As a former mechanic with years of experience, I’ve seen my fair share of SUVs come and go through the garage. The Honda Pilot, in particular, has always stood out for its reliability and practicality. Here’s a condensed perspective based on my expertise and some reputable sources:
The best Honda Pilot years to buy include 2004, 2006 – 2008, 2012, 2018, 2021, and 2022. The worst Honda Pilots to avoid include 2003, 2005, 2009, 2013, and 2016.
- Note: It’s important to note that the 2024 model is not included in this list because we feel it’s too early to determine if it’s one of the best.
Also, other years not included in this list, such as 2020, 2019, 2017, 2016, 2015, and 2014 are considered good vehicles with a fair number of issues. It’s just that they’re neither very good nor too bad.
The Honda Pilot is known for its dependability, a trait I’ve observed consistently in the models that have come through my shop just like Hyundai. According to Consumer Reports, the Honda Pilot has received favorable reliability ratings. This aligns with my experience; these vehicles often come in for routine maintenance rather than major repairs.
In terms of maintenance costs, the Pilot is relatively economical. RepairPal notes that the average annual repair cost for a Honda Pilot is around $542, which is below the market average. This is significant, considering the average cost of repairs across different models.
Another aspect where the Pilot shines is in its longevity and fuel efficiency. Many of my customers have reported great mileage and fewer issues over the years. This is backed by various consumer reviews and reports, which highlight the Pilot’s ability to last a long time with proper care.
When buying a used Honda Pilot, it’s always best to go for a model with the least problems, as most vehicles become problematic after several years or miles of driving.
With that in mind, here are the best Honda Pilot years to consider.
2004 Honda Pilot: A Remarkable Turnaround
The debut year of the Honda Pilot faced its share of issues, a common scenario with first-generation models. However, Honda’s swift response to these challenges was impressive. By 2004, they had rectified these issues, resulting in a much-improved version.
Ideal for Active Lifestyles
As someone who has worked on various SUVs, the 2004 Honda Pilot stands out for its suitability for active individuals and large families. Its versatility is a key strength.
Performance and Power
- Engine Specs: It’s equipped with a robust 3.5-liter V6 engine. From my experience, this engine is reliable and offers a solid performance, delivering 240 horsepower and 242 pound-feet of torque.
- Transmission and Drive: Paired with a 5-speed transmission and featuring four-wheel drive, it handles well in various conditions – something I’ve noticed during test drives and inspections.
Safety and Ratings
- While it had some shortcomings in rear crash protection, overall, the 2004 Pilot was well-received for its safety features.
- Reviewer Accolades: Edmunds, a trusted automotive resource, rates it highly at 4.8 out of 5 stars, a rating I agree with based on the models I’ve serviced.
- In terms of maintenance, the 2004 Pilot is relatively cost-effective. Based on my experience and industry data, owners can expect lower-than-average maintenance costs for this model year.
2006-2008 Honda Pilot: A Trio of Excellence
Honda’s commitment to improvement was evident with the 2006 to 2008 Pilot models. After facing challenges with the 2005 model, they made significant enhancements. These years marked a period of reliable, well-crafted vehicles in the Pilot lineup.
Why Choose 2006-2008 Models
- Reliability and Affordability: These models are known for their dependability and cost-effectiveness. In my years of working on various SUVs, the 2006-2008 Pilots consistently showed fewer issues compared to others in their class.
- Spacious and Powerful: They offer a spacious interior and a powerful performance, making them ideal for families and individuals seeking a balance of utility and comfort.
Performance and Comfort
- Refined V6 Engine: The 2007 model, in particular, received praise for its refined V6 engine. This enhancement significantly improved the driving experience, making it more car-like – a feature that has been a hit among my clients.
- Reviewer Recognition: The 2007 model was not only a hit among mechanics and drivers but also caught the attention of industry experts. It was named the Best Buy by Consumer Guide, a testament to its quality.
- 2007 Model: The U.S. News gave it a remarkable 9.2 out of 10 for reliability, a score that aligns with my observations of its longevity and minimal repair needs.
- 2008 Model: This model further improved, earning an 85 out of 100 from J.D. Power and a 9.3 out of 10 from U.S. News. These high scores reflect its enhanced reliability and overall performance.
