The mid-size truck market is picking up steam now, thanks to new models like the 2024 Toyota Tacoma, 2024 Ford Ranger, 2023 Chevrolet Colorado, and 2023 GMC Canyon. Even the Nissan Frontier received a complete transformation for the 2002 model year, arguably leading the charge.
This extra interest spills into the used truck market as buyers look for less expensive options. The Toyota Tacoma is a strong seller (new and used) in this category. Still, the Nissan Frontier is a credible alternative for those seeking to escape the higher prices that the Tacoma often commands. However, choosing just any Frontier model year could be an expensive mistake.
Keep reading as we explain what separates the good Frontiers from the bad ones. Especially if there’s a Frontier in your garage already – you’ll gain insights on the useful life of your vehicle, common problems, and more.
These ratings come from a thorough review of numerous Nissan Frontiers with an installed FIXD sensor, which creates a FIXD Reliability Score for each model year. In addition, a detailed FIXD survey of Frontier owners produces the Owner Reliability Score. Owner reliability perceptions and feedback on trouble areas, repair costs, and overall ownership experiences supplement this information.
The FIXD Reliability and Owner Reliability Scores are blended with publicly available information about safety testing, fuel economy, and resale value to produce these recommendations.
An important note: In some instances, insufficient owner survey data prevents definitive rankings for specific Frontier model years. The lack of insights into repairs, upkeep costs, and other owner feedback makes a determination impossible. We’ve assigned these Frontiers an “undecided” status in these situations. We’ll cover the specifics later and let buyers decide if these model years are worthwhile purchases.
Here’s a quick look at the best/worst/undecided Nissan Frontier model years.
|Best Years||Why?||Worst Years||Why?|
High FIXD Reliability Scores, strong Owner Reliability Scores, and low repair costs
Increased chance of expensive engine and transmission repairs
|2006, 2009, 2012-2013||
High reliability ratings, low repair and maintenance costs
Mediocre engine reliability ratings, elevated risk of costly engine repairs
High number of recalls, very low FIXD Reliability Scores, and substantial risk of expensive engine repairs
Nissan Frontier Engine Reliability Score, Safety Ratings & MPG Year by Year
The data that goes into picking the best and worst Nissan Frontier model years comes from:
- FIXD Reliability Score (engine reliability)
- Owner Reliability Score
- NHTSA safety testing ratings
- EPA-estimated fuel economy
- Annual maintenance and repair costs as they relate to resale value
If you’re in the market for a car, take a look at our article on the USA’s most reliable and cheapest to repair vehicles. Don’t get stuck with a lemon; use our data to help you shop.
Engine Reliability Score – Over The Years
The graph reflects two measures that look at engine reliability:
- FIXD Reliability Score (green): Based on the number of check engine lights detected in Nissan Frontiers with a FIXD sensor. This score is weighted by mileage.
- Owner Reliability Score (gray): Owner perceptions about the reliability of their Nissan Frontiers. Owners are surveyed about how likely their trucks can handle trips of varying lengths. For example, a Frontier that is only suitable for quick point A to point B travel receives the lowest rating. On the other hand, a Frontier ready for a cross-country journey gets a higher score.
Both scores use a 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest) scale; 5 is average.
Although there’s a wide gap between the two scores, they both follow the same overall upward path. You’ll also notice that the Owner Reliability Score is mostly higher than the FIXD Reliability Score; this is normal. Owners typically accept that check engine lights are common with older vehicles.
Interestingly, a few model years (2013, 2020, and 2021) received the highest (10 out of 10) FIXD Reliability Scores compared to lower Owner Reliability Scores. This is unusual but it relates to a problem other than the engine. None of the surveyed owners for these model years reported an expensive ($500+) engine repair in 2022.
Generally, the FIXD Reliability and Owner Reliability Scores offer a better understanding of the best and worst years of the Nissan Frontier. We look for patterns. So, if both scores are low for a particular model year, it’s a Frontier to skip. However, if just one of these scores is down, we’ll review other factors (including safety data, recalls, and repair history) before passing judgment.
