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A black 2019 GMC Yukon Graphite Edition is shown parked near a white wall after visiting a used GMC dealer.

Picking the Perfect GMC Yukon Model When Shopping the Used Market

The Yukon is one of the last great frontiers, a massive expanse of gorgeous wilderness in western Canada that is also the perfect name for GMC’s largest SUV. The Yukon and its super-sized sister, the Yukon XL, are two of the roomiest full-size SUVs you will find on the market. That is because GMC has given these monsters plenty of interior space for up to nine passengers depending on which model you choose. As a result, the GMC Yukon is the perfect model for a large family or someone with plenty of travel companions. For those shopping with a budget, you can head to your used GMC dealer today to experience this spacious cabin up close and personal.

When shopping for a pre-owned GMC Yukon, you need to decide which model is right for you. Do you go for the full-size Yukon or the tremendous Yukon XL? Does rear-wheel drive make sense, or should you opt for better traction with available four-wheel drive, even though it may cost you a little on fuel economy? When buying used, should you get a better deal on a fourth-generation model or more modern features on a fifth-generation one? Finally, which of the four different trims is right for you? These questions will depend on your specific needs but are important to ask when exploring the used market.

A white 2015 GMC Yukon SLT is shown parked on grass.

A Look at the Most Recent Yukon Models and Their Engine Options

GMC introduced the Yukon in 1992. This full-size model provided a rough and rugged SUV for folks who loved the great outdoors or just needed a larger vehicle. Since those first years, the Yukon has become one of GMC’s most famous models, with the Yukon XL joining the lineup in time for the new millennium. This gave drivers two different sizes of the same beloved model to choose from.

The fourth generation of the Yukon arrived in time for the 2015 model year, giving drivers a choice of two different engines and three different trims, as well as the Yukon XL. The base engine is a 5.3-liter EcoTec3 V8 with a 6-speed automatic transmission, producing up to 355 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque, and available on the SLE and SLT trims, with either rear-wheel or four-wheel drive. However, the fourth-generation Yukon XL is only available in four-wheel drive when opting for this engine.

The other engine option is a 6.2-liter EcoTec3 V8 with 10-speed automatic transmission. The larger size allows it to deliver up to 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. This comes standard on the top Denali trim and is available with rear-wheel or four-wheel drive. In general, the smaller engine provides better fuel economy, although the larger engine profits from having more horsepower and torque, as well as more gear speeds on its automatic transmission. As a result, it will give you better overall acceleration. The fourth-generation Yukon can also tow up to 8,400 lbs when properly equipped.

The fifth generation model was introduced in 2021, adding an extra trim, another engine option, and a larger build. The new trim on the 2021 Yukon is the AT4, a version of the Yukon and Yukon XL designed for off-roading enthusiasts. As such, it comes with a standard four-wheel drivetrain. The new engine is a 3.0-liter Duramax Turbo-Diesel I-6, paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission, providing up to 277 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque.

As expected, the fifth-generation Yukon with the turbo-diesel engine provides better fuel economy than the two gasoline engines; however, it’s only an option as it isn’t standard on any trims. Rather, the 6.2-liter V8 remains standard on the Denali, while the 5.3-liter V8 with an added 10-speed automatic transmission comes on the other three trims. As with the fourth generation, if you choose a Yukon XL, you can only get it with four-wheel drive on the 5.3-liter V8 engine models.

A green 2022 GMC Yukon Denali is shown driving on a road.
2022 GMC Yukon Denali

There Is Big, and Then There Is Yukon Big

The Yukon has always been the biggest SUV in GMC’s lineup until that crown was stolen by the Yukon XL in 2000. Still, whichever one you choose, you are going to get plenty of room for up to nine passengers. In addition, the Yukon has a spacious trunk, with enough room for all passengers to stow their luggage for a fun, family road trip.

