Tl;dr - I still really like this truck. Pros are that it was cheap to buy, it has been very reliable and versatile, and is everything I need it to do. Cons are that I don't like the brakes or the 5-speed automatic. And it is still a Nissan.
In a couple weeks, I will have owned my '14 Nissan Frontier for 4 years. It's coming up on the longest time that I've owned a vehicle. Figured I'd use this post to chronicle some of the highlights of the journey I've had with this Nissan product.
Rewinding back to late 2014, I had a leased Mk6 Sportwagen, 2.5L gasser with a stick. And a utility trailer. With snows. It was kinda your typical TCL anti-SUV. However, I was racking up miles since I took a job since leasing the Sportwagen that had me commuting 100 miles/day. While I tried to do the bulk of that in my Miata, I still ended up putting a ton of miles on the Sportwagen. By the time the 2-year anniversary of the lease rolled around (December 2014) the car had amassed 35,000 miles - despite not driving it "all that often." That, and I wasn't in love with driving it in the snow - best FWD car I ever had, but it and the ground clearance were an issue on the unplowed roads I drove when coming home from work in the snow. So I was looking for something 4WD, and with ground clearance. Naturally, I tried out Subaru first, and while the deal was pretty good for a new '15 Forester Premium w/ 6MT ($23K), I investigated the possibility of a truck. That would allow me to not have to hitch up the trailer every time I did a dump run, and allow for me to tow other things, like a car.
Went to CarMax and drove used Frontiers and Tacomas back to back. Preferred the Frontier for its cabin feel - taller windows, higher seat / better driving position. The condition of the used Tacoma we drove (a 2013 w/ only 30k on it) also didn't inspire confidence - lots of wind getting past the seals when we took it on the highway. They also wanted near $30k for that particular example But since I have soft spot for Toyota trucks, I checked out new ones as well. In the end, the interior quality still didn't awe me enough to justify the $32k price tag for the crew cab SR5 4x4 at the local dealer.
So I set my sights on a used Frontier SV, preferably with the Value Pkg, which added a tow package, spray-in bedliner, utility tracks (for tie-downs and such). With prospects few and far between - the Value Pkg had been introduced for the 2013 model year - I discovered a number of places with leftover 2014's, including the Nissan dealer that was 5 minutes from my work. I worked a deal to take home a leftover Crew Cab 4x4 w/ SV Value Package in Metallic Blue with 30 miles on the clock for $26k+TTL. I had some negative equity in the Jetta thanks to the lease, but TBH I was going to be in for that much with mileage fees at the end of the lease, so I just ate it. Hey, just trying to live up to the typical Nissan buyer, seeing as my credit was not in typical range.
Here's from the night I picked up the truck, with the Jetta sitting next to it:
And again that same night, picking up groceries:
And again the next morning at work:
It immediately went to work, racking up the miles as my winter daily, and then trading off as my wife's daily when I took her Mazda3 for my long drive instead. I've taken it on trips all over the Northeast - whether to pick up parts, cars, or just to be a more comfortable alternative to my wife's Mazda.
Speaking of cars, it has dragged home a number of my rides over the years, including:
- 1997 VW Jetta VR6
- 1992 VW GTI
- 2002 WRX
- 1997 M3
- 1991 VW GTI
It also dragged around the M3 and '91 GTI a bunch, after the M3's accident and while we were in the process of moving. It has also dragged a bunch of utility trailers - both my own and rented UHaul 6x12's - when the need for firewood arose (or when I had to sell mine when we were moving), or when I got back together (briefly) with my old FSAE buddies and attempted to bring one of our old cars back to life.
I even loaned it out to a friend of mine who was moving house with a 6-week-old baby - things needed to be a little more on his schedule, so I just let him have it for 6 weeks while they slowly moved from their apartment to their new house.
Also, as a result of my enabling habits (towards one of my car buddies), it also dragged home a $400 B5 Avant, running and driving (off the trailer at least), with a pristine body. Pretty proud of that score, actually - so I was happy to drag it home with the little truck that could.
When I started out, I was doing about 15k/year, but since then other cars came into the fold that allowed me to drive the Frontier less, unless the weather really got sh*tty. And now it serves once again as my daily driver - with a lot shorter commute as we have since moved and I changed jobs from that 100 mile/day commute. It currently has just shy of 51,000 miles on it.
The only 'mods' I've done to it so far is add an electric brake controller (Tekonsha Primus IQ), 35% window tints up front (should have gone 20%), and a tramp stamp on the tailgate.
That last one was not by choice. I was loading my motorcycle onto my utility trailer when it popped off the ball and went forward into the tailgate. Mistakes happen, and I'll probably get the tailgate fixed one day.
This is supposed to be what separates the Nissans from the Toyotas.
But so far, it hasn't proven to break the bank. Average mileage has been a tick under 19 mpg. I do oil changes myself, every 5k miles. It takes 5.5 quarts of 5W-30, so I get whatever synthetic or blend that's available for ~$20 on Amazon, and I bought a bulk pack of Nissan filters at about $8/ea.
So far I've put 1 engine air filter and one cabin filter through it, and replaced the brake pads and rotors at 35k miles - probably a consequence of towing a lot with UHaul trailers and their nose heaviness and surge brakes - one of the main reasons I ended up buying my own car trailer. I replaced the brakes with Hawk LTX pads and Centric rotors, which IIRC cost about $300 total (DIY). I was hoping for better brake performance - the brakes aren't confidence-inspiring even when unloaded - so one of these days I need to flush the fluid through and see if that livens things up.
I did a transmission service at 30k miles, replacing the Nissan fluid with the Rowe equivalent because I could get my hands on it cheaper than Nissan S-matic. It was a bit of a mistake, as I believe it to be one of the causes of my dipping fuel mileage (I used to get 20-21 mpg consistently on highway trips in the summer) and I noticed it takes the transmission longer to come up to temp in the morning. I'll probably do another service at 60k with S-matic. The transmission is one of the things I like least about it because it's only a 5-speed, so the ratio gaps are large; and the aforementioned fluid temp issue which keeps the converter unlocked until the trans comes up to temp, killing my fuel mileage. On the upside, the shifts are smooth and seamless, and it has an external trans cooler from factory - eliminating a big problem with these trucks, which was the strawberry milkshake resulting from the failure of the integrated radiator/trans cooler.
I'm still on the original tires - BFG Radial Long Trails - chalk that up to rotations every 5-10k miles. They could probably go to 60k, but I'll probably replace them before next season.
The only unscheduled repair was this past summer. While I was hauling firewood to the 2 friends I'd sold it to (since we were moving) I lost power steering. Seeing the PS fluid all over the rack, led me to believe I'd blown a seal in the rack. It was also a hot day, and the truck had been working, hauling 2+ cords of firewood on top of a large dump run. Thinking I'd blown the rack, I took it to the local Nissan dealer, and they diagnosed a blown HP hose. That set me back about $700. And that was the only unscheduled repair, and frankly, stuff happens - and kudos to the Nissan dealer for having it back on the road less than 24 hours later.
And that's pretty much it. Here's a shot of it today, hauling firewood from my lower garage to the upper one (where we stack it before use). It continues to be my versatile workhorse, whether living the easy city life commuting to work / school, or hauling all my various pieces of crap everywhere. It's a good truck.