Looking for a good SUV for your stuff or the family? The Chevrolet Tahoe is a great choice. But what years are the best ones to find used?
Finding a used car without potentially serious issues is one goal of car buyers. The Tahoe has had its good years and its bad years, just like any other make and model of vehicle.
The best Chevrolet Tahoes out there start with 2015. Chevrolet built some of the most reliable Tahoes from 2010 to 2014. One of the most simply satisfying years of Tahoe was 2006. The data is just coming in for the most recent, 6th generation of Tahoe built in 2021.
What made these vehicles the best? How are they different from the worst years of the Chevrolet Tahoe? We'll take a dive into generations and years so you'll know which Tahoes to consider most strongly.
We've driven Tahoes and love them! We also know how it feels to have picked out a Tahoe that ends up having problems, so we'd like to help you pick the best one available.
What makes a Tahoe the best?
We consider a couple of angles when deciding which Tahoes are the best to pick from.
Our biggest concern is reliability. Drivers dislike spending extra time and money on a vehicle that has flaws and defects.
Another important factor is how competitive and feature rich the vehicle was when it was introduced. Was the vehicle ahead of its time, or did it already have obsolete features when it hit the road?
While a Tahoe is what could be described as a luxury vehicle, that doesn't always mean they ride like one. We'll discuss the most comfortable editions of the Tahoe.
What are the best years of Chevrolet Tahoe?
2016 was the start of the fourth generation of Chevrolet Tahoe. Chevrolet started with a fresh design that looked a bit less boxy than previous generations, with a more angular hood and lines.
These years of Tahoes did well on the JD Power Initial Quality survey, which measures how satisfied new vehicles owners are. Of note, their survey measures for a very wide range of potential problems from comfort and interior to technology and the engine. The 4th generation Tahoe started by doing decent on JD Power at 82, which is still great, but gradually rose even higher to reach 87 by the end of the generation.
With a choice of a 5.3L 8-cylinder or a 6.2L 8-cylinder engine, the Tahoe offered improved options for the best acceleration or towing. Gas mileage also maintained the Tahoe's numbers of 17 miles per gallon combined for a fairly standard 5.3L 4x4 model. This number can be considered an improvement over other large SUV's with the same towing power and space.
According to CarComplaints, this generation does pretty well with vehicle issues. The 2016 started with some complaints, though not at all an excessive amount on a variety of small issues. These include air conditioning and heater problems, though relatively few were reported. A small number of complains were also issued for body and paint problems as well as interior accessories.
The relatively low number of complaints spread over a fairly wide range of issues is a good sign. While the 2016 did have a few recalls, most were related to issues with a seat belt tensioner. While the genration isn't exactly old, the number of complains drops to very few after 2016.
This generation also provide some improvements and amenities, including wireless charging and a more robust entertainment system. The only engine complaint was that additional gears were added so improve fuel efficiency, which results in some drivers thinking the Tahoe is a little slower to start.
2010 to 2014
The 2010 to 2014 model years also offered Tahoe owners a good experience. These years included the end of the 3rd generation of Tahoe, and could be considered refinements of the 2007-2009 series. In the context of a used car search, these are ranked higher because they are likely easier to find without seriously high miles.
Chevrolet didn't quite achieve the JD Power scores they managed with the latest models, but 82 to 84 out of 100 is still enough for a “Great” rating, meaning that drivers were unlikely to experience serious problems in the first couple of years. The biggest complains were unique in that some owners reported issues with the dashboard cracking or beginning to get sticky or melt on hot days. The engine otherwise proved reliable so far, with very few complaints as well.
Many drivers also complimented the overall ride quality of the Tahoe starting in 2010. While the Tahoe was built on a truck platform, some felt that the ride was softer and more luxurious than previous iterations, as the Tahoe was developing into a more plush luxury SUV.
Of note, these were the first Tahoe builds after GM, Chevrolet's parent company, declared bankruptcy in the late 2000s. The new Tahoe was an effort to show that the company had changed.
The 2006 Chevrolet Tahoe was a bit of an anomaly because the years immediately around it weren't as good. 2006 marked the last of the 2nd generation of Tahoe, and maybe Chevrolet just made it especially well, while the years before and after fell off a bit?
With considerably more time to build up complains, the 2006 has extraordinarly few at CarComplaints – just a couple for body and paint problems as well as steering. The biggest complaint, by far, is an inoperable liftgate after a few years.
The 2006 was a bit of a different vehicle too. The Tahoe was built on a truck platform until fairly recently, and this Tahoe was designed for both off-roading and city driving. Users reported a nice balance between comfort while driving downtown, and a well mannered ride where there are no roads.
