CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Considering Buying a 2005 Subaru Forester 2.5X

My family and I are considering buying a 2005 Subaru Forester 2.5X, automatic transmission w/84K on it. Dealer is asking about $500 below KBB. Has new brakes and rotors. One owner, clean title.
We love Subarus (never owned one but we like the styling, and AWD), and this fits into our budget–under the condition that it isn’t going to start being a $ pit any time soon.
Any advice, tips and info would be much appreciated. Especially regarding ease/cost of maintenance, including DIY basics like oil, fluids and filter changes.
We are ending our “relationship” with a 2001 Audi A4 Quattro Wagon 1.8T that has cost thousands of dollars to fix, and maintain. And, though that car has seen us through many trips and tons of around town driving, we CAN NOT risk buying another $inkhole.
What would we be looking at replacing as precautionary maintenance at 100K? (Belts, tuning. . .)
We don’t drive cars hard, but we do drive them a lot: in town and 2-6 hr trips 3 or 4 times a month . Especially over hot summers and mild to moderate winters.

2005 is the first year on Consumer reports with ‘average’ instead of ‘much worse than average’ for ‘engine-major’. The Subaru 2.5l engine had major issues with bad head gaskets up through 2004, so it looks like things were better in 2005. But still ‘average’, which means there were some problems. We got a 2007 Forester (used) with the hope/expectation that the head gasket issue was largely solved. I might have some concerns about the 2005.

The CR reliability ratings have to be used with care. It may be that the 2005 models don’t have enough miles on them for the gasket problems to have become common yet. It would be interesting to go back a year and see how they rated the 2004.

Those trends interest me. Well made cars, including most Japanese cars, haves CR ratings that don’t decline over time. Subaru is an unfortunate exception.

I would want them to at least replace the timing belt and water pump before you buy it. At 85K, it will be due in another 5K. While there, replace the other belts too as that’s peanuts and easy to do. For them it will be labor at cost - much cheaper than if you had to do it. Perhaps suggest that you buy the parts and they’ll do the job. Also when they do that job, ask them to put the Subaru coolant conditioner in when they put new coolant in. It is something Subaru suggests doing since their head gasket design fiasco.
2005 is said to have the re-designed head gaskets. Just from putting a set into an engine, I can say that the newly designed head gaskets are much beefier than the old ones.