What to Look For When Buying a Used Ford Escape

2015 Ford Escape
2015 Ford Escape

If you’re in the market for a used compact crossover you’re not exactly short of choice these days, and the Ford Escape is very likely to be one of the ones you’ll be considering. If you are thinking of hunting down a used version of the Ford compact crossover in the not-too-distant future, here’s what you need to look out for when buying a used Ford Escape.

  • Ford Escape history
  • First-generation Ford Escape
  • Second-generation Ford Escape
  • Third-generation Ford Escape
  • Fourth-generation Ford Escape
  • Potential issues to watch out for
  • What makes the Escape special?
  • Ford Escape rivals
  • Ford Escape FAQs
  • Should you buy a used Ford Escape?

Ford Escape History

The Ford Escape is a compact crossover SUV that’s been around since 2000, and so far there have been four different generations. The original Ford Escape was developed by Ford in conjunction with Mazda. While Ford sold its version of the joint venture as the Escape, Mazda’s version was called the Tribute. Although they both shared the same underpinnings the two vehicles looked quite different from each other as the only body panels shared by the two vehicles were the roof and floor pressings.

Although those early versions of the Escape look seriously dated these days, the first-generation Escape was ahead of its time back in the day as it was the first SUV to be offered with a hybrid powertrain.

In 2004, a rebadged version of the Escape was put on sale by Ford’s Mercury luxury division which was the 2005 model year Mercury Mariner.

If you want to get a used Ford Escape or other used vehicles for the lowest possible price, government and police auctionsare the way to go. You need to know what you’re looking for to buy at auction, but this guide is a great place to find used vehicles at incredible prices.

First-generation Ford Escape (2001-2008)

2005 Ford Escape XLT Sport
2005 Ford Escape XLT Sport

The first-generation Ford Escape was launched in 2000 as a 2001 model year offering, and it was produced by Ford in response to compact crossover SUVs such as the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V. At the time, the majority of SUVs on American roads were larger, truck-based, body-on-frame designs, but it appeared Honda and Toyota had hit on something with these smaller, more car-like crossovers.

Although the Escape was never intended to be a serious off-roader, a full-time all-wheel-drive system supplied by Dana was available as an alternative to the standard front-wheel-drive format. The system included a locking center differential that could be activated via a switch on the dashboard, and this Dana setup also allowed a full 100% of traction to be directed to the front wheels until a slip is detected.

If you’re thinking of buying a first-generation Ford Escape and you want to know what trim levels, engines, and features are available, here are the 2003, 2005, 2006, and 2007 brochures for you to download for free in pdf format.

Second-generation Ford Escape (2008-2011)

2010 Ford Escape XLT
2010 Ford Escape XLT

Although the second-generation Ford Escape looked very different from its predecessor when it was revealed to the world at the Los Angeles International Auto Show in 2006, it was basically the same vehicle with a new body shell. It was built on the same CD2 platform Ford used for the first-generation Escape and many of the internals were carried over.

It’s funny to look back now at features that were a big deal back then but are taken for granted now, such as curtain airbags that thecarconnection.com website described as: “the most important addition” and a “must for shoppers.”

These second-generation models also show their age with their engine options. The standard powerplant was a 2.3-liter inline-four that developed 153 horsepower, while the more powerful alternative was a 200-horsepower V-6. A year later, a more powerful V-6 became available which then put 230 horsepower at the disposal of the Ford Escape. Can you imagine a mass-market compact crossover being offered today with a V-6 under the hood?

If a second-generation used Ford Escape is on your radar and you want to know what features and trim levels were available back then, here are free downloads of all the second-generation model year brochures.

Third-generation Ford Escape (2013-2019)

2018 Ford Escape
2018 Ford Escape

The Escape took on a much more European-inspired flavor for the third generation that arrived in 2012 as a 2013 model year offering, which isn’t surprising as it was designed by Ford of Europe and badged over there as the Ford Kuga. To say this was something of a departure in terms of styling for the Ford Escape is something of an understatement.

Although the name remained the same, the 2013 Ford Escape was a completely different kind of compact crossover as it was no longer trying to pitch itself as some sort of faux-SUV off-roader. I’ve often seen the design described as an automotive take on a training shoe, and that’s pretty accurate.

Turbo-power is very much the name of the game with this version of the Escape. Although there was a non-turbo base engine version of the Escape at launch, not too many of them appeared in showrooms or on dealer lots as they were primarily aimed at fleets. Of course, many of these have now found their way into used inventories and they are often very keenly priced compared to similar examples with the much more desirable turbo-four EcoBoost engines.

Below are free downloads of the third-generation ford Escape brochures for each model year so you know what engines and features were available for each trim level.

Fourth-generation Ford Escape (2020-present)

2021 Ford Escape
2021 Ford Escape

Arriving in the third quarter of 2019 as a 2020 model year, the fourth-generation Ford Escape ushered in another striking change of styling for the compact Ford crossover SUV. The fourth generation is an ultra-modern take on the compact crossover SUV format with a choice of turbo-3, turbo-four, hybrid, and even plug-in-hybrid powertrains available.

If you have your eye on a used 2020 Ford Escape, download the brochure (below) so you know what versions are available and what features you can expect for your money.

Potential issues to watch out for

First-generation models are getting fairly long in the tooth these days, and that means there are all the usual wear and tear issues to watch out for that you ought to check with any older vehicle.

However, particular issues with first-generation models include excessive wheel well/shock tower rust, computer (PCM) failure, power steering failure, transmission failure and even an exploding rear window! 2008 models are probably best avoided as that was the year where owners reported the greatest prevalence of issues with their Ford Escapes.