Review the Nissan Check Engine Light article to learn the most common reasons for a check engine light to occur in a Frontier and other popular Nissans.
NHTSA Safety Score – Over The Years
The easiest way to describe the Nissan Frontier regarding government safety analysis is mediocre to acceptable, depending on the model year. With a few exceptions (covered below), its performance in National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) testing is slightly below the average for all the vehicles covered in FIXD surveys. That’s not terrible, but not a safety homerun. This matters because It plays into how owners use their Frontiers; more than half rely on their trucks for family transportation or “lots of driving” (traveling and commuting).
Safety testing for the Frontier dives for the 2011-2014 model years. This is due to a change in NHTSA’s testing procedure. It took several years for Nissan to re-engineer the Frontier to perform better, which took hold starting with the 2015 edition.
You’ll also notice a decline in the ratings for the 2021 Frontier (the last year of the second generation) and the 2022-2023 Frontiers (the first years of the third generation). These scores are for the two-door King Cab versions of these trucks, which rank lower in NHTSA testing than the four-door Crew Cab editions. And for whatever reason, NHTSA only tests the King Cab versions of these model years for rollover performance, not side and frontal impacts.
Safety performance is an important consideration in keeping insurance costs low.
If you live in one of the states listed below, we can show you the cheapest vehicles to insure in yours.
What Used Cars Are the Cheapest To Insure In:
|What Used Cars Are the Cheapest To Insure In:|
MPG – Over The Years
One appeal of mid-size trucks is better fuel economy than their larger counterparts. That doesn’t mean fuel-sipping like an economy car, but at least there are fewer visits to the gas station than bigger pickups like the Nissan Titan or Ford F-150.
The above graph details the average fuel economy for each Frontier model year since 2001. It ranges from 16-20 MPG, with increases coinciding with subtle engine and transmission improvements Nissan introduced over the years. These figures are in line with other mid-size pickups, so shopping for a Toyota Tacoma or Ford Ranger, for example, won’t deliver appreciably better fuel economy.
|Nissan Frontier||Toyota Tacoma||Ford Ranger|
|2006||18 MPG||18 MPG||18 MPG|
|2011||18 MPG||19 MPG||19 MPG|
|2020||20 MPG||20 MPG||21 MPG|
Current Market Value of All Nissan Frontier Years & Cost Per Year to Repair and Maintain Each
Vehicle resale value can be affected by high upkeep costs. Fortunately, this isn’t an issue with 21st-century Nissan Frontiers. The average KBB market value (green line) increases with newness (as it should). Meanwhile, average repair costs remain relatively stable.
Among all model years (2001-2021), the Frontier costs an average of $736 each year for repairs and maintenance. That’s significantly higher than the same average for the Toyota Tacoma ($528), but separating out the generations provides more details.
The first-generation Frontier (D22 edition, 2001-2004) has an average annual outlay of $886. And the 2002 and 2004 Frontiers are particularly expensive to keep on the road. Owners report spending an average of $1,167 and $1,208 (respectively) to keep these pickups on the road.
However, second-generation Frontiers (D40 edition, 2005-2021) are much cheaper to own. Survey data shows owners spend an average of $586 to maintain these Nissans. That puts these newer Frontiers closer to Toyota Tacoma ownership costs.
It’s also worth pointing out that some second-generation Frontiers on our best years list have very low average yearly maintenance and repair bills. For example, owners of the 2006 Frontier spent an average of $375 in 2022. It’s an even lower amount ($333) for the 2018 model year. Keep in mind that repair bills are likely to increase as consumable components (such as brake pads and tires) wear out.
You’ll notice a sharp drop in the value of the 2013 Frontier—this has nothing to do with maintenance and repair expenses. In fact, surveyed owners spent $464 on their 2013 Frontiers last year. Rather, the decline is due to the higher average mileage (168,000 miles) of the surveyed vehicles. This usage is significantly higher than in adjacent model years. For instance, survey data shows the 2012 model year averaged 110,000 miles, while the typical 2014 Frontier had 82,000 miles.
