2001 Subaru Outback Wagon _ 133,000 miles _ Money Pit or Keeper?

Money Pit or Keeper? (Purchased this vehicle on 9/11/2001, brand new.) In the past 2 years I have had the following work done on my 2001 Subaru Outback Wagon (4 cylinder, automatic, leather interior, 133,000 miles):

Timing belt replaced, new battery, new brakes, new tires, new head gaskets. The oil / filter has been changed every 2500 to 3000 miles for the life of the car. Now, it needs new (or rebuilt) axles and mounts ($925 including labor = lower of 2 estimates), plus a catalytic converter and O2 sensors ($1450 including labor = lower of 2 estimates - note California residency requires special catalytic converter for which, on this vehicle there is no after market part available). After a great 9 years, and substantial repairs, do I keep this vehicle running by investing more money into it, or run for the hills? Please advise. Note: Car mileage ~ 350 miles/week (250 freeway, 100 city).

This is an All Wheel Drive (AWD) model. I am told the engine is in fine shape.

Limited edition (dual moon roof).

The kind of driving you do is not all that hard on a car. I’d fix it. I’ve seen lots of Subarus with twice that mileage. You know the maintenance history of this car, and it has been well kept. It just needs a bit more maintenance.

When you say axles and mounts, are you speaking of all four CV shafts? That’s a tad less than $250 per axle. I think $150 per axle would be more in line, at least for rebuilt ones.

Were you shopping for all of this at two Subaru dealers? Try calling an independent muffler shop, not a chain like Midas or Meineke, for the catalytic converter. Seek out an independent shop here on the car talk website under mechanic’s files for the CV shafts if that’s what you’re referring to. If not, please clarify.

You have to expect the kind of repairs you are doing on a older car but once you do them things should be good again for some time and repair bills should be significantly less. Hopefully you are doing the scheduled drive train maintenance also. If you still like driving the car and want to save on monthly car payments I would say keep the car. They can easily go for 250k miles and more and you have already done some of the more costly repairs and are behind you now. If you can set aside a little money each month for a savings fund to make a good down payment on a new car when it comes to that time it would be a good thing to do.

Thanks for the reply. The estimates are from two places, the dealership and a small independent shop. I gave the lower of the two, which was from the independent. I am not familiar with the specifics on the axles – they were just described as “axles and mounts.” The dealer quoted $1100, the independent $900. I’ll call the dealer back and try another independent shop re: the converter. After the last two years of expenses with this vehicle, I fear other major problems that I cannot foresee. I did buy it with a vision of be able to reach 200,000 miles. Thank you.

The repairs done and listed as “needed” now are not out of line with miles and age of the car. Is it a money pit? Well yes, in that in all those miles some stuff is likely to be worn out or wearing out. If you keep it you need to plan on more repair expenses over the next 5 years than the last 5 years, simply because more things will fail.

You haven’t mentioned a new radiator, heater core, AC compressor, struts, tie rods, or a new transmission. All these could fail. Likely not all at once but over the next 5 to 10 years most of these items will need replacing. Alternator, steering rack, power steering pump, yadda yadda are all in the same scenario. If more repairs and downtime are a problem for you then perhaps you need to get ready for a monthly payment again.

The older the car the more repairs it will need, just the nature of the beast.

How much do you like the vehicle? It really is personal preference.

If you want to get rid of it, now is the definite time before repairing all that.

A new one runs $24K or more. At this point, you need to put 10% of the cost of a new car to keep this one in good shape. Your choice, but I would invest the $2.5K. These two repairs are single expenses that should be good for another 133K.

You can check on trade or private sale value, but it appears economical to keep the car until you run into a very expensive repair like transaxle or engine rebuild.