10.11.2012

Car Struggles to help photographer complete one more assignment.


The poor studio car has been struggling lately. It's been getting harder and harder to start. Every day as Ben and I trudge out to the VSL motor pool at 6:15 am we never stop to think about our reliable transportation but then came the decline. Every day the starter has been wheezier and wheezier. I crossed my fingers for luck and whispered a silent prayer to the saints of economical SUVs asking for just a few more days....

Yesterday Ben and I headed out to start our day. The car started but it let me know that the line in the sand was coming. I dropped Ben off at Zilker Park to run and I headed north to do a daylong photo assignment for a chemical testing laboratory. At the end of the day I loaded the last of the gear into the cavernous rear area and stopped next to the front left fender. I said a small prayer to the saint of electric starters, took a moment of silence and then crawled in to try my luck.  Two failed attempts. I stopped and gently stroked the top of the dashboard and gave the key one more twist. The car ground a bit and then sprang to life. In forty five minutes we were home. Assignment successfully managed. The odometer nearing the millenium mark, times 100.

Today we had a respite from the early wake ups. I slept in and Belinda took the boy to school. I went out to start the studio Honda.  A quiet, pensive rain coated everything with glistening drops. I turned the key and sadly the Honda Element tried its best before sighing and resigning itself to a melancholy feeling of failure.  I could sense a small tear drop tenuously hang and then drop from its left head lamp.

I did all the things guys do when their cars won't start. I jiggled the battery terminals. I tried to jump start it. I muttered and looked stuff up on the web. Finally I capitulated and called the Honda dealer. They sent a tow truck and trundled off the Element for service.

So, now, the question to my readers:  Do I buy a new studio car?  Do I continue to repair and replace the noble Element's bits and pieces? Once cars hit that ten year/one hundred thousand mark are we really at the point of hugely diminishing returns? Will I like a CRV? Is there something else out there that will haul a bunch of photo gear and still get good gas mileage?

You collectively helped me fix my back (thank you for the advice about Advil and Ice Packs!!!) now will you help me decide my auto-conundrum? I'm sure you must have an opinion....let's hear it.

Final Edit: I traded the Element in and bought a CRV. The ten year old Element brought almost 1/3rd of its original purchase price in trade. I'm happy to have a newly reliable car. The car makers have made a lot of progress in 10 years.  Thanks for all the advice.














76 comments:

Anonymous said...

100K? A good Honda should just be getting its second wind. Depending on what they find to be the cause, I'd say keep at it with the Element. Having said that, however, I really wanted a CR-V when we ended up with our latest Accord. My wife's '98 Accord is going strong still, about 130K. We just spent about 2K on it over the summer, but it's good to go for much longer still. My former manager had one that he hoped to see turn over 300K.

-- Allan

Glenn Harris said...

Kirk, consider this a sign that you need to buy acar or SUV that makes the statement that you are a successful commercial photographer. A Lexus 470 or go full aristrocratic with a Range Rover. Time to move on and up. Gee i hope my 22 year old chevy pickup truck starts tomorrow.

andrewteee said...

Sorry to hear it. Once they become expensive to maintain or require work often then it's time to jettison the beast. You might check out a new CRV. I don't know how much space you need but the Subaru Outback is a great car: all wheel drive with good mileage.

Erik Helgestad said...

Question: when was the last time the battery was replaced? Sounds like my wife's CR-V when it gave up the ghost after about the same time frame last winter (and it sucks to change it in freezing temps of an apartment parking lot).

The new CR-V is OK - go take a look at the stealership and see what you think. The Pilot might be more up your direction, so give that a look too - couple friends have them and love them. Have you thought about the Scion XB? Funky, but a lot of interior space, and a great drivetrain.

See what they say, and I'd vote to keep on going so long as it's not becoming more expensive to feed/maintain than it is to own.

I wish they continued to make the Jeep Cherokee - my 2000 model was just about perfect utility, space, simplicity, and ruggedness. However, getting under 20 MPG eats into a budget.

