A used Nissan Xterra is still a capable SUV, but there are several Nissan Xterra years to avoid across its two generations that we want to point out. In fact, most of the model years are pretty solid, but there are some issues that took some time for Nissan to sort out within each generation.
So, let’s detail which Nissan Xterra years to avoid, what the main issues are, and which years you should target if you are looking to buy a used Xterra anytime soon.
Nissan Xterra – Overview
First, we want to break down the two generations that the Xterra was in production for. This rugged SUV was made starting from model year 2000 all the way to model year 2015, when it was killed off due to lagging sales.
The first generation is codenamed WD22 and was produced from model year 2000 to model year 2004. We remember when it was launched in 1999 with commercials featuring Lenny Kravitz’s “Fly Away.” It was marketed as a cool and capable off-road SUV for adventurers.
It received a mid-cycle refresh for model year 2002, which included more distinct, rounded headlights, some interior modifications, and a power bump of 10 horsepower for the V6 engine to take it from 170 to 180 horsepower. Output for the four cylinder engine remained steady at 143 horsepower throughout the whole first generation.
The second generation Xterra was produced from model year 2005 to model year 2015. It’s internal codename was N50. It was larger and more powerful than the first generation, with one engine choice, a V6 that made 261 horsepower.
It received a mid-generation refresh for the 2009 model year that featured a handful of aesthetic changes along with the elimination of some significant mechanical issues. It got another refresh in 2011 that added a wide range of technology updates, such as standard Bluetooth and easier smartphone integration.
1st Generation Nissan Xterra Years to Avoid
Honestly, the first generation Xterra was a solidly built SUV and there aren’t many years to avoid here. It is a much simpler car than the second-gen, and as a result, does not suffer from many major problems.
Of course, it is now a 20+ year old car, so it may be a bit more difficult to find a pristine offer on the market, so you should still look out for normal wear and tear issues.
If we had to choose, we would say that the first generation Nissan Xterra years to avoid are the model year 2000 Xterra as that was the first year of production and it is likely that many small manufacturing improvements were made behind the scenes afterwards. It is also the oldest model, so it’s probably harder to find a good, clean version at this point.
2nd Generation Nissan Xterra Years to Avoid
There have been a lot more issues that have been reported on the second generation Xterra. We can sum them up into 3 major problems to look out for:
- “Strawberry Milkshake Of Death” (SMOD): Cracks in the radiator allow the coolant and transmission fluid to mix, which makes the transmission fluid look like a strawberry milkshake. It usually happens after about 100,000 miles and up and usually affects model years 2005 to 2008.
- Timing Chain Issues: A large number of model year 2005 to 2009 Xterras suffered from problems that caused their timing chain guide to wear prematurely.
- Failing Fuel Sending Unit (FSU): Xterras from model year 2006 to 2008 suffered from faulty fuel sending units, which Nissan officially issued a recall to fix. However, it is not known if every 2006 to 2008 Xterra owner brought their car back to get this problem fixed.
Looking at these major issues, we would say that the second generation Nissan Xterra years to avoid are model years 2005 to 2008 (basically all the years before the second-gen mid-cycle refresh).
Nissan eventually fixed these issues when it rolled out a refresh for model year 2009 Xterra. Therefore, 2009 to 2015 Xterras should not have as many problems as the 2005 to 2008 versions.
If you also look on CarComplaints.com, which compiles owner-submitted feedback on all the real-world problems that they have encountered, you can see that the 2005 to 2007 models have significantly more complaints than any other years.
So, if you want some peace of mind and don’t want to worry if the previous owner solved all of these issues, then we would recommend sticking to a 2009 and up Xterra.
Also, for those looking for the most modern Xterra possible, you should focus your search on model years 2013 and up, which is when Nissan finally added an LCD display to the dash.
Summary – Nissan Xterra Years to Avoid
If it was our money, we would want to avoid the following Xterras:
- 2000 Xterra
- 2005 Xterra
- 2006 Xterra
- 2007 Xterra
- 2008 Xterra
But, that is not to say that you cannot find a solid Xterra that was built in those years. It is possible that the previous owner made the repairs on the issues we mentioned above. Additionally, these issues may not be that costly to repair, especially if you are handy with the wrench and can follow some how-to guides off the internet.
It may be worthwhile to find a Xterra for a few thousand dollars and fix it up.