2012 Honda Pilot: A Notable Standout
The 2012 Honda Pilot distinguishes itself from its 2010 and 2011 predecessors. While these earlier models were decent, the 2012 version brought something extra to the table. In my experience, it’s not just about the big changes; sometimes, it’s the subtle improvements that make all the difference.
Key Features and Upgrades
- Advanced Voice Recognition: This feature, absent in older models, added a layer of convenience and technological advancement, making the driving experience more enjoyable and safer.
- Reduced Complaints: One of the most noticeable aspects of the 2012 Pilot was the significant drop in customer complaints. This indicates a higher level of satisfaction and fewer mechanical issues, a factor that’s crucial when considering a used vehicle.
Performance and Safety
- Comfortable Ride with Safety Assurance: The 2012 Pilot offers a smooth and comfortable ride, backed by strong safety features. It excelled in most safety ratings, although it had room for improvement in the small overlap front driver test.
- V6 Engine: The power delivery from its V6 engine is both strong and smooth, a characteristic that’s essential for a vehicle of its size and purpose.
Impressive Reliability Ratings
2018 Honda Pilot: A Model of Efficiency and Reliability
The 2018 Honda Pilot stands out for its dependability, reliability, and efficiency. In my years of experience, these are the qualities that make or break a vehicle’s long-term value, especially in the SUV category according to Edmunds.
Recall and Transmission Notes
- Minimal Recalls: With only one recall related to faulty rivets in the chair, the 2018 Pilot demonstrates commendable manufacturing quality. Recalls are a reality in the automotive world, but the fewer, the better.
- Transmission Performance: There were some notes about transmission slippage and jerky shifting, but these issues were relatively minor and didn’t pose significant safety concerns. As a mechanic, I always advise buyers to test drive and check for any transmission irregularities.
Vehicle Appeal and Features
- Spacious and Powerful: This model is an excellent choice for those who need ample space and robust power. Its ability to provide a comfortable ride without compromising on performance is a significant plus as per Car and Driver.
- Infotainment System: While the physical controls for the infotainment system are limited, the touch-sensitive interface is responsive and user-friendly. However, it’s always wise to familiarize yourself with these systems during a test drive to ensure they meet your needs.
Recommendation for Potential Buyers
- Addressing the Recall: If you’re considering the 2018 Pilot, it’s crucial to ensure that the recall issue has been addressed. As a newer model, it’s likely still under warranty, which can be a significant advantage.
2021 Honda Pilot: Modern Features in a Midsize SUV
The 2021 Honda Pilot is a testament to modern SUV design, offering features that cater to both comfort and performance according to MotorTrend. As someone who’s seen the evolution of SUVs over the years, I appreciate when a vehicle balances these aspects well.
Performance and Transmission
- Smooth Acceleration: The nine-speed automatic transmission is a highlight. It allows for smooth and quick acceleration, a feature I always recommend buyers to test during a drive. This transmission doesn’t compromise fuel efficiency or speed, which is a significant advantage in today’s market.
- Fuel Efficiency: For those concerned about fuel economy, this transmission system is a game-changer, making the Pilot a practical choice for both city driving and longer journeys.
Interior and Technology
- Plush Interior: The interior of the 2021 Pilot is plush and well-designed. Comfort is key in any vehicle, and the Pilot doesn’t disappoint.
- Tech-Loaded: Packed with technological features, it enhances the driving and riding experience. From a mechanic’s point of view, it’s always good to see technology integrated in a way that’s intuitive and adds to the vehicle’s functionality noted by Kelly Blue Book.
Reliability and Ratings
2022 Honda Pilot: A Blend of Style and Functionality
The 2022 Honda Pilot stands out in the midsize SUV category, impressing with its solid handling and robust acceleration noted by Car and Driver. As a vehicle enthusiast and former mechanic, I appreciate when a car combines practicality with a touch of luxury, and the 2022 Pilot does just that.
Features and Technology
- Advanced Lighting and Infotainment: The inclusion of full LED headlights and an 8-inch touchscreen display, compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, shows Honda’s commitment to modernity and user convenience.
