A Used Honda or a Buick? Which is the best bet for a soon to be college student?


I’m a high school senior and am planning on heading off to college out of state next year. Because of this long distance from my home, my current vehicle, a '95 Chevrolet Silverado no longer seems practical. With it’s age and gas mileage working against it, my parents and I have started looking for a good, used car to last me through college and graduate school.

So far we’ve seen a 2002 Buick Regal GS, which is nice and totally loaded with Supercharger, Gran Touring Package and heated leather seats for around 11,000. The bad thing is it has kind of high mileage around 65,000.

We also test drove a Certified '05 Honda Civic LX sedan and was quite impressed also. It has around 24,000 miles and the dealer is listing it around $13,500.

I am not sure which to pursue further. The Buick drove nice, had power, but I am concerned about the gas mileage as well as its track record for reliability. My car will need to last me at least 6 years, so I cannot have it die early at 100k. We’ve owned LeSabre’s in the past and they’ve been just fine, but I don’t know about Buick’s track record for newer vehicles. The Buick is in immaculate condition now, but how long will it stay that way?

The Civic has nice low miles, a nice warranty program since it is a Certified car, but no side airbags. Granted I know I’m being picky but the Buick has a driver’s side impact air bag where the Civic simply has driver and passenger front airbags. The Civic would get better gas mileage, and Honda is known for it’s legendary reliability.

I need a good car to last me a long time. Since I will be away from home I cannot have to be constantly dealing with it myself and fixing it. Both cars were nice, I would just greatly like some input since this would be the first new car I actually buy. Are Buicks still good despite problems with other GM vehicles or are Honda’s lemons?

Thanks again!

Both cars will make it easily to 150,000 miles without serious repair. The Civic will be less expensive due to less consumption of fuel however insurance(inquire) is likely much higher. 65k miles is not high miles by any means.

Both cars are good bets. I

You will be much better served with the Honda if you want something that starts runs and doesn’t cost. Check out the latest car issue of Consumer Reports, it has every vehicle organized into a list of ‘good bets’ and ‘used cars to avoid.’ The Japanese cars are consistently recommended while the American makes are consistently hit & miss.

I hope you don’t fall for Honda’s “legendary reliability.” We get plenty of questions on this forum from Honda owners asking about their cars’ problems. With proper care the Buick may well outlast the Honda.

These are two excellent choices. You are agonizing over trivial points. Flip your coin and be done with it. Either way, you will have yourself a fine, long-lasting automobile.

I’d go for the Buick. There are likely more dealers, there is more iron between you and the world and it’s less likely to be stolen. Where I went to school, cars were parked in a remote lot; don’t know about your situation on that. Newer Buicks are doing very well with reliability.

I hope you don’t fall for Honda’s “legendary reliability.” We get plenty of questions on this forum from Honda owners asking about their cars’ problems. With proper care the Buick may well outlast the Honda.

Probably because there are 10 times more Honda owners then Buick owners.

That Buick is a sexy, sexy car. I’d be all over that.

The Buick has the 3.8 liter supercharged motor. It requires premium fuel. If you can?t afford the extra $2.00 per 10 gallons of premium gas, get the Civic. My Pontiac with the same motor can get in the high 20?s on the highway. Overall expect around 18-20 mpg (sometimes a lot less if you do mostly city driving).

The supercharger has its own special oil supply. There?s an access port on the supercharger (a hex head screw). You?ll need to check the supercharger oil level. If it?s low, you?ll need to fill it up with GM supercharger oil ($8.00 per pint and a dealer only item). The Series 2 Eaton supercharger uses two pints. The supercharger oil is not motor oil. It contains some kind of animal fats to keep the nose cone seals from shrinking. Do not use regular/synthetic motor oil in the supercharger. Check around the supercharger nose cone for leaks. Leaks and noises coming from the supercharger are expensive to fix. The 3.8 motor is one of GM?s great motors (except for the lower intake manifold in the Series 2 iteration).

The supercharged cars came with performance tires (H or V rated rubber) which are expensive to replace.

If you like the Buick Regal (the Pontiac Grand Prix is the same car), look for the same model with the non-supercharged engine (3.1 or 3.8 liter motors). Better gas mileage, runs on regular, and no insurance spike for the performance engine.

Assuming you are a normal size person, and are not planning to tow a trailer, I would strongly recommend the Honda. It will be easy on gas, have fewer repairs, and easier to park. Most colleges have inadeqaute or non-existant parking.

The buick is a nice car on the highway, but the supercharger will likley give you expensive problems, the premium gas cost will shock you and its no fun to drive to the pub on Saturday night.

Buicks are great cars and will last a long time if not abused. The car has the 3.8 and those engines are near bullet-proof. The mileage is not really a concern because 65k is not much at all; the car can go 300-400k.
The car will remain in immaculate condition if you keep it that way.

Either one of the cars you mention can easily last 6 years. The Honda will require something the Buick will not, and that is timing belt changes. This also means tensioners, water pump, etc. and so that is an expense that will need to be figured in. The Honda timing belt is already 3+ years old and belts are also time dependent; not just mileage. In a couple of years that belt/tensioners/water pump will have to be done.

The supercharger is something that is not really needed, but they’re reliable and there should be no supercharger issues since the supercharger is not under a load during normal driving conditions. Boost only comes in when you’re nailing it hard.

Hondas are not Lemons but as a long time “foreign car” tech, I can tell you that Hondas, just like other foreign makes, are also not infallible and headache free. They have problems just like everyone else.

You should be able to negotiate that Buick down to $9,000 (KBB private party value)

The Civic you probably won’t negotiate down much of anything (KBB private party value is $13,500)…

Either one properly maintained should serve you well. As others have pointed out, Hondas are good, but they’re not without faults (that generation of Civic does have second gear clutch problems on its automatic trans for some years). I’d consider either a safe bet if checked out and cleared by a good independent mechanic.

If cost is your primary concern, I’d get the Regal. You’re probably looking at $4500 savings up front, which will easily pay for all of that gas mileage difference as well as any expected difference in reliability with a couple thousand to spare. It will likely be much cheaper to insure as well.

Of course, if you think you’ll want to sell again in 2-3 years, the Civic will fetch more (costing more upfront, of course), but both will have pretty linear depreciation from this point forward…

Have you done the calculations about how much gas you will use with the PU? You will have to predict how much you are planning on driving back and forth. The PU will be handy for hauling your stuff to and fro. Does it have problems that you know will cause you grief? I hardly drove at all in college, but maybe you are different.

65,000 is not that many miles. Newer Buicks are generally better than older ones given that you are looking at a 2002.

Good point about expensive tires. My dad was feeling pretty ambushed when he replaced the tires on his Park Ave Ultra. Do you need snow tires for this car where you will be driving it in or out of state?