The Nissan Xterra is a compact SUV that was made from 2000 to 2015 and it spanned two generations. The first generation shared elements with the Frontier pickup, while the second used the platform from the Frontier and Pathfinder. Since 2002, there have been more than 500,000 Xterra SUVs sold in the United States, with the most popular model years being 2002 to 2007.
We examined the data even closer to pick the best Xterra model years and the worst.
Before you buy a used Nissan Xterra, it’s valuable to look through this data and pick the most reliable SUV for a decent price. If you are already the owner of a Nissan Xterra, this data helps you figure out when you should stop putting money into the SUV.
Our information is sourced from the thousands of FIXD car scanners installed in Nissan Xterra models. We combine this information with survey results from current Xterra owners. We also use the published reports about KBB values, fuel economy, safety ratings, and recalls, giving you the most comprehensive evaluation possible.
|Best Years||Why?||Worst Years||Why?|
Highest reliability ratings, lower chance of mechanical failure, reasonable ownership costs
Highest cost of ownership, increased chance of expensive engine and transmission repairs
Great ownership scores, minimal repair and maintenance expenses
Average reliability scores, increased likelihood of engine and brake repairs
Continued higher owner satisfaction ratings, low chance of expensive issues
Lower resale value, elevated risk of costly mechanical problems
Nissan Xterra Engine Reliability Score, Safety Ratings, MPG, and Value v.s. Maintenance & Repair Costs – Year by Year
To ensure you have clarity while shopping for a Nissan Xterra, we have laid out all of the data we have on the SUVs. With our four in-depth charts, you will figure out which models are worth looking at closer. Our charts make it easy to research the reliability of each SUV, along with safety scores, average repair costs, resale values, and fuel economy ratings.
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 cars in the U.S. Don’t get stuck with a lemon, use our data to help you shop.
Engine Reliability Score – Over The Years
This chart shows the average reliability ratings of Nissan Xterra models based on two different factors:
- The FIXD Reliability score (Green line) – our data is determined based on the number of check engine lights set by Nissan Xterra models during every 12,000 miles of driving (1 year’s worth of driving).
- The Owner Reliability score (Gray line) – comes from Nissan Xterra owners that took our survey.
Our ratings are based on a 1 to 10 scale. If a Nissan Xterra scored the lowest possible, you see a 1, while the highest rating is 10. Average scores are represented as 5.
We see some significant patterns emerge between the two lines. Newer models tend to receive higher rankings overall in both studies. However, there’s a stark contrast with the 2015 model in our survey because only one person responded. Therefore, we have left this model out of our rankings until we can source more data.
There’s no question that this chart alone provides a wealth of information, but it’s not intended to be used alone. If you are new to used Xterra shopping, you may want to automatically remove any that have scored low. On the other hand, if you know which model you want, you can jump further in this guide to learn more about it.
Before you do that, take one minute and read the most common reasons for the Check Engine Light on Nissan models before you choose the best option.
NHTSA Safety Score – Over The Years
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) is responsible for crash-testing vehicles and providing a safety score. All of this information about the Nissan Xterra has been added to a chart, so you can find the rankings easier.
The green line illustrates the average safety rating on every Nissan Xterra model year. Looking at this information in conjunction with the gray line helps you see how the SUV compares with the average crash test safety rating on all passenger vehicles we have sourced NHTSA data on.
Sadly, the only Nissan Xterra model to rate higher than average is the 2005 model. That’s disappointing news if you plan to buy an Xterra.
To get cheap car insurance for your used SUV, it’s best to find a model with higher safety scores.
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:|
MPG – Over The Years
What’s interesting about the Nissan Xterra models is that all of the years have a similar mpg rating. For that reason, we didn’t base a lot of our decision on which models get the best gas mileage.
Our graph reveals the average Nissan Xterra fuel economy by model year. The green line reveals the average ratings for the gas-powered SUV. The Xterra was never offered with any other type of powertrain.
While the savings would be minimal, models from 2005 on are going to help you save a tiny bit more when you have to fill up.
