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I'm thinking about buying 2003 Element with 132xxx miles on it. Not looking for a show car, just something reliable that will last and get me from point A to point B. What should I be asking the seller about and what should I look for when I test drive the car?
Can't post link to the add since this is my first post, so here's the description to the add
2003 Honda element with 132000 miles.
Manual 5 speed transmission.
Very reliable with the bullet proof 2.4 Liter V-tec motor. No leaks.
Front wheel drive. Power windows and locks. After market stereo.
Recent service includes new catalytic converter and oxygen sensor, spark plugs, oil and filter change with full synthetic
Heat and A/c work great.
Pictures do not show the rear seats, but I have them both and they are in like new condition. They pop in and out very easily.
Has hitch installed,
Car has dings and scratches, but no rust. $2500 obo.
Thanks for any help/advice.
 

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First off, Welcome Aboard! You have come to the right place for all things Element! : - )

It sounds good on the surface. A good set of maintenance records always is very helpful. It should have a valve adjustment done soon if it hasn't had one already.

If possible it's always good to have a thorough inspection done by a trusted repair shop; meaning having the car up on a lift, wheels off, etc. Around here a shop will charge $50 - $75 for an inspection like that, and it's cheap insurance to avoid any unexpected major problems. And rust on the under body is a big concern, if you live in an area where road salt is used in the winter. And also, you'll get a good idea of the life expectancy of the suspension, brakes, exhaust system, and tires.

How bad are the dings & scratches? On my '03 Element, it has several little dings and scratches (as can be expected on a 17 year old car), but they all are very minor. It's what we in the business call a 10 footer; from 10 feet away, it looks great! It's something to consider; paint & body work is insanely expensive these days! If they are all minor flaws, can you live with it as is? You decide!

Anyway, at $2500 it gives you some room to fix a few things and still be well under what it ought to be worth.

Let us know how it turns out for you. : - )
 

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One particular thing to keep in mind about the '03s is that some of them came from the factory with 'soft' exhaust cams that become badly scored and may need replacement. When I brought my '03 in for a valve adjustment around 100k miles, the mechanic, who I trusted, informed me that my exhaust cam needed replacement before he could adjust the valves. I was aware of the issue beforehand so wasn't too surprised. It is a $1000.00+ job at the dealer. As te1966 suggests, if you bring the car to a trusted mechanic for a pre-purchase inspection, you could have him pull the valve cover to see if yours has one of the bad batch of exhaust cams.

Other than that, mine has been great. I did also replace struts/shocks front and rear as they were pretty shot by 140k miles. That's another $1000.00+ job at the dealer. Others have had to replace other suspension components, but after numerous inspections all the other suspension components on mine are still holding up fine. If the suspension doesn't have any 'clunks' that's always a good sign on an Element.

Good luck whatever you decide; let us know how it turns out.
 

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Hey! I dont mean to hijack the post, but im literally in the same boat! I found an 05 element awd with 117k miles... i talked him down to 3k but this is the info in the add and i have NEVER owned an element? I am beyond nervous that i'm gonna make a mistake buying this thing but maybe someone here knows what these repairs mean and if there's any glaringly obvious issues i should worry about based on the ad? If this isn't okay i apologize in advance!! Here's the listing...

"Very low miles for the year . New rotors calipers brake pads . Valve cover gasket replaced . custom stereo . New radiator. New power steering pump . New high amperage alternator.new ball joints. New wheel bearings. I just put in platinum laser sparkplugs which last 80k miles. Mechanic owned. Super reliable super maintained."

the valve cover gasket and new spark plugs sound scary... but if this is a crazy stupid deal to pass up I would so appreciate anybody's opinion! I know nobody can know for sure... but if anyone has insight?
 

