It’s hard to go wrong with a Honda Civic. While it’s not always the best-in-class among compact cars, it’s consistently well-rounded as a practical, efficient and inexpensive choice on the used car market. And as a bonus, it’s usually fun to drive, too.
All of these attributes make the Civic a no-brainer for a first car. The Civic’s history of low maintenance costs also means it should be relatively inexpensive to keep going for thousands of miles. Again, exactly what you want when your biggest expenses are tuition and rent. When looking for cheap Civics, here’s what you can expect to find at various price points.
For as little as $4,000, you can find a 2001-2005 Civic that doesn’t have an accident blemish on its record, which is exactly the kind of thing people need in a first car. If you’re willing to spend $8,000, you can get a Civic with less than 100,000 miles on it.
The seventh-generation Civic may look like it was only styled with a straight edge, but it’s that simplicity that makes it well-rounded. The interior is clean and extremely space efficient. While the engines aren’t overwhelming in their power output, they’re smooth and easy on fuel. As a used car, it’s one of the best values out there right now.
Between $10,000 and $15,000 gets you a 2006-2011 Civic that completely feels like a modern car. In fact, I’d go so far to say it’s a worthy pick over the Civic you can buy new at a Honda dealership. The eighth generation Civic represented such a leap for the compact sedan class when it was released, and it makes the case that a Civic is all the car anyone could ever need.
It’s not really about the Civic, but the “Musical Road” ad is cool nonetheless.
One of the reasons I like this generation of Civic is that it got ambitious again with the styling. The interior, with its split instrument panel, divides opinion. But the Civic is otherwise ergonomically sound, meaning most drivers can find a comfortable position. Like the model before it, the flat rear floor means you actually have a chance at getting three humans across the back seat – not a given in cars even a size above the Civic.
For $10,000 to $20,000, you’re going to have lots of choice if you’re looking for a faster Civic, in the form of the Civic Si. Some are modified, but it’s possible to find a clean one to make your own, in two generations and three different body styles.
The 2002-2005 Si is the last Civic hatchback you can get, at least until the tenth generation Civic that’s due next year. It’s not the last word in hot hatchbacks, instead being more about driving enjoyment through an engine that will rev forever and a five-speed manual that wants to be shifted.
The 2006-2011 Si coupe and sedan, however, look like they’re actually fast. Credit that generation’s already adventurous styling. At a time when more hot coupes and hatches were getting turbocharged and offering automatic transmissions, the Civic Si seems like an anachronism with its six-speed manual-only transmission and high-revving 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. For those who get driving enjoyment out of a screaming four-cylinder and shifting a slick transmission, this is your ride.
Because of its long-standing popularity, there are a lot of Civics to choose from. A used Civic should be easy to buy and easy to keep going for years to come. And when it’s covered 200,000 miles and has coffee stains all over the carpet and upholstery, you can trade it in on something new knowing you got your money’s worth. This is probably why people who buy Civics often buy another. And another…