A grey 2019 Honda Civic, which is a popular used car for sale, is driving in a bright white tunnel.

How Did Honda Become the “Ultimate” Used Car?

It seems that whenever you mention you’ve been looking at used cars for sale, someone inevitably asks, “Have you looked at a Honda yet?” Of all the thousands upon thousands of used cars for sale, somehow, there is always at least one recommendation to look specifically at used Hondas. It really does seem like everyone drives a Honda- whether it’s a Civic or Accord sedan, or a family-friendly Passport or Odyssey. It’s not uncommon to hear of multi-Honda families, either.

So what makes Honda vehicles so attractive as used cars? They are generally well-priced and have a reputation for being dependable, but so do many other cars. We are living in an age in which cars last longer than ever, with safety features that provide many vehicles with an equal playing field when it comes to dependability in a crash, too. What gives Honda the gold standard over other used cars for sale? After digging into a lot of statistics, opinions, and ratings, it appears that Honda has created a magical formula of reliability, affordability, and appeal that rings true with the average used car shopper.

The Dependability Factor

The automobile industry is full of many different rankings and ratings. There are crash ratings, safety ratings, resale value rankings, and overall consumer ratings. Some of these figures tend to disagree with each other. After all, a popular vehicle isn’t always the safest. Plus, in today’s very specialized automobile market, there are just some vehicles that can’t do certain jobs. A Camaro isn’t going to be able to carry a family of four and a camper into the mountains, just as a Ridgeline isn’t going to be chosen as the next Indy car.

But it seems like there’s always a Honda on these lists if you look closely. For the purposes of a concise and consistent case study, we’ll focus our attention on the Honda Civic. It’s been rated the Kelley Blue Book Best Buy of the Year in the compact car division for six years straight, and regularly appears on Edmunds “Buyers Most Wanted” lists.

It also appears at the top of rankings that gauge actual reliability. RepairPal conducts a regular Reliability Rating, which measures a vehicle’s overall dependability by unscheduled repairs and maintenance requirements. The facts that go into these rankings are the cost, frequency, and severity of these unscheduled events. Over the years, RepairPal has created a vast proprietary database that includes the details surrounding millions of repair events to create a metric that can actually predict reliability based on statistics that compare actual automobiles as well as industry averages.

The Honda Civic has a Reliability Rating of 4.5 out of 5.0, making it third amongst the 36 compact cars rated. Whereas the current average total annual cost for repairs and maintenance on all vehicles is $652, and the compact car average is $526, Honda Civic has an annual average total cost of $368.

In short, the Honda Civic has proven itself dependable based on both long-term consumer and expert-based reviews, and through the facts and figures collected by statisticians and analysts over time, giving it a real foothold against the competition.

A red 2019 Honda Civic is driving on a city street.

Affordability All-Around

For those shopping for used cars for sale, the idea of spending less money at the lot only to spend more money on repairs in a short period doesn’t make sense. A high level of reliability means that an owner can plan to spend less money on a vehicle, even after many years.
Jessica Caldwell, an analyst at Edmunds, sums it up very nicely, stating, “Since price-sensitive car shoppers are less likely to take financial risks, Honda’s reputation for longevity and quality makes Civic a safer prospect. The largest source of sales comes from prior customers.”

As an added bonus, the Honda Civic is reasonably priced amongst the competition, even as a new vehicle. The 2013 Honda Civic, for example, had a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price around $19,000 brand new and can now be purchased for under $10,000 as a used car. The MSRP for a 2020 Honda Civic is around $21,000. Based on critics’ praise, it should continue to retain its value on the used car lot in the future. Despite seven years of inflation, the cost of a brand new base model Civic has only increased by approximately $2000, while other brands base prices have fluctuated significantly in an attempt to create a vehicle that drivers will want to buy.

In fact, Honda has won the Kelley Blue Book Brand Image Award year after year because of their ability to create and maintain a positive buzz about their brand, their vehicles, and attract both new and repeat customers. This award is granted based on the overall value proposition of Honda vehicles, which includes quality, reliability, and resale figures.

On top of the affordability of the vehicle itself, the Honda value presents itself every time you fill up at the gas pump. While Honda offers several Hybrid and Plug-in models, the standard gas-powered Civic average 30 miles per gallon city and 38 miles per gallon highway- numbers that increase slightly when the hatchback model is selected.

Drivers with a price point in mind don’t want to spend a little here to spend a lot there, whether that “lot” appears in the car payment, the maintenance garage, or at the gas station, and Honda’s vehicles deliver on that promise in every way.

A grey 2012 Honda Civic is parked in front of fall foliage.

The Value of Appeal

The final ingredient that makes Hondas special vehicles amongst all the other used cars for sale is that people want to drive them. As the saying goes, something is only valuable if another person wants it, and folks across the country (and even around the world) want to drive Hondas. The fact that Honda has regularly sold over 300,000 Civics each year since 2012 indicates that this is a vehicle that people want to drive.

Steven Center, VP of auto sales for American Honda, has been quoted in an interview with Automotive News on the controversial topic of whether cars such as the Civic are a dying breed in the American automotive market. “Do people want passenger cars? Yes. Forty-seven percent of our sales are passenger cars, and we’re picking up share in the passenger car segment- almost two points compared to the other mainstream brands.”

The charm of the Civic is that it includes plenty of standard features that drivers actually want, such as Bluetooth connectivity, USB charging ports, rear-view cameras, and more. There are also plenty of choices to be had within each model, with a variety of trims, engine selections, and transmissions allowing each driver to hand-select the perfect daily driver. Furthermore, there’s something to be said about the spacious interior and sufficient cargo room. While a Civic is never going to be a Pilot, a hatchback Civic can store plenty of stuff with its 25.2 cubic foot trunk space.

So when you’re looking at used cars for sale, it isn’t a bad idea to look at a Honda, just as your friends, relatives, and coworkers recommend. Whether you end up purchasing one or not depends on factors far outside the rankings and ratings covered here. That being said, it is clear that Honda has made it a point, as a brand, to create value in the compact car market, both in the new and used segments, and that value is here to stay. Winning accolades from various well-respected experts is one thing, but backing up those awards with actual sales figures tells the whole story.