9 Best & Worst Honda Element Years (With Facts & Stats)

The Honda Element is a funky little SUV that debuted for the 2003 model year.

Despite only having a short production span, it amassed a cult following that remains loyal to this day.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at its best and worst years…

Here’s The Short Answer To What The Best And Worst Years For The Honda Element Are:

The best Honda Element model years are 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, and 2007. The worst model years of the Element are 2006, 2005, 2004, and 2003. This is based on auto industry reviews, NHTSA statistics, reported problems, and consumer feedback.

What Are The Best Years For The Honda Element?

Honda has produced a number of great Elements in the model’s 9-year lifespan

Listed below are those that deserve to be viewed as the best of the best.

2011 Honda Element

Offering versatility, a roomy cabin and available four-wheel drive, the 2011 Element is a great pick.

It is one of the best models simply because it is the most refined and many of the issues experienced by earlier models have been rectified.

For 2011, the SC trim was removed from the line-up, leaving the LX and EX variants on the table. 

Optional features such as a manual transmission and a built-in navigation system were also discontinued.

Unfortunately, this model year was the last of the Element and there is no indication of a potential return. 

  • Edmunds: 4.4 / 5.0
  • Kelley Blue Book: 4.7 / 5.0
  • JD Power: 81 / 100

2011 Honda Element, Edmunds review:

“My wife hounded (no pun intended) me until we bought a new Element. I am a Honda Sales Consultant and knew the one we had in stock would be one of the last new ones we would be getting so we traded our old 4Runner in on it. The Element is a blast to drive (I also own an S2000) and is the perfect vehicle for our 2 Boxers and a Bulldog to ride in. It is also a great car to take to Lowes or Home Depot.”

2010 Honda Element

If you love road trips and the great outdoors and need a quirky, affordable SUV to transport you and your cargo without hassle, the 2010 Honda Element makes a compelling option.

It’s not designed for serious offroading although it does offer solid crash-test scores and easy cargo loading thanks to specialized rear doors.

For this model year, a dog-friendly package was introduced that includes an enclosed kennel, cushioned bed, 12-volt rear cooling fan, and a spill-resistant water bowl for dogs of almost any size. 

  • Edmunds: 4.8 / 5.0
  • Kelley Blue Book: 4.7 / 5.0
  • JD Power: 81 / 100

2010 Honda Element, Edmunds review:

“Drove the car from N.C. to N.Y. 16 hours and over 900 miles. Had no problem keeping up with the traffic, plus going up and down the hills with no problem. Gas mileage average 28mpg. Traded my 2007 V-6 Nissan Murano for the Element. It does not have all the bells and whistles as my Murano but the price is right. Love the gas mileage, fun car to drive…”

2009 Honda Element

Although its new-age styling may not appeal to everyone, the 2009 Element is a great choice for adventure seekers boasting a versatile interior design and smooth power delivery.

The 2009 Element received a pilot-style grille and omitted some of its plastic body covers. 

A voice-activated navigation system with a back-up camera was also made available for the EX and SC models.

The rear skylight feature was discontinued. 

  • Edmunds: 4.7 / 5.0
  • Kelley Blue Book: 4.7 / 5.0
  • JD Power: 83 / 100

2009 Honda Element, Edmunds review:

“Purchased this vehicle to haul stuff but still have a useable back seating. Just love how th back seats fold up and out of the way or can be completely taken out. I’ve put lots of highway miles on this vehicle with no regrets. My 5th Honda all with over 100k . My crv had 250k and the element currently has 180k and still running strong. The element is also good in the snow”

2008 Honda Element

The 2008 Honda Element received a “Seal of Awesome” badge from CarComplaints.com which should come as no surprise considering the strong consumer feedback it received, its nimble handling and spacious interior.

There were no major changes to the 2008 Element (since most of the upgrades were introduced in the previous model year).

  • Edmunds: 4.6 / 5.0
  • Kelley Blue Book: 4.7 / 5.0
  • JD Power: 83 / 100

2008 Honda Element, Edmunds review:

“I bought my Element new in February of 08. Two weeks later I made a 9 hour trip each way to Fort Kent, Maine on the Canadian border in the middle of a snow storm to photograph the Can Am dog sled race and she performed wonderfully. Driven her all over the North East and Mid Atlantic. Never had any issues with any weather. Easy clean, load her up and go. Not for those who want plush luxury. Dog owners, campers, hikers, climbers, bicyclists, surfers, Home Depot strollers, this is the vehicle for you…”

2008 Honda Element

2007 Honda Element

The 2007 Honda Element received a “Seal of Awesome” badge from CarComplaints.com and exemplary scores from auto review sites and owners alike.

