Perhaps you recall from my red Hardbody story, I was caught selling my truck in the dead of winter without having a reliable backup vehicle. I obviously knew I wanted to replace the Hardbody with something a little nicer, but I hadn’t had luck landing anything just yet. I knew I wanted another sedan and was hoping to get into a MKVI Jetta again, this time with the nicer trim and new 1.8T engine. I had a line up on one in Chicago but it sold before I could do much. Another option I liked was the recently released fifth-generation Nissan Altima, which was much more common in my area.
I was able to look at a few Altimas locally since there’s a dealer in my town but continued to hem and haw on buttoning down a specific one. I was also keeping my eyes online in other towns for better prices, knowing that my dad would drive me somewhere to pick up a car – within reason. In late February a 2014 Altima was listed at a dealer in Omaha. It was the mid-range SV model but had many features over the simple S model I had been looking at. It had only about 6,000 miles on it and it had a rebuilt title from an accident in Iowa, where it was sold new.
So the following Saturday morning my dad picked me up bright and early and we went to check it out. The car showed very well and drove wonderfully, we were blown away – my dad drove Cadillacs through the 90s and said this car was every bit as nice if not nicer and I believed him from what I recall of our Sedan Deville and Seville. The repairs seemed to have been performed to a high standard but if I looked very closely, I could see what was replaced. The price was a very reasonable $12,700 for essentially a new car that booked for over $28,000 just a year before. I had initiated financing from my bank but they were dragging their feet as a big institution with bureaucracy is known to do – so when it came time to pay I just pulled cash out from savings.
I enjoyed it immensely that spring – I was in heaven driving that nice, new car and this was my first time having a sunroof to enjoy the sun, views and fresh air. Features like Bluetooth, cruise control and the powerful 2.5 liter four-cylinder were also appreciated. The CVT took some getting used to – the small lag, noise, vibration, etc but I found driving in sport mode helped. It does return some great fuel mileage for a conventional ICE vehicle, I must say.
There’s not much else to say about this car, it’s a bit of appliance – something you just kind of get in and drive, which can be nice. I took it on the occasional business trip or to see family in Illinois. December of that year we drove it to Kansas City to buy a turntable off Craigslist and a flying rock from a passing truck cracked the windshield. A replacement was readily available in short order. My wife (girlfriend at the time) still have memories of that trip – Korean BBQ, the windshield ordeal and driving through a downpour, standing water most of the day. I still have the Marantz.
The following year my girlfriend and I bought a house together and I had an inclination to trade the car in for a nice pickup to have around. I test drove an ’09 Tacoma, which I liked, but they were only going to give me $7,000 on trade – which was likely par for the course given the title situation but still seemed low. She was still driving her original car she got when she was 17! And though it was still in excellent and reliable condition (a 2003 Ford Focus sedan bought new) she liked the features and updates the Altima provided. It was her brilliant idea for me to sell her the car for trade-in value. Her mint, low mileage five-speed Focus sold in record time and the Altima is her car to this very day.
I ultimately bought a pickup, but a cheaper, older truck to be covered in future COALs. Her foresight to buy the car has proven beneficial for both of us and the Altima has served us VERY WELL, needing nothing aside from regular oil changes in the six years and 45,000 miles since I originally bought it. It still even has the original battery, which perplexes me! In the end, she got a much newer car and we both gained access to a reliable, comfortable and fuel-efficient vehicle for long trips (hence the blog title). The pickup I bought has helped us around the house and proved versatile in its use. She’s lamented it was a win-win to have this variety of vehicle types around.
Since then, I’ve had numerous vehicles come and go but the Altima remains. It has been so trouble-free and efficient that it is hard to find any valid reason to get rid of it or update. Her dream car is a white Toyota Prius but for now, and at least a few more years to come, the plan is to keep going with this car.
“my dad drove Cadillacs through the 90s and said this car was every bit as nice if not nicer ”
Modern mid-level 4-cylinder family sedans are incredibly competent and well equipped vehicles for the price. And it looks like you got an excellent price on yours. We had the Altima generation prior to yours and it was a quiet freeway cruiser with decent handling, a strong 4 cylinder, and a huge trunk that served us well on a two week road trip. I might still be a bit leery of the CVT, but at the price you paid for yours I’d just keep up on the fluid changes and consider it a solid deal.
I have found Japanese cars to be very satisfying in a day-to-day, practical way. Not exciting, but eminently dependable. Your Altima reminds me of how I see our 2013 Corolla (I did a COAL on this car last year: https://www.curbsideclassic.com/cars-of-a-lifetime/coal-2013-toyota-corolla-le-vanilla-with-extra-sprinkles/ ). Always there and ready to go when you need them. BTW, my father-in-law has a ’97 hardbody. Bulletproof. We still use it when we need access to a pickup. Thanks for sharing your story!
