What to Look for When Buying a Used Honda Civic


The Honda Civic is one of the biggest-selling cars in automotive history and it continues to sell in impressive numbers in the US and elsewhere despite the global thirst for all things SUV. There are many reasons why the Civic has been so successful, but affordability, reliability, quality and a huge number of different versions to choose from are among the main ones. All those reasons and more make the Honda Civic particularly popular with used car buyers, so here’s what to look for when buying a used Honda Civic.

How many Honda Civic generations are there?

There have been 10 generations of the Honda Civic so far and an all-new 11th generation is in the pipeline. The very first Honda Civic arrived as long ago now as 1972 as a subcompact and it didn’t grow into the compact we know it as today until the year 2000. There have been so many different versions of the Civic it’s hard to believe there hasn’t been a convertible version yet, but there have been sedan, coupe, hatch and even station wagon body styles and various combinations of 2, 3, 4 and five doors.

First-generation Honda Civic (1972-1979)

Even when this first Civic generation was launched it was offered for sale as a two- or four-door fastback sedan, a three- or five-door hatchback and a five-door station wagon. You’ll struggle to find any of these today anywhere other than a museum, but if you could find one and restore it you’d have a cute little classic even if it might not be worth a fortune.

Second generation Honda Civic (1979-1983)

The second generation was a little bigger, more powerful and a lot more angular in design than the first generation. These were produced in three-door hatchback, four-door sedan, five-door hatchback and five-door station wagon body styles, and the 1335cc and 1488cc engines were mated to four and five-speed manual or two-speed semi-automatic transmissions.

Third generation Honda Civic (1983-1987)

A third-generation Civic arrived in 1983 as a 1984 model year and the most notable aspect of this generation was the introduction of a four-wheel-drive system called “Realtime” for the Civic. It started off as a push-button system but in 1987 it was upgraded so that the rear wheels would engage automatically as soon as the front wheels lost traction. If you can find yourself a third-gen Civic with Realtime you really will have a bit of a rarity.

Fourth-generation Honda Civic (1987-1991)

Fourth-generation Civics came in a wide variety of models and they could feel like very different cars in different markets. For example, in some markets, Honda sold fourth-generation Civics featuring carburetors, but every US Civic model featured fuel injection.

Fifth-generation Honda Civic (1991-1995)

The fifth-generation is where the Civic started to look a little like the car we have today, but the wagon version of this one was only sold in Honda’s native Japan. Although you will come across the occasional Civic for sale in the used market today from the first four generations, most of the time the earliest models you’ll see offered for sale these days will be from the fifth generation onwards.

Sixth generation Honda Civic (1995-2000)

When the sixth generation arrived in 1995 it was one of the least-radical redesigns of the Civic over the years, although it is worth noting that the fifth-generation Civic featured a natural gas version for the first time in the US. These can be decent cheap first cars for new drivers if you can find one in good running order, and you can’t say that about many mass-produced cars of this vintage.

Seventh generation Honda Civic (2000-2005)

Although the exterior dimensions of the seventh-gen Civic remained the same as its predecessor, an increase of interior space thanks to the use of a flat rear floor pushed this version of the Civic into the compact car size segment for the first time. North America mostly got coupe and sedan body styles, but the Si (SiR in Canada) trim was the exception as that one was only offered in a three-door hatchback format.

Eighth generation Honda Civic (2005-2011)

Honda returned to its habit of radical restyles for the Civic when it unveiled the eight-generation in 2005, although the hatchback version that Europe got was perhaps a lot more radical and polarizing than the sedan and coupe versions sold in America. Perhaps the best model of this generation was the sportier Civic Si four-door that was tuned by Mugen and boasted several cosmetic alterations as well as upgrades to the suspension, wheels and exhaust system.

