The smallest SUV crossover in the Buick lineup, the Encore has the sleek looks of its larger cousins – plus a slew of high-tech gear and extras that gives it a luxurious feel. That doesn’t mean that this little Buick hasn’t had its share of problems (including some that are serious safety hazards). Not only that, most Buick Encore problems are costly if not covered by a recall.
Those considering adding a Buick Encore to their garage need to be aware that this isn’t a very reliable SUV. It’s not exactly the I would consider terrible, but there are far better options out there IMHO. However, if you’re dead set on getting one of these things, these are the kinds of problems that you’ll potentially be facing:
- Engine fires (yikes!)
- Slow acceleration
- Electrical glitches galore (see below)
- Airbags that won’t deploy during an accident
- Braking system failure
Some of these issues are more than a little serious. If you’re feeling courageous, and if an Encore is what you truly want, proceed at your own risk.
Table of Contents
A detailed overview of the most common Buick Encore problems
Though the Buick Encore is generally a reliable small SUV with a smooth ride, quiet cabin, ample storage, and the luxury feel of a Buick, owners do seem to be reporting more problems compared to the owners of competitive vehicles.
The most common problems include:
Engine problems (that sometimes includes fire)
There’s nothing minor about the engine problems some Buick Encore owners have reported. Lackluster acceleration, smoke, stalling, and even catching on fire are common issues. The kicker is that most of these problems show up before 12,000 miles – which, if you ask me, is unacceptable for a brand new vehicle.
Another big problem Buick Encore owners report is in with the braking system. Long braking distances, noises while braking, brake pedal vibrations, and even loss of control due to braking are common problems that owners have reported before their vehicle has 15,000 miles on the odometer. Are you feeling worried yet?
Battery and electrical issues
Buick Encores can be hard to start as the battery can be drained easily. Some report dead batteries every month or two. Many report replacing their Encore’s battery only to have the same thing happen a month later. This is not only annoying but expensive.
Many Buick Encore owners have had their share of problems with radios, display functions, rearview cameras, and more. Electrical issues have plagued this small SUV for nearly every model year. Like other problems with the Encore, these could result in anything from a small aggravation to a serious accident. And lots (and lots) of heartburn.
Defective safety equipment
Software issues with the Buick Encore can keep its airbags from deploying (and seat belts from locking) during a crash. GM has told Buick Encore owners that they can get this sensing diagnostic module software replaced at Buick dealerships free of charge as part of a recall of more than 3.6 million vehicles.
Marketed as a powerful subcompact SUV thanks to it’s turbocharged engine, the Buick Encore can lose acceleration when it’s turbo goes bad (and they often do). Other symptoms include a check engine light, noises, and rattling. Replacing a turbo can cost more than $1,600, so think twice before you buy a high-mileage Encore that hasn’t had it’s turbo replaced.
Buick Encore transmissions can be troublesome, with reports of grinding, delayed shifting, slipping, along with other abnormal (expensive sounding) noises. Transmission fluid may need to be replaced as often as every 30,000 miles – and you’ll increase your risk of damage without doing so.
Climate control system failure
Buick Encore electrical system problems can also affect its air conditioning system (and automatic climate control). Some Encore owners have reported problems with compressors, condensers, and evaporators, as well as refrigerant leaks. Expensive stuff.
Fit and finish issues
The Buick Encore has the lines of a luxury SUV and an attractive interior. However, in less time than other competitive compact SUVs, paint and trim can peel, and interior finishes and upholstery can look worn. Remember: this is a mass-produced GM vehicle, so fit and finish isn’t going to be the best.
Though the value of a car decreasing over time isn’t necessarily what first comes to mind as far as a problem with a particular make or model, the Buick Encore depreciates fast – nearly 50% over the first five years.
This can be bad news for those who bought their Buick Encores new, but great news for used car buyers looking for a nice looking (and somewhat luxurious) SUV.
Another fun fact for those looking for a used SUV: since many Buick Encore problems occur during the SUV’s first year, these issues may have been fixed by the time you get yours.
Is the Buick Encore a reliable car?
Despite these somewhat serious problems (and a lot of recalls), the Buick Encore is a fairly reliable small SUV, ranked 14th in the small SUV category by U.S. News and World Report.
The Buick Encore is rated 7.5 out of 10 overall by U.S. News and World Report, with J.D. Power rating it an 84 out of 100 for quality and reliability. A 91 or higher is considered best, but the Buick Encore’s 84 rating is still respectable.
How bad are Buick Encore problems compared to other small SUVs?
I hate to say it, but the Buick Encore just might be the small compact SUV that I worry about the most. It’s not completely terrible, but there are so many other vehicles in this class that have far fewer problems:
- 2017 Ford Escape problems are are almost as significant as the the Encore. Almost.
- 2016 Cadillac SRX problems are bad, and very similar to the Encore. At least GM is consistent with their issues I guess.
- Honda HR-V problems are very mild as well. I’d totally take an HR-V over an Encore.
Which model year Buick Encore should you avoid?
Some model years of the Buick Encore are better than others. The model years of 2014, 2015, and 2017 have been notorious for their recalls and engine problems. If you are buying a used Encore, I highly recommend avoiding those model years. Buick Encore problems occur less often in newer models.
What is the life expectancy of a Buick Encore?
Typically, a well taken care of Buick Encore should last about 200,000 miles – or about 13 years, giving owners a good return on their investment of $24,600 or more. That comes to less than $2,000 a year for dependable transportation over the life of the vehicle.
The list of recalls involving the Buick Encore is far longer than some of the other compact SUVs I’ve written about. Check this out:
- Oct. 29, 2020: Missing bolts on the start-stop accumulator end cap may result in a transmission oil leak, increasing the risk of a crash or fire.
- Nov. 1, 2018: The sensing diagnostic module on Buick Encores and other models may not leave “manufacturing mode,” which prevents airbag deployment in a crash.
- July 10, 2017: This recall also deals with software in Buick Encores and other models that was preventing airbags and seatbelts from protecting the driver and passengers in a crash.
- Sept. 8, 2016: Driving conditions could trigger a diagnostic test of airbag-related software that would prevent the deployment of front airbags and seatbelts in a crash.
- July 5, 2016: The electronic park lock lever in the Buick Encore and other models may allow the ignition key to be removed without the vehicle being in park.
- March 20, 2015: Buick Encore and other GM models were recalled because tire placards did not include rim size information.
- March 13, 2015: GM recalled Buick Encores and other models because the steering column assembly housing may cause wear on the power steering circuit board.
- Oct. 1, 2014: The chassis electronic module may short out in the Buick Encore and other GM models.
- Aug. 8, 2014: Driver and passenger lap seat belt pretensioner cables may not lock, letting the seat belts extend when pulled in a crash.
- July 23, 2014: An incomplete weld on the seat hook bracket assembly puts front seats at risk of becoming detached during a crash.
- July 2, 2014: Buick Encores and other models were recalled due to exposed wires in the block heater that could cause electrical shocks and injuries.
- June 6, 2014: A faulty weld on the passenger side front airbag inflator could result in the airbag not deploying during a crash.
- March 28, 2013: The fastener on the steering wheel may not have been installed properly in Buick Encores or other models, which could make the steering wheel separate from the steering column.