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Josh Rosenberg By Josh Rosenberg
Updated June 19, 2024

The Nissan Pathfinder: Have 10+ Year-Old (Third And Fourth Generation) Models Aged Well?

Their Reliability, Possible Mechanical Problems, Overview, And Overall Pros And Cons

2014 Nissan Pathfinder

In today's very high-priced used car market, many shoppers are looking for "older" models that have aged well as a way to save significant dollars. And the Nissan Pathfinder has generally been considered a fairly reliable SUV for decades now. So, could it be a possible candidate in the current car market environment?

And by "older", I am generally referring to 10+ year-old vehicles, so those produced within the Pathfinder's third and fourth generations (so as not to go perhaps TOO far back, raising condition and repair risks even further), which covered the 2005 - 2020 model years.

But clearly, prospective buyers must weigh the benefits of affordability and performance against potential drawbacks, such as higher maintenance needs and outdated technologies.

So here, ...

1. First, we'll look at what history has proven about the reliability of third and fourth generation Pathfinder models (again, 2005 - 2020).

2. Then we'll do an overview of both generation's features and characteristics so potential buyers can get to know the vehicle better.

3. Following each overview, we'll then list each generation's possible mechanical issues as reported by owners so they can be checked before buying one today.

4. Then we'll review the overall pros and cons of buying an older Pathfinder in today's high-priced market.

5. And then we'll follow that with "Things To Do When Considering An Older Pathfinder".

2005 - 2020 Nissan Pathfinder Reliability

History has proven both the third and fourth Pathfinder generations to be considered generally reliable when they have been well maintained. Here are the key points that contribute to their reliability:

Engine Durability: Both generations offer engines known for their reliability when maintained properly. Regular oil changes, timely replacement of filters, and addressing any issues promptly can help ensure the engine's longevity.

Transmission (except CVT concerns): Except for the CVT transmission issues in the fourth generation, the Pathfinder's transmissions have been generally reliable. Proper maintenance of transmission fluid and addressing any signs of transmission problems early can help prevent major issues.

Build Quality: Nissan has a reputation for solid build quality, which is evident in both generations of the Pathfinder. Components such as suspension, brakes, and drivetrain are robust and can withstand normal wear and tear with regular maintenance.

Body-on-Frame vs. Unibody: The third generation's body-on-frame construction is traditionally associated with durability and ruggedness, making it well-suited for heavy-duty use and off-road adventures. The transition to unibody construction in the fourth generation improved comfort and efficiency but may be less robust for severe off-road conditions.

Electrical and Interior: While there may be occasional issues with electrical components or interior materials over time, these tend to be minor compared to the core mechanical reliability of the vehicle.

CVT Transmission (Fourth Generation): The continuously variable transmission (CVT) has been a point of concern for some owners. Issues reported include transmission failures, shuddering, and rough shifting. Nissan has addressed some of these issues with extended warranties and improvements in later model years. Keeping up with recommended transmission fluid changes and being proactive about any unusual transmission behavior can help mitigate these concerns.

Age and Mileage: As with any older vehicle, the reliability also depends on its age, mileage, and previous usage. A well-maintained older Pathfinder with reasonable mileage can still be a reliable choice for years to come.

Life Expectancy: A well-maintained older Pathfinder can be expected to last in the 200,000 mile range, which is a little above average, some much further. The key, however, is "well-maintained", and these are the ones buyers need to identify.

Many owners have reported very favorable long-term experiences with their Pathfinders in terms of reliability, but others have experienced some issues (see the mechanical problem lists below).

Fourth Generation (2013 - 2020) Nissan Pathfinder Overview

2013 Nissan Pathfinder

This Pathfinder generation marked a significant shift from its predecessors. Transitioning from a rugged, body-on-frame SUV to a more car-like unibody construction, the fourth-gen Pathfinder aimed to capture its place in the growing crossover market, and did so very well.

Design and Styling

This Pathfinder departed from its traditional boxy and perhaps more rugged looking design, adopting a sleeker, more aerodynamic profile. Its modern aesthetic featured a V-motion grille, contoured body lines, and a refined look that appealed to suburban families rather than off-road enthusiasts.

Interior and Comfort

Inside, the Pathfinder offered a spacious and comfortable cabin, capable of seating up to seven passengers across three rows. High-quality materials and thoughtful ergonomics created a pleasant environment. The second-row seats featured Nissan's EZ Flex seating system, allowing for easy access to the third row. Additionally, the available tri-zone automatic climate control and optional leather upholstery enhanced the comfort level.

