Best & Worst GMC Savana Years

We've taken a closer look at every GMC Savana from 1996 to the latest model and categorized the best & worst years in this guide.

In this comprehensive exploration, I’ll break down all GMC Savana models, unveiling the best GMC Savana years to buy and the worst years to avoid.

We’ve meticulously evaluated each model’s reliability, safety, and owner satisfaction scores, leveraging insights from authoritative sources like NHTSA, Consumer Reports, and Edmunds.

Focusing on the first-generation GMC Savana, we’ll delve into specifics such as the high-performing 2015-2024 models equipped with advanced safety features and the less favorable 1996-2005 models that newcomers should avoid.

Let’s dive right in!

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Table of ContentsShow

GMC Savana Generations

When GMC rolled out the Savana in 1996, it wasn’t just introducing a new vehicle – it was laying the groundwork for a versatile player in the full-size van market. From hauling cargo to carrying passengers, the Savana offered flexibility and robustness right off the bat.

Equipped with a range of powerful engines and designed with utility in mind, it quickly became a go-to for businesses and large families alike.

Below, we’ve prepared a quick glance at the GMC Savana generations:

1st generation1996-Present

GMC Savana has seen numerous updates and changes, particularly between generations. These shifts are crucial as they mark the line between picking a gem and dodging a bullet.

GMC Savana Best, Neutral, and Worst Years

When ranking the GMC Savana across different years, we dive deep, considering a plethora of factors that influence their categorization. These elements include but aren’t limited to:

  • Owner-reported reliability (surveys)
  • Annual maintenance costs
  • Safety ratings
  • Consumer Reports reliability scores
  • Consumer Reports owner satisfaction scores
  • NHTSA recalls, investigations, and complaints
  • Edmunds owner ratings
  • JD Power owner ratings
  • Kelley Blue Book (KBB) owner ratings
  • VehicleHistory owner ratings
  • owner ratings

Here’s a brief peek at a graph combining ratings from the above sources, showcasing how each year stacks up.

GMC Savana Car Smite Score (Combined Overall Score)


Next, we prepare a table categorizing all GMC Savana model years into best, neutral, and worst years based on comprehensive evaluations.

GenerationBest YearsNeutral YearsWorst Years
1st generation2015-20242006-20141996-2005

Neutral Years represent a time when the GMC Savana demonstrated reliability and performance that met expectations but didn’t significantly exceed them.

Factors such as NHTSA recalls directly impact a car’s standing. The more complaints and recalls a model year has, the more it’s seen as less reliable.

Now, let’s delve into the best, neutral, and worst years for the GMC Savana.

Best & Worst Years for GMC Savana 1st Generation (1996-Present)

GMC Savana 1st generation 1996 model
The 1996 GMC Savana

Launched in 1996, the GMC Savana has made its mark as a versatile full-size van catering to a wide array of needs, from commercial cargo hauling to passenger transport.

As it journeyed through the years, this vehicle has seen significant updates and improvements, especially in engine performance, safety features, and technological advancements.

The Best Years: 2015-2024

The period from 2015 to 2024 represents the golden era for the GMC Savana, distinguished by substantial advancements in performance, safety, and technology.

The engine lineup became more versatile, including the introduction of the 4.8L V8, producing 285 hp, and the robust 6.6L Duramax V8 diesel, which churns out 260 hp and impressive torque figures, enhancing towing capabilities.

These models introduced a 6-speed automatic transmission, which provides smoother transitions and better fuel efficiency, up to 15 city/20 highway MPG.

The trim levels, ranging from basic Work Van to the more luxurious LT, allowed for greater customization, catering to a variety of needs and preferences.

Technological enhancements, such as touchscreen infotainment systems with smartphone integration and advanced safety features like blind-spot monitoring, significantly elevated the ownership experience during these years.

Despite these improvements, it’s worth noting that some owners reported issues with the transmission and emissions systems, which, while relatively infrequent, did affect the overall reliability for a small percentage of vehicles.

The Neutral Years: 2006-2014

From 2006 to 2014, the GMC Savana made strides in engine performance and comfort, albeit not as dramatically as in the best years.

The powertrain options included the reliable 5.3L V8 offering 295 hp, which struck a balance between power and efficiency, and the 4.3L V6, appreciated for its durability, though it was less powerful and efficient compared to later engine updates.

These years introduced the 6-speed automatic transmission for the first time, improving driving dynamics and fuel consumption, which hovered around 12-15 mpg in city driving and 17-20 mpg on the highway for various models.

Trim levels during this period provided a range of options from functional to comfortable but lacked the high-end technological and safety innovations found in newer models.

While these years marked a period of steady performance and reliability, reports of wear-and-tear issues more commonly associated with aging vehicle components were noted, reflecting the transitional nature of this era in the Savana’s history.

The Worst Years: 1996-2005

The initial decade of the GMC Savana, from 1996 to 2005, faced the challenges typical of a new vehicle series trying to establish itself.

Engine options were more limited, with early models powered by the 4.3L V6 and the 5.0L V8 delivering modest power outputs that fell short in terms of fuel efficiency and performance, especially by today’s standards.

Safety and technology offerings were basic, focusing on fundamental needs without the advanced driver assistance systems or infotainment technologies that would become commonplace.

Additionally, these years saw a higher incidence of recalls and consumer complaints, particularly regarding powertrain and electrical system issues, underscoring Savana’s early growing pains.

GMC Savana Resale Values

Discover the trends in GMC Savana’s average resale values with the graph below.

GMC Savana Average List Price


After diving deep into the GMC Savana’s history, it’s clear that the models from 2015-2024 stand out as the best buys, offering robust performance, advanced safety, and tech features.

On the other hand, it’s wise to avoid the models from 1996 to 2005 due to their higher incidence of issues and limited features.

Do you own or have you previously owned a GMC Savana? If so, which year?

Share your insights in the comments below!

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Jonathan Eckert

Jonathan is an ASE-certified mechanic with over 22 years of hands-on experience in the automotive industry. His expertise spans a wide range of vehicles, but he specializes in diagnosing and repairing Japanese cars. His previous workplace highly commended his meticulous attention to detail, and that's exaclty what he uses at Car Smite to craft the best guides for each purpose.