The Nissan Frontier first hit the market as a compact pickup in 1997 and was based on the Nissan Hardbody truck. It was marketed as an affordable alternative to bigger trucks and competed with the Toyota Tacoma, Chevrolet Colorado, and GMC Canyon. The Frontier was redesigned in 2004 as a midsize pickup truck and has been largely unchanged since then.
It is now positioned as a more affordable alternative to the larger Nissan Titan. The Nissan Frontier has been largely well-received in the market, although there are some complaints about its lack of power and outdated design. It does have decent towing capacity if you plan on using it as a workhorse.
Some of the pros include its affordability, size, and off-road capabilities. Nissan Frontier reliability has been generally quite acceptable.
But there are also some Nissan Frontier models that you should consider skipping if you’re in the market for one. Let’s check out some of the Nissan Frontier years to avoid.
2005 to 2008 Model Year Nissan Frontier (3rd Generation)
The 2005 to 2008 model year Nissan Frontier which are part of the 3rd Generation, was a mid-sized pickup. And although it wasn’t a very reliable truck, it had a V6 engine and came in both King Cab and Crew Cab body styles.
However, there were many problems with this vehicle. There were numerous recalls, many complaints about the transmission which can fail prematurely. A fault in the cooling system can lead coolant to mix with the transmission fluid.
There are also sporadic issues with the engine. You’d do well to check if there is any noticeable coolant leak or oil leak when checking a used Frontier. Particularly, the 2005 is not a model year you want to consider if you’re looking for a pickup truck since it’s the one most plagued by these issues during this span.
The average cost to fix the various issues with this vehicle can be quite expensive. For example, the cost to fix the transmission can range from $200 to $4,000, which was due to a rupturing of the radiator cooling lines. Annoyingly, the transmission failure issue could be prevented by replacing the radiator before any further damage happens, which is significantly cheaper fix.
2002 Model Year Nissan Frontier (2nd Generation)
The 2002 model year Frontier Nissan vehicle was released as the second generation of the truck. It came with a 2.4 Liter 4-cylinder engine that produced 143 horsepower. The biggest issue with this year’s model was the recalls and complaints about the engine stalling. There were also several reports of the transmission slipping out of gear.
Nissan recalled the 2002 model year Frontier for several issues, including:
- Steering shaft
- Speed control
- Fuel pump
- Axle corrosion
It’s worth noting that if you can find a Frontier without these issues, it’s probably worth investing in. Aside from these notable concerns, 2002 Nissan vehicles had a reputation for being reliable vehicles with very few complaints. It’s just that the trucks that did have issues were often plagued with multiple problems.
The average cost to fix something like the steering shaft issue can run you more than $350, while the speed control problem can cost $210. Replacing a fuel pump can cost upwards of $400, and resolving axle corrosion and the lights issue can cost $300 and $130, respectively.
2012 Model Year Nissan Frontier (3rd Generation)
The 2012 Nissan Frontier was a model year in the 3rd generation of the truck. It featured a 2.5L engine and a 5-speed manual or automatic transmission. The problems with this truck were many. There were recalls for body paint issues, as well as engine stalling problems.
There were also complaints about the quality of the materials used, poor performance, and numerous other issues. Because of all of these problems, we would not recommend purchasing a 2012 Nissan Frontier.
The average cost to fix the body paint issues is around $600, while the engine stalling problems can run as much as $700. These complaints make the 2012 Nissan Frontier one of the least sought-after trucks on the market and not worth your money.
The top three problems for the Nissan Frontier are radiator problems, transmission problems, and engine problems. Let’s take a moment to look into each reported problem to get a better understanding of what they mean.
Radiator Problems: The Frontier’s radiator is known to have issues, especially in models from 2005 to 2010. The problem is usually a leak in the radiator, which can cause the engine to overheat. If you notice your engine temperature gauge rising or if you see coolant leaking from the radiator, it’s time to take your Frontier to a mechanic.
Transmission Problems: Models from 2005 to 2011 seem to be especially prone to transmission problems. The most common issue is that the transmission will slip out of gear, or it may have trouble shifting gears. Transmission issues can be some of the most costly problems to fix on a car, so it’s important to keep an eye on them.
Engine Problems: Engine problems are common in all Frontier models, but they seem to be especially common in the 2007 model. The most prominent issue is a loss of power while driving, and the check engine light may come on.
Some of the older models have engines equipped with timing chains. While a timing chain usually lasts the lifespan of the engine, chain defects may cause them to fail prematurely. Have a mechanic check the condition of the chain or see if there are any rattling sounds when starting the engine or when braking.
If you notice any of these signs and symptoms, it’s important to take your Frontier to a mechanic right away. These problems can often be fixed if they’re caught early, but they can cause major damage to your car if they’re left unchecked.
What Are the Best Nissan Frontier Model Years?
Now that we’ve looked at some of the worst model years for the Nissan Frontier, let’s take a look at some of the best.
Are any Nissan Frontiers reliable? Absolutely. The best Nissan Frontier years are 1999, 2019, and 2022. 1999 was the first year of the second-generation Frontier, and it’s been consistently ranked as one of the best Nissan Frontiers ever made.
2019 was the release year of the third-generation Frontier, which completely redesigned the truck inside and out. It’s since been praised for its comfortable interior, excellent off-road capability, and powerful engine options.
2022 is the most recent model year of the Frontier, and it’s already shaping up to be one of the best. It features an even more powerful engine than the 2019 model and an updated infotainment system. It’s also available with a new Pro-4X trim level that adds even more off-road capability.
If you’re looking for a great Nissan Frontier, any of these model years would be a great choice.