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  1. #1
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    Considering buying a 2004 HCH - advice?

    I am looking into purchasing a used 2004 HCH, automatic transmission, with 34,500 miles. This would be from a Honda dealer that says the vehicle is not Honda-certified, but they can get it certified for me. It comes with a 1-year/12,000-mile warranty, and battery is warrantied up to 100,000 miles or 8 years from when it was new. I am considering buying it for $17,500 (includes tax/reg.)- does this sound like a good deal? I cannot afford a new hybrid. I test drove it and it seemed fine but I don't really know what to look for. My reasons for wanting to switch to hybrid are environmental and gas $. I'm a little nervous b/c I am a single female and don't want to end up w/ a car I'm constantly having problems w/. No one I know really knows about hybrids so I need some help! The more basic the advice, the better, as I really don't know a lot about cars.

    PS Oh also I was researching some things on this site and was under the impression that these cars need a different type of oil than most other cars, but the Honda guy I've been dealing w/ told me that when they service it they use 5W30 just like in most other cars - any thoughts on that?

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  3. #2
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    First off you want to see

    First off you want to see the carfax on the vehicle. They should be able to provide you with one on it. Or go to the Carfax website and purchase one. These are invaluable when checking on the history of any vehicle, including ownership, state DMV reported problems such as salvage, accidents & mileage, and even if the vehicle was dealer serviced. For example, every time my car was at the dealer for service or repair it shows up on my carfax.

    Also if they won't Honda Certify it with those low miles and clean history, then I would walk away from it.

    Since they told you the battery is warrantied to 100k I am assuming you are living in California? If this is so that price is probably about normal for that car's stats, where you live, and the hybrid premium that dealers are charging. I would also get them to allow you to take it to another dealer's service center or independent mechanic to have it checked out. Also for that price it wouldn't hurt to ask if they would throw in the extended warranty. Dealers won't budge too much on pricing right now, but throwing in things for free is sometimes much easier for them to consider.

    Is the guy telling you the oil is 5w-30 the sales person or the service person? If it is the sales person, walk over to the service department and ask them what oil it uses. If they agree find yourself another dealer to get your service done. Even the owners manual says 0w-20 and in an emergency 5w-20. You would never want 5w-30 in that car. Also you want to check with the service department to be sure that all updates and / or recalls have been applied. Mine was dealer certified but the software updates had not been applied.

    Another quick check you can do sometimes with the hybrid is turn the key to on and push the button down by the speedometer to check the A & B trip meters. With each push it will cycle between the normal mileage display and the trip A & B meters. Some drivers never reset one of them and you can see what the mpg for the car was over an extended time, as driven by the previous driver. If it is extremely low than the previous driver drove it hard. I never reset my A trip meter and use my B for in between fill ups.

    That's just some of the things I can think of right now, I am sure some will throw in their ideas as well. Pricing is whatever you and the market will bear, so I hate to comment on that.

    Good luck and let us know how it goes.

  4. #3
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    HI jdstew76: HemiSync is

    HI jdstew76:

    HemiSync is right on the money with his advice.

    I will just add the following, particularly to focus on the areas you should ask this dealer about:

    - Ask if the service history shows any entries for the EGR valve.
    - Ask about the CVT service history
    - Ask about the emissions package namely the Cat converter's state and history.
    - Ask about about the type of service and frequency the vehicle had for such things as oil changes, recalls, relay changes, etc.

    Now, if it was me and they can provide a reasonable amount of detail then the odds look OK. Still not perfect, but OK.
    If they can't offer you the detail then this is what I would do:
    - Have them offer you a full systems check on the items I and HemiSync mentioned and have them perform any repairs before selling you the car. With those repairs they should be able to offer a better warranty and even certify the vehicle.

    or

    - have the car looked at by another dealership.

    In my view the price they are asking is TOO high... unless they can deliver on all points we outlined.

    Cheers & Good luck.