- Tech Integration: For those interested in more vehicles with such advanced tech features, exploring other SUVs with Apple CarPlay can provide additional options.
Interior Design and Space
- Cabin Quality: The cabin’s design is not just stylish but also practical. The welcoming seats and the use of quality materials and soft-touch plastics reflect a well-thought-out interior design.
- Cargo Space: The cargo space is versatile, offering 18.5 cubic feet behind the last row, which expands to 55.9 cubic feet with the third row down, and a massive 109.2 cubic feet with all rear seats folded. This flexibility is ideal for various needs, from daily errands to adventurous road trips according to Edmunds.
Reliability and Ratings
- J.D. Power Rating: With a reliability score of 81 out of 100 from J.D. Power, the 2022 Pilot is a dependable choice.
- U.S. News Rating: An impressive 8.3 out of 10 from U.S. News further solidifies its position as a top contender in its class.
Years You Should Avoid
Now when you know the best years to buy, let’s look at the worst years to avoid.
2003 Honda Pilot: A Cautionary Tale
The 2003 Honda Pilot marked the brand’s entry into the SUV segment. As a first-generation model, it was met with anticipation but also faced its share of challenges according to Consumer Reports.
- Recall Records: With a total of 14 recalls, the 2003 Pilot struggled in terms of dependability. This high number of recalls is a red flag for potential buyers.
- Electrical and Transmission Issues: The most common problems reported were electrical, such as ignition failures and door lock malfunctions. However, the most concerning were the transmission malfunctions, particularly the noisy converter.
- Repair Expenses: Fixing a transmission issue in this model can cost upwards of $1,000. This is a significant expense, especially for a vehicle of this age.
- Mileage-Related Problems: Once the 2003 Pilot surpasses 100,000 miles, the likelihood of encountering electrical failures increases, adding to the potential cost of ownership as per CarComplaints.com.
Given these factors, my advice as a former mechanic is to consider other options. The 2003 Honda Pilot, while a pioneer in its class, may present more challenges than benefits, especially for those looking for a reliable and cost-effective vehicle.
2005 Honda Pilot: A Model to Approach with Caution
The 2005 Honda Pilot, following its predecessor, unfortunately, continued the trend of facing significant issues. This model year is particularly notable for its high number of recalls and the severity of its problems noted by CarComplaints.
Key Issues and Recalls
- Transmission Troubles: The most pressing concern with the 2005 Pilot was its transmission malfunctions, often manifested as leaks in the transmission fluid. This issue was not just a maintenance headache but a serious safety concern.
- Recall Records: With a total of 15 recalls, this model year raised serious questions about its reliability and safety on the road.
Safety and Performance Concerns
- Torque Converter Failures: A faulty torque converter led to erratic and sudden stops, posing a significant risk of accidents. This issue alone makes the 2005 model a risky choice for families and daily commuters as per NHTSA.gov.
- Electrical System Failures: Persistent electrical issues affected crucial components like the ignition switch and radio system, further diminishing the vehicle’s reliability.
As someone with years of experience in automotive mechanics, I would advise potential buyers to be extremely cautious with the 2005 Honda Pilot. The combination of transmission and electrical problems, compounded by a high number of recalls, suggests that this model might be more trouble than it’s worth, especially for those prioritizing safety and reliability.
2009 Honda Pilot: A Year to Approach with Caution
The 2009 Honda Pilot, while part of a generally reliable line, stands out as a year with notable concerns, making it a less desirable choice for potential buyers noted by Edmunds.
Mechanical and Performance Problems
- Engine and Transmission Woes: This model year was particularly plagued with engine and transmission issues, leading to performance inconsistencies and potential costly repairs.
- Handling and Ride Quality: Some owners reported dissatisfaction with the vehicle’s handling and overall ride quality, which seemed to fall short of Honda’s usual standards as per Consumer Reports.
Interior and Electrical Challenges
- Interior Quality Concerns: The 2009 Pilot faced criticism for its interior build quality, with some components prone to premature wear and tear.
- Electrical Glitches: Electrical problems, including malfunctioning dashboard lights and erratic electronic controls, added to the list of frustrations for owners.