Technology and Features

The fourth-gen Pathfinder was equipped with a range of modern tech features. Standard and available options included:

Infotainment System: A user-friendly 8-inch touchscreen with NissanConnect, offering navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, and smartphone integration through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (introduced later in the generation).

Safety: A suite of safety features such as rearview camera, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking.

Convenience: Features like a panoramic moonroof, remote start, and a power liftgate added to the overall convenience and appeal.

Performance and Handling

Under the hood, this Pathfinder was powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine producing 260 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque, paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). This combination provided adequate power for daily driving and highway cruising. The unibody construction improved ride quality, making the Pathfinder feel more like a car than a traditional SUV. It offers a smooth, composed ride with responsive steering.

Fuel Efficiency

The shift to a unibody construction also paid dividends in terms of fuel efficiency. The Pathfinder achieved respectable fuel economy ratings, with front-wheel-drive models offering up to 20 mpg city and 27 mpg highway. All-wheel-drive variants have slightly lower ratings but are still competitive within the segment.

Towing and Off-Road Capability

While the fourth-gen Pathfinder is more crossover than off-roader, it still retained some of its adventurous spirit. It boasts a towing capacity of up to 6,000 pounds when properly equipped, making it suitable for light towing tasks such as small trailers or boats. However, its off-road capabilities were limited compared to earlier generations, with the focus shifting more towards comfort and on-road performance.


The fourth generation Pathfinder successfully transformed into a family-friendly crossover without completely abandoning its adventurous roots. It offers a blend of modern design, comfort, and technology, making it a strong contender in the midsize SUV market.

Fourth Generation Nissan Pathfinder Possible Mechanical Problems

This Nissan Pathfinder has generally been well-received, but like any vehicle, it has experienced some mechanical issues that prospective buyers should be aware of so they can be checked before buying on today.

Transmission Problems: The continuously variable transmission (CVT) has been a more frequent source of complaints. Issues include shuddering, jerking, delayed acceleration, and, in some cases, complete transmission failure.

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Radiator and Transmission Cooler: Some Pathfinders experienced issues where the transmission cooler integrated into the radiator would fail, causing coolant to mix with the transmission fluid. This contamination could lead to transmission failure and costly repairs.

Timing Chain Wear: Premature timing chain wear and failure have been reported by some owners, particularly in early models. A worn timing chain can lead to engine performance issues and, if not addressed, potential engine damage.

Brake Issues: Some owners have reported problems with the brakes, including premature wear of brake pads and rotors, as well as issues with the brake master cylinder, leading to a spongy brake pedal feel.

Air Conditioning System: Issues with the air conditioning system have been reported, including problems with the compressor, leaks in the system, and inconsistent cooling performance.

Electrical Problems: Various electrical issues have been noted, such as problems with the vehicle's infotainment system, faulty sensors, and issues with the keyless entry and ignition systems.

Power Steering: Some owners experienced problems with the power steering system, including leaks in the power steering fluid lines and issues with the power steering pump.

Fuel System Issues: Problems with the fuel system, such as faulty fuel pumps, have been reported. This can lead to stalling or difficulty starting the vehicle.

Sunroof Leaks: There have been some reports of water leaks from the sunroof, which can cause water damage to the interior and electrical components.

Third Generation (2005 - 2012) Nissan Pathfinder Overview

Nissan Pathfinder SE (2009)

This Pathfinder is a robust midsize SUV that offers a blend of rugged capability and family-friendly versatility. With its body-on-frame construction, powerful engine options, and spacious interior, this generation has built a reputation for solid build quality and off-road prowess.

This version enlarged the vehicle at the time and added a third row. All-disc antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist also became standard.


While this Pathfinder returned to its truck-like design (borrowed from from the full-size Titan pickup and Armada SUV) of its first generation, it also adopted an independent rear suspension.

Compared to the earlier, second-generation (1996 - 2004), this version was 6.3 inches longer in wheelbase, 4.9 inches longer in overall length, 3.1 inches wider and about 450 pounds heavier. Nissan also built in up to 9.1 inches of ground clearance.

Engines And Performance

The V6 engine remained standard, but horsepower was raised to 270, an increase of 30. A 5-speed automatic was the only available transmission. All came with either rear-wheel drive or 4WD that included low-range gearing.

The Pathfinder’s body-on-frame design, along with available four-wheel drive, makes it highly capable off-road. And with the V8 engine, the Pathfinder can tow up to 7,000 pounds, which is excellent for its class. However, while capable off-road, this Pathfinder’s ride on paved roads can be stiff and less refined than unibody SUVs.

