Woman Whips Honda In Small Claims Court

The woman who took Honda to small claims court because her Civic didn’t live up to its advertised gas mileage is now almost $10,000 richer thanks to a Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner ruling.

Instead of accepting a proposed class-action lawsuit settlement between $100 and $200 and $1,000 toward the purchase of a new car, she won a judgment against the company for $9,867. The AP cites the judge’s statement:

“At a bare minimum Honda was aware … that by the time Peters bought her car there were problems with its living up to its advertised mileage.”

The woman, who launched the site Don’t Settle With Honda to spread word of her campaign, said she was told the Civic would get 50 miles per gallon but the car never got more than 30 mpg.

Next month, a San Diego County judge will give Honda’s class-action settlement thumbs up or thumbs down. As things currently stand, consumers involved in the class-action suit have until Feb. 11 to opt out of the deal.

Honda loses small-claims suit over hybrid MPG [AP via MSNBC]

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  1. Dallas_shopper says:

    AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. chemmy says:

    Good god 30mpg? Heck my tank of an Altima approaches 28mpg and it’s 5 years old and certainly not a hybrid.

    • Cor Aquilonis says:

      I get about 31 mpg on my 2005 Pontiac Sunfire.

    • little stripes says:

      I can get 28 on my 2000 Mazda.

    • BobOki says:

      I can get around 32 or so highway on my 93 3000GT VR4 Twin Turbo…. and a whopping 17 or so in town ;p

    • awesome anna says:

      How do you figure that out? Like.. what would I do if I wanted to know the MPG of my car?

      • BorkBorkBork says:

        When you fill up with a full tank, reset the trip odometer to zero. Drive. When you fill up again (all the way full), calculate this:

        Miles traveled (look at trip odometer) divided by gallons pumped (look at gas pump) = MPG.

        Write it down and record several tanks to get a decent average.

      • PeanutButter says:

        Fuelly.com

    • kretara says:

      I get 21 MPG, all city driving, in my 09 Vibe.
      To say that I am disappointed is an understatement.

    • Squee says:

      My truck gets 20mpg highway (22mpg with a good tailwind!) about 15mpg city, and lately this winter between long warm-up times and having to lock in 4wd due to crappy road maintenance it’s dropped closer to 11mpg.

      Thankfully in the summer my motorcycle gets anywhere between 50 and 75 depending on how hard I twist the throttle.

  3. Rebecca K-S says:

    Huh. I’ve watched the Civic Hybrid from the beginning, and I don’t remember ever seeing 50+ estimates. Anyway, if she never gets over 30mpg, I have to question her driving style. I can get 30+ occasionally in my 15-year-old SUV.

  4. Cat says:

    If my estimate is right, she’ll spend WAY more than $9,867 in extra fuel costs in the first 100000 miles alone. But $9,867 is better than a couple hundred dollar off coupon for another car.

    • Rebecca K-S says:

      Your estimate is wrong. At 30mpg and $3.50, it’s $11,667 in 100k miles. 50mpg is $7000. Certainly a noteworthy difference, but nowhere near more than her settlement.

      • Cat says:

        That’s what I get for doing an estimate in my brain.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        You should really factor in higher gas prices into your math. In five years, I have no doubt that gas will be significantly more expensive than it is now.

        • Rebecca K-S says:

          Well, you have no idea what gas prices will be in five years, and the cars in question have already been on the road for 3-10 years.

        • NeverLetMeDown says:

          Gas would have to be $7.40 a gallon for the difference between 30 and 50mpg over 10k miles to be $9,867.

          10000/30=3333 gallons
          10000/50=2000 gallons
          => 1333 extra gallons
          9867/1333 = $7.40/gallon

    • Grogey says:

      Don’t forget about the cost of replacing the battery after so many miles.

  5. brinkman says:

    Sweet. I had a 2003 Civic Hybrid and the first year I got right around 30mpg. Once I adjusted my driving (obeying all speed limits, accelerating like a grandma, using cruise control whenever possible), I was able to hit the upper 30s.

