Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

One of the most popular used GMCs, a white 2022 GMC Acadia, is shown parked off-road.

Which GMC Should I Go With for the Best Fuel Economy and Features?

Time is limited, money even more so, but you’re absolutely drawn to GMC. You want a great deal on a used model year from one of the more ritzy brands on the market, but you’re not sure which model from which nameplate is the one worth pursuing. Do you opt for used GMCs near you that are just the cheapest? Or do you filter through and find something that has specific features that appeal to your shopping and driving tastes? Well, if you’re here doing a bit of leg work before you commit to the purchase of a used GMC vehicle, then it means you’re moving in the right direction to find the right kind of vehicle at the right price. First and foremost, you need to start by shopping for the body style that appeals most to you. From there, it’s a matter of narrowing down if the gas mileage and feature set fit within your budget.

A white 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 is shown parked near cows.

Pickup Truck or SUV?

If you’re looking at a used GMC, then you’ve already settled on buying a pickup truck or an SUV because that’s what GMC specializes in. The thing is, even if you’re shopping for a family or for a vehicle for yourself, it doesn’t mean one body style or the other should be excluded. GMC’s line-up consists of different segment sizes at different price points, so there are some serious considerations to be made for both trucks and SUVs. If you have a large family, then something like the midsize Acadia or the full-size Yukon is probably going to be the better pick out of all of GMC’s available vehicles. Why? Because they are three-row SUVs.

The problem is that being a three-row SUV means that it’s going to be more expensive than something compact like the Terrain, and you’re not going to get the same level of fuel economy out of the Acadia or Yukon that you will get from the Terrain depending on the configuration. The problem with the Terrain, however, is that you’re not going to get the same level of towing capacity or passenger volume as the larger SUVs. A middle ground between the compact Terrain and the larger Yukon and Acadia is the GMC Canyon. Yes, it’s a pickup truck and a midsize one at that, but the cabin still seats up to five people, and you get more towing capacity than what you get with the Terrain, assuming you need to use the vehicle for more than just basic travel.

Another consideration is the GMC Sierra, which is a full-size pickup truck that can seat up to six people across two rows. Plus, you get even more towing and payload capacity than the Canyon. The problem, however, is that the price is much higher, the fuel economy is much lower (unless you opt for the turbo-diesel), and you get more features.

So there are trade-offs, pros, and cons with each of GMC’s available vehicles, and you’re going to be giving up something here or there for one body style or the other. If you don’t need the vehicle for towing and hauling, then an SUV is going to be the way to go. If you do need the vehicle for work or just to bring along your trailer, either the full-size SUVs or pickup trucks are the way to go. If the Sierra seems a bit outside your price range, then the Canyon is a good substitute.

A red 2022 GMC Terrain is shown driving on a dirt path.

Gas Mileage

If practical daily driving is what you’re after, then your top pick is probably going to be the GMC Terrain. Opting for a used Terrain can see you netting up to 30 MPG on the highway and 25 MPG in the city with a 2022 model year Terrain. If good gas mileage is a priority and you still want something feature-rich, a used Terrain SLT is like that perfect middle ground since you get a decent slate of standard features without having to worry about the price range of the AT4 or Denali.

Now if you have some cash to spare, you want something roomy, but you still want the best available fuel economy that a GMC can provide, a 2020 GMC Sierra 1500 with the Duramax turbo-diesel can earn you some impressive mileage, up to 30 MPG on the highway and 23 MPG in the city. Obviously, the Sierra 1500 would be a good pick if you have a small family, do a lot of highway travel, and need something work-focused. A base model, SLE, Elevation, or even SLT can net you some great features without getting into the upper-end territory of the AT4 or Denali, where you may end up pricing yourself out of a vehicle.

Surprisingly, your next best option when it comes to fuel economy is going to be the newer model year GMC Acadia trims from 2022 onward. The Acadia tops out at 22 MPG in the city and up to 29 MPG on the highway. Those obviously aren’t subcompact or compact crossover numbers, but for a three-row SUV with a towing capacity of up to 4,000 lbs, you can easily turn the Acadia into a multi-versatile SUV for work, travel, vacations, or even daily commutes. Like the other GMC models, if you’re trying to keep the price low while shopping used, an SLE or SLT will net you many of the basic features you want without raising the total costs.

A white 2022 GMC Yukon AT4 is shown driving off-road.

Safety, Infotainment, and Comfort

When it comes to shopping for features, you are going to need to narrow down your search to specific trim levels. Some vehicles will have more features than others, depending on the model year and trim. Specifically for GMC, you can expect a fully-featured vehicle if you opt for a Denali or Denali Ultimate. Even when buying used, the premium prices that come with the Denali or Denali Ultimate can be a bit much––then again, not everyone is going to be looking for massage seats and special paneling inside the cabin.

For more practical shoppers, GMC offers a great slate of features across its entire line-up, including the base trims (usually the SLE and SLT). So what do you get with these trims? Well, you can seat up to seven people in the Acadia, you have premium cloth seats, an eight-inch HD touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, the GMC Pro Safety suite, tri-zone climate control, and smart storage to boot. The Terrain is very much the same as the Acadia when it comes to the features of the SLE and SLT, including having available heated seats, a heated steering wheel, and an available heads-up display. The big difference is that the Terrain seats five since it’s only two rows.

For the GMC Canyon and GMC Sierra, the designations are a little bit different, as they’re separated between the base trims, the off-road trims, and the luxury trims. If you’re trying to keep your costs down and the spending practical, then the Elevation is a prime choice for the Canyon, while getting a used Sierra 1500 in the SLE, Elevation, or SLT trims will be your best bet for features at a reasonable enough price. You still get a rich cabin experience with a lot of exterior utility. Both trucks feature very large HD touchscreens, smartphone integration, cloth seats, Wi-Fi support, and the availability of OnStar Connected Services.

A silver 2021 GMC Canyon is shown parked near a log cabin.

Practicality Versus Price

If you’re still on the fence about whether you should get an SUV or a pickup truck, just narrow down what you feel is most important when it comes to your daily driving habits. If you really like GMC vehicles but you’re working on the absolute tightest budget, then the Terrain is likely going to be your best option. It has the lowest price of entry and the best fuel economy for its size. If you need a vehicle that’s suited for a growing family, then the midsize Acadia is likely going to be the better option if it fits within your budget––it’s just like the Terrain yet offers three-row seating, so you have room to grow into if you’re single or just starting a family. If you have a large family, then the Yukon becomes a no-brainer.

What about the trucks? Well, if you need to tow, trailer, or haul in your daily driver, then you will need a pickup, no doubt about it. The question is: do you opt for the Canyon or Sierra? If you’re buying a used GMC, then you’re going to need to think about longevity, wear and tear, and repairs, in addition to size and fuel economy. While the Sierra 1500 price scales up much higher than the Canyon, the reality is that if you need the extra cabin room and the workload capacity, that’s the one you should choose. If you can get one with a Duramax turbo-diesel engine under the hood, then that’s extra bonus points because you get better fuel economy than the Canyon and the towing and trailering scalability you need for work. Hopefully this helps narrow down your shopping choices and preferences for what you’re looking for from a used GMC.