Is Nissan Sentra a Good Car?
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Is Nissan Sentra a Good Car?
There is a lot to consider when you’re ready to purchase a new or a used Nissan Sentra, so let’s take a look at the whole story; the good, the bad and the ugly.
The Sentra name was created from a combination of the words central and sentry. Nissan had hoped that this concocted new word, “sentra,” would conjure up visions of being “central to safety”…probably because the Nissan Sentra began as a very small, sub-compact car. Unlike cars of today, automotive safety ratings were not available to help consumers be better informed; this rating system was not introduced until 1993. And, just in case you’re wondering, the 2021 Nissan Sentra has a safety rating of 5 out of a possible 5 stars!
Going forward, the Nissan Sentra has had a long, tangled history. Even the car’s classification has changed over the years. From its debut in 1982, it was classified as a sub-compact car. But in 2000, it was reclassified into the compact car category. If that wasn’t confusing enough, in 2007 the EPA rated it in the mid-size vehicle category due to its interior volume. It appears that the Nissan Sentra has experienced a bit of an identity problem. Once considered to be the entry-level car for Nissan, even that has changed. The Versa now has the title of Nissan’s lower-end model.
But the Sentra endured and the eighth generation of Sentra began with the LA Auto Show in 2019. Offering three trim levels: the S, the SV and the SR.
Other cars in the same category as the Nissan Sentra include the Hyundai Elantra, the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Volkswagen Jetta and the Mazda3. These compact sedans and hatchbacks all have this in common; they all seem to be getting bigger and offering more sportiness and style than the budget-friendly models of the past.
Are Nissan Sentras Reliable?
The Nissan Sentra scores well above average in reliability. It received a 4.0 out of 5 possible points; ranking it 14th out of a field of 36 compact cars.
Is The Nissan Sentra Good on Gas?
Regardless of how long this car has been in the car-buying public’s eye and how sporty it now looks, the Sentra is a “must see” option if only because of its outstanding fuel economy.
At the time of its release, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) said that the Nissan Sentra had the highest rated MPG for gasoline powered cars sold at the time. The Sentra boasted 43 miles per gallon in the city and a whopping 58 miles per gallon on the highway. The Nissan Sentra was “a lightweight” at only 1875 pounds, which is probably why fuel economy was so outstanding. The Sentra has now grown up and although miles per gallon have dropped a bit since then, the 2022 model still comes in at an impressive 36 city, 33 highway.
Are Nissan Sentras Good in Snow?
Like most front wheel drive vehicles, response to harsh weather driving conditions is dictated by more than the automobile make and model. When you ask, “Are Nissan Sentras good in the snow?” the answer is “yes,” – as long as you have good all season or snow tires installed. In areas where “serious” snow falls – it is best to have all wheel drive or even better, a four wheel drive vehicle.
Are Nissan Sentras Good Used Cars?
A Nissan Sentra can last for between 250,000 and 300,000 miles. Or look at it this way – if the average driver puts 15,000 miles on their car per year – that makes it viable to look at purchasing a used Sentra model from 15+ years ago! Since the Nissan Sentra has been around since the early 1980s, there are plenty of used Sentras to choose from. But you need to know this as well, the Sentra appears to be one of the vehicles least affected by depreciation. So you may pay more for a used Sentra. As always, when you’re considering a late model used vehicle, it is probably wise to look at third party warranties like those offered by olive.com® to make sure you’re covered against unforeseen repairs.
What Are Some Common Nissan Sentra Problems?
All vehicles – new or old – have their problems and the Nissan Sentra has been around long enough to have seen quite a few!
RepairPal.com lists the most 10 common problems and car owner complaints for the Nissan Sentra:
Crankshaft and camshaft sensor recall
Nissan fuel pump recall
Failed Mass air flow sensor
Loss of power due to throttle body failure
Failed catalytic converter
Fuel regulator issues
Noisy timing chain
Rough idling and hesitation due to faulty EGR valve
Lose screws causing internal damage when they dislodge
Nissan Sentra Transmission Problems
In Sentra models 2012 – 2016, issues with the Nissan’s Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) have been reported. Reports indicated that automobiles experiencing this problem would shake, shutter and stall during sudden acceleration. There were also reports of complete loss of power.
