Everything you need to know before buying a used Honda Civic

April 25, 2020 By sadra 0

Everything you need to know before buying a used Honda Civic

The only Honda model more familiar than the Accord is the Honda Civic. The Civic, being Honda’s first mainstream offering, and responsible for the company’s fast reputation for manufacturing quality cars with high reliability and outstanding fuel economy. Throughout the years the Civic has grown larger, safer and more family oriented, but it also has models such as the Civic Si and the CRX to offer to those who are looking for sportier and fun models. Although Toyota Corolla still remains its longtime rival, the Civic has grown not only in size but also in power to challenge more powerful rivals including the Ford Focus ST, the Volkswagen GTI and Subaru WRX.

1st Generation: 1973-1979

The first Honda Civic was small by today’s standards, measuring a compact 140 inches and riding on an 86.6-in wheelbase. Despite its size, the Civic could in fact fit four adult. It launched as a 2-door coupe, then later as a 3-door hatchback, 5-door hatchback and finally a wagon. The Civic wasn’t grand on power, but it was fun to drive, got about 40 miles per gallon and was remarkably well-built and reliable, features that escaped most American cars at the time. In 1975, Honda’s Controlled Vortex Combustion Chamber engine, or CVCC, was presented. The design was so efficient that the Civic didn’t require the use of a catalytic converter to pass tough new emissions test.

Honda Civic 1st Generation (1973-1979)

2nd Generation: 1980-1983

With its triumph now part of automotive history, the Civic grew larger, with even more powerful 1300 and 1500 cc engines. In 1981, a proper 3-speed automatic took the place of the Hondamatic 2-speed, and a new 4-door sedan with a trunk was introduced. Over this model run, new trims would be presented including the 55-mpg FE and sporty S. During this time, the Civic got classier, providing velour seats, color carpeting, air conditioning, a 4-speaker stereo and a rear wiper washer. Common setbacks for this generation included problems with the carburetor on higher mileage cars and rust issues particularly in states with high road salt usage.

Honda Civic 2nd Generation (1980-1983)

3rd Generation: 1984-1987

In its third-generation the Civic truly came into its own. Many car owners had moved from large, inefficient cars to the Civic, finding its combination of styling, qualities, reliability and strong resale tempting. The design was lower and leaner than before, with a chopped rear end for the hatchback and tall greenhouse on the sedan. The wagon models presented an even taller roof. Its wheelbase grew by five inches, and was even longer on the sedan and wagon. For the first time, all-wheel drive was offered on the Civic wagon and by 1986, the system moved to an everlasting AWD setup known as “Realtime 4WD.” This generation also created the hot 2-seat CRX, which shared its engine, dash and suspension with the sporty new Si trim introduced in 1986. The Si was aimed squarely at VW’s GTI and featured a pop-up sunroof, sport seats and a 91-horsepower engine. When new, this generation Civic was nearly perfect, but over time, the car had some problems with rust, timing belts that fail around 60,000 miles and some issues with early model fuel injection.

Honda Civic 8th Generation (2006-2011) hatchback

Honda Civic 3rd Generation (1984-1987) sedan

4th Generation: 1988-1991

With more rear seat legroom and trunk room, The Civic slightly grew larger. The design was less angular, with rounded edges and a lower cowl. Underneath, the same double-wishbone suspension from the Accord made its way to the Civic, as did an independent rear suspension that greatly a better ride and handling. Horsepower ranged from 70 to 108, depending on trim, and all engines now offered electronic fuel injection. In the course of this time, the model line grew to include the fuel-efficient HF, economy minded DX, sporty Si and upscale EX. Some of Notable features for the Si included a 16-valve 1.6-liter engine, a power sunroof and thickly bolstered sport seats. New features for the civic included 4-wheel disc brakes, cruise control and power windows. The wagon and the hot little CRX remained, however, this would be the last generation to offer both. Once again, when new, the Civic had very few issues, but over time, it developed starting problems due to a bad starter relay, brake lights that won’t turn off due to a broken sensor and issues with the blower motor variable resistor that cause some fan speeds to not work.

Honda Civic 4th Generation (1988-1991)

5th Generation: 1992-1995

The fifth-generation Civic displayed a radical departure from traditional Honda styling cues. The low cowl and dashboard was replaced by a tall hood for better crash test safety and a much larger dash. A driver’s side airbag was made standard on all models, whereas the EX received anti-lock brakes. The 1992 Civic was noticeably larger than the fourth-generation car, and the hatchback received a special split-folding rear gate. Designation of models were changed around, with the new high-mileage VX replacing the HF. Horsepower increased across the line, with the top of the line Si presenting a 125-hp 16-valve engine. In 1993, a coupe model joined the lineup and was the only Civic model to grant the option of a passenger side airbag and a high-output stereo so far. This generation has become quite popular with the tuner crowd, meaning it may be hard to find an secure version. The fifth generation Civics may be the climax of Honda reliability and longevity. Even after 100,000 miles, issues on well-maintained models are few. The fan blower relay, and some high mileage models have issues with oil leaks and blown head gaskets.

Honda Civic 5th Generation (1992-1995) hatchback

Honda Civic 5th Generation (1992-1995) sedan

6th Generation: 1996-2000

By the late ’90s, American’s were falling losing interest in hatchbacks and moving into sedans, so for the sixth-generation Civic, Honda scaled back the hatchback’s place in the lineup to just an entry-level car, and put the mass of production into the sedan and coupe. The DX, LX and EX trims were powered by a 1.6-liter VTEC engine good for 106 hp in all except the EX, which got a bump to 127 hp. As did in a new model, the high-mileage HX also returned touting a continuously variable transmission (CVT), the natural gas powered GX. In 1999, the Si returned in coupe form equipped with a 160-hp engine, specially tuned suspension and a sporty interior. By this moment, the Civic had become rather mainstream, no longer the exciting trendsetter that it once was. But the public was looking for safety, reliability, strong resale and excellent fuel economy, and the Civic had them all. Some known problems with these years include rust issues where the bumper meets the rear quarter panel, power window regulators that fail, engine mounts cracking and front rotors warping.

