Are Nissan Altimas Good Cars? Why Are They So Cheap?

Updated: | Author: Steve Freling | Affiliate links may be present.

Nissan claims the Altima as its “All time best-selling vehicle in the U.S.” These basic, midsize sedans have good safety ratings, and get great gas mileage.  In theory, this makes them the perfect commuter or student vehicle.

However, some may question the reliability and longevity of the Nissan Altima. Its reputation and track record has not always been stellar.

Is the Altima a reliable car? Why is it so inexpensive? What’s most likely to break down and need repairs in the Altima? How does it stack up to similar vehicles?

The Nissan Altima is a midsize, economy sedan that has high safety ratings and gets good gas mileage. The reliability of the Nissan Altima varies, depending on the model year. The newer models are more dependable and come in a turbocharged version. The low price of the Altima is due to Nissan’s use of inexpensive parts, their large-scale production of these vehicles, and the Altima’s low resale value.

What is a Nissan Altima?

Nissan created the Altima in 1992. It is considered a midsize car. They have sold an average of 248,378 cars per year since 2005. However, sales have dropped since 2017.

The Altima has great fuel economy and good safety scores. While it may not be particularly sporty or flashy, the Altima has a reputation as a solid commuter vehicle.

Nissan redesigned the Altima in 2013, then again in 2019. The 2019 version has an updated, fuel-efficient 4-cylinder engine that is available in a turbocharged model.

Are Nissan Altimas Reliable?

Nissan Altimas have a reputation for being unreliable. However, their reliability varies by year. Some year’s models have decent dependability ratings, while others have a low reliability score.

Reliability Ratings

According to RepairPal, the 2022 Nissan Altima gets a four out of five rating for reliability. This makes it 11th out of 24 for midsize cars; right in the middle of the pack. They also report that major repairs are uncommon for the Altima.

Repair Ratings

Nissan Altima owners actually spend less on repairs than most midsize sedan owners. The average annual repair costs for an Altima are $483.

The average for most midsize cars is $526, with the average across all vehicles at $652. This includes regular maintenance and unscheduled repairs.

Nissan Altima owners bring their cars to the shop for unscheduled repairs an average of 0.3 times per year, which is right in line with the average for all midsize cars. The average across all vehicles is 0.4 times per year.

The likelihood of a Nissan Altima needing a major system repair is 12%. This is also the national average for all midsize cars and all vehicles.

What are the Common Repairs for a Nissan Altima?

There are some repair issues that pop up repeatedly for the Nissan Altima. The Nissan Altima is a budget car made with low to middle-quality materials, which is how they are able to offer it at such a low price.

Repair Issues

Nissan Altima owners commonly reported the following problems:

  • Failed catalytic converter
  • Camshaft failure
  • Leaky intake gasket
  • Faulty fuel pump
  • Failed engine seal
  • Transmission issues (most common in the 2013 model)

Cost to Maintain

The average cost to maintain a Nissan Altima is around $483 per year. This is much lower than the national average across all vehicles of $651 per year for maintenance. This number includes regularly scheduled maintenance, as well as unscheduled repairs.

How Many Miles Do Nissan Altimas Last?

A well-cared-for Nissan should last 150,000-20,000 years, or possibly more. This is about the average lifespan for a car across all makes and models.

There have been reports of Nissan Altimas lasting well past the 200,000-mile mark. Typically, these vehicles have been carefully maintained and driven and kept in temperate climates.

In order to help your vehicle last as long as possible, follow the suggested maintenance plan in the owner’s manual. This includes regular oil changes, maintaining the tires, and keeping all the fluids full.

How Many Years Do Nissan Altimas Last?

The average vehicle is driven 15,000 miles per year. If an Altima lasts for 200,000 miles, and we do the math, a Nissan Altima should last about 13 years.

Is It Better to Buy a New or Used Nissan Altima?

Nissan Altimas are known for quick depreciation and low resale value. The 2020 Nissan Altima is a great choice for a used vehicle. It has the 2019 model update and excellent reliability reviews.

If you know which years to avoid, and are able to obtain a clean service record, a used Nissan Altima is a great choice for an inexpensive commuter or student vehicle.

Why Are Nissan Altimas So Cheap?

You may have heard, “You get what you pay for.” Some car buyers are leery of the Nissan Altima because of its low price. If you are concerned that a low price equates low quality, keep reading to find the reason behind Altima’s low price tag.

There are a Lot of Altimas

It’s a simple matter of supply and demand. There are a lot of Nissan Altimas on the market. Nissan makes a huge number of these vehicles every year. Since there are so many of them, the supply is equal to, or outweighs the demand, resulting in a low price.

Altimas Depreciate Quickly

The depreciation rate for Nissan Altimas is 53% over five years. The national average depreciation rate for cars across all makes and models over five years is 40.1%.

Every year, there are more new Altimas on the market. Therefore, used Altimas do not hold their value well. On the positive side, it is easy to find a used Altima at a reasonable price. The downside is that for sellers, the resale value is low.

History of Reliability Issues

In particular, the 2009 and 2013 Nissan Altimas had multiple major system failures and recalls. Their reputation in the following years suffered as a result. Hesitant customers caused the prices to drop.

How Do Nissan Altimas Compare to Other Cars?

How does the Nissan Altima stack up compared to its competitors? The Altima is comparable to a Honda Accord, or a Toyota Camry.

Repair Cost Comparison

The Nissan Altima has a lower average repair cost per year than most midsize sedans, however, the repair costs are higher than the Accord or the Camry.

Car Make and ModelYearly Maintenance Cost
Nissan Altima$483
Honda Accord$400
Toyota Camry$388

Depreciation Comparison

Nissan Altimas are known to depreciate slightly faster than other similar cars, with a depreciation rate of 53% over five years.

Car Make and ModelDepreciation Rate Over 5 Years
Nissan Altima53%
Honda Accord42%
Toyota Camry46%

Also, if you look at the price of Nissan Altimas compared to their competitors after five years, the Altima is notably less expensive.

Car Make and ModelResale Value After 5 Years
Nissan Altima$12,518
Honda Accord$18,896
Toyota Camry$15,264

Which Year of Nissan Altima is the Best?

The 2020 Nissan Altima is considered to be one of the best model years. This year has the 2019 updates with all the bugs worked out.

Which Year of Nissan Altima is the Worst?

There are two model years of Nissan Altimas to avoid. Both the 2009 and 2013 Nissan Altimas received 3.5 out of 5 stars in customer ratings; the Altima’s lowest ratings ever.

In 2009 models, there was an issue with the steering column locking up. There was a recall of the electronic steering column to deal with the problem.

The 2013 model was recalled due to transmission slippage issues due to a failed Transmission Control Module. It also had issues with faulty door locks and failed air conditioners. This particular year of Altimas seriously damaged their reputation.

Final Thoughts

If you are looking for an economic, safe, commuter vehicle, don’t overlook the Nissan Altima! While it may not be flashy, the newer models have decent reliability ratings, and even are available with a turbocharged engine!

If you are really on a budget, look at a used Altima. Their rapid depreciation makes a used model even more affordable. The Nissan Altima is good at what it does, that is getting you from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ at a low cost.

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About Steve Freling

Steve has worked for more than 20 years as an automotive mechanic, and later run his own repair shop for both cars and motorcycles. He's a maintenance freak, and generally pretty good at troubleshooting!

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