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Buying a used Subaru Forester or Outback - which years are best??

I have been reading about problems with leaking head gaskets in older Subarus. What are the best years for Subarus all around? Is it different for Foresters vs. Outbacks?? Is it true that they fixed the head gasket problem in 2002?
<br/> Thanks!!


  • edited February 2010
    As far as I'm concerned, they're never really fixed. Give the newer models an opportunity to become older models and the problem may surface there too.
  • edited February 2010

    If you want a really reliable Subaru with a bullet-proof engine, look for an Outback with a 6-cylinder engine.

    First of all, this engine uses a timing chain, so there is no timing belt to worry about.
    The 6-cylinder engines have no known issues, and I have been driving one since December, 2001 with only one repair, namely replacement of the tensioner and the idler pulley for the serpentine belt. The bearings in those pulleys were going dry. Other than that minor repair--no issues whatsoever in 8+ years/100k+ miles.
  • edited February 2010
    I do not own a Subaru, and never have owned one. I used to think they were ok cars based on Subaru longevity of past models, pre 2000. Since reading on this forum I've moved to say don't buy a used Subaru, period. For a car company with less than 10% market share Subaru is way over represented by posts on this forum. Bad head gaskets, transmissions that fail, one flat tire needs all 4 replaced or the all wheel drive components will fail.

    Modern Subaru's are not the solid long lived cars they used to be, don't buy a used Subaru. Volvo is the other brand in the same boat, newer ones don't hold up nearly as long as the old ones. Buy a Subaru and don't be surprised with very high repair and upkeep cost. My opinion - don't buy a used Subaru.
  • edited February 2010
    The two Subarus I had were trouble free, so couldn't tell by me. In my very humble opinion after owning a couple and have friends own newer, they seem to be improving . Friend with 6 cyl only has 120K but trouble free miles. All have been trouble free when bought new. I agree that they are over represented, maybe because there's a lot of northern climate people here ? But I know of few other cars that have as loyal a following than Subarus in NE area; regardless of "head gasket" problems.

    But. having said all that..."Uncle Turbo" I agree..though I wouldn't hesitate to buy new, I wouldn't buy used
  • edited February 2010

    Like dagosa, I have bought 2 new Subarus ('97 and '02), and they have been the most reliable cars that I ever owned. Previously, I owned a Dodge Charger, a Volvo 240, a VW Karmann Ghia, a Chevy Citation, a Ford Taurus, and a Honda Accord, and all were purchased as new cars, with the exception of the Karmann Ghia. The '97 Subaru was more reliable than any of my previous cars, and that is why I did not hesitate to buy the '02 model.

    In the 12 years/ 160k+ miles that I (and later, my brother) owned the '97 Outback, it needed to have the alternator replaced (at ~95k), the head gaskets replaced (at ~120k), and a lower control arm replaced (at 150k). And that was it. No other repairs in 12 yrs/160k+ miles.

    My current Outback (the '02 6-cylinder model) is now at 100k+ miles with the only repair having been replacement of the tensioner and idler pulley for the serpentine belt as a result of dry bearings. That is it, in terms of repairs over 8 years.

    If my Honda had been as reliable as my first Subaru, I would have bought another Honda.

    That being said, I would probably not buy a used Subaru, but then again, I have not bought a used car of any make since the late '70s, nor do I intend to buy any used cars of any make.
  • edited February 2010
    2005-present Subaru's are devoid of head gasket issues and quite reliable.

    2003/2004 it was a hit or miss, except turbo engines no head gasket issues. 1996-2002 its more prevalent.

    The 2005 Legacy/Outback is the start of "nice" Subaru's IMHO with Audish interior. I love my 2005 Legacy GT(turbo) wagon and it has been trouble free.

  • edited February 2010
    The April edition of C. R. just came out so you can look at it too.
  • edited March 2010
    Are stuck on Subaru or willing to look at alternatives??...Toyota or Honda have comparable for my opinion I would look for a RAV...a very reliable maintenance free vehicle...have 2 at the moment.
  • edited March 2010
    Try these links and click on 2006, 2005, and 2002 for the Forrester. The click on the reliability tab. The engines have problems until 2006; the explanations are given. The same seems to hold for the Outback (click on 2007 and 2004, then reliability tab).
  • edited March 2010
    Let me add to VCDdriver's Subaru experience. My last, I kept for only 130K, original battery, brake pads that were at the 60% level, one new set each of summer and winter tires, clutch felt the same as new as did the entire suspension system. I had one oil leak around the cam seal replaced at timing belt change. A deer hit it and bounced along the entire side...that needed repair. (buck died)...gas and regular fluid/filter changes per manual, and that was it. I lived on a dirt road and banged up the floor boards from below a couple of times on rocks, covered scraped areas with grease, oiled rust proofing and continued beating on it. I'd still have it but, replaced it with a vehicle that could tow a "pontoony".

    SOOOO, even if it did have a head gasket problem which it did not, I would still be way ahead of most cars. That's why I feel the head casket problem is relative compared to the rest of the car's reliability and for me, only comes into play when buying used. My only complaints were the seats and the poor overhang and approach angle which scraped too much for me on my "semi off road" road. 4Runner is a definite improvement in that area, but we still miss the Subaru and I wouldn't hesitate buying another new.
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