Chuck Lucas said...

Kirk,
I know in our day, 100,000 was the end of most vehicles. These days most, especially Hondas can go much longer. My wife's CRV is on 160,000 with relatively minor repairs. I know several people with Honda's well over 200,000. You seem to really like this vehicle, and it seems to still look good. I think you can easily get a few more years out of it. Even if you have a few repairs, it would probably be cheaper to keep it.
If you decide to go new, I agree with checking out the outbacks. Very popular here in Colorado.

Stephen Cysewski said...

Keep the Element, spend the money for repairs, it serves its function well. Think of depreciation, payments, interest etc. An eccentric option might be the Ford Transit Connect http://www.ford.com/trucks/transitconnect/

Dave Jenkins said...

Good grief, Kirk! A Honda with only 100K miles is barely broken in. An art director friend gave his Accord to his son when it had more than 400K on it. His wife's Accord coupe has about 320K and runs/looks good. Even my lowly 2002 Dodge Grand Caravan has 203K miles on it, and I've spent the grand total of $378.80 for repairs (not counting tires/battery/oil changes) since I inherited it from my wife at the 146K-mile mark.

Unless something really bad is wrong, you can do a lot of repairs for the price of a year's car payments.

Anonymous said...

It's likely either a starter or a battery. Figure on changing a battery every three years as a matter of basic maintenance. (Nevermind the "5 or 6 year warranty") Your cost of continuing this vehicle, even with some major repairs over the next 100k, is certainly far less than coughing up any monthly payment on a loan. Consider whatever towing rider you might have in your current automotive policy and whether you might need to increase allowed mileage for towing. I seem to recall AAA has a mileage based spread on offer. You'll see need for an alternator, power lock actuators, power window motors, bulbs and switches on the horizon. No biggie.

Kirk Tuck said...

The definition of a successful commercial photographer is, evidently, very subjective. I was thinking the CRV was a prestige car...

lsumners said...

You will never find an uglier vehicle- keep it

Kirk Tuck said...

Funny you mention the Transit. I thought it would be so out of character to get one and do an advertising vehicle wrap that I almost seriously considered it. Funny how our minds work.

Kirk Tuck said...

Erik, since it was giving me starting trouble I replaced the battery last weekend. Not the problem. Just got a call from the service people: needs a new starter.

Kirk Tuck said...

Best rationale yet.

Andrew B said...

Not a real car guy here, but I'll add another voice to the idea that 100k miles isn't all that much these days. If you just need a new starter, get it fixed. When you start to see problems pile up, or when it gets flakey enough that you're worried about standing a client up -- that's when you'll need a new vehicle. If you do feel like you've reached that point, the Toyota RAV4 might also be worth looking at. One thing about the Subarus -- they're good cars, and the AWD is popular here in New England, but it eats into the gas mileage and you probably don't need it in Austin. Might be a good reason to favor Honda/Toyota/Ford/(Mazda, Hyundai, etc). If you feel like you've got a good relationship with your Honda dealer, that's not to be taken lightly either. Finally, Consumer Reports is far from perfect but still worth taking a look at. Of course these days they're online.

Mike said...

2013 Escape.

Ace9 said...

Kirk, my Jeep is on 152,000 miles and going strong. My girlfriends Camry rearched 212,000 miles before things REALLY started going wrong. I don't mean a new starter wrong, I mean "hood flying off" and "stalls out at intersections or on highways" wrong.

A starter is nothing, and if you budget out repairs like that every 4 months and it's cheaper than getting a new car with a car payment, then keep the Element.

I personally have a soft spot for them; they've grown on me, and I love the storage space (the Cherokee is still mine mostly because it won't die, but also because it's huge. You can't discount that.

The bottom line is that it's a Honda, and Hondas will run for twice as many miles as you've got without any problems, and probably 3 times as many without any MAJOR major problems.

Gregg Mack said...

Kirk, if that's all that wrong with it, keep it.

