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
- Junk the Car
- Sell it or trade it in
- Used Transmission Locally
- Used Transmission Online
- Rebuild by Local Shop
- Remanufactured Locally
- Remanufactured Online
- Repair or Replace Your Car
1) Junk the Car (or Just Let it Sit)
If your vehicle is 20+ years old and has over 275k 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 $4000 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 Car In at Dealer or List for Sale on Craigslist
A car dealer will pay you a small amount (typically around $500 to $1500) for a car with a failed transmission, depending on the year/make/model, mileage and book value. 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 for sale on Craigslist. Repair shops, junkyards, dealers and hobbyists buy vehicles with bad transmissions constantly to either fix or part them out.
3) Buy Used Transmission Through a Local Shop
A general repair shop will find, 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 and labor for installing it.
Unit price range: $400 to $1600, Labor & Fluid: $400 to $800
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 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. Pro tips on buying a used transmission here.
Unit price range: $400 to $1600, Labor & Fluid: $400 to $800
5) Transmission Rebuild by a Local Transmission Shop
One of the most popular choices is to take the vehicle to a local transmission shop o 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.
Cost range: $1500 to $2500
Warranty: 1 to 2 years
6) Buy Remanufactured Transmission Through a Local Repair Shop
Another popular option is to have a general/transmission repair shop find, purchase and install a remanufactured transmission. This is a convenient option because the shop handles the entire process, but just like the used transmission in option 3 above, you’ll pay for the parts 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. If you’re wondering, here is the difference between a rebuild and remanufactured transmission.
Price range (incl. labor): $2500 to $3500 – See full pricing guide by model
Warranty: 3 years, 100,000 miles or unlimited miles, nationwide.
7) Buy a Remanufactured Transmission Factory Direct
You can purchase the remanufactured transmission factory direct and have it shipped to a local repair shop for installation. This may take a little extra time (because you have to find a local shop willing to install the transmission you have shipped to them) but you can save by avoiding the repair shop’s parts markup by $300 – $900 and save hundreds of dollars. Interested in a remanufactured transmission factory direct? Get a quote at Street Smart Transmission. At the bottom of this page is a pricing guide that lists common suppliers of remanufactured transmissions and their current pricing.
Transmission Price: $1300 to $3500 – See full pricing guide by model
Install Labor: $500 to $900
Warranty: 3 years, unlimited miles, nationwide, transferable.
8) Buy A Remanufactured Transmission Through A Dealership
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
- Get an Estimate on Your Transmission Replacement
- Rebuilt vs Remanufactured Transmissions
- Complete Guide to Remanufactured Transmissions
- Ask Our Transmission Expert Marc a Question
- Find a Transmission Repair Shop
More Information by Transmission Type
Over to You
Has your transmission failed? Which of these options are you considering and why?