Here’s an interesting follow-on to a recent piece about car repair costs – granted they were retail prices, not what you might get if you went to a junkyard and picked up the parts yourself or if you went aftermarket – but they still point out something that should have folks outraged when they look at it.
During the early to mid-1990s, Honda Civics were low-slung affairs with headlights that were faired nicely into the design. Yes, the front ends were narrow and headlights were little round things, but if you looked at the entire design when you popped the hood, you could see that the front fenders were each bolted on with reasonably good front inner liners (we won’t talk about where the rear quarter inner liners that stopped abruptly where the rear quarter joined the rear bumper and rustouts started).
And the hood could easily be popped and replaced, if you had a cruncher involving the hood. The front bumper covers, too, actually provided some protection. The result was that the Civics of the 1990s were arguably the best compact Hondas made for a lot of people. Indeed, if you were the owner of an Acura Integra there were lots of interchangeable parts and that could make things interesting.
Indeed, such was the interest in the Honda Civics of the 1990s that a whole culture of parts dealers and specialty parts makers grew up and there were a lot of fortunes made during this period.
Honda disappointed the aftermarket – which did recover quickly – when it redesigned the Civic about 2000 and it gained more conservative, squarer lines. The restyling touches continued until the 2005 Honda Civic which was a nice-looking, albeit very conservative sedan.
The interesting thing was that the basic concepts of reparability and reasonable cost seemed to remain in the forefront of Honda’s design thinking. Okay, so the mileage wasn’t 800 mpg and the outline wasn’t as aggressive or advanced as say a similar Sentra or Subaru, but it was still a nice design that anyone could take home to mother and father and they wouldn’t have to worry about the engagement and subsequent marriage because the Honda would hold up its end of the bargain.
The front-end design did become more complicated as complex lens and light housings made their appearances but they still were protected by something called a bumper and bumper cover. The 2000-2005 Honda Civic bumpers actually worked and worked pretty well at keeping costs down to a dull roar, anyway.
Enter the restyle of 2006 and – while it looks great – it is hugely expensive to repair if you are involved in a three-car sandwich or if you are the second vehicle in a two-car sandwich. Figures from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) put the cost of repairing the complete front end of a 2006 or later Honda Civic in the $4,000 range. That’s a lot of green to shell out for a swoopy looking front end where the headlight enclosures are closely fared (designed) into the overall bodywork itself. In other words, you can’t just go out and buy a new set of headlights and enclosures if you’ve had a major mishap with your Civic. You’ll also have shell out for full front fenders and a hood. That’s will set you back about $3,000, but given the way things are shoehorned under the hood of he Civic, you might also find the air conditioner condenser damaged, the cost of which IIHS estimated to be $1,000 at retail.
Okay, so we are using retail parts as the comparison point, but, it is probably the only objective measure you can find as you could conceivably find a replacement front end, replacement bumper cover and headlight assemblies, as well as fender assemblies and inner liners at either Honda parts suppliers or at parts suppliers that use aftermarket parts or at your basic junkyard, where you might find the whole assembly, part of it, and it might or might not be damaged.
Honda really does have some competitive products in its Civic lineup with the DX base, the LX midrange (most people opt for this one) and the EX, top-of-the-line. There’s also the Si, sporty model, based on the EX and it includes Navigation as well as a host of power goodies.
There’s also a Hybrid model, although it’s not the seller that people once thought it would be.
It’s a funny world, you know, when the economical and, most of the time, rugged vehicle you purchase to save you money can actually cost you a small fortune to fix.
And, while you may be thinking that you are just spending the insurance company’s money, consider this: in most state’s deductibles run anywhere from $50 to $2000 or more. The lower the deductible the more you pay in premiums, so if you thought you’ve saved by having a higher deductible it just means you are paying more out of your own pocket for the repairs. And, if you opt for a low deductible, you are still shelling out a bundle because you’re paying the insurance company for privilege of having that low deductible.
And, you pay in other ways, too. In some states, you pay driver’s points that accumulate as you have accidents and they can drive up your premium by hundreds of dollars for six or seven years. Or, you may end up with license points that can put your license in jeopardy, if you dance the parking lot tango with another vehicle, and the police rule it your fault, especially if there has been injury.
The solution, of course, is better construction by the auto industry and better made front ends. When this happens, then we’ll see the IIHS figures change drastically and you will actually save in the long run.