Junk or repair 2008 high milage subaru with transmission failure?
May 7, 2011 2:48 PM   Subscribe

My 2008 Subaru impreza's transmission needs to be replaced for $4-4.5K. The car has 107K miles on it, I communute 144 mi 5 days/week, and I got the timing belt and all breaks replaced two weeks ago. Should I junk the car or repair it? What other repairs can I expect in the next 100K miles?

Couple of important facts in addition:

1) There are metal filings in the transmission and I have had it looked at by 2 different subaru shops, who tried draining and refilling it before finally lowering the pan and seeing the metal filings and pronouncing it dead. I have had a number of insidences where I get stuck in a gear for my 70 mi commute home

2) I had the timing belt, two other belts, and all the brakes replaced two weeks ago.

3) We have two other cars besides my subaru. We also have a Toyota 2005 4runner V8 with 80K mi, which gets about 18 mpg and an audi A3, which my husband commutes 100 mi with and gets 29 mpg

I have determined there are three options

1) Fix the subarau
2) Junk the subaru and drive the 4runner
3) Junk the subaru and buy a high mpg compact like a hyundai elantra

In order for the gas milage difference between the 4runner and the subaru to make repairing the subaru worth it, the subaru has to make it about 1-1.5 years or about 55K miles without further major repair. As a restult, I am trying to get a sense for what other repairs might happen between 107k and 160 k miles?

Also if anybody has any thoughts on the best option - do I repair or junk it given my options?

posted by gwen1234 to Work & Money (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
According to Edmunds, a base Impreza sedan with the mileage you have on it is worth around $9K in private party sale value. You'd be leaving money on the table if you just junk it. You'd be better off fixing it and selling it if you want to get rid of it.
posted by MegoSteve at 3:04 PM on May 7, 2011

Fix the Subaru and drive it into the ground. Sell the 4 Runner to keep maintaining the Subaru. You'd have a couple of sedans, one of which is all-wheel drive, which would probably do anything you were doing with the 4 Runner.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 3:13 PM on May 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Meant to add: the car is 3 years old. Whatever you do, don't junk it. Repair it and sell it if you don't want to keep it, as MegoSteve said.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 3:14 PM on May 7, 2011

Have you priced used transmissions? Seems like you ought to be able to do better than $4k.
posted by jon1270 at 3:16 PM on May 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints: "Fix the Subaru and drive it into the ground."

This. Christ, this. My family drives a '98 Forester with 240k miles on it. Your car is still pretty damn new.
posted by dunkadunc at 3:29 PM on May 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

There's a difference between a used transmission and a rebuilt transmission.

Metal particles instead of sludge is a sign of a transmission problem, all right.

I'm starting to repeat myself on this topic.

Like everyone says, fix it. You should be able to do better than $4500. That sounds like a dealer price. An ATRA affiliated transmission shop should be about half that price (here in the SF Bay area, sampled last year). Your numbers may be different.
posted by the Real Dan at 3:37 PM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

$4-$4.5K is maybe half (or even less than half) of what you'd pay for a comparable 3 year old car. And you could expect the transmission on that car to go out somewhere between 100K & 150K miles , whereas with your car you'll new the transmission is brand new--and will likely have a warranty on it for maybe the first two or three years.

If you can't decide whether to buy something different or repair this, spend some time checking the prices on comparable cars currently for sale on craigslist & the like.

When I did this on two of my cars that recently needed major repairs, it soon became apparent to me that fixing the car was **by far** the most economical way to get a car of that particular age and condition. IE fixing the car was (in one case) about $4000 whereas purchasing a comparable car was more like $8-10-12,000. And with my car I knew the condition (in your case, recently replaced timing belt which is fairly expensive & is going to need to be replaced on every car when it reaches that certain mileage) whereas purchasing a different car is a crapshoot. The newly purchased car may turn out to need fewer repairs than your current car but it may just as well end up needing **more** repairs.
posted by flug at 3:41 PM on May 7, 2011

Have you considered looking on North American Subaru Impreza Owner's Club forums? Lots of folks doing engine and tranny swaps, so you might get an OEM tranny for a song- if you can haul it and install it. Most folks doing this, however, might be willing to either help you or do it for yo, depending on your level of comfort going that far under the hood.
posted by arrjay at 3:44 PM on May 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

jon1270: "Have you priced used transmissions? Seems like you ought to be able to do better than $4k."

That sounds about right for a new transmission. Unless the car is an absolute beater and the owner is doing his or her own mechanical work, I'd stay away from used transmissions. Rebuilt transmissions usually have a 20-30,000 mile warranty and are about 60% of the cost of new. In this situation, I would take the new transmission with the longest warranty I could find.

