Subaru Outback head gaskets

I have heard a nasty rumor that Subaru Outbacks are notorious for blowing their head gaskets, which is an $800-900 job to replace. I am between cars, so I’m trying to figure out what I want and I’ve always wanted a Subaru. I’m also unemployed, so this budgeting is squeaky. Feedback on head gasket activity would be appreciated. Also, if it’s true, is there a particular year or decade that blows them most? Thanks!

I would suggest avoiding the model years 1996-2003 for the 4-cylinder model. The head gasket issues seem to have been resolved after 2002-03 on that engine.

Even better would be an Outback with the 3 liter 6-cylinder engine. In addition to not having head gasket issues, the 6-cylinder engine utilizes a timing chain, rather than the timing belt of the 4-cylinder engine that needs to be replaced every 7.5 years/105k miles. My previous Outback was a 6-cylinder model, and that engine was bullet-proof for the 9 years/110k miles that I drove it.

Consumer Reports shows the worst in reliability with respect to Major Engine Problems is the Subaru Outback/Legacy 2001-2004. There data is cut off in 2001 as they only go back so far. I believe the issue persisted back through 1996 with the 2.5L non turbo engine.

That being said Consumer Reports only shows 11% having the issue. That really is not terrible. It makes sense as my family has 8 Subaru’s with the same engine and only one instance of head gasket at 269k miles.

VDCDriver is right on. However, if you are pinched for funds, you could buy one of the 2.2 liter (stick shift) engines from the earlier years (96 and maybe 97?) since that engine did not have the head gasket issues of the 2.5 liter, or so I have read. Some believe that the new head gaskets one can use for replacement may also be good and that buying an older model with documented head gasket repairs is an option, but I have seen reports of failures even after repairs. There is an entire forum dedicated to Outbacks and a section that deals specifically with the head gasket issues. You might want to check it out.

The other issue is the timing belt. Be sure that it was changed when required or plan to do it ASAP. Failure will kill the engine.