    It was amazing for road trips–Philadelphia to Pittsburgh and back on one tank of gas–but I spent most of my nine years with the car wishing I’d bought a non-hybrid Civic.

  6. kc2idf says:

    The woman, who launched the site Don’t Settle With Honda to spread word of her campaign, said she was told the Civic would get 50 miles per gallon but the car never got more than 30 mpg.

    Yes, that’s pretty bad.

    I drive a 2005 Nissan Sentra. It’s not a hybrid. I regularly get over 30 MPG in it. On this morning’s commute, I got 38.8. A hybrid of similar or smaller cabin class should exceed this.

    Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that driving habits have a lot to do with this, as well as the roads taken. If she drives like a maniac, then she got what logically comes from it.

    • AustinTXProgrammer says:

      Damn. I drove my ’05 Sentra as conservatively as possible and got … 29 MPG! I hated that car. It had no power, no room, and what I felt was lousy mileage for the class (My wife’s ’02 Infinity got the same mileage with a lot more miles on the odometer and more power.) It was a 1.6 SE.

    • Cat says:

      I get over 35 with my 2010 Corolla on trips – and that’s with the car fully loaded, going 75 – 80+ MPH.

      I still don’t think any hybrid is worth the premium price. It looks pretty good on paper assuming you put a lot of miles on it – until you figure in battery replacement at some unknown mileage.

      • dorianh49 says:

        I bought my 2010 Civic Hybrid when my employer was offering a $3000 payroll credit just for purchasing a new hybrid vehicle. I shopped around on the internet and was able to get a good deal on the card from the fleet department. I also negotiated on the 8-year 120K-mile Honda Care warranty that covers the battery (which just got replaced for the first time a couple weeks ago), and ended up purchasing the extended warranty from another dealership for around $1200.

        For a couple years, I was averaging around 43-45 MPG, but I replaced the stock tires with Bridgestone Ecopias (which are supposed to provide better fuel efficiency over stock) around 3000 miles ago, and my average has gone down to around 38-39 MPG. At my last fill-up, I decided to slightly over-inflate the new tires, and I’m seeing 40-41 now.

        • BobOki says:

          This is actually pretty close to what I would assume real numbers would be when playing with tire inflation. Drag on a car is no joke, and the more tire touching the road, the more grip and the “safer” you are, but also the more drag is created.

          You will need to balance the gas milage gained with the loss of grip on the road and the unusual wear and tear that will occur now. Is the extra mpg going to be worth the cost of replacing those tires at 30k over 60k and a possible accident? Perhaps just inflating to max psi and getting a 39-40 with no odd wear and tear would be better….

          But yeah, small things can make large diffferences overall in the mpg game. Look up “Hypermilling”

          • dorianh49 says:

            I did before I got the car, and have been employing as many hypermiling techniques as I know of. I drive like a freakin’ granny since I got this car, but I used to get speeding tickets all the time previously. So far, no tickets with the hybrid after 3 years.

            Still, I’m disappointed with my MPG.

      • Dreadcthulhu says:

        Well, not all hybrids have that much, or any, of a price premium. For example, the hybrid Lincoln MKZ & eAssist (a “mild” hybrid system) Buick Lacrosse have the same list price as the V6 versions of those cars. So rather than trading money for better fuel economy, you trade power.

    • jayphat says:

      Driving habits don’t play as much a factor in it as you think. The problem with those civics was the electric motor not functioning like it should. The gas motor, underpowered for the weight of the vehicle, was essentially doing all the driving. So, 30 mpg with the added weight of an electric drive system and battery is a pretty good estimate for her.

    • Kestris says:

      But how does she drive the car? Is she a leadfoot or a greyhair type of driver? Where does she do most of her driving, in the city or on the highway? That all can factor in to how much MPG you get in any vehicle.

  7. katarzyna says:

    Wow. Was going to comment that “Your Mileage May Vary”, but not that much.

  8. dolemite says:

    So I’m curious. If at some point during the buying process, they had forced her to sign one of those EULA forms that force you to binding arbitration (like every corporation will eventually), could she still have sued in small claims?

