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A close up of the grille on a grey 2022 Nissan Maxima is shown.

Pre-Owned Nissan Sedans Offer Reliability, Safety, and Value

Searching for a quality used vehicle can have its ups and downs. Sure, finding used inventory is as simple as doing a quick web search for “used cars,” and while it’s easy to spot some affordably priced vehicles on the pre-owned market, you’ll quickly learn that quantity doesn’t necessarily translate into quality. Don’t get us wrong, gambling can be fun, but when it comes to buying a used car, too often, it can feel like the deck is stacked against you. This issue has become less pronounced in recent years with the advent of services like CARFAX, which can give buyers a detailed report on a vehicle’s history, but even a spotless record is no indicator of future performance.

So how is a driver to know what they’re getting when exploring the pre-owned market? Doing your research can pay dividends when it comes to sourcing a pre-owned vehicle, with some brands rising to the top in terms of value and reliability and others garnering no shortage of bad press. Nissan is one example of a brand with a reputation for reliability, producing a solid lineup of affordably priced cars, trucks, and SUVs that do an exceptional job of retaining their value without endless trips to the mechanic. From this expansive lineup, two popular models rise to the top: the midsize Altima and full-size Maxima sedans. But what makes these vehicles such standouts on the pre-owned market? Let’s dive a little deeper and see how the Nissan Altima and Maxima might just be the pre-owned market’s diamonds in the rough.

A blue 2020 Nissan Altima is shown after viewing used cars at a dealership.

The Nissan Altima

The Nissan Altima is one of the brand’s most popular models, which means they’re also relatively easy to find on the pre-owned market. The five-seat sedan is also one of the longest-serving vehicles in the current Nissan lineup, having debuted as far back as 1992. A great all-around option for drivers seeking a comfortable, reliable family vehicle, the Altima has been noted for its robust acceleration, fuel economy, and handling. The Altima has shown up on its fair share of lists for the best used vehicles under $15,000, with the already-affordable sedan representing an even better value on the used market.

Drivers exploring used models are most likely to encounter either a fifth-generation Altima, which was sold from 2013 to 2018, or a sixth-generation version produced starting in 2019. Both provide outstanding value and reliability, though drivers seeking the latest and greatest in safety and infotainment technology will probably gravitate towards the later models. That’s not to say some fifth-generation models can’t hold their own when it comes to advanced tech features: the model received a nice mid-cycle refresh in 2016 that saw the addition of a number of new additions, including revised bumpers, lights, and redesigned Zero Gravity seats. Nissan also took the opportunity to address some concerns about the in-cabin noise, taking another pass at noise reduction that included the addition of a new sound-proofing windshield. 2018 saw a bump to the sedan’s infotainment credentials with the introduction of the NissanConnect Infotainment System to include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard features.

The sixth-generation Altima is just starting to show up on the used market, and while the discount might not be as significant as the older fifth-generation model, it still presents an intriguing option for drivers seeking real value. The model won rave reviews on its debut, with critics crediting Nissan for addressing many of their long-held qualms with the model, especially the interior quality. Don’t take our word for it: the 2019 Altima was named one of the 12 Best New Cars for 2019 by AutoTrader, and the innovative VC-Turbo model was a finalist for the 2019 Green Car of the Year by the Green Car Journal.

Speaking of green cars, one of the sixth-generation Altima’s most alluring features is its fuel economy. Nissan vehicles have long offered ultra-competitive fuel efficiency thanks to the use of smaller, efficient engines paired with an economic continuously variable transmission (CVT), but the sixth-generation Altima takes it to the next level with the introduction of the world’s first production-ready variable compression turbo engine in the Altima VC-Turbo. This game-changing tech allows Nissan to squeeze impressive power and fuel efficiency out of the modest four-cylinder engine, giving the 248-horsepower VC-Turbo a noteworthy 25 MPG in the city and 34 MPG on the highway. This trick is accomplished thanks to an advanced multi-link system that allows the engine to raise and lower the pistons’ reach to change its compression ratio in response to different driving conditions, offering an 8:1 ratio for high-performance applications and a 14:1 ratio when higher efficiency is the name of the game.

