Please school me on Suburban

Dake21

Adventurer
Hey all,

Wife and I are planning on having a 4th child so obviously I'll need a bigger vehicle. I'm pretty much set on suburbans, they seem reliable and have the most room you could get vs the competition.

I'm looking at years 2009 - 2012 because my budget is under 10k. Is there anything to watch for, headgasket maybe? It will mostly see highway driving.

I don't have towing need at the moment so is getting a 1500 a better idea than the 2500, or the 2500 is still a ''nice to have'' ?

Thanks for the help.
 

jeep-N-montero

Expedition Leader
Suburbans are some of the most reliable "SUV's" ever built, you can google any potential issues they may have had by model year.
 

rayra

Expedition Leader
Looks like the base model trans on the gmt900s is the 4L65E, which is an improved / heavy duty 4L60E. Which was the only shortfall on the gmt800s. The 60 worked great, just doesn't seem to take the strain of heavy or frequent towing. Keep it under 6000-lbs towed weight and you'd be fine and not 'need' the 2500.
Too, the 900s have the 6-speed trans which would really help with driving around town MPG.

Depends on your intended uses. The 5.3 is a stout motor and has done everything we've tasked it with, all sorts of light and medium towing. And after your first family road trip you won't want anything smaller
 

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Martinjmpr

Wiffleball Batter
I don't know what the market is like in your area but finding a 2009 - 2012 for under $10k is nearly impossible out here in Colorado. If you can find something in that price range it will likely have over 200k on it, or be a 2wd.
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$15 - $20k would get you a nice 2009 - 2012. As for the 2500s, they are much more rare in the GMT-900 style (2007 and up) than they are in the GMT-800 (2000 -2006.) Even so, expect a stiff premium for a 2500.
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One final note, if having low range is important to you, note that not all 4x4 GMT-900 Suburbans had low range. Quite a few of the ones I see for sale on CL have the single speed T-case, with 2wd, 4hi and 4hi Auto as the only options.
 

ChevyPit

Observer
I wouldn't worry to much about the years. I would worry more about mileage and history of maintenance.
For your startup, I would recommend the 1500, if you are not towing above 5000 lb you'll do fine. The 5.3 drinks a little less gas than the 6.0. Parts for 1500 are a little cheaper than for the 2500.
I have also 4 kids, and these are the best vehicles for a family of 6 (and always bringing a friend along). Well, sometimes I search for express or savannas vans, but 4x4 are really rare, jajaja.
 

CRolandLJ

Adventurer
I'll echo what's been said you'll have a hard time finding a 09-12 worth buying for $10k. You'll have a relatively easy time finding the previous generation (01-06) worth buying for under that, and for my money they're better vehicles all around and are still modern enough to have good parts availability and reliability. With $10k i'd wait and find the lowest mileage 05 or 06 Z71 i could find in a reasonable amount of time. I've seen mall crawlers with under 100k for sale for 8-10k in Texas and tons with slightly higher mileage for less.
 

Dake21

Adventurer
So what's the main difference between the GMT 800 and 900? Did they changed more than the body? 2007 and older might turn off my wife but I'll check them out.
I've seen two 2009 in the 10k range on kijiji and one sold fast. Some people are desperate to sell here in Alberta since the oil price crashed.
 

Martinjmpr

Wiffleball Batter
So what's the main difference between the GMT 800 and 900? Did they changed more than the body? 2007 and older might turn off my wife but I'll check them out.
I've seen two 2009 in the 10k range on kijiji and one sold fast. Some people are desperate to sell here in Alberta since the oil price crashed.
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There are a few writeups on the internet about the difference between the GMT-800 and 900, but it was an all new body style. 2007 also saw the introduction of the AFM, Active Fuel Management, this is the system that can deactivate 4 of the 8 cylinders on the engine. Early GMT-900s were known to have excessive oil consumption problems related to the AFM, and quite a few needed engine replacements. For that reason alone I would stay away from anything made in 2007 or 2008. 2009 saw the introduction of the 6L60 (6 speed) auto.
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The other major difference with the GMT-900 was that on the half ton (1500) models they did away with the torsion bar IFS that Chevy had used since they first went to IFS in the late 1980s, and went with a coilover system (the 3/4 ton 2500 still had the t-bars though.)
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I think the GMT-900 was definitely a step forward for GM, but it also took them several years to get the kinks out, whereas the change from the GMT-400 to the GMT-800 was much less dramatic. For that reason, a later GMT-800 (2004 - 2006) is likely to have fewer problems overall than an earlier (2007 - 2008) GMT-900.
 

