Buying a new Subaru - good idea?


#1

My husband and i are within 2 years of retiring and will probably go down to one car. We need it to be reliable, long lasting, and good in winter weather, as we live in southern Maine. We have read that Subarus have the best handling in snowy weather. However, we have also read that there are problems with head gaskets (is that the right term?) that can result in expensive repairs before the car has 100,000 miles. We currently drive a 2001 Accord and 2006 Camry, both with well over 100,000 miles, and neither have needed major repairs. The new car we buy will probably be our last. We will not have much extra money for car repairs. Should we stick to a new Camry or are Subarus that much better for our needs (good handling on snow and ice)? We are specifically thinking about the Forester. Thanks for any suggestions.


#2

Being retired for a few years now, and living in NH, I’ve learned that I don’t have he same transportation needs as I had when I was working. Now, if I look out the window and there’s a blizzard going on, I pour another cup of coffee and wait for the storm to end and the plows to finish cleaning up.

If you like the Accord or Camry, buy the one you like best. Just buy a spare set of steel rims and put some good snow tires on them for the winter.

Having said that, my understanding is that Subies have solved their headgasket problems. However, whatever you decide, test drive it very, very well. Subies also ride firmly, they’re targeted at the younger set, and you may prefer the smoothness of a Camry or Accord. I know I would.

Oh, I almost forgot, check the transmission available. Hondas have gone to Continuously Variable Transmissions (CVTs) on some of their vehicles, and IMHO they haven’t yet proven themselves long-term reliable. I do know, however, that on some of the Honda models regular automatics are available instead of CVTs. Just be aware of the tranny options for the vehicle you choose.


#3

I think a Subie is a good choice in your situation. There’s probably lots of Subies on the road there, so it will be easy to find a good shop to provide the needed maintenance and occasional repair. It’s true we see here quite a few head gasket complaints on Subies. It’s been postulated this is b/c of the basic engine design. I expect however if you are diligent in keeping the routine cooling system maintenance up to date per the owners manual, use the correct coolant, etc, you’ll be unlikely to ever experience the head gasket problem. And even if you do, provided you stop driving as soon as you notice overheating, replacing a head gasket is on the expensive side but isn’t the end of the engine. It’s just a gasket after all. Once replaced, the engine will return to purring like a kitten.

If yuou lived in Florida I’d say “no”, but in Maine, “yes, a very good choice”.


#4

I just bought a new Subaru Forester last year. From what I understand, the head gasket problems are a thing of the past. But I could be wrong. (I’m assuming you will buy new).

It has a CVT, which I’m hoping will prove to have good reliability, but the vote is still out on that.

Perhaps the toyota may have better reliability, but Consumer Reports top rated the Subi.

Mileage and visibility are better on the Subi as is snow handling. But do you really need that? I’ve gotten by without all-wheel drive for decades before this, living in NH and MA.

I suggest you do not get the turbo model.

As always, the decision is up to you.


#5

Should be fine, a friend today was concerned about his Subaru, head gasket failure, covered under warranty, thinking of canceling a road trip, 60k but I am like they will fix it under warranty, if you cannot trust the car after repairs for a road trip buy another. The engine evidently has to be pulled, and they offered turbo head gaskets for $200 extra. There is no ultimate no problem car out there. Course all the new expenses and technology I am on a 3 year and out lease philosophy for wifes car, but that does not work fr everyone, and on maintenance nd repairs for my car.


#6

I’d have no problem buying a new Subaru. They have redesigned the engines, so the head gasket problem should be much better (it’ll take a few years to be sure). You’ve been driving the Accord and Camry for years in southern Maine, correct? Or are you moving there? As others have said, a set of winter tires/rims can do wonders for a front wheel drive car.


#7

If you get a Subaru, you do have to make sure to rotate your tires as directed in the manual so that the tire circumferences stay approximately the same. Otherwise you risk damage to the drivetrain.


#8

Its good that you are thinking about this ahead of time, but I don’t see where you have a special need to go out and buy a new vehicle at this time. I would at least wait until actual retirement. You could keep one or both of your present cars well into retirement, keep the money in the bank earning interest for a new vehicle when you actually need one.

The Subaru is a good car though. I bought one about two years after I retired. The main reason for getting one is that they are one of the easiest vehicles to get in and out of for people with limited mobility. Mobility issues can come up pretty much anytime after retirement, or before for that matter.

The Subaru also has the best accident avoidance system out there right now. The eyesight system could allow you to drive safely longer than a vehicle without it, but in a few years, everyone will have better accident avoidance systems.


#9

Opinions are subjective of course, but I prefer Subarus over Toyotas.

I also agree with keith about keeping your current cars until retirement and don’t fret because the cars have over a 100k miles on them. That’s comparatively low miles for both of those cars.


#10

After owning a Dodge Charger, a Volvo 242, a VW Karmann Ghia, a Chevy Citation, a Ford Taurus, and a Honda Accord, I am currently driving my third Subaru Outback. I would not have bought the second Subaru if the first one hadn’t been more reliable than any of my previous cars, and–needless to say–I wouldn’t have bought the third Subaru if the second Subie wasn’t even better than the first one!

Yes, my first Subaru did develop the classic head gasket issue at ~110,000 miles, but that was the only repair that the car ever needed, and the dealership charged me less ~$400 for that repair, in the interest of good will. The second Subaru needed ZERO repairs in the 9 years that I owned it, and so far–knock wood–the third one has needed no repairs in the 5 years that I have had it.

