The Nissan Xterra is a compact SUV that was discontinued in 2015. Read more Nissan reviews to learn about other models.
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Xterras are no longer made so used is what’s out there are and being made for almost 20 years, they’re available in two generations. Built from 2005 to 2015, the 2nd Generation Xterra is the one I like, specialize in building and drive across North and Central America in. I prefer Xterras from 2008 to 2013 for a number of technical and economic reasons to numerous to go into here but mark that. I will also say to Nissan’s detractors and those who promote old myths that, regardless of the SUV brand you may be considering, NO BIG auto manufacturer “makes ‘em like they used to”. Neither Toyota, Honda or Subaru can withstand close scrutiny any longer.
Beware of those pedalling brand myths. Those days are gone. No one carmaker is a safe haven any longer. All have made some real stinkers, some more so than others, but there was a time when cars were a lot less complex, when parts were not made in China, Malaysia, Vietnam or some other third world factory paying starvation wages in a corporate race to the bottom.
Over the last 45 years I’ve owned most true 4x4 brands available in North America (and a few Japanese RHDs) and I continue to use the Nissan Xterra. I’ve owned four Xterras since 2007 and currently run two 2nd Generation models; a 2008 ‘X’ automatic transmission and a 2013 Pro4x 6 speed standard, both kitted out for 4-6 month overlanding trips. They must hold and do everything a tiny, mobile cabin can plus move my wife and I across distant rough country. I trust my Xterra knowledge and have driven them through the -40F wind and snow of Arctic Canada to the +95F jungle and mud of Belize. They have proved worthy of sinking that kind of money into because the VQ40DE (4.0 L) engine and the RE5RO5A automatic (and standard transmission) are sturdy and reliable.
Numerous other parts are also durable and if they need replacing, many are shared among Nissan’s Frontier and Pathfinder models of which many are still on the road (and salvage yards) from Tuktoyaktuk to Timbuktu. Parts and after-market upgrades have never been a problem for me and are unlikely to be for years to come. How to buy a used one? For starters never buy an Xterra that’s:
1. promoted as being “excellent, fantastic, great” -- if the seller mumbles (usually under questioning) “that it occasionally shakes (shimmies, stutters or hesitates) during driving” and “that it only does it when the transmission gets hot” or “only after driving it awhile in hot weather (or on the highway, up hills, downhills, etc.)” Variations on this theme are many but DO NOT be fooled. This describes the death knell of Nissan’s RE5RO5A automatic transmission and NO, it can’t be salvaged with one or ten transmission flushes and a new filter. And NO, there are no ‘special additives from Lucas, STP, Draino or Tidy Bowl that can save it either. No matter what ‘they say’, it’s done, cooked, finito, Benito. Any owner or prospective buyer disregarding this advice is fooling themselves as it’s only a matter of weeks before you’ll be facing the decision to ‘invest’ a further $4000-$8000 in that Xterra for a rebuilt, reconditioned or new automatic transmission.
2. advertised as ”...recently had all its fluids changed” -- especially the transmission fluid and antifreeze! These two fluids are the ‘smoking guns’ of a tranny dying from Nissan’s notorious ‘shared radiator, and though Nissan isn’t the only carmaker to use a system where transmission fluid and engine coolant run through a twin walled heat exchanger, Nissan was unlucky or stupid enough to take irresponsible, penny-pinching engineering to such a high level. As an investigator (and that’s how you should approach buying a used car), you want that stuff left alone as it is the best way to discover if the Xterra you are considering is afflicted with SMOD (Google ‘Strawberry Milkshake of Death’).
