Why Is The Ford Explorer The Best Selling SUV? (Explained!)

The Ford Explorer is among the most iconic and best-selling Ford SUVs ever made.

The Ford Explorer started its journey back in 1990 when it was produced for the first time for the 1991 model year.

It was first classed as a mid-sized SUV from 1991 to 2010, and since 2010 has been among the midsize crossover class.

This article answers “Why Is The Ford Explorer The Best Selling SUV?”…

Why Is The Ford Explorer The Best Selling SUV?

The story of the Ford Explorer is a long one and stems from the disappointment of Ford’s successor to its iconic Bronco SUV, the Bronco II.

The Explorer got a great start because, after people rejected the Bronco II, the Explorer could fill a gap in the demand for high-quality SUVs. Its solid build and design, quality engine, incorporation of good technology, etc, all contribute to making the Explorer the best-selling SUV in history.

The Long Answer: Why Is The Ford Explorer The Best Selling SUV?

The first factor of the Explorer’s success was its superiority to the Bronco II. It offered a level of flexibility in its construction that the Bronco II was unable to match.

People wanted SUVs, but they also needed choice, as well as something with a bit more design flair than the new Bronco II.

Firstly, the Explorer offered both 2- and 4-door versions which gave people that key choice element.

If you wanted an SUV but not overly large, then the 2-door was perfect, but if you wanted a larger family car with more space, you could get the 4-door version.

On top of that, it got a third row and expansion in 2002 that made it a real family-size SUV.

Another key factor is the quality of the engines.

The engines have moved from the raw-power days of the 4.0L V6 engines that were in there previously to the now more advanced 2.3L EcoBoost engine.

The EcoBoost engine has been one of Ford’s biggest success stories, and in the Explorer, it still tows up to 5,600 pounds.

For the drivetrain, Ford Explorer has come in 2WD and 4WD versions, a fact that gave the Explorer more universal appeal as opposed to the market niche that was interested in 4WD models only.

In addition, Ford has been very successful in integrating technology to offer drivers more.

The first generation was quite simple with a few premium options, but Ford did a great job catching up and putting new features in, and now offers Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa where some are still struggling to get even 2 of those 3 services in.

Finally, technological features like Ford’s Terrain Management System appeased the off-road fans who did want the 4WD and the capability that came with it.

Its 4WD has also been made smarter, and the interior is made more futuristic with a 10-inch LCD infotainment system.

Which Are The Top 5 Best Selling SUVs in America?

There have been 8 million Ford Explorers sold since 1990, making it the best-selling mid-size SUV ever, but what about currently.

The current Top 5 in 2021 looks a bit different, but it’s interesting to see how these models compare to the Ford Explorer.

1. Toyota RAV4

2. Honda CR-V

3. Nissan Rogue

4. Toyota Highlander

5. Jeep Wrangler

A list dominated by Japanese models, which are often praised for their reliability and fuel economy, a big plus in the SUV category.

Which Are The Top 5 Best Selling SUV Worldwide?

Now let’s turn worldwide. Which SUVs are making headlines around the world as best sellers?

1. Toyota RAV4

2. Honda CR-V

3. Volkswagen Tiguan

4. Hyundai  Tucson

5. Haval H6

More of a mixed bag when looking around the world, but that’s hardly surprising when markets are so different everywhere you go.

Which Are The Top 5 Best Selling SUV in Europe?

How does the picture look in Europe in 2021? Let’s take a look:

1. Volkswagen Tiguan

2. Nissan Qashqai

3. Ford Puma

4. Renault Captur

5. BMW X5

Explorer Vs. Competitors

Looking at the above list, it’s clear that there are some SUVs that traverse markets and make a real impression.

We’re going to take a closer look at 4 of these and see how they compare with the Ford Explorer. The 4 we will examine more closely are:

  • Toyota RAV4
  • Honda CR-V
  • Jeep Wrangler
  • Volkswagen Tiguan


When it comes to price, the Explorer is the more expensive option, with a starting price in the 2022 model year of $33,100.

The other four cars mentioned in our comparison list all start well under $30,000, making them more competitive in price.

The Toyota RAV4 starts at $26,350; the Honda CR-V starts at $25,750; the Jeep Wrangler starts at $29,725; the VW Tiguan starts at $25,995.

At the high end, the Explorer remains more expensive, too, with its top-end Platinum going all the way up to $54,115.

The next highest is the top-of-the-line Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 3.6L V6 Hybrid Automatic at $44,750.


All the above models offer multiple engine options. The Explorer runs on its 2.3L EcoBoost as standard, with the option to upgrade to the 3.0L EcoBoost V6.

The 2.3 generates 300-hp and 310 lb-ft of torque, which is rather impressive for its size.

The Toyota RAV4 starts with a 2.5L inline-4 outputting 203-hp, which is paired with an 8-speed automatic.

It has a larger capacity than the base EcoBoost, therefore, but not as much horsepower overall.

The Honda CR-V runs on a 1.5L 4-cylinder engine as its base, with a 1.8L and 2.0L version also available.

The standard horsepower on the base engine is just 190-hp, placing it behind both the RAV4 and the Explorer.

