buying recommendation 94 Accord LX Wagon

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I recently saw a 1994 Accord LX Wagon for sale by a private party with a 106k miles on it. Asking price was $3900. It looks very clean.
I am looking for a car that can last a year without any major repairs.
I was wondering if anyone has any comments on whether or not it is a good idea to buy a 94 Accord with this many miles on it?
How many miles can a 94 Accord go before it needs a major repairs?
Thanks in advance.
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106k miles is typically mid-life for a c. 1990s Honda //assuming// it's been maintained.
Seems like this newsgroup's most frequently reported used car major problem is serious cooling system leak. The sellers sell them knowing this is a problem but mask it, and unload it to unsavvy buyers. Drive the car for at least a half hour locally; maybe 15 minutes on the highway. Check the coolant reservoir level at the beginning, mid-way through and at the end.
Obtain maintenance records if at all possible. When was this car's timing belt last changed?
Consider paying an import shop mechanic to do a check of the car. S/he should look at the brakes, cooling system, tranny, etc., catching things you might easily miss. It's $50 or so well spent.
edmunds.com has a used car appraiser (by mileage, general condition, geographic location, dealer price, private party price, etc.) that might be helpful in pricing.
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Thanks for the information Elle.
The person selling the car says that she does not know if the timing belt has been changed or not. Apparently, the car belonged to her mother who is now elderly and has stopped driving. Besides regular oil changes, she does not remember her mother doing any service on the car so she tends to think that the timing belt has not been changed.
I asked for maintenance records, but she said that except for some receipts for tires that were put on not long ago, there were no maintenance records for the car.
At what mileage is the timing belt supposed to be changed? If it has not been changed, can it be changed now in order to extend the life of the car? Without any service records, can the shop mechanic tell whether or not it has been changed?
One thing the owner did say is that the "boots" may need to be replaced. She said her mechanic told her it would cost $200 to do. She said she would be willing to deduct the repair cost from the sales price.
I asked about the coolant situation. She said there were no leaks that she knew of, but I will try to take it for a 30 min ride as you advise to make sure.
I understand an inspection from a mechanic is important. My friend recommended a mechanic, but I don't know if he specializes in imports. Is it absolutely necessary to have it checked by an import shop mechanic?
Elle wrote:

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    I'd take a VERY close look at the coolant/radiator situation. If it has been neglected, RUN from that car. Take it to someone who has seen damage from dead coolant and trust their information.     Car like that in good condition around here is very desirable. Figure at least $500 for timing and countershaft and accessory belts, new water pump and coolant change. Get new oil seals on the front of the engine too. Look at the fuel lines and power steering lines and gas tank for rust.         Good Luck, and keep in touch. bob
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For the 94 Accord, for "normal driving," the timing belt should be replaced every 90k miles or six years, whichever comes first. For "severe driving," the belt is supposed to be changed every 60k miles, period. "Severe driving" includes driving in dusty conditions; lots of short distance driving; driving in extreme cold; and the like.
Autozone.com has a free online repair manual for this Accord. For the full maintenance schedule ( = frequency of replacing various basic things), see http://autozone.com/servlet/UiBroker?ForwardPage=/az/cds/en_us/0900823d/80/0c/f0/9c/0900823d800cf09c.jsp

Absolutely. The only concern by not replacing it is that it could break at any time. Timing belts not changed at the Honda specified interval do break.
If the timing belt breaks, the engine repairs may run into the thousands of dollars.

Some clues that it has been changed may be evident, but, no, not really.

She most likely means CV boots. One can look under the car where the axle joins the wheel and see these roughly 1-inch to 3-inch normally sturdy looking rubber cones. If they have tears, they need to be replaced immediately, lest dirt and water ingress into the CV joint, leading to a much more expensive repair. It's not an unusual repair. Happens maybe every 8 years or so, depending on where and I suppose how one drives.

Look for the coolant reservoir, and check its level, too. If you're not sure where it is, ask. Or, assuming you know where the radiator is (at the front, under the hood), follow the small (around 3/8-inch diameter) rubber hose attaching to the radiator fill neck (just under the radiator cap) to the reservoir bottle. It has a lid on it through which one may add more coolant.

