Best & Worst Nissan Altima Years

Avoid the costly mistake of buying a Nissan Altima from one of its worst years. This analysis shows you exactly which Nissan Altima years to avoid.

In this guide, I’ll break down the latest Nissan Altima generations, highlighting the Altima’s best years to buy and the worst Nissan Altima years to avoid.

Drawing from authoritative sources like NHTSA, Consumer Reports, and firsthand owner feedback, I’ve curated a data-rich analysis, distinguishing the best and worst Nissan Altima years to aid your purchase decision.

Get ready for an in-depth journey from Altima’s initial generation through its evolution, specific powertrain details, common owner complaints, and recall history.

Let’s dive right into it.

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Table of ContentsShow

Nissan Altima Generations

The Nissan Altima first emerged in 1992, setting a new standard for midsize sedans with its balance of power, efficiency, and style. This particular model’s inception marked Nissan’s direct competition in the highly contested U.S. midsize sedan market.

Here’s a comprehensive table detailing the generations of the Nissan Altima from 2002.

GenerationYears
3rd generation (L31)2002-2006
4th generation (L32)2007-2012
5th generation (L33)2013-2018
6th generation (L34)2019-Present

Generational distinctions can significantly influence buyer decisions, as each generation marks advancements in technology, design, performance, and safety features.

Nissan Altima Best, Neutral, and Worst Years

When ranking and categorizing the Nissan Altima’s best and worst years, we consider a multitude of factors, including:

  • Owner-reported reliability (surveys)
  • Annual maintenance costs
  • Safety ratings
  • Consumer Reports reliability scores
  • Consumer Reports owner satisfaction scores
  • NHTSA recalls, investigations, and complaints
  • Edmunds owner ratings
  • JD Power owner ratings
  • Kelley’s Blue Book (KBB) owner ratings
  • VehicleHistory owner ratings
  • Cars.com owner ratings

Next, we present a graph combining ratings from the sources above, providing an insightful representation of the Nissan Altima’s performance over the years.

Nissan Altima Car Smite Score Combined Overall Score

The following table categorizes the Nissan Altima model years into best, neutral, and worst years based on comprehensive data and analysis.

GenerationBest YearsNeutral YearsWorst Years
3rd generation (L31)20042005
2006
2002
2003
4th generation (L32)2010
2011
2012
20072008
2009
5th generation (L33)2017
2018
20162013
2014
2015
6th generation (L34)2021
2022
2023
2024
N/A2019
2020

“Neutral Years” are when the Nissan Altima performed adequately but didn’t shine exceptionally in reliability and owner satisfaction.

Some factors, such as NHTSA recalls, have a negative impact. A higher incidence of complaints and recalls generally indicates a dip in the vehicle’s reliability.

Let’s dive into the best, neutral, and worst Nissan Altima years.

Best & Worst Years for Nissan Altima 3rd Generation (2002-2006)

Nissan Altima 3rd generation 2002 model
The 2002 Nissan Altima

The 3rd Generation Nissan Altima emerged in 2002, showcasing a distinct evolution in size, power, and aesthetic appeal compared to its predecessors.

The last pre-facelift model year – 2004 is Nissan Altima’s best year in the generation, while the 2002 and 2003 model years are the worst Nissan Altima years you should avoid.

The Best Years: 2004

The 2004 Nissan Altima is considered the best model year of this generation, thanks to several improvements and fewer issues compared to the earlier years.

Available with a 2.5l QR25DE I4 engine providing 175 hp or a 3.5l VQ35DE V6 engine with an output of 245 hp, paired with a standard 5-speed manual or an optional 4-speed automatic transmission.

Fuel economy for the four-cylinder was approximately 20 city / 27 highway mpg, while the V6 offered 18 city / 24 highway mpg.

The 2004 Nissan Altima featured various trim levels: the base 2.5, the 2.5 S, and the more luxurious 3.5 SE and 3.5 SL, offering a Bose premium audio system, leather seats, and a power sunroof in the higher trims.

Standard safety features included dual front airbags, side airbags, and anti-lock brakes in higher trims.

Though it was the best Nissan Altima year for the 3rd generation, some owners still reported engine performance and structural integrity issues.

The Neutral Years: 2005, 2006

The 2005 and 2006 Nissan Altima models continued with the engine and transmission options introduced in 2004, maintaining consistent performance standards.

However, these years were marred by persistent issues from past models, preventing them from being classified among the best.

Engine problems, including stalling and excessive oil consumption, were still present, attributed mainly to failures in the camshaft position sensor and issues with the piston rings, leading to a recall in 2006.

Transmission complaints, though fewer, included reports of premature failures, particularly in models equipped with automatic CVT transmissions.

Structural concerns primarily involved rust and corrosion, especially under the vehicle and around the floorboard.

