Honda Element "Dog Mobile"

02 Jun 2008Steve Schwarz

In response to a comment on my Window Film Application post here are my thoughts on the Honda Element as a dogmobile and how I store my dog stuff in it. Basically it is a fine vehicle. I’ve had mine for just over two years. It has 42,000 miles on it. I don’t keep track of mileage too much but I probably get around 25 MPG with mostly highway travel.

Before the Element I had a Jeep Grand Cherokee and had terrible brake problems (just got a check from a class action law suit over brake rotor warping problems). While the Jeep was quieter, had more amenities, better performance, it also had poorer gas mileage and wasn’t convenient to use with crates. The Jeep also cost almost $10k more than the Element. It seems it was always in the shop too. I probably paid nearly $1k a year in maintenance on that Jeep.

One thing the Jeep got me used to was never being stuck in Chicago’s snow storms. So I sprung a little extra for the Element EX with “real time” four wheel drive. I haven’t gotten it stuck in the snow yet.

The website rated the 2007 Element the “Dog Car of the Year”. I found the comments in this article to be pretty accurate as well.

The only downside with the design I’ve found are the “suicide” rear doors. If you end up parking a lot in pull in spaces (i.e. parking lots) and you put people or larger stuff in the rear seats you end up doing a little dance with the front and rear doors to get people and stuff in and out of the vehicle. I’ve also clobbered my head a couple times on the top bracket that helps lock the rear doors in place.

I like the tailgate and liftgate on the rear. I can flip open the liftgate and take care of the dogs while being protected from the elements. It also makes it easy to attach a sun shade and have good air movement in/out of the back area of the vehicle. The tailgate makes a great place to sit and you can use it to tend to your dog’s grooming and taping of feet before flyball tournaments.

I built two platforms for holding Midwest 606SS side by side crates across the back of the Element. If you need two side by side crates you have to put them on a platform. The floor in the rear has a couple bumps for the suspension that keep the crates from fitting side by side directly on the floor. I use two heavy webbed straps to tie each platform and the crate to the tie downs located in the bed of the car. If you are creative you could also tie the crate/platforms to the brackets used to hold the seats the floor. I position the crates front to back within the car so I can open the crate doors while keeping the tailgate up. It also puts the front of the crates within easy reach of the front seat (for passing treats to good dogs). This also lets me put my easy up tent across the width of the vehicle behind the front seats and in front of the crate(s).

By having two separate platforms I have more crate/seat flexibility. I can have just one crate installed and drive two other people around. I’ve also used one crate and put the other two dogs in their car harnesses attached to the seat belts.

I made the platforms out of plywood with 1”x10” supports and held everything together with heavy angle iron supports and through bolts. Having the crate raised also gives me a place to put, collapsible chairs, and other dog trial gear.

I’ve seen other platforms that sit on top of the brackets used to hold the seats in place. That would give a good solid mounting location but would also set the crates several inches up higher in the vehicle. I like being able to look over the top of the crates to see cars around me.

I cleaned out my car after a weekend trip and took some pictures so you can see what I’m talking about.

One Rear Seat Removed
bump on the floor at the seat belt

One Rear Seat Removed - bump on the floor at the seat belt

One Crate Installed

One Crate Installed

Some Stuff In Place

Some Stuff In Place

Two Crates Installed

Two Crates Installed

Room In Front of Crate With Seats All The Way Back

Room In Front of Crate

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