Considering purchasing a 2002 Subaru Impreza Outback Sport, expensive to maintain?


I’m considering the purchase of a 2002 Subaru Impreza Outback Sport, the little wagon. It has 133,000 miles on it, upgraded shocks, and well maintained. The head gasket/bolts and radiator have been replaced recently. The head gasket and radiator issues were my main concern with a Subaru. Does anyone know if fixed, if it’s likely to stay fixed as long as it was done properly? Also if there are any other costly repairs to consider? Folks seem to either swear by them or swear that they’ll be expensive to maintain. I’d very much appreciate any input.


Hey, someone has to buy these things . To be serious you probably will not get much encouragement here. If I liked the car and price I would pay to have it inspected . All used cars are a gamble and auto repair is not cheap for anything.

I’ve never seen a “re-do” of the head gaskets. If done properly they seem to last the remainder of the life of the car.

Other than the head gasket issue they seem to be quite reliable and easy to repair. They’re actually pretty simple cars, any well-equipped garage can work on them, and they’re quite practical cars. Clutches have been somewhat of a weak spot for the aggressive driver, so bear that in mind if it’s a manual.

Head gaskets done right should be good for the duration.

If it has a manual transmission and clutch work is ever needed I would strongly suggest that the snout on the transmission be serviced when or if a clutch is ever needed. The steel guide sleeve has been known to dig into the aluminum snout of the transmission and cause erratic clutch operation or premature clutch failure. This does not happen with every car; it varies. There is a stainless steel sleeve available which should be part of a clutch job and which will cure this problem.

It it has an automatic transmission always be sure that the final drive of the transmission is not inadvertently drained when an engine oil change is performed. What has been known to happen is that a novice or someone whose mind is not on track will drain the final drive by mistake and if left unattended to for very long can lead to destruction of the transmission.

Other than that a 133k miles isn’t bad for an '02 model at all and there’s no reason it shouldn’t make 300k if taken care of. You might also verify whether a timing belt kit has been done in recent memory.

Have it inspected, maybe the brakes are plum wore out, there is quite a few hundred, maybe suspension components are lo0king frail another few hundred, maybe it is time for fuel filter, antifreeze flush, trans fluid and filter, another few hundred, maybe time for new belts, maybe even timing belt and coolant pump, maybe time for a new battery. thaT IS REGUALR maintenance, including tires and exhaust system, maybe in some peoples book, but may be issues you have to deal with. Not that any other car might be different.

Rust would be my major concern especially if this is salt exposed car(likely) on a car this old.

Make sure get a through inspection of vehicle before purchase.

I own a Subaru(turbo Legacy) albeit 2005 and I would state it has been average in reliability but a hoot to drive. If cost is a concern I would suggest a Honda or Toyota over a Subaru unless AWD in really required. The AWD of Subaru is superior to everything out there except Audi which is very close. Subaru and Audi were designed to the core to be AWD vehicles not jury rigged FWD’s.

Agree that you should be good for a long time, perhaps forever, as far as head gaskets are concerned. Otherwise you are getting a 12 - 13 year old car AND a bit more complicated drive train since it is AWD. Therefore due to age you simple have to budget for some significant repair bills.

AWD can mean some really major repair bills and much of this goes back to how well previous owner’s matched up the tires on the car. So, I’d take a real close look at the tires now on the car. Are they the same brand on all 4 wheels. The same size, same tread design, etc. If they are matched now - then they likely have been matched up until now. If you have a variety of tire brands and different tread wear and depth, then the previous owner’s didn’t pay attention to matching the tires which can lead to problems with AWD components.

I would consider buying that year and model if I could get it for under $1,500. At that age it’s not worth over $2,000.

I generally do not recommend buying any used AWD vehicle. The only exception would be low mileage, pristine condition and a complete maintenance record.

Almost any repair on an AWD system on an older car will exceed what it’s worth.

Thanks for all the input! I wound up not buying it, the owner was a little squirrley about some information and it shook and pulled to the left when braking at higher speeds. Other than that it was indeed a hoot to drive! I’ll definitely keep all of this in mind as I keep looking for a vehicle though. Thank you!