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The valve cover gasket is pretty minor in my opinion. It might've been leaking oil and that is why it was replaced. I believe the spark plugs are supposed to be changed at 100 or 110k miles as a maintenance item. I'm not sure about the 'platinum laser' spark plugs he used as I prefer to use the original equipment ones when possible. I would ask the seller if they mind you taking it to your own mechanic for an independent inspection. You don't necessarily have to do it, but you can at least see how he reacts to that. I would also ante up a few bucks to buy a Carfax (you'll need the VIN#) to make sure the car hasn't been in any significant wrecks or crashes. Good luck!
 

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Exhausts are super expensive on Elements/Hondas (mine is a goner, $550 estimate to replace), so if that catalytic converter repair included the rest of the exhaust, that's a plus.

I bought an '06 with 154,000, and mostly since then it's been brakes and front-end work. Alternator (factory) went around 190,000 miles.

Agreed on paying for the full inspection. Although I did the same, and the guy missed stuff. But have someone who knows what they are looking at look it over. That goes for any used vehicle purchase.
 

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Thanks for the suggestions. Haven't heard back from the owner yet, but I'll keep you updated.
Maybe this will help when I bought my 2003 2WD EX in 2018 w/103k it was all original.

Since then I have replaced the starter, new battery, trans filter & flush, minor work done on the rear exhaust, new brakes, rotors, and complete struts/shocks all around. Rear sway bar links, end links and ball joints. Also a new set of tires. All told it was an additional 3500 in cost on top of what I paid for it.

For me it was worth it the car is in fantastic condition body wise and interior wise.

The last time I bought it to Honda to have it inspected the mechanic couldn’t get over the condition of the car- What I mean by that is the small investment I made in repairs was well worth it because he has one himself and is close to 400,000 miles on it.

in the spring I plan on getting the valve adjustment done

If you buy the vehicle I would suggest you keep tabs on these forums because it’s been a great help to me
 

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2500 is a great deal. The 03s go for 4 to 5 around me. I agree with the pre purchase inspection. On my 03, a couple things I would check is the vtec solenoid. Make sure you get the engine over 3000 rpm on the test drive. Also check that you get a strong start with the starter. My battery cable rotted away and burned up the starter before I figured it out.
Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Looks like the car is not available anymore. Never had a chance to really connect with the seller.
I'm also looking into a 1st Gen Scion xB ( 2004-2007 ). I realize that Element and xB are different cars, but both of them fit what it is that I'm looking for in a car, as long as both are manual.
 

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I'm thinking about buying 2003 Element with 132xxx miles on it. Not looking for a show car, just something reliable that will last and get me from point A to point B. What should I be asking the seller about and what should I look for when I test drive the car?
Can't post link to the add since this is my first post, so here's the description to the add

Thanks for any help/advice.
Do it!!
 

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One particular thing to keep in mind about the '03s is that some of them came from the factory with 'soft' exhaust cams that become badly scored and may need replacement. When I brought my '03 in for a valve adjustment around 100k miles, the mechanic, who I trusted, informed me that my exhaust cam needed replacement before he could adjust the valves. I was aware of the issue beforehand so wasn't too surprised. It is a $1000.00+ job at the dealer. As te1966 suggests, if you bring the car to a trusted mechanic for a pre-purchase inspection, you could have him pull the valve cover to see if yours has one of the bad batch of exhaust cams.

Other than that, mine has been great. I did also replace struts/shocks front and rear as they were pretty shot by 140k miles. That's another $1000.00+ job at the dealer. Others have had to replace other suspension components, but after numerous inspections all the other suspension components on mine are still holding up fine. If the suspension doesn't have any 'clunks' that's always a good sign on an Element.

Good luck whatever you decide; let us know how it turns out.
How do you recognize a "soft" exhaust cam? Is there any markings or casting #s?
 

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The only real way to tell that I'm aware of is to pull the valve cover; the exhaust cam will either be badly scored or it won't. If it's not by now I would say it's not one of the bad batch. It wouldn't be terribly expensive to have a mechanic pull the valve cover if you're not handy enough to do it yourself.
 
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