The aim of present study is to investigate the dynamic instability of exponentially graded (EG) sandwich cylindrical shells under static and time dependent periodic axial loadings using the shear deformation theory (SDT). The modified Donnell-type dynamic instability equations of EG sandwich cylindrical shells based on the SDT are deduced. Then are reduced to Mathieu-Hill equation and by solving the expressions for the boundaries of instability regions of EG sandwich cylindrical shells are obtained. The similar expressions for EG single-layer shell, ceramic-rich shell and metal coated sandwich cylindrical shell on the basis of SDT and classical shell theory (CST) are obtained in a special case. The numerical illustrations concern the influences of compositional profiles of coating layers, shear stresses and geometrical parameters of sandwich cylindrical shells on the boundaries of instability regions. As a check on the accuracy of the present study, the values of the lower and upper boundaries of instability regions are compared with those in the literature. (C) 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.