Used Honda with over 200k?
July 4, 2011 5:00 PM   Subscribe

Am I a fool for considering a used Honda with over 200k miles?

The price is under $3,000, for a 1997 CR-V. Even if I have to make major repairs in the next couple of years, with that low a price I have enough savings left over that it's not a problem. That low a price on a CR-V is dinging my "great deal!" buzzer, but 200k is a TON of miles. Can modern cars go much further than 200k? What sort of maintenance should I expect?
posted by lillygog to Travel & Transportation (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Get the oil changed in it routinely, drive it responsibly and you might well get another 100,000 miles out of it. Well-maintained cars will go an awfully long way.
posted by mhoye at 5:02 PM on July 4, 2011

I have great faith in Hondas in general, but for that mileage regardless of price I would want to see maintenance records. In particular -- when was the last time the timing belt (or chain) was replaced? When was the last time major work was done to the transmission - I am assuming an automatic?

At that mileage the car was driven in the range of 15k miles/year which is on the high side. Find out what kind of miles they were. Highway miles are better than city miles.

The car could easily last you three to five more years with regular maintenance, assuming it was well maintained up until this point.
posted by contessa at 5:06 PM on July 4, 2011

My trusty hand-me-down '97 Accord just passed its 275,000 mile mark a few months ago, and I am even still driving it around 75 to 80 miles per day for my highly-mobile job in the Los Angeles summer heat, no major issues with that so far (other than what I might save on gas if I got a new Civic, 39mpg hwy!).
posted by so_gracefully at 5:13 PM on July 4, 2011

What contessa said: with decent, attentive maintenance, particularly big things like the timing belt change, there's no reason why a '97 Honda can't get to 300k with all of the important stuff intact.

Chances are that it's approaching its second timing belt change -- budget $1,000 for that -- and the owner doesn't want to put that amount of money into the car's maintenance. (Blue Book is around $4,000 for excellent condition, depending on region.) What you'll want is a decent service history, and possibly an independent inspection by a local shop to flag up any other potentially expensive repairs.
posted by holgate at 5:16 PM on July 4, 2011

We bought a 99 Subaru Legacy with 190K for $2000 in 2008, if that's helpful to you. $3000 for a 14 year old car (manufactured/sold in late '96?) with over 200k seems like a lot to me.

Kelley Blue Book has a number of reviews by owners who say theirs have over 230, 240k miles. KBB says a private seller can expect to get about $3600. So the 'experts' would tell you to go for it.
posted by MeiraV at 5:18 PM on July 4, 2011

The trade off in an older car is break down inconvenience vs. total cost. You're going on the low end of cost so that you have more money for other things. If you keep a budget for routine maintenance (fluids, etc) and don't push it hard, your break downs are likely to be fewer. If you can afford to be stranded or waiting on repairs, then an older car is nearly always a better deal than a newer car.

Your best bet, besides learning how to do the work yourself, is to find a mechanic you can trust and can spend some time with so you can build a schedule of things likely to go wrong and you can save for them now.
posted by plinth at 5:28 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

My '95 Honda Accord with > 200k miles is running just fine. I took it to my mechanic last month for a checkup and said "so, seriously, is it time to start looking at a replacement?", to which his response was "I can't think of any mechanical reason why you would, but if you do please let me make the first offer". Yeah, the seats are stained from dropped soda's/crayons/juice boxes/etc, but it's structurally still sound. That being said, Edmunds prices a '97 CR-V with no options at $917-$2019 for average condition.
posted by Runes at 5:45 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Normally, I would tell you that you're a knucklehead. However, having worked for Honda corporate (working customer relations, no less), you'll probably be all right.

The CR-Vs, especially late 90s, are goddamn bulletproof. The only call I ever got about a CR-V was some shmuck who screwed up a valve adjustment in his garage. They would go in for oil changes and that's it.

Take it to a mechanic, pay 'em for an hour and have them go over every inch. If it comes back in good shape, take it. Great little cars.
posted by jpolchlopek at 5:46 PM on July 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

I have driven several Hondas into the ground with well more than $250K miles. Another thing to consider is whether you view air conditioning as essential; in all of my cars it crapped out early. I've also had to replace every part of the exhaust system more than once. YMMV.
posted by carmicha at 5:47 PM on July 4, 2011

Exhausts and A/C valves are definitely issues with late 90s Hondas. Also CV joints, and possibly the exhaust manifold, which can develop a crack around that time of life. (That shows up via a check-engine light.) But none of these are horrifically expensive repairs.
posted by holgate at 6:13 PM on July 4, 2011

This anecdote is related to a Toyota, but I think the lesson is the same. When I asked my mechanic about when to ditch my '96 car, he told me he wouldn't even consider it before it hit 250K. Regular maintenance and oil changes should get you there pretty easily.
posted by Gilbert at 6:14 PM on July 4, 2011

Hondas will not die. I had an early 1990s Accord from 130k - 200k miles and aside from the once every 2 - 3 years surprise (ignition circuitry, CV joints) it was strictly routine maintenance.
posted by zippy at 6:22 PM on July 4, 2011

I've gotten 350k+ from a Buick and from a VW (diesel). I think my Camry died at about 312k. I say go for it with gusto.
posted by bricoleur at 7:02 PM on July 4, 2011

I wouldn't pay quite that much for it, but as long as it doesn't have electrical problems, you'll be fine. I single out electrical problems because they are the biggest pain in the ass to resolve of anything that ever goes wrong with cars.

