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Hi,

I've been looking into buying a used Pilot or CRV for about 6 months but haven't found the right one. I live in a smaller city so I don't have as many options locally as I would like.

Recently a 2003 Pilot at 170,000 miles popped up. The timing belt/water pump were changed at 100,00 miles but I'm a little wary of this year given the history of transmission problems. The current owner said the transmisison was flushed around 100,000 miles (full flush, not a fluid exchange) but there are no records of that or any other transmission or transmission fluid servicing.

I'm trying to get this car for around $4K but am wondering if this is too much of a gamble given the potential of a transmission failure. I see that Car Complaints' website has a lot to say about this issue for 03 pilots. Am I better waiting for another model year?

Thanks,

Ryan
 

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2008 Honda Pilot EX-L 2013 Honda Pilot EX-L
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You're buying a pretty old car so it's not going to be perfect. The only way you can have some idea about the transmission is if you drive the car. You'll have to get the timing belt done in the next few years and that can cost anywhere from $700-$1,400.

For me, that's a pretty high price for such an old car. It would have to be pretty mint for me to consider paying that much.
 

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Knowing what I know now- have it scanned for codes and take to Trusted mechanic if you are really interested. Even if garage kept & mint condition - without service records, I might would offer 1/2 that and expect problems.
 

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I purchased my ‘03 in July for $3800 private sale. I live in one of the top 10 largest US cities and used cars last all of 5mins around here before they sell. Mine had 140k when I bought it. No issues, and I’ve “caught up” on the maintenance. Honda sells ~400,000 of these cars a year and I’ve seen a handful of info about transmission failures. They did a recall and put a jet where the fill plug was, I think. I wouldn’t let a few online posts about reliability sway me too much. But with buying anything used, caveat emptor.
 

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Also keep in mind older models are going to have more complaints because they are OLDER and typically have more miles. I think the whole Honda transmission reputation has gotten a little over dramatized. Obviously people had issues but most people didn’t. Maintenance history is only one piece of the puzzle, driving habits/style can also do tremendous damage to the transmission.
 

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Also keep in mind older models are going to have more complaints because they are OLDER and typically have more miles. I think the whole Honda transmission reputation has gotten a little over dramatized. Obviously people had issues but most people didn’t. Maintenance history is only one piece of the puzzle, driving habits/style can also do tremendous damage to the transmission.
For sure! Everytime a “quirk” (Always a mild annoyance) pops up I remind myself I bought a 17yr old vehicle.
 

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Few things to look for...
Watch out for the rust for sure.
I'd take a white rag, pull the dipstick and examine the transmission fluid. Is it bright red or burnt brown? Does it smell burnt, musty old?
Older vehicles tend to leak oil. Is the vehicle covered in oil under the engine?
Check the rubber boots on the CV axles. Are the sealed or torn and greasy, grimy?
Open the radiator is it full with clean coolant or does it look like a milkshake?
 
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If the transmission seems to be working properly, there are many more important issues to look for in an '03. The checklist will help you do that.

I think that $4k is silly unless it's pristine, but that's what the market is paying these days. If you want a Pilot, that's what it will cost. If you want a bargain, you'll have to negotiate well or keep looking.
 

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I have an '03 with 138k that I bought new and have had zero problems. We do the regular oil changes, transmission fluid, differential fluid changes, and have been very lucky. I would consider it in excellent shape, and plan on handing it down to my girls to drive next year. If it's in good shape, I think $4k is fair
 

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When was this created and has it been updated? I'd be curious if as the 2006-2008 aged if the failures went up.
The chart is getting a bit long in the tooth, so update it with extrapolation, FWIW.
 
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