Best & Worst Honda Element Years

We've analyzed every Honda Element from 2003 to it was discontinued in 2011 and categorized the best & worst years here!

In this guide, we’ll explore the Honda Element’s best and worst years, breaking down the features, reliability, and considerations for each generation.

Our insights are backed by in-depth research, pooling data from top automotive sources like NHTSA, JD Power, and Kelley’s Blue Book, ensuring that every verdict we give is well-informed and objective.

As we go deep, we’ll highlight specific model years that have outperformed others, spotlighting the innovations Honda introduced and the challenges they faced along the way.

Let’s dive right in.

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Table of ContentsShow

Honda Element Generations

The Honda Element, a unique and distinctive vehicle, marked its first foray into the automotive market in 2003. Launched with its boxy design and versatile interior, it was a breath of fresh air in Honda’s lineup.

To give you a vivid image of its evolution, let’s take a look at the generations of the Honda Element from its inception to the present.

1st generation (YH1-YH2)2003-2011

Listing these generations provides a better overview for potential buyers and enthusiasts. Given the myriad of changes, especially between generations, understanding this differentiation can be a crucial factor in making an informed decision.

As you can see, the Honda Element was discontinued in 2011.

Honda Element Best, Neutral and Worst Years

When categorizing the various model years of the Honda Element, a comprehensive approach was taken. Our rankings consider a multitude of factors, including but not limited to:

  • Owner-reported reliability (surveys)
  • Annual maintenance costs
  • Safety ratings
  • Consumer Reports reliability scores
  • Consumer Reports owner satisfaction scores
  • NHTSA recalls, investigations, and complaints
  • Edmunds owner ratings
  • JD Power owner ratings
  • Kelley’s Blue Book (KBB) owner ratings
  • VehicleHistory owner ratings
  • owner ratings

The graph showcases the combined ratings from the aforementioned sources for a holistic understanding.

Honda Element Car Smite Score Combined Overall Score

Next, our table breaks down every Honda Element model year, placing them into the categories of best, neutral, and worst years, based on the data accumulated.

Best YearsNeutral YearsWorst Years

By “Neutral Years”, we refer to those models that didn’t exceptionally shine in any category but also weren’t significantly marred by issues or recalls. They maintain a middle-ground in terms of reliability and satisfaction among users.

It’s important to note that certain factors make a negative contribution to the rankings. For instance, NHTSA recalls influence a car’s reliability score. A higher number of complaints and recalls signify a dip in the vehicle’s reliability, subsequently lowering its score in our categorization.

Having laid out the groundwork, let’s go deeper into the specifics of the best, neutral, and worst years of the Honda Element.

Best & Worst Years For Honda Element 1st Generation (2003-2011)

Honda Element 1st generation 2003 model
The 2003 Honda Element

Introduced in 2003, the Honda Element catered to a unique market segment that sought versatility and a distinct aesthetic in their SUV.

As Honda’s foray into a new type of vehicle with boxy designs and utility-driven features, the Element quickly garnered attention.

The Best Years: 2009, 2010, 2011

By 2009, the Honda Element had improved many of its earlier problems, resulting in a strong and technologically advanced option. By 2010, the car’s safety qualifications were acknowledged as it triumphed in the “Small SUV” group as a “Top Safety Pick” in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Annual Awards.

The enhancements in safety features like electronic stability control, side-curtain airbags, and antilock brakes played a significant role in this.

Additionally, the infotainment system witnessed improvements, and user feedback on these years was generally positive.

However, the occasional minor issue with air conditioning systems and suspensions was reported.

It’s also noteworthy that during this period, Honda Element was ranked #1 in the small SUV category between 2008 and 2011 model years in JD Power.

Furthermore, the vehicle achieved the distinction of being ranked amongst top 20 compact SUVs by owners on

The Neutral Year: 2005

The 2005 Honda Element, while a reliable vehicle, did not particularly stand out in terms of technological advancements or innovative features.

It, however, offered a balanced performance, bridging the gap between the challenges faced by its predecessors and the refinements seen in later models.

The 2005 model did have a decreased occurrence of the windshield problems that plagued the 2003 and 2004 models.

Most of the issues that arose were minor and did not drastically affect the vehicle’s overall performance, making it a fairly dependable choice for those seeking a Honda Element without the bells and whistles of later models.

The Worst Years: 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008

The early years of the Honda Element were unfortunately marked by various challenges.

The debut models of 2003 and 2004 experienced severe issues with windshields, leading to several reports from owners about windshield cracks, affecting overall visibility.

Honda took action by issuing a recall for these models due to an ignition interlock issue. This was a significant concern as the removal of the ignition key, when the gear selector of a vehicle with an automatic transmission had not been shifted to the park position, could allow the vehicle to roll away, posing an elevated risk of a crash.

The issues with windshields were also observed in the 2005 and 2006 models but at a reduced frequency.

Moving to the 2007 Honda Element, a prominent issue revolved around the dashboard failure. Owners reported that the speedometer and tachometer needles were non-functional, and there were malfunctions with the temperature gauge and several dashboard lights.

By 2008, brake issues became the predominant concern. These problems were deemed significant enough that, by 2010, Honda issued a recall for both the 2007 and 2008 model years.

This was due to a soft brake pedal problem stemming from air entering the VSA modular pump during an initial self-check process that occurred shortly after each engine start. The accumulation of enough air could result in a brake pedal feeling soft or sinking lower to the floor.

See NHTSA 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008 Honda Element recalls and complaints.

Honda Element Average Resale Values

See the graph below to gain insight into the Honda Element’s average resale values over the years.

This visual representation offers a clear picture of how each model year has fared in the resale market, reflecting its longevity and desirability.

Honda Element Average List Price


After diving deep into the Honda Element’s history, it’s evident that each year brought its unique strengths and challenges. When considering a purchase, the 2009-2011 models stand out for their commendable safety features and accolades.

For all the Honda Element enthusiasts out there, which model year do you think best embodies the Element’s innovative spirit and why?

We value your insights! Share your experiences and thoughts on the Honda Element in the comments below.

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Jonathan Eckert

Jonathan is an ASE-certified mechanic with over 22 years of hands-on experience in the automotive industry. His expertise spans a wide range of vehicles, but he specializes in diagnosing and repairing Japanese cars. His previous workplace highly commended his meticulous attention to detail, and that's exaclty what he uses at Car Smite to craft the best guides for each purpose.