Drawing from my experience in the field, the 2009 Honda Pilot presents a mixed bag of attributes. While it retains the spaciousness and versatility typical of the Pilot series, its mechanical and interior issues are points of concern.
2013 Honda Pilot: A Mixed Bag of Reliability and Aesthetic Issues
The 2013 Honda Pilot presents a peculiar case where its decent reliability rating contrasts sharply with specific issues, particularly concerning its exterior aesthetics as per CarComplaints.
Reliability vs. Aesthetic Issues
- Reliability Score: Despite earning a respectable 79 out of 100 in reliability from J.D. Power, the 2013 model wasn’t without its flaws.
- Peeling Paint Problem: A significant issue with this model was the peeling paint, particularly noticeable in red, blue, and black vehicles. This problem was attributed to the use of subpar primers and paints.
Recalls and Mechanical Concerns
- Airbag and Electrical Issues: Among its six recalls, the 2013 Pilot had notable concerns with airbags and electrical systems, which are critical for safety according to NHTSA.gov.
- Engine Troubles: Engine-related recalls further added to the list of concerns for this model year.
From my experience in the field, the 2013 Honda Pilot can be a bit of a gamble. While its reliability rating is commendable, the issues with paint peeling and the recalls related to safety-critical components like airbags and the engine make it a model to approach with caution.
2016 Honda Pilot: Navigating Through Its Recalls and User Concerns
The 2016 Honda Pilot, while a modern and appealing SUV, encountered several issues that led to multiple recalls and user complaints, affecting its overall reputation according to Vehicle History.
Recalls and Structural Issues
- Recall Overview: This model faced five recalls, impacting crucial areas like the fuel system, electrical components, seat belts, and body integrity.
- Structural Concerns: Reports of cracked seals, air and water leaks, and tailgate issues were common, indicating potential quality control problems during manufacturing.
Infotainment and Aesthetic Flaws
- Infotainment System Complaints: Users frequently criticized the infotainment system for its lack of user-friendliness, with defects in steering wheel controls and communication systems detracting from the driving experience according to CarComplaints.
- Exterior Durability Issues: Concerns about roof rust and short-lived paint further marred the vehicle’s appeal.
Based on my years of experience in automotive repair, the 2016 Honda Pilot, despite its attractive features and capabilities, requires careful consideration due to its array of recalls and user-reported issues. The infotainment system, in particular, seems to be a significant source of frustration for owners.
Key Rivals of the Honda Pilot: A Comparative Overview
When evaluating competitors to the Honda Pilot, it’s essential to consider aspects like speed, space, and overall functionality. These criteria are crucial for buyers seeking a vehicle that balances performance with practicality.
- Toyota Highlander: Known for its reliability and spacious interior, the Highlander is a strong contender, offering a comfortable ride and advanced safety features.
- Jeep Grand Cherokee: This SUV stands out with its off-road capabilities and luxurious interior, making it a versatile choice for both city driving and adventurous outings.
- Jeep Wrangler: Renowned for its ruggedness and off-road prowess, the Wrangler appeals to those seeking a durable and adventurous vehicle.
- Ford Explorer: A staple in the SUV market, the Explorer offers ample space, a powerful engine, and a suite of modern tech features.
- Subaru Outback: The Outback is a unique blend of wagon and SUV, offering excellent all-wheel-drive capabilities, a comfortable ride, and a reputation for safety.
- Toyota 4Runner: A robust and reliable SUV, the 4Runner is known for its off-road abilities and durable build, appealing to those who prioritize toughness and longevity.
How These Competitors Stack Up Against the Honda Pilot
One of the primary considerations for SUV buyers is the size. The Pilot’s competitors offer varying degrees of interior space, with models like the Toyota Highlander and Ford Explorer being notable for their roomy cabins.
Performance and Functionality:
- Speed and Power: Vehicles like the Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee offer powerful engine options for those prioritizing speed and towing capacity.
- Off-Road Capabilities: For off-road enthusiasts, the Jeep Wrangler and Toyota 4Runner are standout choices due to their rugged build and terrain-handling abilities.
