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LAST UPDATED: August 28, 2020

Hyundai Reliability: The Drive’s Guide

For those looking at used Hyundais, The Drive’s informational team put together a reliability guide for all the problems you need to watch out for.

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PUBLISHED ON August 28, 2020

So you want to buy a Hyundai but aren’t sure about the Korean brand’s reliability? Well, fine sir or madam, you’ve come to the right place, as The Drive’s crack informational team is well-versed in the history and reliability of Hyundai. 

Though you may not be familiar with the history of Hyundai, the brand’s history dates back to the late 1960s. After initially partnering with Ford, Hyundai has since grown into a global powerhouse and sells nearly one million vehicles each and every year. Part of that success is due to the company leveraging affordability across its lineup, the other is down to each car’s, crossover’s, and SUV’s reliability and engineering.

As with all manufacturers, there are a few bad apples that stick out from the bushel of good ones. Uneducated customers see this as across the board issues and often mars the brand in false reliability claims. To dispel such myths, buckle up as The Drive’s team walks you through Hyundai’s good and bad cars. 

Let’s start those engines!

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What Makes Hyundai Such a Reliable Brand (Or Not)?

Hyundai’s engineering and build quality are the stars of the show. Without either, you’d have Alfa Romeo—we kid, we kid...sorta. The Korean brand had an early lesson of what not to do with its first generation of automobiles and has since spent billions on research and development, as well as manufacturing and assembly. The company has also backed the cars with a set of fantastic warranties, including a lineup-wide 5-year/60,000-mile basic warranty, and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. 

That said, used reliability comes down to how the first (or second, third, fourth…) owner(s) treated the car. Warranties don’t mean a thing if the owner missed scheduled services and treated the car like a ratty pair of Chuck Taylors. Do your due diligence when buying a used vehicle, inquire about the car’s service records, and have a professional mechanic inspect the car. Buying a reliable used Hyundai is all about the documentation of a well-lived life. 

Hands holding steering wheel in hyundai car
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Hands holding steering wheel in Hyundai car

Which Hyundai Models Are the Most Reliable?

Here at The Drive, we’ve driven just about every model in Hyundai’s ever-expanding lineup. We’ve also had experiences with past Hyundai models, some of which were not fabulous. Here is a brief rundown of the most reliable Hyundai models in the past 10 years.

Hyundai Elantra

The Hyundai Elantra is one of the most affordable vehicles in the brand’s lineup. Starting at just $19,300, the Elantra was designed for a public that needs affordability but still wants creature comforts such as CarPlay, good gas mileage, active safety and driving aids, and space for five. 

J.D. Power has repeatedly given the Elantra four out of five stars for its reliability. Adding further credence, the site RepairPal gave it a 4.5 out of 5 for reliability, while also stating the average annual repair bill is $452, which ranks the Elantra 8th out of 36 competing compact cars.

Hyundai Sonata

Hyundai’s Sonata remains one of the best mid-sized sedans available and has routinely been classified as such by the world’s media. Similar to the Elantra, Hyundai’s Sonata sedan has earned itself J.D. Power’s above-average reliability score with customers. 

And like the rest of Hyundai’s lineup, the Sonata is supported by that fantastic 5-year/60,000-mile basic warranty, and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. What’s not to love?

Hyundai Santa Fe

As one of Hyundai’s best-selling offerings, the Santa Fe is also one of the most reliable crossovers according to RepairPal. With a ranking of four out of five, the Santa Fe takes the second spot out of 26 other mid-sized crossovers. 

And both the NHTSA and CarComplaints have recorded almost zero complaints for the Santa Fe in recent years. Bravo.

Hyundai Santa Fe 2020 model
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Hyundai Santa Fe 2020 model

Common Hyundai Problems and Repair Costs

As with other car brands, not all of Hyundai’s models are built to the same exacting standards as the reliable vehicles mentioned above. Here’s a quick rundown of problematic Hyundai offerings, including the issues, customer complaints, and repair costs that will help you make the best decision when purchasing your next car.

Tucson Transmission Failure

On the NHTSA’s website, there are a total of 617 complaints about the 2016 Hyundai Tucson, many of which stem from the SUV’s transmission failure. According to a filed recall, “Hyundai Motor Company (Hyundai) is recalling certain model year 2016 Tucson vehicles manufactured May 20, 2015 through May 31, 2016, and equipped with a 7-speed EcoShift Dual Clutch Transmission. Certain driving conditions and high temperatures may cause the vehicle to not move if the accelerator pedal is pressed and released repeatedly.” Not good.