By contrast, the Honda Accord needed to have the oil pan gasket replaced, and needed to have its lower ball joints replaced–all after only ~5 years. Additionally, the Honda had a bunch of niggling electronic problems that were–luckily–resolved over the first 2-3 years, and an annoying rattle in the dashboard that was never resolved.


#11

We are retired and like Mr Mountain Bike when the weather bad we just stay home. As for buying a new car for retirement why? It is not like we really have to be anywhere on a daily basis and the amount of miles we drive just don’t amount to much.


#12

Keep driving your current cars till “the wheels fall off” since they are both extremely reliable.

As warned, a Subaru is a special car needing maintenance to be followed to the letter. I therefore only recommend Subarus to engineers, technicians and others who will follow the book. My previous neighbor would drive a Subaru into the ground in a few years.


#13

As warned, a Subaru is a special car needing maintenance to be followed to the letter

I’m a mechanic, I service cars for a living, and I have never run across anything from Subaru or any aftermarket info stating that Subarus require special maintenance or are unique in any way. I maintain Subarus in the same manner I maintain any other car. What am I missing?


#14
"As warned, a Subaru is a special car needing maintenance to be followed to the letter."

Huh?
The only thing about Subaru maintenance that could be considered…special…is the proviso regarding tire rotation on a specific schedule.

However, since that dictum now also applies all of the other makes of AWD vehicles that have come into the marketplace, I think that this part of the Subaru maintenance schedule lost its “specialness” quite a few years ago.


#15

You indicate that you are two years from retirement. What you need to be thinking about is what do you plan to do in your retirement and then think about the vehicle that best fits your needs. My wife and I have been retired from our jobs for five years. The vehicles we had when we retired still fit our needs. My wife drives a Toyota 4Runner. When she was employed, she had to be at work and had to have a vehicle that would get her there. In retirement,she drives people to doctor’s appointments, brings groceries to shut-ins and visits patients in the hospital. She will get out in that 4Runner to do what she thinks she needs to do no matter how deep the snow. I manage and play in a chamber orchestra as well as two concert bands. I also do a lot of maintenance for the small church I attend. I need a vehicle that will haul musical instruments, transport people and carry building materials. I won’t give up my Sienna minivan. We couldn’t get along with one vehicle as we are both going different directions at the same time. We often joke that we should retire from retirement and go back to work. We have both been retired for five years. I will be 75 this year and I don’t think about what my last car should be, nor am I in any hurry to get to that point. I want to live a long time as there are a lot more people in this world I want to irritate. The last thing I want to do in this world is croak–I know where the hell I’ll be going. Let your interests you bring to retirement and the interests you develop in retirement dictate what to buy after you retire from work. If you are like Mrs. Triedaq and me, you may find you want two vehicles. You are way too young to be thinking about your last vehicle.


#16

Good grief! I’m sure most will disagree, but seems to me that if a car is so sensitive that if the tread is thinner on one tire than the others it will damage the drivetrain, that car cannot be very tough. That would be a dealbreaker for me.

That aside, I know the Subarus are very popular cars, so don’t expect to find a bargain.

Agree with the others, consider what you want to do in retirement. If you want to take a lot of road trips and such, you may find yourself driving MORE in retirement.


#17

I have a 2005 Honda Accord EX V6 with auto transmission. It has 163,000 miles on it and still performs admirably as a commuter car. I’d like to buy a new car, but I can’t justify it yet because my Accord runs so well. If I were in your shoes, I would keep the two cars until they become unreliable. If you have the money for the car now, just save it until you need it. You need to know how to conserve resources on a fixed income anyway, and this will be a good test.


#18

I can’t speak to modern day Subies, but Subies from the 1980’s tended to be very reliable for many miles, until one day they weren’t. At that point, whatever the problem that developed, it was very difficult to diagnose for some reason. The particular cars I’m thinking of were carbureted Subies, and I expect the difficult-to-diagnose aspect was in that part of the engine design. Something about the way the carb and its sensors and accessories worked together made the works difficult to diagnose.


#19

The only issues modern Subarus have are the same issues that all vehicles with limited slip differentials and all wheel drive have – i.e., tire rotations must be done regularly to keep the tires closely matched (else the limited slip differential will wear out rapidly and the center differential will overheat), and there’s just more moving parts compared to a front wheel drive car. This is especially true if comparing a Subaru to a Camry. The Subaru has twice as many camshafts and twice as many exhaust manifolds as a Camry, not to mention a center differential and driveshaft and rear differential and driveshafts that the Camry doesn’t have. It’s a fun car and I wouldn’t mind having one if my circumstances were such that I could afford one, but over time it’s simply going to be more expensive to maintain than a Camera, because there’s more to break.

Frankly, modern traction control, antilock brakes, and electronic stability control are so good that I’m not convinced of the need for all wheel drive in the snow with modern front wheel drive cars. I’ve driven in blizzards with a front wheel drive car with no issues, you just have to drive at a reasonable speed and with proper tires (and chains if needed). Remember, all wheel drive just helps you accelerate from a stop, it does not make the car stop faster on ice or snow, and it does not make the car stay on the road any better in ice or snow. Most of the cars I see spun out in the median when I’m puttering along in my front wheel drive vehicle are 4x4’s or AWD CUV’s (Car-like Utility Vehicles), because those are the people who for some reason think all-wheel drive makes their car stay on the road better in the snow. It doesn’t. It can’t. Physics doesn’t change just because the number of driven wheels changed!


#20

I’m not familiar with any special treatment needed by Subarus.