Transmission problems are some of the most expensive issues to fix on any car. For many drivers, buying a new transmission is out of the question. In some cases, new transmissions can cost more than the cars are worth. Buying used is an excellent alternative, but only if drivers are willing to do some homework.
Where to Look
When looking for a used transmission, some drivers assume the best place to start is a junkyard. In fact, while wrecking yards do offer used transmissions and belong on the list of places drivers might want to check, they should be at the bottom of the list. Buying a transmission from a specialized used auto parts dealer is a much more effective alternative, especially when car owners have some extra time to wait and can purchase used parts online.
What to Know About the Car
Whether vehicle owners want to buy a used transmission online or head to a local junkyard, they’ll need to know a few things about their cars. Look up and write down basic information such as:
- Make, model, year, and trim
Engine type, fuel type, displacement, and number of cylinders
Body information like the number of doors
Drivetrain information, meaning whether the vehicle is four-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, or front-wheel drive
The easiest way to put all of this information together fast is to look up the car online by its vehicle identification number (VIN). The VIN can usually be found on the bottom corner of the driver’s side windshield or on stickers found on the door pillars.
Qualities to Look for From Private Sellers
Buying a used transmission from a private seller poses challenges for people who aren’t mechanics. Credibility is the most important factor to consider, so if something seems off, look elsewhere for car parts. If the seller seems to be on the level, check out the body of the car. This might sound counterintuitive because the transmission is found beneath the hood, but the vehicle’s overall history is usually easy to discern from the outside.
Look for signs of damage that could have resulted from a collision. A lot of bodywork could mean that the car was severely damaged, which increases the chances that the transmission was, too. Drivers can also ask for information from private sellers and then look up CarFax reports.
Qualities to Look for When Buying Online
Buying a used transmission online means not being able to check out the overall condition of the vehicle it’s coming from. That might sound scary, but buying online is usually a safer option than purchasing a used transmission from a private seller, whether it’s a junkyard or someone parting out an old car.
Online auto parts stores offer warranties. Buyers should ask about what they cover and for how long. The online store should be willing to provide a written copy of the warranty information for the buyer’s review. A one-year warranty is standard. Anything less may not be worth the risk, and anything more should be considered a bonus.
Ask a Mechanic
When in doubt about whether a particular used transmission will be worth the money, the best option is for vehicle owners to ask a trusted mechanic. Some mechanics will go with drivers to inspect parts or vehicles for a fee. Others work with particular online car parts retailers and will be able to tell vehicle owners which ones are reputable. It’s worth asking.