Suburban vs. Expedition EL

HELP: Ford Expedition EL or Chevrolet Suburban?

I need your help. We are adding a larger vehicle to suit our needs better. The kids are getting bigger. Who saw that coming? We quit feeding them years ago. This is a joke.

The Contenders

I am looking at a 2013 Chevy Suburban LTZ that lived the first part of its life in New Mexico as a rental vehicle and the second part of its life in Mississippi.

2013 Chevy Suburban LTZ

The second vehicle is a 2014 Ford Expedition EL Limited that lived all of its life in Nebraska. It also had two owners, and the second owner put 60,000 miles on it since February 2018. Damn. The previous owner replaced the spark plugs at 65,000 miles.

2014 Ford Expedition EL Limited

The Suburban has 148,938 miles and the Ford has 121,225 miles.


The Chevy has the 5.3L V8 that makes 320 hp and 335 ft-lbs. The Ford has the 5.4L three-valve V8 and produces 310 hp and 365 ft-lbs.

2013 Chevy Suburban LTZ Engine

Peak horsepower and torque are 400 RPMs lower in the Ford. I’ve heard arguments that both of these engines are not great. The 3-valve Ford has issues with spark plugs breaking off, and the 5.3L V8 in the Chevy has some reliability issues. I work at a construction company, and two of the guys there have had oiling issues with their 5.3s. One threw a rod, and the other traded his truck before anything catastrophic could happen. *shrug emoji*

2014 Ford Expedition EL Limited Engine


The Expedition EL is shorter for overall length, but it is an inch taller. There is seating for seven in Expedition EL and the possibility of purchasing the second-row “jump seat” and installing it to make the truck an eight-seater. Both the rear bucket seats are heated. The front seats are heated and cooled.

The Suburban is longer and has three more cubic feet of cargo capacity behind the third-row seat. It has the full second row and cannot be converted to buckets without replacing a large portion of the back seat. The outside positions of the second-row are heated too. The front seats are also heated and cooled. The steering wheel can be heated too.

2013 Chevy Suburban LTZ Second Row


Both vehicles come with navigation packages. Ford brings an early version of SYNC, and the Chevy is old enough that it is not even Cue. The Ford has DVD players in the driver and front passenger headrest, but I don’t know that we could scrape together five DVDs that more than one kid would want to watch. They are more concerned about power outlet availability. The Ford has a 12V in the front, one on the back of the center console, and a 110V AC outlet there too. There’s an outlet in the trunk of the Expedition, but it is so far from the third row that the kids will need a five-foot charging cable to use it.

2014 Ford Expedition EL Limited interior

However, the Suburban does not have DVD players, so the kids would be stuck with the two removable units that we own. These attach to the headrests. Again, we took them on our trip to Colorado last summer, and even though they were on, I don’t think more than one or two kids watched them. The Chevy has two 12V outlets for the driver and front passenger, a 12V for the second row, and another 12V in the trunk about the same distance away as the Ford.

2013 Chevy Suburban LTZ interior

Both vehicles have the driver memory settings, so my wife and I can easily switch on and off using the vehicle as the family bus.

This generation of Suburban is known for having some wonkiness to its Ride Control suspension system. I haven’t heard anything about the Expedition’s system, but I could have missed something.

Which one?

I have thought about this too much. I can’t tell which one will be the more reliable family hauler. The Suburban’s price allows for a little room just in case something goes wrong. However, it looks like the Expedition might suit our needs better and will enable us to expand to an eight-seater in the future.

What do you all think?

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27 responses to “HELP: Ford Expedition EL or Chevrolet Suburban?”

  1. Dina Avatar

    Suburban as the reliability of used fords is so iffy. Used GM’s have way less expensive issues and last longer. You don’t see many used fords with tons of miles on the but used GM’s with over 100k still sell for good money.

    1. Sjalabais Avatar

      Funny you would say that, in their European offerings, this would certainly be the other way around. Does that thinking apply to the Flex, too?

  2. E34less Avatar

    Suburban will be more straight forward to service and is generally less complicated. My Ford store gets a decent number of both as trade ins and Suburbans are much easier for us to get serviced and sold than Expos. That era of Fords with SYNC and the first round of aluminum body parts (hood and tailgate on the Expo I think?) are kinda problematic.

  3. Kamil K Avatar

    I don’t know about the long term reliability of these but I do know this – middle-row bench over individual seats. It’s just more functional and sometimes kids bring their friends, needed an extra seat. Or the in-laws are over for the holidays, or something.

    1. Kamil K Avatar

      With the third-row folded, your full-size SUV becomes a very large four-passenger vehicle.