I have a 2009 CR-V, and the only thing that's ever been replaced on it are the tires, the battery, and the windshield wipers. With the rear seats folded down, it can hold a pretty good amount of stuff, but nowhere near what you can get into the Element.

Will said...

+1

David L. said...

If you have been faithful at recommended maintenance, then fix it and keep it awhile longer. It'd probably be difficult to find a more utilitarian vehicle for your needs. How could you give up that low side door and spacious interior for loading and unloading? I tried to buy one for my wife a year ago for her heavy and bulky music equipment, but Elements cost a tad too much for our budget. Plus, what better way to keep Austin weird?

Carlo Santin said...

100k for a Honda is nothing. If it's just the alternator get it fixed and keep it on the road. Whatever maintenance or repairs you have to do on it are going to be a lot less than making car payments every month, higher insurance etc. My Jeep is at 150k and still going strong, great vehicle but lousy gas mileage, and I drive a lot.

If you really can't resist the urge to get a new vehicle, check out Hyundai, they make the best cars on the road today (cars for regular folks that is).

Anonymous said...

I BUY 10 years old cars (usually Toyotas) with 100k miles. I run them for 10 more years. Fix the starter and run it 10 more years and another 100k miles.

Mr said...

my honda element is the only car ive owned that i miss.

of course, mine was sexy sunset orange pearl... ;)

ahh... the great pumpkin.. how i miss you!

Frank Grygier said...

There is nothing like getting a new car. The Element will feel rejuvenated with new starter..a new car will rejuvenate you. Something red that can pull a trailer.

Michael Matthews said...

It all comes down to the character of your Honda dealer and its service department.

True, at 100,000 miles the Element is at most halfway there in terms of cost effective usable life. But replacement of the starter or alternator may well be the gateway through which the service department begins a campaign to leech away your life savings.

I found this out the hard way. My wife's 2004 CRV developed an incurable check-engine-light display at about 60,000 miles. Oxygen sensor, the dealer service department reported. Cost to repair: about $450.

A couple of years later, my 2004 Civic with only 23,000 miles on it (don't ask) developed the same problem. Oxygen sensor, the dealer service department reported -- after charging me $100 to go beyond the first-level check of the onboard computer diagnostic unit's readout. The heating element within the O2 sensor had failed.

Oddly enough, that's exactly what had happened to the CRV.

I queried Honda to find out if there had been a recall I'd missed or an overlooked service bulletin. It seemed questionable that two cars, both of the same model year, should develop the same problem, especially since one of them had been given regular service but very little use. To shorten an overly long story, Honda declined responsibility.

The local dealer quoted $249 for the part plus installation at their usual $90+ hourly rate. The composite cost would have been roughly $450.

I was about to say "go ahead" when something perverse caused me to search the internet for the same part. The original equipment manufacturer, Denso, retails the same part through Amazon for $106. The tool needed to install it is a socket wrench extension that costs $10. Composite cost: $116.

Instead, I skipped the wrench, bought the OEM part through Amazon and paid the dealer to install it. It performed perfectly. But for some reason the check-engine-light began glowing only 60 miles later.

Suddenly I had developed problems with the fuel evaporation canister's purge flow and a high voltage condition involving the alternator and / or the battery. Neither problem existed before.

I realize that Athens, Georgia is not Austin, Texas and that my experience may not reflect anything other than one sequence of events.

My suggestion would be to look at it as you do any other piece of equipment. You've received plenty of value for its cost over the past ten years. Kiss it goodbye.

Lease a business vehicle for a period equal to the manufacturer's warranty and avoid all repair or maintenance costs other than oil and filter changes. At the end of that period, move into a new vehicle. Let the manufacturer carry all the risk of mechanical failure.

Write off the modest monthly cost just like your other business expenses.
You don't need to own the electric utility in order to turn on the lights and air conditioning.

Oh, the Civic? Traded it in for a severely discounted 3-year lease on a Mazda Miata and am having a helluva good time.


Bob K said...

