8 Options if Your Transmission Has Failed

For one reason or another, your transmission has failed (I’m sorry to hear that). It might be that your car won’t move forward, will not shift, or has no reverse.

Now you’re wondering whether you should repair, rebuild or replace your transmission. Or maybe you’re thinking it might be better to simply buy a new car. To help you make this important and often time-sensitive decision, this article outlines the 8 options you have to choose from once it has been confirmed that your transmission has failed.

In This Guide

  1. Junk the Car
  2. Sell it or trade it in
  3. Used Transmission Locally
  4. Used Transmission Online
  5. Rebuild by Local Shop
  6. Remanufactured Locally
  7. Remanufactured Online
  8. Dealership
  9. Repair or Replace Your Car

1) Junk the Car (or Just Let it Sit)

Junk the CarIf your vehicle is 20+ years old and has over 200k miles on it, then the cost of repair or replacement is most likely higher than the value of the vehicle. In this case, it’s typically not worth getting the car fixed unless it holds significant sentimental value.

Owners of newer cars can find themselves in this situation as well. For example, it can cost between $3000 and $5000 to fix the CVT transmission in a 10 year old 2005 Ford Freestyle when the value of the car is less than $4000 at the time of failure.

2) Trade it in or List on Craigslist

craigslistA car dealer will pay you a small amount (typically around $250 to $500) for a “junk car” with a failed transmission. The dealer will usually have a transmission repair shop do minor repairs or replace the transmission with a used unit to get the vehicle running again. Alternatively, you can list it on Craigslist. Shops, junkyards and hobbyists buy bad transmission cars constantly to either fix or part them out.

3) Used Transmission From a Local Shop

Used TransmissionA general repair shop will find (typically on a website like www.car-part.com or local LKQ), purchase and install a used transmission in your car. This is a cheap, hands-off option, but you pay the markup the shop applies to the cost of the transmission for “sourcing” the unit.

Price range (incl. labor): $800 to $1500
Warranty: 90 days to 6 months

4) Buy a Used Transmission Online or From a Junkyard

You can buy a used transmission from a local junkyard or online on a website like www.car-part.com and have it shipped to a repair shop for installation.

This is the most affordable option, but it is also the highest risk as shops don’t warranty transmissions that aren’t supplied by them. There is no recourse if the unit turns out to be faulty and fails soon after it’s installed.

Unit price range: $400 to $1600, Labour & Fluid: $400 to $800
Warranty: None

5) Rebuild by a Local Shop

Transmission RebuildOne of the most popular choices is to take the vehicle to a transmission repair shop to have the transmission rebuilt. They will remove the transmission, take it apart, clean all the parts, replace the worn out/failed parts including clutch plates and bands, seals, gaskets and solenoids, put it all back together again and finally re-install it.

The cost of an average rebuild usually ranges from $1500 to $2500 (some higher end cars can be $3500+). The range is so wide because it depends heavily on what was wrong with the transmission and what caused the failure. The final price could be higher or lower than the price initially quoted by the shop as it’s very difficult to determine the extent of the damage/problem until the transmission has been removed and disassembled.

Another potential drawback is that there is no way to tell if the shop did a thorough and complete job or simply patched the transmission (did the minimum amount of work to get it back on the road). This is why it’s so important to find a quality repair shop that will give you an honest estimated price range, stick to it and do the work they said they would.

Need Your Transmission Repaired? A good repair shop can be hard to find – especially on short notice. We’ll have the Cost Guide Certified shop in your area give you a call with a free estimate.

Cost range: $1500 to $2500
Warranty: 1 to 2 years

Interested in this option? Get an Estimate from a Cost Guide Certified Shop.

6) Remanufactured Transmission From a Local Shop

Another popular option is to have a general/transmission repair shop find, purchase and install a remanufactured transmission. This is a very convenient option because the shop handles the entire process, but just like the used transmission in option 3 above, you’ll pay for the markup the shop applies to the unit for finding and buying it. If you want to save some money by eliminating this markup, consider option 7 below.