Ninth generation Honda Civic (2011-2015)

A ninth-generation went on sale in the US in April 2011 in sedan and coupe body styles, but this one wasn’t met with universal acclaim by commentators or consumers. It only took until late 2012 for Honda to admit it might have made a bit of a styling mistake with this one by launching a 2013 model year with a redesigned exterior and interior. All Civics then came with ABS (Anti-Lock Brake Systems), VSA (Vehicle Stability Assistance) and EBD (Electronic Brake Distribution), and this was the first US model to feature Honda’s Eco Assist technology.

Tenth generation Honda Civic (2015-2021)

Although the front fascia of the new tenth-generation that arrived in 2015 as a 2016 model year is pretty similar to the previous generation, the silhouette is markedly different with a new fastback exterior design and rear C-pillar that flows into the tailgate. As well as American consumers having the choice of sedan and coupe body styles, Honda decided to reintroduce the hatchback to North America. The best thing about the hatchback is it meant the awesome Type R performance variant was now finally available for American and Canadian hot hatch enthusiasts.

What’s so special about the Honda Civic?

The Honda Civic is such a successful and much-loved compact car thanks to its winning recipe of fuel efficiency, practicality, reliability, high-quality engineering, and affordability. If there’s one compact car you can rely on it’s the Civic, and its relentless dependability sees it rated third out of 36 in its segment by the RepairPal.com website with a reliability rating of 4.5 out of 5. Also, the average annual repair cost is just $368 which is another reason why the Civic is almost as popular as it’s ever been.

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How long will a Honda Civic last?

If a Honda Civic is properly maintained and cared for it could quite realistically last for 20 years, 300,000 miles, or even longer. The average estimated lifespan of a Honda Civic is between 15 and 20 years, and the majority of Civic owners tend to keep their cars for 10 years or longer which says a lot about the quality and reliability of the little Honda.

Is the Honda Civic overpriced these days?

If you compare a new Honda Civic against many of its rivals with similar features it can look a little expensive these days, but you have to ask yourself how many of them would still be on the road in 15 years when a Civic is still going strong?

Like many things in life you tend to get what you pay for, and what you’re paying a little more for with a Honda Civic are its reliability and durability. Of course, you can get a Honda Civic for a lot less money by buying used and that’s why the Civic is an incredibly popular model with used car buyers.

Is the Honda Civic good for a long drive?

Although compact cars are often thought of as primarily for frequent short journeys in the town or city, the Honda Civic is absolutely fine for long drives as long as you don’t try to cram too many people and too much cargo inside. After all, one thing you definitely want for long drives is a reliable vehicle, and few vehicles over the years have proved to be more reliable than a Honda Civic.

Is there a Honda Civic Hybrid?

Honda was building gas/electric hybrid versions of the Civic between 2001 and 2015, but it was discontinued in 2015 and another hybrid Civic isn’t expected until a new eleventh generation finally surfaces.

Is the Honda Civic fuel efficient?

Fuel efficiency has always been one of the strong points of the Honda Civic, and the most popular version of the current generation with its 2.0-liter inline-four engine is rated by the EPA at 30 mpg in the city, 38 mpg on the highway and 33 mpg combined. If that’s not good enough for you, versions equipped with the 1.5-liter turbo-four are rated at an even more impressive 32 mpg in the city, 42 mpg on the highway and 36 mpg combined.

Which Honda Civic is fastest?

The fastest production version of the Honda Civic is the eighth-generation Civic Type R which has a 2.0-liter turbo-four engine that develops 306 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque. The Civic Type R boasts a 0-60mph time of 4.9 seconds and a top speed of 169 mph, but it’s the way the Honda drives and handles that makes this hot hatch such a modern-day legend.

2020 Honda Civic Type R

Is Honda discontinuing the Civic?

Any car that’s been around as long as the Honda Civic will have its continued longevity questioned from time to time, but CNET has suggested that production of the Honda Civic Sedan will soon end due to low sales in the face of a continuing onslaught from the popularity of SUVs. Even if the sedan does get discontinued the hatch and the Type R are set to go on as they’re still popular models in markets all over the globe.