Simple rule of thumb: If an old car costs less than $2K a year in repairs, it's probably cheaper than depreciation of a newer one. A good rule for personal use, anyway.

But if you use it for business, remember that repairs often come as a surprise, they take time and cause inconvenience, you can lose business or incur extra costs.

Leasing is a decent idea if your annual mileage matches the limits on the lease. If you drive significantly less or more, it drives up your per-mile cost.

Jim said...

One word... Subaru!

Anonymous said...

I had to laugh. 100 clicks/10 years? As someone else has already mentioned, it should be just getting its second wind. My "studio car" is fast approaching 300,000 Miles and 28 years of age and is as reliable as ever.

Mike C said...

Keep the Element for Ben and buy a new studio car of your choice. We always saved the oldest family car for any new drivers coming of age.

JGR said...

The 2013 Transit Connect will be redesigned and much more handsome looking. More in line with American tastes I think. Do a google for images.

JGR said...

Keep the Element, my son and his wife bought theirs new in 2004 and have more than 135,000 miles and its still going strong. It drives freeways daily and has not been babied. Your Element could even gain in value in future years as they are hard to find now that they have been discontinued by Honda.

Anonymous said...

100,000 is nothing for a Honda (Element). Repairs are sometimes unexpected (though really, how unexpected was this one?), but even if you rent a replacement when needed (likely very rarely), you'll still be far ahead financially. Keep changing cameras; no need to change the Element.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kirk

No idea if they are avaialable in the US, but check out the Top Gear review of the Skoda Yeti: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7kEJ-pHkWA

Skodas are basically VWs, so good to go

Cheers

Si

John Flores said...

I bought a Sunset Orange Pearl Element in 2003 because I could haul a motorcycle INSIDE. The Element is truly the Tardis of vehicles. 130k miles later the car is still solid but starting to show some age, but so am I. I say keep the Element and join www.Facebook/SaveTheHondaElement to let Honda know that we want our boxes back!

Bill Beebe said...

Buy a Prius.

Anonymous said...

2013 Ford C-Max Energi. 108 mpg. Really.

Gregg said...

While standing at the cashiers paying for the new starter repeat this:
"It's cheaper than a car payment, it's cheaper than a car payment..."

Doug said...

I'm with Gregg - I have an '09 CRV. It barely holds (with like, 2" to spare) a 9' seamless, but otherwise holds everything I need.

Bat54 said...

Two words...NOT Subaru. As mentioned before, AWD eats into gas mileage.Also, my wife and I both had Subarus and BOTH developed massive oil leaks at 80000 miles. I got rid of both and she now drives a Honda Fit and loves it. I bought a used Toyota 4runner with 101,000 miles and now have 145000 miles on it and it runs like new. Granted, I've had to do some repairs on it, but having no car payment appeals to me.

Having said that, a previous poster brought up the issue of reliability in terms of using the vehicle to get to paying jobs...ON TIME. That's where a new vehicle might make sense. But....I once bought a Toyota truck (new) that threw a timing chain at 49000 miles just out of warranty. I also had a Nikon D700 w/ 2500 actuations that totally fried inside (just out of warranty) that cost $595 to fix.

So...like many things in life, you never really "know" what you're in for.

Anonymous said...

100,000 miles what's so special? I had a 1975 Ford Elite Torino with 356,000 and a '84 Vic with 200,000.

Erik Helgestad said...

I'd replace the starter and keep going. If the car is paid off, run it till the wheels fall off or the clients start giving you strange looks when you come in the driveway.

Dogman said...

The wife and I have had both Toyotas and Hondas and the Toyotas were the more reliable vehicles.

But I gotta tell you that we now drive a Chevy SUV and a Dodge pickup and both of them have been more reliable than either the Hondas or Toyotas we had prevously.

Erik Helgestad said...

The Transits are neat little truck-lets. They have proven to be reliable runner's for my service friends (electricians, telco, etc).

FotoEdge said...