Current Market Value of All Nissan Xterra Years & Cost Per Year to Repair and Maintain Each
By looking at data given to us from Xterra owners, you can see what it may cost to own each model year. There’s a direct correlation with most models between reliability and cost of ownership. You shouldn’t expect many expensive repairs when owners are happy with the SUV. With each repair, you must also consider how long you would be without the vehicle while it’s in the shop.
If you are an Xterra owner and you think it’s time to sell, keep in mind that these figures affect the resale value. Vehicles with fewer mechanical problems tend to earn more per sale than those that are a lemon. Generally, the newer models fetch a higher sale price, but it’s not always the case, which is why you must dig into the data.
If you are looking to buy a Nissan Xterra, we recommend narrowing down the model years that are most appealing to you. If you can find a newer model with a comparable resale value to an older one, the more recent option may be better as long as the reliability ratings are high.
Our graph gives you the model years and an average value based on the mileage that was reported by owners for our survey. KBB values fluctuate based on several factors, so you always want to run your own report with the exact mileage of the vehicle you are looking at to ensure you get the best deal.
When shopping for a used Nissan Xterra, 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
2000: Brand-new model, 1st generation released
2001: SE trim includes titanium interior accents and a premium audio system, restyled 16-inch alloy wheels
2002: Updated front styling, newly standard dual-stage front airbags, variable intermittent front windshield wipers, a foot-operated parking brake, a rear window wiper, and rear child-seat anchors
2003: V6 received a power boost, newly optional stability control system, and leather package offered with SE trim
2004: 17-inch alloy wheels become standard on non-supercharged SE trim, 16-inch alloy wheels standard on XE-V6
2005: First model of 2nd generation, completely redesigned with a more powerful motor and a more spacious interior
2006: Entry-level X trim debuts, Power package comes standard with S trim
2007: Mudguards come standard with 4×4 models, along with a sunglass holder and a leather-wrapped steering wheel
2008: X models receive newly standard remote keyless entry and cruise control, new Technology package includes XM Satellite Radio, Bluetooth, a premium Rockford Fosgate sound system, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror
2009: Facelift to the front and roof-mounted lights on the Off-Road model
2010: Many previously optional features now come standard
2011: SE trim is discontinued, Off-Road trim renamed Pro-4X
2012: Remains unchanged
2013: New upgraded audio system with satellite radio, USB inputs, and auxiliary audio on S trim, Pro-4X trim receives upgraded upholstery, automatic headlights, a navigation system with a rearview camera, and an outside temperature display
2014: Bluetooth comes standard on all trims, Pro-4X includes standard heated cloth seats, smartphone integration, and optional heated leather seats
2015: S trim adds hands-free text messaging, satellite radio, iPod/USB interface, and a 5-inch color display
The Best Years of the Nissan Xterra
To help you choose the best SUV, we examined the FIXD Reliability score with the other data that was collected. These ratings also compare against the Owner Reliability score, safety testing results, fuel economy ratings, and other factors. In our evaluation, we go even deeper by looking at the top diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) for every model year and the recalls from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) so you can see the bigger picture.
2012-2014 Nissan Xterra
FIXD Reliability Score: 8-9/10
Owner Reliability Score: 7-10/10
KBB Value: $6,510-$11,304
Fuel Economy: 17 mpg
Annual Maintenance/Repair: $417-$917
Safety Rating: 3.0/5
The 2012 to 2014 Nissan Xterra are among the last models produced. These three SUVs have great rankings, both from the FIXD app data and owners.
The FIXD Reliability score on the 2012 and 2013 Xterra is 9 out of 10, while the 2014 models earn an 8 out of 10. Additionally, the Owners Reliability score of the 2012 Xterra is 8 out of 10, while the 2013 model earns 7 out of 10, and the 2014 model is rated with a perfect 10 out of 10. We didn’t have enough responses on the 2015 model to include it, but imagine it would fall in line with these models since nothing major was different with the SUV.
Sadly, the NHTSA crash testing score for the 2012 to 2014 Nissan Xterra is only 3 (out of 5). This falls below average, making it less desirable than some other SUVs.