The Worst Years: 2002, 2003

With the lowest VehicleHistory and Cars.com ratings, 2002 and 2003 are the worst Nissan Altima years of the generation you should avoid altogether.

Engine problems were at the forefront, with numerous complaints about stalling, often attributed to defects in the camshaft position sensor and excessive oil consumption. These issues were prevalent in the 2.5l four-cylinder and the 3.5l V6 engines. Transmission problems weren’t uncommon, with reports of unexpected failures, especially in the automatics.

The structural integrity of these models was also questionable. Owners reported excessive corrosion and rusting, particularly affecting the floorboard and front floor pan.

Electrical systems showed inconsistency, with various malfunctions affecting the vehicle’s performance and convenience features.

These models also faced several recalls, including critical ones for the camshaft sensors and issues affecting the proper functioning of exterior lighting components.

See NHTSA 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006 Nissan Altima recalls and complaints.

Best & Worst Years for Nissan Altima 4th Generation (2007-2012)

Nissan Altima 4th generation 2007 model
The 2007 Nissan Altima

In 2007, Nissan introduced the 4th Generation Altima, a significant overhaul featuring a new platform, updated styling, enhanced performance, and advanced technology.

The facelifted model years of the generation – 2010-2012 are Nissan Altima’s best years. I strongly recommend you avoid the 2008 and 2009 Nissan Altima model years.

The Best Years: 2010, 2011, 2012

The 2010 to 2012 models are the best years for the 4th-generation Nissan Altima, with higher-than-average J.D. Power ratings.

These models had two engine options: a 2.5l QR25DE I4 engine with 175 hp and a more robust 3.5l VQ35DE V6 engine with 270 hp.

Both engines were paired with Nissan’s Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT).

The fuel economy was impressive for the segment, with the four-cylinder achieving approximately 23 city / 32 highway mpg, while the V6 managed around 20 city / 27 highway mpg.

Trim levels during these years included the base 2.5, 2.5 S, 3.5 SR, and the top-tier 3.5 SL, with the latter trims offering a premium Bose audio system, navigation systems, rearview camera, and a anti-lock braking system.

Furthermore, these model years introduced innovative technology in the Nissan lineup, including keyless entry, push-button start, and Bluetooth connectivity.

The Neutral Years: 2007

The 2007 Nissan Altima year served as a solid introduction for the 4th generation despite several growing pains typical of a new model release.

Retaining the engine options and the CVT from previous years offered consistent performance and fuel efficiency.

However, this model year experienced several recalls and complaints, particularly concerning the braking system and the floor pan’s structural integrity, with several instances of premature rusting and corrosion reported.

Owners also faced issues with the air conditioning system and the power steering column.

The Worst Years: 2008, 2009

2008 and 2009 are considered this generation’s least reliable Nissan Altima years you should avoid like the plague.

The most critical issue during these years was the widespread failure of the CVT transmission, leading to significant repair costs for owners.

Engine problems were also frequently reported, including excessive oil consumption and poor performance.

A new issue emerged in the 2009 Nissan Altima: steering wheel lock failures that left the car immobile, leading to a class-action lawsuit and an extended warranty for the affected component.

Other persistent problems during these years included defective airbags and various electrical system malfunctions.

Structural concerns were also at the forefront, with numerous complaints about the floor pan and subframe rusting, sometimes severely enough to compromise structural integrity.

Multiple recalls were issued during these years, addressing concerns ranging from suspension issues to faulty airbag sensors.

See NHTSA 2008, 2009 Nissan Altima recalls and complaints.

Best & Worst Years for Nissan Altima 5th Generation (2013-2018)

Nissan Altima 5th generation 2013 model
The 2013 Nissan Altima

The 5th generation Nissan Altima debuted in 2013, boasting a more modern design, improved fuel efficiency, and new technology to enhance comfort and safety.

2017 and 2018 are Nissan Altima’s best years in the 5th generation, while 2013-2015 are the least reliable Nissan Altima years of the generation, which you should avoid.

The Best Years: 2017, 2018

With fewer recalls, owner complaints on NHTSA, and outstanding ratings from J.D. Power, VehicleHistory, and Cars.com, the 2017 and 2018 Nissan Altima models are celebrated as the best years of their generation.

Both years offered two engine options: a standard 2.5l QR25DE I4 engine generating 179 hp and a more potent 3.5l VQ35DE V6 engine producing 270 hp mated to an Xtronic CVT.

The four-cylinder models boasted an EPA-estimated fuel economy of 27 city / 38 highway mpg, while the V6 models offered a still-respectable 22 city / 32 highway mpg.

The trim levels ranged from the base 2.5 to the 2.5 S, 2.5 SR, 2.5 SV, 2.5 SL, and the top-of-the-line 3.5 SL.

