend door actuator, responsible for controlling the temperature in the cabin, failed in some vehicles, leading to issues with heating or cooling inside the truck.

Spark Plug Blowouts (2004-2008): Some 4.0L V6 engines experienced issues with spark plug blowouts, where the spark plugs could be ejected from the cylinder head. This issue was addressed in later production.

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Front Wheel Bearing Problems: Premature wear or failure of front wheel bearings has been reported by some owners.

Overall Pros And Cons Of An Older Ford Ranger

Older Ford Ranger Pros

Cost Savings: Obviously, older Rangers tend to be significantly cheaper than newer trucks, saving a substantial amount of money upfront. However, this savings has to be weighed against the increased risk for possibly higher maintenance and repair costs going forward.

Depreciation: Older vehicles have already undergone substantial depreciation, meaning there won't be the rapid value loss that occurs with newer vehicles.

Reliability: These Rangers are often considered reliable vehicles, and many owners report them lasting for high mileage with proper maintenance.

Ease of Maintenance: The simpler design of older Rangers can make them easier and potentially less expensive to maintain compared to more modern and complex trucks.

Availability of Parts: Replacement parts are generally more readily available and can be less expensive than parts for newer models.

Versatility: The Ranger's compact size and versatility make it suitable for various uses, from daily commuting to light hauling and off-road adventures.

Fuel Efficiency: Compared to larger trucks, the Ranger tends to offer better fuel efficiency, making it a more economical choice for everyday use.

Off-Road Capabilities: Those off-road packages have decent off-road capabilities.

Older Ford Ranger Cons

Outdated Features: Older Rangers lack some of the modern features and technologies found in newer trucks.

Fuel Efficiency: While midsize trucks like the Ranger are generally more fuel-efficient than full-size trucks, they may not be as fuel-efficient as some newer models with advanced engine technologies.

Limited Advanced Safety Features: Older models may not have the advanced safety features, such as collision avoidance systems or advanced airbag systems, found in many newer vehicles.

Potential Maintenance Costs: While older vehicles can be more straightforward to maintain, they may require more frequent repairs or replacements of aging components.

Rust Concerns: The 1998-2011 Rangers are known for rust issues, especially in certain climates.

Limited Towing Capacity: The towing capacity of the Ranger is limited compared to larger trucks, which could be a drawback for those with substantial towing needs.

Interior Space: The compact size may result in a relatively small interior, especially in the back seat of extended cab models.

Limited Engine Options: Depending on the model year, the Ranger's engine options may be limited compared to more recent truck models.

Also, Always Know The Value Of Your Trade-In!

Whether you are trading or selling on your own, it's just a good idea ... even whether you are in the market or not at the moment. You can then use this important information for a number of purposes ... to negotiate with a dealer, or to know how to price your car in the retail market, or simply to know the value of one of your assets, which is always a good idea.

Getting trade-in values online tend to vary a lot from site to site. But I've found the one at Edmunds Trade-In Quotes is particularly comprehensive and accurate.

It's free, it's quick and there's no contact by any third parties. I think what helps its accuracy is the inputs will include either your plate# or VIN#. They really focus in on the specific vehicle.

Lastly, Suggestions For Getting A Low Ranger Price

First of all, here's a Lowest Price Used Car Buying Guide that details a very effective method.

Here's another method that identifies Price-Distressed Cars Right On Dealer Lots. These are vehicles they are so desperate to unload they would welcome your wholesale offer.

In addition, you can also try the Public Car Auctions in your own geographic area. This article reviews what to expect at open-to-the-public car auctions and how to locate them.

And for those of you who might be interested in a "brand new" Ford Ranger if the price was really good, here's info on The Best Way To Buy A New Car. This works just phenomenally well.

And checkout our Facebook page for more tips, car news and fun.

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