Concerns with buying a 1995 Legacy Wagon..need advice



I’ve got an offer to buy a 1995 Subaru Legacy-L AWD wagon. 138kmi. They parked it because it needs a gas tank… found a used one, no problem there.

However, I’m concerned about the headgasket issue with Subaru. I haven’t seen the car yet, but I was told there is a little blue smoke upon start up. I think its down about a quart when its time for an oil change. (So is my Toyota truck which had a new headgasket at 80kmi, so it could be the engine showing its age).

I’ve never had an AWD before… I’m slightly less concerned about the issues with AWD and keeping good tires on them.

Lastly, gas mileage. What can I expect?

So, headgasket, AWD, and MPG… any thoughts?

Thanks much!


Sight unseen, it’s worth a 100 bucks. Maybe. With a cooling system pressure test, compression test, oil pressure test, and actually hearing it run in a fairly decent manner the price could go up a bit.

What’s the reason for a gas tank replacement? Rust?

The blue smoke could be leaking valve seals or something more serious; as in head gasket, worn out valve guides, fried piston rings, etc.
Offhand, it sounds pretty shaky to me. How much do they want for this thing?

The gas mileage issue is hard to say since that depends on engine condition and driving habits. 25 if you’re lucky? The old Subarus would get 35-45 but started downhill in the late 80s.


The tank has a seam leak due to rust. They’re asking $500, and I’m pretty sure I can do the tank myself. I realize it entails dropping the rear. I’m less inclined to do the headgasket(s). Its also been sitting about a year… possibly time for gasket material to degrade.

I was hoping for 28MPG hwy… I’m a pretty sane driver. I wasn’t really looking for an AWD, as I have a 4x4 I drive when the weather is bad. However, I do need a new daily driver and I like wagons. If its a good deal I would go for it. I haven’t looked at it yet, only because its nearly 2 hours away… I was trying to ascertain as much info as I could over the phone and on here before deciding to drive over and look at it. I do seem to remember the owner thinking the smoke issue was do to valve seals, but its anyones guess.

EDIT That headgasket recall was for 1996-2001 Subaru’s, right?


I would not come near this car!!! Reasons:

  1. This car has obviously not been well cared for. Subarus are basically good cars and with the proper care at that mileage there should be no major deterioration.

  2. AWD cars use more gas than 2 wheel drive cars of the same size. The reason is drag of the extra gearing and the extra weight. Check EPA figures for, say Jeep Cherokee with or without AWD.

  3. Subaru cars, when they need repairs, cost a great deal more to fix than others. Main reasons are fewer aftermarket parts and AWD is very expensive to fix.

  4. If you want to buy this car for $100 as a hobby car and buy used parts as you go along, I would say it’s a creative hobby that will teach you a great deal, especially what NOT to buy in the future.

  5. This car should be donated to a vocational school’s auto mechanics section, or donated to the Kidney Foudation who will issue a $100+ tax receipt.

For comparison:

My wife has a 1994 Nissan Sentra, with about the same mileage. The gas tank is not rusted out. It does not leak or use oil. It does NOT SMOKE. The transmission is in like new condition. Everything in the car works. When new, the Subaru and the Sentra had the same quality and reliability rating. What I am trying to tell you is that this car has been abused, driven in a salt laden environment, and generally neglected.


Head gaskets are a major job on this car, assuming that is even a problem or the only problem. One also has to look at the timing belt/water pump/tensioner issue as that can be pricy and may very well be needed.

A tank seam leak due to rust would make me wonder about other rust issues also.
JMHO, but it would be very, very difficult if it were me in this position to give 500 for a 13 year old Subaru with a shaky history behind it.


If it has a manual transmission the AWD is very simple and beyond reliable. Its purely mechanical vs the automatic AWD with a clutch pack or solenoid that will wear out somewhere at this point in its life.

The Legacy L in 1995 had the 2.2L engine does not have a reputation whatsoever for blowing head gaskets. Its quite a reliable and durable motor running into the 200k-300k range without major issue if maintained. The 2.5L engine in some Legacy’s and all popular Outbacks is infamous for blowing the head gaskets.

The fuel mileage is in the mid 20’s to nearing 30’s. My family has owned about 5 of this vintage into the 200k+ range without serious issue.


Step away from the Subaru! If you are concerned about future problems, there could be enough of them coming if you buy this car. Gas mileage is lousy. A little blue smoke is too much. If you go to thicker oil, the compresswion will blow the head gaskets right off the car.


Try posting over on for real information on the car. The owners their fix their own cars and know the ins/outs and pitfalls and triumphs of Subaru.

Gas mileage of 1995 Subaru Legacy with the 2.2L only has a 1-2MPG penalty vs equivalent wagon models at the time, Honda Accord/Toyota Camry. A small penalty to pay for if you need or desire AWD which Toyota/Honda lack. In the 2000’s though Subaru engines have not become quite as fuel efficient as the current Honda/Toyota sedans are giving people posting here the impression of poor mileage.


So thats basically 3 against and 2 for… loosely translated :slight_smile:

Its always a lot of guessing with buying an older vehicle. I’ll look into the reliability of the 2.2.
I was mainly concerned about the headgasket issues, but that seems to be mostly associated with the recall starting in 1996.

Thanks for all of the advice!


1996 is the first year the 2.5L was introduced. The 2.2L was used in the Legacy up till 1999 with the exception of the upper models. Good luck in your quest.


For what it’s worth, I’ve owned 3 Subarus and worked for a number of years as a Subaru Master Technician.
You’re dealing with a 13 year old car that has been parked for a year, is known to use oil, and more than likely has a shaky history.
If the car has an automatic transmission these can be problematic at times; and very expensive to fix.
Tie rods are a problem.
The engine code has nothing to do with a blown head gasket. Subarus have been popping head gaskets since the early 70s so why quit now.
It only takes one overheating episode on those all-aluminum engines to do them in.

Whether this car even makes 150k miles is a huge unknown. It COULD be worth 500 dollars, but there’s a lot of questions that need to be answered.
Five hundred dollars plus a more than likely timing belt replacement along with being nickled and dimed to death is going to get expensive.


Andrew is correct that the '95 Legacy is powered by the sturdy 2.2 liter engine, and this engine is no more prone to head gasket failure than any other 4-cylinder engine of that period–unlike the 2.5 liter DOHC engine that was introduced in '96.

That being said, it is a used car and used cars are always a crap shoot. And, a 12-13 year old used car of any make is a major crap shoot.

Personally, I don’t want to buy someone else’s headaches. But, if your finances don’t permit the purchase of a new car, at least try to find something a bit newer than a '95 model, and have it checked out by a trusted mechanic.