The Best & Worst Years Of Nissan Frontier

The Nissan Frontier is a midsize pickup that’s been driving in America since 1997. Overall, the Frontier lineup has been extremely reliable, but there are some troublesome years to worry about if you are used truck shopping. It’s helpful to know the best and worst years of Nissan Frontier models before you test drive.

We’ve used some top sources to determine which Frontier models are best and worst. We also outline some of the most concerning Frontier problems and examine your top questions. 

The Best Nissan Frontier Model Years

It’s easy to label the 2010 and 2011 Nissan Frontier as the best pickups from the lineup. Yet, you shouldn’t overlook the reliability of the 2009, 2013 and 2014 Nissan trucks either, as they all receive fantastic customer reviews.

Here’s some more data from the NHTSA, Edmunds and the EPA. 

1. 2010 Nissan Frontier

2010 Nissan Frontier - One of the best model years

There are virtually no major complaints about the 2010 Frontier. Even more than a decade later, these trucks are expected to be going strong. That could be why the 2010 Frontier sales were 40% higher than the model before it.

Possibly the worst complaint about this model is a defective fuel level sensor. Yet, this is a part that could fail in any vehicle after 13 years, so it’s nothing to be alarmed about. In addition, it’s probably easy to find a great deal on a 2010 Frontier by now. Even still, the fuel economy numbers haven’t changed much over the years, so you don’t even need to sacrifice efficiency. 

2. 2011 Nissan Frontier

Moving on to the very next year, the dependability doesn’t seem to waver. The 2011 Frontier continues to get impeccable reviews and there are minimal complaints.

If you are debating between the 2010 and 2011 models, the tie-breaker may be that this one is a little newer. With proper maintenance, it could last a little bit longer. With decent fuel economy scores and great customer reviews, you can drive this truck with confidence. 

3. 2009 Nissan Frontier

2009 Nissan Frontier - one of the best years

The 2009 Frontier would be the oldest we would recommend as a D40. Earlier models suffered from some problems, but by 2009, they all seemed to be worked out. Sadly the models immediately before this one have ended up in our worst Frontier list below.

All of the previous transmission problems were worked out by this year and Nissan started to sell more Frontiers. For that reason, you’ll have an easier time finding these than older models during your used truck hunt. 

4. 2013 Nissan Frontier

2013 Nissan Frontier - one of the best years

While the 2012 Frontier doesn’t make our worst model list below, it’s important to note that it did have some engine problems. Thankfully, all of those were corrected by the time the 2013 Frontier hit the pavement. 

Any complaints that are made about the truck are minimal and tend to do with the airbags or electrical system wiring. Thankfully, the latter issue was dealt with through a recall, so customers aren’t even responsible for paying for the repairs. 

5. 2014 Nissan Frontier

2014 Nissan Frontier - one of the best models

One model year later, there’s still a lot to boast about. It’s nearly identical in reviews to the 2013 Frontier, making either one a great option.

Among the complaints, there’s nothing major to worry about. We only see some minor complaints about interior accessories, the suspension and air conditioning. As far as the engine and transmission are concerned, this truck is solid. 

Worst Nissan Frontier Model Years

Using the same data, we’ve been able to isolate the 2005 and 2006 Nissan Frontier as some of the worst. There are also numerous complaints about the 2007, 2008 and 2022 Nissan Frontier, so there may be trucks you should avoid.

Let’s dig deeper into the complaints and see what’s wrong with each model.

1. 2005 Nissan Frontier

2005 Nissan Frontier - one of the worst years

We have to put the 2005 Frontier at the top of this list, hoping that drivers will avoid it. Customers routinely discuss fixing one problem only to find another. These types of issues can slowly make a person go broke.

The biggest issue is the possibility of transmission failure. Sadly, the radiator can rupture because of a poor design and coolant leaks into the transmission, where it quickly becomes ruined. Transmissions were being replaced at just 100,000 miles, with the cost hitting nearly $4,000.

2. 2006 Nissan Frontier

The radiator continued to be an issue with the 2006 Frontier models, leading to expensive transmission repairs. If it weren’t for this possibility, which isn’t exceedingly common, we would be able to recommend this truck. 

Another minor issue is an inaccurate fuel gauge, keeping drivers in the dark about how much gas is in the tank. Yet, this isn’t as big of a mechanical concern as the previous problem. On top of that, Nissan sent out a recall for this issue, so the repair itself may be free. 

