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Updated Dec. 19, 2023

2012 Nissan Altima Review: Has It Aged Well? Possible Mechanical Problems To Check Before Buying, And It's Pros And Cons Today

Related: How To Get The Lowest Price On A "Brand New" Nissan Altima

While historically high new and used car prices are forcing many buyers to look for "older" vehicles that may have aged well to save money, the issues of reliability and dependability have become even more crucial.

2012 Nissan Altima Sedan

And when it comes to the 2012 Nissan Altima's reliability, while it has garnered a decent reputation overall, it might not consistently match some of its competitors in this aspect, such as the Toyota Camry or Honda Accord.

While J.D. Power rates it at 83/100 for Quality & Reliability, which is "Great" on their scale, there are many reports of owners experiencing problems, particularly with the CVT transmission. That said, there have been far fewer complaints than with the redesigned Altima that followed in 2013.

So here, ...

- We'll list areas of possible mechanical problems that some owners have experienced that should be checked before buying one today.

- Next, we'll take a look at the overall pros and cons of buying a 2012 Altima all these years later.

- Then we'll review its features as it was originally released in 2012.

- And finally, we'll suggest ways of buying one today at a low cost.

But first, and very importantly ...

Things To Do When Considering An "Older" Vehicle

Locate Lower Mileage Vehicles: They are certainly out there to be found with careful and patient shopping. Be willing to drive a distance if you have to.

Vehicle History and Maintenance: Ask for the vehicle history report (CarFax or AutoCheck) as well as documented maintenance and repair records. If not provided by the Dealer or private seller, it's best to move on.

Pre-Purchase Inspection: Have the vehicle independently inspected before making a final decision. This usually will cost in the $150-$200 range but is well worth it given the potentially thousands in savings over the long term.

Also, Always Know The Value Of Your Trade-In!

Whether you are trading or selling on your own, it's just a good idea ... even whether you are in the market or not at the moment. You can then use this important information for a number of purposes ... to negotiate with a dealer, or to know how to price your car in the retail market, or simply to know the value of one of your assets, which is always a good idea.

Getting trade-in values online tend to vary a lot from site to site. But I've found the one at Edmunds Trade-In Quotes is particularly comprehensive and accurate. It's free, it's quick and there's no contact by any third parties. I think what helps its accuracy is the inputs will include either your plate# or VIN#. They really focus in on the specific vehicle.

2012 Nissan Altima Mechanical Problem Watchlist:

The 2012 Nissan Altima, like any car model, has had a number of reported mechanical issues. It's essential to note, however, that not all vehicles have had or will encounter these problems. Regular maintenance and timely servicing, as well as the driving habits of previous owners, may have mitigated potential issues for many vehicles.

Some of the common problems reported by owners and observed in this model year which should be included in an inspection include:

CVT Issues: This has been the most common complaint. Some owners have reported problems with the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), usually in the 100,000 mile range, including jerking, shuddering, or delayed responses, which required repair or replacement.

Engine Issues: There have been reports of excessive oil consumption in some vehicles, which could be linked to potential engine problems. Some drivers reported issues with the engine losing power or stalling unexpectedly.

Steering Lock Failure: Certain models experienced issues where the steering lock mechanism could malfunction, preventing the car from starting.

Electrical Problems: Owners reported issues with various electrical components, including problems with the power windows, door locks, and the vehicle's sensors.

Brake Issues: Some owners reported premature wear of brake pads and rotors, necessitating more frequent replacements than expected.

2012 Nissan Altima Pros

Cost Savings: Obviously, older models tend to be significantly cheaper than newer ones, saving a substantial amount of money upfront. However, this savings has to be weighed against the increased risk for possibly higher maintenance and repair costs going forward.

Depreciation: Since the vehicle has already undergone a substantial amount of depreciation, there isn't the subsequent steep depreciation curve that newer cars face.

Reliability: Nissan has an overall reputation for building reliable vehicles, and this Altima generally falls into this category.

Car Buying Tips:

Learn to Negotiate Low Prices

Do This For The Best Trade-In Price

The Truth About Wholesale And Trade-in Values

Used Car Reliability Ratings

Known Issues Addressed: Common problems with the 2012 model might have been identified and already addressed through recalls, service campaigns, or repairs.

Insurance Costs: Insurance premiums will likely be lower for an older vehicle for additional savings.

Fuel Efficiency: The Altima's four-cylinder engine provides good fuel economy for its class, especially on highways.

Spacious Interior: It offers a comfortable and roomy cabin, particularly in the front seats.

Smooth Ride: It tends to have a smooth and composed ride, making it a comfortable daily driver.

Good Handling: It's known for decent handling and maneuverability, making it enjoyable to drive in urban settings.

2012 Nissan Altima Cons

Reliability Concerns: The 2012 model might have some known reliability issues, especially with the CVT transmission, potentially leading to higher maintenance costs.

Outdated Technology: Older models lack some of the latest technological advancements and safety features found in newer vehicles.

Higher Maintenance: As a car continues to age, maintenance costs can increase due to wear and tear, potentially requiring more frequent repairs or replacements of components.

Fuel Efficiency: Older models might not offer the same level of fuel efficiency as newer cars, especially with advancements in engine technology.

Interior Quality: While spacious, the interior materials might feel less refined compared to some competitors.

Road Noise: It's not the quietest car on the highway, and road noise might be noticeable at higher speeds.

Resale Value: Historically, Nissans have tended to have lower resale values compared to some other competitors, affecting long-term ownership costs.

2012 Nissan Altima Review

Those who place a high value on "sportiness" in a family sedan will likely find the 2012 Nissan Altima to be an appealling choice. Also available as a coupe, this Altima offers impressive driving dynamics, a quiet ride and lots of available high tech features.