That said, even for a Honda, 200k is getting on towards the end of its economic life for the majority of any given production run. If you can get maintenance records and have it checked out by a mechanic, you'll probably not have too much trouble, but a not-so-well maintained specimen will probably only go for another 20-50k.
posted by wierdo at 8:17 PM on July 4, 2011

Oh, one other thing: At that mileage, you need to make sure that the ball joints and a few other critical suspension/steering components are checked out. There's nothing worse than driving down the freeway and suddenly having a wheel pointing in the wrong direction. This is more of a problem where you live than it is down south and away from the ocean.
posted by wierdo at 8:21 PM on July 4, 2011

What matters more then 50k miles in my opinion, is how well the car was maintained during the miles it has.

Do they have all the maintenance records?
Did they get the oil changes on time, and timing belt done on time?
How many owners has the car had?
Who was the main driver?
An old lady, or a young pizza delivery boy?
posted by crawltopslow at 10:38 PM on July 4, 2011

You all are the best! This is very helpful. I'm going to try to take the car by a local mechanic and find out as much as possible about the owners' maintenance. I do know that a lot of the miles were highway commuter miles. But the info about a second timing belt at 200k (which makes sense, once I think about it) is very useful, as well as pointers on what to ask the mechanic to specifically look at.

With a car this old I know I can expect some basic mechanical issues to crop up, but my fear is that I'll need to buy a whole new engine a week later or something.
posted by lillygog at 5:30 AM on July 5, 2011

The owner's manual for the '97 CR-V actually puts the replacement interval for the timing belt at every 60,000 miles or 5 years, but the general rule of thumb is around 100k miles or 7 years, and that last figure fits with the age and mileage here.
posted by holgate at 8:42 AM on July 5, 2011

Just a data point, our 99 CRV is just under 200k miles and it's rolling along just fine as we've maintained it regularly. I expect many more years of service from it. Over $3000 would definitely be too much for one of these at this age/miles and there need a good reason (maintenance records, options) for them to ask over $2000.
posted by pappy at 9:41 AM on July 5, 2011

My 99 Civic is halfway there there and other than scratched bumpers, I cannot find anything wrong with it. It is simply indestructible.

Which is sad as I'm promised myself that I'd drive it into the ground before I bought myself something fast. Looks like I'm going to be 40 before I get that hot-rod. I'll be 35 this year...
posted by dmt at 9:48 AM on July 5, 2011

I just bought a 2001 Honda with 140,000 and I've been helping a sibling shop for similar inexpensive, but long lasting cars. My friend has a 1991 Accord with over 250k miles that still runs fine. Hondas (for the most part) are wonderfully built cars that will last. That being said, the miles, type, and year of car aren't the only things you need to examine.

IMO, the most important thing to look for in buying a car is how well it has been taken care of. A 1995 Honda CRV with two owners who have done meticulous maintenance is better than one that has passed through many hands and lacks documentation about replacement/repaires. When you are looking at a car, ask how many owners it has had and for any past documents showing things like oil changes, part replacements, etc. The timing belt issue is critical. Before I got my hands on my car's documents, I priced the replacement at $650 from a trusted mechanic, and intended to negotiate with that price added on to the total price.

Here are my steps to purchasing a used car:

1. Go on craigslist, look at auto trader, etc and price cars in the area. Right now is a terrible time to buy used, as they are selling very well, even sometimes above KBB. It helps if you have a certain type of car in mind, so you can easily keep track of prices.

2. When you find a car that interests you, call right away. In this tight market, low priced cars go fast. Check the listings as much as possible.

3. When you visit the car, take note of the neighborhood. People in richer neighborhoods don't necessarily take better care of their cars, but often the best deals can be found as you go up in wealth and a car in a wealthier zip is generally worth more than one in a poorer one.

4. Take the car for a drive. See how well it runs. Examine the oil, the engine, the air conditioning, etc. Ask how many owners and to see the documentation. If the car looks good and the price is reasonable, offer a deposit while you take the car to a mechanic you trust. I've found that people, especially those who haven't sold a lot of cars, can be nervous about you taking the car without the full amount, but no one has turned down a deposit. I type out a piece of paper before hand stating that the check (always for $500) is a deposit and the rest of the amount will be paid if the mechanic gives the car approval. At this point, I try to see how firm the seller is on price. I've often found people very flexible.

5. If the mechanic gives it a clean bill of health and you have documentation for things like the timing belt, place your offer. If the mechanic notes some problems and/or you can't get the documentation, then have your mechanic print up an invoice with estimates and use that to negotiate. I leave the car at the mechanic's and, if I purchase it, have the work done immediately after I purchase the car/get the title transfered.

I've found that private parties give better rate than dealers, so I usually stick to those. If you can, purchase a manual, as those are generally cheaper, get better gas mileage, and are less expensive to replace. When I bought my first stick, I had no idea how to drive it, but I quickly learned. Youtube videos can help you if you have no one to teach you in person.
posted by avagoyle at 6:08 AM on July 6, 2011

avagoyle wrote: My friend has a 1991 Accord with over 250k miles that still runs fine. Hondas (for the most part) are wonderfully built cars that will last

Yeah, mine still runs and drives fine, but the aforementioned electrical issue drains the battery if I don't disconnect it, and it leaks oil like a sieve (rear main seal is going out, not really economical to fix even with my "guy," since removing the engine will probably break the A/C beyond economical repair).

I guess the fact that it still runs, and well, despite having been used for delivery driving for about 60,000 miles in 3 years or so is a testament to the near bulletproof nature of the car.

Don't buy a Passport, though. Those were actually made by Isuzu and break down often, according to my very experienced Honda mechanic. So does the Acura RSX. People destroy the (manual!) transmissions on them like nobody's business.
posted by wierdo at 3:18 PM on July 6, 2011

Thanks very much, everyone. It turned out that this particular car had a few issues that made it not worth the price, but all of your comments were really helpful. We actually ended up buying another used Honda, so here's hoping we make it to the 200K club, too!
posted by lillygog at 8:37 AM on July 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

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