Since you seemed to like the Box Shape.... look at the Subaru Forester - plenty of hidden storage areas for lens and cables and charges.. much bigger than it looks and wonderful AWD, Durability and good gas mileage.

Dave said...

Talk to a reliable mechanic about future service needs and patterns. See what they expect to happen, and the associated costs.
If they're not too bad, then start saving the amount of a car or lease payment now so you can pay cash when this one gives up the ghost.

On the other hand, do you want a new car?
Get it.
You don't have to rationalize it. You're reasonably successful. It's just money. Get what you like.

Erik Helgestad said...

Skoda and SEAT are not available in the US sadly.

theaterculture said...

In my experience it's a dicey question of whether the starter is actually bad, or the whole electrical system is starting to malfunction and that has caused the starter to go bad. In the former case, it's almost always worth repairing; in the latter it almost never is.

The good news is, when the Element finally goes, you can order the 2013 Transit with windows all the way around. And also as a "taxi package" with the wiring for the roof placard already in place...

Ron Zack said...

I myself have normally driven vehicles to the 100,000 mile mark and well beyond, but I started getting tired of all the little things that need maintenance or replacing during those time periods, and the occasional malfunction that would leave me stranded somewhere needing a tow. It wasn't the cost of repairs that was the issue, it was the cost in terms of lost time and opportunities, due to having to look after the vehicles.

So, for the first time ever, I went to the VW dealer, LEASED a brand new VW for 36 months, which just happens to be the exact same length of the 36,000 / 3 year bumper-bumper warranty. So far the VW has been 101% reliable, and after the three years is up, it's going right back to VW and I will probably get another 36 month leaser.

Yes, this means that there is a constant and consistent flow of cash out of my wallet and into the hands of the VW finance department, but it's far less than if I had actually bought a VW outright.

But here's what I get for my trouble: a brand new, 101% reliable vehicle every 36 months. No fuss, no worries, no tow-trucks, no repair mysteries. For me, the peace of mind of having a vehicle I don't have to worry about, at all, is well worth the little monthly checks I write.

In terms of a replacement vehicle for the irreplaceable Honda Element: I would go with either the Odyssey mini-van or the Pilot SUV. The CR-V is a nice little vehicle, but a bit too small. I drove all three when car shopping last time, and was actually far more impressed with Odyssey than the SUV's.

There is also the very utilitarian Toyota FJ Cruiser, which would be perfect for outback adventures to west Texas. Toyota makes a rock solid product, and it's well worth taking a look at. On the domestic front, the Ford Flex, Explorer and Expedition are all fantastic vehicles--they totally redid the Explorer, and it is one very impressive little SUV.

As for me, if money were no object, there's just one vehicle I would run to the dealer and buy very happily: the full-size Ford Expedition. It's a monster truck, but what a monster...a Ford F150 quad cab would also be right up my alley.

Anonymous said...

I have the same need in a vehicle. I could not afford the Element, so I bought a 2007 Dodge Caravan (the short one) and took all the back seats out. Perfect. Flat floor, etc. This is the old model, the new one does not suit my taste and it only comes in the Grand Caravan. I would trade up to a new one like mine in a New York minute, especially with the new V6 and the new transmission. Even more perfect, and what I was shopping for, was the Cargo van version, with disc brakes all around. The new Cargo Van is available, if you want to have a look. Like you, I am still looking for a suitable replacement for my existing car. Over 100,000, by the way.

bill

Anonymous said...

And then there is this:

http://www.autoblog.com/2011/09/09/fiat-doblo-headed-to-u-s-as-rebadged-ram-in-2013/#continued

--bill

Art in LA said...

I'm surprised you don't use "Kirk's rules for buying/switching cameras" with cars. I'm with Bob K's rule of thumb about maintenance costs vs. depreciation -- $2-2.5K/year on maintenance is a good breakeven estimate for an older car. BTW, we switched from a '06 Odyssey this year to a '12 CR-V. Goldilocks told us that the CR-V is "just right" ... great balance between comfort, space and fuel economy ... the A57 of small SUVs.