Dake21

Adventurer
That's good to know about AFM and the introduction of the 6 speed. Not sure I'd go with the older one with the 4 speed and torsion bars sounds like it gives a pretty harsh ride. How bad is oil burning for the 2007-08? If I just need to add like $20 of oil between oil change I could live with that, provided there's nothing else wrong with the engine.
 

Martinjmpr

Wiffleball Batter
That's good to know about AFM and the introduction of the 6 speed. Not sure I'd go with the older one with the 4 speed and torsion bars sounds like it gives a pretty harsh ride. How bad is oil burning for the 2007-08? If I just need to add like $20 of oil between oil change I could live with that, provided there's nothing else wrong with the engine.
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Oil burning was just the symptom. They ran like crap when they had the oil consumption issue. Google "Active Fuel Management problems" and you'll see the horror stories. As I said, engine replacement was the usual "fix." Sometimes it was done under warranty, but by this point warranty coverage would be unlikely.
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Safest bet is to stay away from them entirely.
 

CRolandLJ

Adventurer
The 6 speed seems good on paper but in my experience with trucks of this generation, compared to trucks of earlier and later, the AFM combined with the 6 speeds causes a lot of hunting for gears and in my experience on several road trips from TX to CO in both the 800 (5.3/4speed) and 900 (5.3 with AFM/6 speed) i saw no real increase in highway mileage, and definitely none around town with a 50/50 mix of normal driving. The GMT800 with torsion bars may be slightly less smooth than the GMT900 with coilovers but i believe the main benefit for that would be that a slight lift is super easy with torsion keys. Other than that coilovers obviously get the nod - but the GMT800 is by no means a rough riding vehicle, even by todays standards - assuming that the suspension components are all in good working order.

Then again - while trying to convince your wife, the GMT800 shows its age on the inside with available options, gadgets, etc. It's all a trade off.
 

rayra

Expedition Leader
hell my '02 Z71 K1500 is downright plush ON-road. Rides great before and after torsion key swap. And my offroading is slow, so I rarely bounce it off the stops.

 

2002Z71

New member
Over the years, we've owned a 2001 Silverado, 2002 Avalanche, 2002 Tahoe, and now a 2011 Silverado all with the 5.3L. The Avalanche is the same platform as Suburban, just has a different body.

The ride with the torsion bars on the Av and Tahoe was extremely plush. I actually prefer the interior layout on the 800s better than the newer ones. They were also extremely dependable vehicles, the only thing to really watch for is the fuel pump (these last 150k miles like clockwork) and the trans. Our Av and Tahoe never had transmission problems, but the Silverado needed a rebuild at 120k. However, we bought it used from a horse farmer so it saw some pretty heavy towing prior to us. Both the Av and the Silverado lost their fuel pumps, so I replaced the one on the Tahoe as preventative maintenance.

With the newer ones, the AFM issues are a legitimate concern. All the details can be found online if you Google "TSB 10-06-01-008G Engine Oil Consumption Jan 2013". In a nutshell, however, GM resolved the issue by installing a baffle in the oil pan (implemented on trucks built after Oct 2010) and a new valve cover (implemented Feb 2011). The good news is the issue didn't affect all trucks, and by this point (7+ years later) the ones that had the issue may have been fixed. With our 2011 (built in Jan) I just looked a the service records before I bought it and purchased an extended warranty (since I was worried about this issue they gave me a great deal on the warranty). So far it hasn't burned a drop but it only has 42k miles so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

You can also buy programmers which disable the AFM for less than $300.
 

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Dake21

Adventurer
So is the 6 speed overrated?
What kind of fuel range do you guys get on the highway/city? I suppose they all have a 120L tank?
 

ChevyPit

Observer
GMT 800. In my 2004 1500 5.3 4x2 I have a 26 gallon tank (in US you get the 31 gallon), it gets 400 miles on the highway. On the 2000 6.0 2500 4x4 Yukon xl I have the 38 gallon tank, it gets 500 miles on the highway.
GMT 400. On the 1997 K1500 4x4 5.7 I have a 42 gallon tank, it gets 580 miles on the highway.
It's approximate, depends on your driving modes.
 
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