Each of these model years have similar CVTs that may suffer from the infamous “CVT belt slip condition,” as found on the ClassLawGroup.com website. This condition is described as a failure of the chain drive to transfer power through the transmission to accelerate the vehicle. Lawsuits have been filed by some Nissan Sentra owners experiencing this potentially dangerous problem.
2011 Nissan Sentra CVT Problems
Because of ongoing transmission issues, Nissan extended the warranty for 2006-2010 model years. The Nissan Motor Corporation went on to say that the issues with their CVT transmissions were fixed in model year 2011. But that was obviously not the case (you just read that 2012 through 2016 models also experienced issues.)
2011 Sentra with CVT transmissions experienced overheating that caused the car to go into “limp” mode. This mode, while designed to save the vehicle’s internal components, is extremely dangerous while driving, especially at high speed and/or on the highway. Limp mode makes it impossible to achieve the power needed to accelerate to avoid collisions and merge into traffic.
2012 Nissan Sentra Torque Converter Problems
Cars with automatic transmissions use a torque converter to generate power to the wheels. It allows the engine to spin independent of the transmission. As an example of this, let’s say you are in a complete stop. You can step on the accelerator and rev the engine if you apply enough pressure on the brake to keep the car from moving.
A bad torque converter can damage a car’s transmission. A failing torque converter can cause loss of acceleration, gear slippage, hard or no shifting, overheating and transmission fluid contamination and/or leaks. Many of the torque converter issues associated with the 2012 Nissan Sentra were also reported in the same model years as CVT problems; 2012 through 2016. Although there were many complaints about these issues, a recall was never instigated by the Nissan Motor Corporation.
2017 Nissan Sentra SR Turbo Problems
The Nissan Sentra SR (Sports Rally) turbo was new for the 2017 model year but critics like US News were not overly impressed. Although this trim level did raise the engine power on the Sentra from the ho-hum to just…well…just above the ho hum level, they still said that the turbo engine was “weak” until you got into higher RPMs. (The turbo used in the Sentra came from the Juke…that should tell you enough right there.)
Edmunds.com has logged complaints like “This car is nothing but problems,” “Dealership keeps replacing random parts waiting for the warranty to run out but not fixing the problem” and “Keeps losing power.” But the more telling review simply states “DON’T DO IT!”
Nissan Sentra Blue Tooth Problems
When searching online, it is apparent that there have been connectivity issues with the Nissan Sentra Bluetooth units. There are many articles on how to reset the Sentra’s Bluetooth system, as well as pairing suggestions for phones that won’t connect.
Like most technologies, Bluetooth is great…when it works! Here are some helpful tips provided by Nissan for owners that have experienced connectivity problems with their phones:
The most common culprit in Bluetooth phone pairing problems is the existence of other devices. Be sure to disconnect old phones before you try to connect a new phone.
Place your phone close to the system Bluetooth system. This isn’t something you can do remotely.
Make sure your devise has a full battery. Low power levels can cause problems with phone pairing.
Remove any coins, pens or metal objects that may be close to your Bluetooth device.
2016 Nissan Sentra Mass Air Flow Sensor Problems
Symptoms of a faulty mass flow air sensor include a car that’s hard to start and won’t turn over, or the engine does start but stalls shortly after. A vehicle with mass air flow sensor problems may hesitate when operated under load. The engine may also seem to “hiccup.” You may experience jerking during acceleration. The mass airflow sensor is one of the most important engine management sensors on your Nissan Sentra, so if it’s faulty or failing, you’ll most definitely experience drivability issues.
The good news is that often the sensor really only needs to be cleaned.
The bad new is that in the Nissan Sentra, this problem is widespread and usually more difficult to fix than just a good cleaning. RepairPal.com reports that there are 19 model years affected with this sensor problem beginning in 1991 and ending with the model year 2016. The problem appeared to happen at all mileages – but the average mileage where this issue occurred was around 89,000 miles.
Nissan Sentra 2018 Brake Switch Problems
The Nissan Corporation recalled over 800,000 Sentra sedans for a malfunction in the brake light system. In a document filed by Nissan, it says that the brake light switch may have become contaminated with a silicon-based grease that was used on other internal car components. When contaminated, oxidation often occurred and a build up may instigate circuit issues. In other words, the brake lights won’t go on.