    • Jack T Ripper says:

      The problem comes from fraud perpetrated prior to the signing of the contract. If you sign a contract because you have been mislead as to what you were purchasing, then it could be argued that the contract is void. Honda could still turn around and sue her for breech of contract though. She’ll have to get herself an attorney and spend her $10,000 on that in order to defend herself and hopefully not lose and be out an additional $10,000. If I remember correctly, she was an attorney, so hopefully she has some experience in contract law and isn’t just a divorce attorney or something like that.

      She would have had to have a pretty damn well documented case in order tow in in small claims court on this one, so I’m not sure what Honda would get out of appealing it. Small Claims isn’t a court of record, so it isn’t like this is a landmark case or anything like that. Still… I would be afraid for the little guy right about now…

  9. Bob says:

    Maybe this will finally be the kick in the pants that Honda needs to realize that its Integrated Motor Assist hybrid system just plain sucks. With the exception of the first generation Honda Insight, which was more of an engineering experiment than anything else, Honda’s hybrids have never even been close to being competitive with Toyota’s. Heck, in a couple of months the smaller Prius C will be released and it’s expected to get 53 mpg in real world driving. It also will start around 19 grand. The least expensive Honda Insight also starts at 19 grand, but it’s only rated at 44 mpg, and again, that’s Honda being overly optimistic. Honda has their head stuck in the sand.

  10. Guppy06 says:

    Expect appeals ad nauseam.

    • SalParadise says:

      I question the economics of Honda bringing in an army of lawyers to appeal this decision. It makes sense for an army of lawyers to battle a class action suit, because so much money is riding on the outcome. But can any large corporation afford to send an army in to appeal each small claims judgement?

      This woman is setting up a web site that may well unleash hundreds of suits in small claims courts across the county. Can Honda afford to appeal them all?

      They might win battles, but at the cost will be so high they will soon find it’s cheaper to pay up in small claims court.

      By the way, this frequently happens in our legal system: right or wrong, sometimes it’s cheaper to settle than to pursue the outcome you think you deserve.

  11. Keep talking...I'm listening says:

    I had an ’08 Civic Hybrid. My first and last Honda.

    My car had the adjusted the window stickers of 40/50/45. The first 9 months or so, I was getting the 45 mpg average without any trouble. Was seeing 56 mpg highway on a regular basis even. Honda did a software update and my average mileage dropped to 38 mpg. Then the battery pack died with less than 15000 miles on it. More software updates, a new battery pack, and I still could not consistently get 40 mpg city or 50 mpg highway.

    My theory is that the original tuning of the hybrid system that allowed the cars to get the 42 mpg average was killing the batteries prematurely. Honda evidently dialed it back to preserve the batteries and to avoid further $3000 warranty repairs.

    Throw in that issue, the hybrid brake pump failure, the broken sunvisors and window regulators, the rear suspension defect that ate tires and I was fed up with the car. Oh yeah, and the Honda dealers treated me like I was a pariah for having a Honda with all those issues.

    Eventually Honda got my car sorted out, and I sold it (with full disclosure).

    • Keep talking...I'm listening says:

      *should be 45 mpg average. Can’t type with a broken arm :(

    • Buckus says:

      Honda needs to re-think their hybrid strategy, or even consider abandoning that market altogether until they can do it with real-world benefits. The IMA is a terrible idea – even GM’s “Mild” hybrid is better.

  12. ancientone567 says:

    What most people don’t get is that you have to learn to drive a certain way to get the peak mileage and it’s very hard to do. They should make a chip that does it for you. Glad this lady got something but everyone else is screwed unless they all take it to small claims. Hey they can use this case as precedent to win! All the homework is done.

    • Marlin says:

      Most of the time MPG is heavy on driving style. But it is well known that the Civic hrybrid has problems. Look at the poster above you and all the “updates” they did.

      Everytime they did a update it seemed to piss off more people. The class action was started but of course the drivers get little.

  13. KyBash says:

    My Studebaker got better than 30mpg!