Common Issues in Honda Pilot Models: A Detailed Look
The Honda Pilot, known for its reliability and versatility, is not without its share of issues. Over the years, certain problems have emerged more frequently across various models.
Window and Windshield Vulnerabilities:
- Cracks and Damage: One of the most common issues with Honda Pilots is the susceptibility of windows and windshields to cracks and damage, often requiring repairs or replacements.
- Impact on Visibility and Safety: These cracks not only affect the vehicle’s aesthetics but also pose potential safety risks by impairing visibility.
Interior and Electrical Component Failures:
- Accessory Malfunctions: Interior accessories in Honda Pilots, such as the infotainment system, climate controls, and dashboard displays, can experience malfunctions.
- Electrical Glitches: Electrical components, including power windows and door locks, have been reported to fail, leading to inconvenience and the need for repairs.
- Performance Issues: Transmission problems, including slipping gears and rough shifting, are a notable concern in some Pilot models, impacting the driving experience.
- Costly Repairs: These transmission issues can lead to significant repair costs and downtime for the vehicle.
- Operational Inefficiencies: Engine problems, ranging from minor annoyances to major malfunctions, have been reported, affecting the vehicle’s performance and reliability according to MothorAndWheels.
- Potential for Overheating and Breakdowns: In severe cases, these engine issues can lead to overheating and breakdowns, necessitating extensive repairs.
Body and Paint Concerns:
- Aesthetic Degradation: Body and paint problems, such as peeling, fading, and rusting, can detract from the vehicle’s appearance and resale value.
- Structural Integrity: In some instances, body issues can also affect the structural integrity of the vehicle.
Excessive Oil Consumption:
- Frequent Top-Ups Required: Some Honda Pilot models have been known to consume oil excessively, requiring more frequent top-ups than usual.
- Engine Health Risks: This issue can pose risks to the engine’s health if not monitored and managed properly.
Brake System Issues:
- Reduced Stopping Power: Problems with the braking system, including worn pads, rotor issues, and hydraulic failures, can lead to reduced stopping power and increased safety risks.
- Maintenance and Repair: Regular maintenance and prompt attention to any brake-related symptoms are crucial for ensuring safe operation.
Honda Pilot: The Middle Ground Years
While we’ve highlighted the best and worst years for the Honda Pilot, there are some years that fall in between – not exceptionally great, but not terribly problematic either. These include the years, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2019. These models didn’t make headlines for groundbreaking features or severe issues, but they offered a decent balance of reliability and functionality.
- 2010-2011 Honda Pilot: These years saw modest improvements in comfort and technology but didn’t stand out in terms of major upgrades or significant issues. They are reliable choices for those looking for a no-frills, dependable SUV.
- 2014 & 2015 Models: These years were stable for the Pilot, with minor tweaks and improvements. They didn’t have the advanced features of the later models but were free from the major issues of the earlier ones.
- 2017 Honda Pilot: This year’s model saw some technological updates, making it a more modern choice without the price tag of the very latest models.
- 2019 Honda Pilot: This model year included some refinements in comfort and technology, making it a good choice for those who want a more updated vehicle without opting for the very latest model.
Evaluating Honda Pilot Generations: Which One to Choose?
First Generation (2003 to 2008): The Early Innovators
The first generation of Honda Pilots, spanning from 2003 to 2008, marked the entry of this model into the SUV market. This era saw significant engine advancements and the introduction of drivetrain options.
Engine Evolution and Drivetrain Options
- 2003-2004 Models: These early models were equipped with a V6 engine, setting a solid foundation for performance.
- 2005 Upgrade: The 2005 model received a boost in horsepower, enhancing its on-road capabilities.
- 2006 Drivetrain Choices: From 2006, consumers had the choice between front-wheel drive and four-wheel drive, catering to different driving preferences.
- Engine and Transmission Issues: Despite the advancements, some vehicles from this generation faced engine and transmission problems, which potential buyers should be aware of.
Second Generation (2009 to 2015): The Era of Refinement
The second generation of Honda Pilots, running from 2009 to 2015, focused on improving user experience and safety features.
- Gearshift Positioning: The gearshift was moved to the console for easier access, a subtle yet significant ergonomic improvement.