Price range (incl. labor): $2500 to $3500
Warranty: 3 years, 100,000 miles

Interested in this option? Get an Estimate from a Cost Guide Certified Shop.

If you’re wondering, here is the difference between a rebuild and remanufactured transmission.

7) Buy a Remanufactured Transmission Online

Street Smart TransmissionAlternatively, you can purchase the remanufactured unit online and have it shipped to a local shop for installation. This option is a bit more involved compared to #6, but by avoiding a shop’s markup you can save you several hundred dollars. For example, you might pay $2000 for the transmission and $600 for the installation labor and new transmission fluid.

IMPORTANT: Before purchasing a unit, you will need to contact local automotive repair shops to get estimates for transmission installation, and confirm they’ll install a transmission they didn’t supply themselves.

Interested in a reman? Get a quote from our trusted partners at Street Smart Transmission.

Unit price range: $1400 to $3000, Labour & Fluid: $400 to $800
Warranty: 3 years, 100,000 miles

8) Buy A Reman From A Dealer

You can also take your car to your local dealership to have them find and install a remanufactured transmission direct from the OEM. This is the most expensive option – it typically costs $1800 to $2800 for the transmission itself plus labor at $100 to $150 per hour to install it.

How to Decide Whether to Repair or Replace Your Car

Now that you know the options available, you’re probably wondering if it’s worth repairing your car or if you should start looking for a replacement. There isn’t one right answer as it depends on the year, make/model, mileage and condition of your vehicle as well as your personal situation (work/family driving requirements), but here are a few tips to help you make this important decision:

Does your car still meet your needs?
Things change. Sometimes the purpose you bought your car for years ago is no longer necessary. For example, if you’ve recently been married and are planning to have kids, does that sports car still make sense? The kids have all moved out, do you still need that 7 seat minivan? Or maybe you’ve retired and no longer need a pickup for hauling things at work.

What condition is it in?
If your 14 year old car that has more than a little bit of rust on it, has over 200,000 miles and is worth less than $2,000, then it probably isn’t worth investing several thousand dollars in a transmission repair or replacement. If the car is rust free, runs smoothly and all the other parts are in good condition, then it makes sense to at least consider a replacement transmission.

How long would you have kept the car?
If your transmission hadn’t died, were you planning to keep it for another 2+ years? The payback period of a replacement transmission is about 2 years, which means that if you choose to get a new transmission installed, you’ll want to drive your car for another 2 years in order to get your money’s worth.

That said, if your car is newer or in really good condition and is still worth a significant amount of money, then it probably makes sense to replace the transmission and get it back on the road. You can then continue driving it, sell it or trade it in. Otherwise, the value of a car that won’t drive is very low.

What to Read Next

Over to You

Has your transmission failed? Which of these options are you considering and why?

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11 thoughts on “8 Options if Your Transmission Has Failed

  1. My Ford Explorer 2002 failed to move when I put it in reverse or drive after I changed the engine oil and the oil filter.
    I have had no problems with it at all and only needed to change the engine oil after the message center read, “Change Oil Soon”.
    The Rev count goes up when I rev and the Speedometer starts to increase after constant revs but the car won’t move. What could be the problem? Please help me with ideas before I go to see the mechanic.

  2. Following your enquiry…….
    as my new 2015 Ford Mustang, after driving only 400 kms, has the same problem!
    Transmission has been taken out by Ford Dealership and all parts cleaned and inspected,
    but no faults found.

