Civic vs. Corolla

I’m looking at two used cars right now, an '02 Honda Civic EX with 41,000 miles (manual transmission, 4dr) and an '03 Toyota Corolla LE with 60,000 miles (automatic transmission). Both are in good condition and check out clean on CarFax. I have already had the Corolla in to my mechanic. Overall it looked good, but they noticed it had previously had some type of rear end damage (deck lid not aligned and rear body panel not fit correctly). They said it should not affect alignment or structural integrity, and there are no signs of water leaking into the trunk. The Civic has not been to the mechanic yet. However, I noticed that the '02 Civic had 212 TSBs, compared to 40 for the '03 Corolla. Should that serve as a warning flag about the Civic? Any other thoughts on which of these two vehicles would be a better choice? Thanks!

Crash damage would be a red flag for me. If these are the only two cars you’re considering, take the one with no body damage. Overall, Civics and Corollas are equally reliable. Ignore the number of TSBs. It’s not meaningful in this context.

The Civic has lower mileage, and it’s a manual, which should deliver slighter higher fuel mileage. I’d choose the Civic in this contest, especially since the Corolla has been hit.

By the way, I can obviously drive a manual, or I wouldn’t be seriously considering it. However, I have had far less experience with manuals, and I’m a bit nervous about negotiating heavy traffic and parallel parking with a stick.

I’d avoid the one that’s been hit. It sounds like the repairs may not have been well done and the unibody may be out of wumpus.

TSBs are only a vehicle to send advisories to the dealers. They’re commonly issued for procedural changes, spec change advisories, etc. I have one at home that’s a description of how to get a replacement VIN label for the dash on my old pickup (now gone). The number of TSBs issued means nothing by itself.

Consider too, buying the car that does not need a camshaft timing belt change for upwards of $500 at around 60,000 miles. There are brands avaialble in this car size range that don’t need that.

The Corolla does have a timing chain rather than a timing belt.

You’ll get used to the manual in no time, and after a week or two it will be second nature.

But, for $500, would you chose a car that has a belt, or one that has a chain, but may have been rear-ended and not fixed properly?

I like manual transmissions. Except in heavy traffic. If you drive in heavy traffic, get the automatic. Your left leg will thank you.

Body damage. If the back doors don’t open and close as they should, it would be a warning sign that too much of the car got damaged. Look in the door wells and see if the paint feels rough.

I went ahead and had my mechanic look at the Civic as well. He said overall it was in decent shape, but looked like it had had a, “rough life for a car with only 41,000 miles,” indicating that it had not been well cared for. Not much specifically wrong with it at this point, except some damage in the front wheel wells where the tire had worn through; he said it would need some front end body work to correct that.

I will be deciding today or tomorrow, and at this point I’m leaning toward the Corolla. Having looked at and driven both, it just seems like the better car, despite the previous damage.

This was the same mechanic that looked at the Corolla (and someone I took my previous car to for quite awhile and trust), and he restated that the rear damage on the Corolla was quite minimal, that it had not gone as far forward as the rear tires, nothing wrong with the rear axle, just involving the rear bumper. Basically, his opinion was that either one would be an acceptable car, and the fact that I know that the Corolla had some damage could just be used as a bargaining chip.

I’d say pass on both. Unless you really really need a car right now, there are other, better cars out there that haven’t had any damage done to them.

That generation of Civic was in my opinion a low point. I would avoid it. I have a 99 Civic - the generation before the one you are looking at - and I am glad to have it and not the next.

Wrong on Civic.

It requires change at 105k and charge is typically around $300-$400.

I love my 99 too. Wasn’t it with the next generation('01+) that started having some transmission issues?

Don’t know. Mine is a 5-speed manual. The present iteration of Civic with automatic has a 5-speed. Maybe that was problematic early on.

The prior generation did dispense with the supple, sophistacated front suspension we have on our 99s - went to Macpherson struts - and did have lots of suspension bushing issues I think. The styling is slablike and boring to my eye.

i have high respect for both companies, and both models.

imho, hondas have a slight edge in performance and sportiness. toyotas have an edge in overall toughness and durability.

CR has a chart (pg 23, 4/07 issue) showing the rate of problems at increasing age for most makes. honda and toyota are essentially even up to age 3.2 years. after that, hondas get a few more problems per 100 vehicles. (of course, any specific given example can deviate from the overall average.)

so, i would prefer the corolla to start. the assessment of your mechanic that that particular civic had a hard life to date, further convinces me the corolla would be the better choice.

while i have always enjoyed driving a stick, my previous and current car (an '03 corolla too) were and are automatics. i now enjoy this about as much as any previous car with a stick. you still can control which gear you’re in manually. and it’s a great convenience to not bother with a clutch, esp. in traffic.

the corolla automatic is one of the few where you hardly give up ANY mpg compared to the stick. i have gotten 40 mpg in OVERALL mileage.