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Why the Honda Civic Is a Great Car for the Average American

For years, Honda has been rolling out well-made, reliable cars. Even though a few car manufacturers – Toyota in particular – have begun to catch up with Honda in offering affordable, dependable, and high-quality vehicles, Honda continues to be a trusted brand.

There’s one Honda model that’s perfect for owners who want a no-frills, economical and reliable car. The default seems like it should be the popular Honda Accord. Instead, the best model for the average American is the humble Honda Civic according to data gathered by the folks at RepairPal.com.

The Honda Civic’s popularity and reliability

A Honda Civic is seen during the Vienna Car Show press preview at Messe Wien, as part of Vienna Holiday Fair, on January 15, 2020 in Vienna, Austria
The Honda Civic | Manfred Schmid/Getty Images

The Internet-based market research firm YouGov.com identifies the Honda Civic as the third most popular car in the U.S. after the Ford Mustang and the Honda Accord. Civic fans praise the compact car for its fuel efficiency, practicality, low maintenance, quality engineering, and reliability.

The Civic’s dependability is what makes it stand out in its segment. RepairPal.com gives it an excellent reliability rating of 4.5 out of five stars. For comparison, the average compact car has a rating of 4.0 stars, which is above average among all vehicle models. Among the 36 compact cars that RepairPal.com rated, the Honda Civic ranked third.

In order to calculate this vehicle reliability rating, RepairPal.com looks at factors such as cost, frequency, and severity of unscheduled maintenance and repairs. The website uses a database to compile millions of repair invoices plus automotive statistics to develop these ratings.

Compact cars that ranked higher than the Honda Civic are the Toyota Corolla and the Toyota Prius C – they ranked first and second, respectively. But ranking doesn’t tell the whole story because other factors such as the Civic’s ownership costs and repair frequency and severity also come into play.

Low ownership costs are a huge plus for the Civic

RepairPal.com also analyzed the cost of ownership for the Honda Civic, which supports its strong reliability rating. Its average total annual cost for repairs and maintenance is $368. By comparison, average ownership costs for compact cars is $526 and $652 for all vehicle models.

Frequency of repairs and maintenance factors into how expensive car ownership will be. On average, Civic owners need to bring their cars into the shop only 0.2 times a year. Compact car owners visited the repair shop 0.3 times a year on average, and all vehicle model owners clocked in at 0.4 times per year. 

Major car repairs add significantly to the annual cost of ownership. RepairPal.com looked at the probability of a repair being severe, and the Honda Civic scored well at 10 percent. Repair severity for compact cars averaged at 11 percent, while all vehicle models measured at 12 percent.

The Toyota Corolla and the Toyota Prius C, by comparison, had average total yearly ownership costs of $362 and $383, respectively. Owners of these Toyota models spent a little more time at the garage with the frequency of repairs coming in at 0.3 and 0.4 times per year. Repair severity for the Corolla and Prius both measured at 7 percent.

So while these Toyota owners were slightly less likely to deal with big repair issues than Civic owners, their repairs were somewhat more frequent. And the cost of ownership was about the same among the three cars.

The Honda Civic is excellent basic transportation

The reliability data from RepairPal.com supports the Honda Civic’s popularity among buyers who want a no-fuss, low-cost ride. Compared to owners of many other compact cars as well as other vehicle models in general, Civic owners shell out less cash and spend less time repairing their vehicles. They can feel confident that their cars will get them where they need to go, day in and day out.

The Civic’s reputation for dependability and value is borne out by 2019 sales figures. Ronnie Schreiber at Hagerty writes that 24 percent of all Honda models sold for the first eight months of last year were Civic models. And 325,650 new vehicles were sold overall, according to GoodCarBadCar.net.

The 2020 Honda Civic has a starting price of $19,850, which is attractive pricing for both first-time buyers and budget-conscious drivers. It’s available in five trim levels and its excellent fuel economy ranges up to 32 MPG city/42 MPG highway. 

With the Civic, Honda has proved that the average American has an economical alternative to a fancy, high-maintenance SUV. This small car should continue to be popular for practical buyers despite the surge of high-end pickup trucks and SUVs flooding the market right now.