What Is The Price Of The Transmission Repair?
If you’re asking the question of whether you should fix your transmission or just buy a different car, understanding the true price of how to repair your car and get it on the road again is really important.
In most cases, fixing the transmission will be the cheaper option. In some instances where a car is really at the low end of its depreciation and has high repair costs/parts replacing the car entirely might be the better idea, especially if other repairs are needed.
So in essence there are two ways to repair a transmission problem. Rebuilding your current transmission or replacing it entirely. One of the others may be applicable in your situation depending on the details.
Can You Rebuild Your Current Transmission?
If your car is of any major make and has been known for having any kind of transmission issues in the past, chances are that a rebuild kit does exist for it.
A quick google search with your year, make, model, transmission type, and the words “rebuild kit” should give you a fair idea of what the components cost to rebuild your particular transmission.
If you come up empty on a search it likely means that the cost to rebuild is too expensive. Some transmissions may require manufacturer-only equipment or it could be that your specific transmission doesn’t fail enough amongst the public so nobody has built a kit.
If you do happen to find a rebuild kit for your car you still only have half of the cost figured out. Labor costs to install will almost certainly be much more and in some cases many multiples more than the cost of the rebuild kit.
Labor will vary for many many reasons, so all we have is ballpark estimates. Region, season, type of car, type of transmission, the expertise required to fix, small shop vs big shop, all these things make a difference.
What we can lock in on is the general steps required in the labor. Whether you rebuild a transmission or replace it, removing and installing it will remain constant. So what we need to know is, if it’s cheaper to rebuild a transmission or replace it entirely.
Cost Of A Replacement Transmission
Replacement transmissions can come in three different varieties each with its pros and cons. The cost difference and quality may be substantial between them so picking the right one and not just the cheapest one is the goal.
A used transmission is a solid choice for many reasons. First, you’re getting OEM parts that you know will fit your vehicle. Second, the cost for a used transmission can be as little as $100 if you find it. Now, all used transmissions probably aren’t going to be that cheap, in fact, most won’t, but it’s not uncommon to find them for about half or more of the price of a new one.
The key thing to look out for with used transmissions is history. You want to make sure that you buy a working unit that will last and wasn’t junked because it was on its way out either. Generally, you want the one from a low mileage car, the lower the better, making sure that the car it came from had lower mileage than yours.
It’s highly recommended to buy from used parts dealers that offer some kind of warranty, that way if the part is a dud you didn’t waste your money.
Remanufactured transmissions are actually rebuilt used transmissions to new or like-new condition. Think of them as buying a transmission with a rebuild kit already installed.
Usually, these transmissions are rebuilt by third-party manufacturers, who decide which parts to replace. Often times you may find superior quality remanufactured transmissions that are improved beyond factory specs.
For some transmissions, companies can identify the flaws that caused the original to fail and make an improved transmission. In these circumstances, a remanufactured unit can be superior to buying a new OEM unit.
Depending on the quality of the rebuild, a remanufactured transmission generally runs about 25%-30% less than the cost of a new OEM one.
All remanufactured transmissions aren’t better though. You can run across companies that use inferior parts that aren’t up to manufacturer specs, and will ultimately fail prematurely.
New OEM Transmission
In some instances, you have no choice but to buy a new transmission. There may be no remanufactured units available and a used unit may not be worth it. A perfect example of this would be Nissan’s CVT (continuously variable transmission).
Just a quick rundown. CVT uses belts to change gears simulating a standard automatic transmission. Nissan’s CVT had a poor design that resulted in snapping belts (which were metal) that destroyed the transmission internally. The design was so bad it never had a rebuild kit, and a used transmission was a guarantee for another failed transmission. So the only choice was new.
New transmissions are the same spec as OEM because they come from the manufacturer. Your getting the same reliability you had originally (for better or worse) but at a cost.
New transmissions will cost the most and are only available from authorized dealers. At the very least we’re talking in the thousand and up range here.
If a brand new OEM transmission is your only option then knowing how much your car is worth will let you decide whether replacing the car is a better idea.
Whats your car worth?
Before we can compare anything out we need to figure out what your car is worth with a working transmission. Now going to a site like KBB can give you a decent estimate of how much value your car has.
Cross-checking websites like eBay for sold listings is also great. Find cars with a similar condition, mileage, and spec to yours to see what people are willing to pay for it. You can ask any price for a car but it’s only worth what people are willing to pay for it.
The key to getting an accurate value is being honest. Everyone kind of overestimates how good their car is, it’s part of human nature. If your car is in need of a transmission, it’s likely that it has some age.
Older cars generally have some nicks, scrapes, mechanical niggles, worn interior bits, deferred maintenance, etc. It’s easy to gloss over these things but think like a buyer here, any imperfection is an opportunity to drive the price down.
Take it from someone who has sold many many cars; aim for the low end and you won’t be as disappointed. Trade-in value with the fair condition is likely the price you’ll be able to get. There are exceptions, if your car is a garage queen you might be able to get more.
Do You Want A Different Car Anyway?
According to the decision lab, the sunk cost fallacy is the tendency to follow through on something simply because we’ve already invested time, effort, or money into it. You don’t want to keep spending money just because you already have been.
Now, this doesn’t directly deal with the problem but is an important factor in determining whether or not to repair your transmission.
A transmission is a major component of your vehicle and when it goes wrong it hurts. So you really need to ask yourself is this a car I want to keep for the foreseeable future or is this the perfect opportunity to switch to something different?
We’re all human and it’s normal to want to try something different. So even if the numbers tell you one thing it might not be the choice you really want. Older cars will continue to get older, require more maintenance, and replacement parts.
If you do decide to keep your old car you don’t have to keep it feeling old, check out this guide with 31 tips to make your old car feel new again.
Consider this question deeply after you calculate the costs and then you’ll have the true answer to whether you should replace your transmission or your car.
If you can reasonably afford to do so and you want to keep the car for a long time, replacing the transmission with the cheapest logical choice should be your first option. However, sometimes letting something go can be the right choice even though it isn’t the easiest.