Head Gasket Replacement '05 Subaru Impreza

I have a 2005 Subaru Impreza sedan, 2.5L. (No turbo). The head gasket is bad. I know it requires tearing apart the engine. But I was wondering about the labor cost and what the best parts are for the job. The garage that has it now is saying $2,000 (parts and labor). I saw on carcomplaints.com that it’s roughly $1,500. What is the “average cost” on this repair? I have had head gaskets replaced on other cars where I was told no less than $1,000, but then found a quality garage (dealership) that did it for under $500! I want it done RIGHT. But without realizing down the road that it could have been done for half the cost. Suggestions please. Thank you.

Labor cost is going to depend on where you live. Here in Southern NH - dealer hourly rates are north of $150/hr with independents about $75 - $90/hr.

Check around. Ask friends for mechanic recommendations.

Wow @MikeInNH ! Sure glad I don’t live where you are! Most Dealerships in Upstate NY are around $90 hr. With independent garages running $60 and up. I would become a do it yourselfer QUICKLY. Lol. Thank you for your input.

If you can find a good independent Subaru mechanic I’d go with them (try clicking on ‘mechanics files’ above) if they are significantly less than a dealer. Have you checked the dealer cost? It’s a lot more involved doing head gaskets on a Subaru than some other cars, so the cost will be higher, I’d think.

Wow @MikeInNH ! Sure glad I don't live where you are! Most Dealerships in Upstate NY are around $90 hr.

I’m from upstate NY. It’s still a depressed area with mostly Blue Collar jobs. When I left 30+ years ago unemployment was hovering around 15%.

Subaru runs a bit higher than some other makes as they have 2 head gaskets and it’s much easier if the engine comes out whereas on most cars the engine block stays in place and the heads only are removed.

Fifteen hundred sounds like a reasonable average. Whether that 2 grand is reasonable depends upon a number of things and the bill would need to be broken down to be able to get a handle on it.

As to being done right, that depends upon the person doing it. The methodogy of one person may not be the same as another.

Here in the Seattle area it’s rare to find an independent shop at less than $100/hr. Dealers run anywhere from $120 to $150.

It’s only fair that your mechanic be able to afford a decent home in a safe neighborhood and have a vacation once in a while. $60/hour around here won’t even keep the lights on.

We’re pretty familiar with the repair you need. We do them for about $2200. We remove the engine from the car to do the job, and we add on complete timing belt/water pump/tensioner kit, and we also do a reseal of the oil pan and rear main seal while we have the engine out, and guarantee the job for 3 years/36,000.

My Subie independent(30 yr experienced) is $60/hr and stated a head gasket job runs $1100-$1500 for him to perform.

My 2005 turbo Subaru burned a valve so it had a similar repair + head job + piston rings replaced for $3k and pleathora of other parts(timing belt, throwout bearing/clutch resurfaced, oil pump…).

Maybe the $2200 includes the pleathora of parts?

@asemaster . I wasn’t balking at the rate an hour for where I am. The cost of living in Seattle I would assume is substantially higher than here. I don’t live in the city. I live 3 hours north west of it. As a home repair contractor, I’m completely aware of what a fair wage is. I assure you, any mechanic I choose lives a decent life. (Or they wouldn’t own their own shop.) For what you describe, I would feel I am DEFINATELY getting my monies worth! The garage that has the car currently is a “chain”. (Several of them in the area.) And the feedback I have received on them is that they overcharge and under deliver. So I’m not comfortable giving them my hard earned money. And that is why I am reaching out to folks such as yourself for advice and input. I want quality work for a fair price. If that price turns out to be $2,000. Then that’s what I will pay. But if I can get the same quality for less… I would be a fool to not take it.

@andrewRA . Unfortunately, I am acquiring this car AFTER it was sent to this shop. And since the previous owner declined the repairs, they’re not being forthcoming with the details. (Another reason I am seeking an alternate repair center.) They will only say the parts run about $300 and it’s 12 hours of labor.

If you are not comfortable with the shop move on. I would really discourage using a chain for a repair like this. For $300 parts you are getting it repaired for issue at hand nothing else.

Oh I never meant to imply anything negative about your or your questioning of the shop rates. It’s just that some people don’t understand that if you’re in an area where a 3bd/1.5bath home costs $400,000 finding a shop that works for $60/hr. is a fantasy. I didn’t mean to say you were one of them.

The head gasket set alone is close to $300. Add new bolts, a complete water pump/timing belt component kit, thermostat, belts and hoses, rear main seal, oil pan gasket, odds and ends and you’re at $600-$800 for parts.

No worries @asemaster . Lol. However, the gasket kit online at rockauto.com is only $146, compared to the $279 at the local parts stores here. http://www.rockauto.com/catalog/moreinfo.php?pk=2657034&cc=1430729&jnid=433&jpid=11
It’s just the gaskets. I know there is more I will need. But again. If I can get the same parts (Name brand for name brand) cheaper online than at a chain store… I am willing to wait for them to arrive.

But…you will need a shop that will accept the parts you buy, right? Some will, some won’t.

The most expensive in this repair is labor. So the cost is really dependent on where you live. Finding a good mechanic in an area like Syracuse for $70/hr is at least possible. Even the small not-so-good mechanics here in NH charge $70/hr.

I can’t imagine owning a second Subie if I had to ever deal with this head gasket issue on a first one, is it me or is this a problem with Subaru? The OP didn’t list mileage but it seems like a lot of folks on this forum complain about this problem. I don’t want to sing the praises of any make or models but I’ve never had this issue with any of the stuff I’ve been driving, and I drive a lot of miles, several makes and models. Comments? Rocketman

Take it to the dealer, they have a lot of experience with this. When comparing quotes, check to see what is included. Just head gaskets would be the cheapest, but while the engine is torn down, you might as well do the timing belt service and water pump as well.

Ask your friends co-workers fellow church goers who they use, then tell the shop who it was that recommended you to them. That will give you some leverage. $2000 seems in the ballpark. Here in SJ I doubt you could find a shop that would do it for $2000, they’d probably charge more than that. Like you say, it’s more important that it be done right than whether or not you pay $1500 or $2000. I’d avoid using chain shops for something like this, best to use an established inde. In every town there’s always one or two inde shops that are known by the car experts there to be the best. One way to tell if you’ve found one of these good ones is these shops tend to have somewhat cranky, opinionated owners … lol …

I’ve done head gaskets on two Subaru’s and it was best done with the engine out. Subaru at least makes it a little simpler to pull an engine.
I also think you’d be foolish not to do the timing/water pump kit And a new pan gasket.


@rocketman the head gaskets with the 96-2006ish EJ25 motor non turbo were problematic. Once fixed correctly typically for $1000-$2000 the cars run into the 200k-300k range without serious issues.

That being said my family has two Foresters in problem years 15 and 17 years old that have never had the head gasket problem. I think it is a 20-30% failure rate if would guess. My Subaru indy seems to get one a week since he can perform them for around $1100 and in one long day.