It also received a total overhaul and significant updates were made.

The engine increases its speed thanks to an additional 10 horsepower, the automatic transmission is now five-speed (replacing the previous four-speed transmission), and is safer overall as a result of introducing new safety equipment – standard stability control, and side curtain airbags.

The seatbelt design was improved (there were several complaints regarding seatbelts in previous year models) and the gauge cluster features a fresher design.

A new model, called the SC trim was also introduced featuring a sport suspension, 18-inch wheels and a revamped interior

  • Edmunds: 4.7 / 5.0
  • Kelley Blue Book: 4.7 / 5.0
  • JD Power: 80 / 100

2007 Honda Element, Edmunds review:

“I don’t know why these aren’t more popular. The look is different but not ugly..it really grows on you. It’s a comfortable, roomy and reliable multi- purpose vehicle that sells for about $22K with AWD. People are afraid of the quirky style but they are missing out on a fun and practical vehicle. It really makes you feel young at heart regardless of age. If you are on the fence because of the way it looks, believe me, the Element will win you over. It’s really fun, practical and a great value!”

Consumer Scores For Best Honda Element Years

Below is a table that presents all the consumer ratings of the best Honda Element model years from reputable vehicle websites:

Model YearEdmunds Consumer RatingKelley Blue BookConsumer RatingJD PowerConsumer Rating
2011 Honda Element4.4 / 5.04.7 / 5.081 / 100
2010 Honda Element4.8 / 5.04.7 / 5.081 / 100
2009 Honda Element4.7 / 5.04.7 / 5.083 / 100
2008 Honda Element4.6 / 5.04.7 / 5.083 / 100
2007 Honda Element4.7 / 5.04.7 / 5.080 / 100
2006 Honda Element4.8 / 5.04.7 / 5.0NA
2005 Honda Element4.8 / 5.04.7 / 5.0NA
2004 Honda Element4.9 / 5.04.7 / 5.0NA
2003 Honda Element4.8 / 5.04.7 / 5.0NA

Related: How Long Do Honda Elements Last? (Solved & Explained!)

What Are The Worst Years For The Honda Element?

In summary, the earlier Element models were more problematic, we’ll explain why in the sections below.

2006 Honda Element

The 2006 Honda Element was very problematic in the airbag department. There were a number of reports that indicated the airbags randomly deployed while driving.

Here are some examples of NHTSA reports:

“Driving on gravel road at 30 mph, driver’s side airbag deployed for no apparent reason. Road in fair-to good condition. No contact was made with any object. Driver was stunned with surprise; could have been a catastrophic accident.”

“I was driving down the interstate at 65 mph when I heard a loud boom. My arm went numb and my left ear was silent. As I looked down, I noticed that my driver’s side, side-impact airbag had deployed. There was nothing in the road. I did not hit anything.”

The 2006 Element had a total of 21 complaints at CarComplaints.com and 131 problems at CarProblemZoo.com.

Common problems:

  • Defective side airbag deployed
  • Ignition cylinder lock up
  • Clearcoat peeling
  • Engine loses power

2005 Honda Element

The 2005 Honda Element experienced numerous issues, but the most prominent concern raised was airbag indicator problems.

Several reports state that the airbag indicator on the instrument panel kept coming on, with owners unsure if there was a defect in the wiring or in the airbags themselves – the issue was made worse by repeated failed attempts by Honda to rectify the problem.

Similar to the 2006 Element, there were also reports of airbags deploying at random.

The 2005 Element had a total of 15 complaints at CarComplaints.com and 180 problems at CarProblemZoo.com.

Common problems:

  • Grinding in rear brakes
  • Paint bubbling
  • Airbag deployed randomly
2005 Honda Element

2004 Honda Element

Much like the 2003 model year, the 2004 Honda Element still had several issues concerning the windshield, with several reports specifying glass cracks and fractures for no apparent reason. 

Some owners reported that cracks occurred overnight in their garage, in a parking lot of a shopping mall, and even during trips. 

There were also reports of airbags deploying at random.

