Which Model Years of Used Hyundai Santa Fe Years to Avoid and Why?

Patrick Oziegbe
Updated On:

Are you thinking of buying a used compact SUV and love to have a pre-owned Hyundai Santa Fe, but looking for an expert guidance?

You’re in the right place – this resource is prepared with you in mind. To show you the Hyundai Santa Fe models years to avoid due to a myriads of issues including, engine and transmission issues, leading to costly repairs and reduced vehicle longevity.

We’ll also point you the best years proven to have high reliability and long lasting performance and amazing customers satisfaction

Hyundai Santa Fe years to avoid

Hyundai Santa Fe: Common Issues to Avoid

In this section, we will discuss some of the common issues to avoid in certain Hyundai Santa Fe models, focusing on engine problems, transmission problems, steering and handling issues, and electrical system problems.

Engine Problems

Some Hyundai Santa Fe models have been known to experience engine problems. For example, the 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe had numerous engine complaints, including stalling and failing to restart.

To prevent these issues from causing headaches, you should research the specific year model you’re interested in and be cautious of any known engine problems. By doing so, you can avoid potential costly repairs or even a blown engine.

Transmission Problems

Transmission problems, such as hesitation and poor performance, have also been reported in some Hyundai Santa Fe models.

To avoid these issues, you should test drive the vehicle and look for any signs of transmission issues. If you feel any hesitation while changing gears or experience rough shifting, it could indicate a problematic automatic transmission.

Becoming aware of these issues before purchasing can save you time and money down the line.

Steering and Handling Issues

Steering and handling issues, such as difficulty in steering or decrease in power steering, are important to consider when looking into Hyundai Santa Fe models.

These issues can not only affect the enjoyment of your drive but can also be dangerous if left unresolved. When test driving a Hyundai Santa Fe, be attentive to how the vehicle handles and maneuvers.

If you notice any signs of difficulty in steering or power stalling, it’s best to steer clear of that model.

Electrical System Problems

The electrical system of a vehicle can cause a variety of problems, ranging from faulty fuel level sensors and inaccurate fuel gauges to faulty speakers.

Some Santa Fe models with navigation features were reported to have issues with the audio system abruptly stopping.

To avoid these electrical system problems, carefully inspect the vehicle’s features and check for any uncommon behavior during your test drive. Pay attention to the fuel gauge, audio system, and other dashboard controls to ensure accuracy and functionality.

Worst Years for Hyundai Santa Fe

Early Model Years

In the early years of the Hyundai Santa Fe, certain model years had issues that might make you want to avoid purchasing them.

The 2003 and 2004 models were among the worst, and it’s best to steer clear of these to avoid potential problems.

Mid-Range Model Years

As the Hyundai Santa Fe continued to evolve, some mid-range model years still faced issues.

The 2007-2009 models had their share of problems, with the 2009 model experiencing significant complaints regarding the engine.

The 2012 model also stood out for its expensive engine overhauls, with over 50 reported issues of stalls while driving, leading to engine failure well below the 100,000-mile mark.

In addition, the 2013 and 2015 models had engine issues that could become problematic.

Drivers of the 2013 model reported common problems with navigation, telephone, radio, and entertainment features as well. These problems typically arose after about 50,000 miles.

Recent Model Years

For recent Hyundai Santa Fe models, the 2017 and 2018 versions are worth avoiding.

The 2017 model has more engine complaints and issues with burning oil, while some drivers reported delayed acceleration or losing the ability to accelerate at all.

The 2018 model stood out for having even more problematic engine issues than the 2013 and 2015 models, with multiple reports of blown engines requiring complete replacement at fewer than 16,000 miles.

By keeping these years in mind, you can make a more informed decision when looking for a used Hyundai Santa Fe.

Hyundai Santa Fe: Safety Concerns and Recalls

Airbag Issues

While the specific issues can vary, it’s important to be aware of them to ensure your safety on the road.

Keep an eye on any airbag recall announcements from Hyundai and follow their instructions for getting your vehicle inspected and repaired if necessary.

NHTSA Ratings and Investigations

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides safety ratings and investigates potential issues with various vehicle models, including the Hyundai Santa Fe.