The Jeep Wrangler has 3 choices, from the base-level 2.0L inline-4 to the 3.0L V6 Diesel, and the 3.6L V6.

Horsepower in these engines ranges from 260 to 285, and torque from 260 to 442 lb-ft.

The bigger range here reflects the fact that many buy the Wrangler for off-road driving, which requires the extra torque.

The VW Tiguan runs on a 2.0L inline-4, which is the standard offering in most VW models now. It’s a quality engine but only offers up to 184-hp.


Using RepairPal as the standard, which is a fairly authoritative one, the Honda CR-V certainly offers more than the Explorer when it comes to reliability.

The Honda CR-V scores the highest out of a maximum 5.0 with a total of 4.5. The average for a compact SUV on this platform is 4.0, so that’s good.

The average annual repair cost for the Honda CR-V is just $407.

The Ford Explorer comes in at 3.5, but that’s average for midsize SUVs. The average annual repair cost for the Ford Explorer is $732.

It also has a need to be brought to the auto shop 0.2 times a year, which is below the average of 0.4 times per year for midsize SUVs.

The Toyota RAV4 did marginally better than the Explorer overall in reliability, but it is in the compact SUV category, not midsize.

It scored 4.0, which is average. The annual average repair costs come to $429. It needs to visit the auto shop 0.26 times a year, which is only just below the average of 3.0.

Jeep Wrangler matched the Explorer with a score of 3.5, but as a compact SUV that means it’s below average.

The average annual repair costs are set at $694 and its frequency of auto shop visits is 0.3, which is average for compact SUVs.

Finally, the VW Tiguan only scored 3.0, below the 4.0 average for its compact category.

Annual repair costs are high at $730, and it needs the auto shop 0.92 times per year, more than triple the 0.3 average for compact SUVs.


The biggest single-year drop by the end of the first year is experienced by the VW Tiguan, which loses a total of 23.8 percent of its initial value after 1 year.

Years 2 and 3 experience significantly slower depreciation, however, and it still retains 72.55 percent of its value after year 3.

The Ford Explorer loses just 16.53 percent of its value after the first year, but depreciation continues steeply into the second year.

After year 2, it’s only worth 68.39 percent of the value, and after year 3 it’s 66.84 percent.

The Toyota RAV4 loses just 16.03 percent in its first year, and retains 82.62 percent of its value after year 2, and 74.92 percent after year 3.

The Honda CR-V loses 21.83 percent of its value after the first year, making it quite a big drop.

It doesn’t dip below 70 percent residual value by the end of year 3, however, retaining 73.35 percent after year 2 and 72.35 percent after year 3.

The Jeep Wrangler loses 21.2 percent of its value after year 1, but also stays above 70 percent residual value for 3 years, only dropping to 69.71 percent at the end of year 4.

After year 3 it has retained 71,85 percent of its original value.

Average Annual Repair & Maintenance Costs

  • Ford Explorer: $732
  • Toyota RAV4: $429
  • Honda CR-V: $407
  • Jeep Wrangler: $694
  • VW Tiguan: $730

One more factor in expense is the likelihood that a problem is severe. The more likely drivers are to have a severe problem makes it more likely they’ll need expensive repairs.

  • Ford Explorer: 14% (above midsize SUV average of 13%)
  • Toyota RAV4: 10% (below compact SUV average of 11%)
  • Honda CR-V: 9% (below compact SUV average of 11%)
  • Jeep Wrangler: 16% (above compact SUV average of 11%)
  • VW Tiguan: 12% (above compact SUV average of 11%)

Insurance Cost

Both the VW Tiguan and the Jeep Wrangler have higher insurance than the remaining SUVs on our list, including the Ford Explorer.

The Tiguan averages at $1,824 annually, and the Wrangler at $1,617.

The others all have rates between $1,300-1,500. The cheapest on average is for the RAV4 at $1,324. The Explorer comes in at $1,472 and the CR-V at $1,498.


Below is an aggregate of various ratings put into an average:

  • Ford Explorer: 8/10
  • Toyota RAV4: 8/10
  • Honda CR-V: 8.5/10
  • Jeep Wrangler: 7.5/10
  • VW Tiguan: 8.5/10

Towing Capacity

Below we can see the towing capacities:

  • Ford Explorer: 5,600 lbs
  • Toyota RAV4: 3,500 lbs
  • Honda CR-V: 1,500 lbs
  • Jeep Wrangler: 3,500 lbs
  • VW Tiguan: 1,500 lbs

Overall Conclusion: Is Ford Explorer Worth It?

In the end, one can see that the Ford Explorer has a lot of serious competition in the SUV space but has continued to sell well nonetheless.

It evidently isn’t the strongest SUV in every sense and does cost a lot more money to get one.

If you want more utility and towing capacity, then the Explorer is certainly more worth it than the competition, all of which it smokes in towing capacity.

If you’re on a tight budget, then it’s probably worth getting a different SUV both for the lower sticker price and for the cheaper maintenance costs.

Although the Explorer costs more to repair and maintain, it’s reliable enough that it should offset the costs compared to the likes of the VW Tiguan.