What to look for when buying a used Nissan Altima
2012 Nissan Altima. Photo: Nissan
Nissan Altima is a popular mid-size car available as a 4-door sedan or 2-door coupe. What is unique about the Altima is that all automatic models come with a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
Because of the CVT, the 4-cylinder Altima is rated near the top of its class for city fuel economy.
Inside the Altima feels sporty. The front seats are comfortable and supportive. The steering tilts and telescopes. There is plenty of headroom and legroom in the front. The rear space is not as good as in Honda Accord, or Toyota Camry, but two average adults will ride in comfort. The materials are on par with other cars in the class. Fit and finish is excellent. The rear seat backs fold down for extra cargo room in all but hybrid models. Available features included Push Button Start, Bluetooth, HID headlights and Navigation with Rear-view camera. The Altima is rated above average for the reliability, but there are a few things to watch out when buying it used. Read below
2008 Nissan Altima hybrid
2008 Nissan Altima hybrid
Powertrain: The base 170-hp 2.5L 4-cylinder engine (QR25) is good on gas and has decent power, although it's a bit noisy. The 270-hp 3.5L V6 (VQ35) is strong, smooth and refined. Transmission choices included a six-speed manual or a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).
Fuel Economy: The 2007 Altima with a 4-cylinder engine and a CVT transmission is rated at 23/31 mpg (10.2/7.6 L/100 km) city/highway, which is better than most of the family sedans. The 4-cylinder auto Toyota Camry gets 21/30 mpg; Honda Accord with 4-cylinder auto is rated at 21/31 mpg.
On one 20-gallon (75.6 liters) fuel tank, the 4-cylinder Altima with a CVT can drive an estimated 522 miles (840 km) with 20% city, 80% highway use. The V6 Altima is rated at 20/26 mpg (11.8/9.0 L/100 km) on premium gasoline.
Lineup:The 2007-2012 Nissan Altima sedan was offered in base 2.5, 2.5 S, 2.5 SL trims with a 4-cylinder engine and 3.5 SE, 3.5 SL (3.5 SR from 2010) with a V6, as well as Hybrid. In this generation Altima, Nissan used a hybrid technology borrowed from Toyota. The 2010 Nissan Altima hybrid is rated at 35/33 mpg (6.7/7.1 L/100 km) city/highway.
Mechanical: The Altima has disc brakes on all four wheels. Antilock brakes were optional on 2007 4-cylinder models, standard on V6. Electronic stability control was optional in early models, standard on all trims from 2010.
Timing belt or chain: Both, the 2.5L 4-cylinder and 3.5L V6 have a timing chain; there is no timing belt. A timing chain doesn't need to be replaced in regular intervals.
What is Continuously Variable Transmission: The CVT uses a steel belt running on two pulleys that can vary in size, changing the gear ratio continuously, without shifts. The main benefit of the CVT is that the engine RPMs stay in the most fuel-efficient range longer. The CVT is commonly known for its 'rubber band' effect, where you press the gas, the engine revs up, but the speed picks up with a notable delay. However, out of all manufacturers using this type of transmission, Nissan CVTs are the most refined, especially with a V6.
Handling and ride: The Altima handles well, with good road feel. The ride is firm, but not punishing. The 4-cylinder engine is noisy on acceleration; otherwise, it's a fairly quiet car.
Safety: The 2007-2010 4-door Altima received five stars in the government frontal crash tests. In the side-impact crash tests, the 2007-2010 models received five stars for the driver protection. The rear passenger protection varied between four and five stars. In more tougher NHTSA crash tests introduced in 2011, the 2011 and 2012 4-door Altima received four stars in frontal and five stars in side-impact crash tests. Check Safercar.gov for details.
Reliability: Consumer Reports rates a used Nissan Altima as 'Good Bet'. While the Altima doesn't have major problems, it's not as reliable as Honda Accord or Toyota Camry. There are some issues with a CVT transmission, but the CVT warranty has been extended.
Common problems: Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) could be troublesome, especially in the Rust Belt states due to corrosion at the tire pressure sensors. A faulty brake light switch can cause variety of problems, including a no-start. Loose exhaust heat shields can produce a metal rattling noise from underneath the car; the common fix is to secure the heat shields with worm gear clamps. Noisy brakes are not uncommon. Leaks from the oil cooler are often reported. There are some complaints about the CVT, but Nissan has extended the warranty for the CVT to 10 years / 120,000 miles on all 2003-2010 CVT models; visit www.nissanassist.com for details.
Pros: Sporty styling in and out, originally looking coupe, decent handling, above-average reliability, crash test scores, fuel economy for 4-cylinder models.
Cons: The 4-cylinder engine is noisy. Rear seat space is average for the class. CVT is the only automatic choice, troublesome Tire Pressure Monitoring System.
What to look for when buying a used Nissan Altima: Check the history records to protect yourself from buying a car that was previously damaged in an accident or was flooded.
Check all the accessories inside: the air conditioner, windows, audio system, etc. During a test-drive watch out for a whining noise that is more noticeable at higher speeds; it could be caused by the CVT. In some cases, the whining noise is more noticeable on deceleration. A humming noise coming from the wheels at higher speeds can be caused by a bad wheel bearing; replacing a wheel bearing could cost from $350 to $500. See if the driver's seat shifts during turns, there are some complaints about this issue. If the engine rattles after a cold start, avoid the car. Read more: what to look for when buying a used car. It might be a good idea to pick the Altima model without Tire Pressure Monitoring System. Before buying, have the car properly inspected by a mechanic.
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Maintenance The CVT transmission requires only genuine Nissan CVT fluid. The 2010 Altima Owner's Manual says Using transmission fluid other than Genuine NISSAN CVT Fluid NS-2 will damage the CVT. Nissan recommended using premium gasoline for early V6 models; check your owner's manual. If your car doesn't start with a push start button, check if the brake lights work. If the brake lights don't work, have the brake light switch checked. A failed brake light switch could cause a car not to start. Follow this link if you need to download the electronic owner's manual. Have your car inspected regularly in a repair shop to keep it safe.
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2011 Nissan Altima specifications (4-door sedan)
| Overall length:
| 190.7 in (4844 mm)
70.7 in (1795 mm)
58.0 in (1473 mm)
109.3 in (2775 mm)
|Cargo Volume:||15.3 cu. ft.|
| 2.5L, 16-valve 4-cylinder DOHC
with Continuously Variable Timing Control, model QR25DE
175 hp @ 5600 rpm, 180 lb-ft @ 3900 rpm
3.5L, 24-valve V6 DOHC with
Continuously Variable Timing Control, model VQ35DE
270 hp @ 6000 rpm, 258 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
|EPA Fuel Economy (US mpg, L/100 km):|
| 2.5L engine, automatic:
3.5L engine automatic:
| city: 23 US mpg (10.2 L/100 km)
hwy: 32 US mpg (7.4 L/100 km)
city: 20 US mpg (11.8 L/100 km)
hwy: 27 US mpg (8.7 L/100 km)
||Unleaded regular 87 AKI
|Fuel Tank Capacity:
||20 US gal (75.6 liters)
|Engine oil capacity with filter:|
| Oil Change including filter:
4-7/8 US qt. (4.6 liters)
5-1/8 US qt. (4.8 liters)