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LAST UPDATED:  March 9, 2021

Nissan Altima Reliability

6,134,781 Altimas can't be wrong.

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PUBLISHED ON March 9, 2021

Nissan Altima supercar
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The Nissan Altima is one of the most ubiquitous sedans available today, with six generations spanning nearly 30 continuous years of production. American-market models have been produced at Nissan’s Mississippi and Tennessee plants since the inception of the nameplate, and since 1992, 6,134,781 Nissans have rolled out of those factories and onto US roads. Altimas are a common choice for car-rental agencies, meaning that the used market abounds with examples.

The Altima is the shapeshifter of the Nissan line, with a coupe variant, a hybrid variant, inline-fours, V6s, and now a variable compression ratio variant being produced, and they have had a lot of ups and downs over the 28 years of production they've enjoyed, but are they a good choice? In this article, we'll delve into some common problems and reported issues they've suffered, as well as take a look at what you can do to make a smart decision if you're thinking about adding an Altima to your driveway.

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What Makes a Reliable Brand? 

Reliability depends on a host of variables, but the two biggest structural supports are the development and manufacturing of a vehicle. When auto manufacturers spend the time and money developing a car and its manufacturing line, a car tends to last longer. Hastily designed, poorly manufactured, and cheaply constructed materials will all reduce a car’s longevity and reliability.

There’s also a work ethic variable that cannot be ignored. Honda and Toyota’s cultures of reliability-over-all embody that ethic and have thus kept each’s legendary reliability in the minds of consumers for decades. Lexus spent 15 years creating the perfect paint, for goodness’ sake. Add longer-than-normal warranties and good customer service, and it’s easy to see why these Japanese companies have enjoyed their strong standings for so long.

Yet, once a car leaves the dealership lot, outside factors impact a car’s durability.

What Impacts a Car’s Reliability 

Short answer, you. The longer answer is a car’s reliability and longevity are inextricably tied to how you take care of your vehicle, your maintenance schedule (if you have one), your conservative or brash driving habits, and whether or not you live in climates where extreme weather could affect the car’s construction.

Preemptive maintenance like regular oil changes, fluid flushes, tire rotation, and fuel system cleaners, along with keeping the exterior and underside of your car clean, will all increase the life expectancy of your car. Keeping it out of the harsh desert or tropical sun, as well as away from the rust-inducing salted roadways of winter, will also extend its life.

And lastly, keeping the Mario Andretti driving antics to a minimum will keep your brakes, engine, tires, and chassis under-stressed and happy for far longer compared to hitting every trip to the grocery store like it’s the Indy 500. 

Artzzz

Fourth-generation Nissan Altima

Nissan Altima Specs

Vehicle Type: Sedan (Coupe available from 2008-2013)
Doors: 4
Engine: 2.4L DOHC I4 (first and second-generation), 2.5L DOHC I4 (third, fourth, and fifth-generation; optional hybrid package from 2007-2011), 3.5L DOHC V6 (third, fourth, and fifth-generation), 2.0L e-VTC DOHC I4 (sixth generation), 2.5L VC-T DOHC I4 (sixth generation)
Transmission: 4 speed automatic, 5 speed “manumatic”, 5- or 6-speed manual, CVT

What Makes The Nissan Altima Such a Reliable Model (Or Not)? 

Reliability is generally something that depends on the person, the car, and the situation, so we cannot make a definitive statement that the Altima is reliable or unreliable. However, we have assembled several data points from numerous sources to present you with as much information as possible. Let’s start with common problems, as told by comments listed in the Altima’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) archives.

NHTSA Recalls:

As collected by the NHTSA, these are the Altima’s issues throughout the years.

2019

Recall 1: Rearview display failure.

Recall 2: Brake light switch failure. 

Recall 3: Potential fuel leaks.

Complaints: 55

2018

Recall 1: Rearview display failure.

Recall 2: Hood latch failure. 

Complaints: 116

2017

Recall 1: Hood latch failure.

Recall 2: Rear door latch failure while window is open. 

Complaints: 155

2016

Recall 1: Hood latch failure.

Recall 2: Rear door latch failure while window is open.

Recall 3: Passenger air bag failure.

Complaints: 299

2015

Recall 1: Hood latch failure.

Recall 2: Rear door latch failure while window is open.

Recall 3: Passenger air bag failure.

Recall 4: Brake caliper bolts loose. 

Recall 5: Potential fuel leaks.

Complaints: 578

2014

Recall 1: Hood latch failure.

Recall 2: Rear door latch failure while window is open.

Recall 3: Passenger air bag failure.

Recall 4: Potential fuel leaks.

Complaints: 825

2013

Recall 1: Hood latch failure.

Recall 2: Rear door latch failure while window is open.