We are getting to years that you'll unlikely find on the used market anymore – or at least not in good quanities, but it might be good to know anyway. 2000 marked the second generation of new Chevrolet Tahoes. Amongst major improvements were the inclusion of a different engine – curiously a smaller one. The 4.8-liter 8-cylinder is still big, but replaced a very large 5.7L 8-cylinder from the previous generation. A 5.3L 8-cylinder engine was also available. This also marked the start of the Tahoe's transition from being more of a truck to being more SUV like. Even with the smaller engine, the Tahoe was well geared to earn priase for a strong engine from Edmunds.
These years of Tahoe had fairly minmal complaints, with what can be described as a “Knocking noise from the steerling column while turning” as the lead complaint, as well as minor electrical issues. For the amount of time this vehicle had to build complaints up, there really aren't many.
1995 to 1998
These were the very first Tahoes. We'll be honest: by modern standards, these were kind of ugly, but they worked, and they were among the first to introduce Americans to the idea of a large SUV that also acted a bit like a truck.
Early Tahoes rank relatively low on the “best” list and are included primarily for their innovation. Given the vehicle is now on its 5th generation, its clear that the initial Tahoes were a hit. The first generation did have some recall issues with oil filters and leaks as well as throttle linkages – and keep in mind that the Internet wasn't as available for complains as it is today.
Still, the Tahoe marked one of the first Chevrolet SUVs that strayed away from the Silverado – and it did a good job!
Honorable Mention, or not enough data: 2021 to 2022
The fifth generation Tahoe is out! We have to say it looks very sharp and is losing a bit of that “truck” look, and is gaining more luxury SUV appearance as time goes on.
The 2021 and 2022 aren't doing so hot on the initial quality reports from J.D. Power, keeping in mind that the initial quality reports can result in a bad rating for just about anything. Neither Tahoe is above 79, which is a few less than previous generations.
No complaints are present on CarComplaints, but there hasn't been much time to report them.
The Tahoe has some nice amenities though. The new 2022 Tahoe is among the first with a larger third row seat available that will fit adults as well as kids. You'll also some more engine choices with two 8-cylinder engines of different horsepower in addition to a diesel engine capable of 460 ft-lb of torque – making this a serious towing machine capable of hauling 8,400 lbs. The 2022 also adds up to 13 cameras, including some used exclusively for towing,
Gas mileage has actually improved too, with the diesel capable of 21 city and 28 highway. The V8s are pretty good, topping out at 20 mpg highway.
How long do Tahoes last?
For reference, the length of service life for Tahoes don't factor specifically into our “best of” because the answer depends on how well the driver treats the vehicle. In the case of the Tahoe, our best years give you the best chance at exceeding 200,000 miles without having a major repair or problem,.
Which year would you pick?
We would probably opt for a 2016-2020 model. We feel this model looks the best. While a used model will cost more than our other favored late 2010s models, you also get a nicer engine and more amenities.
Do new generations tend to have problems?
It's a common belief that newer generations of the same vehicle tend to have the most problems. Manufacturers can test a vehicle heavily, but the real world might catch up to them and reveal some flaws. Usually, the first generation of a model does have more problems, and these problems fade as automakers refine their products over a few years.
How long should I wait before buying a late model car?
To explain this more clearly: a late model car is a barely used vehicle, like buying a used 2021 Tahoe in 2022. If you are very conscious about having issues with a vehicle, consider waiting a year or two for issues to pop up. Also, when purchasing a vehicle, also look at what complaints exist about the vehicle early on and compare those to any vehicle history presented for the Tahoe.
Which Tahoes are best for towing?
One area of significant improvement for the Tahoe is tow capacity. The original Tahoes were capable of just a few thousand pounds. The 2015 Tahoes were just a bit less at around 5,000. The 2021 and 2022 Tahoe added their diesel engine which pushed tow capacity past 8,000 – which is pretty good for a large SUV.
Which Tahoes provide the best ride?
The more recent Tahoes have the best combinations of innovations, like ride control. These tahoes turn more like smaller SUVs. Earlier Tahoes felt like they drove more akin to luxurious trucks, but they also appealed to people who didn't necessarily want a “truck” but wanted the size and space.
Is JD Power a good indicator?
In our opinion, yes. We say that because JD Power looks at the entire vehicle. Modern vehicles have a lot more computing involved than they did even in the early 2000s. Sometimes their electronics and infotainment abilities are also a key selling point. These are still annoying and expensive when they break down, so they are definitely worth considering when looking at the reliability of a vehicle.
About THE AUTHOR
I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.Read More About Charles Redding