4th generation Civic safety & roadworthiness

Our daughter needs a car and her mechanic boyfriend thinks he’s found a 4th generation (1988-91, he’s not 100% sure about the year) Civic cheap. He says he can take care of any work it needs, which I don’t doubt, but I’m more concerned about its general roadworthiness and safety. Start with the fact that it’s 30+ years old. It may not have airbags because from what I can find even a driver’s airbag was optional, and it also doesn’t have ABS. My “little girl” (she’s actually pushing 30 but allow me a little sentiment, okay?) is going to be driving this thing and she doesn’t even have a license yet. I’m not sure I’d want to be driving it. Anyway, are things as bad as I’m afraid they are, or am I a worry wart?

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I am sure her boyfriend can fix whatever it needs, but the cost of fixing it might be expensive. I personally would not want my daughter driving that old of a vehicle. I would rather see her drive something a little newer and more dependable. that is why I leased her a vehicle when she was going to college and law school. I am the one that drove the older vehicles that needed the work. it was worth it to me just knowing she was safe.


Thanks. I’m sure he’d just be on the hook for parts since he’d be doing his own labor but who knows what it might need? I’ve offered to sell them my 2009 Corolla cheap but they’re young and poor, and I definitely remember what that was like.

if you are not using the corolla you could lend it to her until she could save up enough for a better vehicle. just a thought.

I am using it but I’m in a much better position to go out and buy something else. At this point I’d almost rather give it to them outright than have her driving a 30+ year old Civic. (Of course, if I were a suspicious type I might think that’s what they were hoping for all along…)


Sounds like a great classic car. Wouldn’t mind one myself. As long as everything works properly, and there is no rust or body damage, it should be safe enough for daily use.

What part of country is your kid? Rust belt ny? Southern Cali? Texas?

Watch out for the daughter using the PUPPY dog eyes :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes: :roll_eyes: eyes ask me:how I know.


MUCH prefer the Corolla, lots safer, lots newer, has OBD II, known history.


I approach any issues with my daughter with the knowledge that she will be the one picking my nursing home.


Rust is the thing I would check for, if the body is not compromised next I would check the history of the engine. These were know to have head gasket leaks, if caught early the engine can still have a lot of life.

But I would still vote for the Corolla from dad.

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Illinois across the river from St. Louis. Definitely in the rust belt. In fact, boyfriend’s 2000 or so Chevy work truck has a fair amount of rust. I can only guess what shape a 30+ year old economy car might be in. Maybe the deal will fall through and I’ll still essentially give her the Corolla.

A lot of the safety issues are related to how much she drives and where. If she does a a lot of high speed driving, I’d be more concerned. Even though overall miles driven in the US are down, traffic deaths are way up. Just be cause she drives defensively doesn’t mean some fool careening around town won’t take her with him. Traffic accident injuries are still a remote possibility, but worth considering. On the positive side, the car may not be originally from the area. If it came up from Texas, for instance, it might have little rust.

I bought a 2001 accord a few years ago. Was cheap but solid. Fixed a few minor issues and drove it for a bit. 2 gens newer then a 88? I think a 88 civic is a tin can.

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I’ve seen several Civics of that generation up close and in person

As I recall, none of them had airbags

Too many red flags, as far as I’m concerned

Too old and in a region that probably has cars rust out

Very few safety features

Quite small

I know used car prices are crazy at the moment . . . but I’m curious what the seller is asking

Where your daughter lives . . . do they have a safety inspection and tailpipe smog inspection?

If so, it might fail one or both

When you were 30 years old were you driving a car with ABS and airbags? I ask this seriously, I mean mechanical issues not withstanding, the Civic is no less safe today than when it was new.

But as a mechanic, I believe that a 30 year old car will never be reliable as a modern daily driver. There are too many old parts that can fail simply due to age. I’m not talking about water pumps and wheel bearings. I mean wiper motor, window regulator, seat belt latch, fuel gauge, ignition switch. No wipers, a window stuck down, a seat belt that doesn’t buckle, any of these can render a car undriveable.


Classic car ?? How about just another old Honda Civic that could be a real money pit .


As far as puppy eyes go: when I cut my daughter off, I gave her my older car, and then said “that’s all…don’t ask for more.” She was happy to get the car, and agreed. Twenty years later, she is driving a fancy new Audi, and I’m driving the 2007 Mazda. Maybe she will give me her old car some day…


Of course, but in comparison to the galaxy of newer vehicles that are for sale, it IS far less safe.

I’m guessing she won’t drive it much, at least at first. She can walk to her job so I envision trips to the supermarket and the like but I could easily be wrong.

The Civic was owned by a couple in the area who he knows. The woman died recently, the Civic was hers, and the man just wants to give it away. The two of them plan to give him something for it but it probably won’t be much.

Since it’s apparently been owned and driven in the area, it probably hasn’t escaped the afflictions of the rust belt.

I was 30 in 1983. Airbags and ABS were both fairly uncommon. My 1973 Mercury certainly didn’t have either. But just because something wasn’t common 30+ years ago doesn’t mean it’s not worth having today. This is a case of “Do as I say, not as I did.”

And yes, I’m aware of the potential for this to turn into a money pit and I can only hope he is too. Even if he does his own labor, parts can get expensive, and I’d assume some parts for a 30+ year old vehicle, no matter how popular, might require some searching.