What are the repair options if the car needs a new engine?

By Vlad Samarin April 09, 2023
Engine failures are quite common and it's not always the end of the road for your car. There are two repair options to consider: replacing or rebuilding an engine. Another option is to sell the car as-is, which is not uncommon. Let's consider repair options:

Engine Replacement

This type of repairs is quite common: the old engine is removed and the replacement engine is installed. The replacement engine doesn't have to be brand new which is expensive, it can be a remanufactured or a used engine.
New long-block engine New OEM engine (long block assembly).

A new factory-built engine can be ordered from a dealer. Prices for a new engine start from $5,000 and can be as high as $15,000 or higher. A new engine is typically ordered as a long block assembly (in the photo) and comes with all internal parts and cylinder head(s).

Another option is a remanufactured engine. A remanufactured engine is a used engine that has been rebuilt with new parts. A remanufactured engine is cheaper than a new factory engine, but its longevity depends on the skills of the rebuilder and quality of parts used.

The third option is a used engine. In our experience, it's the most common repair option. A used engine can be sourced from a car recycling facility (salvage yard). Prices for used engines vary depending on the model, and supply and demand. To check the price range, search eBay for a used engine specifying Make, Year, and Model.

A used engine may come as a complete assembly, with manifolds and some other external parts. For some cars, you can find a used engine for as low as $500-$700. When opting for a used engine, inquire about the warranty and mileage. It's important to verify that the engine will fit your car, as there could be some differences between different model years of the same engine.
Used car engine Used engine (complete assembly).

Once you get a used engine delivered, it may need some additional parts, for example, a new water pump or a timing belt. Some parts may need to be removed or swapped from the old engine.

How much does it cost to replace an engine? On top of the price for an engine, your repair shop may charge you from 9 to 12 hours of labor (for an average 4-cylinder engine). Replacing a larger engine will cost more. Add the price of an engine (part) plus additional parts that may be required, such as gaskets, coolant, oil and filter, etc.
When replacing and engine, Inquire about the warranty. We recommend to opt for a repair if at least one year warranty is provided.

Rebuilding an engine

Rebuilding an engine Rebuilding an engine with a new cylinder head.
Another option is to rebuild the engine. Rebuilding involves taking the engine apart, replacing or reworking parts that are damaged and then re-assembling it. This option makes sense if the damage is limited, for example, when the valves are bent or a head gasket is leaking, but the cylinder block is in good shape.

The downside is that rebuilding an engine may take a lot more time, which could involve higher labor costs. There is also a risk that some damage is hidden and may not be visible upon initial inspection. The upside is that it might still be cheaper than replacing the whole engine.

Rebuilding an engine is a sensible option if a mechanic can somehow confirm that the damage is limited and required parts are readily available. One way to check for damage is to use a borescope camera. Nobody wants to pay several hundred dollars to take an engine apart only to find out that the damage is too severe and it must be replaced.

Here is a recent example from our work: the engine has no compression in one of the cylinders. We used a borescope camera and found that it was due to a burnt valve and the cylinder walls didn't show any damage. We removed the cylinder head and sent it to the machine shop to have it rebuilt with new valves. Then we reinstalled the cylinder head with the required new parts and the engine runs like new.