2002 Subaru Forester S--Is it worth it?

So I’m hunting for a cheap, used car with some reliability, and a 2002 Subaru Forester with 99,000 miles priced at $4,990 caught my eye. I haven’t gone to the dealer yet to check it out yet, but wanted to know before I even go whether this will serve my purposes.

My girlfriend comes from a big Subaru family, and swears it’ll last at least another 80K miles. I’d be happy with even 50K before substantial maintenance was required. I’ve been looking at much newer vehicles (Mazda 3 and Subaru Impreza, as well as Hyundai and Toyota Hatches), but am still young and could very well move and switch jobs in the next few years, and am thinking twice now about committing to a three year payment. I could buy the Subaru outright and save on Insurance what I’ll be paying extra for the poor gas mileage.

The vehicle would be used mostly for weekend trips across state or to the beach once a month, with moderate driving to and from work (5 miles away). Would this do the trick (if the car history and maintenance all checks out) or should I look into something more substantial?

This era Forester has frequent head gasket issues. I’d look for something else.

Cheap used with some reliability excludes that Subaru. You are better off looking for a good Mazda Protégé, Mazda3, Hyundai Accent or Hyundai Elantra. Avoid AWD or 4WD in a used car unless you personally know the owner and have proof that he has maintained it well.

Consumer Reports has a good Used Car Buying Guide. Your library will have a copy.

The car would also be due right now for a timing belt kit unless it can be proven in writing that the job has been done in the recent past. The head gasket issue is also something to consider but it’s also possible that this could have been repaired in the past or any HG issue may never surface at all.

You do not need to listen to your girlfriend’s car advice. She is making a blanket statement about a 12 year old, 99k miles car that she has never seen and knows nothing about.
The car may be great and last another quarter million miles or it may be ready for the car crusher next week. It’s anybody’s guess.

Her expectations must be low if she thinks a Subaru is only good for 179k miles.

Is $5k your budget? Do a search for 5k cars on CL and see what pops up. U will quickly see a pattern of age/miles and this might push your search towards a type of car. I assume you want sedan?

Here’s the exact listing http://www.ardmoretoyota.com/used-Ardmore-2002-Subaru-Forester-S-JF1SF65572H727337

The absolute max I can afford is somewhere between $16-17K. At this point though I’m leaning toward keeping the financial flexibility of going cheap/used for the next couple years. Compared to others, this one seemed ominously low priced, but I don’t know much about Subarus to make the comparison.

I’m not sure I’d pay half that, myself.
Offer 3k and see if they bite

It’s interesting they have no current photo of it, just a stock photo. makes me wonder if the dealer is afraid people won’t show if they see the real thing.

I don"t see that you need an Awd car. If that’s true, avoid them used with high miles. For $5k, look for a fwd compact. I have had a couple of Subarus with no issues. But, I would not buy one that old and with that many miles.

I like the Forester, but think it must be pretty ratty to be that cheap. If you only need basic transportation, thisis not it. Get a basic Mazda3, Pontiac Vibe, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra, Nissan Sentra or the like. The Forester is bigger than you need and a cheap Subaru must be cheap for a reason. Dealers know what cars go for.