Car Talk Honda Element good fit for couple who live in mountains, ride bikes and drive a lot
• Q. My fiance and I are planning to buy a new car that fits our lifestyle and our budget. We are currently looking at the Honda Fit, the Toyota Matrix and, my personal favorite, the Honda Element. Anyway, here’s some info about us: 1. We live in the mountains outside of Las Vegas (at 8,000 feet!), so we get lots of snow. 2. We also drive about 300-400 miles per week, so decent miles per gallon is important. 3. We are cyclists, and I am starting a gardening business, so we need lots of cargo room. 4. We are cash buyers looking to buy a used 2008-2011 vehicle for less than $20,000. Now, with all of that information, would you agree that the Element is a good choice? I am mostly concerned about repair costs and resale value, because Honda has discontinued the model. My main question is this: When a car manufacturer discontinues a model, does the resale value typically increase, or decrease? How about the cost of repair? Elements are hard to find used by private sellers, and I’ve always heard that Element drivers LOVE their cars, so I wonder if the resale value might even increase. Thank you so much! •
TOM: Generally speaking, when a manufacturer discontinues a car, it gets cheaper to buy — new or used. Cars that become “classics” are exceptions. But even then, it can take decades for a market to develop and prices to rise.
RAY: Eventually, after cars have been discontinued, parts do get harder to find. But I wouldn’t worry about either of those things in your case.
TOM: Why? Because this isn’t an investment. It’s a car. It sounds like the Element is perfect for you. And you can tell your fiance we said so (which we know is why you wrote to us in the first place — to gather evidence for when you have to talk him out of his Porsche Boxster idea).
RAY: You need all-wheel drive for the snow, so the Fit is out. You need room for the bikes, and the Matrix is too small. And you’re going to muck it up with mud from gardening, so you want a cargo area that you can sweep or wipe out. The Element sounds perfect — as it is for a small (too small for Honda) group of devoted owners.
TOM: And I wouldn’t worry about repairing it, either. Honda is very good about stocking parts for older cars. Besides, the Element is mechanically the same as the Honda CR-V, which sells well and which Honda will be supporting and repairing for many years to come.
RAY: I wouldn’t worry about the resale value, either. It’s true that those people who own Elements seem to love them, so, most likely, there will be a market for used Elements for a while if you have to get rid of it. But why would you get rid of it if it’s the perfect car for you? If you really want to get your money’s worth, keep it as long as it functions well, and drive it into the ground.
TOM: And if you need any instructions on how to do that, let me know. I’ve got a lot of experience driving cars into the ground.
• Q. My boyfriend is turning 40 this year, and I really want to get him something special, something that will surprise him and that he never would guess I could pull off. So naturally, I’m thinking of something in the “car” department, as I have no knowledge of the subject. He has a 1971 VW bus in storage. He’s wanted to work on it for years. And just this year, he’s started to tinker around with it, but I don’t think he’s progressed very far. I don’t know much about this fine artifact, other than it’s old, it has a pop top and he loves it. What could I beg, borrow, steal or possibly buy that would complement his ’71 bus? Any suggestions you may have would be greatly appreciated. •
RAY: What do you give a man with a ’71 VW Bus? Well, the first things that come to mind are a series of psychiatric appointments or a gift certificate for the crusher. But I sense that you don’t want to put a damper on his enthusiasm for this project.
TOM: The problem is, it’s hard to know what he needs for this bus, other than, probably, everything.
RAY: So I think the best thing you can do is get him a gift certificate to one of the places that sell parts for these old VW buses. That way, he can order parts for the next project he wants to tackle — whatever that is.
TOM: We’ve heard good things about www.busdepot.com. But if you go online and search for “VW Bus parts,” you’ll find a bunch of online stores that sell parts for these vehicles. With a gift certificate to one of these places, he can order anything from an engine to a dome light.
RAY: And if they don’t offer gift certificates (which is likely, because there are very few loved ones who want to encourage this hobby), just contact them, and I’m sure they’ll make an arrangement for you.
TOM: Your boyfriend will be impressed and thrilled. And you’ll be a VW Bus widow before you know it.
Got a question about cars? Write to Click and Clack in care of this newspaper, or e-mail them by visiting the Car Talk Web site at www.cartalk.com.