The GMC Terrain is a crossover SUV developed and manufactured by General Motors under their sub-brand GMC.
The first model entered the market in 2010 and was immediately given a rocky start. Unfortunately, this would only be the beginning as till 2016. The lineup would suffer various complaints and issues.
By 2016 however, the lineup had found its footing and started to put out competent, dependable cars and offer a lot when it comes to performance and handling.
Keeping this history in mind, I will talk about the best and worst years for GMC Terrain and rank them accordingly.
Best Years for GMC Terrain:
Worst Years for GMC Terrain:
Along with ranking them, I will also talk about the various problems and concerns regarding the vehicle, so make sure to read the entire article.
List of the Best Years for the GMC Terrain: What Years to Buy
The years 2016 onwards have been good examples of how the GMC Terrain is a capable lineup with good performance and reliability.
#1 Best Year: 2020 GMC Terrain
The reason why I am placing the 2020 GMC Terrain at the top of my list is that this model of the lineup was overall more refined than many of its predecessors, having little to no issues and problems and offering a firm and comfortable ride with a powerful engine and a lot of versatility.
This year, four different trims of the 2002 GMC Terrain were available, and the standard edition of the car features many new active safety features. Other comfortability features such as Android Auto and Apple Carplay were also standard.
Overall, many improvements and additions had been made to the car, which customers and owners of the vehicle very much appreciated.
It made people forget about the questionable nature of the car’s first six years and deserves to be at the top of this list.
#2 Best Year: 2017 GMC Terrain
Available in 5 different trims, the 2017 GMC Terrain had a lot of useful and large cargo space along with a quiet and comfortable interior, roomy back seat, and a lot of stability, all of which allowed it to secure 2nd place on this list.
Was it not for its sluggish acceleration? The car could have easily taken first place.
This model was available in AWD & FWD Systems, and while there were no significant changes from the 2016 version, the year had a nightfall edition package which is more than the previous year had.
If you want a car which offers a lot of comfortability and room, then this car is definitely for you.
#3 Best Year: 2021 GMC Terrain
Talking about the latest trim of the lineup, the 2021 GMC Terrain shows no significant changes from the 2020 model and offers the same refinement and performance level as before, so I decided to place it in 3rd place.
While it is still too early to call it the best vehicle of the lineup, it is a contender. However, many problems can arise later into the vehicle’s lifespan, as is evident with many years before it.
However, do not let this dissuade you from the amazing comfortability and versatility this car offers, all available in 4 different trims loaded with active safety features and comfortability options.
#4 Best Year: 2018 GMC Terrain
While the 2018 GMC Terrain got rid of the sluggish acceleration of the year before it, it had a few of its issues, which is why I had to rank this lower, however, due to its decent ride quality, comfortability, and small amounts of refinement, the 2018 GMC Terrain gets 4th place on this list.
This model featured an entirely new design and was available in 4 different trims. Its modern drivetrain and impressive roominess helped the car stand out in the market of endless SUVs, being smaller in design than its competition and even the models before it. The car also had moderate power, which is more than enough for SUV owners.
#5 Best Year: 2016 GMC Terrain
Available in 5 different trims, this compact SUV is perfect for traveling with a lot of cargo, featuring a lot of great safety features and a lot of value in its class but may struggle in the city streets.
I am placing the 2016 GMC Terrain at 6th place due to the sluggish acceleration present here, along with a large blind spot and wide turning circle.
Despite this, the 2016 model allowed for a nice and comfortable ride with a good amount of cargo space and cabin storage. The comfortability was further amplified with the quiet interior and the roomy and adjustable backseat legroom.
#6 Best Year: 2019 GMC Terrain
Taking the spot at last place on this list is the 2019 GMC Terrain. I decided to place this model here because it had the most complaints compared to the models above it.
While these complaints are nowhere near the amount for the worst years, they were still enough for me to place this model at the end of the list.
Despite the complaints, the car had a lot of refinement and comfortability, complemented by the added power brought by the 2 Liter engine. The car was versatile as its passenger’s seats could fold, and the car had an easy-to-use multimedia system.
