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New Transmission versus new car?

Here’s my question:

I have a 2001 Mazda MPV with 96,000+ miles on it. The transmission is slipping between 2nd and 3rd gear, and the dealer said that I’d need a new transmission, soon. The new transmission is abouit $4,200.

So… Do I drop $4,200 for a new transmission, or do I buy a new car/minivan? Is a new transmission going to give me another five years on the car, or is this one of those “beginning of the end” kind of repairs?


Peter Huggins

I think you take it to someone other than the dealer to have it rebuilt! If that’s the only thing wrong with the car at under 100k miles, I think you certainly have a lot of life left in the car.

Price the job at a good independent transmission shop, and that is not spelled AAMCO.
Another option is to find a low miles salvage unit but sometimes those can be coin flips as to whether the unit is good or not.

I would advise regular trans fluid changes in the future if you have not been doing this. Every 30k miles or so will contribute greatly to transmission life.

Shop hard and carefully on this…Go over the guarantee the shop offers (forget the dealer) VERY carefully. R&Ring these trannys and rebuilding them is a tricky process and lots can go wrong…If the vehicle is in otherwise excellent shape then go for it. But you are right on the edge of totaling the vehicle unless you can knock that repair cost down to $3000 or less…Money is tight now, and cars are cheap…

When I read “new” I translate that to mean dropping $20k+ on a new minivan. If this is your case I would get a 2nd opinion/estimate from an independent transmission shop. You may be able to fix this less and hopefully quite a bit and keep motoring on.

If you plan on purchasing another minivan used the only ones that seem somewhat immune to transmission failures are Toyota Sienna, Ford products(subpar though), and GM(really subpar). Skip over Chysler and Honda used. They explode transmissions although have improved as of late.

ABSOLUTELY don’t get this done by the dealer. If you are in a town large enough to have a Mazda dealer, you undoubtedly have some good independent transmission shops too. There is also the possibility that the tranny does not need an overhaul. I’ve had several of them “flair” between shifts that had an electronic issue that was fixed for under $200. Check the Mechanics files right here on the Car Talk site at for a shop that has been recommended by its users. Around here, I’d expect to get that unit completely overhauled for $1500 to $2000. SHOP AROUND.

You can also check for a low mileage used tranny in your area. I see some in the midwest with mileage lower than yours for as low as $550. Installation should be in the $300 range, but you run the risk of getting a bad one and getting to pay for more than one installation. I figure it was working when the original van got wrecked. I’ts probably OK. I’d take that bet, but then that’s me, not you.

It’s going to be a near the end thing but not primarily from the transmission. There are other things waiting to add to the bill.