Reader Question: Pilot Tranny?

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Here’s the latest reader question,along with my reply!

Ginger writes: My 2004 beloved Honda Pilot with 205,000 miles on it now needs a new transmission. I understand the cost would be about $4,500 and the value of the vehicle is much less. I am concerned about buying a new vehicle with what I’ve learned from reading your newsletters, I am reluctant to get a new car. My concerns about newer vehicles is their lack of quality, the built-in tracking systems (spying systems), less powerful, etc. I just wonder what advice you would give me?  I need a vehicle about the same size as my pilot in order to be able to haul things, etc.Thank you for any advice you’re willing to give.

My reply: Have you priced having your (independent/non-dealership) mechanic install a good used transmission in your Pilot? That might – should – cost a great deal less than $4,500 and – assuming the Pilot is otherwise sound – could get you another five or even ten years of service. I asked my buddy who owns a repair shop about this and he says it should be possible to buy a good used transmission for between $800 and $1,200 and the install shouldn’t be more than that – so about half the $4,500 you mention and a great deal less than a new Pilot!

Find an independent mechanic you can trust who knows where to find good used transmissions and have him price out the cost plus installation.

Buying another Pilot of approximately same vintage or newer/lower-miles is another option. But it might be wiser to invest the money in repairing your Pilot since you know this Pilot – and how it’s been serviced/treated – whereas it is much harder to know that with a new (to you) used Pilot.

If you prefer something else, but similar to the Pilot, there are many options as that type of vehicle – crossover SUV – is very prolific. The Toyota Highlander has a good reputation and the V6 (same as the Camry’s optional V6)  is one of the best such engines made during the past 20 years. Models up to the 2020 redesign are relatively free of naggy/intrusive technology and even the current model is less over-the-top than others in the same class.

The new Kia Telluride and its Hyundai Palisade cousin are also nice vehicles that still come standard with appropriate-to-their-sizes V6 engines rather than turbo fours (as the new VW Atlas comes standard with and the Subaru Ascent comes only with).

But I sense you really like the Pilot – whether yours or another/replacement Pilot. It’s an excellent vehicle, so I understand this completely. I suspect you’ll be happiest either fixing your Pilot or shopping for a newer/lower miles ones.

But I encourage you to seriously consider repairing your Pilot – and not only because you know it and thus it’s safer for you to spend the money on the transmission as opposed to spending it on more expensive things that might be wrong with another Pilot.

As you probably know already, the used car market is bubbling right now – and for that reason, you will probably pay a great deal more for a used Pilot than you might have paid six months ago. If you think about it, this means you’d save money by fixing the Pilot you’ve got – which will also be worth more once it is fixed.

All of the above assumes, of course, that your Pilot is ok – other than the transmission issue. If it has other major issues, then it might be sounder policy to seek a replacement.

Hope this is helpful – and happy to answer any further questions you may have/help you get this problem fixed!

. . . 

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2 COMMENTS

  1. > I asked my buddy who owns a repair shop about this and he says it should be possible to buy a good used transmission for between $800 and $1,200 and the install shouldn’t be more than that

    Another data point, though since it was an older vehicle the numbers may be different: at one time, I had a ’77 Cutlass Supreme with a transmission that needed replacement. This was probably 15 years or so ago, but at the time, a rebuilt Turbo Hydramatic 350 set me back about $900 for parts and labor.

    Adjust a bit for inflation, and for the increased complexity of a newer transmission.

    • Hi Scott,

      It’s important to note there’s a difference between new/rebuilt and used. My recommendation (to save money) was that the person who asked about her Pilot look into whether a good used transmission might be obtainable. These will cost much less than a new/rebuilt transmission.

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