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JShaawbaru Reader
5/12/22 7:49 p.m.
californiamilleghia said:

If you are around Lancaster you might also search around Bakersfield , 

and Victorville is not that far from Las Vegas ......

Not sure how long you will be in that area 

Good luck 

Might take a look in the Bakersfield area, it's about an hour and a half away, which is about the same as Victorville. Vegas is 4 hours away though, so that's a bit too far. We'll actually be stopping there on the way back to Michigan, to visit one of her friends, but we have to get the car before then.

We've got 3 days to find a car, and it only took one to find the Yukon, so I think we'll be good, but I'll take all the luck I can get.


​​​I brought up the Mazda5, but it's a bit too van shaped for her taste, but it's probably still on the back burner if our options get slim. 

Civics are vaguely on the radar as well, but due to an unpleasant person from her past owning an early 2000s one, many model years are prohibited. It's too bad because I do like those.

I'll have to look into the CT200, I forgot those existed and I like the way they look, although I believe the fuel economy is lower, but still better than many other cars. I just did a quick search and it looks like they're just out of reach. Mostly over 12k with a couple near 10k, but nothing less. 

Floating Doc (Forum Supporter)
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
5/12/22 8:32 p.m.

I wondered why the civic was off the list. I just bought an 08 last month.

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
5/12/22 8:52 p.m.

Hellz yeah. Accord needs cat

BlueInGreen - Jon
BlueInGreen - Jon UltraDork
5/12/22 9:00 p.m.

J Welsh finding the goods, as always.

What I would look for:

Older low mileage Fusion/Milan or Mazda 6. They are nice drivers and plain old sedans seem like good value right now since a lot of people want an SUV/crossover.

Or mk2 Focus for something on the smaller side.

Boring, I know.

Stampie MegaDork
5/12/22 9:03 p.m.

I'll say as a redneck American V8 kinda guy, I like my mom's CT200.  I'd rock one.

Feedyurhed UltraDork
5/12/22 9:33 p.m.

In no particular order. Element, Xb, Cube, Soul. My favorite category of vehicle for the needs you have listed. Reliable, economical, practical and interesting. Not sure why all but the Soul have gone away.

JShaawbaru Reader
5/13/22 6:26 a.m.

In reply to BlueInGreen - Jon :

I forgot to mention (and this is also in reply to a few other people's suggestions) that sedan-shaped things are pretty much off the list. In an absolute nothing-else-available situation they would be considered, though. 

We'll be trying to stick to boxy things and hatchbacks if possible, which helps from a cargo capacity standpoint anyway. Sorry I didn't mention that yesterday until after several sedans were suggested.

We did find this Element last night, which is out of our budget, but if it's still available after 4 weeks, (On mobile Facebook marketplace it doesn't show the actual age of the ad, just "over a week ago", so I didn't see it had been listed a month until now) it's either priced too high or has hidden issues. If it's still around next weekend, since it's local we'll go look at it and see if we can get at least $1000 off their asking price. Assuming it's only the price that's keeping it from selling. She really likes the color, but not so much the price, so it would have to be in really good shape to justify the possible overbudget cost. 146k miles2008 Element, $9950

There's also this one nearby, with terrible pictures and no description, but it's on the lower end of pricing for Elements (excluding the 3 or 4 I've found with salvage titles, which I'm staying away from). 175k miles. 2006 Element, $6000

This one is a bit of a drive, but it's bargain priced due to cat theft/inoperability. Definitely would look at this one if it's still around. 231k miles2004 Element, $3500

Also an orange one in San Bernardino, which is less of a drive than I thought. Seems reasonably priced and in good condition. 158k miles2004 Element, $6800

Also one in Alhambra, listed for a month so far, also over budget, and not purple, and not in our ideal purchasing zone(s). 175k miles. 2007 Element, $9000

I won't be in California until next Saturday, so all of these could be sold by then, but we'll see. My girlfriend could possibly go look at the local ones before I get there, but there's no one nearby that would be able to look it over mechanically until I get there, so there wouldn't be much point, not like we could put down any hold money.

BlueInGreen - Jon
BlueInGreen - Jon UltraDork
5/13/22 8:24 a.m.

