Among the best characteristics of Honda vehicles are their incredible reliability and stellar safety ratings. Honda is known for its great track record of building vehicles that last and will keep you safe on the road. For example, keep an eye on the cars passing you on the highway, and it’s likely you’ll see more than one used Honda CR-V. Why? Because it’s a good-looking, comfortable vehicle that is beloved for its consistency, reliability, and great styling. The Honda CR-V is considered a crossover - a cross between a car and an SUV - and is in the mid-range of SUVs size-wise.
Honda launched the first CR-V in the United States back in 1997. Since then, it’s been at the top of crossover SUV buyers’ lists. According to Honda, CR-V stands for “Comfortable Runabout Vehicle,” and we think that’s a pretty good description. Currently, in its fifth generation, the CR-V has stood the test of time, and it’s not uncommon to still see first-generation CR-V’s on the road today. This incredible longevity is a testament to the vehicle’s reliability and to Honda’s commitment to building high-quality cars that will last for years and keep you safe out on the roads.
The Honda CR-V represents a pillar of quality in the used car market. While buying a used car is never guaranteed to result in a trouble-free ownership experience, when you choose a CR-V, you certainly come close. Long known for its durability, it’s common to find great reviews from happy CR-V owners.
The acronym CR-V isn’t just a factory moniker. Most people don’t know that it stands for “Comfortable Runabout Vehicle” and that the descriptor predated the massive influx of SUVs and crossovers to the American car market that came well after the CR-V’s initial launch. In other words, Honda saw the writing on the wall and designed a larger vehicle with car-like handling well before the official birth of the crossover.
The CR-V became a staple in American families’ driveways almost from the day of its launch and carried over to other segments as well, including first-time buyers, young urban dwellers, and even retirees. Its consistent reliability and affordable price tag held mass appeal and still does today, and millions of CR-Vs travel on American highways and back roads every day.
From a styling standpoint, the CR-V maintained consistency throughout its many redesigns. A good example of this is the unique rear-mounted spare tire. It’s not uncommon to see older CR-Vs sporting custom tire covers with clever catchphrases or pop culture references, along with plenty of original covers emblazoned with the Honda logo. The most recent CR-V models abandoned the exterior-mounted spare, but it stuck around for multiple generations.
One of the main reasons buyers continue to flock to the CR-V is its just-right compact size. It easily functions as a daily driver for busy young families, and its diminutive size and impressive fuel economy ratings make it a top choice for commuters. Over the years, Honda has continued adding more technologically advanced safety features, further adding to the CR-V’s appeal.
With its cute rear-mounted spare tire and signature swing-out tailgate, older CR-V models are instantly recognizable. Additionally, they feature unique vertical taillights and brake lights. Because the CR-V rides on a car platform, it delivers a smoother ride and better fuel economy than some of its competitors but still offers all the roominess crossover buyers expect. It’s a value proposition that’s attractive to compact crossover buyers.
Honda made automotive magic when it designed and launched the popular CR-V. Not only have echoes of its signature styling remained throughout 25 years of production, but a loyal owner base continues to buoy sales and keep the CR-V at the top of the list for compact crossover buyers. It wouldn’t be a stretch to call the Honda CR-V a no-brainer, especially as a used car choice. Honda’s other calling card – unparalleled safety – is another feature CR-V owners appreciate.
It’s hard to believe that the very first CR-V rolled off the assembly line back in 1997. Bill Clinton was president, Elton John’s "Candle in the Wind" topped the charts, and the first iPhone was still over a decade away. The first generation launched with a single trim option and received a handful of facelifts until it was retired in 2001.
For the 2002 model year, Honda introduced a completely redesigned CR-V in a classic design that formed the foundation for future generations. Throughout the second-generation phase, the CR-V earned accolades from automotive journalists and received regular mid-cycle updates, allowing Honda to equip it with the latest technology.
The second generation ended four years later when Honda introduced gen three as a 2007 model. This CR-V evolved with a series of in-cabin technology upgrades, including hands-free Bluetooth, USB audio connections, and onboard navigation. Buyers also enjoyed a 6-disc CD changer, which at the time was considered an advanced audio feature.
The 2012 model year ushered in Honda’s fourth-generation CR-V. We began to see significant powertrain upgrades throughout the time period, which spanned the 2012 - 2016 model years. Improvements included a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which contributed to better overall fuel economy, and a strengthened body that improved crash test performance.
By its fifth and current generation, the CR-V had enjoyed many years of popularity in the compact crossover segment. Owner loyalty remained high, and the sheer volume of CR-Vs sold made them one of the most frequently spotted cars on the road. The fifth generation shared its platform with Honda’s popular Civic and began featuring advanced driver-assist safety technology.
Used CR-V buyers are in luck because with all these generations and literally millions on the road at any given time; there’s a huge pool of inventory to pick from. Within the CR-V family, buyers will find a manual transmission option, both front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive, and a variety of styling, trims, and comfort/convenience features. Focus your search on older model years, and you’re likely to find some great bargains. Even high mileage CR-Vs represent a great potential used vehicle option.