2012 Nissan Altima Coupe

Even those outfitted with the base 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine demonstrate a capable driving demeanor that easily surpasses the usual for this segment. And by opting for the 3.5 SR model with its V6 engine, output is boosted to a healthy 270-horsepower. This, combined with its firmer suspension, transforms the Altima into something much closer to a "sport sedan".

Tack on its attractive design, nice looking interior and generous feature availability, and the 2012 Altima has quite a bit going for it.

Trims, Standard Features And Options:

The 2012 Nissan Altima is available in coupe and sedan forms in three trims: 2.5, 2.5 S and 3.5 SR.

The base Altima 2.5 is sedan-only with standard features which include a push-button ignition, power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, 16-inch steel wheels, dual exhaust chrome tips, air-conditioning, cruise control, keyless entry, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, a vehicle immobilizer system, a vehicle security system, a rear window defroster w/timer, a trip computer, chrome interior door handles, halogen headlights and a full array of safety features (see below).

Standard features on the 2.5 S sedan and coupe add keyless entry/ignition, a 6-speaker audio system, a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and 17-inch alloy wheels on the coupe.

Optional packages that may be found in the 2.5 S include the Value package which adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, Bluetooth, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and automatic headlights. The Special Edition package includes foglights, alloy wheels on the sedan, a rear spoiler, automatic headlights and the leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls.

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The Convenience package can be found only on the sedan and adds a power driver seat to the Value package. Also sedan-only, the Convenience Plus package includes dual-zone automatic climate control, a sunroof and mirror-mounted turn-signal repeaters, while the Premium Audio package (again sedan-only) features a rearview camera and a 9-speaker Bose audio system with an iPod interface and satellite radio. The Premium package is available only on the coupe and includes all of the previous packages.

There's also a 2.5 SL package for the sedan that includes leather upholstery, heated front seats, rear air-conditioning vents and an auto-dimming rearview mirror, while on the coupe this package is called the Leather package and also adds xenon headlights, but drops the rear A/C vents.

Moving up to the Altima 3.5 SR adds the V6 engine, a sport-tuned suspension, heated side mirrors, 17-inch alloy wheels on the sedan, 18-inch alloys on the coupe and and everything in the 2.5 S Convenience package.

The sedan-only 3.5 SR Sport package includes dual-zone climate control, a sunroof, foglights and xenon headlights, while the 3.5 SR Premium package, available on both the sedan and coupe, adds all features from the S coupe's Premium package, the Premium Audio package as well as the SL package.

Finally, there's a Technology package that can be found on some coupes and sedans which adds a navigation system, Bluetooth streaming audio capability and digital music storage.

Engines, Powertrain And Gas Mileage:

A choice of two engines power the front-wheel-drive 2012 Altima. Under the hood of all 2.5 models is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 175 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque. Standard on the sedan is a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), while the coupe comes with a 6-speed manual or an optional CVT.

The EPA-estimated gas mileage for this engine is is 23 mpg city and 32 mpg on the highway with the CVT. Fuel economy for the manual comes in at a near identical 23 mpg city and 31 highway.

The more sport-oriented 3.5 SR is outfitted with a 3.5-liter V6 engine that's good for a robust 270 horsepower and 258 pound-feet. The 3.5 comes with the same transmission choices as the 2.5. The EPA-estimated gas mileage for this engine stands at 20 mpg city and 27 mpg highway with the CVT, while the manual is rated at 18 and 27, respectively.

In performance tests, an Altima 3.5 sedan was timed from a standstill to 60 mph in a very quick 7 seconds. The 3.5 coupe did it in just 6.7 seconds with the CVT and an even quicker 6.5 seconds with the manual. In comparison, the 2.5 S sedan covers the same sprint in a still respectable 8.5 seconds.


Standard safety features across all 2012 Altimas include traction control, stability control, antilock brakes (ABS), front seat side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags that extend to both rows.

In government crash testing, the Altima sedan was given an overall rating of four out of five stars, consisting of four stars for frontal impact protection and five stars for side impact protection.


2012 Nissan Altima interior

The Altima's cabin is attractive, solidly constructed, and user-friendly. The seating is supportive and comfortable both front and rear (the coupe comes with very well-bolstered front sport seats as opposed to the sedan's front bucket seats), however, both body styles are somewhat tight when it comes to rear headroom and legroom. This is more of an issue in the coupe where adult passengers might find the going uncomfortable on longer trips.

The cargo capacity in the sedan's trunk is a quite ample 15.3 cubic feet, while that of the coupe is a much smaller 8.2 cubes.


The 2012 Altima is a capable performer on the road. Even the four-cylinder models provide enough liveliness to satisfy most drivers. The performance of the CVT is also smooth and seamless and the vehicle's overall handling is confident and secure. And all the while, the Altima's suspension maintains a comfortable ride quality while also limiting road and wind noise in the cabin.

For buyers who place a higher value on driving dynamics, the Altima's V6-powered 3.5 SR is particularly impressive, especially for a "family sedan". It's certainly not boring with its sport-tuned suspension, responsive steering and smooth CVT combined with plenty of gusto under the hood.

Lastly, Suggestions For A Low Altima Price

First of all, here's a Lowest Price Used Car Buying Guide that details a very effective method.

Here's another method that identifies Price-Distressed Cars Right On Dealer Lots. These are vehicles they are so desperate to unload they would welcome your wholesale offer.

In addition, you can also try the Public Car Auctions in your own geographic area. This article reviews what to expect at open-to-the-public car auctions and how to locate them.

And for those of you who might be interested in a "brand new" Nissan Altima if the price was really good, here's info on exactly How To Get The Best Price On A New Car. This works just phenomenally well.

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