The Altima was very reliable early on, but as it aged, needed many more costly repairs and fixes. At ten years and less than 100,000, it has cost $600-1500 per year for the last five years to keep it running (not including tires!). My mechanic says there a few fundamental design flaws that show as this car ages that are costly (because they are labor intensive) to fix.
I purchased my Nissan Altima 97 with little over 8000 miles. It currently has 286,437 miles on it. The car has treated me very well even though I didn't take care care of it. It still runs just as good as it did when I bought it. i haven't had to do very much work on it thus far. Just minor repairs and regular tune ups. I have driven it literally all over the country due to being in the army.
I bought my 97 almost 4 years ago for $2800 with 162,000 miles on it. It's up to 215,000 now and is running great. I did have some major repairs the first year but since I switched mechanics I haven't had any problems. Definitely worth the money.
I have had this car for 9 years. I have had transmission problems. It's on its 2nd one. The alternator and brakes have been replaced. Overall it has been a really good reliable car. It needs to go in the shop about once a year. It's been on a few road trips. It's a great car for city driving.
After having relatively good luck with my Nissan, a 17 year old in a Saturn put a hault to it's life. She pulled directly into my path and I broadsided her going 40mph...her Saturn was obliterated but my Altima held up quite well. The airbag deployed, and there was a signifigant amount of damage, but nothing that injured me...I truely believe that this car saved my life.