When shopping for a used Nissan Frontier, it’s important to keep in mind that not all vehicles are cared for equally. To protect yourself from lemons, take along a FIXD Sensor on your test drive. FIXD connects to a free app on your smartphone to tell you more about the vehicle you’re checking out, including check engine lights and other hidden issues that the owner or dealership may be attempting to hide. Click here to learn more and get FIXD for only $19.99 (regular price $59)!
Important Features Timeline
1998: The first year of the Nissan Frontier (D22 platform/1st generation)
1999: A new V6 is available with King Cab versions
2000: A four-door Crew Cab joins the lineup
2001: Refreshed styling introduced; a supercharged V6 is optional
2002: The Crew Cab version is available with a full-sized (long) cargo bed
2003: The Crew Cab gets standard dual-stage front airbags and an optional sunroof
2004: No major changes; last year of the D22-based Frontier
2005: The first year of the redesigned Frontier (D40 platform/2nd generation)
2006: No substantial changes
2007: The Crew Cab is available with a long (6-foot) cargo bed
2008: The optional Technology Package adds satellite radio, Bluetooth, and other goodies
2009: Minor styling updates introduced; PRO-4X trim joins the lineup
2010: Safety upgrades, like multiple airbags and traction control, are standard
2011: No major changes
2012: Stability control is standard on base models
2013: Minor performance and design changes are introduced to improve fuel economy
2014: Navigation is improved with better voice recognition and a smartphone app
2015: Improved connectivity features as Nissan Connect is expanded to more trims
2016: No major changes
2017: An S Work Truck Package adds spray-in bedliner and other equipment
2018: A rearview camera is standard on all trims; the base model gets standard A/C
2019: The S and SV trims get a 7-inch touchscreen
2020: A new V6 and 9-speed automatic are added to the Frontier lineup
2021: Last year of the D40-based Nissan Frontier
2022: Debut year of the 3rd-generation Frontier (D41 platform)
Best Years of the Nissan Frontier
The best model years for the Nissan Frontier are the result of a detailed review of FIXD Reliability Scores, Owner Reliability Scores, NHTSA crash test rankings, and EPA fuel economy ratings. These findings are further compared against known diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) and NHTSA recall details.
2018 and 2020 Nissan Frontier
FIXD Reliability Score: 9-10/10
Owner Reliability Score: 7-9/10
KBB Value: $20,418-$28,151
Fuel Economy: 19-20 MPG
Average Annual Maintenance/Repair: $333-$583
Average Likelihood of a $500+ Repair in 2022: 100%
Safety Rating: 4.0/5
The numbers prove very favorable for the 2018 and 2020 Nissan Frontiers. In particular, a FIXD Reliability Score of at least 9 (out of 10) is notable (the 2020 Frontier received a 10). Equally distinguished is the Owner Reliability Score, with the 2018 edition getting a 9 (out of 10). The 2020 Frontier gets rated 7 in this ranking, but survey data doesn’t point to a specific reason for this still above-average score.
Because these trucks are still relatively new, repair and maintenance costs are modest. 2018 Frontier owners report spending an average of $333 in 2022 to keep their trucks running. It’s a bit higher, $583, for the 2020 model year, but this amount is almost exactly what the average second-generation Frontier owner pays ($586). And a dive into the data reveals this increase is mostly due to tire replacements, according to 2020 Frontier owners.
Most significantly, surveys show that the 2018 and 2020 editions didn’t require expensive ($500+) engine or transmission repairs. This happens even with newer vehicles and is the reason the 2019 Frontier (see below) didn’t make the best years list. But, the 2018 and 2020 model years don’t have these issues, according to owners.
Expectedly, error codes aren’t much of an issue with this pair of Frontiers. DTC codes aren’t frequent to the 2020 model year (remember, it received a FIXD Reliability Score of 10). Meanwhile, the 2018 Frontier received a few error messages to look at (we’re talking about dozens of instances, not hundreds. That’s a good sign).
