Like nearly everyone, I had dismissed the Hummer H2 and H3 as cheap plastic copies of the mighty HMMWV military vehicle. I had paid little attention to them, until last week, when an H3 popped up at my local dealer auction. I strangely found myself wanting to buy it — but, thankfully, I was able to talk my dealer buddy into jumping on this grenade for me. It actualy didn’t take much convincing, as both of us were surprised at the overall quality of the H3, and how well it was aging.
My history with Hummer started back in 2002, when my father was one of the first to recieve a delivery of the new H2 model. He had to order one unseen, based on photos — and when it arrived in person, he hated it immediately. It was hideous, with fake plastic bits everywhere, along with horrible visibility and laughable interior space considering its size. To him, the Hummer felt like a downgrade compared to his old Suburban — so he quickly traded it off for a new Yukon Denali. I remember being disappointed — but at 16, I had zero sense of style. I was still wearing cargo shorts at that time! Thankfully, my taste in shorts (and cars) improved with age — unlike others.
When the H3 was offered to the public in 2006, I was working for a Chevrolet dealer — and we were trained to hate the H3. The Chevrolet Equinox had more rear legroom, and it got much better gas mileage, and it wasn’t an embarrassing caricature of something else. I was also trained to tell customers the 2007 GMC Yukon looked like a catfish, if they planned to cross-shop it against the new Tahoe/Suburban. The owner of the dealership also believed the internet was a "fad."
Ten years later, I was still brainwashed by my sales training — but after driving around this cheap 2008 H3 for the last few days, I can’t help but appreciate it. It seems the designers of the H3 had learned from the mistakes of the H2, and they scaled back all the fake plastic junk by about 80 percent. The interior was also a huge improvement, as it seems by the time the H3 rolled around, General Motors had finally figured out how to make slightly higher-quality dashboards. It also seems they spent more than five minutes thinking about the ergonomics, as well as fit and finish.
The H3 had some serious off-road credibility, too. Using a truck chassis from the Chevrolet Colorado, the H3 came with standard four-wheel drive, along with great ground clearance — as well as strong approach and departure angles. Underbody armor was optional, along with locking differentials — and in later years, they even offered the 5.3-liter V8.
The H3 started at only $29,000, which opened the Hummer brand to a whole new swath of buyers. Unfortunately, many of these buyers couldn’t afford the H3’s gas mileage with the Great Recession beginning and gas prices at $5 per gallon — and I recall being told it was one of the most commonly repossessed vehicles at the time. Sales for the H3 languished during the economic downturn, and the decision was made during General Motors’ bankruptcy to pull the plug on the Hummer brand entirely.
I find myself feeling sad about this, as the H3 showed so much potential. Hummer had clearly learned from its early mistakes with the H2, and it was heading in the right direction. The good news is the remaining orphan H3 models are a great used value, with 160 currently available on Autotrader for under $10,000. If the incredibly high resale value of the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited is tough to swallow, the H3 is a great alternative. Find a HUMMER H3 for sale
Tyler Hoover went broke after 10 years in the car business and now sells hamburgers to support his fleet of needy cars. He lives in Wichita, Kansas.