Is a Honda Civic a good car to buy for your first car?
In my opinion, Honda civic is good car to buy because it has been designed to be compact and economical while being fairly luxurious.
One downside is Civics, at least my 2002, is expensive to insure, as compared to the same policy on my 2001 Toyota Sienna van and 1997 Mazda MX-5.
A Corolla might be cheaper to insure based on the average age of the drivers who buy them, as it may be higher than the Civic.
When buying a used Civic, or most any front-wheel drive car, there are several expensive items that you should ensure have been taken care of:
1. Timing belt & water pump: costs about 500-700 to replace. Belt must be done every 60-90k miles, as I recall. The Corolla has a timing chain, so it will probably last the life of the car in normal circumstances. If the belt breaks on the Civic, it can do damage to the engine as it is an "interference" design.
2. CV boots and joints: these come out of the engine and to the front wheels to turn the front tires and make the car go. They attach to the "half shafts". The CV (constant velocity) joints do wear out eventually, and are protected by rubber accordion like boots. If the boots are ripped, dirt had probably gotten into the CV joint, causing it to wear out early. I think CV joints cost about $300 to replace for one axle, and there are 2 axles on a front-wheel drive car.
3. Front shocks: can cost several hundred dollars to do on any front-wheel drive car that has McPhearson Strut suspension, which almost all have. Bounce the front of the car by pushing on the bumper - if it bounces more than once or twice after you stop bouncing, the shocks are probably going bad.