P0101, a faulty Mass Air Flow (MAF) circuit, is a known issue. Repairs typically involve a new air filter ($50-$70) or replacing a MAF sensor ($220-$320). Ultimately, fixing code P0101 can require replacing the catalytic converter. This is unusual but not unheard of and can be costly ($1,720-$1,780). It’s possible a catalytic converter is covered by Nissan’s eight-year or 80,000-mile emissions warranty.
There are also reports of code P0456, a leak in the evaporative (EVAP) emission control system, on the 2018 Frontier. Repairs can be as easy as tightening or replacing ($20-$60) the gas cap. Corrections can also require a new EVAP line ($50-$100) or a new control valve ($150-$200). A replacement charcoal canister costs $200 to $600.
A faulty oxygen sensor, code P2251, can also be an issue with the 2018 Frontier. A new one runs from $275 to $500.
As mentioned earlier, the Nissan Frontier gets mid-tier safety grades and is competitive for fuel economy. The 2018 and 2020 Frontiers are consistent with this, ranking a 4.0 (out of 5) in NHTSA testing and receiving a 19 MPG (2018) or 20 MPG fuel economy rating.
Frontier buyers can expect to pay $15,000 to $25,000 for a 2018 edition, depending on condition, mileage, and equipment. Add another $10,000 to these figures for a 2020 Frontier. Keep in mind that the KBB values cited are for private-party transactions; dealer pricing is always higher.
These newer Frontiers may also be available through Nissan’s certified pre-owned (CPO) program. There’s a higher cost associated with buying a used car this way, but the trade-off is additional powertrain coverage (up to seven years or 100,000 miles from the initial service date).
2006, 2009, and 2012-2013 Nissan Frontier
FIXD Reliability Score: 3-10/10
Owner Reliability Score: 8-9/10
KBB Value: $6,252-$11,793
Fuel Economy: 18-19 MPG
Average Annual Maintenance/Repair: $375-$750
Average Likelihood of a $500+ Repair in 2022: 100%
Safety Rating: 3.0-4.2/5
We’ve grouped the 2006, 2009, and 2012-2013 years of the Frontier’s very long second-generation (2005-2020) – as worth purchasing. However, you’ll have to look at the worst list (below) if you are curious about the 2007-2008 and 2010-2011 editions.
Let’s discuss why the 2006, 2009, and 2012-2013 Frontiers are smart buys; this comes down to a few reasons. One is strong Owner Reliability Scores, with all of these models (except 2006) getting a 9. The 2006 Frontier didn’t do so badly either, receiving an 8. That’s impressive, as these trucks are ten years old or more.
For the FIXD Reliability Score, most years receive a 3 or a 4, which is typical of vehicles of this age (older cars equal more check engine lights). However, the 2013 Frontier hits the jackpot with a FIXD Reliability Score of 10. This remarkable achievement comes despite the surveyed vehicles having an average of 167,000 miles.
There’s another key benchmark that makes this group of Frontiers a wise choice; a lack of expensive engine or transmission repairs. Not a single owner reported spending over $500 on drivetrain repairs. Did we say these Nissans are at least a decade old?
And tied into a lack of costly repairs are low upkeep costs. On average, owners spent $375 last year on their 2006 Frontiers. The 2013 edition is almost as cheap, with $464 in annual maintenance and repair costs. The 2009 Frontier comes in higher with a $750 average outlay in 2022. However, this can be traced to brake work that 20% of owners reported last year.
We also need to point out that the picture isn’t perfect for Nissan Frontiers from 2006, 2009, and 2012-2013. They have their share of trouble codes, including P0420 and P0430, which indicate catalytic converter problems. With luck, a repair might only involve fixing an exhaust leak ($100-$200) or replacing an oxygen sensor. However, replacing the catalytic converter can easily cost $2000. These components don’t last forever, and factors like poor maintenance and cheap gas can reduce their longevity.
To a lesser extent, code P0300 shows up in these Frontiers as well. This indicates a potentially serious engine misfire. Repairs could involve new spark plugs ($66-$250), new spark plug wires ($180-$240), or fixing a vacuum leak ($100-$200). More expensive fixes might require replacing the ignition coils ($230-$640), a fuel pressure regulator ($200-$400), the fuel pump ($1,300-$1,700), or the fuel injectors ($1,500-$1,900).