    • Kate says:

      Cars now are detuned for lower pollution and far heavier for motor size than they used to be. You can’t get the milage that you used with a current street legal vehicle.

  14. Swins says:

    1. She’s a lawyer.
    2. She filed in small claims court, which doesn’t allow outside counsel – so even after days of her testimony, it was almost a default judgement.
    3. It now can be appealed where Honda can bring in their experts and legal team.
    4. Interestingly she is now getting her license back in California so she can represent others against Honda in another class action suit.
    5. Funny how the facts get in the way of a “headline” on Consumerist.

    • Marlin says:

      A lot of BS in your post.

      She is not a lawyer, but a former one.

      Honda can bring in experts/witness’s in small claims. They just can’t have 50 lawyers there. In fact a Honda tech was there as a witness and she got him to admit that the reprogramming caused the cars milage to drop.

      Her site shows how to file by yourself and no money goes to her.

  15. crispyduck13 says:

    30 mpg on a brand new hybrid?? I will love Honda until the bitter end but that shit is ridiculous. I drive a 1997 Honda Prelude and regularly get 28 mpg driving like an asshole, no highway. Class action for $200 is a joke, they need to be recalling the car or exchanging them for new ones that aren’t comically inefficient.

  16. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    I thought federal law prevented any car advertisement or even dealer talk that indicated the car gets anything other than the government-calculated sticker mileage. Is that what happened here? If not, it isn’t Honda’s issue, it’s the EPA’s issue.

    • Marlin says:

      The EPA only test about 10-15% of cars, the rest are tested by the car makers and they report that to the EPA.

      The cars did get 50mpg when new but the batteries were dieing to keep that up. So Honda reporgrammed the computer to be easier on the battery and it dropped the gas milage down to normal Civic levels.

      • TheMansfieldMauler says:

        Makes sense, thanks.

      • phsiii says:

        Plus (implicit in Marlin’s answer, but to be clearer): You can’t really estimate MPG with a hybrid: if you never go off battery, MPG is infinite. If you start with a flat battery, MPG is sucky. Etc.

  17. fightclubsandwich says:

    I’m holding out for zero-point energy system in my next vehicle purchase.

  18. yabdor says:

    The wife’s regular ol Corolla routinely gets 38-40 mpg. Best we ever got was 44 mpg.

    • OthelloAndreus says:

      Yep, mine as well. I regularly get about 41 or 42 MPG in mixed city/highway driving. If I really, really push it (drive conservatively at reasonable highway speeds) I can get about 780 KM for a 40 liter tank, which is about 46 MPG.

      With that kind of milage a hybrid is not worth the extra expense.

  19. Rocket says:

    I like big butts and I cannot lie.

  20. chrisAPu says:

    I bought a 1993 civic 4-door for $600 several years ago… Thing was bare bones didn’t even come from the factory with a passenger side mirror… Anyway, that badboy would get 38-40mpg on my 85 mile a day commute back and forth to work which was about 70% highway 30% city…

    I never understood how this nearly 20 year old car got better gas mileage than some hybrids and those “Smart” cars… It also could seat 4 passengers somewhat comfortably.

    • chrisAPu says:

      Also, I bought it off the original owner (good family friend)… At 208,000 miles the clutch died. I asked him when it was last replaced and he said never… 208,000 miles on a clutch… And when I pulled it apart the clutch disc had plenty of “meat” left on it however the dampening springs on it broke… Amazing car in my opinion. wish I never sold it.

      //cool story

  21. DGC says:

    All EPA mileage tests are done by certified labs and to a specific standard. Unless she can prove there was fraud on Honda’s part, like sending a ringer to the lab to be tested, she’ll never collect.

    • Keep talking...I'm listening says:

      The EPA did certify the Civic Hybrid’s fuel economy, and that is what Honda advertised. The problem is that Honda pushed software updates that changed the hybrid charge characteristics in order to deal with premature battery failure. These software updates appear to be the cause of the drop in mileage that owners are reporting and are not subject to EPA recertification.

      So in essence, Honda is gaming the system by selling the cars with one ‘tune’ and then retuning the cars at the first oil change (which is done free).