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Crummy gas mileage 1998 Subaru Forester

I just bought this car for my daughter. It’s in very good shape; runs like a top. But the gas mileage is a lousy 20 mpg. All of my trips are local (no stop and go stuff as we live in the country). A buddy of mine with the same car and similar driving habits says she gets 25-28 mpg. So far I have changed the oil, oil filter and air filter.
This can’t be the best I can expect, can it?!

tire pressure?

A lot of things could be behind lowered gas mileage other than a low tire; state of tune, engine wear, slipping clutch or auto transmission, etc, etc.
You did not state the mileage either or if this 20 MPG is highway only, city, or combined. If it’s highway only then that’s bad; the other could be debateable and be influenced by driving habits.

The fact that the car may appear to run well does not necessarily mean that it is.

If all your trips are short, the engine does not get a chance to warm up properly. I would fill the tank, take a long highway trip at modest speeds, return and fill the tank again at EXACTLY THE SAME PUMP. Then figure out your mileage. Stop at the first click when you are gassing up.

Your 20 mpg during the winter on small local trips is not unusual.

Our Forester gets 25 or so on freeway trips, you’re just a bit low. They don’t get great mpgs.

The EPA estimates on this car with an automatic transmission are 18 city/24 highway/ 20 average. For the manual, the estimates are 19 city/25 highway/ 21 average.

20 MPG for all short trips is excellent.

That sounds about right. As jtsanders mentioned it’s rated for either 20 MPG overall with the automatic and 21 MPG overall with the manual. You can see for yourself here

Subaru’s don’t get very good mpg, especially for “smallish” sized cars. The AWD takes a couple off a couple of mpg’s. Subaru motors and transmissions are not especially efficient either. 20 mpg on short trips in town is not bad.

You can check tire pressure to make sure it is correct. You can also check to make sure none of the brake calipers is sticking causing drag via a brake problem. Low Rolling Resistance tires (LRR) might help when it comes time to get new tires.

Subaru gas mileage started taking a downhill slide when they went to fuel injection starting in the mid 80s.
The mid 80s models with the EEC controlled carburetion and 1.8L would tick off 40 MPG (or even more) at a cruise with the A/C on.

This may be normal for your driving habits and the way your vehicle is equipped, tires, etc. If there is an improvment possible, I expect all you need is a tune up. New spark plugs w/proper gap, air filter, and set the correct timing. Check the plug wires for signs of cracking. If your car has a distributor cap, replace that along with the rotor too. If that doesn’t fix it, have the fuel pressure at the rail measured, and do a compression test.

You’re complaining about 20mpg on a 1998 car?

I have a 2001 Forester and it gets 20 mpg typically, though I saw 22 when I was driving a clear freeway daily instead of surface streets.

These are current figures but they haven’t changed since first day.