By John Goreham
No mid-size car represents value and reliability more than the Honda Accord. One of the top sellers for decades, and always in the running for the top-selling car for families, the Accord is as safe a bet as can be found in the used-car marketplace. Except when it’s not.
Like all cars, the Accord has some remarkably reliable years and some years with serious problems that occur in big numbers. Why not narrow your search to the better ones and avoid being the sucker that takes home a troublesome pain in the neck?
Using CarComplaints.com data, Car Talk has analyzed the Honda Accord, and we have determined which years to avoid, so let’s get right to those. The most important Honda Accord model year to avoid buying is 2003 .That was the year VW stopped manufacturing the original Beetle, the Concorde made it's last flight, and Gigli appeared in theaters—2003 doesn't have a lot going for it!
The 2003 Accord was supposed to be fantastic, and it could have been. It was a major design change year for the Accord. It sported an optional V6 with great power and fuel economy. However, that car had an Achilles heel. The new five-speed automatic transmission mated to that great engine had a design defect that caused premature failure. Despite a technical service bulletin and later recall, the transmission suffered huge failure rates. Honda helped some owners with an extended warranty coverage, but many were caught with cars that needed thousands in repair bills. Remember, the Accord for 2003 only had a ridiculously low 36,000-mile drivetrain warranty. Our CarComplaints.com data shows an average cost to fix of $2,713 for that little glitch. With 1,645 complaints for that year compared to an average of only 450 for most Accord model years, the 2003 year is best avoided.
The biggest problem with the 2003 Accord transmission issue is the fix seems to be temporary. CarComplaints.com reader “marlanab” of Smithfield, MO is typical of those that complained, saying “I'm the original owner of a 2003 coupe, and like most of you, when we received recall, we took it in to have it fixed. Now with 153K miles, the transmission has failed…Called local Honda dealership, and they say Honda won't help fix it, but they hear/see the problem all the time with this year Hondas.”
The second year to avoid is 2008. That year was – you guessed it – a new design year for the Accord. CarComplaints.com shows a record number of complaints for that model year at 2,351. An amazing 1,272 of those are related just to premature brake wear. Reader “by68firebird” sums up the situation in his comment, saying “The first time this happened the dealer told me it was normal. I told them that if the rear brake wore out before the front brake, then there's a problem. This was back in 2009. I have not seen a rear brake wore out before the front brake. Not only do the rear brakes have issues, but the front brakes also wear out quickly, and the rotors warp as well. Which makes the car wobble badly when you step on your brake at high speed.” So unless you want to do the funky chicken at 75 MPH, skip this Accord model year.
Another comment on the 2008 Accord from Gary C of Bakersfield, CA caught our attention. Gary wrote “I bought a Honda because I thought they were reliable. So through two deployments to Iraq, I saved enough money to buy one. Only to find out all that money I had saved up getting shot at being separated from my loved ones was a wasted on a 2008 Honda Accord Coupe that takes more oil than gas. Not only that, I go through rear brake pads about every six months if I am lucky.” That is a pretty sad story. Why be the next owner?
So which years are the best for used Accords? Based on CarComplaints.com data, 2011 and 2012 are both great years if you are looking for a relatively young Accord. Used 2011 Accords are running about $12K, according to our pals at BestRide.com.
If you are looking for a more seasoned Accord that will cost you less, try a 2006. That model year may be the best of any Accord in the last 15 years. BestRide.com says a well-maintained 2006 Accord with miles under 100K will run you about $8,000. Happy hunting!