Paul Glover said...

Two words: Pontiac. Aztek. ;-)

Kirk Tuck said...

"...the A57 of small SUVs." Nice.

Kevin Hanson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kevin Hanson said...

BMW 330d touring
Your clients expectations are set (your work says it the same), killer mpg, killer power, killer driving experience and comfortable, and tons of room unless you keep your lights in their stand positions....

http://wot.motortrend.com/2013-bmw-3-series-sport-wagon-unveiled-on-its-way-to-u-s-next-year-204835.html

I've got a 320d xdrive since the alps need it in the winter :-) honestly hated the thought of a beemer, but damn... first drive and I was sold. I'm getting around 700 miles a tank and driving like a nascar driver in the mtns. Yours will be a bit less.....
just do it :-)

Jallu said...

My Accord is now 10 years old and starting to show its age. I am thinking of going fully electric with Nissan Leaf. If you can lease one for about $250 or less (with no money down)then at 90 mpg, your gas savings will pay a big chunk of the lease payment and you can show off your green credentials every time you show up for an assignment.

John F. Opie said...

What Bob says. I have a company car, but back in the day I drove Honda as well. I would recommend keeping it, but plan on having a trusted mechanic (i.e. one that wants to help you rather than the dealership bottom line) take a look at every year to see if there are any problems developing that need to be proactively dealt with, rather than waiting for something to break. Modern cars can be driven far longer than their predecessors, especially once it makes it to 100k or more.

You need to see it as a simple annual cost for mobility: financially, it makes more sense to invest $2k a year into the car for the next 10 years than it does to spend $25k on a new car ($2k*10<$25k!), unless, of course, you simply want to have a new car. That $2k/year, spent on regular oil changes (but you don't have to do it more often than the manufacturer recommends, but you do need to do it regularly!), tires and general maintenance will keep you going for a very, very long time, and if you save the difference between what you budget and what you actually spend, you'll probably have money for rentals and whatnot when your mobility is limited.

If I wasn't driving a company car (BMW) I'd be driving either Toyota (my brother-in-law owns a dealership) or Honda. At the end of the day, it's nothing more than getting from point A to point B safely, economically and at your leisure, consistently and in a trustworthy manner. :-)

There's also the customer call: arriving in a high-cost car means that at least some customers think "he's going to be expensive, he has to finance that BMW/Porsche/Rolls..." :-)

Bold Photography said...

+2
Yet, it's so useful -- and *paid for* ...

Bold Photography said...

You could go with a 'Jetta Sport Wagon": http://www.vw.com/en/models/jettasportwagen/gallery.html it might even be available in a diesel.

Has enough room to put the stands, poles, and even a ladder.

The issue with a pickup is that you would also need a locking bed cover - or a camper shell, and if you do that, you might as well get a full SUV.

I've also been looking at the market - and have replaced the starter in my Acrua 3 times now... I can now do them rather easily and quickly -- and wonder what I should be getting. I've been seriously looking at the EV market - but the cost/benefit of something like the Teslas just isn't quite there yet -- as I don't normally drive that much per year, it would take me 5 years of premium to make up a $10k difference in vehicle price.

I've also looked at completely the other direction - and looked at used MB's, BMW's, and even used Bentleys - that $300k Continental GT can be had for under $80 gently used. But then -- you did say you need something 'reliable' - and it's hard to beat Honda/Toyota for long term reliability. Honda no longer makes your car, but the CRV has been refreshed. They also make this thing called the "crosstour" - and there are few vehicles uglier... but - it may do the trick for what you need it to do. For some unknown reason, Toyota decided to "answer" Honda and they have their version called the "Venza" ..

Then - the notion of the minivan keeps coming back - it's worth the thought. Taking those seats out gives a small house amount of room for a portable studio loaded to the gills...

Frank Grygier said...

Wow. It seems if you talk about any kind of hardware the blog goes threw the roof. Maybe you should just have a blog called Kirk's Top Gear.

