Scrap it or keep it

One of my employees drives a 7-year old Ford Focus with about 100K miles. Today the transmission died. A new one is $3000. I told her to try for a rebuilt one for about $1500. Her mom says scrap it and get a new car. If she puts in a rebuilt transmission, I think the car will make it to her college graduation in about 2 years and she’ll skip a car payment. Any thoughts?

At this point the car is almost worth nothing. So with the money it would cost to repair the focus could you buy a replacement vehicle in better shape?

Something else to consider is the timing belt/water pump issue. Has this service been performed? If not, it’s due now.
If the car is solid, not rust eaten, runs well, and has generally been dependable I’m leaning toward advising them to fix it, although not by going the new 3 grand route.

Another possibility is to contact a few local salvage yards about a low mileage transmission. Some yards will install what they sell for a nominal fee and guarantee it to be good.

If the transmission can be rebuilt for less than $1700, it could be worth it. You have to make sure the alignment is right or the rebuilt transmission will start to be abused from day one. If an alignment was never done, you could be looking at a couple hundred more dollars for whatever is wrong there. Vehicles to avoid are Focus hatchback 02, Focus sedan 00 and Focus wagon 02 and 06. If her car is one of those, the risk goes up. The risk is just a bit worse than neutral. There are cars that are generally good risks. Somebody will have to go to the bookstore for the buying guide that is on sale now for around $9.99 and look at pg. 178. CR 2008 Annual Buying Guide. Have it checked by a mechanic before buying.