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looking at a used car for my son & family 2004-2005 CRV or Forrester, which better and cheaper to repair

The 2004 CRV or 2002-2008 Forester are on par with each other in all respects. In 2005 the CRV leaped forward. The redesigned 2009 Forester is a great player amongst the top SUV’s.

If you truely need AWD get the Forester, the AWD is absolutely superior where you truely need AWD. The CRV essentially is FWD with kick in of rear tires as needed. Useless in some conditions and does not work well in reverse.

The fuel mileage is roughly equivalent(within 1MPG) for each SUV.

First, you have to understand that no car is perfect in design, and as a result each model will have certain advantages and certain disadvantages.

If I recall correctly, CR-Vs made after 2003 or so have a timing chain, rather than a timing belt. If I am correct on that point, then the CR-V would have an advantage over the Forester, which definitely uses a timing belt. Score one for Honda.

However, the CR-V’s center and rear differentials tend to be problematic. Even though the maintenance schedule may not specify this service, it is necessary to change the oil in these differentials every 25-30k in order to prevent low-speed binding of the differential with a lot of resulting noise. Some dealers even seem to be ignorant of this problem when customers come in complaining about groaning noises whenever they are in low-speed maneuvers, such as in a parking garage. The fluid necessary (Honda’s proprietary “Dual-Pump Oil”) is not stocked by independent mechanics, thus necessitating a visit to the dealership for this service that will cost ~$150. every 25-30k. Score one for Subaru.

In terms of overall dependability, both of these vehicles are among the most reliable small SUVs made, with the Toyota RAV-4 rounding out the group of desirable small SUVs.

The only other significant difference between the CR-V and the Forester is in the nature of the AWD system. Subaru’s system, which is the best in the business, is truly full-time AWD. The “real-time AWD” system on the CR-V is designed to function as a front wheel drive vehicle normally, with power being applied to the rear wheels only after the front tires begin to spin. The Honda system has the advantage of producing slightly better gas mileage. However, if you live in an area of the country where snow and ice is a problem in the winter, you will find that the CR-V is far inferior to the Forester in terms of winter traction. By the time that the rear wheels get power in the CR-V, your front ones have already lost traction, and this could make the difference between getting stuck and not getting stuck.

The Forester needs to have the timing belt replaced every 105k/7 years, while the CR-V needs the aforementioned center and rear differential oil change every 25-30k, so each has its own unique service requirements with its own set of expenses. There is really very little significant difference between these two vehicles unless you live in the northern part of the country, in which case I would choose the Forester.

(Edited to correct an error. The Forester timing belt needs to be replaced every 105k/7 years, rather than the 150k that I mis-typed originally.)

Also–Mr. Meehan makes an excellent point. Whatever you buy, make sure that it is a vehicle whose maintenance record is available to you, and which conforms to the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule which should be sitting in the glove compartment.

Both have great reputations for reliability. I’d consider them functionally equivalent under most circumstances, and I would add the Toyota RAV-4 to the list. Drive all three and pick the one you like best.

VDCdriver has explained the pros and cons quite well. You just can’t beat the AWD system on the Forester.

The least costly will be the one that has and will continue to receive proper maintenance.

CRV would be a better choice but make sure the valve lash adjustment is inspected; either prior to your purchase or get it done shortly afterwards.
This little chore is true of any mechanical lifter engine; only cheaper to perform on a Honda as compared to a Subaru.

My sister has a CRV and it’s been a very good vehicle for what that’s worth.