    MSantos

  5. #4
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    DO NOT BUY

    DO NOT BUY IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    There's a service bulletin for that transmission (they are the same from 2003-2005). I have a 2003 Civic Hybrid and the trans has been bad ever since I bought it used in 2006. It had 60,000 miles on it and was about $17,000 after the trade in. It is currently at the dealer AGAIN, this time they are just giving me a rebuilt transmission, the last 4 or 5 times they tried to fix my transmission it didn't work, just patched it up for a few thousand miles.

    I really do love my car. But I feel that it's not worth this stress and hassle. I wish I had done more research and made a more informed decision. I wish that the dealer had told me about the bulletin and that the car may have problems. I guess their job is to sell it, who cares about what happens after that, right? I really understand why it was on the used lot already after only being 3 years old... that's when the warranty ran up for the original owner, and they got out when they could. I feel like I have to keep the car, since I can't sell it for what I still owe. But I am also in FEAR of what may be to come. a $5,000 battery in a couple years? a brand NEW TRANSMISSION AGAIN in another 10,000 or 20,000 miles when I have no warranty?? It's really terrible to have purchased a nice car, my first "real" car, hoping that it would last me through grad school and that I could be green and save some money at the same time... only to realize that I am dealing with a lemon.


    ALSO--

    1.) Saving Money? Probably not. Almost definitely not. That's what I thought too, but if you count in time that it will be at the dealership and the repairs and parts you will have to buy it really isn't cheaper than a non-hybrid. You have to drive well over 100,000 miles just to break even on gas and the extra money the car cost. But these cars aren't lasting that long without SERIOUS repairs needing to be made. So the chances of breaking even or actually saving money are very slim.

    2.) Being Green? Not as much as you think. It takes more energy to manufacture hybrids than other vehicles. They are made from lighter metal which is more costly to make than heavier metals used in other vehicles. It also uses more fuel to make the hybrid batteries... Those batteries will only last 5-8 years and then what happens? They are in a landfill or get recycled... And IF they are recycled, the process to recycle them takes more fuel. Because the car's parts break more often and are more disposable, and because of the extra energy needed for production, these Hybrid vehicles are really not as green as we'd all like to think they are.


    ^^^ All things I wish I'd looked into before I purchased my used 2003 Civic Hybrid. I suggest thinking long and hard about your decision, ask around a lot, talk to mechanics and hybrid owners, test drive different hybrids and toyota ones too... Just don't go dumping your hard earned cash into a "cool green car" before you realize what you're getting yourself into.

  6. #5
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    Thank you all for your

    Thank you all for your advice; it is really helpful. I went back to the Honda dealer and test drove the car again b/c I had some concerns about the steering due to things I read on this site. I didn't notice any steering problems, and I probably would have bought the car already had I not read these replies to my post! I am still undecided. The sales guy said he could get a carfax for me (supposed to be faxing it to me soon), but no service history is available b/c the car was bought at an auction. I did check the A & B trip meters as HemiSync recommended. The A meter said 25.3 mpg, the B meter 32.5 mpg. I'm guessing this isn't good? Also the warranty on the battery is 8 yr/80,000 miles, not 100,000 as I'd previously thought. I live in CT. There is a 1-year bumper to bumper warranty. Also about the oil - it was a sales person that told me that they used 5W-30. After the test drive he looked under the hood and saw that it said 0W-20 and corrected himself. Also, forgive my ignorance, but what is a service bulletin and where would I find out about something like that? That last post has me very nervous about buying this car. I don't want to buy it if there are going to be transmission problems. Is this an issue w/ all of these cars? I was told they were bringing the car in for a service check right after I left, that the car had been deemed safe for test driving but hadn't yet had the service checks performed. They said that is something totally separate from the Honda-certification that they would be able to provide for me. Based on any of this new info, any more advice anyone can offer?

