Bought a 2003 Santa Fe with 125K GLS 2.7L for my son his senior year of HS, he took it to college...had to replace a rear trailing arm & a coroded battery cable, other than that I did the timing belt, plugs & wires, new tires, and most fluids. GREAT car for the money, love the styling (its now a classic), modern interior, and perfect for teens and college age kids for room and safety. Decent sound system, side airbags and lots of metal, smooth ride and quiet engine...you can do a lot worse, just stay away from the 4-cylinder.
My wife and I bought it with 60,000 miles.
We had a couple of minor issues right of the bat that the dealer didn't want to handle.
I did replace the plugs and wires twice within the first two years because of the same problem.
It was a little time consuming but not impossible.
Definately cheaper then taking it into the dealer.
Other then that it has been very reliable.
Gas mileage could be a little better.
I think we average around 17-18mpg.
We orignally bought it because we were told it could handle a boat.
Later found it the towing capacity wasn't great.
But would definately buy another one.
I bought my 2003 Santa FE brand new. I now have 175000 miles on it. I have had its maintenance done regularly which has included the timing and serpentine belt twice, replaced the battery once, 2 sets of front brake pads, 1 set of rear brakes pads, and replaced one set of tires. This has been absolutely worth the money I have spent for the car. Some of the 'problems' that other reviewers have posted are not problems but regular maintenance items. Everything thing wears out people and may need to be replaced! Some of the fuel economy issues can also be attributed to poor fuel quality. If you put crap gas in your car it will cause problems first with poor mpg's then eventually emission issues.
Keep your vehicle maintained. As others have stated, the paint is not the best. I have 280,000 miles on this vehicle which was a program vehicle and had
11,000 when I purchased it. I have spent about $ 3,000 on it during a period of 12 years (repairs)