The key difference between the fourth and fifth-generation Yukon models is size. The fifth generation is simply bigger. You are going to find more room for your passengers with a more useful third row of seats in the fifth-generation model. For example, the fifth-generation Yukon has 34.9 inches of legroom in the third row, while the Yukon XL goes up to a very comfortable 36.7 inches. In comparison, the fourth-generation Yukon only offers 24.8 inches of legroom in the third row of seats, which is really not sufficient for an adult on a long road trip.

GMC also increased the cargo capacity on the fifth-generation model. In fact, the fifth-generation Yukon has more overall cargo space than the fourth-generation Yukon XL. For example, the 2020 Yukon has 15.3 cu.ft. of space in its trunk, which can be expanded to 94.7 cu.ft. by folding down the rear two rows of seats. The fourth generation Yukon XL surpasses that, with 39.3 cu.ft. of space that can be increased to a total of 121.7 cu.ft.

The fifth-generation GMC Yukon easily surpasses these numbers. The redesign for the fifth generation gave the Yukon a longer wheelbase, and the designers at GMC really went to town with it. The 2021 Yukon has 25.5 cu.ft. of space in its trunk that you can easily increase to 122.9 cu.ft. by simply folding down the rear rows. This is more than one cu.ft. of additional space over the fourth-generation 2020 Yukon XL model. The 2021 Yukon XL has the most available cargo space, with 41.5 cu.ft. of space in the trunk that can be increased to an astounding 144.7 cu.ft. of space for cargo.

The other thing to remember when comparing generations is that technology has advanced rapidly over the past 10 years. As a result, the more recently used Yukon and Yukon XL models will have more features on the infotainment system. The fifth generation also offers a standard 10.2-inch color touchscreen, whereas the fourth generation’s infotainment system was a standard 8-inch. Also, the fifth generation features more standard driver assistance technology features. This is because GMC began rolling out driver assistance features courtesy of the GMC Pro Safety suite during the fourth generation before making them standard on all Yukon models in 2021.

A dark gray 2016 GMC Yukon XL SLT is shown driving on a road.

A Variety of Trim Options

Few things are more personal than deciding on the right trim. All other things being equal, such as odometer mileage, condition, and age, the higher trim you choose on a used model, the more expensive the vehicle will be. This is certainly the case with the Yukon. The base model for the fourth and fifth generations is the SLE, equipped with all of the standard features, including a cloth fabric interior. Choosing an SLT will add things like leather upholstery and a power tailgate. These added comfort features will make driving the Yukon more enjoyable.

The top trim for both generations is the Denali, featuring the larger 6.2-liter gas engine, as well as heated and ventilated seats, a hands-free tailgate to make accessing the trunk easier, and, starting with 2021, a Magnetic Ride Control. All of these help make the Denali the most comfortable ride in the entire Yukon and Yukon XL fleet. If you are less concerned with affordability and want the most comfort features, a used fourth or fifth-generation GMC Yukon or Yukon XL Denali is your best bet.

Finally, if you plan on taking your Yukon out on the trail for some off-road adventures, you may want to consider the AT4 trim. This has a specialized four-wheel drivetrain with a 2-speed transfer case, skid plates, traction control with an off-road mode, and all-terrain tires. GMC only began offering the Yukon AT4 with the 2021 fifth generation; however, this is the one for you if you are looking for adventure in your used GMC Yukon or Yukon XL.

Shopping Used Gives You an Array of Yukon Options

You may think that with only four current trims and three trims in the prior generation’s model, the GMC Yukon won’t have much to offer in the way of options and choices for motorists. However, this would be an incorrect assumption. Buying a pre-owned Yukon allows you to choose your size, whether getting the larger XL model or deciding between the fourth or fifth-generation models. It also lets you choose between a number of different engines, as well as two drivetrains. Finally, each of the four trims serves a separate purpose, so you can easily find a used GMC Yukon that is tailored to your unique style and driving needs, making the Yukon a versatile choice when shopping on the used market.