Should You Buy a Used Honda Civic? Yes, Probably


Honda updated its elemental Civic with an all-new model that hit the road in 2010 as a 2011 model and carried through until an all-new-for-2017 model replaced it last year.

With selection galore, numerous trim grades, performance levels and both coupe and sedan body styles, there’s a used Civic out there that’s just perfect for whatever your needs are.

The Civic was even available as a hybrid, but we’ll be focusing on more mainstream-powered versions of the Civic in this used car report.

The standard four-cylinder engines make 140 horsepower and come with a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic gearbox. The high-performance Civic Si, which is available as a coupe or sedan, gets a 197-horsepower high-revving 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and a six-speed manual transmission backed by various chassis and cosmetic tweaks.

2015 Honda Civic Sedan

Starting in 2014, the Civic adopted a continually variable transmission, or CVT, which replaced the five-speed automatic for improved performance and fuel economy. From 2013, updates to the interior and exterior styling and trim accents helped create a more upscale look and feel.

A compact size with great big room, the Civic’s got the cargo and occupant capacity to handle many jobs. Look for heaps of at-hand storage to help stay organized on the go, as well as split-folding seats to maximize trunk space as needed. A flat rear floor enhances rear-seat passenger comfort, and most test drivers find the Civic surprisingly spacious for a compact sedan.

Feature content may include heated leather, a sunroof, premium audio system components, push-button start, navigation, automatic climate control, automatic lights, and plenty more.

2015 Honda Civic Sedan

Cross shop a used Civic against its compact car competitors, including the Hyundai Elantra, Toyota Corolla, Mazda3, Ford Focus, Chevrolet Cruze and Dodge Dart. For shoppers willing to pay a slight premium for Honda’s reputation for safety, durability, quality and strong resale values, a used Civic from this generation shouldn’t disappoint.

Test Drive To-Do List

#1: Check The Clutch

If you’ll buy a used Civic with the manual transmission, (and especially if you’re considering a sporty used Civic Si) be sure to check the condition of the clutch. Though this component should last the life of the vehicle, a brutal driver can rapidly wear the clutch, and you’ll want to make sure they’re not trying to stick you with the bill to replace it. With the engine idling in neutral, press and release the clutch pedal slowly several times, noting that any elevated noise levels as the clutch is released, or any grinding, whirring, or groaning sounds, can indicate trouble. When driving, put the car into a high gear at a low speed (perhaps 30 miles per hour in third or fourth gear) and apply full throttle. This high-load, low-rev situation can help coax slippage from a worn clutch, so be on the lookout for it. If there’s any, your engine’s revs will increase, but the vehicle’s speed will not.

2015 Honda Civic Sedan

#2: Check the Climate Control (Fan)

A fairly minor issue, but one to be aware of: some owners have reported excessive noise and vibration from the climate control blower fan area as a precursor to fan failure and other issues, so be sure to check for it on your test drive. If you note any unwelcomed sounds or sensations as the fan is run through various speeds, the likely culprit is a bad fan, or a bad blend door located near it, which is used to route air through various passageways. In any case, be sure that air at the temperature you want comes out of the distribution points you want, checking for all possible combinations. If that’s not the case, or if you detect any unwelcomed sounds, be sure to have a Honda technician take a closer look.

#3: Check the Consumables

Though tire and brake component wear is largely a function of proper maintenance, driving habits and locale, some owners have reported dissatisfaction with the lifespan of the factory-equipment tires and brakes. For maximum confidence, assume that the seller is trying to pass off a worn set of tires and brakes until you or a mechanic confirm otherwise.

#4: Head Gasket and Block Check

2015 Honda Civic Sedan

A handful of owners of earlier Civics from this generation have reported issues relating to head-gasket failure and/or cracked cylinder blocks. These issues were rare, typically surfaced early, and only seemed to affect units in the first year of production, though they can be pricey to fix if it occurs outside of warranty. Though the chances of you buying a used Civic with a bad head-gasket or block are very rare, you’ll want to have a technician check for telltale signs of oil and engine coolant cross contamination, just to be safe. Both a bad cylinder head gasket and a cracked block can allow these fluids to mix, which is extremely harmful. In the unlikely event that any cross contamination is detected, move to another unit.

#5: Avoid Modifications

Many Civic owners have modified their rides to some degree, a trend that’s more common in coupe models and especially, in the higher-performing Civic Si. Be on the lookout: usually, exhaust and intake system modifications are simple and pose no major concerns, but more involved upgrades including suspension lowering, non-factory engine management software, aftermarket lighting systems and non-factory body parts can cause headaches, negatively affect the vehicle’s durability, and even void its warranty. The average shopper is best to avoid a used Civic with modifications for maximum peace of mind.

#6: Watch for Trouble Codes and Check Engine Lights

The Civic you’re considering may be trying to tell you something — and a little diagnostic scan, or check of the on-board computer, is the easiest way to find out what it is. For instance, a “check emissions system” warning message may be caused by a faulty or poorly secured gas cap or a bad thermostat. A diagnostic scan by an OBD scan tool can reveal potential issues with engine or driveline sensors, or other electronics, whether or not a Check Engine light is illuminated.

2015 Honda Civic Sedan.

Your Best Bet?: Any Civic from this generation with a clean bill of health after a Pre-Purchase Inspection (PPI) at a Honda dealer can be bought with confidence, and if your budget allows it, a 2014 or later model with the CVT transmission and updated interior and exterior styling will provide improved fuel efficiency and looks to boot.

Good To Know


NHTSA 5/5 Stars Overall

IIHS: Top Safety Pick