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A red 2021 Nissan Altima is shown from the front at an angle.

Why a Pre-owned Nissan Altima Is a Great Midsize Sedan Option

Pre-owned Nissan Altima sales are booming, and here’s why. With its classic good looks, extravagant features, and proven dependability, a pre-owned Nissan Altima will give you everything you’re looking for in a new model at half the price. If you’re in the market for an economical yet reliable vehicle, the Nissan Altima is an excellent choice if you are shopping on a budget.

Rewind to 2020

The 2020 Nissan Altima may be the perfect four-door sedan. Car and Driver gave it an impressive eight-out-of-ten rating, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) deemed it a Top Safety Pick for crash mitigation. This is thanks to its outstanding driver assistance features, which still hold up today, and overall crashworthiness, owed to its solid build and carefully devised crumple zones. Driver assistance features standard or available across all trim levels include a forward collision warning, automated emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, and high beam assist.

Performance-wise, the Altima offers excellent control, power, and stability with both of its engine options—the 2.5L four-cylinder and the 2.0L VC-Turbo four-cylinder—providing efficient acceleration and adequate speed. The 2.5L engine utilizes a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) which enthusiasts might recognize as a length-changing belt rather than a series of differently-sized gears; this pairing, however, results in a slightly slower acceleration rate than in typical automatics but is nevertheless an innovative and competent addition to the Altima’s powertrain. While the 2.5L produces a solid 188 hp, the 2.0L produces a superior 248 hp with the same CVT.

Higher-level trims of the Altima have exceedingly better suspensions and steering, capable of precise cornering and stable handling that rivals their midsize competition. All trim levels of the 2020 Altima had all-wheel drive available as an upgrade for rougher roads or harsher climates, so you would want to ensure you’re getting the front-wheel drive if you don’t want the extra punch or the all-wheel drive if you live somewhere with heavy rains or long winters.

The 2.5L four-cylinder engine can get an EPA-estimated 28 MPG in the city and 39 MPG on the highway, with slightly decreasing fuel efficiency in higher-level trims. On the contrary, the 2.5L engine with the all-wheel drive upgrade got an EPA-estimated 26 MPG in the city and 36 MPG on the highway, and the 2.0L VC-Turbo engine clocked a comparable 25 MPG in the city and 34 MPG on the highway.

2020 saw the Altima finally get a spacious back seat—to compliment the already cozy front half of the cabin—and the overall interior design received an equally impressive update to match the new innovations in the vehicle’s performance. The front seats are larger than in previous models, and the optional armrests don’t lose their comfort in long drives. Other optional features you may come across in your perusal of pre-owned 2020 Nissan Altima models include an electronic sunroof, memory settings for the driver’s seat, and widely-coveted heated front seats. The back seat doesn’t miss out, however, as the legroom is more spacious than any other sedan of that year.

The 2020 Altima was a few months too early for touchscreen interfaces to become standard, although every model above the basic does have the typical eight-inch touchscreen, so your likelihood of finding a pre-owned Altima with the same technical versatility as your smartphone is quite high. The infotainment interface may also have built-in navigation—if that’s something you’re looking for—and the trunk in this year’s Altima was the second-largest of its class, adding to its allure as a road trip vehicle for small families.

A red 2019 Nissan Altima is shown from the side parked in a modern gallery.

Rewind to 2019

The 2019 Altima was the first year of a new generation of the model, with a completely new design and powertrain. The CVT was introduced as standard with its engine—an innovation giving a lot of punch for your dollar—with the same two engine options as in 2020: the 2.5L four-cylinder and the 2.0L VC-Turbo four-cylinder. Acceleration was slightly behind other automatic transmissions of the era, although far smoother than its competition, which suffered from the herky-jerky nature of their transmission switching to different-sized gears. The VC-Turbo made up for what the CVT lost in acceleration by boosting its zero-to-sixty rate to under six seconds—the fastest of its class by far.

The 2.5L four-cylinder engine gets the same EPA-estimated 28 MPG in the city and 39 MPG on the highway as in the 2020 model, with fuel efficiency likewise diminishing in higher-level trims. The 2.0L VC-Turbo also carried the same rates into 2020, getting 25 MPG in the city and 35 MPG on the highway. Similarly, the comfortable seats, spacious front and back sections, and sleek interior originated in this model year and thus do not differ from the 2020 Altima.

Where the 2019 Altima flourishes over its successor, however, is in the infotainment sector, with the 8-inch touchscreen being standard across all models. Given that this was the year of the newly-designed Altima, this generation had all the perks from the starting line; the 2020 model had only removed the touchscreen from its basic model as a way to lower the cost of entry to the Altima for those who neither wanted nor needed a smart-tech interface on their dashboard. Despite being standard across all models in 2019, however, the touchscreen was relatively new at this time. You will find it somewhat sluggish compared to the 2020 Altima, especially when compared to brand-new vehicles in this class.

Like its successor, the 2019 Nissan Altima was an IIHS Top Safety Pick, with exemplary crash mitigation and crashworthiness ratings. It was also rated an eight out of ten by CD, with particular praise heaped upon its maximizing of passenger and cargo space over previous model years and its integration of modern technology. These factors, in addition to a powerful engine, a stylish and comfortable interior, and remarkable safety ratings, make the 2019 Nissan Altima an outstanding commuter and family vehicle even half a decade later.

Rewind to 2018

This was the year before the Altima’s total overhaul, yet Nissan’s two closest competitors in the midsize sedan class—the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry—received their new generation updates in 2018. Coupled with being at the tail-end of its era and with Nissan’s primary development efforts going toward the design, the 2018 Altima was overshadowed and underappreciated. Sure, it had the classic 2.5L four-cylinder engine, with 179 hp—and it had the sportier 3.5L V6 engine with a whopping 270 hp—but its acceleration was “rumbly,” its backseat and trunk sizes were somewhat pitiful, and its entry-level infotainment system was limited to the wow-factor that is Bluetooth connectivity.

Nevertheless, if all you’re looking for is a svelte go-machine with power under the hood, a considerate gas tank, great safety ratings, and a means of connecting your phone to your speakers, the 2018 Altima is exceptionally well-valued as a pre-owned car. Sure, CD gave it a rating of six out of ten, but—like its younger siblings—the 2018 Altima was an IIHS Top Safety Pick for crash mitigation and overall crashworthiness. Its fuel efficiency is equally impressive, with an EPA-estimated 27 MPG in the city and 38 MPG on the highway—just shy of mirroring the results of the 2020 model.

A blue 2018 Nissan Altima is shown from the front at an angle after leaving a dealer that handles Nissan Altima sales.

A Worthy Midsize Sedan on the Pre-owned Market

The Nissan Altima proves that, if you’re looking at the right make and model, you can get a pre-owned vehicle with just as much roadworthiness, comfort, and reliability as you can in a new one—and at half the price! For those looking for a reliable commuter vehicle that offers a sensible balance of fuel economy, safety, and technology, the Nissan Altima from these three model years is definitely worth your time.