Eric Seale said...

I'll second what Andrew said -- for a modern vehicle, 100k isn't anything to worry about. But when the time comes, consider a RAV4 (I've got a RAV4 and love it). For context, we only bought our RAV4 because we had to replace a Tacoma -- it was still running strong at 230k when it was totaled in a traffic accident.

Anonymous said...

This is the one you need...
http://www.autoblog.com/2012/05/04/volvo-releases-details-on-ever-so-slightly-updated-2013-xc90/

Anonymous said...

It's kind of ugly but the VW Jetta Sportwagen with the TDI motor is a great car. Very efficient and if you fold the backseat down it holds a lot of stuff. My mom has a bright red 2010 model with the TDI and manual and it will honestly get 45 mpg on the highway. Just have to make sure the seat is comfortable for your back because it's not generous with lumbar support.

John said...

Keep the car until you hate to drive it. You paid for it, there is no point in throwing it away half used.
Once you start thinking about ways to wreck it, it is time to get a new car. Until then, spend the monthly car payments on something that really matters.

Mark said...

Well, I'm not the best example, but I bought my latest car last summer with 138K on it, a '97 Subaru Outback Wagon. $2500. Couldn't believe the price. I sold my previous '97 Subaru Outback Wagon with 208K on it to a coworker for $2000. She and her teenaged son are still driving it a year later; it appears to be doing fine. I just couldn't pass up 70,000 fewer miles for $500. Personally, I'd much rather someone else pay for depreciation than me, so I can't really fathom the idea of buying a new car. My vote would be to stick with the Element until the repairs become too costly.

BUT -- I live close enough to work to bicycle if I have to (or want to on a nice day...), and I'm not scared of having my car in the shop for a week. LIke others have said, you probably need to figure out the risk of missing a paying job if you run into car trouble.

D&E Photography said...

My advice is to consider this in the same way you would with camera gear for your commercial shoots. If your vehicle is part of your "toolkit" for delivering services to customers then I think the answer will easy to figure out.

Anonymous said...

I live in San Antonio. As a fellow Texan, do it right and get yourself a used Ford Excursion. You want something too big for a garage and gets ahead of the pump if you leave it running when filling up.

Seriously, Honda's are just getting broken in at 100K as others have said. I have a Subaru Forester from when I lived in Santa Fe 8 years ago. It just won't die. Plus great ground clearance, great mileage and will let you close the hatch with 8 foot lumber.

castanet said...

Your Honda is still in its element; don't give in.
In fact it's so ugly looking it's too lovable to give it up.

Anonymous said...

Kirk

My first impression is to trade the Element. I have had three vehicles that I have drived over 100K miles, one for 300K, and I have never worn out a starter. So the fact that you have implies that you drive a lot of very short trips which is very hard on a vehicle. It also impleis that a lot more is about to go wrong.

If you decide to keep the Element, even for Ben, keep in mind that you are due for a major (100K Mile) service. At this point you should be very pro-active in replacing things that are also about due to fail. During this service a timing belt replacement is probably necessary. While the are replacing the timing belt have them replace the alternator, water pump, belts, and the major hoses at the same time. The reason for this is, all of these need to be removed, to get to the timing belt, so you only need to buy the new parts which will be cheap insurance.

PaulB

Anonymous said...

Kirk,

Don't feel bad about saying good bye to the Element. The one thing that you left unspoken, and so did most, if not all, of the rest is reliability. With your schedule any unexpected problem that interrupts your schedule or makes you late or (heaven forbid) miss an assignment is a complication you simply don't need. You did well to get the trade-in that you did. Enjoy!

Rick

Jan Klier said...

LOL - I guess you trade with your cars as you trade with your cameras. 100K is not that much mileage for a modern car. Derek Shapton had a perspective on this recently: http://www.derekshapton.com/planet_shapton/?p=1727.