There are multiple recalls to be aware of. The 2006 Frontier has 7 recalls, compared to five recalls for the 2009 model year. It gets better, however. The 2012 Frontier has 3 recalls, while the 2013 edition has only one.
Retail prices for a 2006, 2009, or 2012-2013 Frontier range from $10,000 to $20,000. If the budget permits, we suggest focusing your shopping efforts on the 2013 model year due to its strong reliability scores. However, always get a pre-purchase inspection before buying any second-hand vehicle.
The Worst Years of the Nissan Frontier
We’re sorry to say but there are more worst years for the Nissan Frontier than best years. You’ll want to stay away from these trucks because of low FIXD Reliability and Owner Reliability Scores, expensive repairs, and other issues.
2014-2017, 2019 Nissan Frontier
FIXD Reliability Score: 5-9/10
Owner Reliability Score: 7-10/10
KBB Value: $15,354-$24,661
Fuel Economy: 19 MPG
Average Annual Maintenance/Repair: $250-$679
Average Likelihood of a $500+ Repair in 2022: 67%-88%
Safety Rating: 3.0-4.0/5
Don’t let the FIXD Reliability and Owner Reliability Scores fool you; this group of Frontiers is a repair trap waiting to happen. Even moderate upkeep costs won’t lessen the blow. Here’s why.
Many owners report costly engine and transmission repairs. These situations shouldn’t happen to vehicles this new. Let’s look at the specifics.
One in five 2015 Frontier owners paid at least $500 last year for engine work. One in seven people with a 2014 or 2017 Frontier underwent a similar experience. Likewise, 16% of 2014 Frontier owners had to spend big bucks to fix the transmission. Even 10% of 2019 Frontier owners shelled out $500 or more in 2022 for engine or transmission repairs. And this is for a four-year-old truck. The numbers are similar for the 2016 model year.
It’s no surprise these Frontiers have their own set of common trouble codes. There are familiar ones, such as P0420 and P0430 (a faulty catalytic converter), P0101 (a problematic MAF circuit), P0456 (a malfunctioning MAF sensor), and ones we haven’t covered yet.
P0448, a circuit problem with the EVAP vent control, is among the most common error codes for these Frontiers. Repairs could require a new EVAP line, a replacement gas cap, or installing a new charcoal canister.
P0171, a lean fuel fixture, can occur. Repairs usually involve cleaning ($100) or replacing the MAF sensor, or stopping a vacuum leak. Pricier fixes include replacing the fuel pressure regulator or installing a new fuel pump.
And all of these issues occur even though these Frontiers have little or no recalls. The 2015 model year escaped any recalls, while the 2016, 2017, and 2019 editions have only one recall each. The 2014 Frontier has two recalls.
While these newer Frontiers may seem appealing, this increased risk of costly drivetrain repairs makes them unsuitable.
2007-2008 and 2010-2011 Nissan Frontier
FIXD Reliability Score: 3-6/10
Owner Reliability Score: 6-9/10
KBB Value: $6,895-$9,357
Fuel Economy: 18 MPG
Average Annual Maintenance/Repair: $393-$1,200
Average Likelihood of a $500+ Repair in 2022: 75%-83%
Safety Rating: 3.0-4.2/5
Subpar FIXD Reliability Scores (as low as 3) aren’t the only turn-offs for the 2007-2008 and 2010-2011 Frontiers. Let’s start with extremely high annual upkeep costs. The 2007 edition set owners back an average of $1,200 last year, and the 2009 Frontier isn’t much better at $1,000.
But high ownership expenses aren’t the biggest worry; there’s a high likelihood of expensive engine and transmission repairs. Surveys uncovered that one out of six Frontier owners in this group spent $500 or more in 2022 on engine repairs. Those odds are very discouraging. Meanwhile, an elevated number of owners of 2007 and 2011 Frontiers had large transmission repair bills.
