Honda Element -- load capacity -- and is it a good car?

I’m interested in a Honda Element and found a nice looking used one. The owner, in trying to sell the car and talk up its load capacity, said she has put up to 1,000 pounds in the car. Is this an excessive amount for a car of this type to handle and could it do any damage to the car? In other words, should I steer clear of this particular vehicle?

And what do you think of a Honda Element in general?

The 1000 lb weight could be 4 heavy friends. The vehicle has a maximum gross vehicle weight (GVW) which is stamped on the door post and also found in the owner’s manual. You can ask to see it; 1000 lbs plus you friend’s weight should not overtax a Honda Element.

My Corolla has a GVW of 3585 lbs and has a curb weight of 2615, giving a load capacity of 970 lbs as guaranteed by very conservative Toyota. That’s for a modest little compact car.

Your Element has more carrying capacity than that, so I would not worry too much about a 1000 lb load. Pickup trucks are offically rated at 1/2 ton (1000 lbs), but very often carry twice that much.

So, ask to see the owner’s manual and see for yourself whether the car was “overloaded”. If she carried this weight every day of the week, I would shy away from the vehicle because of excessive wear on the suspension.

Model-Year, Please. Also, About How Many Miles On It ?

Very often this information is important. Before some folks can tell you what they think of an Element in general, they need some basic information.

Certain model-years of certain vehicles have higher than normal problems and sometimes meaningful suggestions cn be made based on miles.


It is a 2006 with about 55,000 miles. Know anything?

Thank you. I was thinking in terms of the 1/2 ton truck capacity, and know sure if these SUVs could be considered able to carry that load level.

I’ll ask more details about frequency, but my impression was she didn’t carry this much weight very often.

I don’t think a 1000 pound load would damage the car. One danger in overloading a vehicle is that the tires can’t carry the load. If the car only occasionally carried a 1000 pound load, I don’t think it did any damage. Consumer Reports does give the load carrying capacity of a vehicle, so you might look it up.

Try the Honda Element out for you. Consumer Reports indicates that while the vehicle has a good reliablility record, it rates too low in other features to have a good rating. The ride is a little rough. I like the versatility of the Element and a less than smooth ride never bothered me. We have a 2003 Toyota 4Runner we use on long trips and I find the firm ride of the 4Runner very comfortable. I considered a Honda Element before I bought a minivan, but I needed the seating capacity of the minivan.

Ride qualities are relative. I had a 1950 one ton Chevrolet pick-up truck. I thought it rode hard until I would disk a field with a Farmall F-12 tractor. I would then get in the Chevrolet pick-up and it seemed to ride like a dream. I thought that the pick-up had a pretty crude starter set-up. You stepped on a pedal on the floor which pushed the starter pinion into the flywheel and closed the starter switch. However, this was modern compared to having to hand crank the magneto ignition F-12.

I think for its intended purpose, the Element is fine. You need to determine if its purpose fits your needs.

I generally agree with Docnick’s statements, but with a few caveats.

The GVWR for a Honda Element is 4450 lbs. Empty, the 2WD Element has a curb weight of 3515 lbs.

That means any cargo weight over 935 lbs is technically overloaded (less load capacity than Docnick’s Corolla). If the owner had themselves and 1000 lbs in the vehicle for a total load of, say 1180 lbs, that is actually a decent bit past the weight limit.

However, those limits do have a significant factor of safety attached to them, so I wouldn’t worry about a couple trips of this load. If the owner did this often, then it would be more worrisome.

As for the Element being a good van or not, well, it doesn’t seem to have any significant reliability problems, so that means its “decent” in my book. It is a very unique vehicle, though, with its compromises (I firmly believe there is not a vehicle on the market that is without compromise), so make sure you like the style, trim, noise levels, etc, before you buy. Otherwise, if you like it, don’t let anyone (including Consumer Reports) tell you that you shouldn’t buy it.

No reason for alarm there. The few common reliability issues affecting Elements hit mostly 2003 and 2004 models, and even those (like most reliability issues on most cars) were relatively minor.

The Element is a good car. 1000lbs one time isn’t a problem.

If the car has a trailer hitch, I might be concerned it had a bit of a rough life. Towing is tough on a car. If there is no hitch I wouldn’t be concerned.

It is still a good idea to have the car inspected by a mechanic before you sign on to buy it.

Ran across an explanation that made good sense to me:

"Recalling some structural engineering classes from a zillion years ago, his question got me to thinking that the weight capacity issue with the E may simply be one of too much unsupported structure. That extra-wide pillarless door opening leaves a lot of area in the vertical plane without visible means of support. Too much weight, and I’ll bet that you will experience measurable distortion in the body structure, especially diagonally across the side door frames.

This sent my head spinning about the reported problems with 1) the windshield cracks and 2) the back side doors not latching, or rattling and clunking, or other problems indicating adjustment or alignment problems.

In other words, I think people are “bending” their E’s, with linear flexing in the vertical plane on each side, plus torsional flexing. It’s the torsional flex that’s going to crack windshields, and the linear flex is going to mess with the doors. Neither should be happening, but in my non-professional engineering opinion, both would be no surprise at all… at least not to me.

I’d be interested in what Honda has to say about this. There might just be some added under-body bracing in my future E’s future."

They’re ugly!!!

“They’re ugly!!!”

And they smell of elderberries!