It's a bit of tricky trade-off, it has to be reliable so you don't miss an assignment, and it has to be versatile for the kind of work we do, and it has to be consistent with our personal brand....

Anonymous said...

I have three (THREE!) Honda Elements. Two of them are of the superb and short-lived "SC" model, which is sort of sporty, with manual transmission. Wife drives the remaining "classic" plastic-paneled automatic. Here is my take - there is NOTHING offered in the North American markets that matches the feature set of the ELEMENT. I wish an alternative were available, but it does not exist. The CRV is cramped, its seats do not remove, and it is not offered with a stick. My ultimate alternative to the Element would be a sport (stiff suspension) version of a minivan with 6-speed stick shifter, with Honda-like reliability. They exist in Europe and elsewhere. But here, in the lazy and declining land of automatic bliss, we can only dream. In your case, you won't regret auto transmission, but the hauling capacity and shear noxious character of your outgoing "ugly box" will be sorely missed. Honda is an equivalent of NIKON in the auto world - quirky, unpredictable, and fast becoming fat, dumb and happy. Rest in peace, the former Honda's glory. Canon was and is ... TOYOTA – inert, dependable. We direly need the new SONY of the auto world, that would come and take the industry by storm, with nothing less than radical and breathtaking offerings, like the NEX line, Alpha99, and the rest. Stay young and long live the new SONY camera division, the new revolution! And you guys – take good care of your “elements”! (D.S., Boston, MA)

Art in LA said...

Congrats on the new wheels! Did you get a '12 or '13? I hope yours is as reliable as ours. Now you've got me thinking about getting a NEX-6 and/or A57 (upgrading from a NEX-3 and A55). I *should* just wear my gear out, but the camera companies keep innovating, and the "mid-range" gear is surprisingly affordable ... amortized, the hardware is well below the annual costs of film and processing, right? Just don't tell the Mrs. ...

Kerry C Cannon said...

Nice blog and nice shoot

regards

Latest camera

Ted K. said...

OK - I know this is too late (you already made your decision), but i think all the folks who recommended keeping the Element, didn't understand something. You're running your own business. That means you're keeping track of a gazillion little details, over and above the details of making a good photograph. As we get older, our ability or at least our patience with long to-do lists gets less and less and less. I'll bet that consciously or subconsciously you decided that one thing you just really didn't need to worry about was whether your car would get you to and from a job. I'm the same. We have a relatively new car and an old Grand Cherokee with a quarter of a million miles on it. The Grand Cherokee is an old friend but the new car is always there when we really need to get somewhere.

Kirk Tuck said...

I'm pretty happy with my CRV EX purchase. 32 mpg between Austin/San Antonio and back this weekend. A big upgrade from the Element (box of joy).

tord55 said...

I used to drive old European cars, including Saabs and Fords (both brands being the repairman's delight), but since I switched to Toyotas I have had nil problems - the worst yet two failed bulbs, which were replaced free of charge! The present one is a fuel miser: The Toyota Verso-S, with a seven-speed automatic gear box, and a 1.3 liter engine. Surprisingly zippy, and very frugal when it comes to fuel - better than the Yaris with a similar engine we had before this one!

It is easy to back your gear in, as the floor is flat when you fold down the back seat, which is extremely simple to fold down.

The manual shift version is known to be noisier, as it then cruises on motorways at an annoyingly high rpm, ours cruise at around 1200 RPM - just a little over ticking over.

The reversing camera is great, too!

The only bad things I can think of: Turning radius is not brilliant, nor is the howl it emits when you put the pedal to the metal, but you get used to that quickly. And it is surprisingly snappy, all things considered. I am sure it will take us beyond 200K, if not longer ;-)!

Here's a review, fairly honest: http://www.whatcar.com/car-reviews/toyota/verso-s-mpv/summary/26039-7

Other Verso versions have felt a bit truck-like to me, this doesn't! The suspension is a bit utlitarian, not as good as the Yaris's, just as is true of the brakes - the Yaris had BMW-like brakes, with immense stopping power, this does not!