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Old 08-31-2008, 09:10 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Shopping tips for a '96-'00 Civic?

I'll be shopping for a Civic in 2nd half of September. Probably '96-2000 vintage in order to support a Scan Gauge.

Edit:
Definitely a 5-speed.
HX is only available as coupe, SFAIK.
I'm leaning towards coupe anyway for its better aero.
End Edit.

I'm pretty much settled on getting an HX for its MPG but could get a Del Sol if I find one I like.

What should I look for when inspecting one of these? I'm new to Civics. I've done lots of the work on our several Volvos so I'm no stranger to inspecting a car.

If the seller can't say when the timing belt was last changed should I try to look at it? Or just assume it has to be done now?

I drive 52 mi. each way to work, mostly highway. Currently car pooling 4 days/week, going solo on Fridays. When car pooling I can't drive 50-55, 60-70 is more usual.

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Old 08-31-2008, 09:28 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Here are my personal suggestions on a few things to keep in mind when shopping for a used car from a 3rd party:

1.) given the current state of fuel prices and popularity of these older, highly fuel efficient cars, there has been a resurgence in demand which has driven prices up significantly, even for less than reliable versions of the cars. This may mean that at thier current price point you could get into one of the newer civics which will be more reliable and have readily available repair parts for cheaper (dealerships only supply repair parts for 10 years after a vehicle is released, after that repair part availability falls solely on the aftermarket). So, don't just consider the initial cost of the vehicle, think about what its going to cost to service it over its useful life as well.

2.) If you are buying a used car and its not from a dealership who can certify the vehicle, ask the seller for a maintenence log. Having one of these shows you that the seller was meticulous about maintaining the vehicle and has performed all the service at the proper intervals.

3.) Get a carfax.com/autocheck.com history report off the VIN. It will tell you if the car has been crashed/totalled/flooded and repaired.

4.) There are companies that will come out and do a full mechanical inspection on a car for you for a fee when buying a used car. They will check all the normal wear items like CV joints, transmission, engine, brakes, etc as well as take fluid from all the major components and run tests on it to see whether there are signs of bearing failures, trace materials that indicate lack of servicing or impending failures. You should most definitly use this service if you are buying from a 3rd party and want to make sure you are not getting scammed. A good example of a mail in oil test can be found here:

Titan Laboratories: Oil, Coolant, Fuel & Industrial Fluids Analysis

An example of the mobile used car inspection companies:

http://www.autopi.com/
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Old 08-31-2008, 09:31 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I would look for one that says Metro on the back.

Seriously, it would be hard for me to assume anything when looking at a car. I don't know anything about Givics, but personally I would make sure to buy it at a price that makes it worthwhile to me to go through everything in the engine compartment replacing what needs it.
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Old 08-31-2008, 09:37 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Timing belt is covered, so there would be some work involved in inspecting that. Not sure if the owner would necessarily trust you with such a task. Might just want to take it to a dealer/independent to have the vehicle inspected pre-purchase for any flaws.

Del Sol is a 2 seater, don't know how that fits into your carpooling equation.

My Civic came from the CA coastline and has quite a bit of surface rust, I would imagine this would be even worse where it is prone to snow.

Rust was found in the rear hatch area and on the bottoms of the doors.

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Old 08-31-2008, 10:38 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Just mainly look for rust in the rear fenders and on the lower rocker arms, if the car is from a rust-prone area. I would recommend an HX manual.
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Old 08-31-2008, 10:55 AM   #6 (permalink)
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I can't imagine brucepick without a trusty Volvo! Going with a Civic is a good move though...

I had a '97 and a '99 Civic (the latter of which is tied for first in the "best cars I've owned" category).

Follow jdubs' advice -- lots of the good ones have been bought, leaving the "leftovers". Regarding the timing belt, I'm not sure if this an "inspectable" item -- others can probably help more with that -- but for cars with interference engines, I've replaced the belt immediately when buying used. There has to be solid evidence otherwise.

The biggest thing to look for is evidence of power "tuner" mods. Many of these cars had the living daylights run out of them. Otherwise, surface rust from salt is all I've heard of.

The HX may be extremely difficult to find. In this generation of Civics, the CX, DX, and LX have the 106 hp 1.6L. (The EX had the more powerful engine, with the Si at 160 hp) Mine was the DX Coupe and later the Si. With the 5-speed, the DX had plenty of power and was easy to get ~30 MPG with my lead foot at the time. Are you looking at hatch, coupe, sedan, or any?

IMO, working on these cars is much less complicated than other models. The engine bay has plenty of room to work. More simplicity in other areas. Not sure about the Del Sol -- again, probably hard to find with the engine you want.

Have fun looking! Let us know what you find...

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Old 08-31-2008, 10:58 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Don't pass up a good pre-96 if one presents itself. You can use an MPGuino for fuel economy instrumentation if it's not ScanGauge compatible.
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Old 08-31-2008, 03:35 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MetroMPG View Post
Don't pass up a good pre-96 if one presents itself. You can use an MPGuino for fuel economy instrumentation if it's not ScanGauge compatible.
I second that, the scangauge will also not be able to calculate for leanburn in the vtec-e system and the MPGuino doesnt have a problem with it.

I'm waiting for my MPGuino to come in the mail because i'm converting my HX to OBD1


As far as inspecting goes make sure to do @ least a compression test and maybe a leakdown if you can. Avoid the CVT variety and make sure the 5 speed sounds ok, no grinds, no bearing noises. Oh, make sure you dont have any o2 related CELS because the sensor is $$$$ to replace.

If the HX doesnt have the original wheels (11.5 lbs apeice) you should haggle to price down a bit.



happy hunting

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Old 09-01-2008, 01:38 AM   #9 (permalink)
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As an ecomodder you will probably not see much improvement in mileage from an hx to a dx or lx model in the years you are considering. I'd expand your search to include these models. 40+mpg is very achievable with any of these three. The EX model is the one to avoid due to much lower gear ratios.
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Old 09-01-2008, 11:36 AM   #10 (permalink)
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The EX has a more powerful engine in this generation of Civics, so avoid that. I wouldn't automatically scratch any DX or LX from the list, though an HX would be preferable. Also keep an open mind for any post-2000 Civic HX LX or DX that might pop up (2001 HX EPA rating is actually a tick higher than the 1999 HX).

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