Transmission shot: Trade in or repair (and then trade in)

Hey guys,

the transmission on our Toyota Highlander 2001 with 145k miles is shot and needs to be replaced. The quote from our trusted repair shop is $3300 for a used transmission with 77k miles (6mo warranty).

Since we wanted to buy a new car anyway, right now the question is, do we trade in the car as is or fix it and then trade it in. The guy at the repair shop said the dealer would pay max. $1000 for the car as is and ship it off to an auction. I checked KBB and for the fixed car we should be able to get at least $5500.

What is your opinion? Fix it or trade it?

Thanks a lot, Christoph and April

If you have to ask, you can’t afford to trade it. You should fix it and sell it. Then make an offer on a new vehicle. At the price range of a new Highlander, you should be able to get $4,000 off anyway even if you don’t know anything about buying cars.

Another point: Dealers probably won’t offer you anything for a non-operable vehicle. Either way, you have to get it fixed.

Your vehicle is 11 years old with a 145 miles and your mechanic is correct. The vehicle is a wholesale unit at best even with a new transmission and if you actually got 5500 dollars in trade then it would only be a numbers shell game in which you’re led to believe you got that much. The reality is generally buried deep underneath the BS.

You say the shop is trusted, but the quote for a used transmission seems a bit high. Also any chance the diagnosis is not correct?

I agree with galant, I’d get other prices, and other opinions on the problem. Try a specialty transmission shop. See if you can find a local business, not a nationwide chain.

I’ve never understood why someone would try to sell something broken, nobody wants to buy something that’s not working. If you do the math, it seems to me that you’d do better financially by spending for the repair, then selling a running vehicle.

unfixed, it’s scrap metal, a salvage unit…Fixed with a used transmission, assuming that works out as planned and priced, a big “IF”, you are back to market value…Having your transmission repaired by a qualified, independent transmission shop will ad the most value to the vehicle…

Before making any decisions check and see what the going market price is for these types of vehicles in your area. Where I am, it can be almost hard to GIVE away SUVs.

Your car is probably worth more than a thousand as it is. Make a few calls to companies that buy cars in your area. Posting it on craigslist might surprise you as well. If it still drives, I would think you would get a lot more than $1000 for a trade.

A few points.
The OP assumes they would get 5500 dollars based on a KBB value which may or may not be overly optimistic. There seems to be a number of Highlanders on eBay that are going unsold.

The transmission has a 6 month warranty. What does that mean? Most salvage yard transmissions have a guarantee but I’ve never seen one yet that guarantees labor.
Since about half of the"guaranteed to be good" boneyard engines, transmissions, and rear axles I’ve seen have issues ranging from comparatively mild to scrap metal the odds of getting a flawed unit are not low.

What happens if this used transmission has a few warts? Is the shop going to dredge another transmission up and install it for free along with maybe doing it again if the second used transmission is flawed? Or is the shop charging double on this to cover their tail end in the event of a problem. Just something for consideration.

ok4450 makes the right argument about not buying a junkyard transmission…ie, that you don’t know what you’re buying, but you’ll have to spend for labor even if it’s junk. If you have your transmission rebuilt, you know exactly what you’ve got, which is a good transmission. At that point, keep the paperwork on the trans repair and sell the vehicle privately. At least get a price on the rebuild from an independent shop, look for comparable vehicles for sale on Craigslist and elsewhere, and see if it pencils out. If not, sell it as is, for very cheap…privately (if you can). I think the smarter move financially is to fix and sell.

Go to

Fill out all the questions as truthfully as possible. There’s a section on the condition…Explain what the problem is (i.e. Transmission needs replacing).

You’ll get a quote from Autotrader telling what your vehicle is worth. The price is GUARANTEED. They’ll give you a list of participating dealers near you who will buy the vehicle at that GUARANTEED price. Their prices are WHOLESALE prices. And with a transmission shot I don’t think you’re going to get much more then that.

I have been researching transmission issues on my Acura MDX as I am encountered an odd vibration. A OEM Acura unit (reconditioned with 3yr/36k warranty) installed by the dealer is $4000.

The quote for $3300 seems suspect for something used with 77k.

I’ve got an 06 Maxima SL, I’ve always kept it in excellent repair. I’ve got only about 60,000 easy miles on it (never driven it hard). Its an automatic, about a month ago when driving the gears would shift hard, or surge into gears. I took it to the dealer. explained the problem, they said it was the right engine mount. There’s no engine light coming on. Ok, got that fixed. A few days later the gears are still acting up. Brought it back. They said I probably need a transmission flush, and if I did the flush it could lead to the transmission going. They came with a price of a transmission of about $3 to $4 thousand dollars. I left to get a second opinion. Took it to a highly reviewed mechanic I found on Yelp. He gave it a diagnostic test and could not find anything wrong, no code came up, engine light, nothing. Said it was in stellar condition. But that doesn’t solve my gear problem. Ok he referred me to another “honest” guy that deals in transmissions. Took it to him. He did a flush. few days later gears still shifting hard but not as much. Took it back to him, now he says that its needs Valve Body Assembly work done. at about $1800. OMG! what the hell. I said if I got this done. what would prevent the transmission going completely. He said that wouldn’t happen because there’s no code from the dianostic test, no engine light. I think I’ll get another second opinion to have this checked. Whats your take on all this. I just want to have the problem resolved without going broke.
Thanks for any solid answers.

If you are thinking of trading it, I doubt you will get your money back if you perform the repairs. The $3500 push pull or drag trade in offer is a recurrent theme in our neighborhood. You have not seen what you get in trade in, chances are they will wholesale the car either way. Your mechanic is not the dealer, go to a dealer and play the shell game!