After the unfortunate demise of my ’91 Crown Vic, fall of 2001 found me looking for new wheels once again. I had a little more cash to spend thanks to insurance luck, and resolved to be a bit more open-minded in my search. Like my prevous search, I did my online “shopping” both in my city and my hometown, and again, Greensboro proved to be the place to find the right vehicle. Moving away from my usual preference for big RWD boats, I decided perhaps I should give something smaller and better on gas a chance.
At the time, one of my roommates drove a 1993 Accord EX. As the second Honda I’d spent any appreciable amount of time in, it solidified my already favorable views of the virtues of those cars, so an Accord was definitely on my radar. Initially I searched for a 3rd-gen model with the pop-up lamps, always my favorite Accord generation, but the few I found were all very high-mileage cars in somewhat rough shape.
So I moved slightly forward to the 4th-gen cars, and quickly found what seemed like a good one–a 1991 Accord LX sedan, pewter gray over light gray cloth, with 155,000 miles. A little high, but hey, it was a Honda. So the same sequence of events as last time transpired–Dad went to look at it for me, proclaimed it good, took it to the mechanic, who also proclaimed it good, and the deal was made. Caught a ride home with a friend to go pick it up.
And for a car of 155k miles, it looked good. Everything was there, all the power accessories worked, the paint was good if starting to show a little fading on upper surfaces. The interior had seen some wear, as one would expect for the mileage and the fact that the back seat had clearly been used by kids (the very light gray showed dirt all too well), but it was generally in solid shape and the seats were still comfortable. It carried 5 people around happily, though the middle rear seat passenger was going to be squeezed for room. The back seat also folded down, leaving a decent-sized pass through that I used on more than one occasion to haul lumber, signs, and other unwieldy items. And behind the wheel, it was almost everything the Crown Vic and Malibu hadn’t been.
The motorized “mouse belts”. Thanks, passive restraint legislation.
Coming from 6 years of big-car piloting, the Accord felt vastly different. From the time I’d spent as a passenger in my friend’s ’93 I was familiar with the low seating position, supportive seats and the light, airy greenhouse, but the thing that really struck me was the handling. Compared to either of my previous cars, it felt like a sports car–direct steering, not heavy but not overboosted, and good communication with the road without being harsh or too firm. And this was on an example with 155k miles, so I can only imagine what it must have been like new.
Also contrary to my expectations, it wasn’t slow–in actuality it was probably faster to 60 and had more top end than either of my other cars, V8 though they may have been. The 2.2 liter fuel-injected I4 was rated at 125 hp and 137 lb-ft torque, which pales in comparison to today’s gaudy numbers, but it only had a little over 2800 lbs. to carry around. So it was brisk enough, especially for the time.
The transmission was Honda’s 4-speed automatic, which went about its business with no drama, and featured a “sport” button on the console shifter that appeared to do absolutely nothing except light up a little green light on the dashboard. Fuel economy was a revelation, too, averaging high 20’s in mixed driving that was more city than highway. On long trips I saw a best of 34 MPG, not too shabby at all.
As my time with the Accord progressed, I began to see why people were fond of these Hondas. It was drama-free; the only thing I replaced on it was an oxygen sensor. It was pleasant to drive, even fun at times. You could tell that this was the same company that brought you the CRX and the NSX, even if the family traits were expressed in a more subtle fashion. These are the things that made up that feeling of “Honda-ness” which has, at some point in the intervening years, gone missing. The styling was clean, sleek, with no gimmicks and some nice touches (one of the very early uses of projector lamps with clear lenses).
It was, in all respects, a Very Good Car. It also proved to be good on the open road, taking me and a group of friends from North Carolina to central Florida and back twice. Honda love? Perhaps it was budding. There are appliance cars–this wasn’t one of them, despite what people sometimes say. This was a car that had all the durability, sensibility, and efficiency of an appliance car, but with a little bit of soul. And a little bit can go a long way.
My ’91 LX with the roommate’s ’93 EX.
After just about a year, though, life intervened, as it always does. I had graduated college in May 2002, but the job market was lousy in the wake of the burst tech bubble, so I had a hard time finding work. I ended up continuing what had been my part-time job on campus, working something close to full-time hours which got me by well enough.
