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  1. #1
    Junior Member
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    Oct 2008
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    Advice on buying a 2003 HCH

    Hello all,

    My husband and I are looking for our first car. High mpgs, good safety, and reliability are the most important considerations for us. We've been looking at the Civic hybrid and Prius as well as standard Civics, Corollas, Echo/Yaris, and Prizms. Although we're ideally searching for a car under $10,000, we've also looked at certified used Priuses for around $18,000-- we'd be willing and able to pay this much for a car that we could expect to keep for 15 or more years.

    I recently came across a 2003 HCH selling for right around $10,000. It has a little over 120,000 miles and a clean Carfax report that shows a large number of service records at the dealer beginning around 45,000 miles. It's been to the dealer for service roughly every 10K since then. (All Carfax says is, "Vehicle serviced; manufacturer's recommended maintenance performed.)

    At 120,000 the brakes and tires were replaced. Then, just a couple months ago, the IMA battery, both cat converters, and the o2 sensor were replaced, and the transmission fluid was changed. I asked the dealer why the previous owners had done all these changes before selling and he said these folks have followed the service recommendations to the letter and they traded their car in for another hybrid. (We're in a rural area and there aren't a lot of hybrids around here!)

    I asked them to check trip mileage, as was suggested earlier, and they did: right around 40 mpg for the last two trips, both well over 100 miles.

    The car is being sold as is, with no warranty. It's also a significant drive (4+ hours) for me to get to the dealer. I'm wondering-- is this too good to be true? And what are the other potential problem areas I should be sure to have checked out before buying? I did ask about checking the EGR valves, as was suggested earlier (would someone please explain to me what these are - ?) and he said they can't check them. (?)

    Prompt responses would be greatly appreciated since we'll be making our decision in the next few days!

    Thanks all! I hope to be posting again soon as a hybrid owner (of one car or another!).

    Best,
    Katie

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  3. #2
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
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    From your answer I gather

    From your answer I gather this car is equipped with a CVT and not a manual transmission. Right?

    If so, here's my verdict:
    - It has a regular service history at the dealer - This is a VERY good sign !!!!!
    - Brakes and tires were replaced - VERY GOOD.
    - IMA battery was replaced with a newer and better one along with the O2 sensors - VERY, VERY GOOD !!!
    - $10000 is not too bad a price for a well cared for hybrid car (if no rust or not too many dings, assuming no big accidents either). This is OK if true.
    - No warranty at all. Not too good.


    What I would do: I would buy it, IF and only IF you intend to:
    - Service it at the dealer on a schedule that is at least as good as recommended.
    - Drive it smart. This way you will get far better than 40 MPG and the car will last even longer doing so - this makes it worth the $10,000 over the longer haul.
    - Pump the tires to their MAX_Pressure rating, since I suspect they may not be LRR rated.

    The EGR valve is a device that you can spot on the engine bay and helps recirculation of gases back into the combustion process, usually contributing to better "fuel burning" and lower pollution. At times it can get clogged (dirty) and a clean-up will help keep the check engine codes away almost as well as a replacement. Some places will replace the valve instead of cleaning it, which can be a little costly ($250-$400). It is not a frequent issue for every owner but common enough for you to be aware of it and ready.

    Is this a Honda dealer? If so, then this is a tiny bonus too.

    Cheers;

    MSantos



  4. #3
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
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    Hi MSantos and all,

    Hi MSantos and all,

    Thanks for the feedback. Yes, it is a CVT-- sorry about that. Since writing my earlier post I've been reading about problems folks have had with their CVTs, and even a notice from Honda extending the warranty on components of the CVT.

    I asked the dealer about it and he said the previous owner had had no history of problems with the transmission. Still, I'm concerned given what I've read, with Consumer Reports giving the 2003 HCH a "worse than average" rating on the transmission. We really need a reliable car that won't end up sitting at the dealer all the time!

    How common of a problem really is the transmission issue? It's hard for me to know since of course the folks who are frustrated are more likely to post than those who are satisfied! And if the car truly hasn't had transmission problems at 120,000 miles, does this make it less likely to have problems in the future? (I read about some people who went through three transmissions before ever hitting 50,000 miles!)

    Thanks everyone! I'm still trying to decide whether to make the trip!

    Best,
    Katie

  5. #4
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
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    0

    Hi Katie: The single most

    Hi Katie:

    The single most important factor in the life and health of the CVT is the regular and professional maintenance it needs. An aggressive CVT fluid change schedule is a "must" if you wish to avoid issues in the long run.

    It is apparent that the earlier owner of this car did so and what it is worthy of mention is that this service was done at a competent dealer and it shows. Otherwise this car would have developed CVT issues much earlier in its life like so many others have. In other words, commit to performing the CVT fluid changes at no more than every 25K miles and you should be fine. Personally, I would pick 22K miles as my magic number.

    In any case, buying any car with more than 100K is always a risk but its past history is one of the strongest indicators of how much life it has left. And as I said, if you buy it, be at least as diligent as the previous owner was and the car should serve you well.

    Good luck

  6. #5
    Guest

    Change it often. Have not

    Change it often. Have not had a CVT problem yet with my 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007.

    BTW I change my synthetic oil very 3-4K.

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