Nissan went on to say that this was an isolated problem in only the Sentra model and only in years 2016 through 2019.
Nissan Sentra Sunroof Problems
First, do a little diagnostic investigation yourself; you need to listen to see if the motor is attempting to open or close the sunroof. No noise – It’s probably a fuse or a bad switch. But know that a completely dead motor could also be a cause. A dead sunroof motor in a Nissan Sentra is rare, but not cheap to fix, if that turns out to be the culprit.
You can also check and see if the roof opens but doesn’t close – or vise versa – this could be a sign of a faulty guide.
And speaking about sunroofs: there were two class action lawsuits filed against the Nissan Corporation for exploding panoramic sunroofs. In the suit, plaintiffs were attempting to get Nissan to reimburse for repairs. They claimed that Nissan was not willing to reimburse owners for this problem, even when the car was still covered under the manufacturer’s warranty.
Nissan Sentra AC Problems
While most cars with air conditioning problems have complaints about the unit not cooling the car’s cabin or even blowing warm air, the Nissan Sentra also has the problems of “weak airflow.” This issue could be a compromised seal, mildew or mold buildup or a ventilation fan or hose that is damaged or needs to be replaced.
Nissan Sentra Acceleration Problem
When a vehicle loses power during accelerating or going up hill, it may be a sign of a weak fuel pump or clogged fuel filter. This problem could be dangerous if your car hesitates when you need power, like when you need to merge into traffic. As discussed, acceleration issues can be caused by a number of reasons including the transmission, the EGR valve, a failing mass air flow sensor, a faulty throttle body, etc. All of these are issues that the Nissan Sentra has experienced and owners have reported to consumer advocate entities like CarComplaints.com. It may be best to seek the help of an automotive professional if you’re experiencing acceleration problems so that you can narrow down the cause of the issue.
2012 Nissan Sentra Transmission Control Problems
A Transmission Control Module (TCM) takes data received from the car’s transmission and sends important messages to other components in your vehicle. Simply put, without the TCM the transmission is not able to shift gears effectively.
TCM problems may manifest as trouble shifting into a higher gear, trouble downshifting, getting stuck in a gear and unpredictable shifting. Initially, you may find that it takes a longer time than usual for your Nissan Sentra to pick up speed if the TCM is starting to have issues.
Sometimes when a Nissan Sentra experiences a transmission control module problem it’s due to software that needs updating.
2013 Nissan Sentra Shifting Problems
For the model year 2013, The Nissan Corporation had to recall some Sentras for transmission issues that caused shifting problems. There was also a service bulletin issued for this problem (sb-10051662-4475).
2015 Nissan Sentra Radio Problems
The most common reason that this complaint was registered was that the radio screen was “frozen”. Normally these types of issues are fixed once the manufacturer is aware of the issue. This fix is usually done via a software update. But the issue may also be caused by something as minor as a blown fuse. In any case, try rebooting your system before calling for a repair appointment. If the screen is still dead, it may need to be replaced.
Nissan Sentra Gas Tank Problem
Gas tank and fuel gauge problems go hand in hand. Below you will see more information on what could be the potential causes of a gas tank issue on a Nissan Sentra.
Nissan did recall a number of Sentras for a fuel pump issue. 21 model years were affected, dating back to 1991 models. The average mileage that this failure occurred was between 5,896 miles driven and as high as 262,000 miles. The cost for replacement on a Sentra fuel pump runs between $600-$700 in most locations.
A fuel tank leak may also be the reason for gas tank problems. A leak in your Nissan Sentra could result in difficulty when trying to start the engine, your car may idle rough, and depending on the leaks size, you may experience reduced miles per gallon. RepairPal.com states, “When a fuel tank is simply corroded to the point of failure, the exterior tank condition rarely shows damage. The inside of the fuel tank will be rusted or corroded, and rust flakes or other debris may be floating in the fuel.”
Anytime there is a failure in the EVAP (Evaporative Emission Control) system your “check engine light” should illuminate. On-board diagnostic codes are stored in your vehicle’s computer system when this light goes on an automotive service center can read those codes and make sure that the problem is actually a fuel storage issue.