In the meantime, my parents were hit with a double dose of automotive bad luck. They had been driving older cars, as was their custom, an ’86 Pontiac Parisienne and an ’84 Accord. In late July, the Accord refused to pass inspection, repeatedly failing emissions. Reluctant to spend big money on the necessary repairs to a car worth less than $1000, they got rid of it, going to one car for a time until they found a new old beater for Dad. Then, in early August, the Pontiac was stolen from Dad’s workplace, in broad daylight no less. So they went from two cars to none in the span of a month.
Their insurance provided a short-term rental only, so I brought my Accord back home for Dad to use to get to work since I was still within an easy walk of my on-campus workplace. Insurance declared the Pontiac gone and cut them a check…for all of $800. No amount of arguing about the pristine condition of the car or how that was a totally unfair replacement value did any good. So I convinced them to keep the Accord permanently, and I’d use that insurance money to get myself another car. After all, Dad couldn’t walk or take the bus anywhere, living in the suburbs as my parents did, whereas I lived a few blocks from campus and could walk or take the bus. I didn’t *need* a reliable car. They did. So the Accord stayed back in Greensboro with Dad.
Circa 2007. The clearcoat fade is easily seen, but still pretty good-looking for age 16.
That may have been the end of the car’s story in my ownership, but it wasn’t my last encounter with it. Dad kept that car for another six years, getting it well over 190,000 miles, still a record in our family for highest mileage achieved. I even was able to borrow it for a few weeks, years later when they had two cars again, when I was between cars after an accident took out my ride at the time. The years took their toll; as happens with 90’s Hondas, the clearcoat started to oxidize and flake off, causing Mom to refuse to be seen in it anymore. The A/C eventually gave up the ghost. One of the engine mounts went bad, giving it a nasty shake at idle. And in early 2008, the transmission needed to be rebuilt, the only major expense it incurred under their (or my) ownership.
But it kept right on, right until late 2009, when Dad braked a little late and rear-ended another car at a stoplight. Cosmetic damage only (evidently it still ran fine) but it was totaled regardless. So they bade farewell to a faithful soldier, one whose time with me wasn’t even a quarter of the time it spent in the family overall. A pretty good run, I’d say.
My college friend’s father was so impressed with his brand new
1990(start of this generation?): the design, the way it drove, and
especially how it was put together. He was a stickler for tolerances
back in his days at CBS Labs in CT, so he noticed things like
Yep. My great uncle was an engineer and drove an Accord exactly like this – he hardly drove it, so durability was no big deal, but the engineering quality was a big pull for him.
After a lifetime of British cars (mostly Vauxhall and Rootes) he bought a Triumph Acclaim and after that drove nothing but Hondas until his last car, a ’99 Accord. His son drove Mercedes and he always talked about getting one, but in the end always traded for another Honda.
I sometimes regret not buying the ’99 Accord – he sold it for 2 grand when he quit driving in 2007. It had 19,000 miles on it and was like new, but I had just bought a ’72 Beetle as a daily driver and the Accord just didn’t appeal. Might have been slightly more reliable…
My aunt had one for several years. It was an awesome car for him to drive, very comfortable, quite reliable.
This was a nice story. The way you helped your father out when he needed it was a great milestone of becoming an adult. Honda must also be commended for giving you such a good experience when it was already such an old car. I have always thought the Baretta/Corsica were under appreciated in the Honda’s size class, and perhaps your used car dollar might have gotten you newer in that line, but it is hard to find fault your experience with the Accord.
I was going to add – what an admirable trait. Good on you. I predict your children will be just as gracious.
I had an Acura Integra of this vintage (yeah, I know, not the same car at all), and mine had that “Sport” button on the auto shifter too. Like you, never did see or feel any difference to the shifts. But like your Accord, I got mine with high miles on it and yet, never had a major expense….except those DIRECTLY related to my “spirited” driving style.
I’ve thought often of getting a late 90s Integra but at my age I think I need a car easier to get in and out of so have recently purchased an 09 Crown Vic that had 97,000 and was in reasonably good shape for being a police car (paint has been damaged I think when the signage from it’s former life was hacked off).
Seriously, my 1992 sedan was the best car I’ve ever owned. Sold it with 277k when I moved overseas and still miss it. It was the perfect size, as reliable as the sunrise, and drove like a dream. Wish Honda would build one last one just for me.
Get ’em to run off 2 while they’re at it. I’m in!
You know…why couldn’t they bring this back?
