transmission transition

Man, we need some advice.

Our car needs a new transmission. We were quoted $1600 for a used one, $3200 for a new one. It’s a ’96 Camry, automatic, 148,000 miles. The car is only worth about $1600, but the guy said that the used transmission could last another 100,000 miles.

Both of our vehicles are 10 years old and combined we have almost 230,000 miles…and no car payments for the last few years.

I knew this day was coming.

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  • My husband is a kind-of-mechanic (he went to school for mechanics, but not working as one). He would have you ask yourself these questions: Does the used transmission come with any kind of warranty? Does this include the labor costs? How is the car other wise? Has in been a good reliable car? Do you see other expenses in the future…brakes..etc?

    And he would say: try not to think of the book value of the car. Think of its value to you. Would you be better off sticking that $1600 or $3200 into a different car? Can you afford to do that? Some times older cars can nickel and dime you to death. But if you replace the car, will your insurance go up?

    Just more to think about huh? Sorry!

  • rob

    Linda, thanks. Good questions. The warrenty he told us was “either 90 days or 6 months — I’d have to look it up.” But it would only cover parts. The car has been pretty good otherwise. I expect a few repairs in the next year they keep suggesting I should do.

    We’re wondering about a new car. Right now we’re not sure what we could do monthly…and we really don’t want to put $1600 into either! Ugh.

    Do those answers shed any more light for your husband the mechanic-in-waiting?

  • I hate to say it, but I think a car payment is in your future. Even a six-month parts warranty won’t spare you the labor costs (biggest portion) if it goes out. And even that won’t help you in seven months. Do you want to spend another $1600 in seven months?

  • WOW! Great comments with great questions to consider. That would be a tough decision. I pray it will be clear what you are to do.

  • What the bus doesn’t go to Lake Hart?

  • rob

    The wheels on the bus go round and round, but not round to Lake Hart! Or by our house either, come to think of it.

  • How about getting a Saturn? A sporty car for me?

  • He said weekends are a great time to check out car lots!


  • Here’s a calculation I use:
    New car = $15,000 = 150,000 miles = $0.10/mile.
    Value of your car now = $0
    Cost of transmission = $1600 = 16,000 miles @ $0.10/mile (what you would otherwise get in a new car)
    Will this transmission yield 16,000 additional miles?
    If so, then buying this transmission is the same cost as a new car for the next 16,000 miles.
    Hmm. 16,000 miles would be about 12 – 16 months of normal use.
    Will your Camry, with a new/used transmission, last that long?

  • rob

    My, what a big calculator you have, my dear!

    One question: why do you say that the value of the car now is $0? KBB says $1600.

    Will the used transmission last over a year? He says it can go 100,000 miles…but I’m not so sure about that.

    I have a feeling we’re going to see if we can milk it as-is the rest of the year. We have a lot of travel plans that won’t include the Camry.

  • Dad Williams

    Tough choices. The current value of the Camry is whatever someone will buy it for or give(?) you in trade – as it is! I’ve concluded that a vechiles is an expense, not an investment (like your house). You could put the 1600 into it, and get a few more years out, but will you (and Patricia) be happy with that? You have two vechiles now-can you avoid having two car payments at the same time? I was lucky the last time this happened to me – remember your sister’s Bronco? The guy at the transmission shop wanted to buy it as is, and I let him!

  • rob

    Yeah, I remember. That’s a good point about car payments.