Nissan Sentra Fuel Gauge Problems
An inaccurate fuel level reading is usually caused by a bad gauge, blown fuse or corroded wiring. In many Sentra models, it has been a bit of a gamble knowing whether you’ll run out of fuel due to a fuel gauge issue.
Some Nissan Sentras have an electrical problem in the fuel tank sender unit that have been noted to cause “wildly” inaccurate gas readings to be displayed. This sender unit contains a float that is mounted to a resistor. Based on the level of the float, the resistor sends a corresponding current to your dash gauge…or it should anyway!
In other words it goes like this: the gas level drops in your tank – the float sinks – the resistance increases – the resistor sends less current to your dash gauge and your dash gauge drops.
Online forums talk about everything from Nissan Sentra’s gas gauge being completely inaccurate to different fill levels registering in different weather conditions. You should also know that a simple reset may fix your Sentra’s fuel gauge issue but if it doesn’t, it’s an expensive repair that has caused Sentras to be recalled in the past.
You can find various instructions on how to reset your Sentra’s fuel gauge online.
Nissan Sentra Motor Mount Problems
Motor mounts are designed to absorb vibrations from the engine. Sentra owners have reported unusual noises coming from their car’s engine compartment and have experienced excessive vibration. Model year 2018 experienced more than its fair share of the complaints about this issue.
These mounts are also responsible for holding the car’s engine in place. If left unresolved, motor mount issues can cause damage to the engine and other internal components.
Nissan Sentra Power Window Problems
When your Sentra’s power windows will not roll up – or down, for that matter – it may be a blown fuse, bad window motor, the switch or a wiring problem.
If your windows have had to struggle to work in the past, chances are it’s the power window motor. A failing window motor is an ongoing, slow process and you should have had signs of this occurring over time.
If your power window is down and having problems going back up, it could be the window guide. But on most Nissan Sentra models, it’s typically the switch or the motor itself causing the problem.
If rear windows aren’t working, first make sure that the “lock out / child” switch has not been switched on.
Nissan Sentra Door Lock Problems
Nissan Sentra owners have experienced door handle and door lock problems. If your lock problems are stemming from a power door lock, the problem could be a blown fuse, a dead door lock switch, or even a malfunctioning lock actuator.
Often the sound that the lock makes will tell you the underlying problem. If it’s a dead power switch or a fuse, there will be no sound emitted. If it’s a failing actuator, you may hear a clicking but the lock itself doesn’t move from the locked position to the unlocked position.
2015 Nissan Sentra Door Handle Problems
Edmunds.com reported that Nissan experienced problems in 2015 with their Rogue, Sentra and Versa models for door handle issues. A recall was issued when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that driver side front and rear doors would not latch completely causing concerns that the doors may open while the car is moving. In certain instances, the door handles were reported to have completely fallen off the vehicle!
Nissan Sentra Electrical Problems
Since the year 1996, Nissan Sentra owners have reported on all types of electrical issues. So many systems are affected by a car’s electrical system, it’s difficult to report on which system (s) this issue is referring to. On Carproblemzoo.com they have had complaints reported on things from ignition modules to sensors, switches and wiring problems under the “electrical” heading. These same reports cover everything from the headlights to the anti-theft system. You can find out more HERE.
Nissan Sentra Alternator Problems
All makes and models of cars, trucks and SUVs can experience alternator issues.
An alternator is basically on your vehicle to charge your battery to start the engine and power things like your windows, locks and stereo and/or infotainment system. When an alternator fails, you should get a warning light. Soon after that illuminates you will usually begin to lose power and the vehicle may stall. At this point, even a jump start will not get you back up and running. Although annoying at best and inconvenient at worst, this is not considered a major problem for most Nissan Sentra owners.
Sometimes these problems are not the alternator at all, the battery terminals just need to be cleaned. Here’s a a video that will show you how to do that and may save you a trip to the repair shop.
Nissan Sentra Throttle Body Problems
A throttle body controls the amount of air that enters the engine. As the throttle body opens, sensors measure the air coming in and the oxygen going out. One of the symptoms of a bad throttle body is a rough idle and poor response when you step on the gas. Unfortunately, those symptoms can also be signs of other problems as well.
