2001 nissan altima, put a used engine or buy a new car?

My Nissan 2001 Altima, with 130K miles, while climbing the grapevine slope near Los Angeles on I-5, over heated.
Actually the radiator top tank blew out, lost lots of coolant which resulted in engine getting overheated. The piston ring collapsed. Now we have to either put in a used engine or buy a new car.

Regarding putting a used engine, how reliable is it? Will we get an egnine that matches this car? The last time I did this to another car that I had, I did not have satisfactory result.

This nissan has been our reliable car, which we had been using for all family purposes. The KBB value is $3500.00 and it has been paid for fully. The other option for us is to buy a new car, which is a stretch on our purse.

What’s the quote for a used engine and a rebuilt engine? It’s hard to say without knowing those numbers.

Is the car in good shape otherwise?

2.4L 4 cyl engine, automatic transmission

I havent heard the quote from my trusted mechanic yet. Let us assume this will cost in the range of $1500-$2000.00 The car is in good shape otherwise. This had been our family car for the past decade.

If you can get the work done for $2000, do it. Where else can you get a car like yours for $2000? Just make sure that the used engine is in good shape. Your mechanic should be able to do that. Ask him how he will make sure the replacement engine will last a few years.

Used is usually more affordable and the better bang for the buck. Rebuilt depends on who is doing it and what day of the week we are in. I have not seen many techs nowadays that know how to rebuilt and this something that more practice helps. Just try to get some sort of a warranty on the used engine.

thanks jtsanders and galant.
I will ask these questions to my mechanic tomorrow.

"This nissan has been our reliable car, . . . "

It blows up at 130,000 miles at age 10 - 11. This begs the question . . . “Which car is your unreliable car ?”

Does this car not have a “low coolant” warning light or a temperature gauge / temperature warning ? A mild overheat should have maybe taken out just a head gasket. Why was the car allowed to continue to operate in an overheat condition to the point of frying the engine ?

The answers to these questions could help answer the question of whether to fix or junk. I’m definitely leaning toward junk. This is not a reliable car by my standards and what’s going to change to keep this whole episode from repeating ?

Please provide more details.


You’re dreaming. It’s not going to be $2,000. It’s going cost more than that to put a good engine in your Altima. You can gamble on a use engine if you want to, but I wouldn’t do it.

A rebuilt engine, with a warranty, is the only option I’d consider, and I doubt you can get that for $2,000.

Please tell us what your trusted mechanic says.

A used engine is always a roll of the dice unless that engine has been checked out and heard to run before it was ever pulled. I would be highly suspect of a 2000 dollars total engine job.

Your current engine should not have failed at 130k miles and it only failed because you were lax in some way. This sounds like one of those chicken or the egg things. Did the blown radiator cause the overheating or was it the other way around?
Either way, a climbing temperature gauge means STOP, do not pass GO, and do not collect 200 dollars.
From your post, this is apparently not the first time this has happened.

Used = pulled out of a junkyard car, with 90,000 miles if you are lucky, and 150,000 miles if you are not lucky. As is, with whatever maintenance and abuse the old owner gave it. Cheaper, but probably no warranty, or only 30 days.

Rebuild = bought from a company that specializes in rebuilding engines. (Most regular mechanics don’t do enough rebuilds to do them well.) More money, but with a longer warranty.

If this was a 200,000 mile car used for delivering pizzas by a kid, I would go for a used engine and make the kid do it as a learning experience. If this is the daily driver for your family and kids, I would do the rebuild, or get a new car, depending on the economics.

thank you everybody for the opinions.

Yes. I didnt simply know that the one have to stop the car if the temperature gauge goes RED. Otherwise it was a well maintained car. And it aches just to junk an otherwise working car.

“Why was the car allowed to continue to operate in an overheat condition to the point of frying the engine ?”

" Yes. I didnt simply know that the one have to stop the car if the temperature gauge goes RED."

Whether you fix this car or get another one it would behoove you to take some time and become familiar with the car’s Owners Manual and the features of the car. If you don’t have an Owners Manual, get one, the exact one for that model-year, make, and model vehicle.

Also, if you don’t already know how to check fluids underhood on a regular basis then this would help possibly extend the lives of your vehicles.

When selecting a car you may want to shop for a car that has more user-friendly warning devices. On our GM cars we have low coolant level and low oil level warnings, in addition to coolant temperature gauges and high temperature warnings and oil pressure gauges and low oil pressure warnings.

Not all cars have all of these features. Once high temperature occurs or low oil pressure is noticed then damage to the engine may have already taken place. The extra monitors and understanding their use could be what you need.


I got some reply from my mechanic.
he has found a used engine for me which is only 65K and is willing to give me a 1 year warranty. The labor and parts total is going to be $2400.00

That sounds very tempting. 65K engine with 1 year warranty.

You have to know what the warranty covers. It should be both labor or parts, otherwise you could be out another $2400 easy trying to pay for one or another. I have used salvage yards for stuff like this in the past with good luck, but seems like the consensus on this board is leading to a different direction.