If you’re trying to save money with a pre-owned car but want to make sure you’re not stuck with a lemon, then one familiar brand will have several options for you — Honda. Not only are several of its models relatively affordable, but they are, in general, well-made and reliable. That means that even if you’re shopping for a vehicle that first hit the road over two decades ago, you can usually count on a car that runs well and is safe to drive.
Of course, not every Honda is built the same. Some models are better than others or may suit different needs. Within those brands, some generations and model years vary as well. Sometimes a car can be the best on the market one year, then a total lemon the next. To help you avoid Hondas with known major issues and find which one is right for you, here is a list of cheap and reliable Hondas you can buy used.
2014 Honda Civic
There’s a reason why you come across a lot of used Honda Civics on the road. They’re popular when they’re new – but they also last forever and are as nearly as popular when they’re old. However, not all Civics are the same, and the 2014 model might just be the best of the bunch. If you decide on a Civic, you should really aim for one made between 2012 and 2015 because models after that can sometimes have steering and braking issues, and the ones from the early 2000s were plagued by recalls.
Besides being reliable and cheap, the 2014 Honda Civic is also fuel efficient and one of the safest Hondas you can get, making it a great car for a family on a budget. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded the model with a Top Safety Pick Plus. A year later, the 2015 Civic subsequently earned a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS.
By 2012, Civics were also catching up with the newer technology that had been cropping up in more expensive cars and included integrated navigation systems and automatic headlights, though the buttons on their multimedia systems could be too touch-sensitive. Other features include cruise control and a motorized sunroof. So while you’ll be driving a car that’s been around a decade or longer, you’ll still feel like you’re behind the wheel of something relatively modern.
2016 Honda CR-V
If you’re looking for a reliable, relatively affordable pre-owned SUV, a solid option is the 2016 Honda CR-V. Its 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine can produce 185 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque and, like the CR-V’s dependable transmission, is very reliable. The 2016 model is also a very safe car to drive, with several safety features included, including anti-lock brakes, stability control, and a rearview camera. It’s also easy to maintain, an important asset when it comes to older vehicles.
Honda CR-V models from the past four years are all reliable and good choices, but if you’re looking to save money, opt for the older 2016 model. It was given a “great” quality and reliability score of 83 out of 100 by J.D. Power, in addition to a 74 score for driving experience. That’s about average, but considering more recent cars tend to rate higher when it comes to design, comfort, and functionality, it’s a good-enough score for the 2016 model. If you’re looking for a temporary placeholder vehicle, the potential resale value of the 2016 CR-V is also rated high.
2015 Honda Accord
The Accord is one of Honda’s longest-running car models in the U.S. The very first Accords rolled off the assembly line in 1976, and the car became Honda’s first produced in America in 1982 with the establishment of the Marysville Auto Plant. Considering that the Accord is also one of the longest-lasting Hondas you can buy, with 1.3% of Accords sold between 1981 and 2020 lasting over 200,000 miles, it’s no wonder why so many pre-owned units are available.
The brand hasn’t been without its problems, however. Models between 1998 and 2004, as well as 2008 and 2011, have been criticized for engine and transmission issues. However, Accords from 2015 on have been rated much more favorably by drivers. The 2013 Accord is also a good option and might be a little cheaper, but you’ll find more safety features with the 2015 Accord. It’s also fuel efficient and performs well.
According to J.D. Power, which gave it a quality and reliability score of 83 based on consumer feedback, owners of the 2015 Accord especially like the rear visibility and smooth engine of the car. However, the same owners expressed general dissatisfaction with the size of the vehicle’s trunk space.
1996 Honda Prelude
The Honda Prelude combines the reliability of a Honda with the fun, sporty feel of a coupe and can be a solid choice to buy pre-owned if you’re looking for something a little different. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Prelude was one of the most state-of-the-art and sophisticated lines offered by Honda.
However, you should be wary of what year your used Prelude is from, as the line has been troubled by issues in the past, including problems with timing belts and water leaking into the foot and rear seat wells. Two models that have not had as many reported issues are the 1996 and 2000 Honda Preludes. Depending on where you look, you’ll likely save money by opting for the 1996 model since it’s older and likely to have more mileage.
Either way, considering the Prelude was relatively affordable when it was new, you should get a lot of bang for your buck with these models. The 1996 Honda Prelude was part of the line’s fourth generation and included optional rear-wheel steering and an engine capable of 135 to 187 horsepower and 137 to 153 lb-ft of torque, depending on the specific model. Even if you find a 1996 Prelude that’s a little scratched up on the outside, there’s a good chance it’ll still have a lot of punch on the inside.
2011 Honda Element
The Honda Element has a boxy look that may be a turn-off for some drivers, but if you’re looking for a reliable, pre-owned SUV, and looks aren’t as important to you (or if you genuinely like the aesthetic), it’s a good choice. This is especially true if you plan on taking your used Honda out on the road for biking, camping, surfing, hiking, and other adventurous leisure activities. Its distinct layout and bi-parting side doors make it perfect for squeezing in surfboards, skis, mountain bikes, and other bulky gear.
According to consumer feedback from J.D. Power, the 2011 model, and the few released immediately preceding it, are the most reliable Elements you can find. The 2011 Honda Element received a quality and reliability rating of 81 and a driving experience rating of 80, with praise for its forward visibility, in addition to its interior space. However, owners reported problems with the quality of that interior, as well as issues with slow acceleration and handling curves.
Still, the 2011 Honda Element is four-wheel drive and includes a five-speed automatic transmission — plus front and side airbags. Even when compared to other Hondas, used Elements are reasonably priced and definitely worth your consideration if you’re looking for a pre-owned Honda that is cheap, reliable, and spacious.