The Best & Worst Years of GMC Sierra

The GMC Sierra is mechanically identical to the Chevrolet Silverado truck lineup, with some upgraded luxury features included. Finding the best and worst years of GMC Sierra only requires looking at some of the recalls, customer complaints and online reviews.

We’ve searched through the data to pick out the best GMC Sierra models and show you which ones to avoid. We also give you a list of the most common Sierra problems and answer some pressing questions. 

The Best GMC Sierra Model Years

Above all, the 2023 and 2012 GMC Sierra model years rank among the best. These are reliable trucks that are going to last the longest when cared for. We also recommend checking into the 2009, 2018 and 2022 Sierra years because these are also rated highly.

Here are some more specifications for each model year.

1. 2023 GMC Sierra

2023 GMC Sierra is one of the best models

As a new pickup truck, you really can’t go wrong with choosing the 2023 Sierra. J.D. Power labels it the best light-duty pickup truck on the market, so you know it’s reliable.

With multiple engine options and the ability to tow more than 13,000 pounds, this truck is ready to work. Yet, it also has a luxurious interior and comfortable seating for when the day is over. 

2. 2012 GMC Sierra

2012 GMC Sierra is one of the best models

As a used truck, they just don’t get much better than the 2012 GMC Sierra. This pickup is appealing because the cabin is quiet, it provides a smooth ride and it’s made with premium materials. 

You also can’t argue with the fuel efficiency, considering there’s a hybrid variant. Otherwise, you can choose a V8 model and get a ton of power out of the engine. 

3. 2009 GMC Sierra

The 2009 GMC Sierra offers a rugged construction and excellent fuel economy, considering how old it is. If you need a low-cost work truck, this is going to be one of your best options. 

You can find a variant that fits any need, whether you require full-time 4WD or a higher payload capacity. With proper maintenance, this truck should continue to give you many more years of reliable transportation. 

4. 2018 GMC Sierra

2018 GMC Sierra - one of the best model years

With minimal complaints about the 2018 Sierra, this truck balances the budget while providing high-tech, modern features. It also doesn’t ride like a truck, thanks to the rigid suspension.

There are plenty of powertrain options with this pickup. These choices allow you to choose a model for efficiency or power. 

5. 2022 GMC Sierra

Among the newer models, the 2022 Sierra has a lot to offer. It’s comfortable and insanely functional, perfect for enjoying a drive or working hard. 

With the turbodiesel engine, it offers superior fuel economy. Plus, there are Denali and AT4 trim levels designed for either luxury or off-roading. 

Worst GMC Sierra Model Years

Not all GMC Sierra trucks are worthy of being on the road. Based on our research, the 2014 and 2015 GMC Sierra pickups are among the worst. We also recommend staying clear of the 2005, 2003 and 2020 Sierra models. 

Let’s examine the models with the most complaints.

1. 2014 GMC Sierra

2014 GMC Sierra - a less reliable model

Look no further for the truck with some of the most complaints. It’s the 2014 GMC Sierra. More than a quarter of the complaints have to do with dim headlights, making it difficult to see at night. Owners that switched out the bulbs for better ones couldn’t see any better.

There’s also a high chance of excessive oil consumption. Beyond that, complaints roll in about the heating and air conditioning system, electrical system, brakes and more. 

2. 2015 GMC Sierra

When the 2015 Sierra arrived, customers hoped that all of the previous problems were resolved, but they were surprised to find out that this truck was just as bad. The headlights continued to be a sore spot for owners.

Air conditioning also tends to malfunction, with a new condenser costing upwards of $1,500. Owners are also met with the 4WD Service Light often, even though there’s nothing wrong with the system. To top it off, the defective fuel gauge can read an amount that’s not true, leading to confusion. Beyond that, it might even need a new transmission, with many people needing to rebuild or replace it.

3. 2005 GMC Sierra

The 2005 Sierra is also ranked as one of the worst. Poor performance is a top complaint, but the reliability is in question as well.

The motor may need to be replaced and the interior materials are cheaply made. There are also low crash test scores, making this a less desirable option for families. 

4. 2003 GMC Sierra

Another older model to avoid is the 2003 Sierra. The automatic transmission is the biggest source of complaints, with a rough shifting performance. Road noise is another concern, with the cabin getting so loud at times, it’s difficult to hear.

