American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

If you are in the market for a Honda Accord, there are a few things that can be deduced with a high degree of certainty: reliability is your No. 1 priority, performance is not a high priority, and you've owned a Honda before.

Honda enjoys some of the most loyal car buyers in America, and the Accord has been a popular model for 40 years. Honda sells more than 350,000 Accords every year, many of them to customers who trade in an older Accord and never even consider another vehicle. Honda’s certified pre-owned program only makes the Accord more enticing.

If you’re new to the Accord, you are on your way to buying a conservatively styled vehicle you can expect to last thousands of efficient, drama-free miles. It has an engine and a steering wheel and seats and a trunk, and you’ll rarely have to think about it. That’s the Honda Accord.

That said, the last 10 years have seen explosive advancements in the automotive industry, and underneath the Accord’s khaki umbrella are some significant distinctions between one used Honda Accord and another.

Eighth-Generation Accords

American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

You’ll find a good number of eighth-generation Accords on Honda used-car lots. These Accords are from the 2008 through 2013 model years and come standard with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 177 horsepower and gets 24 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway, both significant improvements over the seventh-generation Accord. The cabins are spacious, according to critics, and this generation gets excellent safety scores.

A key midgeneration change came in the 2012 model year, when a USB port became standard and brought the Accord into the smart-device era. The 2012 Honda Accord is No. 1 in our ranking of used midsize cars $15,000 and up.

Critics say the eighth-generation Accord is relatively fun to drive, especially with the peppier 190-horsepower engine. Most critics think the available 270-horsepower V6 engine is unnecessary, which is good since they’re hard to find.

Hybrid Accords

American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

For the eco-conscious, Honda began offering hybrid versions of the Accord for the 2005 model year as part of the Accord’s seventh-generation. A ninth-generation version from 2014 placed third in our ranking of used midsize cars for $15,000 and up. It gets 50 mpg in the city and 45 on the highway, while making 195 horsepower. Test drivers say the Accord Hybrid accelerates quickly and handles responsively, creating a more engaging driving experience than you’ll get with older hybrid cars. You should expect to pay $24,000-$27,000 for a 2014 Accord Hybrid, depending on condition and mileage.

That’s $7,000-$10,000 more than you’ll pay for an otherwise identical nonhybrid version, so while the hybrid may eventually pay for itself with fuel savings, it will take several years for most drivers.

Ninth-Generation Accords

American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

Beginning with the 2013 model year, the ninth-generation Accord features more aggressive styling, more horsepower, and a new transmission option: the CVT.

A CVT (continuously variable transmission) is a transmission that doesn’t have gears and, therefore, doesn’t shift. Instead it uses a system of cones and sliding belts to fluidly and continuously change drive ratios, resulting in smoother acceleration and slightly better fuel economy.

Be warned, however, that a lot of drivers hate CVTs. Many complain about excessive engine revving and a generally awkward driving experience (though test drivers say Honda’s CVT is among the best). Honda also offers a six-speed automatic, and a six-speed manual transmission comes standard.

Most used ninth-generation Accords come with a 185-horsepower four-cylinder engine and an automatic transmission, a combination that satisfies most test drivers.

One of the biggest differences between the eighth- and ninth-generation Accords is the interior. The previously cheap-looking interior is upgraded to near-luxury standards for the ninth-generation models, and the previously stiff, unsupported seats are replaced with softer, more coddling seats.

To the dismay of many auto journalists, however, Honda eliminated the 60/40 split rear seat for the ninth-generation model. The rear seat still folds down, but it comes down all in one piece. As a result, it’s no longer possible to stash long cargo items in the trunk and still carry a person or a pet in the back seat. If this is an issue for you, you’re better off looking at a pre-2013 Accord.

Accord Coupes

American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

They are harder to find than their sedan brethren, but Honda also has a two-door Accord coupe. For the ninth generation, the Accord coupe is available with a six-speed manual transmission. That still leaves it something short of a sports car, but reviewers say it offers some of the best handling in its class, so Accord ownership doesn’t have to revolve around the uneventful commute.

For even more fun, the EX-L coupe trim is available with a 278-horsepower V6 and a manual transmission, though this combination might be hard to find in the used-car marketplace.

Regardless of the generation or trim, Accord buyers can typically expect years of stress-free motoring and plenty of residual value, even as used car prices drop all around it. That has been the expectation of Honda owners for generations. In the 1990s, Honda developed a reputation for building fun, fast enthusiast cars, but it wasn’t until the ninth generation that the Accord became a vehicle that offered some fun to go with its practicality. While many would-be Accord buyers are opting for the Accord-based CR-V instead, Honda’s veteran sedan remains one of the best-selling vehicles in the United States for the same reasons as always: It does just about everything well and doesn’t cause trouble.