Recall 3: Passenger air bag failure.

Recall 4: Potential fuel leaks.

Recall 5: Spare tire misinflated.

Recall 6: Loose suspension bolts.

Complaints: 1943

2012

Recall 1: Loose suspension bolts.

Recall 2: Passenger air bag failure.

Recall 3: Curtain air bag failure.

Complaints: 371

2011

Recall 1: Loose suspension bolts.

Complaints: 201

2010

Recall 1: GPS fire hazard.

Recall 2: Structural weld defects.

Recall 3: Strut rod issues.

Complaints: 323

Common Nissan Altima Problems and Repair Costs

As with other car brands, not all Altimas are built to the same exacting standards as the vehicles mentioned above. Here’s a quick rundown of Altimas, including the issues, customer complaints, and repair costs that will help you make the best decision when purchasing your next car.

CVT ISSUES

Average Estimated Repair Costs: $3,040, according to CarComplaints.com.

Customer Complaints:

“Car stalls when pulling out in traffic. Never know when it is going to happen. Transmission gets stuck in 1st gear and [I] have to pull over and restart [the] car. Very dangerous if there is nowhere to pull over. Won’t drive my car with kids in it because it is not safe..” - 2013 model

“The problem started a few months ago with an occasional shuddering of the car and surging of RPMs. This typically happened when I accelerated over 60 mph, but also happened seemingly randomly when maintaining speed. Over the last 3 weeks [...] the shuddering became more violent, more frequent, and less related to accelerating, just happening generally when driving 45+ mph.” - 2013 model

STEERING COLUMN LOCK FAILURE

Average Estimated Repair Costs: $960, according to CarComplaints.com.

Customer Complaints

“My car would not start/turn over/click or anything, other then flash the no key and security signals on the dash. It ended up being due to the electronic steering column lock going bad.” - 2009 model

“While turning left at intersection [the] steering wheel became harder to turn and then locked itself. Had to slow down and brake otherwise I would have hit a wall in Queens Blvd in Queens just before the 59 St Bridge. Seconds later the car lights in the car illuminated and told me it was off. Turned on the car and then [the] steering wheel was unlocked and was able to go in reverse and complete the turn.” - 2013 model

Class Action Lawsuits:

Nissan has dealt with several class-action lawsuits regarding alleged defects, with one related to the aforementioned CVT issues being settled out of court at a cost of millions of dollars to Nissan. No guilt was proven or admitted by the company, but affected customers of 2013-16 Altimas that fit the settlement requirements could be reimbursed for transmission failure.

JD Power Consumer Reliability Score

According to JD Power, this score “Measures the level of defects, malfunctions and design flaws experienced by vehicle owners. Covers the entire vehicle from engine to infotainment system. A higher rating means fewer problems.”

2021: 80/100

2020: 80/100

2019: 82/100

2018: 85/100

2017: 82/100

2016: 83/100

2015: 82/100

2014: 81/100

2013: 79/100

2012: 83/100

FAQs About Nissan Altimas 

You’ve got questions, The Drive has answers!

Q. Is the Nissan Altima still sold?

A. Yes it is, with the 2021 model starting at $24,350.

Q. What is the Most Powerful Nissan Altima Sold?

A. The 2021 turbocharged, variable-compression four cylinder produces 248 HP on 93 octane fuel. 

Q. Is the Nissan Altima Available in AWD?

A. Yes, it is currently sold in either AWD or FWD.

EXTENDED WARRANTY COVERAGE MORE … FOR LESS

Endurance

Save $350 on an Endurance warranty plan with coupon code: DRIVE350

Going with a factory extended warranty is a good option for basic protection, but you can get more and save more with Endurance, ranked the top extended warranty provider by Consumer Advocates, Consumer Affairs, and Retirement Living.

Get a Free Quote

Save $350 with coupon code: DRIVE350

EXTENDED WARRANTY COVERAGE MORE … FOR LESS

CarShield

CarShield — USA’s #1 Auto Protection Provider

CarShield pays claims directly to a US or Canadian ASE-Certified® repair facility of your choice. Our contracts have low or no deductibles to prevent stress to your wallet at a critical time. Never worry about being stranded somewhere after a breakdown. All of our vehicle repair contracts include towing services to transport you and your vehicle to a safe repair facility.

Get a Free Quote

EXTENDED WARRANTY COVERAGE MORE … FOR LESS

Carchex

Nationwide coverage for cars new and old

CARCHEX has something for everyone. Have an old car? No problem. Live in California? Not an issue. CARCHEX 's plethora of warranty plans includes options for cars up to twenty years old with up to 250,000 miles, regardless of any existing or expired warranties. Click below or call 1-877-207-3304 for a free quote.

Get a Free Quote