The Best & Worst Years of Nissan Altima

The Nissan Altima is a mid-size sedan that’s been on the market since 1993. Considering it has been through six generations, there’s a lot of information to wade through when trying to find the best and worst years of Nissan Altima models.  

In this guide, we pick out the very best Altima years and give you some to stay away from. We also look at the most common problems with Altima sedans and answer your top questions.   

The Best Nissan Altima Model Years

After reviewing all of the information, the best Nissan Altima models include the 2011 and 1996. We also recommend doing some more research about the 2021, 2023 and 2022 Nissan Altima model years, as these appear to be reliable as well.

Here is the data you want to know about. 

1. 2011 Nissan Altima

2011 Nissan Altima coupe

As an older model, the 2011 Altima still has plenty to offer drivers looking for a bargain. The efficient four-cylinder engine makes it a top choice if you want to save money at the pump but you don’t want to sacrifice performance. 

It also comes with plenty of technology features, even more than a decade later. If you can find one that was well-maintained, you should be able to get plenty of life out of it. 

2. 1996 Nissan Altima

Looking back in time, the 1996 has earned amazing reviews. This model was upgraded over the original design, making it a highly coveted option.

The best part about this Altima is the price. If you find one of these on the used market, you are going to get a banging deal. 

3. 2021 Nissan Altima

2021 is one of the best model years for Nissan Altima

As one of the newer models, this Altima has a lot to offer. It contains many of the best features and you can get a decent deal on a used model by now. There are five trim levels you can choose from, allowing for a massive selection.

We also think it’s a safe option because of the latest technologies. Every trim includes automated emergency braking and forward collision warning.

4. 2023 Nissan Altima

If you want a new model with warranty protection, you can’t go wrong with the 2023. It has the most up-to-date cabin of them all and is known to be reliable. In fact, customers can’t say enough good about it.

There’s also no argument that the fuel economy is on track. If you find a leftover model at a dealership, prepare to save a lot of money too. 

5. 2022 Nissan Altima

2022 Nissan Altima - a good choice

Another newer model high on the list is the 2022 Altima. The fuel economy is a bonus, on top of having no recalls and very few complaints.

Plus, there are two engine choices for this model year. You can opt for the 2.5L four-cylinder or a turbo-four instead. 

Worst Nissan Altima Model Years

Avoid any major defectives by staying away from the worst Nissan Altima models. We have found numerous complaints about the 2013 and 2002 Nissan Altima. The reviews of the 2003, 2009 and 2016 Altimas aren’t good either.

Here are some more details to explore.

2013 Nissan Altima

2013 Nissan Altima - one of the worst model years

The absolute worst year to drive is the 2013 Altima. It has received too many complaints, more than any other model. Most of the pain points have to do with the CVT that Nissan installed. This transmission would fail with no warning, sometimes while people were driving. Replacing the transmission is a costly endeavor, and there’s no guarantee that the replacement will be any more reliable.

Other complaints have to do with the climate control. The frame of the car seems to rub against the compressor, making it wear out prematurely. Plus, this repair can easily cost more than $1,000.

2002 Nissan Altima

Another model to run the other way from is the 2002 Nissan Altima. While it offered several engine configurations, allowing for some variety, the problems far outweigh anything good we could say. In fact, excessive oil consumption is one of the largest complaints.

If the engine isn’t cared for, it could cost more than $3,000 for a replacement and most cars this old aren’t worth that much money. In fact, many people had to replace engines in these vehicles before the odometer even hit 100,000 miles, so if you are buying a used one, you may want to see if it had an engine swap. 

2003 Nissan Altima

The 2003 Nissan Altima is another unreliable model and it has too many recalls. About half of those are for the headlights, but there are also issues with the airbags, transmission and fuel system.

 In fact, there was a class action lawsuit for the 2023 Altima about the rusting floorboards. If it’s not one thing, it will be another, which is why you should avoid this model at all costs.