These models also introduced advanced safety features under the Nissan Safety Shield umbrella, including automatic emergency braking, intelligent cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, and blind-spot warning systems, earning Top Safety Pick+ from the IIHS.

The Neutral Years: 2016

The 2016 Altima sits in the neutral category.

It featured similar powertrain options and technology as in the subsequent years, with a mid-generation refresh that included updated styling and the introduction of the sporty SR trim.

However, it was also plagued by remnants of issues from its predecessors, particularly concerning the CVT, which continued to face complaints about performance and reliability.

Furthermore, there were reports of issues with the air conditioning system not cooling sufficiently and isolated grievances about the electronic systems.

Despite these issues, the 2016 model year didn’t see the same severe complaints as the worst years, warranting its neutral status.

The Worst Years: 2013, 2014, 2015

What year is the Nissan Altima to avoid? With the highest number of NHTSA owner complaints, 2013-2015 are considered the worst Nissan Altima years. You should avoid these Altima years at all costs.

The most prevalent was CVT transmission, with numerous complaints about transmission failure, shuddering, and vibration.

Additionally, these model years faced multiple recalls affecting critical components such as the secondary hood latch, which could corrode and cause the hood to open unexpectedly while driving, and the Occupant Classification System (OCS), which could fail and deactivate the passenger airbag.

The 2013 Nissan Altima was particularly problematic, with additional complaints about exterior accessories and issues with the braking system, such as premature brake wear and warped rotors.

Problems with power steering and suspension were also more pronounced during these years, with reports of steering wheel vibrations and suspension components failing prematurely.

See NHTSA 2013, 2014, 2015 Nissan Altima recalls and grievances.

Best & Worst Years for Nissan Altima 6th Generation (2019-Present)

Nissan Altima 6th generation 2019 model
The 2019 Nissan Altima

The 6th generation of the Nissan Altima was introduced in 2019, bringing a host of upgrades, including a new design language, improved performance options, advanced safety features, and a new AWD option.

2019 and 2020 are the Nissan Altima years you should avoid in this generation, while 2021-2024 are Nissan Altima’s best and most reliable model years.

The Best Years: 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024

What are the best Nissan Altima years? 2021 and 2024 are regarded as the best and most reliable Nissan Altima years for this generation, thanks to significant improvements in reliability, performance, and technology.

These models offered the standard 2.5l I4 engine with 188 hp and an innovative variable compression turbocharged (VC-Turbo) 2.0l KR20DDET  I4 engine, delivering up to 248 hp. Both engines are coupled with an Xtronic CVT.

Fuel efficiency for these years remained competitive, with the 2.5l models achieving an EPA-estimated 28 city / 39 highway mpg and the VC-Turbo offering 25 city / 34 highway mpg.

The AWD option, available only with the 2.5l engine, provided enhanced traction and driver confidence in varying driving conditions.

Trim levels varied from the base S to the SV, SR, SL, and premium Platinum. These years also saw the expansion of Nissan’s Safety Shield 360, standardizing automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear automatic braking, lane departure warning, blind-spot warning, and rear cross-traffic alert.

The Worst Years: 2019, 2020

The first two years of the 6th generation, 2019 and 2020, were marred by several issues, earning them the worst Nissan Altima years to avoid designation.

One of the most significant problems reported by owners was the malfunction of the ProPILOT Assist system, which sometimes led to unexpected steering inputs or failure to maintain the vehicle’s lane position.

The 2019 Nissan Altima year also faced issues with the VC-Turbo engine, such as inconsistent performance and a shuddering sensation when changing compression ratios.

Recalls were issued for several concerns, including problems with the backup camera’s settings, which remained incorrect despite adjustments, and the fuel pump’s failure, leading to engine stalling.

The 2020 Nissan Altima was recalled explicitly for an issue with the hood latch, which could cause the hood to open unexpectedly while the vehicle was in motion.

See NHTSA 2019, 2020 Nissan Altima recalls and complaints.

Nissan Altima Average Resale Values

Dive into the financial aspect of owning an Altima through our comprehensive graph, illustrating the model’s average resale values over various years.

Nissan Altima Average List Price

Conclusion

As we’ve navigated through the guide, it’s evident that Nissan Altima’s best years – 2010-2012, 2017, 2018, and 2021-2024 stand out for their performance, reliability, and advanced features.

Which year of Nissan Altima best aligns with your automotive needs and why?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Jonathan Eckert

Jonathan is an ASE-certified mechanic with over 22 years of hands-on experience in the automotive industry. His expertise spans a wide range of vehicles, but he specializes in diagnosing and repairing Japanese cars. His previous workplace highly commended his meticulous attention to detail, and that's exaclty what he uses at Car Smite to craft the best guides for each purpose.