3. exhibits a whistling, rasping sound upon start-up or on accelerating (especially when the motor is cold) very likely has a dying timing chain. This is not a cheap fix but an essential one on all vehicles with high mileage. Especially if you intend to keep healthy for very long. 2005, 2006, 2007 and a mixed bag of 2008 Xterras were afflicted by bad chains. Google will explain why that happened but because the Nissan V6 is an ‘interference-type engine’ (most newer engines are no matter who makes them) a broken timing chain will instantly destroy the engine’s cylinder heads (if you’re lucky) and a whole lot more (if you are not lucky). If you hear rattling and rasping get it replaced. Do it NOW. Or park it till you can afford the fix. The 4.0L Nissan V6 is a great motor once those with poorly made timing chains are sorted out and it can take you to 350,000-450,000 kilometers if you do regular fluid changes and the periodic maintenance shown in the Owners Manual. READ IT. Use fully synthetic API SN+ rated oil of 0w-30 rather than the old SM rated 5w-30 conventional oil in the manual. Lubrication has come a long way since 2005. Whatever you decide, always have a first rate 4x4 mechanic check it out before you put down cash. It's worth the little extra even if you walk away.
Off the subject a little, a Suzuki Grand Vitara is the closest thing to an affordable, bullet-proof, used SUV with real 4x4 capability for offroad and backroad travels you can find. I especially prefer the gutsy little 4 cylinder or the 3.2L V6 -- avoid the GM 3.5L V6 installed in some later models. Suzuki still builds them in Japan and markets them almost everywhere but North America. They are loved for their reliability and their freedom from costly repair. Too bad they are a bit small for our overlanding needs but we love GV for day to day life in the bush.
I bought my 06 2 wheel drive auto Xterra back in 2011. It was at 90k when I bought it. It is now at 170,000. So far I have replaced the brake pads twice, rotors, etc, headlights once, oil changes, tires, and the fan speed switch twice. Those are all minor and expected. But here is the bad the tranny fluid mixed with my anti-freeze last year. Any company that knows they have a major problem like this should fix it! Shame on you Nissan for doing nothing!! I flushed the coolant system for a whole day and flushed my tranny with $300 in tranny fluid. So far it is still running. It's been a year now with no noticeable issues.
The other issue is the front wheel bearings. They are $300 a piece for the cheap off brands. $500 a piece for name brand. They are the most expensive bearings I ever had to purchase. Thank goodness I do all my own repairs. Otherwise it would be sitting in my yard dead. It is a love hate relationship with this SUV. It gets around really well but like I said xterra customers should of been compensated for their tranny/radiator screw up. If you buy one make sure it has been bypassed.
I have almost 200k on my Xterra and I've only had about $100 in repairs. Maybe I'm lucky, but it's been the most reliable vehicle I've ever owned. Practically everything is still original on the truck. I've read the bad reviews and I feel bad for people, especially women or moms who have experienced costly repairs with their Xterra. Nissan should have told every owner about the common radiator and timing chain issues.
If I could offer some advice it would be to research the vehicle on internet forums before buying. With regard to Xterras, perhaps people should stay away from '05 to '08 Xterras unless the owner had recently changed out the radiator and changed the timing chain, guides and tensioners. And if you're going to buy used make sure the vehicle had basic maintenance done to it. I have written records for every fluid change, tire rotation, etc. Apparently, by 2009 Nissan had corrected the radiator and timing chain issues. I'm still on my original timing chain, but I'm always listening for 'whining' noises from the front end that would tell me the chain is about to go.
The key to a long lasting timing chain is regular oil changes, every 5k to 7k miles. I drain/refill my transmission fluid annually as well. My Xterra doesn't leak oil, doesn't use oil and the transmission is as smooth as the day I bought it. The Xterra is a great truck and I hate it that Nissan has failed its customers with not being more forthcoming about known problems.
I bought my 2005 Nissan Xterra new. Around 15k miles the timing chain failed and failed another 4 times before being repaired. I love the car, but all of the repairs, including the part causing coolant to enter the transmission, are a constant source of emotional and financial distress. Then there is Nissan - I recently took the car to a dealer that told me car was totaled. To shorten the story I phoned an engineer friend and ended up driving the car home. I am of the opinion they tried to steal my car and get me in a new one. I have also had dealers switch new parts off my car and replace with a part from some old car. This is a VERY dishonest company and I will never buy a car from Nissan ever again. And yes, it is true, there are 2 class action lawsuits involving this vehicle. Nissan refuses to help owners and address known defects.