Older Pathfinder shoppers should also note that the optional 5.6-liter V8 engine, added in 2008, can be found only on the SE and LE models, and when so equipped, also come with 18-inch alloy wheels. In addition, the SE Off-Road 4x4 trim level was discontinued after the 2009 model year.

For those seeking to tame some of nature's wilder spots, standard Rancho-brand shock absorbers, skid plates, and unique upholstery, plus Nissan's Hill Descent Control and Hill Start Assist systems are unique features of the SE Off-Road.

Fuel Efficiency

The robust engines and body-on-frame design result in lower fuel efficiency compared to modern crossovers. Expect around 14-16 mpg in the city and 18-20 mpg on the highway.

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Interior and Comfort

This Pathfinder offers seating for up to seven passengers with its three-row configuration. The second and third rows are relatively spacious, providing decent comfort for long trips. The seats fold flat, offering a generous cargo area that can accommodate large items.

While functional, the interior design feels dated compared to newer models. The materials, while durable, may not match the refinement seen in more modern SUVs.

Technology and Features

Available models included the Pathfinder XE, SE, SE Off-Road, and luxury-oriented LE. This Pathfinder lacks many of the advanced infotainment and safety features found in contemporary vehicles. Basic amenities like a CD player, basic navigation, and limited connectivity options may not satisfy tech-savvy buyers.

While there were some minor variations depending on the model year, standard features on the Pathfinder generally include full power accessories, air-conditioning, cruise contol, 16-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry and a CD stereo, while the SE tacks on a power driver seat, dual-zone climate control, 17-inch alloys, a roof rack, a 7-inch display screen, a back-up camera, and a CD/MP3 player with an auxiliary input jack.

Models can also be found with optional packages such as the SE Premium Package which includes a moonroof, a Bose audio system, automatic headlights and a HomeLink transceiver. The SE Leather Package includes leather upholstery and heated power seats, while the HDD Navigation Package for the LE adds navigation, a 9.3GB "Music Server", Bluetooth, a rear entertainment system, and keyless start.

Opting for an SE Off-Road adds special shocks, skid plates, Hill Descent Control, Hill Start Assist, a moonroof, and a Bose audio system, while leather upholstery is standard on the top-of-the-line LE and available as an option on the SE Off-Road. The LE also adds a front power passenger seat, mirror and pedal memory functions, and wood-toned interior trim accents.

Other than a revised interior and slight styling changes, both also added in 2008, this Pathfinder was largely unchanged during this time.


The third generation Nissan Pathfinder has been a fairly reliable, capable, and versatile SUV that excels in off-road performance and towing capacity. It can be a solid choice for those who need a rugged vehicle for adventure or utility purposes. However, potential buyers should be aware of its lower fuel efficiency, stiffer ride, and potential age-related maintenance issues.

Third Generation Nissan Pathfinder Possible Mechanical Problems

This generation has also been generally reliable but has had some common mechanical issues reported by owners over the years. Here are some of the issues that prospective buyers should be aware of and check for prior to purchase:

Radiator/Transmission Cooler Failure: One of the most significant issues with the third-gen Pathfinder has involved the radiator and transmission cooler assembly. The radiator's internal transmission cooler would fail, causing coolant to mix with transmission fluid. This contamination could lead to transmission failure if not addressed promptly. Nissan issued a warranty extension to address this issue for affected vehicles.

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Timing Chain Tensioner and Guides: Early models of the third generation (particularly those with the V6 engine) experienced premature wear of the timing chain tensioner and guides. This could lead to a rattling noise from the engine, indicating potential timing chain issues that may require replacement to avoid engine damage.

Transmission Issues: While not as prevalent as in later generations, some models experienced transmission problems such as rough shifting, hesitation, or slipping. Regular transmission fluid changes and proper maintenance can help mitigate these issues.

Steering Shaft Universal Joint: There were reports of steering issues caused by a worn universal joint in the steering shaft. This could lead to a clunking noise or looseness in the steering wheel.

Power Steering Leaks: Some owners reported power steering fluid leaks due to deteriorated seals or hoses. This could lead to reduced power steering assistance or potential damage to the power steering pump.

Fuel Gauge Accuracy: In some models, particularly earlier years, there were reports of inaccurate fuel gauge readings. This issue could lead to incorrect fuel level indications, potentially causing inconvenience or running out of fuel unexpectedly.