List Of The Worst Years For The GMC Terrain: What Years To Avoid
The first years for the GMC Terrain were full of many different problems and issues, which gave the lineup a bad reputation right out of the gate.
#1 Worst Year: 2011 GMC Terrain
I placed the 2011 GMC Terrain as the worst year for the lineup because of the massive engine issues surrounding the model, along with various complaints regarding the transmission and the exhaust system, not to mention three different recalls which affected the year.
All of this was found in the 2nd model of the lineup, which is just sad to see. The engine was blasted for its excessive oil consumption and constantly stalled and shut down while driving.
The seat adjuster bolt would drop out and change the position of the seat, which led to more than 400,000 cars being recalled.
Transmission failure was also quite common in the model, and the catalytic converter was also prone to failure. All of this combined to make the 2011 GMC Terrain the most problematic vehicle in the lineup and one you should avoid at all costs.
#2 Worst Year: 2010 GMC Terrain
Taking 2nd place on this list is the 2010 GMC Terrain due to its variety of engine and transmission issues. This model suffered from 2 different recalls, the most major regarding the seat bolts falling out.
Excessive oil consumption was present from the get-go, and the engine ran erratically and roughly, being very noisy on startup and running particularly rough on startup.
The transmission also tended to fail and features timing chain failure and rough shifts. This issue would continue to the next model as well.
#3 Worst Year: 2012 GMC Terrain
It seems that the GMC Terrain could not figure out what was going on with the engine as the 2012 GMC Terrain was the 3rd year in a row where the engine was the main factor in causing a lot of problems which is why I am placing this model at 3rd place on my list.
This model was affected by three different recalls, with the seat adjuster bolt still being an issue. The engine, as you guessed it, was still suffering from excessive oil Consumption and would misfire a lot, stalling at low idles and knocking on startup.
#4 Worst Year: 2014 GMC Terrain
While not suffering from any recalls, the 2014 GMC Terrain was afflicted with various Engine problems and Interior Issues that I had to place at 4th Place.
While having significantly less number of complaints, the engine was still suffering from excessive oil consumption and would shut down while driving.
Sudden acceleration became a problem, along with the PCV valve blowing up. As for the accessories of the car, the menu display of the screen would always go blank, the radio would not work properly, and the stereo system would shut off randomly.
#5 Worst Year: 2013 GMC Terrain
I am placing the 2013 GMC Terrain at 5th place because it only had two recalls and mostly was affected by engine issues, having a lower number of complaints than the models above it. The windshield wipers would become inoperative.
This issue was affecting more than 360,000 cars and led to a recall. The engine was operating at reduced power, and excess oil consumption was present for the 4th year in a row. Stalling was common, and the main seal and engine tended to blow.
#6 Worst Year: 2015 GMC Terrain
Taking the last place in this list for having the least amount of complaints compared to the years above, the 2015 GMC Terrain only had one recall and a decent amount of engine issues.
The lineup was in its last phases of getting rid of excessive oil consumption but was still not quite there. Engine stalling was still a problem, and blown rear seals on the motor were a common sight.
All of this was accompanied by a loud tapping noise and rattling from the engine when it would be cold.
What Are The Most Common Problems With The GMC Terrain?
The first six years of the GMC Terrain were quite rough, to say the least, and were full of a lot of different problems, which I will be highlighting here so that you know what to expect if you plan on buying one of these models, which I do not recommend.
1. Excess Oil Consumption
Owners of the 2011 GMC Terrain found themselves burning oil at a dizzying rate. This issue was the result of stuck oil rings.
The problem was so bad that the company had to extend the car’s warranties. This problem is faced by many cars, regardless of whether they are a GMC Terrain or not.
2. Airbag Issues
Many models of the GMC Terrain were a part of the Takata recall, a massive multi-million unit recall of cars across many different companies. The reason for such a massive recall was that the airbags were exploding on being activated.
They would launch metal fragments towards the passengers, which is very dangerous and can cause server injury. The most affected model of the lineup was the GMC Terrain 2015.
3. Water Pump Noises
Most notable is the 2012 GMC Terrain. The water pumps caused a lot of problems, such that the best thing to do to fix them was to have them serviced or replaced.
