Used Subaru

I am in the market for a used Subaru. I’m on a limited budget and have been trolling Craigslist,,, etc. for several weeks looking for the diamond in the rough.

I am afraid that my expectations may be dulled after seeing so many old, high mileage cars listed. I’m currently looking at a 2001 with a clean CarFax report at 133K miles. It’s listed at $5900. Is this a good deal? Objective feedback is appreciated!


In the market for a “used Subaru” and being on a “limited budget” are oxymorons, things that just do not go together.

A 9 year old Subaru with 133,000 miles on it will cost you a lot to keep running; I would budget $2000 per year on average. This even after a qualified mechanic examines it thoroughly and pronounces it sound.

If you are on a budget, buy a used economy car without 4 wheel drive, and minimal extra equipment.

I think you could find a really good used Mazda protege, Hyunda Elantra or Sonata, Chevy Cobalt and a few others fo $5900, all with much fewer miles. They would cost you no moe than $1000 per year to keep them running.

This is about as objective advice you’ll get.

This particular one is probably overpriced. I checked pricing on a Legacy L sedan, and high retail is $5100.

If you want a used Subaru, check Subaru dealers and see what they have to offer. Make sure you have maintenance history, which is very important for Subarus. This one should have had a timing belt replacement at 105K miles. Ask about it. We tried to replace my daughter’s Legacy wagon with another Subaru and ended up purchasing a small 4 door sedan for her. Subarus tended to be overpriced or without a substantial amount of maintenance history, so choosing a used Subaru became a large crapshoot.

I also agree with docnick’s advice. Look for a Protege or something else. I would also add Ford Focus to the list if you are looking for smaller sedans.

First of all, you should not rely on CarFax. Those who have relied on this very limited source of information have frequently found out that their “clean” car had actually:
(pick one or more)
Not been maintained properly
Been in a severe wreck, and rebuilt (badly)
Been salvaged following a flood, and rebuilt (badly)

I am a long-term very satisfied Subaru owner. However, the thought of buying a 9 year old Subaru that had not been maintained properly is…unsettling, to say the least.

While I would be reluctant to buy any 9 year old car without having access to its maintenance records, I think that a 9 year old Subaru should not even be considered for purchase without full maintenance records that you can compare to the mfr’s maintenance schedule. You would need to see that the car has been maintained according to both the odometer mileage values and the elapsed time values established by the mfr. If you can not verify that it is in compliance with this maintenance schedule, WALK AWAY from the deal or you will regret it.

As but one example of what you need to see in the maintenance records, the timing belt of a 4-cylinder 2001 Subaru with 133k miles on the odometer should have been replaced about 2 years ago. If not, you can anticipate that the timing belt can snap–literally–the next time that you start the engine, resulting in ~$2k worth of engine damage.

And, even if I had verified that the car was properly maintained for all of its 9 previous years, I would still want it to be inspected by a mechanic who specializes in Subarus. Otherwise, you will potentially be buying a car that very possibly will need to have the head gaskets and center viscous clutch replaced. Those scenarios would add…probably another $1,500-$2,000 to your purchase price.

Personally I would not buy any Subaru from 1996-2004 with the 2.5L motor. Sadly this includes all Outback’s, Foresters and 2000+ Legacy. They blow head gaskets at a good rate (my guess 30% of them) and cost $1500-$3500 to correct depending on how long the repair is not performed once blown.

The 2.2L is decent engine in Impreza & Legacy. Probably out of your budget range but Subaru WRX is a VERY reliable car especially for fun to drive model. No issues with it.

If you can find an H6(6 cylinder) model Outback go for it.

Unless you have a crazy driveway or live on some tough backroads I would suggest a FWD model and budget $400 for a quality set of winter not snow tires.

It’s overpriced for sure.