Outside of these issues, this group of Nissans is ripe for potentially expensive trouble codes. These include catalytic converter-related warnings (P0420 and P0430) and codes for an incorrect fuel mixture (P0171). P0300, an engine misfire, is another frequent code. But it doesn’t stop there.
Code P0340, a faulty camshaft position sensor circuit, opens the door to more expensive trips to the mechanic. At best, you’ll need to replace a camshaft position sensor ($120-$300) or a crankshaft position sensor ($190-$250). However, a new engine control module (ECM) could be required at a cost of $1,000 to $2,000. The solution may involve replacing the timing chain or belt ($200-$1,000).
Recalls are also part of the ownership experience with these Nissans. It’s not too bad for the 2007 Frontier with two recalls, and the 2011 edition has only one recall. However, recalls jumped to six each for the 2008 and 2010 model years.
If the 2007-2008 and 2010-2011 Nissan Frontiers are more aligned with your budget, skip the potential headaches and shop for a 2009 Frontier (it’s on our best years list).
2001-2004 Nissan Frontier
FIXD Reliability Score: 1-3/10
Owner Reliability Score: 5-7/10
KBB Value: $4,163-$6,236
Fuel Economy: 16-17 MPG
Average Annual Maintenance/Repair: $750-$1,208
Average Likelihood of a $500+ Repair in 2022: 67%-80%
Safety Rating: 3.6-4.0/5
With a four-year-run (2001-2004), the first-generation Frontier is unusually short-lived in Nissan model history—arguably because these trucks can best be described as money pits and Nissan knew about it. A revamped second-generation hit showrooms for the 2005 model year, a rapid pace for the car industry at the time.
Let’s ignore that these trucks have the lowest FIXD Reliability Scores. Most are 1, and the 2002 edition nudges up to 3. Or, with an Owner Reliability Score of 5, the 2004 model year is the poorest performing Frontier in this index (the 2001-2003 Frontiers are slightly better).
Instead, we’ll focus on the high frequency of costly engine and repair bills. Would you buy a vehicle that had a one-in-four chance of needing expensive engine repairs? Well, that’s what happened to 2004 Frontier owners in 2022, according to our owner survey.
And the probability isn’t much better for the other model years in this group. 22% of 2002 Frontier owners had the same experience, followed by 19% and 16% of those with a 2001 and 2003 model year, respectively. At the same time, about 10% of surveyed owners with a 2001 or 2003 Frontier had to pay dearly for transmission work.
To make matters worse, the 2002 and 2004 Frontiers are the most expensive model years for annual upkeep expenses. On average, owners spent $1,167 and $1,208 (respectively) last year on maintenance and repairs.
Of course, no look at Nissan Frontier years (good or bad) is complete without a review of common error codes. For 2001-2004 Frontiers, it’s a familiar cast of characters, including codes P0300, P0420, P0430, and P0455.
Owners of these trucks also have to worry about P0328, a faulty knock sensor with a repair cost of $100 to $400. P0304, a misfire in cylinder four, is another frequent trouble code. And just like code P0300, it’s a potentially severe issue requiring similar repairs (spark plugs, spark plug wires, ignition coils, fuel injectors, a fuel pressure regulator, or a fuel pump).
We’ll close out this thumbs-down review of the 2001-2004 Nissan Frontier with a look at recalls. With eight notices, the 2002 model year has the unfortunate distinction of being the most recalled Frontier. The 2001 and 2003 editions are only slightly improved, with seven recalls each. At least the 2004 Frontier is down to four recalls.
Undecided Years of the Nissan Frontier
Sometimes, providing a concrete “good” or “bad” recommendation for a particular model year isn’t possible. This occurs when there isn’t enough survey data to reach a logical conclusion. And assigning a “best” or “worst” tag based only on a FIXD Reliability Score doesn’t provide a clear picture of a vehicle’s dependability.
In these situations, we place the affected vehicles into an undecided category rather than exclude them from the results. That’s the case with the 2005 and 2021 Nissan Frontiers, which, coincidentally, are the first and last model years of the second generation.
Until more owner feedback is available, these trucks will stay in limbo. Review the available information and make your own decision if these Frontier model years are worthwhile.
