Hearing that your transmission failed can feel like a nail in the coffin for your vehicle. So, should you have your transmission replaced? Or should you buy a new car? The answer here is more complicated than it might seem. Our local mechanics are here with some factors you should consider.
Why Are Transmission Issues So Expensive?
When caught early, a mechanic can affordably repair some surface-level transmission issues. For example, replacing a faulty solenoid, seal, gasket, or shifter cable is often relatively straightforward and affordable. However, most transmission failures are often more severe and expensive for a few important reasons:
- Complex repairs for simple issues: Transmissions contain complex mechanical components carefully assembled and calibrated to your vehicle. As such, a simple interior issue can require highly complex service. For example, your gears can quickly become worn or damaged without fresh transmission fluid. Unlike exterior components (like the solenoid or shifter cable), transmission gears are on shafts inside the transmission. So while gear replacement might sound easy, it requires a mechanic to completely remove, disassemble, repair, and reassemble your transmission.
- Challenging Detection: As mentioned above, you are more likely to access affordable repairs when you catch a transmission issue early. However, transmission issues are notoriously difficult for drivers to detect. Why? Many transmission issues do not display noticeable symptoms until they become extensive problems.
- The Domino Effect: Your transmission is a network of parts and systems that all work together. One minor issue can create a domino effect—quickly causing total system failure.
Keeping up with simple maintenance services, like transmission fluid replacement, can help prevent these issues and catch problems early.
Extensive transmission repair can often cost as much as a new installation. So drivers are often left with two options: replacing the transmission or buying a new car. Which is right for you? Let’s take a closer look.
1: Insurance or Warranty: Transmission Replacement
If your transmission replacement is free, you should take full advantage of this option. Even if you plan on buying a new car anyways, a transmission replacement will help you get a much better resale value.
Drivers might find free transmission replacement from a manufacturer’s warranty or your insurance coverage. Generally speaking, your warranty might cover internal transmission failure, while insurance may cover transmission issues caused by an outside source.
Warranties: Does my Warranty Cover Transmission Replacement?
Transmission repairs and replacements are covered under the drivetrain or powertrain warranty provided by most manufacturers. Some powertrain warranties cover up to 10 years or 100,000 miles.
However, there are a few caveats to this solution drivers should keep in mind:
- Your warranty can be void if you do not keep up with your routine maintenance—like transmission fluid replacement.
- In some cases, certain warranty limitations may apply if you are not the vehicle’s original owner.
- Your warranty may be void if you use your vehicle for work—such as with a delivery or a driving service like Amazon, Uber, or Lyft.
- The manufacturer may ask for proof that the damage was caused by an issue with the materials or assembly.
Insurance: Does my Insurance Cover Transmission Replacement?
Generally speaking, insurance does not cover transmission failure from an internal part or component. But issues caused by an outside source may fall under your insurance coverage, including transmission damage from:
- A car accident
- Inclement weather (like a tornado, hurricane, or flood)
- Hitting a road hazard (including debris or an animal)
- Theft or vandalism
Of course, this will depend on your insurance policy, coverage, the exact cause and nature of the damage, and the assessment done by your insurance company. It is worth a call to your insurance agent to see if they can help.
2: Classic Car: Transmission Replacement
Work you do to fix up a classic car—from a new transmission to an EV conversion—is often well worth the investment. While you are unlikely to find a classic transmission, updating with newer parts will keep the vehicle drivable.
Many drivers also find it worthwhile to fix up cars with sentimental value. A car that once belonged to a loved one can feel priceless to maintain.
3: Failing or Older Vehicles: Buy a New Car
Not all older vehicles are created equally. Failing vehicles are likely to require repair after repair. You might pay thousands to replace the transmission—only to find the engine fails next week. Even with frequent smaller issues, the cost of ongoing repair services can add up quickly—making a new car well worth the extra investment.
4: Vehicles in Otherwise Good Shape: Transmission Replacement
As mentioned above, a newer car is likely to have transmission service covered under the powertrain warranty. However, even if the warranty is void, it is still worth your money to consider transmission service. In these cases, your trade-in devaluation of a failed transmission will often cost far more than the transmission replacement.
For example, let’s say your new transmission will cost close to $7,000. When you trade your vehicle in, dealers might take $10,000 off your resale value.
Cars with significant issues give the dealership the upper hand. They know you need a new car and are often eager to use this leverage to charge you more. In this case, having your transmission replaced before buying a new car will save you $3,000.
Here is a way to test whether this option is right for you. First, speak with a local mechanic to estimate your new transmission cost. Then, call a few local dealerships and ask for a free car trade-in appraisal—with and without a failed transmission.
5: Your Financial Best Interests
Replacing a transmission can cost anywhere from $2,900 – $7,100 (according to data from KBB). This cost will depend on a variety of factors, including your vehicle’s make, model, and the type of transmission it requires.
Transmission replacement is one of the most expensive services a vehicle can encounter. Because of the high costs, many drivers wonder, “Is paying for a transmission replacement worth it?”
Even at $5,000+, a new transmission can be more affordable than trading in your vehicle and buying a new car, making this the most financially accessible solution for many drivers. However, there are a few additional considerations here:
The truth is, you know your financial situation best. A mechanic can help you understand transmission replacement costs so you can make the right decision for you.
Local Transmission Service in Durham, Raleigh, Cary, Apex, Carrboro, and Chapel Hill
The professionals at Chapel Hill Tire are here to help you get the transmission service you need. We will help you understand the costs, timeline, and options so that you can make the best decision for you. If you decide to have your transmission replaced by our local mechanics, we offer free loaner vehicles for extended services to help keep you on the go.
Chapel Hill Tire proudly serves the Triangle with 10 locations across Cary, Apex, Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Durham. Our mechanics also commonly serve nearby drivers, including Knightdale, Pittsboro, Wake Forest, Hillsborough, Morrisville, and beyond. We invite you to make an appointment or give us a call to get started today!