3. 2007 Nissan Frontier

Following right through the lineup, we have to list the 2007 Frontier here as well. Nissan hadn’t yet fixed the radiator issue leading to transmission failure, so there’s the chance for expensive repairs on a model that doesn’t have a high resale value.

There are also some sporadic complaints about the timing chain and tensioners, which can be cumbersome to replace. It also continues to suffer from that defective fuel level sensor. All in all, there are better models to choose from, so it’s best to avoid this one.

4. 2008 Nissan Frontier

Some of the issues were addressed with the 2008 Frontier, while others continued to persist. Rough shifting tends to be the most common complaint.

There are also issues with the engine stalling and malfunctioning fuel level sensors that cause the gauge to read incorrectly. Beyond that, the radiator can leak coolant, which is never a fun problem to repair. 

5. 2022 Nissan Frontier

2022 Nissan Frontier - is it good

While we wanted to include the newest generation in our best Frontier list, it’s safer to keep it here for now. As a brand-new generation, we are likely to have more problems arising over the next couple of years.

Reliability isn’t normally high, which is why owners are often told to skip the beginning models of any vehicle, just until time is given to see how well they are made. With new technology and designs, the door is open to many flaws. 

Most Common Nissan Frontier Problems

Based on customer complaints and data from RepairPal, we can discern the top Frontier issues. This Nissan pickup suffers most frequently from a faulty fuel level sensor, a noisy engine and a stalling engine.

Let’s see what’s causing all of these problems. 

Faulty Fuel Level Sensor

fuel gauge sender - common problem on Nissan Frontier

The 2006 to 2008 Nissan Frontier models were recalled because of a defective fuel level sensor. When this sensor fails, it can lead to erratic fuel gauge readings and a Check Engine Light.

On average, it occurs with less than 100,000 miles on the odometer. If a fuel pump replacement is required, you could easily spend nearly $2,000.

Noisy Engine

Nissan Frontier - noisy timing chain

Some Frontier models struggle with a buzzing or whining noise that comes from the timing chain area. It’s caused by the additional slack of the secondary timing chains. Nissan is aware of the problem and issued a service bulletin (NTB09-128). 

To resolve the noise, the secondary timing chains and tensioner shoes must be replaced. At the same time, the oil and filter should be changed. On average, this failure occurs around 150,000 miles. 

Stalling Engine

stalling engine

On older Nissan Frontier models, drivers have complained that the engine doesn’t start or it stalls. In many cases, the distributor shaft bearing is to blame because it gets rusty and seizes. 

This problem seems to occur most often before the truck hits 150,000 miles. It usually requires a new distributor. 

What years of Frontiers to avoid?

The Frontier years with the most complaints include the 2005-2008 models. We also recommend staying away from the 2022 and 2023 Nissan Frontier for now because they are the first models in a new generation. It’s unclear how reliable these newer trucks will be.

Are used Nissan Frontiers reliable?

The Nissan Frontier is considered a reliable truck in comparison with others on the road. Yet, some used Frontier models have more problems than others, mainly the 2005-2008 trucks. For that reason, it’s best to examine the reliability of the model you want to buy to see how many complaints exist.

Which is more reliable, Toyota Tacoma or Nissan Frontier?

Based on information from RepairPal, the Nissan Frontier is considered the most reliable midsize truck. It earns a rating of 4.0 out of 5 and has an annual repair and maintenance cost of $470. The Toyota Tacoma is considered the least reliable, with a score of 3.5 out of 5 and an average cost of $478. RepairPal lists the Tacoma in seventh place of the seven trucks evaluated.

What is the most common problem with a Nissan Frontier?

Most commonly, a defective fuel level sensor is complained about. These are common on many older vehicles and could require an expensive repair. There have also been issues with the engine, whether it makes noise or doesn’t start. Additionally, some models can suffer from a coolant leak that ruins the transmission.

All in all, the lineup of Nissan Frontiers tends to be extremely reliable, minus the few models that have issues to work out. If you carefully choose your next pickup truck, you may get a winner, especially if you get an older model that’s been well-maintained. As you do your shopping, ask for service records so you can be sure it was cared for.

Additionally, if you would rather have a newer model, it’s best to wait a couple more years. At the start of every generation, there are usually glitches to work out, so don’t be in a hurry to move quickly. Sit back and watch what happens before putting out so much money on a new pickup. Otherwise, you may regret the purchase. 


Categories: General

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