2005 Nissan Frontier
FIXD Reliability Score: 5/10
KBB Value: $5,283
Fuel Economy: 18 MPG
Safety Rating: 4.5/5
A FIXD Reliability Score of 5 is nothing stellar. And we’ve recommended vehicles with lower rankings thanks to supporting positive information about repair history, upkeep costs, and ownership experience. However, an absence of these details makes such a decision out of the question for the 2005 Frontier.
It’s also worth considering that this is the first model year of an all-new generation, a type of vehicle that many mechanics recommend avoiding. Gremlins and other first-year bugs can make reliability a challenge. The 2005 Frontier also has six recalls, above average compared to other model years.
Hundreds of FIXD sensor reports show that the 2005 Frontier is plagued with check engine lights like other model years. Of particular concern are codes P0420 and P0430, which can lead to an expensive catalytic converter replacement.
On the plus side, the 2005 model year has an impressive 4.5 (out of 5) score for NHTSA safety testing, making it the best-performing Frontier in this area. And a fuel economy rating of 18 MPG puts the 2005 Frontier on par with newer model years.
If this Frontier’s toss-up status doesn’t dissuade you from purchasing, we suggest having the truck undergo a thorough pre-purchase inspection before sealing the deal.
2021 Nissan Frontier
FIXD Reliability Score: 10/10
KBB Value: $30,425
Fuel Economy: 20 MPG
Safety Rating: 3.0/5
Is it worth buying a 2021 Nissan Frontier? Your guess is as good as ours.
An impeccable 10 (out of 10) for a FIXD Reliability Score is very compelling, as is an EPA rating for 20 MPG. Most 2021 Frontiers have zero recalls (although one 2021 variant has two recalls for a transmission issue).
There are very few error code reports for the 2021 Frontier. This doesn’t necessarily mean a trouble-free model year, but that there haven’t been enough 2021 Frontier owners who’ve needed to buy a FIXD sensor to diagnose error codes.
That’s why we are keeping this one under undecided for now. We need to see how the chips fall, but things are looking good so far.
A Note about the 2022-2023 Nissan Frontier: 2022 marks the debut of the third-generation Nissan Frontier. As with the model years in the undecided section, there simply isn’t enough information to judge the reliability of these newest Frontiers. Stay tuned for future reports.
What years of the Nissan Frontier have engine and/or transmission problems?
A look at owner feedback reveals that 2001-2004, 2007-2008, 2010, 2014-2015, and 2017 Nissan Frontiers have an increased risk of costly engine repairs. At the same time, 2007 and 2014 Frontiers have the greatest likelihood of needing expensive transmission work.
What is considered high mileage for a Nissan Frontier?
Despite many trouble-prone model years, the Nissan Frontier can rack up miles. Here’s a glance at the averages for the first two generations.
|Nissan Frontier Generation||Years||Average Mileage|
Among all model years (except 2005 and 2021), the Frontier has an average of 129,387 miles. And a few specific model years are high mileage achievers. Surveyed Frontiers from 2002 and 2004 average more than 190,000 miles. Meanwhile, the 2001, 2006, and 2007 model years have averages of over 175,000 miles.
Reviewing all the mileage data reveals that a 150,000-mile Nissan Frontier high-mileage benchmark is reasonable. This determination means that stretching this truck’s longevity to 200,000 miles or more is certainly possible, even if repairs are involved.
Getting to this point (of 200,000 miles) requires thoughtful driving and vigilant maintenance. A used and abused truck (of any brand) will see its life cut short. Additionally, how a truck is operated can also limit its longevity. 31% of surveyed Frontier owners use their trucks for towing and hauling, which can tax any vehicle’s capability. Another 12% report using their Frontiers for outdoor/off-road use, adding extra strain.
Keep in mind that a suggested high-mileage threshold is a general guideline. A vehicle’s potential for continued use comes down to its history. A well-maintained 150,000-mile Frontier that’s never been used for towing stands a better chance of hitting 200,000 miles than a 100,000-mile example that constantly lugs an overweight trailer and is overdue for service.