The 2004 Element had a total of 35 complaints at CarComplaints.com and 297 problems at CarProblemZoo.com.

Common problems:

  • Odometer stopped working
  • Seat vinyl is cracking and ripping
  • Transmission failure
  • Air compressor failure

2003 Honda Element

The 2003 Honda Element is, by far, the most problem-riddled vehicle in the entire roster, which is to be expected as it is the first Element model ever made.

A number of owners reported that the driver’s side door wouldn’t accept the key and there were reports of various engine problems.

A large number of owners complained of stress cracks, windshield leaks, and fragile glass panels and that their respective dealerships refused to fix it as part of the warranty. 

The 2003 Element had a total of 60 complaints at CarComplaints.com and 446 problems at CarProblemZoo.com.

Common problems:

  • Key does not go into door lock
  • Windshield leaked
  • Windshield cracked
  • Key will not go into ignition
  • Rear differential had a slow leak and seized

Related: Honda Element in Snow & Winter Driving? (Explained)

What Years Have The Most Complaints?

There are several Honda Element model years, both old and new, that have received numerous complaints through the years. 

Take a look at the complaints and problems for each model year of the Element below

Model YearComplaints
2011 Honda Element114
2010 Honda Element328
2009 Honda Element325
2008 Honda Element2699
2007 Honda Element13130
2006 Honda Element21131
2005 Honda Element15180
2004 Honda Element35297
2003 Honda Element60446

What Problems Do Honda Elements Have?

  • Gauge needles fall off
  • Key does not go into door locks
  • Key will not go into ignition
  • Rear differential had a slow leak and seized
  • Odometer stopped working
  • Transmission failure
  • Windshield cracks
  • Air compressor failure
  • Premature brake wear
  • Heater and air conditioning not working
  • Paint chipping

What Are The Best Alternatives To The Honda Element?

Despite being discontinued, the Honda Element is still considered an excellent choice.

It secured the 3rd spot (right behind the Kia Sportage and Honda CR-V), with a great score of 8.7 out of 10. 

Make & ModelScoreMSRPFuel Economy (MPG)
Honda CR-V9.0$10,572 – $12,037City: NA /Highway: NA
Kia Sportage8.8$8,745 – $10,792City: 21 – 22 /Highway: 25 – 31
Honda Element8.7$11,185 – $12,453City: 19 – 20 /Highway: 24 – 25
Mazda CX-78.6$6,512 – $8,578City: 17 – 20 /Highway: 21 – 28
Toyota RAV48.5$11,035 – $14,043City: 19 – 22 /Highway: 26 – 28
Volkswagen Tiguan8.3$7,010 – $8,358City: 18 – 20 /Highway: 25 – 26
Nissan Xterra8.2$9,991 – $14,739City: 15 – 16 /Highway: 20 – 22
Subaru Forester8.2$7,896 – $17,946City: 19 – 21 /Highway: 24 – 27
Nissan Rogue8.1$8,041 – $9,485City: NA /Highway: NA
Hyundai Tucson8.0$7,307 – $11,620City: 20 – 23 /Highway: 25 – 31
Chevrolet Equinox7.9$7,098 – $8,927City: 16 – 22 /Highway: 22 – 32
GMC Terrain7.9$7,027 – $8,381City: 16 – 22 /Highway: 22 – 32
Jeep Compass7.8$7,981 – $13,694City: 21 – 23 /Highway: 24 – 28
Mitsubishi Outlander7.8$7,498 – $8,753City: 19 – 23 /Highway: 25 – 28
Ford Escape7.7$8,043 – $9,722City: 18 – 34 /Highway: 23 – 31
Ford Escape Hybrid7.7$9,904 – $10,601City: 30 /Highway: 27
Suzuki Grand Vitara7.7$3,490 – $6,114City: NA /Highway: NA
Jeep Wrangler7.2$14,068 – $18,000City: 15 /Highway: 19
Jeep Liberty7.1$7,764 – $15,060City: 15 – 16 /Highway: 21 – 22
Jeep Patriot7.1$7,481 – $10,568 City: 20 – 23 /Highway: 23 – 29

Source: cars.usnews.com










  • Ian Sawyer

    Growing up with a father who was a mechanic I had an appreciation for cars and motorcycles from an early age. I shared my first bike with my brother that had little more than a 40cc engine but it opened up a world of excitement for me, I was hooked. As I grew older I progressed onto bigger bikes and...