Used Transmission for Prius?

I bottomed out my 2007 Prius pulling into a parking lot, and the the transmission housing got cracked, with the result that the entire transmission must be replaced. Ouch! (thank you, earlier responders for confirming that housings are not available separately) The insurance appraiser has been out to the dealership and has located a used Prius transmission with 17,000 miles on it (my Prius has about 24,000 miles). Supposedly, the insurance company warrants the used transmission for as long as I own the car, but I haven’t been able to get that in writing yet. What are the pitfalls with this? What are my options? I have a really bad feeling about putting a used transmission into a car that I want to keep for 200,000 miles.

My thought about used parts is that all the parts on my car are used, so one more used part shouldn’t make a difference. If the used transmission has only 17,000 miles and is guaranteed, I don’t see a problem. The transmission will be the newest part on your car.

It would be hard to do much damage to a transmission in the first 17K miles of its life. Of course, you are proof that it is possible. Fortunately, it is pretty easy to tell what kind of shape it is in by looking at the fluid, filter, and the bottom of the pan.
I assume this [used transmission] is from a wrecked Prius? A good external inspection is called for too.

Why are you worried about a used transmission? Your Prius has a used transmission in it, and until you cracked the case you weren’t worried about it, were you?

Your options are:

  1. Used transmission.

  2. New transmission.

How much will the insurance cover?

A warranty that’s not in writing is not a warranty. On the other hand a warranty that covers the transmission for as long as you own the car is a pretty good warranty.

I think you should be HAPPY! You are getting an equivalent transmission to the one you cracked. And, insurance is covering it. The deductable is much less than what you were looking at to replace it on your own.

This transmission is likely to last just a many miles as the original one. Be aware that to go 200,000 miles on a car you can expect to replace the transmission sometime before you get to 200K. If the replacement you get now konks out at 120K it doesn’t mean you got a bad deal. You can expect to get to 100K miles out of it. How far beyond 100K is a matter of maintenance, how hard the tranny gets used, and a little of bit of luck.

Your Prius Is Still Under Toyota’s Warranty, Correct?

You need to find out what that does to the entire Toyota warranty if a used transmission is installed. Should that prove not to be problematic then you could proceed.

You would need this life-time warranty in writing from the insurance company and some reasonable idea that they will be in business 10 years down the road. Make sure everything is covered in full, parts and labor.

You don’t want to do anything to jeopardize the Toyota Warranty on the rest of the car and Toyota won’t cover a used transmission, I’m sure.

Don’t get pushed into anything you’re not comfortable with. you are the car owner and you have to authorize any repairs with your signature. Insist on a brand new transmission if something is out of order. But first find out the availability of a new complete Prius transmission before making waves. I don’t know if you’ve got something else to drive and I’ve seen things like this go on back-order for a long, long time. Check it out.

Something else to think about: Your damaged transmission was a “used” transmission. We know it had almost 24,000 miles on it (and it had a rough life … just joking).

What verification do you get showing the 17,000 miles on the used transmission? Also, it is from a 2007, correct?


If this thing as a CVT transmission, they can’t be repaired. They can only be replaced.

Be aware that to go 200,000 miles on a car you can expect to replace the transmission sometime before you get to 200K

Why do you say that??? We’ve had 4 cars well past 200k miles…3 past 300k miles on the original transmission.

That Has Been Our Experience As Well. It’s Body Rust That Kills Them, Eventually.

I’m glad you have long lasting transmissions. Do you feel that your experience is the norm?

What percentage of transmissions make it past 200K miles without either a replacement or a rebuild? More than 1/2? Or less than 1/2? I’ve never seen a stat on this.

I didn’t say the transmission we’re discussing on this thread wouldn’t go 200K miles. Just that many, or perhaps most, don’t make it that far.

Since 1965 I’ve owned 27 cars. So far I’ve had only one car past 200K and it didn’t need a transmission. I’ve never had a major motor failure, never needed a valve job, and never needed a new or rebuilt transmission. I think I’m lucky and that good maintenance practices contribute to my being lucky. If I am told someday at 150K that my transmission is gone, I won’t be happy but I won’t be surprised either.

The Prius transmission is unlike any other gas engine automatic or CVT transmission. It’s arranged more like a differential. I think it can las an awful long time if the bearings hold up.

