What are the Best Years for the GMC Yukon? (Revealed!)


The GMC Yukon is a large SUV geared for two things: hauling people and hauling trailers. They’re also pretty fun to run through the mud. But are there model years that are better than others to buy?

The 2014 GMC Yukon XL reflects how hard General Motors worked to refine the third generation (2007-2014). Even with over 200,000 miles on it, a Yukon XL can easily remain safe and reliable as a family hauler.

What are the Best Years for the GMC Yukon?

The 2014 GMC Yukon XL is one of the best model years available since its powertrain can still go strong at high mileage. In fact, just about any year from the third generation is a good year to buy. Either of the strong V8 engine options gives this third-row SUV enough power to move at a quick clip.

How has the third generation of Yukons held up over the years? And which model years should you utterly avoid? Read on to find out more.

Models to Avoid

Let’s just get this out of the way: If you see a 2015 GMC Yukon for sale, there’s a really good reason why the owner wants to get rid of it.

According to CarComplaints.com, this Yukon has more consumer complaints than any other model year – so much so that Car Complaints labeled it the Worst Model Year.

What makes it so terrible, you ask? 

Well, consumers lodge many complaints. The worst – and most frequent – the problem has to do with the taillights failing to properly work. 

Taillight assembly is something you usually have to replace at around 60,000 miles on this model year, and the cost averages out at $760. 

And the lighting problems do not stop there, as there are numerous other reports of other issues occurring with the lighting system.

The A/C unit is prone to failure, but that is nothing compared to the multitude of complaints about the random shifting, vibrating, jerking, and hesitation coming from the transmission

Drivers report issues like the transmission needing 2-4 seconds to shift into reverse and making loud clanging noises. Even fresh off the dealership lot, this Yukon displayed bucking problems for some buyers.

Add to that the 10 recalls reported by NHTSA, and you have a real lemon. It is hard to imagine the 2014 and 2015 Yukons being crafted from the same ilk.

The Best Years for the GMC Yukon

That being said, the 2014 GMC Yukon and Yukon XL represent the best model year in recent model history. 

The biggest problem it has overall is that the third row does not fold down flat. 

However, according to US News, the 2014 Yukon ranks #2 in 2014 SUV affordability and #4 in 2014 third-row SUV affordability. It ended up being a finalist for the 2014 Best Large SUVs for Families.

You get to choose between two powerful V8 engine options: a 5.3-liter V8 engine that generates 320 hp or a 6.2-L V8 that puts forth 403 hp on the Denali trim level. 

The Denali actually doesn’t feel that much stronger than the base engine, though, so the lower trim levels are totally suitable in terms of power. 

The Denali does sip more heavily on fuel, getting about 13 mpg in the city and 18 mpg on the highway. Meanwhile, the base engine returns 15 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway.

If cargo space matters, the 2014 Yukon XL gives you a whopping 137 cubic feet of cargo space. 

Standard features across the trim levels include

  • Satellite radio pre-wiring
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Tri-zone automatic climate control
  • AUSB port
  • Bose sound system

Opting up to a higher trim can get you things like a rear-seat entertainment system and a power liftgate.

For a vehicle in its class, the 2014 Yukon’s 3.5/5 reliability rating is above average. Many vehicles in its segment get between 2.5 and 3.

The Yukon does have a lot of safety features available and got five stars in the frontal and side crash tests from NHTSA.

Earlier models from this generation are worthy of consideration, but the 2014 is definitely the most refined and feature-rich.

The Yukon’s Beginnings

The GMC Yukon actually began as the GMC Jimmy. In 1992, General Motors unveiled their new model at the North American International Auto Show. 

Leather seats were introduced in 1995, as was a four-door model. The Yukon is essentially a close cousin to the Chevy Tahoe.

It was not until 1999 that the ever-popular Denali trim level came along and wowed buyers and critics alike. 

This essentially made the Denali GMC’s answer to the luxurious Lincoln Navigator (at least until GM rebadged and created the Chevy Escalade). 

A 2000 redesign for the Yukon saw some big changes, but the Denali had to wait another year for its redesign.

Again, the Denali was redesigned in 2007, aligning with the Yukon’s third generation’s initiation. 

The grill was rounded out more and made to look less aggressive with reshaped headlights. The Denali gained power steering as a standard feature in 2009.

Recent Model Years

2015 – quite possibly the worst year ever for the Yukon – brought a lot of changes. Many new and advanced features, such as GM’s magnetic ride control suspension, bumped the vehicle’s cost up by $1,300 over the 2014’s starting MSRP.

The 2015’s mid-year addition of numerous features accounts for this.

2021 ushered in the fifth generation of Yukons. So far, it has received pretty poor reviews, with buyers citing engine failure before 10,000 miles.

There are also a host of electrical issues as well as random failures, such as the radio getting stuck on one station for a day. Also, front-wheel drive is not an option. 

Yeah, we know – 4WD and RWD are not ideal for everyone, and FWD would be nice.

Best And Worst Years GMC Yukon

The GMC Yukon is, by and large, a vehicle that tends to miss the mark when it starts off in new generations.

GM has a lot of grand ideas for the Yukon but does not always seem to provide finesse hot off a redesign. Stick to model years at the end of their generations.

The 2014 is probably your best bet on reliability if you can find one for sale. It has the best ratings overall and offers a lot of standard tech features given the year it was manufactured.

Overall, expect to pay a reasonable amount for a used Yukon but to have to foot the bill rather often at the mechanic shop.

Kern Campbell

I've had a passion for four-wheel-drive vehicles since I was a kid riding in the back seat of my Grandfather's Jeep Grand Wagoneer. I have owned a lot of vehicles over the years. They each have their pros and cons and I look forward to sharing my knowledge with you so you can find the vehicle that's just right for your needs.

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