The ownership cost of the 2014 Nissan Xterra is about as low as you are going to find at $417 a year. The 2012 Xterra is rated at $750 a year, while the 2013 model sees averages of $917. While the 2012 and 2013 Nissan SUVs don’t seem to suffer from any major mechanical malfunctions, there were some reports of trouble with the transmission and brakes on the 2014 model. Because all of the Xterras have exceeded their manufacturer warranty limit, the only way you would get out of paying for repairs is with an extended warranty plan.
Based on our data, the biggest concern with the 2012 Nissan Xterra is the Catalyst System Efficiency Below Threshold (P0420) code. A new converter might run $1,538 and $2,041, but most of these SUVs are still worth fixing. In fact, all three models have some codes that may need a catalytic converter to fix. With the 2011 Nissan Xterra, we show an increase in likelihood for the System Too Lean – Bank 1 (P0171) code. The proper fix for this may be a Mass Air Flow (MAF) sensor, costing $172 to $309. With the 2014 Nissan Xterra, you want to watch out for the Engine Oil Over Temperature Condition (P0298) DTC. It could be due to an electrical short or the engine coolant temperature sensor.
2009-2010 Nissan Xterra
FIXD Reliability Score: 4-7/10
Owner Reliability Score: 9-10/10
KBB Value: $5,921-$6,532
Fuel Economy: 17 mpg
Annual Maintenance/Repair: $417-$875
Safety Rating: 4.0/5
The 2009 and 2010 Nissan Xterra continue to perform well and have minimal issues to report. They rank right up there with the newer models.
The FIXD Reliability score on the 2009 Xterra is 4 out of 10, while the 2010 models earn a 7 out of 10. As far as the Owners Reliability score, the 2009 Xterra gets 9 out of 10, while the 2010 model earns a perfect 10 out of 10.
The NHTSA crash testing score on these two Xterra models jumps up slightly to 4 (out of 5). Yet, this still falls below the average.
The ownership costs fall right in line with the newer models. The 2009 Xterra averages $417 a year, and the 2010 model is rated at $875. The only concern from our survey is an increased likelihood of AC/heat repairs with the 2010 Xterra.
The most probable DTC with the 2009 Nissan Xterra is the System Too Lean – Bank 1 (P0171) code. If it requires a new Mass Air Flow (MAF) sensor, you may spend $172 to $309. The 2010 Xterra also shows this code as a possibility, but its main fault is the O2 Sensor Circuit Slow Response – Bank 1 Sensor 1 (P0133) DTC. In many cases, this fix simply requires a new oxygen sensor, costing $153 to $306. Additionally, you want to watch out for the Random Misfire Detected (P0300) code on 2010 models. Hopefully, this repair only requires some new spark plugs.
2003-2004 Nissan Xterra
FIXD Reliability Score: 1/10
Owner Reliability Score: 7-8/10
KBB Value: $3,004-$3,423
Fuel Economy: 16 mpg
Annual Maintenance/Repair: $500-$917
Safety Rating: 3.5-4.25/5
Even as older models, the 2003 and 2004 Nissan Xterra are still ranked well overall. While the FIXD score is lower, there’s still a lot to be excited about, especially if you need a low-cost SUV.
The FIXD Reliability score on the 2003 and 2004 Nissan Xterra is 1 out of 10. Yet, the Owners Reliability score on the 2003 Xterra is 8 out of 10, while the 2004 model earns 7 out of 10.
The NHTSA crash testing scores are favorable at 3.5 (out of 5) on the 2003 model and 4.25 (out of 5) on the 2004 Xterra. However, these are still below the average.
It’s surprising to see such low ownership values on older SUVs. The 2003 Xterra is rated at $500, while the 2004 model averages $917. However, the only higher chance of repair indicated may be on the 2004 models with the AC/heat.
Both the 2003 and 2004 Nissan Xterra models show a higher chance of the Catalyst System Efficiency Below Threshold – Bank 2 (P0430) code. Unfortunately, if this fault requires a new catalytic converter, costing $1,538 to $2,041, this older SUV may not be worth fixing. They both suffer from the Knock Sensor 1 Circuit High Input – Bank 1 or Single Sensor (P0328) code. However, this code can be set just for using the wrong octane fuel, so it may not be a big deal. 2003 models can also deal with the Idle Control System Malfunction (P0505) code, which may require replacing the IAC valve.
