CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Subaru Outback-Older Models

I am in search of an older Subaru Outback. I have to replace a vehicle that was in an accident recently, so this has to happen rather quickly. I chose this car because of the high ratings from other drivers. Here are my concerns:

  1. Will it seat two kids plus a car seat between them? This was a big problem in my 1997 Lexus ES300. It was next to impossible for everyone to get their seats buckled with that car seat in between.

  2. Maintenance costs. Is this vehicle costly to maintain?

  3. My budget is $5000 and under. So, I will have to choose an older vehicle.

  4. Does anyone have a better recommendation?

Don’t buy an older Subaru! Even the best ones need special maintenance and if that’s not adhered to you will soon have a $4000 or so repair bill. The good reputation is from owners who answer the surveys and have maintained them well. As these cars age they develop unique problems. And yes, they cost a lot more to mainitain properly.

For $5000 you can buy a Ford Crown Victoria, a good Hyundai Accent or Elantra,. a Mazda Protege, or a well maintained low milegae Chevy Cobalt. Other posters can add more models.

All the above are reliable and cheap to maintain. Don’t buy anthing with 4 wheel drive or all wheel drive.

I would have a mechanic check out any vehicle you intend to buy first.

I see nothing in your post that indicates you need awd. I humbly disagree with those who say it needs special maintenance. Being awd with more drive train components, it needs slightly additional maintenance as far as lubrication is concerned. Other then that, treat it like any well maintained fwd car. The Subarus and other awd cars cost me NO more to maintain then my fwd cars other then gas mileage and the cost of extra lube in a transfer case. BTW, they cost me much less, not more, in tires !

My biggest concern in buying ANY awd car USED, would be how it is driven. They are often asked by inconsiderate owners to do things more then they are capable because of their added traction. Abusive teen drivers like my neighbors great but fun loving kids, would not give me confidence in looking for an awd car for $5k. I know people who drive Subarus sanely that get 200k easily from them. so great experiences are often from original owners. You never know.

Racing across an ice covered lake, doing spin outs and crashing into snow banks then trying to pull dad’s 3 quarter ton plow truck out of a ditch with a rope tied to a suspension component, does not make for a reliable vehicle used. These kids do this stuff with awd cars !

IMHO, if you don’t need awd, don’t buy awd for other reasons. I would look at non awd Honda, Toyota, Fords etc. and others for reliability and needs when buying used. If Subaru made a 2wd car, I would include it…they don’t, other then their delicious sports car.