When considering a Hyundai Santa Fe for purchase, take note of the NHTSA’s ratings and any ongoing investigations involving this model.

For instance, a recent recall involving Hyundai and Kia vehicles includes the 2019 to 2023 Santa Fe models due to fire risk.

The recall resulted from NHTSA monitoring and affected owners are advised to park their vehicles outside until repairs are made.

You can check the NHTSA’s recalls page or call the Vehicle Safety Hotline at 888-327-4236 with your 17-digit vehicle identification number to see if your Hyundai Santa Fe is affected.

As a Hyundai Santa Fe owner, your safety and the safety of your passengers should always be a top priority.

Comparing Models and Features

Hyundai Santa Fe Trims and Versions

Hyundai Santa Fe offers various trims and versions for you to choose from. Let’s take a closer look at some of the variations:

  • SE: The entry-level model, offering essential features such as a rearview camera, a 7-inch infotainment system display, and advanced safety systems.
  • SEL: A well-equipped version, adding features like a push-button start, an 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, and heated front seats.
  • Limited: A luxurious option, incorporating a panoramic sunroof, leather seats, and a 360° parking camera system.

As you browse through these trims and their respective features, keep in mind your preferences and budget.

Best Years for Hyundai Santa Fe

While the Hyundai Santa Fe has had some years to avoid, such as 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2018, there are still plenty of reliable options. Here is a list of some of the best years for the Hyundai Santa Fe:

  • 2001: The first model year of the Hyundai Santa Fe was met with cautious optimism. It wasn’t anything fancy, but it had very few problems and was a reliable vehicle overall.
  • 2014: After experiencing a poor 2013 model year, the Santa Fe bounced back in 2014 with improved design and reliability.
  • 2016: A solid choice, this model year stands out for its refinement and driving dynamics.
  • 2019: Offering a great balance between price and features, the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe starts at $24,300 and goes up to $33,750.

As you explore your options, don’t forget to research and compare Hyundai Santa Fe with vehicles from other brands like Ford and Honda.

Reliability and Longevity of Hyundai Santa Fe

Maintenance and Repair Costs

When it comes to reliability, the Hyundai Santa Fe has had its fair share of ups and downs. While most models of the Santa Fe are considered fairly reliable, some years are more problematic than others.

For example, the 2017 Santa Fe Sport has been reported to have hesitation issues. It’s essential for you to be aware of any potential issues with the Santa Fe you’re considering.

Maintenance and repair costs will vary depending on the specific Santa Fe model you own. However, Hyundai’s overall maintenance costs are generally considered average in comparison to other brands.

Warranty Coverage

One of the standout features of Hyundai vehicles is their generous warranty coverage.

The Santa Fe is no exception, as it comes with a 5-year/60,000-mile limited warranty and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

This coverage helps ensure that you can address any mechanical issues that may arise without worrying too much about the associated costs.

Resale Value

Hyundai Santa Fe models typically have an average resale value in the market. This can be attributed to the vehicle’s overall dependability, especially in its latest 2019 models.

To maintain a high resale value for your Santa Fe, it’s crucial to keep up with regular maintenance and promptly address any problems you encounter.

Other factors to consider when evaluating the Hyundai Santa Fe’s reliability and longevity include:

  • Comfortable ride: Santa Fe models are known to offer a comfortable and smooth driving experience for both city and highway driving.
  • Visibility: The Santa Fe’s design provides good visibility, an essential safety feature when navigating traffic.
  • Range: With the latest models offering decent fuel efficiency, the Santa Fe allows you to cover a good distance on a single tank of gas.

In the end, the Hyundai Santa Fe’s reliability and longevity will largely depend on how well you maintain your vehicle and address any potential issues in a timely manner.

Affordability and Ratings

Fuel Efficiency and Mileage

The Santa Fe is known for offering an affordable price without sacrificing performance or features.

You can expect decent fuel economy from this model, with some of the best years boasting EPA ratings of up to 22 city/29 highway mpg (2018 model).

Consumer Reviews

Checking consumer reviews is an effective way to gauge the Santa Fe’s value and performance. You can find ratings on websites like Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds.

Overall, the Santa Fe receives positive reviews for its affordability, smooth ride, and attractive design. However, be cautious when purchasing models from the worst years, such as the 2018 Santa Fe Sport, which has multiple engine issues reported.

