Buying a used 2nd Generation (2005-2015) Nissan Xterra

After owning my Xterra for 9 glorious years I would like to share my experience.

Why would you want a used Xterra?

The Xterra is reliable. After 9 years, 100,000 miles there was no major issues with my Xterra and it has never left me on the side of the road.  The engines and transmission did have some minor issues but once solved they can last a long time (will talk more about this later). Some owners of the Xterra has driven them to 320,000 miles. The Xterra only comes with one engine and that’s a V6 4.0 Liter providing 261 horsepower. Plenty of aftermarket vendors so parts are cheap. Also when fixing/replacing car parts, it was relatively easy and straightforward. I know some companies like to surprise owners by putting a starter under the intake manifold, but don’t worry the Xterra has nothing surprising like that. There is plenty of cargo space. If the trunk is not big enough, you can even put down the back row seats and it’ll lay flat with the trunk.  I’ve stored ladders, jack hammers, air compressors, tool boxes, and nail guns all in one trip without any issues. Lastly, buying a used Xterra can be found for really cheap on craigslist.

Why don’t you want a used Xterra?

With a big V6 4.0 liter and weighing 4,000 pounds it is not merciful on the MPG. The advertised MPG is 16 city and 22 highway but with upgraded off road tires I get around 14 mpg city and maybe 18 highway. The Xterra is far from luxury so don’t expect creature comforts. The steering wheel handling is not the smoothest nor lightest, I found it a little heavy and stiff compared to other SUV and trucks. The interior cabin is not the most quietest. Lots of noise does leak through from the outside due to no noise dampening material and since the interior is mostly plastic, it does create some rattle noises. I would like to point out two major things you should look out for:

  1. The engine and transmission before 2009  are reliable but it did come with a few issues. The engines before 2009 came with faulty timing chain plastic tensioner guides that wore out too quickly and would rub against metal. Luckily I had this replaced before the powertrain warranty expired. How can you tell if the timing chain tensioner is having issues? It’ll make a high pitch sound, almost similar to a car with turbo. When I first experienced this, I thought it was actually pretty cool at how it sounded, but I knew it would eventually get louder when more plastic from the tensioner wore away.
  2. The non-synthetic transmission fluid that came with the Nissan Xterra  can be corrosive to the radiator. It’ll eat through the bottom pipe of the radiator and it’ll mix with the radiator fluid. So now your transmission fluid with lubricating properties is not so much lubricating. This mixture will flows through your transmission and create problems unless its flushed as soon as possible. They call this “strawberry milkshake of death,” because it looks like a pinkish foamy milkshake. Luckily, I heard about this issue through forums so I performed a transmission fluid bypass and installed an additional transmission cooler to provide additional cooling.

When you shop for a used Xterra make sure the engine whine and transmission fluid contamination is on the top of your check list.

What’s the first thing you want to do once you buy an Xterra?

Performing a transmission bypass would be my first priority since it’s like a ticking time bomb and then replacing all the fluids just in case the previous owner neglected to do so.

What have I replaced on my Xterra during my ownership?

After 9 years I’ll list parts that have been replaced

  • Installed new Raybestos brake and rotors due to squeaking
  • Replaced rear hatch strut due to it not being able to hold up the hood.
  • Had the timing chain and tensioners replaced under warranty at 48,000 miles
  • Replaced serpentine belt during routine maintenance
  • Fixed crack in windshield reservoir with epoxy
  • Replaced all 4 tire pressure monitoring sensors.
  • Suspensions were replaced during routine maintenance
  • Replaced sway bar bushing due to a popping noise when turning
  • Replaced clock spring when airbags light came on
  • Replaced rubber hood bumpers when the hood started to chirp/squeak

5 thoughts on “Buying a used 2nd Generation (2005-2015) Nissan Xterra”

  1. Professional report, pertinent information impressive overall. Thank you midnightime, I’m looking for used real 4×4 (awd units are overrated, imvho) for coming snow season and this writeup was very useful.

  2. Professional report, pertinent information impressive overall. Thank you midnightime, I’m looking for used real 4×4 (awd units are overrated, imvho) for coming snow season and this writeup was very useful.

  3. Thank you— this is really helpful and comprehensive. Hopefully these remain a hidden gem since I’d like to get good deal on a used one.

    • I’m actually really surprised they don’t hold their value since they can be really reliable after a few fixes. I guess the low MPG doesn’t help the value at all. I’m upset my xterra cost less than $5,000 but that’s good news for you.


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