Drive it till it dies, or dump it while I can? Subaru Outback

I am on the horns of a dilemma and need a little advice from some experienced Subaru drivers/mechanics. I currently own a 2005 Subaru Legacy Outback with a 4 cyl and auto trans with “sportshift” or whatever they call it. My only regret in buying this car was not holding out for a standard transmission, which is what I really wanted, but had difficulty locating one. I wanted a car that was 1 or 2 years old, so I was limited. In retrospect, with the lower interest rate on a new vehicle, I probably should have gone that route, but I’ve just always been opposed to buying brand new.

In any case, the car now has 145k miles. I’ve had no major issues with it, just standard repairs that you would expect to make. My concern now is with the transmission. I’m not sure that I am really experiencing any problems, it does seem like it may not be shifting as quickly as it used to, nor have as much power as it used to, though this could be my paranoid imagination. It of course runs a little louder than a new car as well, but I guess that is to be expected.
I am just really concerned about an auto transmission going out. If it does, I know it will not be worth the expense of repairing it. My question is, should I try to sell the vehicle now, while it still has some good miles left in it and no major issues with the transmission (I’m really hung up on that, I guess it is due to lack of experience with auto transmissions and the expense of replacing one), or just keep driving it until it dies?

My general car driving philosophy is to keep it until it is no longer cost effective to keep driving it, or it is just so uncomfortable i can’t tolerate it. However, my money situation is currently tight and I just don’t want to keep it until it is useless and worthless to sell, if that is likely to happen soon. How many miles should I expect to be able to get out of this transmission? Is there anything I should look out for, or be doing to prolong the life of the transmission or the car in general?

" It of course runs a little louder than a new car as well, but I guess that is to be expected. "

I drive cars forever, usually 250,000 - 300,000 miles, until rust does it’s thing.

I don’t consider louder is to be expected as a car ages. You need to find out what’s going on with that. And the " . . . nor have as much power as it used to . . . " also.

I’d hate to think that you were worried about a transmission problem and ignoring some expensive converter/exhaust problems or loose heads/bad head gaskets.

Take the whole car to a competent Subaru mechanic and have it evaluated. Get a prioritized list of repairs/maintenance items and their approximate costs. Then decide.


This car likely has a lot of life left in it. As recommended, have a good mechanic evaluate its overall condition, and fix what needs fixing. Many cars like this will go another 150,000 miles without major repairs.

Think of the depreciation, the difference you would have to pay to bet an equivalent new one. That would cover an awful lot of repairs.

The most important thing is the car’s day to day reliability. That, or rather the lack of it, drives many folks to trade or sell their cars.

My first Outback, a '97 model with ~190k miles, is still giving good service to a college student (distant relative) who is the third owner. However, the fact that it is still running well is most likely due to the excellent maintenance that both I and my brother (the second owner) gave it.

That maintenance included changing the trans fluid every 3 yrs/30k miles, changing the oil every 4k miles, and changing the timing belt on schedule.

If the OP has not already changed the timing belt, it is now due on the basis of elapsed time, and it is overdue by ~40k miles. If that has not been done, the result of this neglect may cause the owner to have to buy a replacement car immediately when the belt snaps, so I suggest immediate attention to that task if it has not been done.

If the trans has never been serviced, that could well explain abnormal shifting. If somebody tells you to “not disturb” old trans fluid, please ignore them and have the trans serviced. Better (very) late than never.

Just be sure to have either a competent independent mechanic or an indy trans shop do the trans servicing.
DO NOT go to a chain auto repair shop or a chain trans shop unless you desire overpriced, less-than-competent service and a potentially incorrect and expensive diagnosis.