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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hi everyone

If I should post this question for help with buying in this part of the forum, please let me know and I'll post in a more appropriate category.

I've never owned an Element yet here I am! I've always liked them, a close friend owned one for nearly 15 years and loved it, and I could really use the utility of decent yet sort-of beater-quality Element. I'm not afraid of high miles and I do 90% of my own maintenance, out of enjoyment and saving money ain't bad.

A 220,000 mile 2004 AWD EX with the 5 speed is for sale near me. Dealer is asking $5,995 and I'm very interested. Comes with a catch though!

Looking for opinions on the first point, and advice on the second:

1. It has a Rebuilt title with very little information as to why. The dealer has no idea, or at least says they don't. They just bought it at auction with the Rebuilt title. I've tried to do some extra research to find out what happened, but can't find much. CarFax shows the event that resulted in a Salvage title (at first) only as damage to the undercarriage. I found the auction listing that the dealer bought it from. The auction house bought it from State Farm, and also lists damage only as "Undercarriage." The dealer bought it with the rebuilt title, so it had already been repaired, inspected and converted from a Salvage title to Rebuilt.

I found a photo from the listing that the auction house had up when the dealer ended up buying it (this was all very recent so that auction listing is still live). There's no context to the photos, but there is this one image of the underneath that I don't understand. Does anyone know what this is showing and what, if any significance it may have? I think that's the front swaybar at the left of the image, for reference, but I'm not 100% sure. I found this after I looked at the car, and I didn't get under it when I was at the dealer so I can't compare this image to what it may look like now. Easy to remedy that by going back and looking again though.

Automotive tire Hood Automotive lighting Motor vehicle Grille


This isn't awesome, but didn't scare me off of taking it for a drive. I took it out on Friday afternoon. Felt okay, like it has a lot of life in it. I think it needs brakes (pads at least), and it was very very soft in the steering and cornering. However, I've never driven any Element before and have nothing to compare it to. At 220,000 miles I feel like it would absolutely make sense to replace the suspension components including tie rods.


2. Other than that stuff which seems like just basic wear items, the only odd thing I noticed while driving was what I can only describe as a 'swishing' sound coming from the rear during cornering. Doesn't happen while turning from a stop or at low speed, like into a parking lot, but while driving it on country roads with long medium speed sweepers, or somewhat tighter corners at lower speeds, I could hear this weird 'swish-swish-swish' from the rear. Couldn't decide if I thought I was hearing rubbing (like bad suspension allowing too much travel and a tire was touching the wheel well liner as it leaned) or brakes (didn't matter if I was on the brakes or not, so probably not) or if this would be a symptom of a problem with the AWD? Thinking maybe I was hearing something from the rear diff?


Other than that, it's great (lol). Really good aesthetic condition, everything works, there's not even any road rash on the wheels. The headlights need to be refinished and that's about it from a visual perspective. I have a wonderful mechanic who will do a PPI for me, but I'm hoping to get some advice or ideas from you all before I spend the money on a PPI. I guess I'm looking for opinions from this group of dedicated and involved owners and enthusiasts to weigh in with either "run away!" or "yeah maybe that's a good punt."

thanks in advance, and just tell me to post this in a different category if that's better for visibility/organization.

Trevor
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
that photo I posted of the underside... that's showing a missing cat isn't it? That just hit me. If I'm right, I wonder if the cat was stolen and that totaled it? If the owner didn't have comprehensive coverage it seems plausible their insurance company would total it. Hm.
 

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That pic is of the invisible catalytic converter…actually I wouldn’t be surprised if it was salvage and rebuilt simply because someone stole the cat.
As for the swishing sound, it’s likely one of the rear brake backing plates rubbing due to rotor scale buildup or a bent plate, or a worn wheel bearing allowing the rotor to contact the backing plate under lateral movement in corners. You’d want to jack it up and wiggle the wheels vertically to check this.
 

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Hello,
Yep, they totaled it because of the factory replacement cost of the stolen cat. And, 220k isn't nothing to worry yourself about, one of mine has 230k+ and it runs just fine.
Now, the car you are looking at is the holy grail of Elements in my opinion, 5sp awd. I love my 5sp FWD and wish it had the AWD option, and I'm still looking for one. Even though I have 3 elements at this time... I've got the bug.
From the picture you posted, the car doesn't look like it was in the rust belt or salted roads in the winter(good thing). Yet, see if you can talk the dealership down on that price of 6k, prices are going down on used cars... And, they most likely don't have more then 3k into it if, bought at a salvage auction... I watch CoParts auctions on Honda Elements and they can be had for a very reasonable prices for dealers and dismantlers. Good luck with your search or purchase.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Hello,
Yep, they totaled it because of the factory replacement cost of the stolen cat. And, 220k isn't nothing to worry yourself about, one of mine has 230k+ and it runs just fine.
Now, the car you are looking at is the holy grail of Elements in my opinion, 5sp awd. I love my 5sp FWD and wish it had the AWD option, and I'm still looking for one. Even though I have 3 elements at this time... I've got the bug.
From the picture you posted, the car doesn't look like it was in the rust belt or salted roads in the winter(good thing). Yet, see if you can talk the dealership down on that price of 6k, prices are going down on used cars... And, they most likely don't have more then 3k into it if, bought at a salvage auction... I watch CoParts auctions on Honda Elements and they can be had for a very reasonable prices for dealers and dismantlers. Good luck with your search or purchase.
this is great to know, thanks very much. I definitely agree that $6k is too high. I feel like I have a lot of things in my favor to negotiate on: hot market or not, with so many cars changing hands right now there can’t be a huge number of buyers who are willing to go for a manual transmission with over 200,000 miles with a rebuilt title for unknown reasons. Obviously someone else could figure this out the way I did, but in my favor is the fact that I prefer manuals and 220k on the clock doesn’t bother me at all. I realize Elements are fairly enthusiast-driven and kind of have their own market, but I may give this a shot this week.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I am selling my 04 awd automatic. And it comes with a newish cat and a cat cover. Hit me up if you are interested. I have a thread on here for it.