No, it's not. You might want to start a relationship with an import shop, though, especially since you know about the CV boots. Maybe call around and see how much they want in your area to replace them with new, genuine Honda ones. Call the local Honda dealer service department, too, for an estimate. Ask all also how much to do a timing belt, and what all that would include. It should include a new water pump, new shaft oil seals (like Bob said), among other things, too.
Do not buy aftermarket parts for the CV boots. Buy only genuine Honda parts. If you wish, you can buy them online at a great price and take them to the shop for them to use.
You might want to get the Edmunds.com used car appraiser price, then deduct the roughly $500 (like NE Bob estimated) for the timing belt and X dollars, depending on what local import shops say, for the boots.
I agree with all else NE Ohio Bob says, too: Look for rust, etc.
Any doubts or concerns, feel free to ask here. Plenty of others with good experience may chime in, so keep checking back. Make a list of things you want to check up close, then follow up.

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Thank you very much Bob and Elle.
I will make a checklist of the points you mentioned and try to find an import shop mechanic for quotes on the repairs.
I will post back as soon with what I find out.
Elle wrote:

http://autozone.com/servlet/UiBroker?ForwardPage=/az/cds/en_us/0900823d/80/0c/f0/9c/0900823d800cf09c.jsp
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I learned from a CarFax history report that the 94 Accord Wagon had been serviced several times at a local Honda Dealership. I called the dealership and spoke with the mechanic. He was able to look up the car in their system and learned that it had been serviced three times, but they only had record of one problem. For that situation, he said the car was taken in for service because the ABS warning light. I am not quite sure what they did, but apparently, he said something like they turned off the computer and restarted it, and the ABS warning light did not come back on. Since it did not come back on, it appears it was not a problem. This service was recorded in 2001. He did say that if there was a problem with the ABS it would cost $600 to replace.
He had no record of the timing chain being replaced on the car. He said it would cost $800 to replace the timing chain, water pump and related items. He also said it would cost $175 to replace the CV boot on one axle.
I talked to the seller and they said the Credit Union they belong to quoted the sales price of the car at $4100. Edmunds lists the Private Party TMV at $3697. NADA lists it at $3975.
To compensate for the CV boots replacement, she said she already lowered the price for the car to $3900. The seller asked her mechanic about the timing chain replacement and was advised that it may or may not be changed. She sounds reluctant to lower the price to compensate for the timing chain replacement. I told her about the Edmunds TMV but the seller sounds she will only go with what her Credit Union told her for car value.
I was going to take it for a test drive tomorrow and if that goes ok, an inspection.
The Honda Dealership said they would inspect the car for $80. A couple of friends recommended local mechanics, I am not sure whether they are experienced in Imports though.
I thought it would be best to take the car to the Honda Dealership for the inspection though. Am I right?
I will call the other mechanics to get repair quotes for the timing chain and CV Boots also.
Elle mentioned that the CV boots require Genuine Honda Parts. Do all shop mechanics have access to them?
Thanks again.
snipped-for-privacy@tfy.com wrote:

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Sounds like the usual dealer prices. In other words, a bit high, but the service should be high quality.

I would print these out and offer to show them to the seller.
She does not have to come down in price. But you're being reasonable. It's worth a try to bring her down, IMO.

It's a belt, not a chain.
Only much newer Hondas have the chain.
I suggest you print out the official Honda maintenance schedule cited before and show her that the belt is supposed to be changed every 90k miles/6 years. If it hasn't been changed, it could break at any moment, quite likely causing catastrophic and expensive damage. Also google for {"timing belt" break interference} and print out the most reputable web sites that speak to this.
If she's never changed the belt before, she's been negligent in her maintenance. She, not you, should have to pay for this.

Forgot to mention: On the test drive, listen for clicking coming from the front axles. This is a symptom of a failed CV joint. In other words, the boots might have let enough crud in that the whole joint is failing. That's a lot more expensive than just the boot.
Here are more suggestions on checking this: http://tegger.com/hondafaq/faq_ii.html#CVjoints

Eighty dollars is a fair price, and I agree the Honda dealership will likely be more savvy about what to check.