If your Sentra feels like it wants to die when you come to a stop, it might be a dirty throttle body. Unfortunately, there’s not much difference between a dirty throttle body and a failing throttle body.
Or, your throttle body may just need to be reset. If you’re a DIY kinda person, you can find a tutorial HERE.
In a Nissan Sentra it is common to see the “check engine” light illuminated if you are having issues with your throttle body. When you see that light come on, head to the repair shop and they will research the trouble codes stored in the car’s computer and can confirm if it’s a throttle body issue.
Nissan Sentra VDC Problem
VDC stands for Vehicle Dynamic Control. This is what oversees the traction control to help detect and prevent slipping and sliding. In Nissan Sentras when there is an issue with the VDC system, a warning light goes on and the VDC automatically turns off. You can still drive your Sentra, but should be extremely careful if you are in poor driving conditions like heavy rain, ice or snow.
You should check your brake fluid level if this problem occurs. It just may solve the problems. Otherwise, if that isn’t the case or a top off doesn’t correct the issue, get this checked out by a professional as soon as possible.
How Much is a Nissan Sentra?
There are currently 3 trim models for the Nissan Sentra.
The S trim package has a standard seven inch touch screen infotainment center and Bluetooth capabilities, 16” steel wheels, cloth seats and a four speakers audio system. Power windows, door locks, keyless entry and push button start are also standard in the Nissan Sentra S package.
The SV level adds upgraded cloth seats, Sirius XM satellite radio option, a 6 speaker audio system and an eight-inch touchscreen with NissanConnect services. Remote vehicle start and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration is standard with this trim package.
The Nissan Sentra SR premium trim package offers 18” wheels and a combination of cloth and “leather like” trimmed seating with fashionable orange stitching throughout the cabin. The Bose audio system has eight speakers and dual heated front seats. The sporty exterior has two-tone paint.
In 2021, the Nissan Sentra S sedan had a starting MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price) of $19, 410. The top-of-the-line SR trim package started at $21,750.
What Are Typical Nissan Sentra Maintenance Costs?
The Nissan Sentra has an average annual repair cost of $491. And, the frequency of those repairs is low. Additionally, when repairs are needed to a Nissan Sentra, it is uncommon for them to be major problems. This gives the Sentra a lower than average cost of ownership.
Best Nissan Sentra Year
If you’re basing your “best” choice on reliability, then the 2017 Nissan Sentra should be on your list, according to Motorask.com. Ironically, Consumer Reports lists the 2017 model year as a year to avoid! You can read more and see the entire list of the 108 vehicles that made the “worst” list based on their annual auto survey.
In today’s auto market, where computer chips are needed for car safety, systems and the infotainment centers, used car values have risen greatly. Consumer Reports offers this advise if you’re looking for a “new to you” Nissan Sentra,” Three-year-old models are attractive because most leases are for three years. That means many of these cars have low miles, and because the lessor had to keep the car in good condition, the vehicles are likely to have been maintained properly and have interiors that were treated well.”
What Are The Nissan Sentra Years to Avoid?
Although Nissan Sentra models produced in 2013 through 2017 have logged the most complaints and recalls, the 2014 model was particularly bad. Not only were more problems registered for this model year, but according to CarComplaints.com, the problems that occurred were more expensive to fix. Transmission failures overall were the biggest problems with this Sentra model, and the average cost to repair the issues were in the $4,000 range. Additionally, these began occurring in vehicles with lower mileage.
You need to know that not every Nissan Sentra produced in these model years experienced excessive problems, but you’d be wise to ask questions, look at the vehicle’s repair reports, and request proof of the maintenance that was performed.
2013 was another Nissan Sentra year that you might want to avoid. There was a class action lawsuit filed to help owners pay for the repairs and replacement costs which were necessary due to CVT transmission failures.
Nissan Sentra Summary
The sporty, spirited Nissan Sentra has been around for a long time and is one of the best-built vehicles on the roads today. It has a low cost of ownership and has proven over time that it is a good sedan. New and used models have positive reviews about price, reliability, safety and cost of ownership.
If you have the option, try to avoid models produced in the years 2013 and 2014 due to an excessive amount of transmission problems; or seek out a third party warranty company like olive.com® to make sure that if issues do appear, you’re covered.