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thanks - I may see where I land with the local 5 speed this week and go from there. Will definitely be in touch if I go a different way.

Out of curiosity, where are you? I’m in Ohio
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Elaborate, please. Like for real, would like to hear your opinion. It seems this was salvaged over a stolen catalytic converter which has been replaced, and passed inspection to secure a Rebuilt title.

Can’t imagine that a theft of catalytic converters is nice and careful and doing pro work down there when hacking it out. Is your point that the act of stealing a cat can cause more damage than a missing cat and maybe that’s why you’d still avoid a car like this? Or just that a rebuilt title appears to be really bad?
 

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OP asked for enthusiast to say yay or nay on run away or punt. So I said run….

I am not a fan of rebuilt titles. Here in Texas we cannot get full coverage insurance on them. My wife lost her Camry this way, total loss probably in the 8-9k range. I had just done some upgrades to the car too of course… Look, I am really weird about buying cars. If I am not absolutely loving it, then I don’t buy it. This ‘deal’ to me seems to have more than one red flag. I don’t like the 6k (7 out the door) from dealer who probably got it at auction for 2k and have maybe put 1k into it. I would rather buy a car that has been clearly loved by previous private seller with maintenance records (maybe someone from this forum) than roll the dice for 7k on a car with salvage title and aftermarket cat/ sensors. You will also have to install a cat cover to protect the cat. So put money aside for that also…

Maybe if it has brand new tires, the dealer goes down 1k, you absolutely love it, then maybe… but then you said it made a weird noise driving it…. That alone for me would me a no. I hate weird noises and have replaced the whole suspension on my Element chasing noises to the tune of thousands of dollars…. but I digress…make sure you get that out the door price on paper… they always tack on some BS you don’t need…

RUN!!!!!!!! 😉
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
OP asked for enthusiast to say yay or nay on run away or punt. So I said run….

I am not a fan of rebuilt titles. Here in Texas we cannot get full coverage insurance on them. My wife lost her Camry this way, total loss probably in the 8-9k range. I had just done some upgrades to the car too of course… Look, I am really weird about buying cars. If I am not absolutely loving it, then I don’t buy it. This ‘deal’ to me seems to have more than one red flag. I don’t like the 6k (7 out the door) from dealer who probably got it at auction for 2k and have maybe put 1k into it. I would rather buy a car that has been clearly loved by previous private seller with maintenance records (maybe someone from this forum) than roll the dice for 7k on a car with salvage title and aftermarket cat/ sensors. You will also have to install a cat cover to protect the cat. So put money aside for that also…

Maybe if it has brand new tires, the dealer goes down 1k, you absolutely love it, then maybe… but then you said it made a weird noise driving it…. That alone for me would me a no. I hate weird noises and have replaced the whole suspension on my Element chasing noises to the tune of thousands of dollars…. but I digress…make sure you get that out the door price on paper… they always tack on some BS you don’t need…

RUN!!!!!!!! 😉
I hear you on all of that. It will need money in it pretty much right away. A full or partial suspension refresh and a solution for the rear brake dust shields making noise at the back (seems to be the most likely cause by far based on other posts I’ve found in the forums since my first post).

Funny you mentioned tires, they are new. The previous owners took good care of it based on the maintenance records from the CarFax. Then the cat got stolen and that was it.

You made good points. Especially about the quality of the replacement cat - you’re right, who knows on that. Thanks for following up with more perspective for me to think about. I’m also thinking it looks a lot better at about $1k less than asking - and yea, I’d get any price agreement honored or I’d walk for sure. Luckily this is a want, not a need for me and I can walk away from it easily if I decide to.
 

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I will also say this on element noises. They are hard to determine where they are really coming from. It seems that every noise just migrates through the body of them and what sounds like a rattle in the back may actually be coming from the front.
 

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I would say 6K is too much for a honda element with 200K+ miles, no cat, and salvage title. I am guessing this is not in California as the dealer cannot sell a car with no cat here in CA. So if you are in another state 6K is a lot for a Honda Element with all the above issues. Not to mention all the common Honda element issues such as oil leaks, shocks/struts, etc.......
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I would say 6K is too much for a honda element with 200K+ miles, no cat, and salvage title. I am guessing this is not in California as the dealer cannot sell a car with no cat here in CA. So if you are in another state 6K is a lot for a Honda Element with all the above issues. Not to mention all the common Honda element issues such as oil leaks, shocks/struts, etc.......
to clarify: Cat has been replaced already, and the title has already been converted from Salvage to Rebuilt. The selling dealer bought it with the cat done already and with the rebuilt title, and they are not aware of what actually happened in the first place.

and still I agree that $6k is too much. Looking at the trading post in this forum, that seems to be the money for one with somewhat fewer miles and definitely not a branded title.
 
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