I would tell them to call it a “Honda Classic”
And recommend they use a current Honda Civic base drive train
Keep the 90s era wheel and tire sizes
Maybe shorten up the front and rear overhangs, shrink up the trunk 4-5 inches, and lighten the car by 300 lbs or more if possible
Go with very basic amenities, only slightly above utilitarian.
Price it between a Fit and a Civic
If I could get it as a wagon, and preferably in EX trim (I do like the alloys the EX used, and a moonroof is nice to have) I’d buy another one.
Just got this clean ’92 EX Wagon from a friend 2 weeks ago in Sept ’22. I believe all of these wagons were made at the Maryville Ohio plant, even the wagons that were shipped to Japan. I repaired the damaged engine harness due to mice eating the tasty soy-based insulation on the wires. Very nimble due to double wishbone suspension all around, corners flat, well balanced, miles of room, xlnt visibility. And my other car is a ’92 Honda Civic Si hatchback, another keeper. Abiding here in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. ’92 Hondas Rock!
This generation, IMO, was the best Accord ever produced; the result of all the past Honda model’s lessons learned.
The next generation became bigger, duller and MUCH more expensive.
The 1993-97 Accords were slightly smaller than this generation, if I recall correctly.
Honda expected fuel prices to go up during the 1990s, which would result in customers placing a premium on gas mileage. Honda thus made the next-generation Accord slightly smaller, and initially only offered it with four-cylinder engines. Meanwhile, Toyota came out with a larger Camry that had an available V-6, and it captured the number-one spot in sales for passenger cars.
The ’93 Accord had a 0.2″ shorter wheelbase, was about the same length, but grew three inches in width, as it now had its own NA-specific body for the first time, while the JDM version was narrower. That growth in width probably accounts for the perception in his comment.
Not true; the fifth generation “CD” Accord was essentially the same car for both North America as well as Japan (and as a result, Japanese models from this era no longer fell into the smaller, more favorable tax bracket previous models did). It was the European Accord that deviated from the other two, and was essentially just an improved, modernized version of the previous generation “CB” Accord. The debut of the Sixth Generation cars in late 1997 is when the Japanese Accord went its own way from the other two, and shrunk back into the cheaper compact tax bracket. North America / Austraila went with a separate, larger wide body, and Europe got its own unique model that was the shortest of the three, but wider than the Japanese cars.
The Fifth gens are the best, take the fourth gen and make it more spacious, slightly better rust proofing, more power, and somewhat better handling.
Just avoid the V6 automatics
These Hondas were so reliable and long lived. I bought my son a 97 Acura 2.2 cl with 160,000 miles on it. Same engine. It had a 5 speed and ran great with very good fuel economy. He ran it over 250, 000 with only a clutch and a set of axles. He wrecked the car damaging the front bumper and left front fender. I got him another car and took the Acura back. I fixed it and drove it for a year. I sold it to a guy at a local tire shop who sold it with over 280,000 miles. These were some of the best Hondas ever. I would like to have bought this model Accord wagon with 5 speed. I’ve seen a couple on CL.
This particular vintage Accord was Honda’s pinnacle. Nothing they’ve built since has combined so many appealing traits. Very similar to BMW needing to move on, but not being able to improve upon a previous edition, in totality.
This generation of Accord was Honda at the top of their game. They were an everyday sight on the roads until just a couple years ago.
My wife and I had a ’93 LX (Canadian spec, very plain) that was dead reliable and very enjoyable to drive. No motorized belts, no A/C, just the basics. It was an excellent long distance car and like so many Hondas seem to be, was passed on in the family when we replaced it. I agree, they did have some soul that’s sadly lacking in my wife’s ’12 CR-V. I used to find excuses to use her Accord, now I use my truck even when we should use the Honda.
Ours stayed in the family until just a few years ago when rust finally made it not worth fixing after the water pump went. At 450,000 km. Regular maintenance, 2 timing belts and normal wear items were all it ever needed. I still miss it.
I have an 03 Civic and everything said about those early Accords can be said about
the Civic. 274,000 miles and only one trip to the dealer for repair. Still have the
original rear brakes.
There was an 91 Accord wagon in my life for a time, that car was well used when I
received it as a gift but it had everything ever put on a car and it all worked. Sweet
ride, dependable as an anvil.
Based on those two experiences we bought a 2015 FIT. I do not think it will ever make
it to the “esteemed” level of the earlier Hondas.
In my opinion, this Gen Accord is the car that made Honda’s rep in the US.
