Here Are The Honda Element Years To Avoid

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Silver Honda Element

Honda Element by Redjar — CC BY-SA 4.0

The Honda Element wasn’t in production for very long, only surviving 9 model years from 2003 to 2011. But in that time, it became a reliable daily driver to many in need of a practical, dependable vehicle.

And it has continued to shine in that role as a used car since its production run ended, being the first car for many teens and a great, low-priced option for anyone else. And while no year was plagued by car-killing problems, some model years faired better than others. That’s why CoPilot is here to help you figure out which Honda Element years to avoid. 


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Quick Answer: Avoid 2003, 2004, 2007, and 2008 Honda Element Model Years

While no year of the Element had too many problems with its reliability and build quality, Honda did need a little bit of time to get their feet underneath themselves, with the first two model years having the most problems reported. These problems included engine and transmission issues that became far less common in later years.

If you owned a Honda Element, you were much more likely to deal with problems with the inside of the cabin or the outside of the body than under the hood. Meanwhile, the 2007 model had pretty few complaints, but the most common was the gauge needles falling off, which could be surprisingly expensive to repair and dangerous if left alone. And then the 2008 model dealt with many complaints, chiefly premature wear on the brakes.


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Which Model Years of Honda Element Are Safe to Buy Used?

  • 2005 Honda Element
  • 2006 Honda Element
  • 2009 Honda Element
  • 2010 Honda Element
  • 2011 Honda Element

By the 2005 model year, many wrinkles had been ironed out. A few problems were noted, including the seat belt indicator light not working correctly, and there was one report of an airbag going off unexpectedly. But the seatbelt light and paint bubbling were the only complaints logged by two people; any other problems have only been reported once each. The 2006 model also had few complaints, with paint issues still being the most common one, though if you buy a 2006 Honda Element, you should get the airbags checked as there were three reports of defective side airbags.

Meanwhile, very few problems have been reported from the last few years of the Element’s production run from 2009 to 2011. The most common ones listed were a funky smell coming from the ventilation system and issues with the cabin quality, which are far from the biggest deals when buying a used car. While this was a rare issue, it’s certainly one you don’t want to learn about the hard way.

While you should always be cautious when buying a used car and make sure that it is well-vetted and inspected before any money changes hands, you should feel more confident when looking at these model years, while the rest of these are Element years to avoid.


If you’re ready to start shopping for a used car and reliability is a priority for you, take a look at our list of the top 10 most reliable used sedans on the market today. 

Which Model Years of Honda Element Should You Avoid?

  • 2003 Honda Element
  • 2004 Honda Element
  • 2007 Honda Element
  • 2008 Honda Element

The Element did get off to a rough start with its 2003 and 2004 offerings. Surprisingly, the key was one of the most significant issues in 2003, with many complaints of the key not being able to fit into the door locks to get into the car or into the ignition to start the vehicle. Unfortunately, even if you could get into the car and get it started, there were multiple engine, transmission, and electrical system issues. Luckily, there were fewer serious engine problems with the 2004 model, and owners could use their keys properly. Still, there were many issues with the windows and interior build that were seen much less frequently in other model years.

While it is possible to find a reliable 2007 or 2008 model used, these were two Honda Element years to avoid considering the quality of the model years that followed it. While far from unreliable clunkers, 2003 and 2004 are Honda Element years to avoid. The 2007 model might not have been too poorly made, but there were multiple reports of the needles in the instrument panel just falling off. If you left it as is, you might not know how fast you were going, the engine’s temperature, or if you were running out of gas.

But if you wanted to get it fixed, you could easily spend over $1,000 for something so small. Then the 2008 model, in addition to typical problems with paint chipping or interior parts not lasting, the brakes wore down excessively quickly for several owners.


We’ve gone through the legwork of getting down to the simple answer of which model year is the most reliable year for the Honda Element.

Honda Element Problem Counts by Year



Common Honda Element Problems

The Honda Element is a reliable vehicle, but it’s not without issues. Here are some of them:

  • Engine oil leaks: Elements of model 2003-2011 suffered from engine oil leaks due to faulty oil pressure sensors. This problem is usually indicated with the illumination of the check engine light. This is a quick fix by buying aftermarket oil pressure sensors.
  • Unstable rear tailgate: Several Element owners reported that their rear hatch light turns on by itself randomly. According to the reports, this was due to a maladjusted rear tailgate. Service technicians had to readjust the tailgate of the affected elements to fix the problem.
  • Malfunctioning door locks: Frustrated Element owners claimed that their door locks tend to malfunction. Apparently, this was caused by faulty door lock tumblers. This was a relatively common issue with the 2003-2008 models.
  • Key won’t turn in the ignition: Door locks aren’t the only problem with the Honda Element. As it turned out, the 2003 model year has had issues with its key – notably, the key won’t turn while inside the ignition. Several reports claimed they had to call a locksmith to get their keys to turn and drive away.

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