Car Talk Oaxaca: Funky Honda Element Qualifies for Mexico

Some of you have followed my saga of trying to bring a car to Mexico.  I recently sold the Honda CRV that I bought a few years ago with the intention of driving it to Mexico and using it here.  Not possible, I found out, because it was assembled in Great Britain.  Cars imported to Mexico have to start with a numeric VIN number that indicates it made in North America (USA, Canada or Mexico).  Thank you, NAFTA. 

I could not find a Made in the USA Honda CRV in the model year I wanted to replace the one I sold that had the right VIN.  I even tried the Toyota RAV 4.  No go.  All assembled in Japan.   (Sidebar:  my Canadian friend Lynda who lives in Oaxaca part of the year, and has a permanent resident visa, must take her Toyota RAV 4 out of the country.  Why?  Made in Japan.)

So, I started to hunt for what I imagined might be the next best thing, a Honda Element.  I happily discovered that since their introduction in 2003 until their demise in 2011, all were assembled in Ohio, USA.  That qualifies.  And, because so few of them were made, they are not that easy to find.  But, right there in Durham, North Carolina, a black 2004 Honda Element came up on Craigslist.  Not perfect, but good enough for my purposes — practical, affordable, solid transportation for the right price.  Good for schlepping and hauling.

While in Oaxaca,  my dear North Carolina friends Ted and Jo-Anne offered to help me check out this car before I negotiated the purchase.  Thanks to them, a car like the one above became mine today.   They picked it up for me and will park it in their driveway until I get there in early December. There’s some stuff that needs fixin’ but overall it’s a good car that will be ready for a road trip to Austin, Texas, before Christmas.

Why Austin?  That’s where I will deliver it to a friend from Oaxaca, who for a fair price, will “legalize” it for Mexico, help me get Mexican automobile insurance, and drive it to my village so he can visit his family.  A win-win for all of us.  All I will need to do after he gets here is to go to the local office to get Oaxaca license plates.  I know him and I know his family.  It’s a perfect solution to the dilemma of being without personal wheels to explore the region and the need to restrain myself from buying more than I can transport by foot or in a small moto-taxi/tuk-tuk.   Comparison shop for furniture? Explore a remote village in the Mixteca? Make a trip to the nursery to buy fruit trees?  Without a car, a major undertaking.

I will be blogging about the road trip and the experience of getting the car ready to bring to Mexico.   Meanwhile, what to name it?  Maybe Little Black Box?

Meanwhile, I’m soon on my way to Mexico City to catch a San Francisco flight to be with my family in time for Thanksgiving.

Wishing you and your loved ones a healthy, joyous holiday filled with goodness: creating fondest memories, preparing and eating delicious food, and delighting in the sustenance of thanksgiving.


14 responses to “Car Talk Oaxaca: Funky Honda Element Qualifies for Mexico

  1. I live in Raleigh and love my Honda Element (and Oaxaca!). It’s been a year since I’ve been to Oaxaca, but I hope to get back down in March.

  2. Oh, and another observation. You mentioned driving “slow and deliberately”. I do hope that if you drive in Mexico City you are not too slow and deliberate or you will be crushed like a cucaracha! 🙂 Out in the country, slow and deliberate works well !

  3. Hi again — I am a little surprised at the comment about fuel efficiency. With my wife driving (she drives “gentler” than me) she can average 25 mpg. Her normal daily drive is from northeast of Greensboro to south of Burlington and our church is 18 miles west, down highway 150, so we are not doing a lot of city driving. But even when I drive it is usually over 20 mpg. OK, not an “economy” car, but for the size, toughness and cubic capacity of this vehicle I am good with these numbers. It also has fairly high ground clearance and if I learned nothing else from driving thousands of miles in central Mexico, I did learn that high ground clearance can be a plus in many areas, even in the cities. I am hoping that someday my wife and I can visit you in Oaxaca, but in tha alternative perhaps while we are still living in NC we could have dinner sometime? We would love to talk about your experiences down there!

    • Roger, I am so grateful that you continue to share your personal experience that contributes to my knowledge about the Honda Element. Your experience helps confirm that I made a good choice for Mexico transportation. Toughness is an essential for those rugged, potholed roads filled with speed bumps we call “topes.” Yes, I am grateful the car has high ground clearance for many reasons. I am looking forward to using it there. I would love to meet you and your wife in Oaxaca. This next trip to NC will be short, so I’m not certain I will have time to meet up with you there. Let’s keep it open as a possibility.

  4. Glad it all worked out for you Norma and Happy Thanksgiving to you too. Regards, Susanne

  5. You could name her “La Dura”.

    • I like that. La Dura. It’s vying for top name along with La Tuga (short for tortuga — turtle), since driving slow and deliberately in Mexico is an important consideration, especially with The Box, that does not exactly hug the road like a sports car!

  6. My wife has a 2005 Honda Element with well over 200,000 miles on it and we find it practically indestructible. We have been hit twice by moving trucks on the left rear quarter (once was a sidewipe by a semi at 70 mph which knocked us about 12 inches to the right) and neither did enough damage to warrant any repairs. The lack of carpet gives you a sort of peace of mind whe hauling anything dirty or that might stain carpet. And the Element has a LOT more room inside than the CRV. I think you will be VERY happy, and you should feel VERY lucky that you found a good used one. There are very few used ones for sale and my wife is really hoping that they will someday revive the model. I suspect one of the reasons the sales declined was because they just run forever and nobody was trading their old ones in, so the “built-in obsolescence” that the auto companies count on for repeat sales just wasn’t there.

    • Roger, Wow. Thanks so much for the testimonial. My confidence level has increased 20-fold because of what you write. I was even thinking about a truck down here, but the Element provides the perfect haul-mobile capacity that you talk about with Honda durability. This one has a manual transmission, which should help me get around on the uneven dirt roads 🙂 I Googled Honda Element and came up with their reason why they stopped making them: declining sales because of stiffer competition, no model updates/body changes in the nine years they were produced, and not as fuel efficient as some of the smaller crossovers. I like your reason better. -Norma

  7. How about calling the car Miguelito? Or Buenas suenas? Or Cerveza Movil?

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