CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

20-year old 200,000 miles Honda Civic - Time to say goodbye?

Two weeks of snow finally killed Little Red our 20-year old 200K+ Honda Civic.



Problems:

1) We had a young person learn to drive stick in this car in a hilly town about a year ago.

2) Prior to 2 week snow storm it was having trouble shifting into 3rd-5th gears.

3) We live in Portland, OR; so they think the snow plowers are some sort of endanger bird species. They down do much. (Good news - No salt - Bad news - Most roads don’t get plowed). Needless to say with chains and snow tires and a lot of spinning out and gnashing of teeth; the car now doesn’t engage when we shift into any gear.



Supporting info:

1) The car is beginning to show signs of age. (The seats are pretty well torn up; the hatchback support doesn’t work) Though the body is in good shape.

2) We have the use of a family car, but the spouse (Don’t these always come down to she said / he said discussions) drives about 200+ a week so the great mileage is important (~30 mpg on Red).

2) Financially we are kind of mixed. We have a kid in a private college, and I just lost my job at the beginning of December. (But probably can qualify for a new car loan)

My concerns:

1) The Civic doesn’t have airbags, which seems particularly dangerous for a small car in a big car/truck world.

2) Throwing good money after bad. If we do fix the clutch/transmission are we going to have to turn around and spend another chunk of change to fix engine? Or what ever else might go wrong.



So my questions are:

1) What might be wrong? (Clutch or transmission)

2) Is it worth it worth it to fix? I.E. is 200K about the life of a Honda Civic?

3) How much to get it fixed?

4) Should be just donate and buy a new/used small car?



Thanks,

KSWAC





If it’s been cared for properly (I assume it has been), it should still have some use left in it…

What you should be concerned about is the timing belt. When was it changed last? If it was needed at 100k or so, chances are its about due for it again.

You should take this thing to a good mechanic to ask about the trans/clutch issue, then go from there.

Weigh the cost of the transmission repair + timing belt (if applicable) vs. a replacement car.

200k isnt necessarily the life of a Civic. It just depends how you’ve cared for it. Some cars are ready for the junk yard at 40k while others are still going strong at 200, 250k.

I think it really just depends how much you like the car and what’s really important to you. Safety? Style? A car that’s paid for?

Take that for some food for thought and get back with us.

I’ve got 485k+ on my '89 Accord … still running strong. Don’t just look at mileage and years. If the maintenance was done, no reason to retire this Civic. Rocketman

The car could be worth too little to save. The 1988 model can be saved if you want to keep it. From your description, it sounds like the transmission was ran with no oil in it. Don’t be surprised if you need a used transmission. The part alone will be around $450. It could still turn out to be just the clutch but a mechanic will have to check it out.

In your situation I would price out fixing the car at least with used(junkyard) parts with the exception of the clutch. Also keep in mind these engines require timing belt changes often around every 60k. Hopefully it was done somewhat recently otherwise yes the engine/car will turn into instant junk not if but when the timing belt snaps.

With your financial situation in my shoes I would nurse this car along till the son graudates and your job returns. However emotionals weigh in just as much as the logic.

Kudo’s to you on your Accord. However Accord’s IMHO hold together so much better over time than Civics. I think Civic’s just rattle and bump themselves apart.

I owned a 95 Civic for 9 years/225k miles and it was simply well worn with creaks, squeaks, worn seats, everything. My regret when buying that car was not listening to salesman trying to sell me an Accord DX coupe instead of Civic EX coupe for same money. They said the Civic would be worn at 200k while Accord goes into the 300k-400k range nicely.

My good friend is nearing 350k with her 95 Accord coupe. It is a comfortable car still.

I’m willing to bet once you do the clutch the tranny will again function normally.

Seatcovers: about $20.

New hatch support: generic at the parts store: about $20.

The lack of airbags is the only thing in your list that can’t be cheaply fixed…eill, the clutch is some bucks if you have to have it done, but far cheaper than a new car.

I’d fix this and hold on to it at least until your work situation improves.

I would shop for a 2000-2002 Civic. It will have air bags and crumple zones. You might be able to find one with less than 100,000 miles for less than $3,000. This is a buyer’s market and you can find some great deals. Find one and make an offer that you think will get you laughed out of the dealership. They just might accept your offer.

Based on the problems you list, I think if you fix these problems, you will only end up with more problems later.

If your Civic was 10 years old with 200,000 miles, I think it would be another story. Between 1989 and 1999 Honda made some nice improvements in overall quality.

It is not really a buyers market for desirable(Honda/Toyota) by masses used small fuel efficient cars. People are buying less expensive used cars(cash) instead of new cars or hanging onto their cars and fixing them.

I wonder during this economy how many people will wake and up and realize through experience fixing/maintaining a partially used vehicle(<150k miles) makes so much more financial sense than purchasing a new car when the warranty is up.

  1. What might be wrong? (Clutch or transmission)

    Your description is not clear enough to know. It could be a very inexpensive linkage adjustment to a new transmission.

  2. Is it worth it worth it to fix? I.E. is 200K about the life of a Honda Civic?

    That depends on the results from #1

  3. How much to get it fixed?

    See #1

  4. Should be just donate and buy a new/used small car?

    See #2

    Good Luck and I would keep driving it as long as it meets your needs. Right now it is not going to be worth much on the market, so the only question for you is any repair cost (Maintenance cost occur on all cars, including new) are worth the cost, allowing you to not buy a new car and not make monthly payments.

To bring you up to date:
Well it has been nearly 9 months - the car has grown moss sitting in the drive way and we have had many a lusty discussion about which way to go.

Our marriage has survived
and best news yet.
My spouse’s sister is willing to sell us her 2009 Honda Fit (8,000 miles on it),
New Blue.

Winners:
I get airbags. (Hummmm… seems like in old age I am becoming more like an airbag or is it gas bag.)
Spouse gets good gas mileage.
Spouse’s sister gets to go out an find car that is better for her long travels through out the northwest.

Thanks for all of your support and answers.

KSWAC

P.S. If you know of anyone who wants afore mentioned car…look for it soon on Portland Craigs list.

I only want to say I have a 1999 Honda Civic with 370,000 miles that I too call Little Red, and this week it was the FIRST time we got stuck with it and we drive over 120 miles a day. Is there life after 200,000 miles, you bet there is…good luck!