Air Conditioning Compressor Failures: There were instances where the air conditioning compressor failed prematurely, leading to reduced cooling or complete failure of the air conditioning system. This typically necessitates replacement of the compressor unit.

Electrical Issues: Some owners reported various electrical problems, such as malfunctioning power windows, door locks, or dashboard instrument cluster issues. These could stem from wiring harness problems or faulty electronic components.

Pros And Cons of Buying an Older Nissan Pathfinder Today

2006 Nissan Pathfinder SE Off-Road

Nissan Pathfinder Pros:

Affordability: Older Pathfinders are generally more affordable compared to newer vehicles in the current high-priced used car market, making for significant upfront savings.

Depreciation: The depreciation curve has likely flattened out for older Pathfinders, meaning a buyer won't experience as much value loss as with a newer vehicle.

Proven Engines: The engines in older Pathfinders have proven to be generally reliable and have a reputation for longevity with proper maintenance.

Off-Road Capability: If using for off-road adventures or towing, the older Pathfinder's design and capabilities are more suitable than newer crossover models, which prioritize on-road comfort.

Availability of Parts and Service: Parts and servicing for older Pathfinders are generally more accessible and affordable compared to newer, more complex models with advanced technology.

Spacious Interior: The Pathfinder offers a roomy cabin with seating for up to seven passengers. The second-row seats slide and recline for added comfort and easy access to the third row.

Comfortable Ride: The unibody construction of the fourth generation provides a smooth and comfortable ride, making it a good option for long trips and daily commuting.

User-Friendly Technology: Features like the 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, NissanConnect, and available Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (introduced later in the 4th-gen) enhance the driving experience with easy-to-use tech.

Good Fuel Economy: For a midsize SUV, the fourth generation Pathfinder offers competitive fuel economy, especially in front-wheel-drive models, making it a cost-effective choice for families.

Towing Capacity: With a maximum towing capacity of 6,000 pounds in the 4th-gen and 7,000 in the 3rd, when properly equipped, this ability adds to its versatility.

Nissan Pathfinder Cons:

Higher Maintenance Costs: Older vehicles typically require more frequent maintenance and repairs, especially with components like the transmission, suspension, and aging electrical systems, potentially offsetting some or all of the upfront savings.

Fuel Efficiency: Older Pathfinders may have poorer fuel efficiency compared to newer models or crossover SUVs due to their larger engines and body-on-frame construction of the third generation.

Technological Limitations: Older Pathfinders often lack modern convenience and safety features found in newer vehicles, such as advanced infotainment systems, driver-assistance technologies, and improved fuel efficiency.

Ride Comfort: While robust, the ride quality of older Pathfinders may be stiffer and less refined compared to newer crossover SUVs.

Safety Features: Safety standards and features have evolved over time. Older Pathfinders may not offer the same level of crash protection or active safety features found in newer vehicles.

Limited Off-Road Capability: The transition to a unibody construction and a focus on on-road comfort means the Pathfinder is less capable off-road compared to its earlier, more rugged versions.

CVT Performance: The continuously variable transmission (CVT) can feel less engaging and responsive compared to traditional automatic transmissions, and some drivers might find it lacks the sporty feel.

Interior Quality: While generally good, the interior materials in lower trims may not feel as premium as those in some competitors, and there can be some hard plastics in the cabin.

Third-Row Space: The third-row seats are best suited for children or smaller adults. Taller passengers may find the space cramped for longer journeys.

Infotainment System: With those so equipped, and although user-friendly, the infotainment system could feel outdated compared to newer systems, particularly in early models before updates were introduced.

Handling and Maneuverability: The Pathfinder’s larger size and heavier frame can make it feel less nimble and harder to maneuver in tight spaces, such as urban environments and parking lots.

Things To Do When Considering An Older Pathfinder

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 usually best to move on.

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

And My #1 Price Tip: It's important to get dealers to compete for your business by using auto sites such as and (both, actually), whether looking for a new or used car. Competition among dealers for your business is what gets you a lower price, and it's very easy.

And quickly, while we're at it, my #2 Tip is to always know the up-to-date trade-in value of your current car to insure you get a fair price. You can get a quick and surprisingly accurate one at Edmund's Trade-In Quotes.

It's free and just takes a couple of minutes. I think what helps its accuracy is the inputs will include either your plate# or VIN# followed by many simple, but specific, yes/no questions. It really focuses in on the detail of the specific vehicle.

Lastly, Suggestions For Getting A Low Pathfinder 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 Pathfinder 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.

And checkout our Facebook page for more tips, car news, and fun.

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