Today your car’s transmission finally gave up. No more slipping or whining. It refuses to go into gear and you are stuck in your driveway. The car is old, with a lot of miles, but it’s still in decent shape and you like it. What should you do–sell it, trade it in, or have it rebuilt?
Most of the time, trying to sell a car with a transmission problem is very difficult and you will often receive only salvage value for it. Also, purchasing another used vehicle is risky, given it may have issues and a transmission with significant mileage. With a repair, you have the option to keep the vehicle you are familiar with or sell it at a higher price.
There are a number of things to consider as you take a closer look at the options available to you:
Sell It for Scrap
You can sell your car for scrap value. If it is old and has high miles on it, find out what it is worth on Kelley Blue Book. Compare the value against the cost for a rebuild or replacement transmission, and you will most often find it costs more than the car itself is worth. Sometimes newer cars aren’t worth that much either and their owners could be surprised when making comparisons.
Trade in or Sell Online
When trading a car with a transmission problem at a dealership, you won’t get much for it, and selling it on Craigslist or some other online forum may not net you much more. Dealers may have minor transmission repairs made to it or, more likely, they will send it to auction. Typically, those hunting for cars like that on Craigslist are usually interested in it for parts.
Buy a Used Transmission
Buying and installing a used transmission is another option that can save you some money, but can also be looked at as risky. Your local transmission repair shop will find, buy and install the used transmission for you, generally for less than it costs to rebuild, and the warranty that is offered is usually in the 90 days to six months range. The risk is whether the transmission remains fine or develops problems once the warranty period is over.
Have the Transmission Rebuilt
Another option, and usually a very popular one, is to have the transmission rebuilt by a local specialist. This includes removing the transmission, taking it apart, cleaning the parts to be reused and ordering the necessary new parts, replacing all the worn parts with the new ones, putting it all back together again, and then re-installing it back into your car.
The price for this option is dependent upon what is wrong and which parts need replacing. A repair shop is likely to quote a range for the price beforehand because they won’t know the exact problem, and what needs replacing, until they take it all apart and examine the pieces individually.
Because a transmission is comprised of a lot of internal parts you cannot see, choosing a repair shop that is honest and trustworthy is important. There is no way to see for yourself if they replaced all that was needed, or if they did the minimum amount of work just to get you back on the road.
Warranties for this type of work can vary depending on the shop. Some will offer one, two, and three-year warranty options.
Which Option is Best for You?
As you evaluate the repair options, there are a few questions you can ask to help you decide which is best for you:
Do you still need that size/style car? For instance, now that the kids are grown, do you still need a minivan?
What condition is it in and how much is it worth? If it’s not in great shape and things keep going wrong with it, or if it’s worth close to the cost of the repair or less, it may be time to get something else.
If the transmission was still working well, how long would you have kept the car? If the answer is two years or more, then you may want to keep it because the payback period is two years.
If the car is new, in really good condition, or has a lot of sentimental value, you will probably want to have the transmission rebuilt. Also, if your car is functional and you don’t have enough money going forward for car payments, you will be better off paying for the repairs rather than trading it in and getting something new.