Is it time for a new used car?

Got a 1994 Honda Civic with 170,000 miles - 4 cylinder, automatic transmission. I’ts been a great, great car thus far. Has original engine/transmission. 3 days ago we blew a cylinder. My mechanic says its time for a new engine. We tend to agree, and he found a used engine with only 40,000 miles on it. Do I sink $3500 into this car only to possibly have the transmission fail in the near future? We’ve done a little preliminary searching and used Hondas/Toyotas in our area are only available for under $5000 if they have over 150,000 miles on them. What do I do???

A 94 Civic isn’t worth $3,500 with 170,000 miles on it. With that many miles on the vehicle, anything else could fail. And unless you do your own repairs on the vehicle, and not pay someone else to do any repairs, use that $3,500 towards the purchase of a newer used vehicle.

And don’t forget to have the vehicle inspected before purchasing it. A $100.00 inspection can save you $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ down the road.


While I agree with tester, the real question is what is your budget. If $5000 is all you have. Then I think the money is better spent on the car you know rather then buying a new car with no history. Ideally you should use that money as a down payment on a newer car with a warranty.

How did it “blow a cylinder”? Did it throw a rod where a rod came through the block, oil drained out, and there was a lot of really bad sounding noises like a gunshot followed by a lot of banging and clatter? Or, did it simply blow a head gasket?

Has this been well maintained overall? Have you changed the transmission fluid? Hondas usually don’t come apart like this so if one part hasn’t been taken care of, the transmission may be next.

Spend some money having the current car checked before getting a new used engine.


It would be very helpful to know the specifics of the “blown cylinder.” And also the maintenance history of this car. At 170,000 miles of neglect and abuse a car is usually ready for the scrap yard while a well maintained car might have many years of life left with a salvaged engine. You might consider the condition of the tires, the body, suspension and brakes, and certainly the service history of the transmission to make a good decision regarding repairing vs replacing.

regarding the specifics of the blown cylinder…I’m a female without much technical automotive knowledge so please overlook my descriptions, but here’s what happened. Car was accelerating up a freeway ramp and then simply stopped running. Had it towed to my long-time mechanic who (I think) said it was a blown cylinder. There was no huge noise or banging that occured during this break down, so maybe it was a blown head gasket. And the car did start again at the repair shop but blew a lot of black smoke out the tailpipe.

As for transmission maintenance…none that I can recall, but I’ve only owned the car since 2006. Thank you to all for your advice so far!

EEEGGGAAADDDDSSSS… If you have never serviced the trans in 6 years… DONT SPEND ANOTHER DIME ON THE CAR !!! The trans is next, and most likley in short order… Trans fluid should be changed every 30K or so.

There are other makes of used cars besides Toyotas and Hondas. In your price range, you want the best car for the money. Consumer Reports reliability charts don’t mean much for older cars–in fact they don’t even go back that far. When you go shopping, take along a roll of masking tape–place one strip over the odometer and another strip over the insignia so you can’t identify the make of car. Look the potential purchase over for signs of rust, an accident, or uneven tire wear. If it passes this test, take the car for a road test with the radio off. Listen for unusual noises. Step down hard on the accelerator and note if the car is putting out blue smoke or clouds of white smoke. If the car still seem o.k., take it to a trusted mechanic for an inspection. If the car is deemed o.k. by the mechanic, then remove the tape and note the odometer reading and make of car. The point is that there are some good buys in cars that aren’t Hondas or Toyotas.

You can buy a loaded 2005 Chevrolet Cavalier LS with 80,000 miles for $5000 - from a dealer. That’s an example of what’s available in your price range and isn’t a Honda or Toyota. I would never buy a used Honda or Toyota. IMO, they are way overpriced. The 2005 Cavalier was in its last year of production and is a reliable car. It’s way boring, but that’s why it is priced attractively.

BTW, I own a 2005 Honda Accord, which I bought new. It was a god deal as a new car, but it certainly won’t be when I sell it at market value. And, I have a confession to make. I would buy a used Honda - an Acura NSX. But that’s it; no other used Honda for me.