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Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
4/29/21 8:07 a.m.

I've loved my Nissan LEAF for more than 3.5 years now, which is probably the longest I've ever kept the same daily driver. Over those 3.5 years, it's needed nothing except a 12v starting battery when the original failed after seven years. The LEAF is a relentlessly effective appliance. Seriously, it's the perfect commuter.

But I'm bored, and ever since my wife bought a Honda Clarity, the Nissan's prior position as the "real" car in the family has been filled. So I wanted something that had some personality, as well as enough room to carry a few full-suspension mountain bikes inside. Oh, and no trucks: I already have one of those, so I wanted small-car size and driving manners.

I thought I wanted a Honda Fit, and I even started a thread asking about them. But after looking at one in a parking lot and reading some reviews, I realized it was just too small to carry bikes around. Realizing just how big modern mountain bikes are severely limited my options: I could buy a Ram Promaster City, Transit Connect, minivan, or Honda Element. And I know hitch racks exist (that's what I've used on the LEAF for 3.5 years), but I'm tired of leaving bikes outside and worrying about them every time I stop for food. Plus, keeping bikes inside means I can bring an extra to the trailhead and switch off if I want to.

I couldn't find any passenger versions of the tiny vans that weren't crazy expensive, and honestly a minivan is bigger than I want to drive every day. So, that meant I was Element shopping. After looking at most of the Elements in the country online, and more than 500 miles of driving around looking at them, I finally bought one last night.

So, meet my new daily driver. It's a 2005 Honda Element EX AWD with 194,000 miles. Spotless carfax, original paint, bone stock, new tires, stack of receipts, three keys, manuals, accessories, etc. It was owned by an Element dork that wanted it to go to a good home after he upgraded to a Ridgeline. It doesn't have any real needs, but I'll spend a day on it fixing tiny stuff like a droopy sun visor and a rocking driver's seat (common issue, $50 in parts). Oh, and I'll neaten up the stereo wiring. Good news: It has a really nice sounding system in it. Bad news: It was installed by a stereo shop, which means I can do better. Not horrible Best Buy-level hackery, but not as clean as I'd like.

I paid $4800, which these days is a fair deal for one of these. Used car prices are INSANE right now, and Elements were already appreciating before the pandemic. Wish my luck with my new daily!

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
4/29/21 8:11 a.m.



mr2s2000elise
mr2s2000elise UltraDork
4/29/21 8:15 a.m.

Congrats. She's pretty 

JoeTR6
JoeTR6 Dork
4/29/21 8:18 a.m.

Good luck.  I think you will like it.

2002maniac
2002maniac Dork
4/29/21 8:20 a.m.

Manual trans? 

Nevermind, I didn't see the followup photos.  Congrats anyway!

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
4/29/21 8:22 a.m.

In reply to 2002maniac :

Nope, automatic. I drove one with the manual, but first gear was too tall for pulling cars around the yard, and 5th gear was too short for the highway. I know about the 6-speed swap, but don't really want to immediately rebuild the transmission, and the automatic is plenty good enough for a daily. Plus, I only found one manual AWD Element, and it was pretty rusty. No thanks.

Jerry
Jerry PowerDork
4/29/21 8:34 a.m.

Ex-SWMBO had one for years, I loved it.  The wide opening doors on either side and the back made cleaning up after garden supply shopping and dog park days so easy.  Had another friend or two with them, they also loved them.  I looked at them when I bought my first Scion xB but couldn't find a deal.

ProDarwin
ProDarwin MegaDork
4/29/21 8:38 a.m.

Thats a good price.  I casually included these in my search and at ~$6k they were beat with 350k miles, rusty, etc.

 

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
4/29/21 8:39 a.m.

What's more red box and functional than an Isuzu Trooper? Seems the answer is Honda Element. 

eastsideTim
eastsideTim PowerDork
4/29/21 8:42 a.m.

That was a steal, based on the very few I see left for sale in the rust belt.  Are there a decent supply of them in Florida?

An Element might be one of the few things that could get me to get rid of my Mazda5.  It holds bikes inside, but not great.

Woody (Forum Supportum)
Woody (Forum Supportum) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/29/21 8:49 a.m.

Very cool. I can't believe it has almost 200k miles on it.

Were you looking specifically for AWD or did you consider the FWD versions as well?

 

Nicole Suddard
Nicole Suddard Marketing Coordinator
4/29/21 8:53 a.m.

In reply to Tom Suddard :

Plus, the automatic means that anybody in the fam can drive it if they need to. For instance, my mom has needed to borrow the Leaf before, so it would be nice for her to be able to borrow this too. That's another level of utility right there.

