The midsize Honda Pilot SUV has been a fairly popular model since it was introduced back in 2003. It was not without its problems though, and transmission has popped up more than once as a serious issue for some drivers of the Pilot. On average, Honda Pilot owners have had to pay over $3,000 to fix their transmission issues when they do crop up. They tend to occur around 125,000 miles, so at least you can take some solace in knowing that it's not going to happen right away with a new model. That said, if you're in the market for an older used model, you may be running afoul of this issue if you picked the wrong year.
If you do have any interest in the Honda Pilot, let's take a look through the various model years to see which ones have proven to be reliable and which ones you'd be better off avoiding.
2003 Honda Pilot
This was the first year of the Honda Pilot on the market. On CarComplaints.com they have this listed as a clunker that you should be aware of and avoid at all costs. The 2003 was just not a good model year overall and the chief problems with the 2003 Honda Pilot were transmission problems.
The website has over 60 complaints lodged relating to transmission issues with the typical repair cost being over $3,000 for those who reported it. Some drivers reported that their transmission failed, was repaired, and then failed again.
The issue with the transmission in the 2003 Honda Pilot was one that Honda was well aware of. In fact, in 2004 Honda issued a recall for 1,099,796 Honda Pilots because of a problem with the automatic transmission. According to the recall a gear failure could result in transmission lockup and that in turn could lead to a serious crash.
For vehicles that had 15,000 miles or less on them dealers would update the transmission with a revision to the oil cooler return line that would increase lubrication to the affected gears. If your vehicle had more than 15,000 miles the dealer was just going to inspect the transmission to identify if the gears had experienced discoloration due to overheating. If there was a need for it, the whole transmission would be replaced. This recall also affected the Honda Odyssey and the MDX as well as the Honda Accord.
One of the bigger problems relating to this transmission problem was that a lot of drivers have also reported that when they took their vehicle into the dealer, the dealer would not mention anything relating to the recall and drivers were still charged for the repairs. This is definitely a customer service failure on top of a mechanical failure in terms of the 2003 Honda Pilot.
If you're in the market for an older vehicle, definitely avoid the 2003 model year. At this late stage in the game with it already being 17 years old, and the problems that existed with this model from the moment it came off the line from the manufacturer, there is really no upside to buying a 2003 Honda Pilot at this point.
According to Edmunds.com, a 2003 Honda Pilot is worth about $4,497. If it costs you over $3,000 just to fix a bad transmission, and some drivers expressed that it would cost even more money to get this fixed, you can see that it's a losing proposition to invest and a 2003 Honda Pilot at this point in time.
2004 Honda Pilot
The transmission issues were much less prevalent in the 2004 model year of the Pilot, though there were still some complaints from drivers that it was not working the way it should. Transmission slipping and shuddering were the most common issues that came up, but it was not nearly on the same level as the 2003 model year. Still, given how old this vehicle is, it would be somewhat of a risk to bother investing in a 2004 Pilot this late in the game.
2005 Honda Pilot
The biggest transmission issue in 2005 seems to be fluid leaking from the system in the transmission. The transmission coolant and engine coolant were combined in the same core in the Honda Pilot which meant fixing it was potentially quite expensive. The average repair cost for this issue reported to CarComplaints.com was over $2,000. It happened around 120,000 miles.
Drivers reported not just leaks as their car was sitting in the driveway, but actually while they were driving down the road and the Pilot ended up causing such severe transmission problems, they needed to get a tow.
2006 Honda Pilot
Problems were much less frequent in the 2006 Honda Pilot than they had been in previous years. Only a handful of drivers reported any kind of issues whatsoever, so it's probably a safe bet that this wasn't a major issue with the 2006 model year.
2007 Honda Pilot
There were almost no complaints related to transmission issues with this model year. In fact, CarComplaints gave the 2007 pilot their seal of awesome for being an exceptional model year.
2008 Honda Pilot
Like the 2007 model year, the 2008 model year was relatively problem-free. If you're looking for an older model pilot, this one is the least likely to give you issues.
2009 Honda Pilot
Unfortunately, the 2009 model year of the Honda Pilot proved to be problematic again. There were a number of issues with his model year and transmission also cropped up for some drivers as being problematic. Gear shifting hesitation and outright transmission failure were both problems for some drivers, though there were a myriad of other issues beyond the transmission that made this model year a problem overall.
2010 Honda Pilot
A lot of drivers again had issues with the pilot in the year 2010. While transmission wasn't the major issue for most of them, there were enough other problems to make it a year that's worth avoiding.