  7. #6
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    jdstewe76- 1.)

    jdstewe76-

    1.) Congratulations on NOT buying the car!! (yet)

    2.) Those MPGs, are NOT good for a Hybrid! I got 25mpg in the Toyota RAV4 I just had as a loaner while my car was getting a rebuilt transmission. That means the car has been driven hard, abused.

    3.) It was bought at an auction... I don't like the sounds of that. Many shady cars from floods or car accidents are sold at actions, they are very cheap and a shady mechanic can rig them up and sell them for 1,000s more than they paid. It may be a Katrina car. Wait for the CarFax. That may tell you a little more.

    4.) No service record= do NOT buy this car. It has recorded service bulletins (more than one, yes) with Honda, therefore you would want to know if the recalled parts have been replaced, if not you could be in for trouble. Also, if you saw the service history and saw that the clutches were burnished a few times and a transmission was rebuilt or replaced you may not want to invest in that car... the transmissions will keep failing, at least that is what all the evidence I've seen suggests. It's a problem with the actual car, not the trans itself and it burns up the transmissions, they are probably kinda carppy too though, b/c going out at such low miles is ridiculous.

    5.) I have been unable to find the actual service bulletins for Honda online. They don't publicize them for obvious reasons... If you ask your dealer they should provide you with them. They are mailed out to people who already own the vehicle, so the previous owner would have gotten it, but you'll never see or hear about it from the salesman if you don't ask. They should show you the original- it's just a paper that says service bulletin, and the bulletin ID number and then underneath lists the problems that the car may have due to bad design or production AND what Honda is willing to do to fix the problem There's definitely one for the transmissions and I received one for the passenger side airbag sensor, so that must be a recently published service bulletin. They don't send them out until they get *enough complaints, whatever enough is, they should fix any problem that is their fault. Service bulletins are a step down from recalling the vehicles, more complaints and they have to do a nationwide recall instead of just a service bulletin. That means that probably MANY MANY of our cars have these problems, but some of them don't or they'd all have been recalled most likely. It's your gamble. It's a pretty big gamble too if you ask me. Some of the parts that can go bad can cause a fatal accident if it happens on the highway or something. I'm not trying to scare you, just being real and saying the stuff I wish I'd thought of before I sank a college loan into a not-so-reliable car.

    6.) My car is finished today, I will get it after finishing this post. The transmission is hopefully right on the way home, I'll definitely let you know if it's bad already on the way home, like it has in the past when they 'fixed' it. ALSO, they told me that the muffler needs to be replaced soon- this part is NOT covered under my warranty. The lady was honest enough to quietly suggest that I not get a Honda muffler, as they are way overpriced.

    That is all for now. I wish you good luck!

    I'll keep watching this thread to see what you do- keep us posted!

  8. #7
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    jdstew76: It is very

    jdstew76:

    It is very important that you make a choice with a clear mind and despite the urging of some visibly afflicted posters, please remember that while the experience of some may have been more negative for any number of reasons, there are also many others who's opinions will differ. Based on our professional and collective experience, I assure you it is worthwhile to see through and past the emotionally charged posts in this forum and realize that these poster's opinions simply do not reflect the experiences of all gen 1 Civic Hybrid Owners. Over the last 5 years I have had the privilege to have personally known quite a few who unlike MY_MPG_55 literally swear by (not at) their Gen 1 HCH's.

    With that said, it is true that the first generation civic hybrid has had teething problems particularly in the areas we've already mentioned and you should look carefully before doing the leap for the tell-tale signs. That's why we've been here for a while and we'll remain here for the foreseeable future.

    As Hemisync suggested, the trip meters hold a very strong clue as to whether this car may be a good buy for you. Since the recorded FE is pretty low (about half or more than what it should be) this means that it was likely operated in an abusive manner. Because of this we suggest you make a pass on this vehicle - especially since it lacks the ever valuable service history to go along with it.

    Now, if you spot a similar vehicle in the near future that meets the criteria that HemiSync and I established then it may very well be a jewel of a car worth being in your possession. We've had many of those stories and happy owners to prove it.