BONUS: Still not sold on the Altima’s reliability? For drivers seeking the ultimate peace of mind, there’s Nissan’s Certified Pre-Owned program. While many automakers offer similar CPO programs, Nissan’s ranks up there with the best. All Nissan CPO vehicles must be less than six years old and have fewer than 80,000 miles logged on the odometer. These vehicles must also have a clean title and pass an exhaustive 167-point inspection, ensuring only the best models earn the vaunted CPO designation. All Nissan CPO vehicles come with a 7-year/100,000 warranty, which can go a long way in defraying the potential cost of ownership.

A grey 2020 Nissan Maxima is shown driving on an open road.

The Nissan Maxima

With the Maxima, Nissan took everything there is to love about the Altima and kicked it up to another level. The Maxima has become Nissan’s flagship sedan since its introduction in 2003, offering a larger and more luxuriously appointed alternative to the Altima. Shoppers exploring the used market are most likely to encounter the eight-generation Maxima, which debuted back in 2016. While there might be a few seventh-gen Maximas (2009-2015) out there in the wild, they’re getting up there in age and lack many of the advanced safety and tech features that drivers have come to expect.

That doesn’t mean they’re antiques by any means. Nissan refreshed the sedan in 2013 with the addition of three new option packages, including a Bose Audio Package, SV Value Package, and Sport Package that includes everything from premium speakers and heated front seats to alloy wheels and a seven-inch monitor. However, some of these features, like an “iPod storage net,” seem a little outdated at this point. As Nissan began to wind down the seventh generation, it limited the Maxima to two models: the 3.5 S and 3.5 SV, both paired with a 3.5-liter V6 and Xtronic CVT.

Moving into the eighth generation, Nissan placed an emphasis on the Maxima’s performance, recategorizing the sedan as a “four-door sports car” and making notable upgrades to the vehicle’s exterior and interior styling. The changes are hard to miss, with the Maxima sporting a decidedly aggressive, sporty appearance on the outside with a refined, futuristic interior. The sedan also shed some 80-plus pounds, which, when combined with the 300 horsepower, 3.5-liter engine, gave the Maxima a little more pep when it comes to accelerating. The Maxima’s speed stats speak to Nissan’s sporty overhaul, with the sedan posting an impressive zero-to-sixty time of just 5.9 seconds.

Newer Maxima models are heavy on the tech, featuring both an Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and a comprehensive suite of advanced safety features dubbed Nissan Intelligent Safety Shield. The ProPilot Assist system allows drivers to sit back and enjoy the ride while adaptive cruise control and lane-centering technology take over the driving duties. Meanwhile, the Intelligent Safety Shield technology includes Intelligent Forward Collision Warning, a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), an Intelligent Around View Monitor, and blind sport warning.

BONUS: With a five-star safety rating from the NHTSA, the Maxima is a true standout in its class. This sort of safety rating will not only give drivers more confidence behind the wheel, but it could also go a long way in reducing your insurance rates. When deciding how to set your individual auto insurance rate, insurers look at a variety of factors. These may include your driving history, driving frequency, or geographical region, but a vehicle’s safety features are another important consideration. Safety features like blind spot warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, and rear-view cameras can have a drastic effect on insurance rates, allowing drivers to save money and making pre-owned vehicles like the Nissan Maxima an even better value. Of course, this isn’t true for all safety features, with some of today’s ADAS actually increasing insurance rates. This is usually due to how expensive some of these systems are to replace in the event of a major accident, with components like cameras or parking-assistance systems costing a pretty penny.

It’s Hard to Go Wrong With a Pre-Owned Nissan

When it comes to shopping for a pre-owned sedan, it’s hard to go wrong with a Nissan. The Altima represents an exceptional value for its price, offering drivers a well-rounded sedan that gets extra points for its reliability. The Maxima almost edges into luxury and high-performance territory without the associated price tag, giving drivers a fun, upscale option that won’t break the bank. No matter which model you decide to go with, you can rest easy thanks to Nissan’s reputation for reliability and safety.

These two models are a great example of everything there is to love about the pre-owned market where, at the cost of a little time and research on the driver’s part, there’s often a great deal to be had. This is especially true at a time when everything seems to be getting more expensive (particularly new vehicles which are so reliant on advanced technology), but for those who are more concerned with getting a good deal than that new car smell, used and Certified Pre-Owned Nissan sedans represent an excellent alternative.