Industry Ratings

Industry ratings offer a professional assessment of the Santa Fe’s value and performance compared to other vehicles in its class. Notably, JD Power’s annual ratings provide a comprehensive view of reliability, performance, and overall satisfaction.

While the Santa Fe typically receives good ratings, it’s important to consider those model years that may be lower-ranked, such as the 2017 and 2013, which had various reported issues.

In summary, the Hyundai Santa Fe is an affordable and well-rated SUV that offers excellent value for your money.

Remember to research fuel efficiency, consumer reviews, and industry ratings while considering the potential drawbacks of specific model years.

Pros of Hyundai Santa Fe

Spacious and Comfortable Interior

The cabin boasts high-quality materials and a well-thought-out design. Soft-touch surfaces and sound insulation make long journeys more relaxing for you and your passengers.

The comfortable seats ensure a pleasant driving experience, even on bumpy roads.

Ample headroom and legroom ensure that tall occupants have no issues feeling at home in the Santa Fe. Plus, the cargo area is quite generous, allowing you to carry bulky items or pack for an adventurous weekend getaway.

Smooth Ride and Handling

The Hyundai Santa Fe impresses with its smooth ride and competent handling. Its suspension system absorbs road imperfections effectively, ensuring a comfortable and composed drive.

You’ll appreciate the impressive stability, even during high-speed cornering or maneuvering in tight spaces.

The steering is well-weighted and responsive, giving you a sense of control and confidence behind the wheel.

Additionally, the Santa Fe’s braking system provides reliable stopping power, which is essential for driving in various conditions.

As you journey in your Hyundai Santa Fe, you’ll notice that it has fewer incidents of paint peeling and quality issues compared to competitors in the midsize SUV segment.

The Santa Fe’s reputation for providing a smooth ride and spacious, comfortable interior will certainly leave you satisfied with your choice of vehicle.

The Competition


The Hyundai Santa Fe faces stiff competition from Ford’s popular SUV, the Ford Edge.

  • The Ford Edge has received fewer complaints regarding engine issues compared to some Santa Fe model years like 2012 or 2013 and 2015.
  • The Ford Edge comes equipped with powerful and fuel-efficient engine options, offering a nice balance between performance and economy.
  • The cabin of the Ford Edge provides ample space for passengers and cargo, making it a comfortable option for families and long trips.

However, it’s essential to research specific model years of the Ford Edge before making your decision, as some years may have had issues that could impact your satisfaction with the vehicle.


Another strong contender in the SUV market is the Honda CR-V.

Here is what you need to know about the Honda CR-V compared to the Hyundai Santa Fe:

  • The Honda CR-V offers excellent fuel efficiency, making it an ideal choice for those looking for an economical and environmentally friendly option.
  • The interior of the Honda CR-V is well-designed with comfortable seats, ample storage spaces, and user-friendly technology.

Keep in mind that, like any vehicle, the quality of the Honda CR-V varies depending on the model year. As a result, it’s crucial to do your homework before deciding on the best SUV to meet your requirements.

Cons of Hyundai Santa Fe

Paint Peeling and Exterior Issues

One drawback you might encounter with some Hyundai Santa Fe models is the issue of paint peeling and exterior problems.

This can be quite disappointing, considering the modern exterior design and luxurious appearance that attract many buyers to the Santa Fe.

A few models, particularly from 2008, 2009, and 2011 to 2017, have been reported to have this problem.

While these issues may be more prevalent in certain years and trim models, it’s essential to keep in mind that no car is immune to flaws.

However, addressing exterior paint problems can sometimes be an inexpensive fix that helps maintain the car’s longevity and appearance.

Sun Visor Defects

Another frustrating issue you might experience with some Hyundai Santa Fe models, specifically the 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe, is the presence of sun visor defects.

Sun visors play a crucial role in blocking sunlight which can obstruct your vision while driving, so a faulty sun visor can become a safety concern.

Dealing with these small yet important components can be an inconvenience. It might require replacing the sun visor or seeking alternative solutions if your sun visor breaks or does not function correctly.

Despite these issues, the Hyundai Santa Fe remains a popular SUV option for its combination of features, style, and affordability.


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