Opinions on a Used Subaru Purchase

My 11-yr old Subaru (150K mi) is in need of several costly repairs, and I think it’s time to say goodbye. I’ve found a 2005 Subaru Impreza with 40K miles at a Subaru dealership. The CarFax shows 1 private owner, no accidents and timely maintenance done at the Subaru dealership.

I’d like to hear your opinions on financing this car over 72 months. I drive ~10K miles each year (mostly highway). I’m very good about keeping up with regular maintenance, and things like brakes and clutches last longer than normal with me because I don’t drive like a lunatic.

This car would be turning 11 yrs old and have 100K by the time I pay it off. What do you think?

Imprezas are pretty reliable overall. My concern (and maybe none of my business) is the 72-month loan. You’ll pay lots of interest and be ‘upside down’ for quite a while on that length of loan.

Fatherly Advice: That’s Crazy ! It’s Bad Enough Financing A Car That’s 6 Model-Years Old, But Paying For 6 Years Is Nuts.

You should have been saving money during the last several years for the inevitable replacement of the car you have now. Making car payments is backwards.

Since you need costly repairs on an 11 year old Subaru (I’ve never needed costly repairs on any car, purchased new or used, at that low number of miles), why would you want another Subaru ?

However, that said, if you have to have this car and you have to finance it then go ahead and finance for 72 months (in case things don’t go well with employment) and then plan on paying down the principal or doubling up on payments.

Get it paid off in 36 months if possible. If you know you’ll have to go for all 72 months then don’t do it. You’ll have payments and repairs, too. Then how do you save for the nest car ? See, what you want to do is break “this need a car - get a car -make payments” cycle. You want to get ahead at some point and save the money first before you go car shopping. No payments!

Oh, and one more thing, get that car thoroughly checked out by your mechanic and understand its condition or don’t buy it.


Yes, good advice in general. However, I was diagnosed with a serious and incurable disease 4 years ago and have had financial difficulties as a result. A reliable car is a necessity for me. The only way I can keep the monthly payments doable is to do a 60- or 72-month loan. It leaves me money for normal repairs.

I purchased my current Subaru with 84K miles on it. Considering that I don’t think the prior owner took the greatest care of it, the fact that I got 70K out of it is pretty darn good.

I’m glad you’ve had better fortune than me. Before this illness I had those options, too.

Regarding your advice about having a mechanic check it out–I agree. I have a great mechanic but he’s across the state line (35 miles away) from the dealer. How do you do that?

If money is that tight, buy something simpler and less expensive and finace over 3 years maximum.

A Mazda 3, Hyundai Elentra, low mileage Ford Focus, and others as dscribed in Consumer Reports Used Car Buying Guide.

The last time I borrowed money for a car purchase was in 1978, and have paid cash for all my cars since. Total car purchase outlay since 1958; $46,000 for 9 vehicles, that’s $885 per year.

Ah, I was going to ask about that. How old should I go on cars like that? I know they’re not as durable as Subarus. Which ones are the most reliable?

I had a couple Fords many years ago and they were dogs. I’m a bit hesitant about buying American cars as a result, but to be honest I don’t know if that is outdated thinking.

Christie, Sorry To Hear Of Your Illness. We Still Can Maybe Get This Under Control.

Are you employed ? Is there any way out of owning / operating a car ?

Regarding your advice about having a mechanic check it out–I agree. I have a great mechanic but he’s across the state line (35 miles away) from the dealer. How do you do that?

I have taken extended overnight test drives with dealer cars before. I just purchased an 09 car for my wife. I picked it up for a test drive on a Thursday and took it back on Tuesday and wrote a check for it. I didn’t tell anybody where I was going and they didn’t ask.

I know the regular folks here are going to ask, so tell us with as much detail as possible what’s wrong with your present car. We have resident Subaru “experts” (former Subaru technician(s) and proud owner / operators). Please include estimated repair expenses for the major issues.


“I know they’re not as durable as Subarus”. Well, that’s not really true (and I have a Subaru). Like Doc says, take a look at the Consumer Reports guide, it’ll give you some good ideas. Do you really need an AWD car like a Subaru?

As for Fords, I now have one, which replaced a Toyota product. I did that based on their excellent reliability over the last several years. They really are much better than they were 10 or more years ago, as are many GM vehicles.

Christie, I Buy Nothing But American Cars. I Have For Decades Now. They Have All Been Extremely Reliable And Economical. The 09 I Just Bought For My Wife Was A Chevrolet.

By the way, how much do they want for that Subaru ?


