5 Best & Worst GMC Safari Years (We Checked)

The GMC Safari has had its ups and downs over the years, with various models providing standout features and performance.

While some years of the Safari delivered reliable service, others faced challenges and attracted some criticism from drivers and experts alike.

This article aims to discuss the best and worst years of the GMC Safari, helping potential buyers make an informed decision when looking to purchase this versatile minivan.

The Best Year for GMC Safari

One of the standout years for the GMC Safari was 2003.

This model received positive reviews for its reliability and durability. Many owners reported putting well over 200,000 miles on the vehicle with minimal maintenance required.

The 2003 GMC Safari was available in both rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive configurations, catering to different needs and preferences.

The 2003 Safari came with a 4.3L V6 engine, offering a good balance of power and fuel efficiency, which was especially impressive for its time. This engine was paired with a 4-speed automatic transmission that provided a smooth driving experience and responsive handling.

In terms of interior features, the 2003 GMC Safari provided ample space for passengers and cargo, as well as various seating configurations to suit different requirements. These features, along with the overall comfortable design, made it suitable for families and businesses alike.

Safety features were also a strong focus in the 2003 model year, with standard equipment such as 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS, driver and passenger airbags, and daytime running lights. These safety enhancements provided added peace of mind for drivers and passengers on their journeys.

Check also the best and worst years for the GMC Canyon pickup.

The 2nd Best Year

The 2001 GMC Safari deserves recognition as the second-best model year for this classic van. While it didn’t receive quite as many accolades as later years, this model still offers reliability and solid performance.

Shoppers can expect to find features such as:

  • A potent 4.3L V6 engine delivering 190 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque
  • A smooth-shifting 4-speed automatic transmission with overdrive
  • A maximum tow rating of 5,800 pounds, allowing for versatile hauling capabilities

Despite a few minor drawbacks, the 2001 GMC Safari excelled in a number of areas. With more than respectable fuel economy, owners could expect to achieve up to 16 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway—a notable perk for those prioritizing efficiency.

Safety-wise, this model year showcased improvements over previous years. Although not considered exceptional, it scored better in crash tests compared to earlier models. Standard safety features included antilock brakes, and GM’s Passlock theft-deterrent system provided an added layer of protection.

One thing the 2001 Safari truly excelled in was cargo space. With a cavernous interior, owners could easily accommodate up to 170.4 cubic feet of luggage, making the van a top choice for families or those embarking on long road trips.

While not as highly praised as newer models, this particular year remains a noteworthy option and good value for used car shoppers looking for reliability and performance to boot.

Check also the best and worst years for GMC Jimmy (SUV).

Other Good Years

As we dive into the GMC Safari’s history, let’s take a look at some other good years for this popular van.

Here’s a list of additional standout years, with brief explanations as to what made them great:

  • 2004 GMC Safari: This model year continued to offer the reliable 4.3-liter V6 engine, and it maintained a strong reputation for durability and dependability. Additionally, the 2004 Safari featured comfortable seating and ample cargo space, providing a versatile option for both families and businesses.
  • 2005 GMC Safari: As the final production year for the Safari, the 2005 model continued to deliver on the strengths of its predecessors. With its trusty V6 engine and spacious interior, this model remained a practical choice for those in search of a reliable van.

These GMC Safari model years were known for their solid performance and dependability, ensuring that they remain an excellent choice for anyone considering a robust and versatile vehicle.

Problematic Year for GMC Safari

The 1996 GMC Safari, while generally a reliable vehicle, has been associated with certain common issues that potential owners or current owners should be aware of.

One of the most reported problems for this model year revolves around the fuel system. Some owners have experienced fuel pump failure, which can lead to the vehicle stalling or not starting at all. The issue typically emerges after a significant mileage, and the only solution is to replace the fuel pump, which can be a relatively expensive repair.

Engine problems are another area of concern for the 1996 GMC Safari.

These include issues like the “Check Engine” light frequently coming on, misfiring, or engine stalling. In several cases, these problems were traced back to issues with the ignition system, such as a faulty ignition coil or a worn-out distributor cap and rotor. Fixing these problems typically involves replacing the faulty components, which, while not overly expensive, can add to maintenance costs over time.

Transmission failures have also been reported with this model, some occurring at relatively low mileages for a transmission issue.

Transmission replacement or rebuild is a significant expense and can be quite a headache for the vehicle’s owner. Symptoms of a failing transmission can include difficulty shifting gears, the transmission slipping out of gear, or a whining or humming noise. If these symptoms are experienced, it is crucial to get the vehicle to a mechanic as soon as possible to prevent further damage.

The 1996 GMC Safari has also had issues with the power door locks not working correctly, which, while less serious than engine or transmission issues, is still a significant inconvenience for owners. The cause is usually a faulty door lock actuator that needs to be replaced.

Lastly, some owners have reported issues with the van’s exterior lighting.

These problems range from the headlights going out intermittently to the brake lights not functioning correctly, posing a potential safety risk.

It’s important to note that while these issues have been reported, they do not affect every 1996 GMC Safari.

Many owners have had minimal problems and have found the van to be reliable. However, if you’re considering purchasing a used 1996 GMC Safari, or if you’re a current owner experiencing unexplained issues, these are areas you might want to investigate.

Remember, regular maintenance and prompt attention to any problems that arise can go a long way toward extending the life of any vehicle.

Common Problems to Look for in Used GMC Safaris

These vans are known for their durability, but they do have some common issues as well. Watch out for these problems when browsing for a used GMC Safari:

ABS Light Due to Brake System Control Unit Failure: This issue has been reported by 74 people, and it affects the ABS system in your van. While driving, you might notice your anti-lock braking system failing, especially at low speeds.

Outside Door Handles May Break: A total of 70 people have reported this issue. The door handles might show signs of wear, and, in some cases, they can break completely.

Door Locks Stop Working: 62 individuals have reported this issue with their GMC Safaris. The doors may become difficult to lock and unlock, causing inconvenience and potential security risks.

Besides these commonly reported issues, there are some other concerns like brake booster and rotor problems, which are frequently mentioned by owners. While looking for a used GMC Safari, make sure to thoroughly inspect these areas and confirm the vehicle’s service history to avoid purchasing a van with recurring issues.

Go Back: Best & Worst data on all Chevrolet models.

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ⓘ  The information in this article is based on data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recall reports, consumer complaints submitted to the NHTSA, reliability ratings from J.D. Power, auto review and rating sites such as Edmunds, specialist forums, etc. We analyzed this data to provide insights into the best and worst years for these vehicle models.