Apart from the horrible (and mandated) power seatbelt, that was nearly a perfect midsize, FWD sedan.
My first car was a ’90 EX that came to me in 2002/3. Still probably the best-handling car I’ve had… just fast/nimble enough for a 16-year-old to have fun on curvy backroads without wrapping myself around a tree.
The Honda Accord at its best. This is the generation that earned all the accolades bestowed upon it, not that miserable CVCC ’79 Accord I had. No, I didn’t own one of these, but I knew many who did and they universally loved them. The design, inside and out, still looks good today. I bet if they brought this design back out, swapped the mouse belts with airbags and a late model engine under the hood, they’d sell a zillion of them. There’s still plenty of them on the streets where I am, although their numbers are thinning out.
Chris, I’ll also commend you on selflessly giving up your car to your parents. A class act.
The late cars of this generation (I think from MY1992) got at least a driver’s airbag and ditched the mouse belts. ABS and four-wheel discs, which had been offered from the start in Japan and Europe, also became available, although only on the top trim levels.
First of all, kudos for the sensitivity and generosity you showed to your dad. I also am a former owner of this generation of Accord; mine was a 1990 EX that delivered nearly a quarter-million miles of reliable and enjoyable transportation. My only beef with it was the motorized shoulder belts, which were jackrabbit-quick and quite annoying. In my opinion, this was the last great Accord generation…beautifully designed and impeccably assembled, and great handlers to boot. Glad you got to enjoy the real Accord experience!
I agree, this gen Accord was Accord at its best, good quality and built to last. I always loved the unique noise that the automatics made from about 2k to 3k in 1st gear that you could hear as it was in 2nd gear as well, and they always shifted with a slight jolt. Here In Southern California its plenty of these still on the road and a lot of them are in good shape, that goes to show that they were built well!
Nice cars. Probably my favorite generation of Accord. I wouldn’t mind owning in a 92-93 Accord EX with a five speed, but they’re becoming thin on the ground in the south. I saw six of them last time I was in the local junkyard when I was looking for a bulb failure relay for my ’94 940. They all had between 226,000 and 387,000 miles. I was still sad to see them sitting there all picked over in the scrapyard, but at least some owners got their money’s worth.
My Dad bought one of these – new – in 1991. (Fortunately, the Canadian spec cars never had the mouse belts, otherwise his was much like yours). He said it would be his last car – and it was. For 21 years! It became not just the car he’d owned the longest, but also the oldest of any car he’d EVER owned, and with the highest mileage – 191,000 km.
But the story’s not done. He sold it to my niece for $1. That was over 2 years ago. She put new tires on it, named it Clarence (don’t ask) and is still driving it. It’s approaching 250,000 km now, and at 25 years young, it shows no signs of stopping.
Glad to hear your family had another good, extended experience with this generation!
I bought a ’92 LX in late 1998 with 67k. I am still driving the car now with 333k. Original clutch/trans and engine. Car still handles well, shifts smoothly and is very fun to drive. Just recently took it on an 1,800 mile trip with no issues. I can’t imagine a more reliable and fun car to have owned over the last 17 years.
Congrats on getting to such lofty mileage! I knew there would be many who’ve had experience with these excellent cars, but it’s cool to hear from someone who is still driving one. If it hadn’t been for the accident mine/Dad’s was still running well at 190k, so I’m sure it would have made it quite a bit longer, but over 300k is quite remarkable. Honda truly built these to last.
There seem to be plenty of these cars still around with very high mileage and not just in CA (though you see plenty of them here). One of my best friends has a 92 LX – five speed. He bought the car new and it is approaching 300K. Mileage would be higher but he also has an e90 BMW that has around 50K from new. Other than the ubiquitous upper rear quarter panel rust (he’s in the midwest), the car is in great shape (though the A/C is gone). Has to be one of the best Accords ever built.
I got my driver’s license in my Dad’s grey 1990 LX that, apart from lacking the pinstripe, looked exactly like this car. That car also took me on my first date, got me my first speeding ticket, and saved my reckless 16 year-old butt from more than a few cases of automotive stupidity.
Amazingly, at four years and 120,000 miles (Dad’s job required him to drive a lot) the insurance company opted to fix the car after he rear-ended a truck instead of sending it to salvage. That encompassed a new front clip, some repaired suspension components, and bending the steering wheel rim back into shape. The car travelled another 50,000 miles in our care before Dad got rid of it.