It is not so much the durability as the out of pocket cost to keep thee cars running . I would personally not touch any used Subaru if you can’t afford expensive repairs. Hyundais are every bit as durable as Subarus and cost a lot less to purchase and keep going. A friend drives a 2002 Elantra and it’s bullet-proof. A Chevy Cobalt without too many miles on it will also cost you less in upkeep than a Subaru; the newer ones aremuch more complicated thatn the old ones and require tender loving care.

The Consumer Reports Guide, available free in your public library, will tell you more.

In any case, stay away from any Volkswagen or other European car, and such poor vehicles as the Chevy Aveo, a leftover car from bankrupt Daewoo.

Ford Focus mdels were intially trouble some but by 2004/2005 they had corrected those prblems.

The difference between perception and realilty in cars quality is about 10 years!!! US cars are much better now and some other makes have gone downhill.

The asking price for the Subaru is $9995. That’s $3K below Kelly Blue Book, but about $200 above Edmunds. I wouldn’t pay more than $9550–the Edmunds retail price.

I’m not surprised if more expensive American models do well, but do you think the American economy cars compare to Japanese brands?

Carfax is not totally accurate, it’s not a good idea at all to finance a 6 year old car over 6 years no matter the reason, and even with 40k miles on it this car is really due for a timing belt. Age and enviro conditions also play a part when it comes to this issue.

Being curious of course, just what repairs does your current Subaru need and how much are they asking for the '05 model?

AWD is not absolutely necessary for me, but it does make my life easier. I would be willing to compromise on it if I had to. One thing I absolutely want is anti-lock brakes. I’ve had a hard time finding something under $10K with low miles that has ABS.

I would not hesitate if I were confident about previous maintenance. That’s a big if though. Only you can decide, based upon your situation, if the security of AWD is worth it. I readily agree with the final inspection.
AWD is no substitute for good tires and added maintenance in a well cared Subaru is pretty much limited to that.

Christie, If You’re Going To Pay For 72 Months, Look At This.

This is the one I test drove for 4 days.

I just bought a late 2009 Chevrolet Impala (Manufactured 5/09 - missed being a 2010 by a month) for my wife to commute to work in, GM Certified with balance of 5 year / 100,000 mile and 48 months / 48,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranties. EPA rating is something like 20 city / 29 hwy (I’ve heard they do better than that).

It is flex-fuel capable and has side-curtain airbags, remote start, CD Player, cruise, Driver Information, etcetera. The car has 10,000 miles, is absolutely like brand new, even smells brand new. I cashed out for $14,000.


I’m not able to work right now due to this illness. I have multiple doctor visits each week and have to drive myself. Yes, I’ve seriously considered how I could live without a car. It’s not possible, given all the factors. Even friends who help me out shudder at the thought of me being without my own transportation.

Here’s the list of what I know my car needs:

Rear brakes (routine)

Wiper washer fluid motor
Shifter locks in Park-- is either $500 solenoid or $150-200 brake light issue
Oil pan gasket–$230
Output shaft seal–$318
Undiagnosed Gas smell at idle (just started this week)
Undiagnosed blower fan noise (started 2 wks ago; isn’t leaves trapped in there)
Undiagnosed electrical problem that causes different lights to keep blowing and may have killed the cruise control

In the past 6 months I’ve had:
Valve cover gasket ($215)
Spark plugs/wires, front brakes/rotors, serpentine belt/pulley (all routine but pricey)
Drivers electric window switches
Front axle assembly
Steering rack boot

It will likely need a new battery soon and new tires within 6 months. Routine, but added to the cost of the above repairs… it’s a lot.

For $10k you could find a nice, off lease 07 Mazda 3 or Ford Focus or even a Fusion. You might not get the AWD of a Subaru, but you’ll be getting rid of the extra complexity such a system will give you. As complexity rises, the cost to maintain it goes with it.

How about a 2008 Hyundai Elantra with 42K miles, asking $9700. Much newer, of course. Has ABS.

Here’s some quotes from Consumer Reports comparing reliability:
–Japanese cars are still the most trouble free, especially those made by Toyota, Honda, and Subaru. Five-year-old vehicles with American or European nameplates had about 11/2 times as many problems as those made by Japanese automakers.

–Ford and Hyundai are narrowing the gap with Japanese carmakers on more recent models. The newest models from Mercedes-?Benz and BMW are also making some headway.

I posted them a couple of replies before yours. My concern is spending more than the car is worth in a short time. Also, it’s not getting any younger and in a few more months it will be worth even less as a trade-in, leaving me with even fewer options.