RIP little Civic... You were an mpg stud!

My '99 Civic, a total trooper, was just about totaled after a very drunk driver decided he didn’t want to be limited by the lane marks on the freeway last Wed night. He hit me at 75, and my little hot wheels car has gone to that big impound lot in the sky. WHAT SHOULD I DO NOW?

I am a student and I drive about 250 miles a week, mostly highway, and fuel efficiency is a priority. I have been investigating USED civics, corollas, and focuses and my budget is 7-10k… does anybody have any suggestions or advice?

Get another Civic or a Corolla. You might also take a look at the Hyundai Elantra. You can get a fairly new, low mileage example within your budget, and it’s about as reliable as the Civic. Just make sure you get one made after 2000 (which shouldn’t be hard.)

Civic all the way!!! Honda’s are the best!!!

If you wait two years, your new car may have some metal that used to be in your other car. Of course, the same can be said for a coffee table. Another Civic would be alright if you can find one.

I agree that the OP’s 7-10k budget would allow him/her to buy a much newer Elantra, rather than a Civic. Is a Civic more reliable? Of course it is, but since a Civic is always more expensive than an Elantra, the OP should be able to buy an Elantra that is at least 2 years newer than a Civic, and this should level the playing field considerably in terms of reliability. The Elantra is essentially just as fuel-efficient as the Civic, and would be a good choice.

If mileage is imporatnt with you, also consider the Hyundai Accent; it comes closest to what you are driving now. In the last 5 years the Accent has been a very good car; great on gas and easy to maintain. For $10,000 you should be able to get a really good model with low miles.

I agree with going the Hyundai route. Yes, Hondas and Toyotas are fantastic cars, but their premium prices aren’t worth it when Hyundai isn’t much behind in terms of reliability. It’s said on here frequently that reliability for all makes has come a long way, and I think that’s important to remember.

A friend just spent $7k on a low-miles Honda - from 1999. In my book, $7k is A LOT for an almost ten-year-old car that sold for $16k originally. Especially when it was the traditional elderly lady car, meaning there’s visible damage to the bumpers from a couple fender benders and the scheduled maintenance wasn’t kept up with well.

A friend just spent $7k on a low-miles Honda

That right there says a LOT for the Honda. You should ALWAYS consider resale value unless you plan on driving it into the ground.

Quality of of all makes have come up a lot…but many are still far behind Toyota and Honda. You may not see the difference in the first 150k miles…but when you start to keep them like I do…250-300k miles…many manufacturers start falling apart. I haven’t seen of or heard of many Hyundai’s reaching the 250k mile mark.

We are glad that you did not go to the morgue at the time your car left you. If you check out a honda FIT, you’ll probably buy it. I would if I had your budget to work with.

As a former Civic owner, you are likely aware of the need for periodic timing belt changes so you would know that you might want to make sure that whatever you buy does not need a timing belt change soon. Posted elsewhere on this site today is a short list of cars that use timing chains that avoid the timing belt expense.

to be fair though, small, fuel efficient cars are in high demand these days, so ANY make/model with good mileage will cost a premium. Maybe once gas gets up over $5/gallon, i’ll throw a for sale sign in my civic(also a 99) and ask $7k for it. Since I have records of timing belt and other such work, I may just get it.

also, with your budget, put aside a grand or 3 and use it for catching up on maintenance/repairs for your next purchase

Thanks so much to all of you for your advice! It has been all kinds of helpful! I just wanted to throw out a (perhaps incredibly dumb) question: Why are Hyundais so much cheaper than Civics with comparable specs?

Considering the spectacular way my last car bit the dust, safety is obviously going to be an important factor. Thanks again!

Hyundais do not have the benefit of 20+ years of reliability records attesting to their quality. Hyundais from only a decade ago were marginal at best and the ones before that were simply terrible. It takes a lot of time to erase that stigma. That could be great for you, though, if you want a newer car. I would seriously consider an Elantra, 2005 or newer. According to Kelley Blue Book, a 2005 in decent condition and 60000 miles sells for ~7500 private party, compared to 12300 for a Civic. Elantras older than 2005 received atrocious crash test ratings, though, so check out the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety website ( before buying any car. The Mazda protege is another reliable one that should be less expensive than a Civic or Corolla, but it doesn’t crunch as well.

Generally, because the costs of doing business in Japan (and the US where most US market Japanese cars are assembled these days) are quite a bit higher than in Korea, where Hyundais are from. Also, if you test drive the two you’ll probably get the feeling that the Honda is a somewhat more substantial and refined vehicle, with mostly better components. Think the same reasons why a Mercedes costs more than a comparably equipped Buick.

I think Docknick is very right that the Hyundai Accent is the closest thing to your 99 Civic. The Korean carmakers are currently in many ways in the same position as the Japanese carmakers were for most of the 80’s and 90’s, making lower-cost but still high-quality vehicles that are a little bit rough on finish but extremely reliable. The Japanese makers still make very good cars, but they’ve capitalized on their reputation for dependability very well and, other than their few economy models like the Fit or the Scions, they’ve mostly moved out of the “cheap car” market.

Also, whether justified or not, Hondas have an extremely good reputation which is why they command such higher prices used. Nobody really argues that Hondas are bad cars, but when you’re looking at cars in the price range you’re looking at you can buy a much newer and fancier vehicle than the Honda you can buy for the same amount.

Mike did bring up a valid point about resale value - I don’t consider it much because I plan to drive my cars as long as possible, but if you’re looking to sell the car in a year or two (such as after graduation), then paying more now for a Civic may work to your advantage down the road.

Personally, I’d prefer to get a newer car with fewer miles now and drive it for as long as possible, but your plans for the future may be different than mine. As for Hyundai quality, Mike’s right that you don’t hear about them lasting as long as Hondas or Toyotas, but I think that will change as the more recent models rack up the miles. Hyundai’s come a long way in the past few years, IMHO.

Resale value is psychological as well as factual; this is important to remember. An advertising executive once gave me the definiton of sex appeal: “it’s 50% what you’ve got and 50% what people THINK you’ve got”!

Honda and Toyota have built up a good reputation, but Mazda have for some time been equally good. Again it’s the time lag; the difference between PERCEPTION and REALITY is 8 years! There are people, for instance, who still believe that Volvos are trouble-free, reliable cars! And Mercedes’s poor reliability reputation still has not spread yet to the Asian commumity, who revere that make.

Hyundai started out in the 80s with the dismal Pony, and took a long time to overcome that reputation. About 7 years ago, Hyundai Sonatas became really good cars, and the newer Elantra models got better and better. Hyundai is on a steep learnign curve, similar to Toyota and Honda, whose early cars were pretty bad as well! The current Hyundai Accent is light years better than a 70 Honda Civic, for instance.

Automotive journalists are no help either; they push hype, features, and newness. A car expert described how the bad mouthed the Eleantra, but then secretly bought that very car for their family use!

It will take a few years for Hyundai resale value to go up; in the emanwhiel the Sonat, Elantra, and Accent are great buys used.