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Subaru, 100k miles, transmission shot - repair or buy new?

Vehicle is a 2008 Subaru Legacy 2.5i Limited, 100k miles. Timing belt has not been replaced yet, but I have been the sole owner and have kept up on all major and minor maintenance. New brakes 6 months ago, new tires 4 months ago.

I didn’t notice my transmission was leaking and I drove my vehicle about a mile before the transmission failed – no power, some white smoke coming from engine, and clear red liquid leaking profusely. I parked immediately and had it towed to my mechanic.

They quoted me $3.2k to replace my five-speed transmission with a used transmission, 75k miles on it. Said they’d give me a 6 mos. warranty on it. Another mechanic said he’d replace it for $4.5k and give me a 3 year, 36k mile warranty on it. Another said $4.5k for a rebuilt transmission – forgot to ask about a warranty.

While I have taken care of this car, it has been through some accidents. I hit a deer about 6 years ago and wrecked the front end, bent the chassis, causing about $4.5k worth of damage. Six months ago I got into a fender bender and once again had the front end replaced (hood, lights, bumper, etc.).

Other than those accidents, the car has served me really well. I drove across the country in it twice, have navigated many mountain roads, etc., and have had no major issues. Well, aside from this. It has all the normal wear and tear you’d find in a vehicle of its age and use - dings, some scratches, etc. - but on the whole it looks quite good, especially with a fresh paint job and new lights in the front, and the interior is really well cared for.

KBB puts the value of my car in good, working condition at about $5k. NADA, however, put it at $8k.

I’ve gotten about every single opinion possible from the people I’ve asked about what to do with it. Some have said that given its age, this issue, and the fact it’s been in some accidents, I’m bound to have more major problems sooner rather than later and I should just sell it as is for what I can get (which – I have no idea, but I’d guess around $3k?).

Others have said given it’s a good vehicle that I’ve taken care of, I should replace the transmission, get the timing belt taken care of, and keep driving it.

I have never owned any other vehicle and am at a loss about what to do. While I could afford a modest new car or a good used car, I don’t want to take on that expense if it would be smarter for me to just fix what I have. I’m just looking for people’s opinions – what would you do, given everything I’ve described above?

This is what I tell people.

“Don’t buy a Subaru.”

And I also tell them.

“And if you ever get a chance to get rid of a Subaru, do it!”


Would I spend the amount of money this thing needs at 9 years old, 2 accidents and not really worth the amount you got from KBB ? No.

Kelley Blue Book says this car is worth $5300 in Good condition. Trade in is $3500. With the accidents, it may have a tainted CarFax report making it worth less. AND you need a $1000 (or so) new timing belt. The only real options are to pay $4500 for a rebuilt trans with a 3 year warranty. Anything less is nuts. So you spend $5500 on this car worth $5500.

It isn’t worth much broken. Not $3000 for sure. MAYbe $800 for parts on Craigslist. Maybe $2-300 to a junkyard for scrap. Call a few junk yards to see what they’d pay. Then sell it to them and go look for another car.

Junk it and walk away.

I wouldn’t have any problem with replacing the transmission with a junkyard version from a wrecked Subie with 75 k myself. But whether it is a good choice for you depends on how much turmoil you are willing to live with. If you have another car to use while the Subie is being fixed, and willing to spend the time to take it back to the shop several times to get the bugs ironed out of the transmission replant, a used transmission probably makes sense. However if you only have one car and and super-busy,. need it to start up and take you where you are going every single day, without fail, and without consuming a lot of your time with niggling problems, probably time to start looking for another vehicle.

I guess the only thing I can add to this conversation is to find a mechanic who really specializes in Subarus and get a second opinion on the condition of the transmission. I’ve seen one too many people being told the transmission (or engine) is terminally broken, when it might be fixable. It’s worth asking around.


I second this, and don’t go to a transmission shop (except for third quote if second opinion confirms first). A second opinion is alway a good business practice, and car repair is a business transaction.

I personally love my 2014 Legacy. It actually worries me that tester is saying to keep away from them. Besides the fuel pump check valve going bad I have not had any issues, but with your mileage i would probably take the hit and move on. After so many miles, and at least 1 major accident it is probably on borrowed time.


Ask about cost of timing belt replacement at same time. There may be a significant cost saving if they pull motor to install transmission. Also preps you for more upcoming costs for even better informed decision.

transaxle fluid requirements has always been confusing with auto trans and than throwing in manual trans adds another layer of complexity. a subie manual trans uses what type of fluid? and the differential uses what type of fluid?

second that

I had 5 Subarus in the past, never was stranded on the side of the road or had major issue to repair.

The reason I’ve got out was that my back began telling me that Impreza seats are not exactly what it would tolerate and new Outback at the time had far worse seating than Nissan Altima, that made me switch, otherwise I would call myself Subaru addict

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Seems like I am with the majority here. Your Subie appears to be “fully depreciated.”

Not sure anyone will care but I just sold it for $5,800 as-is… which I think is pretty dang good!


Wow! That’s pretty dang good! How’d you do it?

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Craigslist – I listed it at $6k OBO, and a gentleman who makes a living buying and doing his own work on Subarus, then selling them, offered $5,800. Drove down, checked it out, liked what he saw and towed it away!

Definitely glad I didn’t take the shop’s offer of $600!


I just noticed it changed from a six speed to a five speed so this could be an automatic or manual transmission. If it is an automatic it sounds like a cooler line broke. What was leaking?

It’s an automatic, and transmission fluid was leaking.

Your shop should have given you a better answer than that, some transmission leaks are not expensive to repair.

Interesting. So the guy will plug the leak, put fluid in it and sell it on CL for $7000? Another reason to avoid CL. Not saying it doesn’t happen but I’ve never ruined a transmission by having the fluid leak out. It just stops working and you fix the leak. Now if it is slipping because of low fluid and you drive it, that will do it. I suspect the trans was ok. I also would be a little Leary of Subies, just from all the issues on this on this board but some people are just fans like Prius owners.

It was slipping and I drove it, it wasn’t just a singular leak. I drove on
it for a bit, the engine started smoking and emitted a foul burning smell.