Honda Civic 6th Generation (1996-2000) sedan

Honda Civic 6th Generation (1996-2000) hatchback

7th Generation: 2001-2005

The seventh-generation Civic kept up the car’s move to the mainstream. A new McPherson strut suspension took the place of the previous double wishbone setup, and critics noted the extreme decrease in the Civic’s cornering and handling abilities. The standard engine increased to 1.7-liters and generated 115 hp the DX and LX, and 127 in the EX. The high-mileage HX returned with an EPA about 31 mpg city/39 mpg hwy, while the Si badge returned to the 3-door hatchback brought over from Honda’s European lineup. The Si featured very different design compared to the coupe and sedan, and had an odd 5-speed manual shift lever that protruded from the dash. The engine replaced 2.0-liters, but horsepower remained a healthy 160. In 2003, the Honda Civic Hybrid presented featuring a 1.3-liter gas engine with an electric motor/generator good for 51 mpg on the highway. Owners report very minor problems when new, and even older models seem to hold up quite well. One part that may be problematic is the car’s automatic transmission that sustained a number of issued covered either by recall or technical service bulletins. The Civic’s interior quality also seems to have suffered throughout these years, with a number of trim and cloth covered pieces coming apart.

Honda Civic 7th Generation (2001-2005) sedan

Honda Civic Honda Civic 7th Generation (2001-2005) hatchback

8th Generation: 2006-2011

This was the Civic that brought style along with performance back to the storied nameplate. The 2006 Honda Civic took on a radical shape pointed by a sharply raked windshield, low hood and a coupe like rear end. Standard equipment comprises ABS and side curtain airbags, plus a modern 2-tier dashboard with a digital gauge cluster up top and a smaller cluster below for the analog tachometer. Base models offered 1.8-liter engine good for 140 hp, while the Si’s 2.0-liter engine bumped output to 197 hp. The hybrid returned, but with slightly lower fuel economy figures of 40 mpg city/45 mpg hwy. In 2007, the Si badge was attached to a sedan, while the EX-L trim provided leather seating, a first for the Civic. Buyers had a choice between a 5-speed manual (6-speed in the Si) and a 5-speed automatic on all but the hybrid, which used a CVT automatic. New options for the Civic included an upgraded audio system, Bluetooth and voice activated navigation. The Civic carried on trouble free for most years, although some 2006-2009 cars suffered cracked engine blocks. The problem was so widespread that Honda extended the warranty to 8-years with no mileage restriction.

Honda Civic 8th Generation (2006-2011) sedan

Honda Civic 8th Generation (2006-2011) hatchback

9th Generation: 2012-2015

The ninth-generation Civic may be the most controversial car to bear the Civic name. Designed right after the great economic collapse of 2008, Honda cut many corners with the design and as a consequence resulted in a car that was roundly criticized for its poor handling, loud interior, cheap materials and overall harsh ride. So bad was this version that Consumer Reports removed the Civic from its “Recommended” list. Powered by a 1.8-liter engine good for 140 hp. The Si received a 2.4-liter engine good for 201 hp. affected by the criticism of their best-selling compact, Honda made serious revisions to the 2013 model, changing the sedan’s exterior styling, upgrading the suspension and improving the ride. The interior the coupe and sedan received more sound insulation and better materials, as well as new standard equipment including a rear backup camera, Bluetooth and Pandora radio. Later models offered safety features like Honda LaneWatch and forward collision warning.

Honda Civic 9th Generation (2012-2015) sedan

Honda Civic 9th Generation (2012-2015) hatchback

Honda Civic 9th Generation (2012-2015) coupe

10th Generation: 2016- present

No longer a compact car, the current Civic is nearly the same size as the mid-’90s Accord. With the 2016 car, the Civic once again regained its birthright as a stylish, innovative compact car with sporty handling, great quality and loads of features. The Civic is now a 4-door sedan, 5-door hatchback, and 2-door coupe. The standard engine is a 158-hp 2.0-liter, but Honda also offers a 178-hp 1.5-liter turbo engine. Both engines can be mated to a 6-speed manual. The sporty Si returns with a 201-hp turbocharged engine, as does an all-new model, the enthusiast oriented Type R, which features a 306 hp 2.0-liter turbo. HondaSensing, Honda’s suite of driver-assist features, launches some models and is optional on others.

Honda Civic 10th Generatio (2016- present)

Honda Civic 10th Generation (2016- present) hatchback

Honda Civic 10th Generation (2016- present) coupe

Which Civic should I choose?

If you want to spend less than $10,000, you’ll want to look at the 2001-2015 models, but the eighth-generation are probably your best bet of finding a moderate mileage car in good condition for not a lot of money. If you go with something costly, try to avoid the 2012 models and skip right to 2013 or newer. We’d also suggest going with the EX or higher, which will open the door to more safety and driver assists such as LaneWatch and HondaSensing. If you go with a model older than six years, a private party sale may be better both for the ability to negotiate a better price and the possibility that the owner kept meticulous repair and maintenance records. A car only a few years old might be better bought from a dealer than can offer an inspection as well as some type of warranty, such as a certified pre-owned car.