These model years are best avoided when buying a used Hyundai Santa Fe

2012 Hyundai Santa Fe Front View

HyundaiThe mid-sized sedan, the Santa Fe, became a popular choice for families across North America after its major redesign in 2018. One of the segments in which this Korean SUV excels most is safety. With many standard tech features, the Santa Fe is one of the safest family SUVs under $40,000.

Santa Fe’s recent reputation made earlier models significantly popular with buyers on a budget. However, not every model year offers the best value for money. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the Hyundai Santa Fe’s worst years, its reliability and longevity, and everything else you need to know before buying one on the used market.

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2012, 2013, and 2017 are among the most problematic model years of Hyundai Santa Fe

According to the Car Complaints website, 2012 was the worst model year for the Hyundai Santa Fe due to expensive engine overhauls. Of nearly 100 registered complaints, more than 50 report problems with stalling while driving, leading to engine failures well below 100,000 miles. On average, owners had to spend $5,100 to exchange the engine for a new one.

Another problematic area related to the 2012 Santa Fe is the electrical system. Owner reports registered with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website list several problems including flickering lights on the gauge, check the engine and check the brake lights come on intermittently and the outside lights go out.

The 2014 Santa Fe is plagued with similar engine problems to the 2012 model. “I was driving home in my Santa Fe and my engine suddenly lost power in the middle of the freeway. I had to call a tow truck to take my Santa Fe to my garage. The next day my mechanic told me that my engine is broken,” quoted one owner on car complaint in May 2017† Some owners managed to replace the engine under warranty, those who had a broken engine after 50,000 miles had to spend thousands of dollars to fix their SUV.

Several owners have reported that the steering in their 2014 Santa Fe won’t keep the car in the same lane, requiring drivers to keep their hands on the wheel all the time to avoid drifting off the highway at speeds. Most owners could not find a permanent solution to this problem even after taking their vehicle to the workshop several times.

The automatic transmission in the 2017 model has given owners a lot of headaches. The reports indicate that the transmission hesitates, slips and does not shift to the correct gear when accelerating properly. “Pressing the accelerator results in a delay of 2 to 3 seconds before the transmission suddenly downshifts and we go bang. This is really dangerous because we’ve had almost a dozen cases where we’ve almost finished behind,” said one owner of their 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe.

Last but not least, there are several reports on the handling of the 2017 Santa Fe. Like the 2014 model, owners have named the vehicle drifting to one side at highway speeds† Fortunately, most owners have been able to eliminate the problem by replacing the steering column.

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With regular maintenance you can expect 200,000 miles from a Hyundai Santa Fe

According to several reliable sources, a Hyundai Santa Fe can provide reliable service anywhere from 150,000 to 200,000 miles.

The average driver in the US travels about 14,000 miles per year. For the Santa Fe, that equates to about 10 to 15 years before needing expensive engine or transmission overhauls. However, if you are the third or fourth owner of a Santa Fe, you should conservatively expect the problems to pile up after 100,000 miles.

Following the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance schedule is vital to keeping a Hyundai Santa Fe up and running. Some of the important services are:

  • After 7,500 miles/6 months: inspect the air filter, battery and vacuum hose, change the oil and rotate the tires.
  • After 15,000 miles/12 months: inspect drive shafts, exhaust pipe, front brake disc and pads, steering gearbox and suspension mounting bolts.
  • After 30,000 miles/24 months: Check the brake fluid, fuel filter, fuel tank air filter and parking brake and replace the air filter filter.

According to the RepairPal website, the annual cost of ownership for a Hyundai Santa Fe is $515, slightly below the $573 average for the midsize SUV segment.

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The Hyundai Santa Fe can be a long-lasting SUV, as long as you avoid problematic model years

An abundance of features and a below-average price tag make the Hyundai Santa Fe an excellent family dumper. If you are looking for a used one, it is safer to avoid the 2012, 2014 and 2017 models. Expensive engine and transmission problems occur with these models at low mileage.

In addition, be sure to check the powertrain with a trusted mechanic before purchasing a used Hyundai Santa Fe.