Uncle Turbo; I believe that “Luck is the residue of PLANNING”. In another post I wrote that we have never replaced a transmission or engine in any of our cars and have had automatics since 1965. We have scrapped 2 cars because of dangerous rust-through damage.

The only transmission repair we ever had was on a 1971 Mercury Comet 6 with a C-4 transmission; that came to $185. The mileage does not seem to matter with good maintenance. Our 1984 Impala 3 speed automatic performed like new when we sold the car with 282,000 miles on it. It’s still running around town somewhere.

Are you saying transmission failure is always the result of owner neglect of proper maintenance? Do engineers design transmissions to last forever? Isn’t something called “service life” part of the design process?

I agree that many transmissions fail prematurely due to lack of proper maintenance. I can’t agree that all transmissions will never fail if the owner maintains it properly. Everything has a “life” and sometimes parts wear out even if everything is maintained properly.

Thanks for the sound advice and the sense of humor. Yes, I have confirmed that the Toyota warranty for the rest of the car will not be impaired, and the work is on hold until I get the written guarantee from the insurance company tomorrow. It will take that long for the transmission to get to my town, anyway. It is a 2007 transmission, but I don’t know about documentation about its age. I did ask if there was a VIN number stamped on the transmission or any other identifying information that would enable someone to trace the transmission back to the original vehicle. I think most states have some sort of provisions for scrap or salvage certificates of title, and presumably there should be some way to trace the part back to its origin, although this is an area of commerce where it can be a little tricky to be sure that no misrepresentations have occurred anywhere along the chain. Anyway, I think I’ve done about all I have the time or energy for.

The dealership has a good reputation, and the service department there will be examining the transmission before installing it. I did look into the cost of a new Prius transmission, and the difference between a new one and the used one (which is a cost that I would have to eat) was nearly $2,000, so used it is. Bad luck for me, good luck for the insurance company.

Thanks to all responders for their helpful comments and advice.

Uncle Turbo; nothing is ever totally black or white. A well designed transmission, maintained as required will ususally last the life of the car. Unfortunately there have been many poor designs that focused on economy and made reliability shortcuts. These transmissions, such as in Ford Windstars, and some of the Honda units in the past as well as Volkswagen Passat units, were intrinsically weak in certain areas and under most driving conditions, failed midway through the life of the car.

I think we all got spoiled by the GM, Ford and Chrysler transmissions from the past. These were 3 speed rugged units that would withstand towing and handled high horsepower stresses. These units have large safety factors and did not have to be super efficient.

If you recall in Auto Repair columns in the papers from the past, there were far fewer transmission failure posts.

The main problems now is to prevent transmissions form overheating. Keeping the cooling system clean is a key factor.

With respect to design life, based on what I know, a good Japanese company will use about 300,000 miles as a minimum design life and will test the unit to make sure. They put in a good safety margin to keep the warranty costs down resulting from abuse that can’t be proven. US companies now try to do the same in order to keep up and be competitive. Buick has just risen to the top of the reliability list through systematically getting rid of the bugs in their design and assembly.

An Italian company may be satisfied with 150,000 miles since the rest of the car won’t last that long and Europeans don’t keep their cars very long. Most British cars, with the exception of the London Taxi, have much shorter design life in all their parts. Rolls Royce used a modified GM Hydramatic unit since it was the best one they could find.

Chrysler will start using Fiat Technology for their new small cars. You’ll see the worst combination of poor European and poor North American design and manufacturing quality having to compete with Honda Fits, Toyota Yaris and the new Mazda 2. Expect these new Chrysler small cars to have a design life much shorter than what we normally expect.

Worry Wart, It Sounds Like You’ve Got It Handled! I Know What You Mean About Time And Energy . . .

. . . It’s difficult. Stop worrying. You can’t go back and undo the damage in the parking lot. It’s hard for me me too, but I’ve been advised to worry about things I can do something about.
I think you’ll be all set. You’ve got your ducks in a row! You’re welcome if I’ve helped.


Right you are about the Windstar transmissions, Docnick. I had a Windstar before I had the Prius, and guess what failed at 50,000 miles? (and I never towed a thing with it)

Thanks again, everyone, for all the great comments.