Cars and Drivers

The 5 Worst Chevy Tahoe Years To Avoid and 5 Years to Own

Bill Pugliano / Getty Images News via Getty Images

When it comes to large SUVs, the Chevrolet Tahoe is among the best-known names. It offers extra big cargo areas and room for many passengers. Available since 1994, the Tahoe has undergone quite a few improvements over the years but remains the king of full-sized SUVs. Against fierce competition from the Expedition, Armada, Yukon, and Sequoia, the Tahoe has to be at the top of its game every year.

Although the Tahoe has had many good years, the good certainly comes with the bad.  Creating quality vehicles that last creates long-term repeat customers which Chevrolet (NYSE:GM) desperately needed to keep pace with Ford and international competitors. In fact, over the last 5 years, GM’s stock price has been essentially flat, hovering around the $40 mark. With this in mind, 24/7 Wall Street is taking a look at the best and worst model years for the Chevy Tahoe. 

Avoid: 2003

Source: Guillaume Vachey / Wikimedia Commons
Electrical problems and 722 NHTSA complaints plagued the 2003 Chevy Tahoe.

Starting with the 2003 model year, the Chevy Tahoe certainly had one of its big off years. With a total of 722 NHTSA complaints, the 2003 model had numerous electrical problems. The biggest emphasis here was on Tahoe owners who would have either a dead battery or the instrument panel would stop working. With the instrument panel going dead, Tahoe owners were unable to drive which led to a ton of owner frustration. 

The next big issue focused on power steering going out. For the most part, customers had this happen when they were making a turn. While it wasn’t a frequent issue with the vehicle, it happened enough to warrant many customer complaints. Combined with a groaning noise while turning, power steering needed a big fix in 2003. 

Avoid: 2004

Source: Spanish Coches / Wikimedia Commons
The 2004 Chevy Tahoe will be remembered as one of the model’s worst years.

One of the worst model years for the Tahoe, the 2004 model was the third highest with NHTSA complaints totaling 712. According to CarComplaints.com, the biggest issue focused on electrical problems. With 214 complaints focused on electrical, this was almost one-third of all 2014 NHTSA complaints. Carrying over from 2003, the instrument cluster not turning on with the ignition turnover remained a serious problem.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that Chevy was able to find a fix between model years. The next serious issue for 2004 and a big reason to avoid this model year was related to brake problems. Ninety separate NHTSA complaints were filed indicating Tahoe owners had service brake warnings that were not necessary. 

Avoid: 2005

2005 Chevy Tahoe
Source: lostinfog / Wikimedia Commons
Unfortunately, the 2005 Chevy Tahoe continues a terrible three-year streak of large NHTSA complaints.

The bad luck years for the Chevrolet Tahoe carried over into the third year in a row in 2005. This year focused heavily on transmission and interior accessory issues. The bottom line was that the 2003, 2004, and 2005 Tahoes were to be avoided. Add in an incorrect speedometer, and the 2005 model could be an easy way to get yourself in a little bit of speeding trouble. 

Unfortunately, Chevy wasn’t covering any fines. All in total, 444 NHTSA complaints were filed in 2005, which was at least an improvement over the previous two years. Separately, Chevy issued two recalls for the 2005 model related to a missing push rod and corrosion within the anti-lock braking system. Combined with all of the other lingering trouble this year, you should stay far away from the 2005 Tahoe. 

Avoid: 2007

2007 Chevy Tahoe
Source: Sfoskett~commonswiki / Wikimedia Commons
The 2007 Chevy Tahoe will go down as the model’s worst year since it was first released to the public.

After things started to look up in 2006, things took a turn for the worse for Tahoe owners in 2007. This is arguably the worst model year for the Tahoe since its release. Over 1,000 NHTSA complaints were filed with a heavy emphasis on both engine and electrical problems. For the former, a new issue was discovered in 2007 with excessive oil consumption which wouldn’t happen until the Tahoe approached 100,000 miles. 

While the fix wasn’t expensive, it was still a headache to have to worry about. However, faulty engines not starting for Tahoe owners was the last straw for many. Combine this headache with complaints about water collecting in the doors and the 2007 model was the worst Chevy Tahoe model to purchase. 

Avoid: 2015

2015 Chevy Tahoe
Source: Kevauto / Wikimedia Commons
By 2015, the Chevy Tahoe was performing better but this year was full of major brake and electrical issues.

Over the next almost decade, things for Chevy Tahoe owners started to look up. At least until  2015 when over 1,000 NHTSA issues were filed among an array of brake and electrical problems. With one-quarter of the complaints related to braking, the brakes not working properly was a major focal point. Braking was an obvious necessity and even more so in a car as large as the Tahoe that requires extra distance to stop. 

When layered on top of issues with electronic stability control, the Tahoe was just seeing problem after problem in 2015. Last but not least, electrical problems persisted related to the power door locks failing, so customers had issues getting into their vehicles. Add in interior lights not working when the Tahoe door was opened and it’s best to just stay away from 2015 Tahoe models. 