2009 Nissan Altima

When the 2009 Altima first arrived, people believed that all previous issues would have been dealt with, but that wasn’t the case. While some were made better, the new problems only added to the frustration. One such issue was how the electronic steering column lock would prevent the vehicle from starting. To fix the malfunction, dealers were charging $1,000.

In addition, there have been numerous complaints about the powertrain and electrical system. All in all, this is one to pass over.

2016 Nissan Altima

2016 Nissan Altima - one of the worst years

Rounding out our list is the 2016 Altima. It may not be as bad as some of the others, but it should still be avoided unless you want to take on hefty repair bills. The transmission seems to be the biggest issue.

Customers continue complaining about the noise that comes from the transmission. It also causes the vehicle to stall or break down, leaving drivers waiting for a wrecker to arrive. To replace this transmission, you may need to spend more than $4,000.

Most Common Nissan Altima Problems

Based on information from RepairPal and customer reviews, we found the most common complaints. We’ve seen issues with the engine, transmissions, the steering system and the paint on the body. All of these can turn into costly repairs.

Take a closer look.

Engine Malfunctions

Engine issues are common on Nissan Altima

The list of engine issues with Altima models seems to go on and on. Whether the crankshaft fails or the car burns through excessive amounts of oil, none of the repairs seems to be cheap.

Even if the motor doesn’t completely go out, customers continue to complain about the rough idle. There have also been issues with the motor mounts that lead to erratic vibrations. 

Transmission Failure

CVT Transmission on Nissan Altima

When the Altima had a CVT installed in it, everything seemed to go downhill. The Nissan CVT has been the source of many problems, not just with the Altima models.

This transmission may not even make it 60,000 miles, causing people to put out a lot of money on a car they didn’t get to drive far. 

Steering System Defects

power steering fluid on Nissan Altima

While it may not seem as big of a deal to suffer from steering system failures, it can be extremely dangerous if the driver loses control of the vehicle. While most of the problems don’t get that far, it’s still something that could happen.

The issue with the Altima is that many of the steering repairs tend to cost a lot of money. Nobody wants to spend $1,000 or more to have these issues repaired. 

Paint Peeling/Chipping

How Much Does It Cost To Paint A Car

The final major concern comes down to how the Altima looks. Drivers say that some paints peel and chip prematurely, leaving a newer model looking like a heap of junk.

When the paint peels, it has to be repaired or corrosion and rust will set in. Nothing decreases the resale faster than some rust spots. 

What years did Nissan Altima have a bad transmission?

The most concerning lineup of Altima vehicles is from 2007 to 2012 with its defective CVT. During these years, Nissan was forced to extend the powertrain warranty out to 10 years or 120,000 miles just to ensure owners were covered for the unnecessary repairs.

What is the most reliable Nissan model?

It’s difficult to choose just one because Nissan made some great Altima models. We highly recommend the 1996, 2011 and 2021 to 2023 Altima models. Read through customer reviews and check the recalls on each of these to see how well they perform.

Can a Nissan Altima last 500,000 miles?

It’s unlikely that an Altima is going to make it 500,000 miles. However, some model years are extremely reliable, so you may expect 300,000 miles out of it. The best part is that most Altima models are cheap to maintain and repair, so you wouldn’t need to spend a lot of money to get this many miles. If you plan to buy a used Altima, make sure you look into its service history first.

Is Nissan more reliable than Toyota?

The two brands are very similar to one another. According to RepairPal rankings, Toyota earns the 8th spot out of 32 brands. Nissan comes in right behind it in the 9th spot. However, either brand can make an unreliable car, which is why it’s necessary to perform research about the model you want before buying it.

If you want a used Nissan Altima, you can find a reliable model at any price. There are older, budget-friendly options, newer models and everything in between. The key is to perform enough research that you know what you are getting into first. You don’t want to end up with a lemon that costs you an entire life’s savings.

We recommend reading the recalls and customer reviews on cars. You should also judge how many complaints were filed and how serious they are before making your decision. With a little effort, it’s possible to find a used Altima that will provide you with many more miles of transportation. 


Categories: General

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