Boat Haulin' Vehicle?

I’m trying to take advantage of some of the year end deals that are still being offered on new cars so I thought I would post a few questions about the models I am considered to solicit some advice:

Note: This vehicle will be used both for work (my sales route) as well as for weekend boat haulin’. The 2 in question can be purchased for almost the same price.

2007 Honda Element EX (blue): Roof rack ready, utility floor for easy cleaning, lots of interior room for haulin’ other gear, removable seats, good gas mileage (4 cyl), abundance of handy add-ons (if desired), little higher of a lift to get the boat on the roof rack…Thoughts on this model?

2006 Nissan Frontier SE (silver) Crew Cab (year end close-out): 4 door, Less gas mileage but more power (V-6), open bed w/ utilitrac system (to attach numerous accessories, racks, etc.), more “creature comforts” than the Honda, easy reach to get the boat in the rack, feel that it is more practical but then I have always been a truck person…Thoughts?

tough to go wrong with honda
Mileage and reliability. The honda will have a nicer ride being on a car(minivan?) frame.

I would say your factors are mpg and utility (will you really use a truck bed that often? Those small pickup crew cab beds are pretty dinky).

Two good vehicles
Look at your long term use. Do you ever want to tow anything?? The honda has a very low towing capacity. Other than that–great vehicle.

I wish they had come out with the element and an optional big V-6. If they could offer that with a tow capacity of 3000lbs then they would have a nice vehicle without going all the way up to the Pilot.

examine other possible uses
These are two very different vehicles to compare - the Element is front drive & the Nissan is rear drive.

If you have to haul trash or construction material/debris, then the Nissan is the one. If you have to ever tow a trailer, the Nissan would be better. If you know that you won’t do either, the Honda should be a more comfortable ride. They both seem a bit tall to me for hauling boats on top.

that begs a question

– Last Updated: Jan-02-07 4:50 PM EST –

is the honda front or all wheel drive?

Do you need all-wheel drive? I love it in my subaru but the low center of gravity allows it to handle like a car. I need some awd in winter but not to the extent of a pickup. But awd/4wd significantly adds weight, complexity and fuel consumption. Do without it if you can.

The newer subarus are also pretty nice but not as roomy. But again if you don't need the awd don't pay for it.

I own an '05 Frontier king cab 4x4

– Last Updated: Jan-02-07 8:36 PM EST –

It's incredibly fun to drive, firm suspension (NISMO), great steering feel, lots of torque, quiet engine, 6-spd manual gives both a low 1st gear and an Interstate-cruising 6th gear with good spacing in between.

However, you are comparing two extremely different vehicles.

Biggest immediate question is how important is the mpg to you? And which Frontier (2WD or 4WD)? That makes a mpg difference. I get 21 mpg highway, 18 to 19 mpg mixed driving. Figure about 2 mpg higher for a 2WD version (a few owners of those have posted getting 25 mpg, which is *excellent* for a midsized truck with V6).

Long-term questions matter, too. If you ever want to tow, the truck will be a better choice. BUT if you need lots of interior space, the Element might be better than the '06 crew cab. The '05 and '06 crew cabs only come with 5 ft beds (king cabs have 6 ft beds). If you want a crewcab AND 6 ft bed, you can buy an '07. But it won't be cheap this early in the model year.

They're both tall vehicles, so neither will be easy to load kayaks onto.

I should note that a friend sold his Tundra after getting rid of a dory boat he used to tow with it. Not needing the tow capacity freed him to go for better mpg than the V8 truck. He bought an Element and says he gets about 25 mpg. That's pretty good (not great for a 4cyl engine)...but you might want to do some more research into what owners of 2WD crewcabs are getting. From what I've seen, mileage varies tremendously, depending on driving style. The Frontier practically begs to be driven fast, so if you have a lead foot you should probably stay away from it.

Different Strokes
Yeah, they are definitely different but each of them was attractive for different reasons. The Element’s interior space and fuel efficiency was better for work and running the roads. The Frontier was better for weekend projects, pulling a utility trailer and probably hauling the boats. The small back seat of the crew cab Frontier is not really a factor as I have 2 small kids who have more than enough room back there. I just got back from the Nissan dealer and picked myself out a nice 2006 LE Frontier Crew Cab at year-end clearance prices and a $2000 rebate to boot. By the way, if you are considering a Nissan product, go to their website and fill out the finance forms for pre-approval with Nissan Motor Credit…I was in and out in 90 minutes as opposed to the 4+ hours with my last new car purchase.

I have been comparing
the mileage on some of the newer vehicles and have noticed that a few of the old wisdoms may no longer apply.

