Tips, Tricks & Trends

The Worst Honda Odyssey Problems Could Cost Your Family a Lot of Money

Nobody ever bought a Honda Odyssey for style, but the tradeoff is that you get legendary Honda reliability in exchange for an orthopedic box on wheels. As it turns out, that legendary Honda reliability may not be all it’s cracked up to be in the Odyssey. Adding to that, the problems with the Odyssey are among the most expensive to repair – the transmission.

The Honda Odyssey has a history of transmission problems

If you’re in the market for a new Honda Odyssey, you’ve got the advantage of a great warranty, so you don’t have to worry about repairs for 60,000 miles or five years. According to Consumer Reports, there is one pesky little recall already out for the 2020 Odyssey–actually 2018-2020 models. There is a wiring issue in the third row and several Odysseys have caught fire. No injuries have been reported per Consumer Reports.

Pre-owned Honda Odysseys may not have a warranty

On the other hand, if laying out $40,000 (average MSRP) for a carpooling minivan seems a little much, Honda’s reputation for safety and reliability have made it a top option for a pre-owned vehicle. The downside of pre-owned is that manufacturer’s warranty has usually expired by the time a vehicle hits the pre-owned lot.

You always have the option of buying the dealer’s in-house warranty, but they may not really be worth the hefty price tag since major repairs aren’t fully covered. And the older the vehicle, the scantier any offered warranty would be. Let’s face it – if you’re in the market for a practically vintage Odyssey, reliability is a key consideration because who wants to sink the car’s value into repairs.

Even really reliable new cars have problems as they age

2017 Honda Odyssey is on display at the 109th Annual Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place
The Honda Odyssey | Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

RELATED: Consumer Reports Found a Lot to Love About the 2020 Honda Odyssey

We’re not really picking on the Odyssey here, but it’s a great example of how a used car, even one with a superior reputation in its youth, may not be worth the money as it ages. Almost every major automobile reviewing outfit gives the Odyssey raves when the models come out. The venerable Consumer Reports gives the 2020 model an above-average rating (barely, at 61/100), with the knowledge of the fire hazard because Honda is such a strong brand.

But where the Odyssey, and really almost any vehicle, can cause expensive problems as they age are in the big-ticket category – engine and transmission. The Odyssey had a particularly dreadful time in the early 2000s with transmission issues, with 2002 being the worst. The 2005 and 2003 models were also not great, but overall, the 2002 model was a complete dud. Give credit to Honda’s engineers for fixing that problem; after the 2007 model year, the Odyssey got back on track.

Hearing about the transmission strikes fear in the hearts of most car owners since the transmission is easily the most expensive thing to repair or replace. Why? The combination of sophisticated electronics, old-school mechanics, and hydraulics makes a transmission a highly sensitive piece of equipment, and diagnosing the problem can be as much of a challenge as the repair itself.

If you’re trying to figure out the least expensive way out of a bad transmission, here are some very rough figures for repairs and replacements. Keep in mind that the transmission is made up of thousands of parts, and determining which one is bad is rather labor-intensive. 

A salvaged or used transmission will run you between $1,000-$2,000; a rebuilt one between $1,500-$3,000. A remanufactured piece (no mechanic worth using would put a brand-new transmission in an older, high-mileage car) is hardest on your wallet – up to $4,000. These numbers don’t include the labor involved – four to 10 hours of billable time. This is when you have to make the hard calculation whether your Honda Odyssey will continue or if it’s time to heed metaphorical the siren call of Circe and just buy a new vehicle.