Transmissions continued to be an issue with second-generation versions of the Ford Escape, so look for evidence in the service history of a used second-gen Escape having had some work done to correct problems with the transmission.

Unfortunately, engine problems have been the worst downside of third-generation models. Although the EcoBoost engines are capable of producing impressive amounts of power at the same time as delivering better fuel economy than any previous Escape models could offer, some have been prone to shaking, shuddering, and stalling. In the worst cases, EcoBoost engines have even been known to catch fire!

Ford claimed to have found a fix to prevent these engines from catching fire which involved updating software so engine temperatures would be better managed. It appears this fix didn’t solve every issue that could potentially leave these engines vulnerable to fires but ask to see evidence that the update has been applied to any third-gen Escape you’re thinking of buying before parting with your money.

What makes the Ford Escape special?

Apart from being the first SUV to be offered with a hybrid powertrain, there’s nothing particularly special about the Ford Escape. To be fair to the Escape and its manufacturer, mass-market models like this are not meant to be particularly special.

The Escape is an attractive, competent and capable little SUV, but the main thing about it is its affordability. Although higher trim levels can get pretty expensive when they’re bought brand new, they can represent increasingly good value for money as they get older and cheaper in the used market.

Unless you really are shopping on a very restricted budget it’s best to stick with the third generation onwards. The first and second-gen models are okay for what they are, but what they are is incredibly dated and they’re not the sort of vehicle that really lends itself to being good for a project build unless you want something so cheap it doesn’t matter if you destroy it.

Ford Escape rivals

There are plenty of alternatives to the Ford Escape you might want to consider if a compact crossover SUV is what you’re looking for. The most notable Escape rivals are the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4, but you’ll probably get an Escape of a similar age and mileage cheaper than the equivalent RAV4 or CR-V. Other models to consider include the Chevy Equinox and the Subaru Forester, and you might even consider the Mazda CX5 as a relative competitor to the Ford Escape.

2019 Ford Escape Interior
2019 Ford Escape Interior

Ford Escape FAQs

Is the Ford Escape AWD? – The Ford Escape has been available since day one with all-wheel-drive as an option, but the system employed from the third generation onwards isn’t designed for serious off-roading. First and second-generation versions of the Escape were available with a more rugged system produced by Dana with a locking center differential, so these earlier models are better if you want to go off-road in your compact SUV.  

Is the Ford Escape reliable? – J.D. Power gives the 2020 Ford Escape 4.5 out of a possible 5 in its predicted reliability survey, but Consumer Reports only give the Ford a measly 2 out of five in its equivalent ratings. You’ll find a similar story if you look back over the years at different versions of the Ford Escape, and that’s probably because Ford has built and sold so many of them.

Remember, this is a mass-market model and you’ll inevitably find people who have had good and bad experiences with theirs. I’d say the Ford is no worse than any of its rivals in the area of reliability, but it’s not going to be as reliable as a RAV4 or a CR-V.

Is the Ford Escape good on gas? – The Escape is a moderately fuel-efficient model in its class. Second-generation models with the 2.5-liter engine and front-wheel-drive were rated by the EPA at 22mpg in the city, 28mpg on the highway, and 24mpg combined, but hybrid versions were better with ratings of 29/27/28mpg for city/highway/combined driving.

Third-generation models with their small-displacement turbocharged engines are more fuel-efficient than earlier models. For example, a 2016 escape with front-drive and a 1.6-liter turbo-four was rated at 23mpg in the city, 31mpg on the highway and 26mpg combined.

Can you off-road with a Ford Escape? –First and second-generation versions of the Escape equipped with the available Dana AWD system were pretty reasonable off-road, although they still didn’t have the kind of ground clearance you’d want for what most people would consider serious off-roading. When it comes to the third and fourth-generation versions of the Escape, their AWD systems are not really designed for anything more challenging than poor weather driving conditions on the pavement.

Do Ford Escapes last long? – A Ford Escape has probably passed its best after about 130,000 miles, although if properly cared for an Escape could last for as much as 250,000 miles. It’s more about the number of miles an Escape does than how old it is, so look out for used Escapes with low miles and look for evidence to prove that mileage, especially with older models.

What year Ford Escape is best? – It’s generally regarded that the 2012 Ford Escape was definitely one of the vehicle’s best years. This was the last year of production of the second-generation, and the last year of any model is often its best as all the bugs and wrinkles have been ironed out over the previous years of that generation. By that reckoning then, the 2019 Ford Escape would probably be the best third-generation model to buy used for the same reason.

Does the Ford Escape hold its value? – For a mass-market model, the Ford Escape’s depreciation isn’t too bad. After three years and around 40,000 miles, an Edge will probably have lost around 37% of its original MSRP. After six years and around 80,000 miles, an Edge should still be worth around 40% of its original value.

How much does a used Ford Escape cost? – It’s impossible to say how much you should pay for a used Ford Escape as there are so many variables to consider such as age, condition, trim level, engine, and mileage. However, below are the average price ranges the various model years fall into according to thecarconnection.com to give you an idea of how much you should pay for a used Ford escape.

Model YearMinimum priceMaximum Price

Should you buy a used Ford Escape?

A used Ford Escape is one of those vehicles you buy used because you need a vehicle to do something within a specific budget and the Ford Escape falls into that budget. It’s an SUV and that means it is from the most desirable area of the current auto market, and from the start of the third generation onwards it’s been quite an attractive compact crossover SUV.

It’s not an SUV in the sense of a go-anywhere, do-anything, rugged off-roader, but it does have that desirable high-riding styling and a decent amount of room inside for its relatively diminutive outer proportions. It’s an okay vehicle that does a job, but it’s not something too many of us would be able to get emotionally attached to.