Many Toyota, Honday and Nissan models have lower MPG with a manual tranny than with an automatic and 4WD does not seem to be the big mileage killer it used to be either. Compare on the manufacturers website, but 4WD may not be a bad option on some models.

Frontier P/U
I bought a year end close out ‘05 Frontier Nismo like you, saved a bundle and love this truck. I installed a towing hitch and use a bed extender which slips into the 2" receiver hitch to haul my kayaks. The longest one is a 16’ tandem so it extends about 9’ past the tailgate which is down. I like this setup better than a rack because of the lower height and ease of loading and unloading. You will enjoy your Frontier.

Not looking–it’s not even 2 yrs old
I’ve never kept a truck less than 4 years, since I am very picky about spec’ing it the way I want it and then outfitting to purpose and taste (topper, bedliner, aftermarket stereo, etc.).

I did two test drives of Frontiers (plus a Tacoma), filled out some paperwork to order the truck the way I wanted it (2-month wait), and did not finance so was out of there even faster. The whole process went faster and more easily than any other time I’ve bought a new vehicle. Didn’t even get any stupid/insulting questions from the salesman.

Nissan Motor Credit, Alternate Racking
This is the first Nissan I have bought new (I have owned a number of used ones in the past, mostly sedans for my wife) and it was my first experience with their pre-approval process. I found out that as long as you establish a solid payment history with them for 12 or more months, the next Nissan purchase goes even more smoothly…almost automatic. I probably spent more time test driving and comparing the 2 trucks I narrowed my search to than I did paperwork. I handed the pre-approval (I did it at home online the night before) to the salesman at the door, he sent it over to the finance guy, I went and did some test driving and made the call as to which one I wanted. I killed about 15 minutes waiting in the customer lounge and then went and signed about 10 forms and walked out with the keys. It’s getting detailed this morning and then I am picking it up late this afternoon. I’m happy with my purchase and will report back as to it’s utility as a boat hauler. It comes with the roof rack, although it is a bit high for getting a kayak on easily…a pair of saddles would add another couple of inches. I like the idea of the T post attachment to the trailer hitch…a good place to set and slide from as opposed to trying to get it up in the bed and then up on the roof.

boat hauling
I have owned 2 nissan frontiers. Excellent vehicle for both purposes. My job requires extensive driving. I put a track rack on the vehilce with extended yakamia bars and can haul 4 full size sea kayaks 4 white water boats in the bed) and if more hauling is needed hook up the trailer.

Frontier Racking

I’d be interested in hearing more specifics about how you equipped your Frontier with racks, etc. Mine has the utilitrac bed system…did these come into play at all? I know they will be handy with the toolbox and the bed extender…maybe some dividers for work stuff.


Pre-approved is faster

– Last Updated: Jan-03-07 4:32 PM EST –

I went that route with my previous vehicle, and it sure does smooth the path. For one earlier truck, I negotiated 4.5 or 5.5 hrs (can't remember which). NEVER AGAIN!

I almost always trailer the kayak(s)--has virtually no effect on mpg, and it's easier to load/unload.

The shorty SOT I do transport on the topper roof, which has adjustable-span "tracks" for the rack towers. I use a $60 Yakima Boatloader extension bar to make roof-topping easier.

You will enjoy driving the truck. :-)

Not 06 but…
I know that my pics are different than your possible set-up as you are looking at an 06 and mine is an 03, but I thought you might be able to extract some ideas from this. Beyond the WW boats you see on my racks, I also have a 14 ft kayak and a 17ft canoe and all ride well on this system.

Good Luck,


I had though AWD mileage not bad
I thought part of the problem of available 4WD was having to lug around an extra smaller transmission in the olden days, but AWD doesn’t have an auxillary transmission, but I am not a big car guy so I could be wrong, and I drive in flat, non-icy Houston so have never had a need for either.

wise choice
Versatile truck - congrats on your purchase !

Depends on the boat
Just about any vehicle can carry a kayak safely. Canoes are different. They’re more affected by wind at highway speeds, especially from the tendency to lift. If canoes are your thing, I’d go with a longer roofline to help minimize the torque effect of the wind trying to tear the boat off your rack. The Element has a really narrow spread between crossbars. The Frontier will too unless you put a rack frame on the bed, on a topper, or use one of those Goalpost or Drydock thingies… which by the way will require a 2" receiver and can be used with either vehicle. A 2" receiver looks OK on a pickup but kind of goofy on an Element. If decked boats are your preference, then I suppose I’d go with the Element because of its versatility and better mileage.

One of …

Happy Paddling billinpa

Four wheels & starts in the morning is always

nice. Some of the volkswagons have worked out

pretty good for hauling around boats. And if

you go diesel there like 1000km per tank