Not necessarily. What you can do is use an independent shop, but tell them you want to use genuine Honda parts and will provide them. Order the parts online from, say,
http://www.hondaautomotiveparts.com/auto/jsp/mws/prddisplay.jsp?inputstate=5&catcgry1 cord&catcgry294&catcgry3=WGN+LX&catcgry4=KA5MT&catcgry5=DRIVESHAFT
If the seller won't come down in price, I guess you have to weigh how soon you need the car and the availability of other ones like it in your area.
If she won't come down for the timing belt, I think I'd start checking around now, before paying $80 for the inspection.
Way to be thorough!
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I will be sure to listen carefully for any clicking on the front axle and look over the post you advised.
I really like the car. If the coolent, CV joint and vehicle inspection check out ok, I figured offering 3200 to 3400 for the car and then continue to look for other options while the seller considers.
Will post back with the results.
I appreciate your taking the time to respond so quickly and thanks for the valuable information.
Elle wrote:

http://www.hondaautomotiveparts.com/auto/jsp/mws/prddisplay.jsp?inputstate=5&catcgry1 cord&catcgry294&catcgry3=WGN+LX&catcgry4=KA5MT&catcgry5=DRIVESHAFT
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I just found another vehicle for sale by a car dealer. A 1998 Ford Escort with 47,800 miles. The dealer wants $5000 for it. Except for a small ding in the door, it looks to be in excellent condition. I took it for a test drive and it seems pretty good.
For the 98 Escort, I found the following values: Edmunds lists the car dealer retail value at $4,006 Nada Guides lists the car value at Average Retail at $4,150 and High Retail at $4750 Kelly Blue Book suggested retail value is $4,185
The dealer says he will give me a 60 day warranty.
I was wondering which is the better car value, a 94 Accord with 106k for $3900 (total would be around $4600 when adding the $700 or so for timing belt, CV boots to the purchase price) or the 98 Escort with 47k for $5000.
I did not take the Honda for test drive yet, but hope to do so tomorrow.
snipped-for-privacy@tfy.com wrote:

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snipped-for-privacy@tfy.com wrote:

How long will you be keeping the car?
For all my opinion is worth (Heh - not much!!), I'd take the Honda as a long term ride. As with 'dog years' the Ford will age more quickly than the Honda and will have caught and passed it after another 50K or so. (150K Honda is arguably a better car than a 100K Escort.) If the seller will lower the price, I'd take the Whale for sure.
If this is an interim car......Idunnow. Too close to call.

Take your time and get as complete an impression as possible.
-Greg
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Thank you for your information Greg. Very interesting.
I look forward to test driving the Honda to see how it feels. Will post back.
Greg Campbell wrote:

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To help with this decision, I suggest going to the April issue of "Consumer Reports." This is its annual car buying issue. Turn to the matrices indicating reliability of different cars' sub-systems, based on thousands (a couple hundred thousand, IIRC) of readers' input. Look up the matrix for the Ford Escort, then the matrix for the Accord.
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I just read an interesting article on Consumer Reports on reliability as cars get older.
http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/cars/reliability/reliability-trends-406/overview/index.htm
According to this article, it seems that the 12 year old Honda will cause me less trouble than a 8 year old Ford.
The trends in reliability on Consumer Reports only go back as far a 1998 so I could not check the 94 Accord. From 98 till 2005, the Accord consistenlty gets "Much Better than Average" rating for Used Car verdict. The Used Car Verdict was Average for the 98 Escort.
Elle wrote:

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http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/cars/reliability/reliability-trends-406/overview/index.htm
Yet my impression is that properly maintained American cars are lasting about as long as Japanese makes these days.
Overall, I still think a person is better off with a Honda or Toyota, but I must admit I know people swearing by their 15 year old American makes.