Two cars in my driveway these days, a 2015 Altima and and ancient Buick Special with Dynaflow. Both belong to my brother, who recently moved. The Buick is leaving soon, glad to see it go even though it”s still an attractive attention getter. I’m Using the Altima as my errand car while we are still on partial lock down. Both really good cars except for those shiftless transmissions. I like the Dynaflow even less, even though it’s less liable to sudden total breakdown. The Pure-drive has good pick up and is great on gas. Every time I feel it vibrate, I have scary visions of tow trucks and expensive repair bills. Both would be very expensive to convert. Holding out for a manual transmission when the time comes.
Agreed! Especially early on I was quite leery of it, too. I figured the CVT was probably around $4000+ to replace – surely a manual transmission, parts, bell housing, ECU, etc from a previous generation 2.5 would be cheaper, right? I’ve always wondered if anyone’s done this.
$7,000 — what a sucker! 😀
Hahaha! Thanks for your readership and support.
A comfortable, reliable, well-equipped midsize sedan is still a great pick for around town and long distance driving, despite what current fashion would lead us to believe. This is a nice looking car. For a couple it’s a perfect fit for just about any time you don’t need to haul something big and bulky. Glad it’s working out.
Another note on the Altima- I’ve mentioned here before that my mother and her husband inherited his elderly mom’s 2002 Altima 4 years ago when she stopped driving. It was the loaded version of that generation and it came to them with only about 30k on it, so they sold off another vehicle and hung onto it as their “Florida Car” for use about half the year. They were sideswiped in I-95 last year and forced off the road into the median at about 80MPH. The car flipped end-over-end 4 times before landing on its roof. They’re both still here, albeit after some pretty extensive recovery time. He broke his neck, she walked away, and their dog who was in his crate in the backseat came out shaken up and more neurotic than previously but without serious injury. I’m guessing the ’02 was a different generation than yours, but if anything it had fewer modern safety features and probably somewhat similar underlying architecture. Point is though, it saved their lives even though you’d never believe anyone walked away just from seeing the car. I wouldn’t hesitate to own one after seeing that.
Used altimas are a great used car value thanks to their low resale value due to all the fleet sales nissan made for years. I think the cvt fears are overblown. When i was car shopping i test drove an altima and liked it more than the 2015 accord sport. The engine and cvt in the altima felt more powerful and responsive and the accord spprt interior felt very cheap. I ended up getting an accord v6.
Paraphrasing quote: every bit as nice or nicer than a 90s Cadillac. I have a 91 brougham and your statement reminds me of lloyd bentsen telling Dan Quayle, “i knew Jack Kennedy. You, sir, are no Jack kennedy.” I’m sure in power, smoothness, ride, and some aspects of comfort the altima is nice, but those cadillacs had very plush, expensive feeling interior appointments in materials and design and more impressive exterior design. Plus, a 90s cadillac did feel more premium than the average mass market sedan. Even in the 90s there were plenty of premium design cues while the altima is anonycar.
That being said, these altimas are very nice and it sounds like you got a great price on it. They are very roomy, comfortable, fast, sporty, and young people like them. They seem to have replaced the niche of practical yet sporty sedan for young people the grand am used to fill. Perhaps had it more extroverted styling, It might sell even more.
They are quite durable. I know the cvt gets a bad reputation but these seem to last at least as long as their camcord competition and generally in the hands of more, ah, enthusiastic drivers. If gm out with a car as food as the ?95? Altima back when, it never would have gone bankrupt.
I knew Thomas Jefferson. He was a friend of mine. And believe me, you are no Thomas Jefferson.
(Ronald Reagan at the 1992 Republican party convention, referring to Bill Clinton)
The battery does not surprise me. I installed a battery in a car in 2011, and when I bought the car back 6 years later, it had the same battery. I left that battery in the car for another year and a half.
My sister had a ’14 Altima, which sadly wasn’t nearly as reliable as yours is. It was the car that basically soured her on Nissan, and pushed her to Toyota and a Prius. In the less than 3 years she had it, it spent a lot of time in the shop with CVT and some oddball engine issues. I don’t remember what exactly it was, but it had a CEL lit up a lot of the time she had it. Finally, she and her husband decided to buy the blue ’16 Prius, and originally they were going to keep the Altima as a backup car, as it appeared to have finally had it’s issues resolved, but it soon went back into it’s old habits, so it was traded on a second Prius, against my brother in law’s wishes (My sister makes most of the decisions…on everything).His Prius got wrecked at 3 months of age when taken on a joyride by a valet at some Atlanta restaurant they were going to for their anniversary. Sadly, even though they got a check that would pay for any number of cars, several of them my brother in law possibly would actually want, it was decided that another Prius would be bought, this one is silver, just as my sister’s 2020 Prius is. They drive a lot, so they traded the ’16 Prius in to get a decent price on it. The poor guy is almost 70 years old and has never owned a car he actually picked out. I just keep my mouth shut when I talk to them, I don’t want to get him into trouble by reminding him that I drive exactly what I want, and have since 2010.
