Should I buy a Used Engine or a New Car?

Should I buy a Used Engine or a New Car?


So you need a new ride, or at least a better one. Maybe your old Chevy or Honda finally kicked the bucket or maybe it’s starting to cough, wheeze, and make other unsettling sounds. An unreliable vehicle can be both dangerous and a hassle. But is it really time to send your car to the scrap yard and fork out the dough for a brand new automobile? Automobile issues can often be narrowed down to a select few components, which means that the rest of the car you’re thinking of junking is still in a fine working condition. This might be the case with your car, and you might just save yourself several thousand dollars if you read on…



Of course, the first step you should take is determining what exactly is wrong with your car. If you’ve already done this, skip down to, “So my engine’s blown.”

So what’s going on? Are there irregular humming or buzzing sounds? Issues starting up the ignition? Automobiles are have very large, complicated systems inside them, so there’s an indefinite amount of things that could go wrong.

Lying puddles, oddly protruding pieces, and large cracks are clear tellers of engine problems. If you’ve hardly ever popped a hood open before, you may want to get a feel for what your engine should look like. It may be helpful to find an example of your car’s engine in a healthy state for reference. Try searching for pictures of your make/model’s engine.

certified-mechanicIf you’re unable to identify the problem, don’t worry. Whether or not you can tell what’s gone wrong, your next step is to visit a mechanic. The best option for most people—and maybe even for those of us who have a little experience in getting under the hood—is to have a professional technician inspect the engine and tell them (a) everything that’s wrong and (b) everything that needs to be replaced. For the purposes of this article we’ll assume that you’ve verified that your car’s problem is indeed an engine one. The choice then comes down to this: replace the engine or buy a new vehicle.


So my engine’s blown. Now what?

Several factors play into deciding whether replacing your engine is more to your advantage than just buying a new car. There are a few costs to balance, but the first step is to compare the price tags of the products themselves. The chart below compares the price of buying a new car last year (as estimated by to the price you can expect to pay for a used engine of the same make/model. This should give you a good feel for what the average initial price difference is going to be.


2014 Make/Model

New car

Used engine[1]

Honda Accord



Ford Focus



Mazda 3



Toyota Tocoma



Toyota Avalon




As you can see, a used engine is going to cost you a fraction what a new car will cost you. In most of the makes listed above, a used engine is close to one tenth the price. This is pretty good cost difference. If your make/model/year is not one those listed above, hop over to Punch your car’s details into the “Find Your Used Engine” box on the left and get a quick quote to see what your specific engine runs for used.


Installation price

The next cost to factor in is how much it’ll cost you to get the thing working inside your vehicle. This is trickier to determine. Every car is different. The cost of such job will be relative to your car’s engine and its problems. Also, different garages charge different rates for varying levels of quality, and it’s not a simple job either. Both putting in your newly bought engine and ripping out your old engine are complicated tasks. You might consider putting it in yourself, but only if you have previous experience in car mechanics.

A safe bet is to add an estimated $2000 for engine installation. As long as you don’t have any major additional problems in your car, and you don’t go to a supper uppity repair shop, you may end up hitting below this, but you never know. At least you’ll be prepared. And if it ends up costing you less, all the more money for you!


Buying an engine online

The internet has opened up a world of new buying options. But are used engines the sort of things that should be bought over the web? Since you’re going to put this product into a two-ton machine that you’ll sit in moving 65mph, you want be sure that it’s safe and reliable. You also don’t want to spend plus three grand only to have it conk out on you a couple of years down the road.

Of course, how could we write a blog post on buying used engines without bragging (just a little bit)? Seriously though, can boast the largest, most comprehensive database of used engines in the country, and because of that we’re able to offer both the best pricing and the best quality in used engines.

Wherever you end up looking to buy an engine, you want to be sure of the expertise of those you’re buying from. Our staff has over 30+ years of hard earned experience. Don’t believe us? Call to talk an expert about at 866-319-1058.


How long will the engine last?