The Xterra, besides its terrible mileage, is my dream car. I love being able to sit up high, I hate drive sedans. I love that it's not a huge SUV. I love loading music gear or the dog crate in the back and road tripping. I bought my 2000 Xterra in 2004 and drove it until I blew the head gasket near the start of a trip from NY to CA, in 2010. It had almost 200K miles and I decided not to fix it. I traded it in for a 2006 Xterra: 4yo w/ 60K miles. It had been treated more roughly, so when I got to CA I found a good shop to go over everything.
I got very, very lucky with the leaky radiator problem. The shop identified the oily coolant and knew the transmission fluid mixing had started. They replaced the radiator and cleaned up the system. They also documented their diagnosis so completely that I actually got a check from the class action suit! (In 2018, I had to replace the radiator again. NOT good, Nissan!)
I have stayed in love with the truck. Back in NY, I have over 200K miles on it. Now, however, I have a problem with the belt coming off in the rain. My shop replaced the tensioner with a new device that Nissan made available (but Nissan isn't very upfront about why this is needed) and replaced the rotted-out splash guard. But, rain is still getting in through the hood and making the belt wet enough to slip off when I start the car, on occasion.
I am able to limp the 1 mile to my shop without power steering, they put the belt back on for me every time without a charge, because they're annoyed with themselves that they can't figure out a fix. We haven't replaced, or roughed-up, the belt yet and/or maybe there is misalignment in a pulley that's difficult to detect. I am sad that I can't rely on this car the way I did before. I want to drive back to CA, but I'm afraid to replace this car with a late model Nissan given what I've read. I may have to find a new car to love sooner than I want.
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Bought this 2009 Nissan Xterra in October 2017. We had a horrible ice and snow storm, 16” of it, in the Hartford CT area and my 4X4 system glitched but reset itself. Other than that I love it. Would never get rid of it. I rented one back in 2014 for a month and fell in love! So I knew what it could do! Great handling and yes you feel it. It’s a 4x4 duh!
Bought a used 2012 Xterra w/ 100k km (60,000 miles) on it. Just drove it, fully loaded-4 people on board, at pretty high speed, 1850 km over 3 days and used 11.6l/100-20.3 mpg (us). Better than my '10 Ridgeline (overrated and overpriced junk) and on par w/ Tacoma. Xterra was comfortable, fast, fuel efficient, and reliable. Not sure why everyone rates it low. If you can find a good used, buy it.
I love my Xterra, 2006. But I also have had lots of mechanical issues that Nissan would never help me fix. Fuel gauge not working, leaky radiator which ruined my transmission, catalytic converters gone bad, timing shoes or chain repairs, driver window issues, and more. I lost track of the $ amount in repairs, over $10,000. It's too bad, Nissan can't make the Xterra free of such expensive repairs or at least have better parts during the manufacturing, because they are a fun off roading 4x4, comfortable for me, great all around SUV, but always needing to fix something. If they were only trustworthy. I had a 1985 Toyota 4x4 pickup that went 300,00 miles with almost no repairs. Now thats trustworthy.
I am pushing 250k+ miles and have it serviced regularly. A 2002 with sports package and 4WD. I have rescued many kids and dogs with this vehicle. I love it so much that I hope to rebuild it when needed. The new models don't have the sleek look through older models have. I go many places and still get asked what year it is!
The Feb 2015 Nissan Xterra drives so nice and it handles itself so well in snow and ice. It can even have snow plow put on it as we live in the mountains and have to maintain our own roads. The Nissan is very comfortable and it is very good looking. The 4 wheel drive does great. There is plenty room for families, pets and plenty room for groceries. It goes places others go. I also love the stereo system.
Nissan Xterra Company Information
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