Well if it's boxy you're after then you can't really improve on an Element.

A nice one will hold value pretty well too.

Wait, no this is better. Turbo is always better, right? Lol


edit... please don't take that seriously. I would never recommend a PT Cruiser to anyone even if I do have a strange fascination with the turbo version :P

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
5/13/22 8:29 a.m.

That purple-ish Element SC is the quintessential Element. A highly desired combination.   A few things noticed. The seller has another Element that can be seen in the background of the pics. He either is a Element fan, or... 

I have this suspicion that he buys these when the cats get stolen then he runs a welder at home to put on a cheapo cat which is illegal in CA (but fine for elsewhere.)   He then covers the cat in a shield which further hides the replacement to the unsuspecting. 

If you shop this car, don't show your hand that you'll be taking the car away. Press him for proof of smog pass. This might be the ticket to getting a reduced price.  Get proof that the car is also not salvage rebuild from a bad cat.

Or, I could be completely wrong!  I'm just cautious and suspicious of everyone. 

JShaawbaru Reader
5/13/22 10:00 a.m.

In reply to BlueInGreen - Jon :

LOL I actually sent her one of those as a joke, since they did fit her criteria of the car being "unique", and she wasn't aware of the reputation they had. She doesn't want one though, so nothing to worry about there.

In reply to John Welsh: Hmm, that's an interesting point. Depending on how robust the cat shield is, it could be hiding an aftermarket cat that is good enough to keep the CEL off, but not good enough to pass smog. It would be a good idea to say nothing about taking it out of state, and see if there is proof it will pass smog. I'm also definitely keeping an eye on the titles, because about half the Elements I've found do have a salvage title, but are still priced the same as the non-salvage ones...

I appreciate you bringing up these scenarios, even if this person is totally honest and not trying to pull any shenanigans, it's better to be cautious than end up getting a bad deal.

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
5/13/22 10:30 a.m.

Find out why they are totaled.  In CA cars are getting totaled for a stolen cat.  Its a scam all around.  The law requires a dealership to do the work.  The dealerships know it and have jacked the prices for the work/parts.  So, if your $7k car needs a cat and it is $4k to replace the cat, the insurance company will total the car.  This has a few affects.  Getting stolen once doesnt assure that it wont get stolen again.  If the insurance company totals they car, they don't have to replace another.  

The insurance company also knows they car get high dollar for an Element at salvage auction.  Here are two examples currently at salvage auction:

Mechanical theft  In the listing, State Farm says the car was worth $5683 before damage.  



Ask the seller for the VIN and then just put the 17 digit vin into a google search.  This way will often bring of listings of old salvage auctions.  

For Toyotas, you can set up an account with the Owners Section of the Toyota webbsite and pull all the dealership service history.  Therefore, if a PRius had the cat replaced at the dealerhsip it would show up on there.  

Cousin_Eddie (Forum Supporter)
Cousin_Eddie (Forum Supporter) Dork
5/13/22 10:41 a.m.

The first Element, the one in question, is a special car. It's an SC model. 18 inch wheels. Lowered suspension with better sway bars. Painted body cladding. Thumping ass stereo. Carpeted floors. Completely different interior. I have owned both SC and EX Elements. The SC is an entirely nicer car by an order of magnitude. He's not crazy with his price. People are doing fly-n-drives to get rust free Elements and their prices are only going up. 

JShaawbaru Reader
5/13/22 10:54 a.m.

In reply to John Welsh :

The reason they're totaled ends up being irrelevant though, because in Michigan, a rebuilt/salvage title means no insurance coverage above basic liability in most cases, and having no comprehensive/collision on a $5k-$8k vehicle probably isn't ideal, and would be harder to sell if she decided to sell it in the future.

I actually have second (or I guess third?) hand knowledge of the "been stolen once doesn't assure it won't be stolen again". Her friend has an Element, and the cat has been stolen TWICE. I think once last year and then again this year. I'm hoping she put a shield on it after the second time, but yeah, the cat theft thing is out of control. And like you said, the most recent one had to be replaced out of pocket.