I don't know very much about Subarus, but in general, at 100,000+ miles, the water pump will probably be next. The fuel pump will likely need to be replaced (assuming the filter maintenance has been kept up to prevent overworking the pump) at the 150,000 mile mark. Assuming the system is sound, the air conditioning compressor should go for 150-200,000 miles. On the cars I do know well (Chevrolet), the alternator goes for above 200,000 miles, but those can be finicky depending on the manufacturer.
posted by fireoyster at 4:11 PM on May 7, 2011

Cars often hard to predict. My Subaru had a strange problem: steering wheel began to make odd clicking sounds. One day, parked, the wheel simply spun around and around and I could not drive the car. Seems something gave out inside the hood that connected to steering wheel. Had it fixed but then also had to have air bag and horn fixed. Cost about 5 hundred bucks. But then I have had the car 16 years and have 133,000 miles on it.
posted by Postroad at 4:16 PM on May 7, 2011

If you do go the used transmission route, check here to get an idea of prices. They usually list the mileage from the car it is taken from. If it's pretty low miles, you'll probably do just fine.
posted by Red Loop at 4:18 PM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Last month I had to do this math with my 2004 Maxima with about 104K miles on it. I shopped around for transmissions.

1) Nissan dealer quoted me $5K for a new one with a 12 month warranty
2) a friend's shade tree mechanic quoted me $800 for just a valve body replacement, or $2.5K for putting on a similar transmission if he could find one at the junkyard, 90 day warranty
3) eagle transmission, a national chain, offered a rebuild service with new parts and a 3yr or 36K mile warranty costing anywhere from $3K to 4K

I went with eagle, mostly for the warranty. The repair did take a while, but it's working great now. If I get another 36 months out of that car, then the cost of the repair was $100/month amortized out. That's a whole lot cheaper for me than a new vehicle payment.

Are you still making payments on the car in question? If so, as megosteve said, you're in good position to sell it to someone willing to take on the repair.
posted by TuffAustin at 4:26 PM on May 7, 2011

Used transmissions:


Looks to be around $1600, say $3-400 for fitting or so? Even if it's $600 you're looking at half the price you've been quoted.

At that price, I'd fit a used transmission and keep driving the car. You could (for the price you are already quoted) get a lemon transmission and do it twice for the same money. With that kind of freedom I'd say you have no real risk to go with a second hand transmission. Subarus are great cars for the most part. Worth the gamble, to my mind.
posted by Brockles at 5:33 PM on May 7, 2011


It's 2011. That's three years. I know the standard warranty period is only 36k mi, but wow, that's really fast. It's a serious hassle, but I'd highly recommend starting to raise a stink within Subaru and see if you can get them to chip in for repairs. Call the local dealer, be straightforward with your intention, and then escalate to SOA if necessary.

If that goes nowhere, I agree with selling the Rav4 (especially if it's a 4-cyl - those have appreciated in value over the last few months).
posted by TheNewWazoo at 5:49 PM on May 7, 2011

Yeah, you can do much better than $4~$4.5k. That sounds like dropping in a brand new tranny, and you ought to be able to get a rebuild done for half that or less.

When I finally gave up my '81 Subie, it had 380k on it and still ran great, I just needed a truck. Even though it can suck having to come up with a chunk of cash for a major repair like this, you're still almost always better off vs starting over with another used car. Who knows what problems that car might develop, and in how long?
posted by xedrik at 6:02 PM on May 7, 2011

You're looking at the question in the wrong way.

How much of a car could you get for $4k? And the answer is, Not much. Thus, repair.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:33 PM on May 7, 2011

Ebay has TONS of used transmissions with 20-35k miles on them for $1000 or less. You could probably cut that 4k figure in half. Seems good to me.
posted by Slinga at 8:22 PM on May 7, 2011

FWIW, 107k is not "high mileage." Nowhere near it. Frankly, it's way too soon for a transmission to have gone bad, too.

In any case, of course, you repair it and keep driving.

$4000 is a bit on the high-side for a replacement transmission (though, being a Subaru, there may be some complication, i.e AWD) We had to replace the trans in our VW Golf, and it ran $3,600 installed. That was for a factory rebuilt unit. I'm not sure I'd trust a transmission bought through eBay. Of course, I don't trust much of anything on eBay anymore.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:20 AM on May 8, 2011

My Subaru is still going on a used transmission it got 215k miles ago (for something like $2300). Just sayin'.
posted by nemp at 1:15 PM on May 8, 2011

Thanks to everybody for thier thoughts!
posted by gwen1234 at 6:36 AM on May 9, 2011

In-case anybody is curious, I got the transmission fixed (at the dealer - since I'm not going to mess around with second hand transmissions) and this July the catalytic converter went - another $800 down the drain.
posted by gwen1234 at 7:57 PM on August 21, 2011

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