Like most used cars the Honda Civic’s reliability seems to correlate with its model design changes. Newer years of a given generation have the most trouble. The great news about the Civic for used-car shoppers is that there are many in circulation and plenty of great years from which to choose.
Looking at the CarComplaints.com data, we see that for well-worn used Civics the biggest year to avoid is 2001. That is the year with the most owner complaints by far for the Civic, and they center around just one defect in the transmission. To Honda’s credit, the average age of the 2001 Civics in which the transmissions fail is 104,000 miles. That is the average, but some owners report their transmission failing at under 75,000 miles.
Tangianna, of Philidelphia, PA was one of the unlucky few whose 2001 Civic had early problems. At 63,580 miles, Tangianna reported the car quit on the highway. Here's the report posted to CarComplaints.com:
“I am the original owner of this car, so I know the maintenance has been handled well. Regular oil changes, maintenance, transmission flush, etc. I researched the issue and saw that this is a problem that has affected many Honda owners. I talked with the mechanic, and he told me the cost for a new transmission would be $3500. I called the Honda Customer Service number, and they were no help at all.”
The average cost to repair the 2001 Civic transmission issue is a daunting $2,334. That is roughly half the value of a 2001 Civic with high mileage according to BestRide.com. However, many owners, like Tangianna above, report quoted repair bills approaching $4,000, so the car is a throw-away should this problem occur.
Another year to avoid when shopping used Civics is the 2006 model year. 188 owners have reported significant engine problems to CarComplaints.com for that year, and 144 of them are cracked engine blocks. Nick Smith of Long Island, NY told Car Complaints:
“I was driving it home from work one day when I heard a whining I have never before heard. The temperature gauge said the car was overheating. After a few minutes, the engine sputters, and I'm just cruising down the highway, losing speed rapidly. I almost hit a car in my rush to get to the side of the road! I got it towed to the mechanic, and he said the engine block was cracked. In fact, he told me that mine was the second '06 Civic to come in with the same problem this month!”
So, which years of the used Civic look like safe bets? Our research indicates that the 1999 and 2000 model year Civics were almost complaint-free. BestRide has listings for those model years under $4,000, but be forewarned, cars that old are all going to need some repairs and are approaching the end of their lives. The 2010 and newer Civic are also relatively free of any scary complaints. These newer Civics can cost between $7,000 and $10,000 according to BestRide.
The Honda Civic is one of the top-selling vehicles in America for good reason. The Civic offers great fuel economy, high reliability, a fun ride, and class-competitive safety. If you are looking for a used Civic, avoid the 2001 and 2006 model years, and as always, do your homework on the specific car you consider buying.