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
4/29/21 8:58 a.m.

In reply to eastsideTim :

There are tons of them down here, but most of the ones I found had been playing bumper cars in apartment parking lots their whole lives. There are very few with AWD, though, and the ones that are here came down from the rustbelt with snowbirds. I looked all over to find a native Florida car with AWD.

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
4/29/21 8:58 a.m.

In reply to Woody (Forum Supportum) :

I considered the FWD one, but decided the AWD was cooler and this lets me put the boat in on the sand ramp down the street from the house and not worry about a muddy trailhead.

Erich
Erich UberDork
4/29/21 9:07 a.m.

When I sold my AWD Manual Element about 8 years ago, a guy drove 9+ hours with a trailer to get it. It seems they've only gained in popularity since Honda discontinued them. 

You're 100% right that this will make a vastly better MTB carrier than a Fit. My MTB only fits in our full-size minivan if I drop the seatpost. They're huge. 

mtn
mtn MegaDork
4/29/21 9:10 a.m.

I love these vehicles. I spent a lot of time over 3 summers hanging out in one; the utility is simply unmatched by anything that isn't a minivan. Nice find! 

hunter47
hunter47 New Reader
4/29/21 9:32 a.m.

I was just talking about this car last night with some friends. 

Granted, it was on the topic of K-swaps, I said I would drop the K24Z7 from the 9th Generation Civic Si in a manual AWD one to be a WRX killer. 

More cars need suicide/clamshell doors. Easily one of my favorite features of the Honda Element, FJ Cruiser, and RX-8. What's the towing capacity on these? I can't imagine it's too much due to the unibody design but it would nice if it could tow Go-Karts. 

JoeTR6
JoeTR6 Dork
4/29/21 10:07 a.m.

The AWD system on these isn't full-time.  It's basically FWD until you need it, then it sends some power to the rear.  I think mine kicked in a few times in snow and it helped.  Should be good for sand too.

The clamshell doors are cool, but watch your head on that upper latch.  I lost track of how many times I cracked my skull on that thing.

Danny Shields (Forum Supporter)
Danny Shields (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
4/29/21 10:19 a.m.

Everyone who has ever had an Element seems to have nothing but fond memories.  It is one of those cars that makes you wonder why they discontinued it.

Appleseed
Appleseed MegaDork
4/29/21 10:29 a.m.

I love the unpainted Pontiac plastic fenders. Why did Honda do that? Save money? Go for the eccentric look, we're edgy because we dont paint parts of our cars? 

They looked better once they started painting them. But it did make the Element less noticeable. Which might have been the point all along.

captdownshift (Forum Supporter)
captdownshift (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
4/29/21 10:37 a.m.

I'm jealous, not as jealous as I would be if it were manual, as I'd plan on the tsx 6 spd swap sooner rather than later, but I'm envious. Well bought. 

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
4/29/21 10:38 a.m.

They're definitely polarizing. I actually specifically avoided the ones with painted plastic panels. To me the tupperware is the whole point, and much more emblematic of the model and the time than paint.

Plus, now I can lean my bike against the rear quarter without scratching it. laugh

Jerry
Jerry PowerDork
4/29/21 10:41 a.m.
Danny Shields (Forum Supporter) said:

Everyone who has ever had an Element seems to have nothing but fond memories.  It is one of those cars that makes you wonder why they discontinued it.

Ex-SWMBO took her sister and I in her Element to find sis a cheap econobox at a local Honda dealership where she knew the manager.  I could see the salespeople circling the salesfloor like sharks wondering who was going to take that in on trade.

captdownshift (Forum Supporter)
captdownshift (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
4/29/21 10:43 a.m.

The unicolor ones are a large swath of boring blandness to me. The plastic cladding is durable and can withstand disregard for it's well being, without going as far to say that they're rough and tumble, they speak to the vehicle's utilization focus. 

mtn
mtn MegaDork
4/29/21 10:55 a.m.
Danny Shields (Forum Supporter) said:

Everyone who has ever had an Element seems to have nothing but fond memories.  It is one of those cars that makes you wonder why they discontinued it.

My uneducated guess is that they discontinued it because almost everyone who was a prospective buyer already had one, and didn't get rid of it so they weren't replacing them with new ones, because there is nothing wrong with the old one. Seriously, look at the prices of these things and the mileage. Everyone I know who has one has run it up to over 200k miles with extreme reliability. The lone exception to that was the guy who totaled his at 140k miles, and replaced it with another. 

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