    Cheers and Good luck;

    MSantos

  9. #8
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    If you want to avoid the

    If you want to avoid the possible automatic transmission problems, get one with a manual. I love mine and it runs like a top, of course the manuals were only available in the HCH-I. While Honda does not seem to carry service history from one dealer to another, many somehow report the services so that they do show up on the carfax. The carfax on mine has every oil change & service over the last 3 years because the previous owner took it to a dealership in Ohio. I am doing my own oil changes but log every thing at the Honda Owners site and will provide that information to anyone that would purchase it in the future, should I decide to sell. Not likely as I have a habit of driving Hondas until they rust into the ground.

    Just curious but do you remember how many miles were on those trip meters. Was either of them very far? If they had been reset and only showed a few miles that could have been because someone was playing with them while test driving. As for the auction, lots of dealers purchase vehicles from auction. Of course that is why you get a Carfax as it will tell you the nasties if there are any. When I was looking for a car, I purchased a month of Carfax for about $30, as opposed to getting a single one for $25 and I looked at almost 40 of them. Some of them even had minor traffic accidents listed on them. I think they have been tracking those reports since 05. Of course, if the owners didn't report the accident it won't show up. Great tool, especially if you start looking through a lot of vehicles. Also if you buy the a vehicle that carfax has guaranteed not to be a salvage or other wise and you can prove it was, they will buy it back from you.

    This vehicle you are looking at may not be the one for you, but don't let it stop you from looking at used Hondas. As I said I looked at over 40 before deciding on the one I have.

  10. #9
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    Thanks so much everyone. I

    Thanks so much everyone. I think I'm going to pass on this car. The sales guy was supposed to fax me the carfax yesterday, and I still haven't received it. (Which is strange, b/c he showed it to me when I was there the other day, so I know he has it.) Hemisync, the Trip A meter said 25.3 mpg, the Trip B meter said 32.5 mpg. True, someone could have been playing around w/ the meters since the last owner drove it so I realize that doesn't necessarily mean it got bad mileage. But that combined w/ the fact that they don't have a service history makes me a little leery. I also wonder why it's not being snatched up sooner - hybrids are in high demand right now, and I've been talking w/ them about this car for weeks now. I was supposed to look at a 2007 at different place and it was sold before I could even get there. I still believe that most hybrids get great mileage so I'm going to keep looking. I don't exactly like the look of the Prius's but I might contact the Toyota dealer just on the off-chance that I could somehow be able to afford to finance a new one; I don't think there are too many used ones around. Someone told me they're charging more for new hybrids right now since there's a waiting list so I doubt it'll be something I can swing but it doesn't hurt to ask, right? I am looking to possibly move back to my hometown which is a 45-min. commute from my job so that is one of the main reasons I need a car w/ good mileage, otherwise I'm afraid I'll go broke just commuting to & from work! If anyone has any more advice please let me know. Thanks again; like I said I probably would have bought this car, not knowing any better, so you all have helped me tremendously!!

  11. #10
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    I agree with you jd, when I

    I agree with you jd, when I was looking back in March they one I read about today was gone the next. I never saw one sit around that was in good condition. If you have been talking with them for weeks there is something wrong.

    If you seriously start looking at multiple used vehicles buy the 30 days worth of carfax it is worth it. Also when I asked about the trip meters I already knew from your previous post the mpg on them. I was asking about the number of miles that were on them with that mpg. Sorry if I was confusing. When I bought this one the previous owner had not reset his trip A in over 9000 miles so I got a good idea of his true mpg.

    As for new HCH and Prius, most new buyers are on a waiting list and paying a premium on top of MSRP. If I had to buy new, I would wait for next years models as Honda is suppose to be releasing up to 4 hybrids. See this article for an idea of what is coming next year. I only bought a use one because my current vehicle at that time was about to rust apart from age.

    http://www.autoobserver.com/2008/06/...the-prius.html

    Good luck looking!

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