Subaru Repairs...Worth it?

Hey everyone…guy with little car knowledge here looking for help.

Last summer, my girlfriend bought a used '97 Subaru Outback with just over 100,000 miles for about $3,000 based on their good reputation. Since then, she’s had to replace the head gasket for about $1,500, had a problem with the ball joint on the front right tire that ran about $500, and is now sitting at a Pep Boys being told the same wheel has more damage to the joints, and there could be further damage inside, and they’re thinking it’ll cost about $1000 to repair.

I’m thinking she bought a lemon and perhaps should consider trying to get what little trade-in value she can toward a new (used) car and save the $1,000. She thinks it’ll need to be fixed regardless so that it has any trade-in value at all.

Is it time to let this car go? Any thoughts would be much appreciated, and thanks!

First thing I would do is find a good Subaru mechanic. I just don’t trust Pep-Boys types of places for this kind of work. Use the mechanic finder under ‘actual car info’, above.

I specifically don’t trust Pep-Boys at all. Only ever go there for parts.

Sounds more like wear and tear and old age, but she needs to avoid Pep Boys and take it to an independent mechanic. I found my mechanic for the last 17 years through word of mouth.

Ed B.

Someone may occasionally have a good experience with a national repair shop but it is rare, they have huge operating costs and almost all pay commissions for selling work.I go to an independent repair shop I found thru word of mouth and he is reliable and honest. I have taken work to him that other shops have told me needed doing and he has called me back to come get my car, there is nothing wrong with it.


Avoid Pep Boys, Midas, Meineke, Monro, Sears, AAMCO, and other chain operations.
Their “mechanics” are rarely the best, and you are likely to get much more expertise as well as lower prices from a well-reputed indy mechanic.

Thanks, everyone, for the warnings about Pep Boys. Do you think it’s worth plugging along with this car, or should she be looking for something new?

Since you have done the head gasket and suspension repairs usually last the lifetime of the car, I would spend the money and fix it. Need to get your independent mechanic to make sure his estimate includes all necessary fixes to the suspension, not piecemeal estimate. That way you know what you are looking at.

“…further damage inside” statement worries me a bit.

A 14 year old car is going to need some repairs. You could expect to spent about $1,000+ a year on repairs. You’ll spend more money on maintenance such as new brakes, tires, struts, etc. The repairs to date seem in line with the age, miles, and brand of car.

This isn’t a lemon, rather a older car showing it’s age. Your GF should budget about $200 a month for car repairs and maintenance. If she doesn’t spend it then she’ll have some money for a down payment on her next car.

Subarus break just like every other car on the road, reputation or not.
This car is not a Lemon by any stretch of the imagination. She bought a 14 year old used car with around a 100k miles on it and only once in a blue moon will a used car be found that needs nothing.

Head gaskets are a known problem. Ball joint failures are brought on by rough roads, rough driving, environmental conditions such as dust and driving through deep water, road salt, etc, etc. Joint failure is seldom ever the fault of the car.

Spending money on this car to increase trade-in value is not a good idea. As to the ball joint problem and the current problems it’s impossible to provide advice about what and why without knowing the details.