How do I get rid of this car that I am upside down on?
September 10, 2012 5:53 PM   Subscribe

Best way to sell/trade in a car with transmission problems that I am now upside down on?

I bought a 2005 Honda Accord with about 64,000 miles on it in February. Now the transmission is failing, as diagnosed by my mechanic. There is a loud, extremely annoying whine emanating from the transmission at freeway speeds, and there is no knowing how long the transmission could last. A replacement would cost me about $3000.

I am extremely angry about transmission failure in a low-mileage Honda. The original warranty was only for 35k miles, but I though I could count on a Honda not to let me down.

Until today, I owed about what the car was worth. It is now worth substantially less because of the transmission issue, and I suspect it would be difficult to sell. I don't want this car any more. I will never buy a Honda product again - not even a lawnmower.

The way I see it, these are my options:

1. Keep the car, and replace the transmission when needed. Put up with the annoying whine and hate the car the entire time.

2. Trade it in and buy something else. I will probably be screwed out of $4-5k, which will have to be added to the new loan when the dealership accepts my trade-in. However, if I choose a car that is cheaper than the Accord was, I could end up owing about the same amount of money that I do now.

3. See if the mechanic will buy it. He has a fleet of loaner cars, and maybe he wants another one. But how do I cover the amount remaining on the loan?

4. Call Honda North America and get them to fix it through their goodwill repair program. I think this is very unlikely.

What do you think I should do? Is there something I haven't thought of?
posted by twblalock to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would choose either #4 and find another mechanic, seriously!

You're talking about a 7 year old Honda with pretty low mileage for its age and not a Mercedes. Have you asked a Honda dealership what it would cost to fix it?

Get at least 3 other estimates/quotes from different dealers AND independent shops. I suspect then you'll see that it may be worth keeping the car and repairing it after all.

Good luck.
posted by eatcake at 5:58 PM on September 10, 2012

The quote is for a transmission remanufactured by Honda and the labor to install it. I could go cheaper, but I would want the replacement transmission to last.
posted by twblalock at 6:00 PM on September 10, 2012

Your best bet is probably to find a reputable third-party Japanese car specialist mechanic (NOT the Honda dealer) and pay to have them install a transmission from a wrecked 2005 Accord. It's not like Accords are very uncommon. If you are anywhere near a major city there will be a wrecking yard in your area with accord transmissions in stock. The total cost could be as low as $1500 if you do your research.
posted by thewalrus at 6:14 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Honda's weak spot has been its automatic transmissions in certain models, and the prelude/accord from about 1995 to 2005 are the most problematic. usually it is the early 1995-2000 or so transmissions with the gear change function built in (where you can make the car shift up or down a gear). 3000 sounds a little high but not impossibly so for this. I would just find a junkyard transmission and find a mechanic willing to install it (most mechanics will find the used transmission for you but will have a little higher price-but not much) when it actually breaks. It is likely to last for a while like this and when it does break it will probably just get stuck in one gear and not hurt the car otherwise so drive it till it breaks and hope the next transmission is better. IT is almost always cheaper and better long term to maintain the car you have if you are otherwise happy with it. Honda makes good cars and the problems you are having could be the fault of the previous owner. Most people don't change the automatic transmission fluid EVER and this is what happens (usually at much higher mileage...but still). Any chance the car has a trailer hitch installed? this is the big killer of auto transmission before their time.
posted by bartonlong at 6:21 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

No hitch. The ATF was changed regularly.
posted by twblalock at 6:32 PM on September 10, 2012

Fix it and drive. That is pretty much always the cheapest option, even for huge and expensive repairs. You lose WAY more selling the car with a problem plus buying a new car -- that is the path that leads to financial unhappiness.

Cars are expensive, period, and automatic transmissions need rebuilding and replacing on a fairly routine basis. It sucks that you are needing to deal with this, but I'd strongly suggest swallowing your irritation and following the suggestions above for finding a slightly cheaper fix and just driving the car until the wheels fall off.
posted by Forktine at 6:45 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

1. Keep the car, and replace the transmission when needed. Put up with the annoying whine and hate the car the entire time accept that life is sometimes difficult but no way are you going to allow it to make you too unhappy for very long.
posted by dancestoblue at 7:08 PM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

If you replace the transmission you will have a low mileage Accord with a solid transmission. If you dump it you'll be out the loss on the car and still be looking for a reliable car. Can you do that for $3000? I doubt it.
posted by COD at 7:50 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

3 grand seems high. You can find a used transmission on ebay for $500-600 and a new one there for $1200-1300. Installation should be expensive but not THAT much, and if you want to you can probably find a shade-tree mechanic on Craigslist to install it for a lot less than a shop. Either way, I would replace the transmission when it dies (if you have towing coverage on your insurance or AAA or whatever), otherwise just do it before it dies. I think you can cut that 3k down to 2k or less and then you'll have a good car with a good transmission.
posted by Slinga at 8:37 PM on September 10, 2012

Toyota ate a $5k out of warranty head gasket repair on my RAV4 with about the same mileage on their goodwill program. It's really worth a shot.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 8:58 PM on September 10, 2012

You should definitely consider getting it fixed. While I understand why you might be upset, you have to keep in mind that you bought a used car, and you don't know what the previous history was. It is possible the last owner did not treat this car well, and caused the issues. It is also possible that you just got a bum transmission. That kind of thing can happen with any car, not matter how fantastic it is.

See if Honda will fix it. If not, than get it fixed yourself. This is going to be your cheapest option, and unless there is some other reason why you don't like Honda's, they really are very reliable and typically can last a long time if properly maintained (which it sounds like you are doing).
posted by markblasco at 7:56 AM on September 11, 2012

Now that I'm no longer frothing at the mouth, I realize that every carmaker produces a dud every once in a while. I'll fix it and keep it.
posted by twblalock at 8:09 PM on September 11, 2012

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