The Worst Years of the Nissan Xterra
2005-2008 Nissan Xterra
FIXD Reliability Score: 1-5/10
Owner Reliability Score: 7-8/10
KBB Value: $3,587-$4,701
Fuel Economy: 17 mpg
Annual Maintenance/Repair: $1,125-$1,833
Safety Rating: 4.0-4.5/5
These four models were the first in the 2nd generation. It seems there were a lot of problems when this generation launched, leading to a lack of reliability.
The FIXD Reliability score on the 2005 Nissan Xterra is the lowest of the four at 1 out of 10. The other rankings are 3 out of 10 on the 2006 model, 5 out of 10 on the 2007 model, and 4 out of 10 on the 2008 model. Yet, the Owners Reliability score on the 2005 Xterra is 8 out of 10, while the other three models earn 7 out of 10.
The NHTSA crash testing scores are much higher, with the 2005 model at 4.5 (out of 5). This is the only model we rated that exceeds the average. The other three Xterra models only earned 4.0 (out of 5).
The biggest trouble with these models is the ownership costs. 2007 models are rated at $1,125 a year, while the 2006 sits at $1,292. What’s even worse is the 2005 Xterra at $1,650 and the 2008 models averaging $1,833. Whether it’s the engine, transmission, brakes, AC/heat, or the fuel system, each one of these models is dealing with expensive repair bills.
The 2005, 2006, and 2008 Nissan Xterra models show a higher chance of the Catalyst System Efficiency Below Threshold – Bank 2 (P0430) code, as well as the Catalyst System Efficiency Below Threshold (P0420) code. With the likelihood of needing a new catalytic converter, costing $1,538 to $2,041, this older SUV may also not be worth fixing. The 2007 Xterra deals with its own issues, including the Torque Converter Clutch Circuit Intermittent (P0744) code, as well as the Evaporative Emission Control System Vent Control Circuit Shorted (P0448) DTC, which may require a professional mechanic to fix.
The 2005 Nissan Xterra shows six recalls and one investigation, while the 2006 Nissan Xterra has five recalls and one investigation. Looking at the 2007 Nissan Xterra has two recalls and one investigation, but the 2008 Nissan Xterra shows eight recalls and one investigation.
2011 Nissan Xterra
FIXD Reliability Score: 6/10
Owner Reliability Score: 7/10
KBB Value: $6,908
Fuel Economy: 17 mpg
Annual Maintenance/Repair: $583
Safety Rating: 3.0/5
On paper, this model may look like it can be trusted, but there have been reports of serious issues with the engine and brakes that cause some concern.
The FIXD Reliability score on the 2011 Nissan Xterra is 6 out of 10. In comparison, the Owners Reliability score is 7 out of 10.
The NHTSA crash testing scores on the 2011 Xterra are only 3.0 (out of 5). That is an alarming rating and below average.
While the ownership costs of the 2011 model seem reasonable enough at $583, there have been reports of some major repairs. You could face higher repair bills on the engine or brakes.
As with many other models, the 2011 Xterra has a higher chance of the Catalyst System Efficiency Below Threshold – Bank 2 (P0430) code, as well as the Catalyst System Efficiency Below Threshold (P0420) code. The repair could require a new catalytic converter, costing $1,538 to $2,041. Yet, the most prevalent issue is the Mass Airflow (MAF) Circuit Operating Range or Performance Problem (P0101) code.
On the bright side, there aren’t many recalls. The NHTSA lists two recalls and zero investigations with the 2011 Nissan Xterra.
2001-2002 Nissan Xterra
FIXD Reliability Score: 1-2/10
Owner Reliability Score: 7-8/10
KBB Value: $2,525-$2,590
Fuel Economy: 16 mpg
Annual Maintenance/Repair: $750
Safety Rating: 3.5/5
The 2001 and 2002 Nissan Xterra models have issues that could make the SUV unrepairable in light of the lower resale values.