  4. Professor LavaHot Avatar
    Professor LavaHot

    Suburban, if only to not have to look at that era of Ford interior design.
    It’s not that the Suburban is better by any huge margin but yikes that Ford steering wheel.
    Also, column shifter FTW.
    Your phone is the navigation system now.

    1. caltemus Avatar

      I’ll respectfully go the opposite direction, that Suburban looks like all the controls are mushy, and the wheel looks straight out of a rental impala. I’d take the ford interior design all day over the burb

      1. Zentropy Avatar

        I admit that neither interior design is great, but I can’t recall a Chevrolet interior of the last 50 years that I thought was appealing. They typically look about 5-7 years behind the times, but the interior in the Suburban shown above looks like it was pulled from a 20-year old Buick. The Ford’s is unusual but at least it doesn’t scream “octogenarian”.

        1. Sjalabais Avatar

          I’m surprised at how dated both interiors look, the steering wheels especially. But put me on team GM here…the Ford design is actually a bit disturbing to look at for me, while the dark-leather-faux-wood-look is at least just…normal.

        2. Sjalabais Avatar

          I’m surprised at how dated both interiors look, the steering wheels especially. But put me on team GM here…the Ford design is actually a bit disturbing to look at for me, while the dark-leather-faux-wood-look is at least just…normal.

  5. roguetoaster Avatar

    Had the opportunity to drive quite a few of these when new or a year or so old as part of a late night personal transport gig.

    The Suburbans always felt well assembled, and would absolutely hustle at a traffic leading pace without anyone inside noticing. They also handled well and seated adults comfortably. The Exps always felt cheaper, overstressed, and were certainly less confidence inspiring.

    Also consider that people in my area seem to think that Suburbans might be cops and move aside, but this can also cause them to act unpredictably when they finally look outside of their bubbles.

  6. P161911 Avatar

    Does anyone actually use a navigation system or DVD player in a car anymore? My phone handles all navigation duties. My 8 year old daughter prefers a phone or tablet to DVDs. We have an unlimited data plan and phone hot spots, so she just uses a tablet or mommy’s phone. If by some chance we take a long trip with spotty data coverage, just download a few things from Netflix or Amazon before the trip.

    1. Sjalabais Avatar

      Don’t your kids get carsick? Our kids sit and watch the surroundings, or just talk. But we have noticed that a lot of people have headrest-TVs or dole out small screens to the rows further back.

      1. P161911 Avatar

        Usually not. Occasionally on longer straight drives she might complain. Then we tell her to just put the device down and either look outside or try to nap.

  7. mdharrell Avatar

    I’ve driven several examples of each of these as rentals for geology field trips under a wide range of conditions. I don’t normally recommend that anyone actually follow my automotive advice (which, for the record, would be to find a Commer FC, ideally a New Zealand example), but yeah, the Suburban. Of the two, definitely the Suburban. It is simply better at being useful.

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      A friend had one of those Commers, a 15 seat bus version so the seating capacity of both of these combined! It also had a 1.7l four and automatic transmission which didn’t contribute to it moving the less than 50 metres I’m aware it did in roughly 10 years before he sold it. That was probably 25 years ago so no photos sorry, from memory it was a jaunty two tone turquoise/green and white.

  8. Sjalabais Avatar

    Wait, what’s with all the constructive answers? Wouldn’t “4Runner” be the Miata of tanks, or, you know, the hooniversal twist of “Why not…?”:

    1. mdharrell Avatar

      I’m so seldom in the position of having an actual informed opinion on any modern vehicles that I got carried away at the opportunity.

    2. E34less Avatar

      Needs more Trollblazer SS

  9. Zentropy Avatar

    Personally I like the look of those Expeditions, but I’m from a Ford family and probably carry a bias. Ford has fewer miles. Interior-wise, that Suburban is morbidly depressing. Neither vehicle would be my preference, but between the two I’d go Ford.

  10. Scoutdude Avatar

    Expedition all the way. The spark plug issue is over blown, do it by the Ford procedure and you won’t break them. The ride and handling of the Ford is much better with its IRS and while the GM will keep running crappy for a very long time, the rest, not so much.

  11. William Byrd Avatar

    WARNING – There are some internal engine issues with that era Suburban. Our 2011 Yukon XL grenaded throwing two rods out of the engine in a spectacular failure at about 120K miles. Don’t quote me on this, but I think they fixed the design issue for 2014, making this one potentially in that realm. There is/was a class action suit by some owners that we added our name to, don’t think it went anywhere. It was clear by GM’s unpublished fix in 2014 that they knew it existed, so buyer beware!

  12. Christopher Tracy Avatar
    Christopher Tracy

    Spoiler Alert: as long as everything does well, I’m buy a Sequoia instead. I can’t get away from Toyota…

    1. Sjalabais Avatar

      Seems really like the best option here, too.

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