You made me Google ‘valet joyrides’. Lots of good stories there
I have mixed opinions on Altimas, all ultimately stemming from the “mixed” history of the CVTs, and the overall slightly-worse-than-Toyota statistical quality of other bits of the car, the slightly-gruffer-than Honda/Toyota 2.5L 4cyl, etc. But the few times I’ve had them as rentals, I always think “this thing is just fine.” Fantastic real world MPG, and I love how simple they kept the interior ergonomics/layout up through the 2018ish cars (before the latest generation). For a renter, hopping in and having everything fall to hand is great, for owners too. For what it’s worth, I had a zero-mile rental SV in black, back in 2018 in San Diego and a fellow millennial female friend of a friend said “wow, nice car!” so to a layperson they even have some curb appeal. My other rental was of a pretty heavily used 2017ish SV, drove it hard around some beat up twisty roads south of the Finger Lakes in NY and this thing was utterly unflappable. It speaks to just how good the average midsize sedan is these days.
The strongest competition to this era of Altima in my mind is a Kia Optima. I’ve rented several of them as well and always enjoy them for similar reasons, except they have a traditional 6spd auto and IMO better sorted quieter-working suspension.
I will say I strongly prefer a midsize sedan for a rental over most crossovers, short of an upgrade to a Ford Edge (very nice little rig).
I had an Altima of this generation as a rental a while back. I really hated it as first because I couldn’t get comfortable and I had gotten used to getting higher trim Ford and Chevys as rentals and the interior of the Altima just felt old. After a few hundred miles I figured out the car had manual seat height adjustments and a few other things and I was finally comfortable, I still don;t love the looks of the interior but it is very practical. By the end of my 5-600 miles over 2 days I wasn’t in love but can say it was a very decent car.
Recently my wife has mentioned that she sees Sentras as some of the lowest priced cars at the auto wholesale company she works at. At first I thought no way would I want one, but given the value proposition on a lightly used one the CVT gamble might be worth it. I gather the wholesale prices are dropping faster then retail at the moment (thanks COVID car pricing) and employees aren’t allowed to buy at wholesale, but given the prices shes seeing there is a lot of room to deal on a 3 year old low mileage Sentra.
The market has a way of ultimately assigning a “correct” market value/depreciation rate to various cars I think, and the Nissan’s much faster depreciation I think directly correlates with the spate of CVT issues about a decade ago. A $4k transmission replacement is a death sentence for a 100kish mile Versa/Sentra/Altima. I do think that 2014+ cars seem to be doing better statistically, and I’ve personally seen even the older gen CVTs make it to 180k and beyond.
It’s satisfying to look back, years after a car purchase, and be able that say that you made a great choice – and that certainly seems to be the case here. The price was great, and I’m sure you took a risk with a rebuilt title, but it seems to have worked out.
My wife and I often look back on purchasing our 2010 Honda Odyssey in a similar way (though we bought it new). It’s certainly not the most exciting vehicle in the world, but we’ve more than gotten our money’s worth out of it.
And it’s good to hear a positive Altima story too, since I more often hear money-pit type stories about them. I’m looking forward to reading about the cheaper, older pickup, too.
CVTs are just horrible but other than Mazda they are fitted to all Japanese brands so I dont see any Japanese cars in my future, at least not newer models
CVTs are not horrible, just NISSAN CVTs. They have a bad rap due to inadequate cooling. The toyota, honda, and subaru CVTs are just fine. Nissan gave the CVT a bad rap because they were the first to mass-embrace CVTs across their lineup. People now see those 3 letters and think trouble when in fact it was just classic bean counter cost cutting that lead to them being unreliable.
My only beef with CVTs is the fake shift points they all do becasue it wipes away the benefit of having a cvt. If you’re gonna have fake stepped shift points you may as well go with a conventional planetary automatic. I blame consumer reports for this. They complained endlessly about the early cvts being cvts and then all the OEMs added the fake shift points. Get rid of the fake shift points!
“and subaru CVTs are just fine”
Might want to read up a bit more on that one lol
We have a Honda HRV CVT and Honda HRV’s have significant CVT transmission failures.
Honda has released several CVT firmware updates to try to help the situation.
The Honda HRV forum has many examples of failures.
The Camry has an 8 speed torque converter transmission in their no hybrid cars and the Accord has a 10 speed in the 2.0t….Not Japanese but VW has no CVT’s in the Jetta, Passat GTI or any of their SUV’s