The FIXD Reliability score on the 2001 Nissan Xterra is 1 out of 10, and the 2002 model earns a score of 2 out of 10. In comparison, the Owners Reliability score is 8 out of 10 on the 2001 and 7 out of 10 on the 2002 Xterra.
The NHTSA crash testing scores on both the 2001 and 2002 Nissan Xterra are only 3.5 (out of 5). As usual, this is below average.
Both ownership scores sit at $750, which doesn’t seem bad. However, the 2002 model suffers from a higher chance of engine repairs, while you may be spending more on the engine, transmission, brakes, and fuel system with 2001 Xterra SUVs. Considering the comparable resale value, you may do better with a 2002 Nissan over the 2001 model.
The biggest issue with the 2001 Nissan Xterra is the O2 Sensor Circuit No Activity Detected – Bank 1 Sensor 1 (P0134) code. If it needs a new oxygen sensor, you may spend $153 to $306. The 2002 model shows a higher instance of the System Gross Leak Evaporative System Malfunction (P0455) code. 2001 models also show the chance for the Knock Sensor 1 Circuit Malfunction – Bank 1 (P0325) DTC. Be wary of the 2002 model’s Knock Sensor 1 Circuit High -Bank 1 (P0328) DTC, which may require a knock sensor replacement. The 2001 Nissan Xterra has five recalls and two investigations. Even worse, the 2002 Nissan Xterra shows six recalls and three investigations.
What years of the Nissan Xterra have engine and/or transmission problems?
Based on our data, the 2002, 2005-2006, and 2011 Nissan Xterra models are more likely to suffer from expensive engine repairs. There’s also a higher chance of transmission repairs with the 2001, 2005-2009, and 2014 Xterra.
What is considered high mileage for a Nissan Xterra?
Some Xterra models have been used off-road and for more rugged travel than your typical SUV. Therefore, it’s difficult to determine how long the Nissan SUV will last unless you know how it was used and what kind of maintenance it received. With proper care, these SUVs may last 175,000 miles or more.
Based on our data, a high-mileage Nissan Xterra could be considered anything over 150,000 miles.
First-generation Nissan Xterra models (2001-2004) show an average mileage range between 155,000 and 200,000. The 2002 Xterra has one of the highest mileages in our surveys, but there are several that hit over 180,000 miles. You can choose to buy an Xterra with a lot of miles, but the value goes down dramatically, leaving you with less room to make repairs.
What other vehicles should I consider?
Nissan has a lot of SUVs to choose from, including the Kicks, Rogue Sport, Rogue, Murano, Pathfinder, and Armada. If you want something for off-roading, you may consider a Nissan truck, such as the Frontier or Titan.
Beyond the Nissan brand, consider looking at other SUV options. We recommend researching the Hyundai Tucson, Ford Escape, Volkswagen Tiguan, and Chevrolet Equinox. Also, look into the GMC Terrain, Mazda CX-5, Honda CR-V, and Kia Sportage. What owners of the Nissan Xterra like to use their car for:
Percent based x/5-star: 0-10% = 1, 11-20% = 2, 21-30% = 3, 31-40% = 4, 41%+ = 5
|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 Xterra’s 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 is the result of surveying Nissan Xterra owners who use FIXD.
The Owner Reliability Score comes straight from owners of the Nissan Xterra.
This is a subjective score.
To determine the Owner Reliability Score we ask each car owner:
How reliable would you say your Nissan Xterra 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, Ford Mustang, 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 Xterra 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 Xterra 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 Xterra, wikipedia.org. Retrieve July 6, 2023, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nissan_Xterra
- Nissan Xterra review, edmunds.com. Retrieved July 7, 2023, from https://www.edmunds.com/nissan/xterra/2015/review/
Brian Jones owns a used car dealership outside of Dallas, Texas. He has also worked for decades as an ASE Certified Master Technician for a variety of new car dealerships. Now he spends his time consulting dealerships and writing for some renowned publications, such as Motor1 (https://www.motor1.com/info/team/brian-jones/). When he’s not working, he’s tinkering around with pickup trucks and traveling with his family.