2000 Subaru Outback, repair or not?

My 2000 Outback has around 155K miles and is leaking oil at the head gasket, a problem common to that generation. My trusted mechanic quoted around $2,500 to reseal the engine, and to replace the timing belt and the engine mounts as long as the engine is out already. I’ve deferred the engine mount repair. The only significant $ I’ve put into the vehicle was $3,000 for a rebuilt transmission 6-8 years ago. Apparently the air-conditioner coolant has been leaking as I’ve replaced that twice.

When I heard the repair quote, my first reaction was to NOT do it as I’ve got another vehicle to fall back on and the Subaru isn’t worth that much. But if it’s possible that it could get another 100-150K trouble-free (or nearly) miles after the repair, then maybe it’s worthwhile.

I don’t know what to do, but will speak with the mechanic tomorrow and would like some additional input. Thanks!

I would repair it.

IMHO, if you need Awd repair it. If you don’t dump it and move on. You can expect more repairs down the road but a reliable Awd that you know the service record of is not easy to find for that money. So, it depends upon how much you depend on this type of vehicle right now. Either way, you can’t depend upon the next 100k miles to be as trouble free as a simple 2wd vehicle. Putting $2.5k into a car does not make it new again, just usable for now. It still has 155k miles on it and is thirteen years old. Anything else could happen ! More drive train problems, Electric windows, door locks air etc…are really expensive. A rust through and becomes uninspectable, it’s immediately worthless !


It depends . . .

What condition is the body in?

Beat up and lots of dents?

Significant rust?

Have the mechanic look underneath very closely if you live anywhere road salt is used

Mechanically speaking these engines are notorious for head gasket failures but other wise have proven to be quite durable. I think the answer depends on the condition of the rest of the vehicle.

If you live in an area where rust is a common concern I would be afraid that the rest of the car may prove to be quite costly to maintain. Things affected by salt on the roads and rust in general can quickly add up to thousands of dollars of repairs. Wheel bearings and hubs, steel brake and fuel lines, and suspension parts are some examples.

However, if the body, subframe, chassis, etc are clean and rust free and the interior is still in nice condition then it would probably make sense to repair the engine. The car probably won’t last another 14 years, but $2500 isn’t much money to spend if it gets you another 50,000 miles on the car and then you can take your time to plan and find a replacement you like and can afford. Sales tax alone on a new car is going to be $2500.

BTW I’ve done many of these Subaru head gaskets, and the cost for the complete job with timing belt components, complete engine reseal and a few odds and ends is usually about $2200 or so. The price you were quoted is reasonable.

A 2000 Outback with 155K miles in “Good” is only worth between $1650 (trade in) and $2700 (private sale). With a leaky head gasket, it’s value is greatly diminished. This is from kbb.com. I suspect others are similar.

If you invest $2500 to fix the head gasket, the car will only be worth the amounts noted above.

I can’t say if it’s worth it to you to fix it, but keep these numbers in mind as you go through the pros and cons of fixing it.

I would not put any money into a 14 year old Subaru which has several significant problems. Sell it “as is” as a mechanic’s special, and move onto something newer and more reliable.

I’d be reluctant to put more money into this vehicle, given that you have already had transmission problems, and now the head gasket is on the fritz. Either of those problems are rare in highly reliable cars. And you’ve had both of them. If this were my car I’d probably try re-torqing the head bolts, with luck that might reduce the oil leakage to a drip or two, at least make it drivable for a while. If that didn’t fix it at least temporarily, I’d probably donate it to my local high school or junior college auto shop class or something like that.