Own: 2006

2006 Chevy Tahoe
Source: Matti Blume / Wikimedia Commons
In 2006, the Chevy Tahoe turned things around and had a really strong year.

Somehow, in the middle of two really terrible years for the Tahoe in 2005 and 2007, the 2006 model is among the best. With only 144 NHTSA complaints filed, 2006 represented one of the best-used Tahoe model years you look back on today. Among the existing complaints, 27 were related to body and paint problems, specifically the rear gate intermittently working for many Tahoe owners. 

Where things look up for the 2006 Chevy Tahoe is with the inclusion of both traction control and tire monitoring as standard. Even with some minor issues, customers still report the 2006 Chevy Tahoe as one of the most reliable models of all time. As long as the car remains serviced properly, issues should be minimal. 

Own: 2018

2018 Chevy Tahoe
Source: RL GNZLZ / Wikimedia Commons
In 2018, the Chevy Tahoe was introducing a new engine and the RST trim level.

While some older models like the 2010 Tahoes were also pretty strong, the best models you can own were more recent. This started with the 2018 Chevy Tahoe which was one of the first models to offer the RST package. The inclusion of a larger 6.2L V8 engine added more horsepower, which was ideal for off-roading and adventures. Chevy also added new body-colored grilles and larger brakes that were better suited for handling the additional engine power. 

With only 80 NHTSA complaints, broader customer issues with this model were also very low. Of these complaints, 10 centered around various issues customers had with infotainment lighting, interior lighting, etc. As a single issue cannot be identified, it’s more likely these issues were confined to individual Tahoe builds and not a sign of a larger problem. 

Own: 2019

2019 Chevy Tahoe
Source: RL GNZLZ / Wikimedia Commons
In 2019, J.D. Power awarded the Chevy Tahoe an 80 out of 100 rating.

With J.D. Power providing the 2019 Chevy Tahoe an 80 out of 100 rating for the Tahoe, things were looking up. When you factor in the 84 out of 100 score for resale value, it’s clear the 2019 Tahoe turned around reliability from a decade prior. With only 66 NHTSA complaints filed, the proof was right there to see Chevy was turning things around. It was going to be easy to add the 2019 Tahoe model to its own “buy” list if you can find it for the right price. 

When you also consider this model year added keyless entry with push-button start and a new 10-speed transmission, things were looking up. Best of all, the 2019 had the lowest recall number for any Tahoe since its first model release. If you wanted this body style of the Tahoe, 2019 was undoubtedly the year to pick up a used model with low miles. 

Own: 2020

2020 Chevy Tahoe
Source: MercurySable99 / Wikimedia Commons
The 2020 Chevy Tahoe was a banner year for the model with less than 20 NHTSA complaints.

It’s hard to believe considering where the Tahoe was 10 years earlier, but 2020 marked a new low with only 19 NHTSA complaints filed. Right away you can give Chevy a win for this model year and add it to a list of model years to consider owning. Best of all, there wasn’t one major complaint area with the 2019 model, so any issues were specific to individual vehicle owners and not the source of any larger issues. 

This was the model year to receive a perfect 5 out of 5 from Consumer Reports as far as reliability. When combined with a J.D. Power reliability score of 83 out of 100, there was little reason not to give this model a long hard look if you’re in the market for a used Chevy Tahoe. Considering it was the last model year of the Tahoe’s 4th generation, Chevy had ironed out all lingering problems 

Own: 2021

2021 Chevy Tahoe
Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
With a new body style, the 2021 model year for the Chevy Tahoe performed well.

With the launch of the 5th generation Chevy Tahoe, the company was poised to bring a new style to the market. Competing with the Yukon and the Escalade in the full-sized category, Chevy gave 2021 an upscale overview complete with its Premier edition receiving televisions. The High Country trim line was equipped with upgraded leather. Available in 6 different trims, even the lower-end LS model came well-equipped. There was very little to complain about with the 2021 model, which was surprising considering it was the first entry in a new model year. 

Only 117 complaints were filed to the NHTSA with 24 related to individual engine issues. This could be attributed to a new model year growing pain or it could be just a fluke related to individual Tahoe models that needed to be fixed over time. On the bright side, J.D. Power gave the 2021 Tahoe a rating of 82 out of 100, one of its highest scores of all time.

 

Want to Retire Early? Start Here (Sponsor)

Want retirement to come a few years earlier than you’d planned? Or are you ready to retire now, but want an extra set of eyes on your finances?

Now you can speak with up to 3 financial experts in your area for FREE. By simply clicking here you can begin to match with financial professionals who can help you build your plan to retire early. And the best part? The first conversation with them is free.

Click here to match with up to 3 financial pros who would be excited to help you make financial decisions.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us?
Contact the 24/7 Wall St. editorial team.