Let’s cut to the chase: I recommend both these family-size sedans to friends and family. When I was Internet Manager for a major car dealer, I worked with both models and found that each one lived up to its reputation for longevity, low maintenance costs, great fuel economy, and safety. The bottom-line is that you can’t go wrong with either one. Yet, there are differences. Let’s take a look.
The Honda Accord is a larger vehicle than the Nissan Altima. When the Accord was redesigned in 2008, the price of gasoline was skyrocketing, yet Honda increased the size of its flagship vehicle. It now stands almost four inches longer than the Altima sedan, and a full two inches wider. However, if you think you’ll sacrifice fuel economy because of the added size, think again. The Accord four-cylinder, automatic-transmission sedan is rated at 23 mpg/city and 34 mpg/hwy. The four-cylinder Altima has an EPA rating of 23 mpg/city and 32 mpg/hwy, almost—but not quite—as good as the Accord.
The other major difference between these two perennial favorites is their respective transmissions. The Accord has a five-speed automatic transmission (though the true "base" model has a five-speed manual). However, when the Altima was redesigned in 2007, Nissan made a strategic decision to incorporate continuously variable transmissions (CVT) in its Altima models. A CVT does not have the normal gears that a regular transmission has. As a result, it allows a more efficient transfer of power from the engine to the wheels, resulting in slightly better fuel economy. Some people report that a CVT offers a smoother ride.
Dollar for Dollar
For the purpose of our comparison, we’re looking at the more basic, less-expensive Accord and Altima models with automatic/CVT transmissions. To get an apple-to-apple assessment we’re contrasting the Accord LX with the Altima S model. By moving from the Altima base model up to the “S” model, we get an AM/FM/CD audio system. And by keeping the Accord at the base LX model, instead of moving up to the LX-P, we are comparing vehicles that do not offer power driver’s seats. Even Steven.
Both the Accord and Altima are similarly priced. The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) on the Accord LX is $21,980 with an invoice price of $19,938. This compares to the Altima S sticker price of $22,060 and an invoice of $20,682. Each manufacturer adds a destination fee: Honda’s additional charge is $750; Nissan’s is $760. Even though the Altima S is priced just $80 more than the comparable Accord, there is a big difference in what the average customer is able to purchase them for.
One of the more useful websites that I use to discover what my neighbors are buying new cars for is Edmunds.com. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, the True Market Value (TMV) of the Honda Accord LX—or the actual price customers in this area are buying them from dealers for—is $20,198. This includes the destination fee and ends up being $489 less than invoice.
Edmunds reports a TMV price for the Altima S of $21,438. Although this is slightly below Nissan’s invoice price, it is significantly higher than what local consumers are paying for the Honda Accord LX sedan--$1,240 higher, to be exact.
There are regional differences that need to be taken into account when pricing vehicles so check with Edmunds.com to see how the figures look for your area.
To get more information on the Nissan Altima—more reviews, pictures, prices, and so on—see The Car Connection’s Altima overview page. The Car Connection’s Bengt Halvorson provides an in-depth review of the Honda Accord here.
Tomorrow: a detailed look at a comparison of safety features between the Accord and Altima, including the all-important crash test rating results.