Customer Complaint

One customer complaint read, “Our Tucson shifted down as we pulled into an intersection and would not move more than 5 mph. We were nearly struck by a tractor-trailer. This is the third serious incident involving the transmission in this vehicle. We will not drive it until Hyundai replaces the transmission.”

Repair Costs

Since the transmission failure is under recall, you shouldn’t be out a dollar. However, if you’re considering a used Tucson, you should make sure the transmission has been fixed by Hyundai. 

Santa Fe Catastrophic Engine Failure

Though the new Santa Fes have been enjoying fantastic reliability, the 2012 models were prone to spectacular catastrophic engine failures. Along with its corporate cousin, the Kia Sorento, the GDi engines fitted to the Santa Fe were prone to engines randomly seizing and leaving customers stranded. 

Customer Complaint

One particular complaint was scathing in its wording, saying, “2012 Hyundai Santa Fe - 2.4L engine --Engine stalled while driving on Interstate 94 in Montana. Gas mileage plummeted to 10.4 mpg after gas fill and lunch in Hardin, MT. Engine was totally nonresponsive. Had it towed to Billings Montana (on a Sunday). Shop provided emergency service. Diagnosis was that fuel was getting into oil, and think it was because of failure of an oil pump in the engine. Further examination indicated internal damage and need to replace engine. What is worrisome is the fact that this engine was discontinued after 3 years (2011-2013). Now my only option is to buy a used engine. Used engine cost about $3,000. Labor will be on top of that. I am going to sell this rig when repaired. Not sure what I will tell a prospective purchaser. I hate the thought of saddling someone else with a lemon.”

Repair Costs

Considering the engine was discontinued, the price of a used engine will range depending on whether you source it yourself and/or do the work yourself, versus having the dealership or a professional mechanic charge you for the parts and labor. You may also need to scrap the car completely, meaning you’ll be purchasing a new car. 

Sonata Catastrophic Engine Failure

Just like the Santa Fe, the 2011 and 2012 Hyundai Sonata had the same catastrophic engine failures with engines seizing at random and leaving many customers without working cars. 

Customer Complaint

“I was entering an on ramp onto a highway and had pressed the accelerator down pretty hard to get up the short on ramp,” stated one customer complaint, adding, “Well, right before the top of the on ramp, my car completely stopped. No noise, no warning, no nothing. I was like WTF?!. My car has 143,000 miles and so I expect issues to happen but never this. I noticed very high RPM on my tachometer. Well anyway, I called roadside through my insurance, had it towed to a place that works on foreign cars. They say my engine is seized and that they can't even hand crank it. OOF. So now my car is at the Hyundai Dealership where I bought it from. Thankfully, they seem concerned about the issue as I have had it serviced there a fair amount. I am hoping that I will be able to have it fixed even though it is over the high warranty miles by 10k+. They are inspecting it today 3.7.2020 and I'll hear back from them soon on how to proceed. I don't want to pay 4k for a new engine…”

Repair Costs

According to CarComplaints, the average bill customers saw when they replaced the engine is more than $5,000. 

Hyundai Tucson close-up of the engine
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Hyundai Tucson close-up of the engine

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Special Limited Time Relief Program (Expires April 16)

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Hyundai Logo
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Hyundai logo at the front of a dealership

FAQs About Hyundai Reliability

You’ve got questions, The Drive’s informational team has answers!

Why Are Hyundai Cars Bad?

Past Hyundais weren’t reliable, but it’s been many years since that dark era. Today’s Hyundais, and those built recently, are very good cars and still offer fantastic value propositions. 

Why Is Hyundai So Cheap?

Hyundai is a value brand that has been on a continuous path of improvement. . In recent years, it’s moved upmarket in both fit and finish, as well as price, but overall, the lineup is still quite affordable.

Are Hyundais Expensive to Fix?

That depends on what’s wrong. If you need a new engine or you’ve just crashed into the idling Prius in front of you, it will be expensive. If you’re just getting an oil change, it’ll be affordable.

Is Hyundai More Reliable Than Toyota?

Toyota’s legendary reliability is still intact. However, makes such as Hyundai, Honda, and Kia are quickly catching up. 

Should I Buy, Lease or Rent a Hyundai?

Whether or not you buy, lease, or rent a Hyundai is really down to personal preference. The Drive’s informational team suggests that if you’re buying used, get a professional mechanic to inspect the car. If you’re buying new and enjoy the car during your test drive, you’ll absolutely be happy with your purchase. 

More Information

Here are a few more resources you can use:

RepairPal: Hyundai Santa Fe Reliability

NHTSA: Hyundai Elantra

CarComplaints: Hyundai Problems