Should I fix my jalopy?

I am the owner of a 2002 Honda Odyssey with 167000 miles on the clock. About two years ago, my automatic transmission started to give out. At first, it would refuse to go into 3rd, and so I would go in 2nd until I got up to speed, then shift into drive, and it would (reluctantly) shift into overdrive. This worked for a while, but in the last couple of months, it has begun to give problems in other gears as well. It is increasingly reluctant to go into reverse and just the last couple of days, shifting from 1st to 2nd has begun to be a little problematic. Obviously, a transmission rebuild is looming. My regular mechanic, a fairly reputable fellow that I have been going to for several years, has quoted me $4500 to rebuild the transmission. The question is, is this worthwhile?

I should say that I have no particular emotional attachment to the car. Buying a replacement would be difficult, but so would paying for this very expensive repair. The car is otherwise in apparently pretty good condition - there is a small oil leak, a few minor divots in the outside trim, but otherwise it has held up well. If I thought I could get another 50,000 miles out of it, the repair might be worth it - my question is, how likely is this given the general track record of Hondas?

You don’t want to sink too much money into this vehicle.

How about installing a used transmission? I installed a used transmission in my daughters 96 Honda a few months back and she’s still driving it. The transmission cost $350.00. And of course, dear ole dad installed it for free.


Have you kept the van well maintained? If the transmission is failing from lack of service what about scheduled service of the engine, suspension, brakes, etc?

I like tester’s suggestion. In fact, I did the same to my son’s transmission last year. It cost me $250 and a bunch of 4x4 lumber to build cribbing with to get that wreck up in the air to get the transmission under it.

I agree with Tester. I believe though that no one overhauls a Honda transmission but they just replace them.

This is another vote for @Tester’s idea. I 've been very lucky in the transmission department and only had to replace a couple of them. They were both bought used. Some people balk at buying used parts but if you really think about it…they are driving a bunch of used parts anyway. It makes no sense to me why they feel this way but I guess it helps make the world go round.

Certain years of Honda Odysseys are prone to transmission problems. If you can find a used transmission for yours, that might be the way to go, but I suspect it will be hard to find a used one compatible with yours, as the used supply has probably been taken by people with the same problem you’re having. Also, you may just be getting a transmission that’s nearing failure if you do find a used one.

Even if a new or remanufactured transmission is a few thousand, it will be cheaper to go this route than replace the vehicle, but it is getting up there in miles too, and any vehicle approaching 200K is going to start nickle and diming you for repairs. If you have no attachment to the vehicle and can afford to take a loss on trading or selling it since it has problems, it might be time to move on.

Local techs on CL throw out $1700 or so for odyssey trans overhaul. I assume that includes converter and stuff. Maybe they add $600 more in shops fees?

I’d also put in a used transmission. As long as Tester installs it at the buddy price. You are his long lost son, right? Seriously, I would guess it will cost mor than a grand if you find a used transmission for $350. Even then, it might be worth it. But you never know when something else might go wrong. I’d buy something else. But you know your finances better than we do.

$4500 seems a little steep for a rebuild of a 2002 transmission, but maybe that is the going rate. If a replacement transmission can be found, worth a shot, as mentioned above.

On the economics, everyone thinks about this kind of thing differently; I think about it this way: What’s a new car payment now-a-day? $1000/month? So if you spend $4500 on a rebuild, and it lasted 5 months, you’d still be money ahead, as you’d have saved $5000 in new car payments. I think if a repair can be expected to last a year, and in doing the repair you are money ahead compared to the bill for monthly new car payments for that year, that’s a metric that would indicate the repair is the better alternative.

@GeorgeSanJose Businesses typically take the depreciation on a new machine over its life (such as 15 years) and compare it with the repairs needed to the current machine. It’s actually more complicated than that, but you get the picture. The annual cost of ownership should keep declining up to a point where that figure exceeds the Average annual cost to date. That inflection point is the time to trade. Governments can influence this by various tax treatments. And the interest rate plays a role as well.

You can plot this curve for yourself; with some of the cars I’ve owned that figure came at 13-19 years.

Tom and Ray typically say that if the repair costs get bigger than the typical monthly installment on a 5 year payment schedule, it’s time to trade. That allows for a lot of repairs.

The KBB value for that vehicle (with a good running transmission) is $3K for a trade-in, and $4K if you sell it privately.

If you sink $4500 into the van for the transmission, it will still only be worth the above figures.

There is more risk if you go with a used transmission, but if you can find one that you trust, as others have noted, it may be your best option.

I think about it this way: What’s a new car payment now-a-day? $1000/month?

Most car payments are $250-$

If the car is solid other than the transmission I would say fix it but price it around. That 4500 dollar quote sounds kind of high from a general mechanic.

It could be that he’s not even actually going to rebuild the transmission. He may R & R (Remove and Replace) the transmission and farm the rebuild out to someone elsefollowed by tacking on a substantial markup.
Might as well cut out the middleman if the above is the case.

Turns out that shopping around was a good idea. A regular transmission shop (national chain, no names I guess) quoted me a range: $2500-4000 with average about 3200 for a rebuild. They found a used transmission with 65000 miles on it for 1100, but shop fees were about 800 and no guarantee on the used tranny. I’m tempted to take their recondition. This is the only major work on the car in the last two years or so - so monthly repair costs over those two years (assuming the transmission costs 3500) are 150, cheaper than a car payment. Thanks all for your suggestions and comments.

Good cost analysis Stewart. Sounds like you are on the right track. Thanks for posting your conclusion. Best of luck.

What’s the typical car payment? It varies of course. Depends on how expensive the car is, how long the loan is, and the interest rate charged. Here’s some data for purposes of comparison.

Loan amount: $25,000
Term: 48 months
Rate: 10%
Monthly payment: $634

I paid $1,600 to get my 02 Odyssey tranny rebuilt. $800 for parts and $800 for labor. Shop around, you’ll get a wide range of quotes. The dealer wanted $6,000 to replace the tranny.

I got a 50,000 mile warranty too, but I expect it to last another 100,000 miles.

Count your blesings, a few years ago while on vacation far from home the Transmission in my uncles VW Eurovan was proving to be on it’s last legs (wasn’t sure if it would make it off the ferry) by pure luck they found the only transmission available for that van at the local dealer a few miles from where we had gathered. With a discount since the part had been sitting around having been ordered for someone who never showed up it still was over $5,000 installed but now the van is used only for local travel and to them was worth the money not to have to buy an unknown replacement to get home.