To be very exacting, you could see if the library has the April 2002 (or so) car buying issue. This might have the 94 Accord.
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Just went for a test drive on the 94 Accord.
Before starting the car, I checked the coolant reservoir and it was a little low. The car owner did not have any antifreeze to mix in so he got some distilled water and filled the reservoir to the minimum level. He did not want to add any more because he said he should add 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water to the reservoir and we did not have antifreeze with us.
After a good 25 minute drive (15 minutes of that on the expressway) we stopped and turned off engine and checked reservoir again. It looked like it was still at the minimum level. It looked like there was no change at all in the level. The temperature gauge did not indicate any problem. Would this mean the coolant situation is fine?
I did a couple of 360 degrees slow turns in the parking lot and there was no sound coming from the CV joints.
The car seemed to drive really well. I really felt the bumps in the road so maybe I can ask the mechanic to check the suspension.
I listened carefully for any brake noise but heard none. The car accelerated fine and seemed to have enough power.
We climbed a very steep hill on a highway in our area going 55mph. The car dropped into a lower gear during our drive up the hill and the downshift seemed to be a little rough, but nothing that really alarmed me.
The car pulls a little to the right when I was on the expressway. The steering wheel seems to be a little cockeyed to the right. Is that a big problem?
The A/C worked really well. Cruise and all the power options worked well too. Back two doors were a little stiff when opening and it looked like there was some rust on the hinges. Apparently, the back doors were seldom opened. I did not notice any rust on body of car.
Apparently the drivers side seatbelt got closed into the door several times so there is some minor damage on the inside of the drivers side door. It seems the seatbelt won't retract powerfully when released, but with a quick pull, retracts nearly all the way.
I think this 94 Accord wagon would be better for my wife and daughter than the 98 Escort because of the size.
I would like to get it inspected and hopefully get the buyer to go drop their price a little to compensate for the timing belt change I would need to do.
I will try to go for the inspection on Monday.
Elle wrote:

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Had the car been driven in the last hour or so before the above check?

That's reasonable.

It should rise a little. Then again, all might be fine.

Look especially at control arm bushings and the coil springs.
Chances are they are pretty raggedy, but I suspect the Edmunds etc. prices on 94 Accords take this into account.

May need some suspension renovation, followed by an alignment. Or it may just need, say, something like the tire pressure adjusted.
Suspension renovation on these older cars is expensive. $1000 or so, easily, I bet.
But unless something's obviously broken (like a ball joint or coil spring) I don't think that's something you can negotiate. It's about ride comfort.
At most, you could subtract $100 from your offer for an alignment.

Nice update.
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Forgot to add: Make sure the mechanic looks at the big trailing arm bushings. There are two, on the rear. The cost is over $300 (labor and parts) to replace them with OEM ones.
It's not necessarily critical to replace ones that look beat up. But handling will certainly be better, by all reports here. (I replace my 91 Civic's next week. They're way overdue.) If they look really bad, consider negotiating this into the price.
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Hello Elle....thanks for letting me know what to watch out for. I am making a list to take with me when I get the vehicle inspected.
I hope I can go today. Will post back with results.
Elle wrote:

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I just went for an inspection on the 94 Accord LX Wagon at a Honda Dealership.
Here is a list of the major items found and their quoted repair costs:
Left Outer CV Boot ($150) Right Axle Assembly (shaft) ($250) Right Outer Tie Rod End Loose ($50 or $150 (can't read quote))
Brakes: Front Brake Pads 3mm Rear Brake Pads 7mm The dealer says front brakes need to be replaced pretty quick, while rear brakes may last a bit.
Other Items should be replaced: New Dome Light Bulb Wiper Blades Battery Air Filter Muffler (owner says it's under warranty and she can have it replaced for me for free)
They said the front right pull is due to the loose Front Right Tie Rod. After fixing the Tie Rod, they said an alignment would be necessary. I guess that is $100 or so.
I am trying to get quotes from different shops on repairs. One shop quoted %$500 to $600 on the Timing Belt.
But with the Timing Belt and the other problems, looks like I might need to spend at least $800.
The owner lowered her price to $3600. I think she should go lower though.
Edmunds lists Private Party True Market Value at $3697. To what degree are these repairs accounted for in the Edmunds price? Any suggestions on a fair price to pay considering the repairs?
Elle wrote:

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