Hopefully you now have a pretty good feel for the cost difference between a replacing your engine and buying a new car. Chances are that even if your installation price shoots through the roof, you’ll still walk out with much more money in your pocket than if you’d bought a new vehicle. Buying a used engine is just an all-around economical way to keep yourself on the road. But how long will it keep you on the road? Part of the value in buying a new car is the assurance that it’ll keep running for years to come. But an engine’s an engine. Just like the cost, the reliability of an engine is relative to the specific engine you’re dealing with. Its longevity depends on how well it’s been treated and maintained. Some say that an engine from a car owner in a rural area is better than that of a car owner in a city, because the city-dweller would have been stopping and going in traffic more often, putting more stress on the engine. But the chances of you being able determine the origins of a used engine you’re buying from a reseller are fairly slim. If you buy from a reliable source, you can expect your used engine to continue to operate for several years.  There is one thing in particular you want to look out for, though…



If the service you’re looking to buy a used engine from doesn’t show you the engine’s mileage, that’s a major red flag. Of course, the lower the mileage a used engine has, the longer you can expect it to last. So how many miles are we talking here? How many is too many? Here are some general rules:

  • You want to shoot for under 100k miles.
  • 120k miles is the upper limit.
  • If you can get below 80k then you’re in a good region.

Having said that, we really, really recommend that you try to get down to at least 80k. Paying a little more for a used engine that will last much longer is usually worth it.



Calculating mileage for your specific engine

We stated before that longevity is relative to the specific engine build and how the specific engine was treated. That can make calculating costs difficult and buying an engine feel especially risky, but here’s a case in which that relativity can help you. How many miles did your current engine last? How many years have you been driving it? For instance, if you’ve had your car for 10 years and there’s 150k miles on it at the time of its demise that probably means you drive about 15,000 miles a year. You may expect the used engine you’re buying to die around the same number of miles, since it’s the same engine (this isn’t factoring in differences in driving habits; if you start treating your engine better, it’ll start treating you better and you can expect it to last longer). So in this case, if you buy a used engine with 100k miles on it, you can expect it to last another 50k miles, or almost 4 years. Of course, if you buy a used engine closer to 50k in mileage, your prospects will be much better: 100k miles left and almost 7 years.

Don’t just take the hypothetical example into you consideration. Mark down your dead engine’s mileage and make these simple calculations to determine how long the engine you’re looking at buying will last.


Should I purchase a warranty?

A lot of used engine sellers offer a warranty on your used engine for an additional charge. You may be wondering whether this is this worth getting or if it’s just a way for companies to get another couple hundred out of you. Unfortunately, since it’s an expensive piece of used equipment that you’re buying, getting a warranty is usually a good idea.

Now some companies offer different types of warranties. SWEngines recognizes the importance of ensuring quality and includes a 180-day standard warranty free of additional charge in every purchase. There’s also what’s called a Parts and Labor Warranty. These may be provided at an extra cost for durations of two or three years (three years, in SWEngine’s case). This just means that for whatever the duration of the warranty, all parts covered and any costs of having them removed, repaired, or reinstalled are also covered. This will be available for a higher price than the standard warranty. So it is worth paying more for a more comprehensive warranty? This is up to your discretion. If you feel confident with the company you’re buying from and trust that a working engine will be shipped to you, then you’ll probably be alright with a standard warranty. Otherwise, add the price of a Parts and Labor Warranty into your costs. It’ll probably still be more cost effective than buying a new car.


An additional cost?

There’s one more thing to consider: the core charge. Don’t worry though—this isn’t as scary as it sounds! The core charge is essentially the value of your old, dead engine. In some case, if you send this in you can get an amount deducted from the price of the used engine you’re buying (not much, but enough to put a little more stuffing back in your wallet). That way the company can rebuild an engine by recycling the “core” parts of your old one. The trick is that some companies use this as an additional charge to you if you don’t send your old engine in. Of course, this is all a matter of perspective, but it’s unfair to you if you weren’t anticipating this charge. Before purchasing a used engine, you should check and see what the core charge policies of the company you’re buying from are. SWEngines has no core charges in most cases. Core charges may apply to some engine types, but SWEngines makes an effort to keep customers aware of this in cases to which core charges may apply.


The verdict

Look at the price tag on the new car you’re thinking of buying. Now add up all of the costs of replacing your engine as discussed above. You just need to decide if the price difference is great enough to make it worth your time. Many people make the mistake of giving up on their car once the engine runs out, but the engine is just one component of a large machine. Often it’s a much better choice to swap out your old engine and keep your vehicle running healthy for many more years. Even after installation and additional charges are factored into the price of a used engine, it remains a cost-effective way to stay on the road for anyone who’s wise enough to put a little thought into it.

[1] All prices and estimates on new cars and used engines were obtained 2/11/2015 from and and are subject to change.




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