In reply to Cousin_Eddie:

It's good to have more confirmation that the SC is that much better, although the car being for sale for a month does point toward there being some reason it's still for sale. Maybe it's just not selling because gas prices are so high, and they don't get the best gas mileage? Whatever the reason, hopefully sitting so long will make it possible to get the price down.

Also, one interesting thing I noticed, the Element in the background of the 2008 is the same color combination, and has the same wheels, as the $6000 one in Lancaster. Is it possible that the person with the grey one happened to be visiting when the pictures of the purple one were taken, or is it purely coincidence? Palmdale and Lancaster are close enough together that it's certainly possible.

californiamilleghia UltraDork
5/13/22 12:16 p.m.

How does a Prius drive with a straight pipe or a cheap aftermarket cat ?

Does it get the same MPG ?

Does it overheat ?

Just wondering if you but one in California that had a cat cut out of it and put in a straight pipe will it damage anything on your  3000 mile tiring home ?

JShaawbaru Reader
5/13/22 1:19 p.m.

In reply to californiamilleghia :

It'll be towed, so even if it's cut out, I don't have to fix it until it's back in Michigan. I'm guessing that a cheap aftermarket cat, as long as it's good enough to not set off the CEL, should still allow the same or at least similar gas mileage. I know there's at least one thread on one of the Prius forums that discusses aftermarket cats, and likely recommends certain ones that will allow the car to operate normally.

spacecadet (Forum Supporter)
spacecadet (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
5/13/22 10:50 p.m.
wearymicrobe said:

Honest answer get a Prius of a Fit. Prefereable a Fit if you can find one in the spec you want. 


Dead reliablem, easy to maintain and at this price point the best option. 

The honda fit is a workhorse sewing machine that will refuse to die.. this is the way.

JShaawbaru Reader
5/18/22 6:33 a.m.

So just an update, I'll probably start messaging people tomorrow, to check if the vehicles are really available, or if they just forgot to mark them sold, and to see what their weekend schedules look like.

The cat theft Element is sold, but the rest, including the SC, are still all for sale.

The Isuzu VehiCROSS is down to $7500, so we might at least look at it, but it would be more of a hassle since we would need the full car trailer, and straps to hold it down. The interior also has to be in near-perfect condition, and there are no pictures of it at all, so I would at least ask about that before going any further.

There are 5 potential Priuseseses, most 2nd gen, which is the one we would prefer to get.

There are 2 Honda Fits.

Some cars on the list currently have nothing available in our price range, or in the case of the Mazda 3, they're all salvage title or sedans. Some have also been eliminated because they're at a dealership, and I'm not looking to pay all their paperwork fees and the extra sales tax compared to Michigan's.

I think we have a decent amount of things to potentially look at, but I'll find out what's really available tomorrow, and then post the final contenders some time tomorrow or Friday morning.

adam525i Dork
5/18/22 8:14 a.m.

It might be worth looking at what it costs to drag the U-haul dolly from Michigan and back and see if the savings are enough to do that over just grabbing it in CA. Fuel prices and it banging around behind you empty is worth keeping in mind too.

I'd also keep in mind what cars are having major rust issues at home and avoid bringing one of those back (looking at you Mazda), any scratches, dents and even just the wear to paint underneath may be rust free now but that wont last long once you get a salty winter behind you.

Good luck!


Steve_Jones Dork
5/18/22 8:23 a.m.

The Element SC are FWD not AWD if that matters to you. 

JShaawbaru Reader
5/18/22 9:36 a.m.

In reply to adam525i :

It's only around $300 one way for the tow dolly, as of the last time I checked. I'm not entirely sure if I made it clear in this thread, but I already have a tow vehicle in Cali, so it'll be a one way tow with both vehicles, and fuel only one way.

That is true that Mazda does seem to have more rust issues, which is fine since currently there aren't any for sale that we're looking at buying. I don't know how long she'll be keeping this vehicle, so it might not rust too bad before it was sold, but something less rust susceptible would be ideal.

In reply to Steve_Jones: 

That's what I thought, but it's good to have confirmation. Even though AWD would be better for Michigan winters, it would mean a $500 increase for a car trailer over the tow dolly, and that much more weight of the trailer being towed. There's a good chance the car she gets will stay in the garage for the winter, and she'll drive my truck, since it has snow rated all terrains and 4WD.