2011 Honda Pilot
The 2011 year of the Honda Pilot proved to be better overall than prior years. There were some small issues with transmission related to rough shifting or erratic shifting, and some even reported an annoying high-pitched whine from their transmission. Overall, this is not a terribly bad model year.
2012 Honda Pilot
A handful of drivers have reported issues with the transmission shifting in and out of overdrive causing the car to shutter for the 2012 model year. This tended to happen around 33,000 miles so it was an unusual issue.
2013 Honda Pilot
The 2013 model year of the Honda Pilot was relatively problem-free overall. There were very few issues related to transmission problems reported for this model year. If you're looking for a used Honda Pilot, you could reliably expect that the 2013 model leader will not cause you too many issues with transmission at all.
2014 Honda Pilot
Very few drivers have reported any problems with the transmission for the 2014 model year. Overall, this had been an exceptional year for the Pilot, with fewer complaints than the 2013. If you can find a good deal on a 2014 Honda Pilot and it's something you're interested in, it's a safe bet that this will be a reliable vehicle for you.
2015 Honda Pilot
This has been another fairly successful year for the Honda Pilot in terms of transmission issues. There were a few more complaints related to the transmission for this model year but not at any significant numbers. A couple of drivers mentioned that the transmission was shattering or hesitating. But it was literally just a couple of drivers overall. Statistically, that's probably not much different than the transmission problems that literally any other vehicle on the road might be experiencing. 2015 was a good model year for the Honda Pilot.
2016 Honda Pilot
Unfortunately, the good reputation of the past couple of years on the Honda Pilot had failed for the 2016 model year. You would do well to avoid picking up a used 2016 Honda Pilot because of the number of issues that it has. Transmission was a problem for this one with many drivers claiming to have problems with the transmission failing or jerking repeatedly. On CarComplaints.com, they have the 2016 Honda Pilot rated as a certified clunker. Aside from transmission issues, there were many other problems that this model year presented, making it not worth your while. If you can avoid this one, do so.
2017 Honda Pilot
The 2017 model year of the Honda Pilot had fewer complaints related to transmission issues than the previous year had. Several drivers complained that the transmission would cause them to jump forward and there were also problems with the transmission making loud and annoying noises. The noises often happen at low speed or while accelerating and it was like a banging or a clapping sound. This was combined with the jerky motion as you attempted to accelerate. It didn't happen in a large number of vehicles, but it did happen in several that were reported.
2018 Honda Pilot
The 2018 Honda Pilot has the same transmission issues that the 2017 Pilot had. They have not been extensive, but they are still some of the more common issues that drivers of this model year have pointed out. Issues are related to the transmission failing completely, or much more frequently, the transmission jerking.
2019 Honda Pilot
Because the 2019 Honda Pilot is in the same generation as the 2018, 2017, and 2016 models, it seems to be using the same transmission and therefore was having the same problems overall. Some drivers have complained of the transmission slipping and jerking, much the same as the previous several model years.
2020 Honda Pilot
There is no information really available currently about any issues that drivers have had with the 2020 model year the Honda Pilot. It's still part of the third generation of Honda Pilots, so it's very likely that it's still using the same transmission as previous years. That means there is the potential for issues with slipping and jerking transmission, but nothing solid has been reported yet. So, if you're looking to get a 2020 Honda Pilot model, just keep in mind that these may be concerns that some drivers have had, though they are usually in very low numbers.
The Bottom Line
The Honda Pilot was introduced back in the 2003 model year. A five-door midsize SUV, the Pilot has mostly been sold in North America. It's the largest SUV that Honda sells, and is manufactured in Alabama although it used to be produced in Canada until 2007.
Overall, the Honda Pilot has been a fairly successful model for Honda. Sales are routinely above 100,000 units every year. In 2018 they sold over 159,000 in America, and 2019 sold 135,000. It's clearly a vehicle that consumers like and is a standout in its class.
If you're looking to pick up a Honda Pilot, you definitely want to avoid some of those older model years. Absolutely stay away from 2003 more than anything, however. It's just not worth the hassle to deal with this vehicle as there are so many problems with the transmission, combined with how old it is already which could mean other systems are just as likely to fail.
There are definitely some newer model years of the Honda Pilot that have proven to be much more reliable, the transmission problems reported in many of these newer model years are low numbers. The fact that they have reported shouldn't dissuade you from seriously considering some of the newer models because, as you know, no vehicle can be manufactured 100% perfect across the board. Any vehicle has the potential to have a problem, but these model years do not have these issues as a trend overall so it's not a major concern with a lot of them.
Avoid the model years we've pointed out as being particularly problematic, and if you can get a good deal, then you could probably have a decent experience driving your Honda Pilot.