- Safety Enhancements: This generation saw the introduction of traction control, anti-lock brakes, and additional features like a power moonroof and satellite navigation.
- Transmission and Engine Concerns: Similar to the first generation, some models in this era also encountered transmission and engine issues.
Third Generation (2016 to Present): Modern and Efficient
The latest generation of Honda Pilots, starting from 2016, showcases larger, yet lighter, vehicles with modern features.
Key Features and Upgrades
- Design and Efficiency: Despite being larger, these models are lighter and include features like LED lights and 20-inch tires on select models.
- Advanced Safety Systems: Significant safety upgrades include a mirror camera on the passenger side, lane departure warning, and blind-spot monitoring according to MotorTrend.
Choosing the Right Generation:
- First Generation for Budget Buyers: If you’re on a tight budget, the first-generation Pilots offer a cost-effective option, though they may require more frequent visits to a mechanic.
- Second Generation for Reliability: For those seeking a balance between affordability and reliability, second-generation Pilots are a great choice, with fewer mechanical issues reported.
- Third Generation for Modern Features: If you prioritize modern amenities and advanced safety features, the latest generation is the way to go, offering the most up-to-date technology and design.
Longevity of the Honda Pilot: Mileage Expectations
The Honda Pilot is renowned for its durability, with industry statistics indicating a potential lifespan of up to 300,000 miles. This impressive figure showcases the model’s robustness and longevity.
Real-World Owner Experiences
- 200,000-Mile Benchmark: Owners who have surpassed the 200,000-mile mark generally report a lack of significant mile-related issues, underscoring the Pilot’s reliability over long distances.
- Maintenance Impact: Regular maintenance is a key factor in achieving these high mileage numbers. Honda mechanics emphasize the importance of consistent and proper vehicle care according to CarEdge.
Importance of Regular Maintenance
Having a reliable mechanic is crucial for the upkeep of your Honda Pilot. Regular check-ups and timely repairs can significantly extend the vehicle’s life.
- Routine Checks: Regular oil changes, tire rotations, and checking fluid levels can prevent major issues.
- Addressing Minor Issues Promptly: Small problems, if left unattended, can escalate into major concerns. Prompt attention to any irregularities can save costs and extend the vehicle’s lifespan.
Is the Honda Pilot a good choice for towing?
Yes, the Honda Pilot is equipped for moderate towing tasks. Depending on the model year and configuration, it can tow between 3,500 to 5,000 pounds, making it suitable for trailers, small boats, or campers.
How does the Honda Pilot perform in terms of fuel efficiency?
The Honda Pilot is relatively fuel-efficient for its class. Most models average around 18-20 mpg in the city and 26-28 mpg on the highway, though this can vary based on driving conditions and maintenance.
Are there any common issues with the Honda Pilot’s electronics?
Some older models have reported issues with the infotainment system and navigation glitches. However, recent models have seen improvements in these areas.
How does the Honda Pilot compare in price to its competitors?
The Honda Pilot is competitively priced within its segment. It often falls in a similar or slightly higher price range compared to rivals like the Toyota Highlander or Ford Explorer, especially when considering newer models with advanced features.
What is the seating capacity of the Honda Pilot?
The Honda Pilot typically seats up to eight passengers, with a spacious third-row seat that is suitable for adults, which is a notable advantage over some competitors.
Is the Honda Pilot equipped with advanced safety features?
Yes, newer models of the Honda Pilot come with a suite of advanced safety features, including adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, and collision mitigation braking.
How user-friendly is the Honda Pilot’s infotainment system?
Recent models of the Honda Pilot have received positive reviews for their infotainment systems, which are generally considered user-friendly and responsive, with features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.
The Honda Pilot stands as a testament to Honda’s commitment to reliability, space, and versatility in the SUV market. With its range of models catering to different needs and preferences, the Pilot remains a top choice for families and individuals alike, balancing performance, comfort, and practicality.
Please note that the insights and recommendations provided here are based on my personal experience as a former mechanic and information gathered from various online sources. These observations are intended for general guidance and should not be the sole basis for making a purchase decision. Always conduct thorough research and consider professional advice specific to your situation before buying a vehicle.