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Looking To Buy Used Wagon/Crossover


About four years ago I was on hear asking for help picking out my first car. I ended up going with a 2011 Mazda sport hatchback and end up pretty satisfied. No repairs in the four years and 60K miles I’ve driven it.

A few weeks ago a drunk driver hit it in the middle of the night and totaled it though (no one was injured–she was in a Jeep Liberty).

So now I’ve got $9k coming from the insurance company and need to pick a new used car out. I’d buy new except my fiance will be doing student teaching in the fall and so we’ll be on one income for a bit.

A local Subaru dealership has some 2006 Foresters/Outbacks with pretty good service records–timing belts and head gaskets replaced, regular maintenance, etc.–and I’d like to get something with a little more utility now that we just bought a house and will be making runs to home depot/buying furniture, and so on.

Any reason not to go with an old Subaru? I’ve heard people rave about theirs lasting for 200,000 miles with regular work but have also seen stories filled with headaches over money spent on leaks, transmissions problems, etc. over that last 70k miles. Still, for $7-8K at around 100k miles, it seems like a good value.

What should I do?

Great question, and one that CarTalk may be able to help provide an answer for. We researched used Subaru Forester and Outbacks and found that there is a problem with many of the used models. They have a defect that causes the engines to consume oil. It affects about 2% of the population of used Subarus of some years according to Subaru, so about 1 in 50. The consumption can get worse and lead to engine failure. We highlighted the issue in a focus story.

Part of the problem is not just the defect, but the way Subaru treated the owners whose cars suffered from it. In the end, a lawsuit was required to get owners what they deserved.

That said, the Forester and Outback are hugely popular in northern markets. If you are buying an old beater, for say, $2K or less any old Subaru will be as good as any other brand. However, if you plan to spend all of that $9K on a used Subaru, do your homework. You mention in the story that you will have a single income for a while. One idea might be to lease during that period, knowing you will later have two incomes again after it is over. You would have a fixed cost of ownership during that time, be driving a new car, and have zero worries about repair costs. Subaru has a current lease deal on Forester for a total cost of $9973 over three years. The Crosstrek lease from Subaru for 36 months is $9523. I’m sure these are base models. (Full disclosure - I own a 2016 Forester and I LOVE it).

I live in France and bought from a Swiss lady a 2004 Subaru Forester. I say this: I bought with 136k on it. It has now 178k and I can testify that I never had such a reliable vehicle. Timing belt has been done twice and all of the maintenance as per Subary has been done thoroughly and respected. It has no rust and looks like, I’ve been told, that 250k on it as been seen. Head gaskets are original. Once again it is proven that maintenance IS the key.
Go for it, you won’t regret it !

My personal thought is that I would not buy a used all wheel drive vehicle as an everyday driver. I certainly would not spend the whole 9000.00 on a used vehicle. There should be some in reserve for repairs.

@blue3, is that mileage in miles or kilometers?

The Hello
This is in miles. 178000 miles now and it looks and runs like new!
Maintenance maintenance…