The brake lines tend to rust prematurely, which can lead to another list of issues. Plus, the seatbelts and airbags may be defective. 

5. 2020 GMC Sierra

2020 GMC Sierra might not be the best pick

The 2020 Sierra is a newer model, but it can’t be recommended. In general, it’s not good to buy a vehicle after it’s been redesigned. 

There are also class action lawsuits about the infotainment system. Beyond that, owners say the backup camera is too bright and it causes a distraction. 

Most Common GMC Sierra Problems

Based on information from RepairPal and consumer reviews, the top GMC Sierra issues include an incorrect speedometer, a faulty electrical system, air conditioning and heating malfunctions and an engine knock. 

Here are some more details about these issues.

Incorrect Speedometer

speedometer is a common issue on some GMC Sierra trucks

Some older models, especially the 2005, seem to struggle with a correct reading on the speedometer. This fault comes down to an electrical wiring issue that can be difficult to troubleshoot and repair. Sadly, many owners are driving around, not realizing that the speedometer is wrong unless they are comparing it against something else.

Additionally, the speedometer can stop working completely, which would require immediate repair. In this case, a new speedometer may be needed. 

Faulty Electrical System

wiring issue

There are other electrical issues with the Sierra trucks. Some people complain about gauges not working, interior lights failing of having the truck lock them out. While a few of these issues may be more of an inconvenience than a problem, there are a few that can lead to serious concerns. 

There are also concerns with the infotainment system. Either the volume becomes a problem, the screen goes dim or connectivity issues occur. There have also been complaints about the backup camera screen being too bright, which becomes a distraction while driving. 

It becomes difficult to figure out what’s wrong with the wiring. Troubleshooting can cost a lot of money if there’s an occasional problem. Repairs can also be costly, leaving most people dumping the truck instead of trying to fix it. 

Air Conditioning and Heating Malfunctions

heating issues on GMC Sierra

While this technically falls in the category of being an electrical system issue, it deserves a category of its own. The range of problems is varied but always concerning.

For starters, the heater can turn itself on, which is very uncomfortable in the middle of summer. Other times, there are issues getting the air conditioning to run at all. Some people have reported the need to spend $1,500 or more to get the climate control system working correctly. 

Engine Knock

V8 Engine
v6 vs v8 car engine differences

One of the serious concerns is engine knocks. Internal engine damage is possible once the knocking starts. Plus, this problem can be difficult to troubleshoot and it can get expensive to go to a mechanic. 

Thankfully, this isn’t as common as some of the other issues. Yet, if you end up with a truck that has engine faults, you may be better off taking your pickup to the junkyard. 

What year GMC Sierra is the most reliable?

Based on customer reviews, the 2023 and 2012 GMC Sierra are the most highly rated. Yet, we have also found great scores for the 2009, 2018 and 2020 GMC Sierra pickup trucks. Read the recalls, customer reviews and scores from the top automotive publications.

What are bad years for GMC Sierra?

While the majority of GMC Sierra trucks have received good reviews, there are some that fail miserably. Based on customer reviews, recalls and scores from some top sites, we’ve determined that the 2014-2015, 2003, 2005 and 2020 GMC Sierra trucks should be avoided.

What years did the GMC Sierra have transmission problems?

Overall, there haven’t been a lot of transmission complaints with GMC Sierra trucks. There were many more instances of engine problems. However, some of the newer models between 2014 and 2021 show some signs of transmission malfunctions. A few customers have complained about the transmission failing before the truck hits 100,000 miles.

Which GMC Sierra engine is best?

The GMC Sierra lineup has come with several different engine configurations over the years. Drivers tend to prefer the 4.3-liter V6 engine when looking for something to tow light-duty items with and get the best fuel economy. However, the 6.2-liter V8 is also a favorite among those who need to tow more and aren’t worried about how much is being spent at the pump.

If you are in the market for a used GMC Sierra pickup truck, there are some models that stand out among the rest. By reading through customer reviews, you can get a good feel for which trucks are worth your money and which ones you should stay away from. Typically, it’s best to avoid any models after a complete redesign, as these can experience more glitches and trouble.

The majority of the GMC Sierra lineup is considered good and reliable. If you find a model that has a lot of recalls and complaints, simply move on to another that’s going to be less of a headache. 


Categories: General

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