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Guest Message by DevFuse

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Shopping the third Generation Legacies: advice sought

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7 replies to this topic

#1 jbmorse


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Posted 07 February 2013 - 11:49 AM

I've finally reached the point in my life at which I am no longer willing or able to keep fixing my 97 Outback I've had for the last 8 years. It's been an amazing car, but at 15 years old and 236K, it's got a long list of issues and I don't want to spend my summer or my savings working on it.

Anyway, I plan to buy another Subaru wagon but a little newer, without rust, and with most of the features still working. I have a small budget of about $4k, which seems to put me in the market for a decent 2000-2004 Legacy or Outback. My needs/ wants include a wagon, manual transmission, no rust, and hopefully ready to use. I've already located two that I like in my area and would like some opinions if I may.

The first is a 2001 Outback Limited with a 5spd, leather, and sunroof with 150k miles. It looks nice in the pictures and they're asking $3k. I like the functionality of the Outback; the little extra ground clearance has proven useful. I don't live in the woods anymore, though, so it's not really a necessity.

The other car I like is a 2003 Outback Wagon GT (apparently) but without leather seats? It's a 5 speed as well. Anyway it's got 120k and they're asking $4k. It also appears rust free and in good shape.

Any thoughts on which of these cars would be the better buy? I bought my 97 Outback with 100k on the clock. It needed head gaskets and a clutch at 140k. Is that about the life span of head gaskets on the 2000-2004 cars as well?

I know in the previous generation of Legacy, the Outback and the Legacy not only had different engines, but different final drive or 5th gear ratios. Is this so in the next generation? Is there a MPG benefit going with the Legacy vs Outback?

I have seen comments on this site about 2000-2001 cars being less robust than the next couple of years. Isn't it the same engine in this whole range? 2.5 SOHC?

And finally, what's it like to drive a Legacy GT vs. an Outback? My 97 is pretty boring but so is the Legacy counterpart.

Any feedback on these cars would be greatly appreciated as I plan to see them in person this very afternoon!


#2 Rooster2


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Posted 07 February 2013 - 12:25 PM

I have both a 98 and 99 OBWs, so my car knowledge is somewhat limited to the car that you drive the 97. They are all the same.

In 2000, the Legacy and Outbacks, went to a slightly different motor. It is more reliable in regard to head gaskets. If and when they go bad, they simply weep coolant out of the motor, and not cause over heating problems as seen in the 96-99 Leggie models. If there is a slight leakange, it is just a matter of making sure the motor doesn't run low on coolant to the point of over heating.

The vehicles are virtually the same, except for ground clearance. The GT wagon is built lower to the ground, so it will handle and corner better then an Outback, but not have the ground clearance of an Outback. However, it will be at a disadvantage in really deep snow. Gas millage will be the same between GT and Outback. Being built lower, it will be a little harder to get in and out of the driver seat.

Don't know if a GT or Outback is more expensive as a used car. The car price books can tell you that.

Happy car shopping, that is always fun!

#3 idosubaru


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Posted 07 February 2013 - 12:46 PM

Favor fewer owners with maintenance records.

Were the headgaskets ever replaced in either one? I used to think I'd favor one that's already been done but now I think I'd rather just have one that hasn't been replaced and if it needs it I can make sure it's done right with a better headgasket than most mechanics/dealers install.

There's no "normal" mileage for headgaskets. Some blow at 30,000 miles and some never get replaced at 250,000. It's fairly common to have headgaskets but it's more random than it is predictable.

Both need complete timing jobs to be long term reliable vehicles. They need not just timing belts, but all the pulleys and tensioner too which are rarely replaced. But at 10+ years old and you just getting it wanting some long term reliability it needs done. Every one I get I do it first thing. Interference engine - if the belt breaks or those pulleys fail (which they do), you'll have bent valves.

#4 jbmorse


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Posted 09 February 2013 - 12:47 PM

Thanks for the input guys. I didn't get to check these cars out yet but I may be able to this week sometime.


I agree with the point that fewer owners would be better. I saw another 03 Legacy wagon with 180k but only one owner for only $2500, which may be a better deal than the other wagons.


This morning's commute to work made me realize that I shouldn't be picky about things like colors, nice wheels, sunroofs or leather seats. Driving through a blizzard, those things don't matter!


Anyway, I will continue research. I'm still interested to know whether there are any significant differences between the Legacy and Outback. All I've found so far, besides a few options, there is no difference but ground clearance.


Also, how do the fancy options like power moonroofs and heated mirrors hold up on these cars, in general? My poor Subaru has so many electrical glitches, I sometimes call it a VW (my first car was a Quantum Syncro Wagon from 1987; terrible electrics). I am hoping my car is an exception.


Thanks again

Thanks again!

#5 Blue Whale

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 04:44 AM

For what it may be worth, I commute with a 2000 Outback Limited; no problems with anything electrical, or with anything at all for that matter.  It's always been a California car, so no rust (but the used prices are higher here).  I've never had electrical problems with my other Subarus either, except that the remote entry on my '96 Outback sometimes didn't open anything except the driver's door when the weather was colder (for here: i.e. below 60 degrees), even though the key and the inside switch would always work, and remote locking was always solid.  As a former VW owner, I'd never mistake one brand for the other.  As for differences between years in the 2000 to 2004 range, they are slight; at this age, current condition and maintenance history would far outweigh any of them.

#6 Fairtax4me



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Posted 10 February 2013 - 12:16 PM

A base model legacy will have a different final drive ratio. The GT and Outback should have the same final drive. GT will have slightly smaller tires than the Outback.
Major differences in trim and options can be found in the archive pages at Cars101.com

#7 Selum


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Posted 03 March 2013 - 08:20 PM

The MY2002 Legacy GT has a limited-slip rear differential. I'm guessing the same applies to MY2003. The GT also has bigger brake rotors than the non-GT model.


Best wishes,


#8 johnceggleston


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Posted 04 March 2013 - 08:24 AM

from a strictly numbers point of view, the 120k car is a better buy


i use a formula to compare used cars, miles + (future miles or 10 miles per dollar) = cost (lower is better) 


i assign a value of 10 cents per mile to the price of the car. in other words a $1000 car will/should go 10K miles.


for the 2003 this means 120k miles + 40k future miles ($4000 x 10) = 160


for the 2001 : 150K + 30K ($3000 x 10) = 180


(both of these cars are likely to go many more miles than the figure i have used. )


this is simply a way to compare similar used cars. it does not take into account the year, condition or options of the car and so it is not perfect for every situation. but on a very basic level, what you are buying is miles.


and both or either of these cars could end up needing head gaskets. so take that in to account .

AND as mentioned, doing ther timing belt and ALL pullies & water pump, doing that now, will give you 100k of trouble free mils.

the t-belts on both cars no doubt were done around the 105k mark. the question is was EVERYTHING done.


i would inspect the 01 very closely looking for evidence of a bad head gasket before you buy.

having said all that, buy the one you want / like. no reason to regret the purchase after the fact.

Edited by johnceggleston, 04 March 2013 - 08:28 AM.

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