The Average Cost of Things

Average Cost of Transmission Repair

Brandon Cornett

By Brandon Cornett
© 2011 All rights reserved

Welcome to The Average Cost of Things, where we help you put prices into perspective. In this article, you'll learn about the average cost of transmission repair and related auto repairs.

You've been having trouble with the gears in your car, so you take it to an auto-repair shop. After poking around for an hour or so, the guy says he needs to repair your transmission, and it's going to cost $2,800. Yikes!

In no particular order, your mind will run through the following questions: What is the average cost of such a repair job? Is this guy taking me for a ride? Does my transmission really need to be fixed? And what the heck is a transmission anyway? These are the questions we will address in this article -- with an emphasis on the cost factor.

What is a Transmission Anyway?

If you want to skip the mechanical background and get right to the pricing data, then hop down to the average cost of transmission work outlined below. If you want to know what this mysterious device is and why it has failed you, keep reading...

The transmission is complex mechanical device that takes power from the engine and applies it to the wheels (via the driveshaft). It uses a series of gears to apply the right amount of power and torque to the driveshaft, and onward to the wheels. So when you shift gears in your car, you're actually manipulating the transmission to control the power output.

Here's what you should know, as someone who many need transmission repair work. It's an essential item in your car. If the "tranny" doesn't work, then the car becomes undriveable. The engine might run fine, but none of the power will be delivered to the wheels -- so you're not going anywhere. A transmission can fail all at once, but it usually happens gradually. You might notice the gears slipping for a while, or the car slipping into neutral on it's own. And then a few days later, it totally fails. So you need to repair the transmission sooner rather than later.

Most of the time, transmissions begin to fail when they have a lot of miles on them -- like more than 100,000 miles. It happens sooner in American cars than in Japanese cars, which probably comes as no surprise. It rarely happens within the initial warranty period. That's why warranties are structured the way they are, to avoid the high-cost repairs that come later in the car's life.

The Average Cost of Repair Work

When a transmission begins to fail (as described above), most mechanics will replace the entire thing. These are highly complex mechanical devices, so it can actually be more cost-effective to replace the entire transmission, rather than troubleshoot and repair it. So many mechanics will choose to replace the old with the new. You might be in for some sticker shock, but it truly is the best option in many cases. You'll get more life out of a new transmission than one that's been repaired.

So what is the average cost for such repair work, anyway? Let me start with a general number, and then we will talk about the variables.

The average cost for a new transmission is around $1,800. This means they are replacing the old parts with new ones, as opposed to fixing the ones you currently have. It's more expensive to replace an automatic trans, when compared to a manual drive. An automatic might cost closer to $3,000 for a complete rebuild.

According to an article on Edmunds.com: "If a manual transmission breaks down, it's usually because the clutch needs to be replaced, a $1,200-$1,500 repair. Compare this to the $3,000 it costs to replace an automatic transmission and the savings is apparent."

There are other variables that affect the cost of repair work. So your price might end up being more or less than the estimates given above. It depends on such things as:

  • The year and model of your car (foreign is usually more expensive than domestic)
  • Manual vs. automatic transmission (automatic is generally more expensive)
  • The extent of the damage (full replacement vs. an "in-place" repair job)
  • Location (repair work is more expensive in certain parts of the country)
  • The shop you're using (this is a huge variable, so get multiple quotes)

The best thing you can do is to get quotes from more than one mechanic. Some are honest folks, while others should be in jail for price gouging. It's like any other industry in that regard. You should also ask friends, family and coworkers if they've had any transmission repair work in the past, and if they were happy with the shop that did it. If you drive an automatic, you might want to check out the ATRA website (www.atra.com). They claim to have a code of ethics for their member shops, which may offer a degree of comfort.

References and Sources

As usual, we visited a lot of websites to lay the groundwork for this article -- more than 35 websites, actually. This allowed us to compile enough data to come up with the average cost of transmission repair. Special thanks to the Automatic Transmission Rebuilders Association (ATRA), the American Automobile Association (AAA), and Edmunds.com.

Cost of College Transmission Repair