Car & Electronics

Buying Used Transmission For Your Car – All You Need to Know

Owning a vehicle means constantly remaining vigilant. Relatively small automotive problems are bound to arise over time, such as needing to replace the battery or having a turn signal bulb go bad. Tires tend to wear out, and certain seemingly minor electrical issues could lead to major malfunctions. In the grand scheme of things, all those problems are fairly small, and they’re usually easy to resolve.

Of course, a few major mishaps could also come to light. Transmission failure is among the most common and costly. Though a new transmission could cost a small fortune, a used one may be just as effective at a fraction of the price. However, purchasing a used transmission requires careful consideration to ensure that you’re not left in the lurch. Remember the following important factors when buying a used transmission for your car.

Choose a Reliable Supplier


First and foremost, be sure you choose a reputable supplier when purchasing used vehicle parts. All it takes is an online search to find that countless companies and individuals are offering car parts for sale. Unfortunately, not all of them are as trustworthy as they should be. Some would be happy to sell you a transmission that needs hundreds of dollars in repairs, claiming it’s in perfect condition. Find a supplier with positive reviews and a reputation for excellence, like, to ensure you don’t get taken for a ride.

Consider Compatibility

Another factor to consider is compatibility. These days, dozens of transmissions are on the market. On the most basic level, they come in front-wheel-drive, rear-wheel-drive, and four-wheel-drive varieties. That barely scratches the surface, though. While the basic functions of transmissions are universal, the actual parts vary widely from one type of vehicle to the next. They also vary by manufacturer and vehicle models and age.

Some transmissions are interchangeable, meaning it’s possible to take a transmission from one type of vehicle and use it in another. Other times, though, that’s not the case at all. Some vehicles, even those in the same age and model range, could be equipped with any number of different transmissions. If so, even one from a seemingly identical vehicle may not work in your car. Cross-reference VINs, transmission identification codes, and other factors to be sure the transmission you’re thinking of buying is truly compatible with your vehicle.

Condition and Mileage

Cross section of car gearbox.

Condition and mileage should also be considered when buying a used transmission. Granted, used transmissions may look a bit worse for wear even if they’re in acceptable shape. After all, they’re bound to be covered in grease and road grime, so they may not look quite the same as shiny new ones. While surface appearance may have no bearing on the functionality of a transmission, certain types of damage will detract from its performance. For example, a transmission with a cracked bell housing or tail shaft should be left on the shelf.

Mileage may seem like a moot point when purchasing a transmission, but it’s an important factor to think about. Keep in mind, the more mileage the transmission has on it, the more wear and tear it has accumulated. That affects the transmission even if it’s taken out of the vehicle it originally came in. Reputable suppliers should be able to give you at least a rough estimate of the mileage a transmission has on it. If that information isn’t made available to you, consider choosing a different part or dealer.

History of the Transmission

Be sure to ask about the history of the used transmission, too. Ask for maintenance records, receipts, or any other documentation that provides insight into how well the transmission was maintained. Regular servicing indicates that the transmission has been taken care of, increasing its chances of being in good working order. Documentation could include past repair records as well. While multiple transmission repairs don’t necessarily mean the transmission isn’t worth buying, they could put up red flags.

Look at the history of the vehicle the transmission came from as well. Was the vehicle in any major accidents? Depending on the angle and severity of the impact in an accident, the transmission may have been damaged. Past accidents aren’t surefire signs that a transmission has hidden damage, but the possibility is certainly present. Vehicle and maintenance histories aren’t always available for used transmissions, but the more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to make an informed purchasing decision.

Have the Transmission Inspected If Possible


If you have the opportunity, have a qualified mechanic inspect the used transmission before finalizing the purchase. A professional can assess its condition, identify any potential problems, and provide an expert opinion on its suitability for your vehicle. This step can save you from purchasing a transmission with hidden defects, compatibility issues, or other problems that may lead to further expenses down the line. This measure isn’t always possible, especially if you’re buying a transmission online or from a dealer who isn’t nearby. If it’s in the cards, though, it’s a good step to take.

Does the Transmission Come With a Warranty?

It’s also advisable to purchase a transmission that comes with a warranty. While used components generally have higher risk factors than new ones, a warranty can provide some peace of mind. Understand the terms and duration of the warranty, including any conditions or limitations. Reputable sellers will often offer warranties to assure buyers of the quality and reliability of their products. That’s another reason purchasing from a reliable supplier will work out in your favor.

Are There Any Extra Costs Involved in Replacing Your Transmission?


While buying a used transmission is generally more affordable than purchasing a new one, it is essential to factor in any extra costs that may arise. Consider additional expenses like taxes and shipping. Shipping charges are often determined by distance and product weight. Transmissions are heavy, so having one shipped to you could be fairly expensive.

Installation costs and potential repairs or modifications could come into play as well. Compatibility isn’t necessarily a straightforward matter when dealing with engines, transmissions, and other automotive parts. Though a transmission may technically work in your vehicle, certain adjustments may need to be made to guarantee it’ll serve you well. That will undoubtedly drive up the cost of the project. Furthermore, adding more work to the process will result in extra labor costs.

Getting the Best Transmission for Your Money

All these factors should be considered when purchasing a used transmission. Choosing a reputable dealer and doing plenty of research beforehand will improve your chances of success. At the same time, it’s important to be prepared for any additional problems or expenses that could arise when swapping transmissions.

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