Subaru Forester or Outback, or Honda CRV? Buying used

I’m looking for a used car, and considering a 2005 Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited manual with 80k, a 2006 Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited automatic with about 57k, a 2006 Subaru Forester Premium manual with 42k, and a 2005 Honda CRV EX manual with 99k. The Honda is cheapest, the Outback with 42k the most expensive, but from the most ‘reputable’ source. I have done so much research on thses cars that now I am overwhelmed and a bit wary of Subaru repair patterns. I like driving manual, wanting the most fun I can have in a utilitarian vehicle. I had a 1989 Toyota Corolla SR5 AllTrac manual wagon, and though old and square, as an SR5 was somewhat fun to drive.

Most of my driving is highway, some in-town, and also on a dirt, mud or snowy road (depending on the season!).

Hondas seem reliable; I’m concerned about what repairs might hit me with the manual Subarus with the amount of mileage. Any thoughts?

I’d opt for the CRV over the Subaru’s. No big issues with a manual trans CRV. On an '05 used CRV I’d think just about all the fluids are due to be changed; coolant, brakes, trans, transfer case, and differentials. Perhaps the most finicky fluids in a CRV are the differentials and transfer case. I would have these fluids changed soon after getting the car and I’d recommend using Honda brand fluids.

Thanks so much.

Some of the cars I mentioned, including the CRV, are being sold by a very reputable garage (actually listed on Car Talk website) that mainly sells Subarus.

I keep looking at the '06 Forester with 42k; I like the size, it’s relatively fun to drive, and much less mileage than the CRV. (Also more money, though - $16,300).

The CRV is $11,900, but has 99k. I owned a '92 Honda Accord in the past and my experience is that they are solid, reliable cars, so maybe this one would last a while.

Thanks for mentioning the fluids. And the timing belt? Is it nearly time for that?

For the Subarus, timing belts are due at 105K miles (or about 7 years or so age-wise). I think it is hard to mess up the Forester since it needed only oil changes, tire rotations and one 30K service so far. I would check the tires to make sure they are all the same brand and model, and there are no issues with them, since the AWD mechanism is very sensitive to tire circumference.

My Subaru experience has been very positive, but we purchase new, to make sure the AWD system is maintained properly from the start. Not every Subaru owners knows and understands what needs to be done to keep up their AWD system.

I prefer the Outback for space, but considered the Forester before we made our last Subaru purchase.

Get pricing information from, or I show the CRV priced about right ( but the Forester over-priced by nearly $1500.

In general, I would opt for a CRV used with it’s simpler drive train. But, with 99k vs the Forester with less then half the miles, I would go for that. Let’s assume they are all in equally good repair.

If the CRV has a timing belt, it is due for replacement soon. You can go to the web site or the owner’s manual to find out about the timing belt. 7 years or 105K miles whichever comes first is common for that era Honda motors.

Thanks all! This is helpful.