Is the Honda Civic good in snow?

Although there’s no AWD version of the Honda Civic at the moment, the car’s front-engined and front-wheel-drive format makes it fairly competent in the snow and on the ice, especially compared to rear-drive rivals.

How much should you pay for a used Honda Civic?

At this point in an article like this, I would usually produce a table illustrating the maximum and minimum average prices of e vehicle over a wide number of years. However, there are so many different versions of the Honda Civic spanning so many model years that I would probably have to produce a book to even attempt to cover them all.

What I’ll say instead is you can get a used Honda Civic to fit just about any budget you care to think of and all the usual rules apply. If you’re happy with a relatively basic model you can get a decent 2012 Civic sedan with reasonable miles for less than $5,000, but a low-mileage 2019 Type R will cost you close to $45k. Even if you only have a couple of thousand dollars to spend you can still get an old Civic that will do a job and will still have plenty of years left in it if you look after it.

What are the rivals of the Honda Civic?

There’s less competition for the Honda Civic than there used to be as public demand for compact sedans continues to decline. Other compact cars you may want to consider as an alternative to the Honda Civic include the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf, Chevrolet Cruze, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte and the Toyota Corolla.

How well does a Honda Civic hold its value?

The Honda Civic holds its price very well and the depreciation is spread pretty evenly over the years. After three years and 36,000 miles, a Honda Civic should still be worth around 73% of its original value and it will still be worth almost sixty percent of its original price after six years.  

Which Honda Civic model years should you avoid?

In general, the 2001 model year of the Honda Civic was one to avoid, but after 20 years the transmission problems that plagued this model year will almost certainly have been rectified. If you’re looking at a 2006 or 2007 Honda Civic you might want to check the service history carefully as there were issues around that time with cracked engine blocks. A replacement could cost $3,000 or more but most of the time this issue will have been dealt with under the Honda’s 10-year powertrain warranty.

What’s the best used Honda Civic model year?

In general, 1998, 2012 and 2014 are three of the best Honda Civic model years for used buyers. As well as the tried and tested reliability that Honda is renowned for, these are the three model years where there were the least complaints made about issues with the Honda Civic.

How safe is the Honda Civic?

The Honda Civic has always been one of the safest compact cars on the market for the driver and passengers, but it got even safer in 2013 when it gained a standard backup camera, a strengthened structure and new airbags to add to its already impressive list of standard safety features. 2014 models boasted a full five-star rating for overall safety from the NHTSA and the IIHS gave the 2014 Civic the coveted Top Safety Pick+ rating.

It was downgraded from Top Safet Pick+ to a Top Safety pick in 2015, but the Civic regained the IIHS top rating in 2016. Regardless of whether the model year you’re looking at was a Top Safety Pick or a Top Safety Pick+, you can rest assured you’ll be buying what was one of the very safest cars in its class when it was new.

Is the Honda Civic comfortable?

The civic can be a comfortable car in most trim levels and top trims can get close to being genuinely luxurious at times. The tenth-generation is close to being a midsize car inside, although those in the front benefit from the most majority of the legroom the impressive dimensions deliver. The driver and passenger have 42.3 inches of legroom but those in the rear seats have to make do with just 35.9 inches.

Should you buy a used Honda Civic?

Unless you are looking at something like an Si or a Type R variant, the Honda Civic isn’t the most exciting way to spend your money on a used car. However, in just about every other way it’s hard to find fault with the enduring Honda as long as you like the way it looks. Coupe models look considerably better than the sedans and some Civic coupes can actually look quite sporty.

However, if you’re looking for a good value, practical used car that’s unlikely to let you down and will probably last longer than you will then you can’t really go wrong with a Honda Civic, especially a tenth-generation model if your budget will run to it. And if you want the chance to find some great used cars, trucks and SUVs of all types at knockdown prices, make sure you check out government auctions.

Sean Cooper

Former retail auto industry professional for almost a decade and an automotive writer and journalist for the last 8 years

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