  3. Is there any reason my 2001 Dodge Durango that I bought a week and a half before the transmission went out should still be at the mechanic? It’s literally already been there two weeks ànd I called today and they said am I crazy another 7-10 days. I need my car and this just seems like an outrageous amount of time to fix it. And there charging alittle over 2000 dollars to rebuild it. To top it off the place I took it to without my permission decided they were going to take it somewhere else to fix it and didn’t ask me first and now there saing itbgoing to t ake 7 to ten more days. I don’t even know the location of my car right now. What can I do about this mess

  4. The TCM (transmission control module) went bad on my 2015 Ford Fiesta after 85k miles. According to the dealer, it was under warranty. It started over heating and then would not start. I had to put the car in Neutral in order for it to start. After taking it to the dealer, it took 2 1/2 weeks to order parts and fix. Once fixed, I received a phone call stating that the car will not go into reverse, which was not a problem before leaving it at the Ford service center. This will ONLY cost me $1500. What?! Ok several days later on a Thursday, I informed dealer to proceed. Keep in mind that I have not been to work in 2 1/2 weeks, because I am a private contractor and you know what that means…no work…no pay. So I was informed that it will take another few days to order the part and fix whatever is causing the car not to go into reverse. I am so disgusted and will miss another 3-4 days of work!

  5. I have a 2005 ford freestar and the transmission just went on it. I love my mini van but I am wondering if I should get it fixed or not. Does anyone have a rebuilt / remanufactured transmission . I have 120k miles on the van. Any suggestions?

  6. My MR2 Spyder’s transmission has failed. I picked it up for $3300 in a market that they normally go for $8k for one in my condition, and now that I’ve started tearing into it, I can see why it was so cheap. I’m gonna replace all the oily-bits; the car is worth it, both monetarily and for my own personal attachment.

  7. I have a 2007 Jetta Wolfsburg Edition. It has 61,800 miles and the transmission is acting up. I was quoted $1300. I am getting a second and third opinion, but it sucks that this has happened with only 61,800 miles!! What would you do?

  8. My Honda City 2007 model doesn’t change gear. It’s an automatic. Sometime the indicator light on the dashboard rapidly moves from ‘D’ drive to ‘P’ park while it is still moving. Then it become difficult to accelerate no matter how you throttle. Do I need to change the gear completely.

  9. I have a 2015 Chevy Malibu. I ran over a median in a dark and unfamiliar area. The car immediately lost power, check engine light came on. The tow driver said it looked like I punctured the transmission pan because all the fluid drained out on the road. Had it towed to a dealer. Dealer says the only way to repair the car is to replace the entire transmission for $5,300.00???!!! This sounds INSANE! Is this even possible???? Shold I have it towed to a transmission specialty shop instead? I can’t afford this. I’ve had the car only 3 months and it only has 40,000 miles. Please help!

  10. Took my 2002 Ford Focus (4 door style) to a local shop. It was losing power and barely making it uphill and if I tried to increase speed it would amp real high and the “gear shaped” warning light would come on. It would be low on Transmission fluid and after I added it the light would go off. Shop said transmission needed replaced and ordered me a used on from a junk yard. Never told me it would be my risk or there would be no guarantee on the used transmission or his labor. It is in fine print on the receipt he gave me but gave me no info before hand. $1400 total. 2 days after I got it back it started hard shifting when I put it in R or D, once in a while and lagging on take off when I put it in D once in a while. I went back to shop after couple weeks. He told me that he called junk yard and was waiting for them to call and tell him if there was any warranty (on a transmission he found and bought for my car) and would call me. But that if there was that would be the only warranty I would have. I feel like he ripped me off. Is this common practice? Also the number I called had been that of a transmission shop I had used before and was well trusted in the community He answered the phone with that shops name and only told me that it was no longer them after I was there and arranged to have him look at my transmission. He said that shop owner let him keep the number (like the previous shop owner was recommending the new shop)and actually brought his trans work to the new shop now. That seemed to make sense to me and I trusted him because of it. This article says that if the shop finds and orders the transmission it has a 90 day – 6 month warranty. Does that hold true here? I am in Missouri.

  11. Just got a 2006 Nissan Frontier with 130,000 miles on it. On the second day of owning it my transmission completely clunker out. It was a 6 speed manual and when i would put it in any gear it would just go straight to 5,000 rpm’s and would budge, this article has really helped me decide what i should probably do with it. I will probably get a rebuilt one.

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