2009 Subaru Forester - Time for a new one

I’m wondering if it’s time to trade in my car for a new one? It currently has 157,000 miles and needs $5000-6000 worth of work between the front end struts, sway bar and lower control arms, and the head gasket leaking oil verrrry slowly. I do a lot of driving for work and need a reliable car which my Subaru has been. But maybe it’s time to sell and get something newer?

You just answered your own question.

Yes it is replacement time.


Without a doubt.

I lean toward replacing the car as well. I think the reliability is reaching a point where it’ll be an issue for you. I do think the estimate is high, but I guess that doesn’t matter.

Just to play devil’s advocate, replacing the struts and control arms will go a long way in terms of giving your car the feel of driving a new one. They are wear items and like tires, you need to replace them after a certain number of years and miles. Unless you hit it somehow I doubt you need to replace your sway bar, probably just the end links or the sway bar bushings which are $10 hunks of rubber. I am sure a garage could replace all of those including good quality parts and labor for about $1000, and probably less based on part prices at RockAuto. Likewise redoing the complete rear suspension would be less than 1000, and I can’t see how the engine work would be so dear based upon what you have been describing. I would think that Subaru has another 10 years of life in it, but how it ages from here on in will be a factor of the kind of maintenance it receives. If the love is gone, move on, but if you still like the vehicle you can probably keep it in good running condition for a few years yet.

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In my humble opinion any modern vehicle is capable of 200,000 miles. All of the mentioned items are indeed wear items, which have lasted 157,000 miles. The seemingly exorbitant amount that is being charged (which has to be from a dealer, find an independent shop on YELP if you have to and get an estimate from them) still only makes for one year of car payments. If the transmission is in good shape (if an automatic: no slipping, fluid doesn’t look dark/smell burned) you could drop 5000 into the car and still be in the clear if it lasts just one year. Being that you put about 15,700 miles a year on your car, it should most certainly last that. Afterall, that’s only a little more than three oil changes. If you have doubts about the transmission/engine condition (beyond minor headgasket oil leak) this is all out the window. But if putting 5k into a car means keeping it another 50k miles then that would be great in your case. A car that’s paid for is worth more than just it’s blue book value. It saves on insurance and above all, IT’S PAID FOR! Get another estimate from another non-dealer mechanic, have them do a stem to stern review, then get back to us. This car is only 10 years old, the average age of US car is 11-12. I say save it (unless you really want new).

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I see your car needing maybe $1000 to $1500 of suspension work, which any car will need by 150,000 miles or so. If the “head gasket leak” is just an external leakage of oil onto the ground, it may not be the head gasket(s) and unless the leak is severe, it should just be managed by checking the oil frequently and topping off when needed.

The average new car loan has a monthly payment of over $400, and that does not include the additional insurance and other costs which go along with owning a financed vehicle. If you spend $1500 to fix the suspension on your current car, it really only has to last 4 months for you to break even, which it certainly will. Every month you keep it after that is money in your pocket. Even assuming you eventually have to replace the head gasket(s), assuming a repair cost of around $2000-2500, which should be attainable at a reputable shop, your car must only go another 5-6 months to break even. Every month after that, it’s practically paying you to drive it!

It sounds like you’re at that breaking point - hence the half for, half against responses.
For the costs you can easily identify (cost of repair vs cost of replacement), repair wins out. However, it’s tough to put a cost on the time your car is out for additional repairs after this round is completed and even how much time that would be.
If your decision would change if the cost was really $2K-$3K, you may want to get another assessment on what needs to be repaired and another estimate on cost from a different shop.
I think your assessment is that reliability and peace of mind is worth more than the additional money it would cost for replacement. If so, go for the replacement.

It’s a hard choice, but I think you answered it. It sounds like you’d like a new car.

As others said, getting a couple estimates will let you know where you stand. What you described should be closer to $1500-2000. You are driving about 16,000 miles a year. Would it be worth risking, perhaps, $2500 to use the car for 2 more years? I assume your new car payments would be $450 to $500 for a similar vehicle.

If the car was unreliable or a rust bucket, a new car would be obvious. BTW, when a car reaches 10 years, dealers will low ball a trade, wanting a profit when they send it to the auction. I was offered 10% of retail.

I have a 2009 Dodge Challenger with about the same miles. I had all of the same suspension work done earlier this year at a local independent shop for around $1200 out the door.

If your oil leak is in fact very slow… just keep it topped off with oil. You can buy a huge amount of oil for a fraction of what you’d be looking to spend in repairs. Mine burns a little oil too, and I just check it/top it off every week. No big deal, but you have to stay in top of it.

For that amount of money, I’d get at least two more estimates. Make them independent garages with good reputations. When you get the estimates, just describe the problems and don’t tell them what anyone else recommends. That might color their evaluation. Decide after that whether to trade the car or keep it. Just be aware that whatever the car needs will reduce the trade-in value.