Used Honda Civic: Avoiding Expensive Repairs on Used Cars

April 29, 2016

Buying a Used Honda Civic

Honda CivicThe Honda Civic is considered to be one of the most reliable vehicles on the market. This can change when you buy a used Honda Civic instead of a new Honda Civic. Maintenance is a key part of keeping your Honda in proper working order. It helps ensure that your car will last as long as possible and won’t require any major repairs. Failing to properly care for your car or to follow the maintenance schedule recommended by Honda can mean parts going bad well before their time. To make sure the used Honda Civic you buy isn’t a heap of junk, follow these steps before you sign on the dotted line.

Get all available maintenance records for the Honda Civic before buying

Before you buy a Honda Civic, make sure you’ve got the maintenance records that go along with it. A good car owner will keep all of their major service records, but it isn’t uncommon to see a used car that does not have any service records. In that case, websites like CARFAX can pull official maintenance histories from car repair shop records. This could leave out any repairs the owner made themselves or had done by a personal friend, rather than taking their car to the shop. The first thing you should look for is to see that the last owner took it for regular oil changes and performed basic scheduled maintenance. Depending on how old the particular Honda Civic you’re looking at happens to be, you’ll want to look for some other repairs as well.

Take a look under the hood

honda civic engine compartmentDoes anything look exceptionally old, warn, rusty, or corroded? Whether or not it’s bad enough to warrant being replaced, if hoses, belts, plastics, or metals, under the hood don’t look like they’re in good condition odds are that the owner hasn’t kept up with other parts of the car. This can be your first warning sign. Rust and corrosion along battery and/or spark plug contacts can cause problems starting your car. Worn or old hoses and belts could break and cause serious issues, particularly if this were to happen while driving. This makes for a great test when buying a Honda Civic, because it doesn’t require a lot of mechanical expertise. If the Honda Civic is in bad shape, you’ll know it when you see it. There are some other, more important maintenance issues you’ll want to ask about before committing to purchasing your Civic.

Pay attention to the mileage on the odometer. For Honda Civics with more than 75,000 miles on them, find out if the timing belt has been replaced. On Honda Civics, the Honda Maintenance Manual suggests that drive belts be inspected around 90,000 miles and the timing belt specifically be replaced by 105,000 miles. Practical experience (and customer report data) suggests that the timing belt tends to go sooner rather than later. Replacing your Honda’s timing belt between 75,000 and 90,000 is highly advised so that it doesn’t take you by surprise. Timing belt replacement can be rather expensive, so when buying a Civic with higher mileage you’ll want to make sure this has been taken care of.

Data shows that the water pump will likely need to be replaced between 75,000 and 100,000 miles as well. This is a less expensive repair, but a common one.  On vehicles over 150,000 miles, expect more expensive parts to need replacing. This includes shocks, pieces of the steering assembly including the rack and pinion and controller arms, engine, and transmission (specifically the clutch and flywheel). It’s a good idea to look for these sorts of repairs or replacements too. If you’re comparing two models of similar mileage and one costs more, but has had one of these major repairs done already, that car could potentially be a better value. It’s not uncommon for costs for high mileage repair and replacements to range from $300 to $4000 depending on the part and the amount of labor involved.

Look for common Honda Civic complaints

used honda civicThere’s no shortage of information online when it comes to figuring out what problems a particular make and model of car are known to have. This is especially true of cars that have been on the market for a few years.

When it comes to the Honda Civic, each model year has its own issues. Websites such as or both record customer complaints and generate a report or, in Edmunds’ case, there’s a really convenient visual chart which displays and highlights various aspects of a vehicle’s reliability. For example, the 2001 Honda Civic is known to have very prominent issues with its transmission (and to a lesser extent the 2002 Civic), while the 2006 model is known for having serious engine problems. Older models of the Honda Civic prove to be more reliable, particularly for models ranging from 1994 to 1999.

Drive your Honda before you commit to buying it

Driving a car can tell you things that about that car you can’t tell just from looking at it. You could notice smells such as gasoline, oil, burning rubber, or mold (each indicative of its own problem) that might tip you off that this car may have other issues. Don’t be afraid to ask the seller if you can have your mechanic take a look at it before you make your purchase.

Negotiate a fair selling price

honda civic selling priceWhen buying a car, the selling price is the final hurdle. Before saying ok to a price on your used Honda Civic, look up the fair market value on the car. You can do this by going to NADA, Kelly Blue Book, or Edmunds websites. Edmunds actually has an app that will pull the price information for you, which can be really handy if you have a smart phone.

So first, know the true market value. Be advised, you likely will not get the true market value price. It’s common to pay a couple hundred more. But you may be able to get it closer to the true market value by having the seller make concessions for impending repairs. If you know the cost of the potential repairs, you should be able to get that amount taken off the sale price of your chosen Honda.

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