A qualified mechanic can help determine if a used Nissan Frontier (or any vehicle) has the potential for more miles ahead.
A well-cared-for Frontier from the 2006, 2007, and 2012-2013 model years is the most likely lower-priced candidate to hit the 200,000-mile mark. For those wanting 100,000 miles or more of longevity, a 2018 or 2020 Frontier will do the trick.
What other vehicles should I consider?
The Frontier is Nissan’s smallest truck. So, you’ll have to go bigger if you want to stay with the brand. That means a full-sized Nissan Titan or an extra-capable Nissan Titan XD. If a pickup isn’t in order, Nissan has a full line of SUVs, including the Kicks, Rogue Sport, Rogue, Murano, Pathfinder, and Armada.
What owners of the Nissan Frontier like to use their car for:
|Frequent Use Categories:||How Useful? (Out of 5 Stars)|
|Lots of Driving (travel/long commute)||***|
|Office on Wheels||*|
A Note About Data and Information Sources
This article has many details about Nissan Frontier reliability; here’s what we used for our assumptions and recommendations.
- FIXD Reliability Score & Data: Engine reliability information is captured via the FIXD App.
The FIXD Reliability Score is calculated using the number of DTCs per year, weighted by mileage. This is then turned into a scale of 1-10 for easy graphing.
This is an objective score.
- Owner Reliability Score & Data: This data results from surveying Nissan Frontier owners who use FIXD.
The Owner Reliability Score comes straight from the owners of the Nissan Frontier.
This is a subjective score.
To determine the Owner Reliability Score, we ask each car owner:
How reliable would you say your Nissan Frontier is?
a. Just point A to point B driving
b. A Daily Commuter
c. Good for a 100-mile road trip
d. Good for a 500-mile road trip
e. I could take a cross-country road trip, no problem
From here, we translate their answers into the Owner Reliability Score:
a. = 2
b. = 4
c. = 6
d. = 8
e. = 10
Keep in mind owners may think their car is more or less reliable than it actually is.
One potential problem is that people often buy the same make or model they are used to when they go car shopping, just a newer year.
Ford, for instance, has a number of consumer loyalty awards for the Ford F-Series and Ford Expedition.
Car owners may be so loyal to the make or model they currently own that they would have trouble accurately comparing their cars’ reliability to others.
It’s for this reason that we ask car owners a question that is relative to mileage rather than relative to other cars.
Still, be mindful of the accuracy of these Owner Reliability Scores; people’s perceptions and unconscious blindspots can skew data.
We suggest looking at both the FIXD Reliability Score and the Owner Reliability Score for this reason.
- KBB Value: Average private-seller valuations as supplied by Kelley Blue Book (KBB), based on a Nissan Frontier with typical mileage for that respective model year.
- Fuel Economy: Mileage-per-gallon estimates according to the EPA MPG on Fueleconomy.gov
- Annual Maintenance/Repair: Upkeep expenses as reported by surveyed Nissan Frontier owners
- Safety Rating: Crash test data collected and reported by NHTSA. We average all ratings for each year to come up with a simplified, average safety score. This makes it easier to look at on a graph.
- Nissan Frontier model-specific information, edmunds.com (various dates). Retrieved June 1, 2023, from https://www.edmunds.com/
- Model-specific recall information as per the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. Retrieved June 1, 2023, from https://www.nhtsa.gov/recalls
- Nissan Certified Pre-Owned Information. Retrieved June 1, 2023, from https://www.nissanusa.com/shopping-tools/certified-pre-owned.html
- Nissan Warranty Information: 2018 Warranty Information Booklet. Retrieved June 1, 2023, from https://www.nissanusa.com/content/dam/Nissan/us/manuals-and-guides/shared/2018/2018-nissan-warranty-booklet.pdf
Dave Goldberg is an automotive journalist and lifelong car fanatic. He writes for numerous enthusiast and business outlets and is an ongoing contributor to HotCars.com, one of the most popular car culture websites. When he’s not writing or driving, Dave is either under a hood or asleep. His credentials include a BA in Journalism from The George Washington University.