I later owned a ’92 LX 2-door 5-speed of my own that had the exact same minor problems as Dad’s had: cracked trim around the driver’s inside door handle, a broken temp control knob on the HVAC, and multiple replacements of power antenna cables. Alternators also gave up the ghost in both cars at around 80K, and both were replaced under Honda’s “secret” warranty in lieu of an outright recall.
I had a 91 LX two-door. White exterior, blue interior, five-speed. Drove it for 11 years and about 160,000 miles. A really great car: smooth ride, reasonably quick, good handling, good in the snow. Had a few problems along the way nothing major – except as they aged there was a problem with some sort of control box(?) that if it got too warm it would prevent the car from starting until it cooled off. I believe it was located in the driver’s footwell area. It once stranded me in a bank parking lot during my lunch hour. It was summer, very hot, and I had all the windows closed. Came back to the car and it wouldn’t start. Opened the windows and waited, and it started. Replaced the part soon thereafter and it was good as new.
The part you are referring to was the main relay. That was a common failure on these – I replaced mine in my ’93 wagon and never had an issue afterwards. The other nagging issues with these were the heater control knobs that always cracked, the interior door handles cracked and power antennas were good for five years, tops.
Agree with all the positive feedback here, this generation was to the Accord what the ’57 was to Chevy…everything came together just right. I had a ’91 EX, bought it in ’95 with 42k miles, drove it for over 200k trouble free miles over the next 10 years, then got a decent amount of money for it with 255k on the clock (resale value on these things is unbelievable). I found out later that it had been totaled in an accident 2-3 years after I sold it.
Dad had a ’90 LX 5 speed for a few years in the late 90s. One of the most fun cars I’ve ever driven, I would even say every bit as enjoyable as his ’90 ZR-1 ‘Vette. I should’ve bought it from him, but I was focused on getting a B-body at the time. It held up very well aside from the rust behind the rear wheels that all of them seem to get up here. Although my ’95 Altima is a very similar car on paper, it somehow comes up short compared to these Accords in my opinion. Despite their age now, I’d love to own one someday, though choosing between it and a ’92-96 Camry is an impossible choice for me.
Where do I begin about my favorite car EVER??? I actually owned several of these 4th gen Accords, but my favorite has to be my Seattle Silver 1993 EX 5-speed wagon. I purchased it in 2001 with 96,000 miles on it from the original owner. The car/owner originated from Washington state and were moving to my state – R.I.! How lucky could I get? I paid $5500 for it and my wife and I drove it for almost 10 years to 246,000 miles. Sadly rust was taking over and it was not worth putting any more money into it as the body was getting really bad. My wife and I miss that car terribly. Our new CR-V is great but nothing like that little wagon. It had the heart and soul of a sports car hidden in wagon form. There was nothing like the true wishbone suspension setup that car had and the HUGE windshield that gave you the road in your lap feeling. Plus it shifted so effortlessly and handled so well it made driving that much more enjoyable.
These cars were so great that someone actually hit a million miles in one – I believe it was a 90 or 91 LX sedan – and it is documented. Check out MILLION MILE JOE on YouTube – absolutely incredible!! Honda gave him a brand new Accord for his accomplishment!
I owned one of these with about 135k on it (I think the instrument guage had been swapped though, tach never worked), it was probably great back in 1992, but after 20 years of Midwest roads it was a rusty hail-magnet, compared to a Volvo I had beforehand I found it more dull than exciting.
Another time when I was car shopping, I had a chance to look at one with about 155k on it. Both bumpers were damaged, the windshield in two pieces, the interior a mess, and despite audible evidence the seller insisted “Theres no exhaust leak!”, and “It’ll pass inspection”, the seller was a “professional mechanic” btw. Brought the car non-running off a farm with a bad distributor.
Finally, a less directly related case, I was at a garage and overheard a conversation. A younger teen brought in an early 90’s Accord Wagon, and due to its previous “mechanic owner” some underhood wiring had been cut, requiring $900 to repair.
As for me I dont think I’ll ever get the love for these, there are better used cars for less money.
Too bad your experiences of these were limited to some previous owners destroying them. When properly cared for and when you drove one that wasn’t destroyed there wasn’t a better used car out there for your money. My father-in-law paid $3500 for his 1990 Accord EX sedan in 2001 and is still driving it with over 240k miles. Not a good used car buy? It’s ok, we can agree to disagree Ryoku75.