Owners of this particular complained about hearing an abnormal whirring noise after getting any work done on the water pump. While resetting the water pump chain tensioner could also eliminate the noise, this was a temporary fix.
4. Transmission Issues
Transmission issues were quite prevalent in the 2011 GMC Terrain, where many customers complained about suffering from transmission failure as little as 88,000 miles.
Many other vehicle owners reported that it would simply die after some jerking and hard shifting.
Transmission lag and stalling were also quite common, and replacement transmission would cost up to $3000, excluding labor fees, so the issue was an expensive and annoying one.
5. Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning Problems
The HVAC systems of the 2014 GMC Terrain are well known by owners and the public, where many people complained about turning on the heater, but the air conditioner would blow out cold air.
These would suddenly start around the 61,000-mile mark. Aside from heater issues, the company addressed various other problems such as abnormal odor, clogged HVAC drain hoses, water leaks, and cooling malfunctions.
Related: Why Won’t My GMC Terrain Start?
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. What Is The Average Life Of A GMC Terrain?
If you drive an average of 15,000 miles a year, you can easily look at more than 300,000 miles of travel with little to no issues if you decide to get a GMC Terrain.
This, however, can be easily bumped up even further depending on your driving habits and how much you care for your vehicle where driving within the car’s limits and regular maintenance can easily increase the lifespan of the car, such that you can use it for more than 20 years.
Related: How Long Do GMC Terrains Last?
Q2. Which Is Better Equinox Or Terrain?
Both the Chevy Equinox and the GMC Terrain have decent ratings and are similar in stability, design, and reliability.
While both cars are pretty fuel-efficient, the Equinox lost its powerful engine variant in recent years, leaving the room wide open for the GMC Terrain to step in with its turbocharged engine which provides more power and speed.
If you are looking for power along with your performance, then the GMC Terrain is far better. Otherwise, both cars are neck and neck.
Q3. Which Is Better Terrain Or Acadia?
Another great SUV Comparison, the GMC Acadia, can store up to 7 people, which is two more than the GMC Terrain, with both of them having a close amount of legroom.
With the added 3rd row, the GMC Acadia is longer and taller, so it requires a more powerful engine which is why it can push 310 hp compared to the GMC Terrain’s 252 hp.
The terrain, however, is more fuel-efficient. The terrain is better for its efficiency, but the Acadia is better for comfortability and raw power.
Q4. Is GMC Terrain Good In Snow?
General Motors has been making cars for a long time, so they know what they are doing and know how to make a good and reliable car. The company put the best technology available into the GMC Terrain to work well on snow and ice.
This is all due to the advanced technology made to the car, which allowed it to be driven in any weather, making this a great vehicle for driving on the snow.
Q5. Is GMC Terrain Expensive To Maintain?
In the first ten years of service, the GMC Terrain should cost you a total of $7706 for maintenance and repairs, which is much lower when compared to cars of similar body types. The car beats the industry average for SUVs in general by $1,174.
During these ten years, however, your GMC Terrain has a 22.8% chance that it may require a major repair which could increase this cost. However, due to the reliability of the GMC Terrain, you shouldn’t worry.
The GMC Terrain has proven that any car brand can recover from a rough start and that any bad reputation can be eradicated with a bit of consistency and a lot of improvement.
With major refinements and upgrades, the GMC Terrain could win over its customer base back. The best and worst years for GMC Terrain range from 2016 onwards, being the best years and everything behind it, as the worst years.
Knowing this, I would recommend you buy any GMC Terrain from 2016 onwards so that you can avoid a lot of problems and issues and get the most for your purchase.
Hi there! I am Tahir Azam, and this is my blog. WVDOT Automotive is a website dedicated to creating high-quality content for car enthusiasts. I am also an avid car driver. I own and drive a Porsche for my daily tasks. It is the perfect vehicle for my family. I am a proud father of two boys. I spend my mornings and evenings catering to clients at my very own software hub. After getting home, I dedicate a few hours of my time to create an article every day. Well, this is a short introduction about me and I am also a publisher on Amazon. I hope you enjoy reading through my articles, and I also hope that I may have helped you choose an upgrade for your vehicle.