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
5/18/22 9:47 a.m.

For those playing along at home, here is OP's thread where he buys a GMC Denail XL to be the tow vehicle for this adventure.  

Near the end of that thread I theorized that he would tow home a Pre-Runner/Desert Runner.  Therefore, I'm rooting for the Isuzu Vehicross.  devil

Sure, an Element seems to be your focus and they're a good choice, especially if she like them.  Since you already have one, you also know that Gen2 Prius tend to rust less than some of their contemporaries.  And, as mentioned Mazdas and Civics seem o be very quick to rear wheel well rust.  

As I said back in the first thread, thanks for taking us along for the adventure.  

JShaawbaru Reader
5/18/22 10:24 a.m.

In reply to John Welsh :

Thanks John.

We'll have to see what happens with the Vehicross, she likes it, but is leery due to the lack of interior pictures, since a clean/intact interior is pretty important to her. The AWD system means it has to go on a full trailer, adding weight and reducing MPG. Except UHaul says I can still use a tow dolly? Maybe the AWD system is ok with the rear end rolling while towing? I'd have to look into it more before taking that risk. I just read the UHaul fine print, and they answered the question. It canbe done if the rear driveshaft is pulled. Not sure if I'll have time to do that, and probably won't have the tools needed (unless I buy them). The big tires (probably) mean we have to buy straps for it, since the provided straps only accomodate 31" tires (stock ones would have been 29.57"). It also has the smoked signals and taillights, which we'd probably want to undo, and finding stock ones in good shape probably isn't super easy, although I am seeing some on eBay for not too much money. There's also the question of how such an uncommon vehicle hasn't sold in a long enough time that the guy has dropped the price almost $3000 from original asking. The ad says only 2 weeks, so either he really wants it gone, or it's been relisted. We'll see though, I sent the guy a message to see about interior pictures and tire specs.

Yeah, especially if that purple Element is still around, that's the way we'll be going. It's got a lot going for it, with the cargo space, and being a color she really likes, plus her friend has owned 2, and she seems to be drawn to vehicles that have been owned by people she knows, since it gives her secondhand experience of reliability, and she's seen them in person and rode around in them.

I'll definitely keep this thread updated, and I plan on making a new one for the actual trip back, although hopefully it'll be an uneventful trip with nice scenery, and I won't be calling on the GRM roadside assistance crew for help with some catastrophic mechanical failure. I did this same trip with my dad in 2010ish, with a slightly older Suburban, towing a Corvair project that he bought on eBay, and that trip went fine, so I'm hoping for the same outcome here.

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
5/18/22 10:51 a.m.

Sure, I like the Vehicross...but knowing that the goal is a DD appliance, it's not the right car for this adventure.  Instead, it would be a cool specialty vehicle for occasional use and the ability to let it sit for a while, while you source parts, if repairs were needed. 

Rougher samples are available back toward home and seem to sell slow.  Asking $8k and pictures have no leaves on the trees so maybe 2 months old. Asking $4k, beaten. Or, asking $32k, mint.

My original intention with the Vehicross listing was to point to cars with out of state plates that must be sold and must leave CA because they wont pass smog inspection.  Still keep an eye out for similar. 

JShaawbaru Reader
5/18/22 11:27 a.m.

Yeah, that is true. Probably not the most practical, since there are so few of them around, and parts won't be the easiest to find. I did forget that you originally posted it as an out-of-state plate example, since she thought it was cool, and I've always liked them. At my old house, someone a few blocks away had an Ironman Edition parked in their driveway, so I saw it pretty often.

It might still be an ok choice, since she likely won't be driving a ton, and I do have a fleet she could borrow from if needed, but it would be best to put a few more practical cars on the list in front of it. It would be funny though to buy two vehicles that you found.

Steve_Jones Dork
5/18/22 8:38 p.m.

Converter theft on Elements is a HUGE issue, so I'd assume finding one that needs to leave California won't be hard.

It's worth looking on Element forums and Element FB groups to see. They are really nice to have around, for many reasons, so if she likes them, why not?

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