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2003 Jeep Liberty vs. 2001 Subaru Legacy Outback

Hi All,

I have an opportunity to change vehicles and I’m wondering whether or not you think it is worth it. I think the best way to do this is to describe each vehicle and its history.

My Current Vehicle: 2003 Jeep Liberty Sport (3.7L V6)
I bought this car back in 2010. A friend picked it up at an auction, and sold it to me. I don’t know anything about the vehicle’s history before I bought it, but the owner defaulted on her payments, and it appears that she didn’t invest much in terms of preventive maintenance. Since I bought the vehicle, I’ve tried to get it caught up on maintenance. Currently, it has 125,000 miles. Since buying it, I have had the following work done:

  • Transmission flush (by an independent shop which also cleaned the pan and replaced the filter)
  • Cooling system flush
  • Front and rear differentials drained and refilled
  • Spark plugs (all replaced)
  • AC compressor
  • Brake pads / rotors on all four wheels
  • Valve cover gaskets replaced
  • New PCV valve

Now, on to car number 2:

My grandfather has recently moved into a retirement community and no longer needs his car. Here’s what I know about it:

Grandpa’s Car: 2001 Subaru Legacy Outback
I have not yet had a chance to review his maintenance records, but here’s what I know. He bought it new, and has had it serviced at the dealer ever since. He has been diligent in bringing it in for regular preventative maintenance. Body-wise, it has a few scratches here and there, but it runs fine. It has about 136,000 miles. The vast majority of those miles are highway miles.

I’ve been a grad student for the last couple of years so money has been tight. I will be starting a new job soon. My long term goal is to save up enough money to buy a new car that is more fuel efficient, but I need to save up enough money for a down payment. In the interim, I need a car that will be reliable and not pose a big risk, in terms of a catastrophic failure (i.e. a transmission, head gasket) of some kind.

I recognize that any used car is a bit of a toss-up, but if it were up to you, which one would you pick? I like the jeep but it sucks up tons of gas, and I wonder about the transmission’s long-term health. However, I also know that subarus are known for head gasket problems.

Any constructive input is welcome. Thanks.

My inclination is to go with the younger car and lower miles. If your experience is satisfactory with the Liberty, then I would keep it. Perhaps the best thing to do is get to “prepurchase” inspections from a trusted mechanic to assess the conditions of each car.

Specific issues that need verification with the Subaru:

Timing belt at 105K or so.
Not all Subarus had the head gasket issue in that timeframe (I owned one that never had the issue, for example). If the service was done with a Subaru dealer and the coolant conditioner used, then the probability of head gasket issues seem to be lessened.
Four tires the same? This is important for the AWD system.
If the Subaru has been maintained in accordance with the owner’s manual, it will last a long time.

On the other hand, the higher miles and age could mean that more issues will crop up as time goes on.

It really boils down to which is better maintained, and that is an on-site assessment, vs internet one. Best of luck to you in your decision.

Looking at some data for the MPG of both cars it looks like you could expect up to a 5 MPG difference between the two with the Soob saving you a fair amount of money over time. You might want to go for it instead of the Jeep and you don’t think you will need the extra space the Jeep provides you. I have been a happy Soob owner for a lot of years and currently own a '01 LL Bean Outback.

You might think about keeping the car until you can either save enough to purchase a new car outright or until the daily driver needs major “medical” attention and then take out a loan for a new one. The longer you can save for a new one, the less cost it will be to you. Unless you can find a car you like that has a no interest loan for it. It is hard to say how long that thing of thing is going to last though.

I’d go for the Subaru. I believe the brand is generally pretty reliable. But it may cost more to maintain it.
Also, you know who drove it and have records going all the way back to the beginning.

If you want to go off-road, keep the Jeep, if not, keep the Subaru.

The cars are close to the same age, and not too far off on miles. I’ve not been impressed with Jeep Liberty as they age. The can be trouble prone, and electrical gremlins are particular problem area that are difficult to fix in this car.

I’m not a big Subaru fan either, but in this I think you know more about the Subaru due to past service records. I’d really look over the documentation and look for any head gasket issues, perhaps they have been dealt with previously.

Between these 2, in this case I’d opt for the older Subaru.