Throughout its 25-year lifecycle (and counting!), the CR-V has held fast to its groundbreaking body style, with few dramatic deviations. However, in the 2019 model year, the first-ever Honda CR-V Hybrid hit dealerships. As part of Honda’s unwavering commitment to safety, the company included its Honda Sensing suite of driver-assist systems as standard across the entire trim range. Newer CR-Vs are likely available for purchase as certified pre-owned models, offering additional warranty protection.
The Honda CR-V is available with a 2.4L engine or a 1.5L turbocharged engine. The fourth-generation CR-V, which ran from 2012 to 2016, was only available with a 2.4L engine. For 2012 to 2014 models, this was a multiport injection design that produces 185 hp and 163 lb-ft of torque. However, for the 2015 to 2016 models, this was replaced with an improved direct-injection design with 185 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque as well as improved fuel economy. With Honda vehicles, you will rarely have to choose between efficiency and performance, as the company is equally dedicated to improving both aspects of its vehicles.
For the fifth-generation CR-V, which debuted for 2017, the base 2.4L engine was supplemented with an optional 1.5L turbocharged engine that produces 190 hp and 179 lb-ft of torque. However, the largest advantage of the 1.5L engine is not its power, but its increased efficiency, which saves you money at the pump. This is consistent with Honda’s goal of protecting the environment by offering highly fuel-efficient vehicles. For the 2020 model year refresh, the older 2.4L engine was eliminated, and the 1.5L became standard across the CR-V lineup.
While it is only beginning to reach the used market, the 2020 CR-V also added an all-new and even more efficient hybrid powerplant that made the CR-V Honda’s first hybrid SUV for the American market. This two-motor system combines a 1.4-kWh lithium-ion battery with a 2.0L Atkinson-cycle engine. Importantly, the CR-V Hybrid does not sacrifice performance for fuel economy. Indeed, with its combined 212 hp and 232 lb-ft of torque, the hybrid drivetrain is noticeably more powerful than the gasoline options and gives the CR-V tremendous power at low speeds.
Safety is a focus for Honda across its entire vehicle lineup. In fact, Honda is known as a leader in safety technology. This is evident in the CR-V, whether it’s a new 2020 model or an older used vehicle. This is especially true within its last two generations, which include improved crash resistance and advanced active safety technologies that not only allow you to walk away from an accident unscathed but to even avoid an accident in the first place.
If you want a vehicle with modern collision avoidance systems, then look for a 2015 model year or later CR-V. Automatic emergency braking, which will activate the brakes when an imminent collision is detected, was added as an option during the 2015 model year refresh. When the CR-V was redesigned for the 2017 model year, Honda went a step further and began including its Honda Sensing safety package standard on most trims.
In addition to enhanced safety features such as lane departure and blindspot warnings, the Honda Sensing package includes handy features such as adaptive cruise control, which adjusts speed to keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front. This feature is a great addition for highway driving, as it means you do not need to worry about constantly braking and resetting your cruise control whenever you encounter a slower vehicle. When you are in a CR-V with Honda Sensing, you will be driving one of the safest and most convenient vehicles available.
With the 2020 model year refresh, Honda has released the safest CR-V to date. For the first time, the Honda Sensing suite of technologies was made standard on every trim of this compact SUV. While finding a used 2020 CR-V may still be a bit of a challenge, if you discover one of these excellent vehicles on our lot, you will be rewarded with one of the safest SUVs on the road at a remarkably affordable price.
If asked to assign keywords to describe the Honda CR-V, the word practical would definitely make the list. As such, maintaining one is straightforward and as easy as following Honda’s recommended maintenance schedule. While specific requirements change from year to year, several foundational maintenance intervals make up the bulk of the requirements and are spaced out sufficiently to make scheduling service minimally inconvenient.
Honda recommends checking engine oil and coolant at every service appointment, as well as replacing the engine oil and rotating the tires. It also recommends that the oil filter is replaced at every scheduled maintenance interval. Newer CR-Vs follow a convenient and easy-to-remember 10,000-mile service interval.
At every other service interval, Honda suggests a comprehensive multi-point inspection of the following components:
While your CR-V is in for its 30,000, 60,000, 90,000, and 120,000 scheduled maintenance, Honda technicians will inspect the drive belt and provide any necessary adjustments. On the interior, owners will receive a new dust and pollen filter. All CR-Vs will need the transmission fluid replaced at 120,000 miles as well. While not specifically mentioned in the CR-V’s owner’s manual, tire inspections should also be on the list.
With regular use (versus operation as a rideshare vehicle or in some other heavy-duty capacity) and adherence to Honda’s recommended maintenance schedule, the Honda CR-V delivers a high degree of reliability. Combined with good maintenance habits, CR-V drivers can ensure optimal reliability by practicing safe driving habits and avoiding common behaviors that threaten any vehicle’s longevity. It’s best to ensure the car is at a full stop before switching gears and, whenever possible, accelerate and brake smoothly to minimize wear on the brakes, transmission, and engine.