Subaru's have always had a reputation of having the body rust out LONG before the engine died. The AWD system in the Subaru is FANTASTIC and way better than 4WD. You also benefit from the lower sitting horizontally opposed engine. If you are going to be riding around in snow country leave the Acura wherever you found it and buy the Subaru! From a reliability stand point they are pretty equal, getting from point A to point B in all kinds of weather Subaru Takes It HANDS DOWN. The added ground clearance, AWD system and added to the power plant's reliability are VERY difficult to beat and the Acura does not even come close.
The AWD and ride height are definitely pluses but the body already has rust on it which worries me. The Acura comes with a set of snow tires so should pretty much be the same as the SUS which only has all seasons I would think.
I'd put some weights towards the one with the least amount of rust if they have any significant amount at all on fuel, brake lines, rear cross member, and exhaust. Exhaust is extremely expensive and annoying to maintain. Cheaper stuff isn't nearly as robust and Subaru parts are nutty expensive.
they are both due for a timing belt (if the acura is equipped, it may have a chain, i only know Subarus) which is $450 - $750 at a shop. to be done right a timing belt kit should be installed - all new tensioner and idlers. ebay, amazing, gates kits are the way to go and standard for Subaru folks that know what they're doing to get another 10 reliable years.
That subaru belt is 105,000 or 10 years and you're way past due for 10 years, rubber degrades and that rubber has obviously sat for extended periods of time which if you've ever seen interiors of vehicles or tires that sat for awhile...it doesn't do them any good.
in my experience lower mileage cars can have more odd-ball issues - like switches failing, cables failing, electric motors an relays failing...stuff that normally doesn't happen, they have more of it than the "average" car. just my experience but i think it might make sense just from lack of use too. i wouldn't rule it out or anything and i still like the idea of lower miles of course, it's cool and novetly-ish, but i just wouldn't let it make you drool all over yourself either.
I'm all for Subaru's and particularly fond of the SUS - it's one of my favorite looks ever from Subaru and I have owned them, excellent vehicles! they drive great. excellent ground clearance like outbacks, but drive much nicer due to being a sedan. and look sharp.
that being said - it comes with the worst engine Subaru ever made...particularly for buying used. google "EJ25 headgasket" on google and you'll see why. of all the variety of Ej25 headgasket issues that motor in the 99 SUS is the more egregious by far. it will randomly overheat with no warning, at any mileage, any condition, and there's no way to verify if any particular one is good or not. and if it overheats there's no easy way to "limp" it home...no filling it up, no waiting...just random chance. which also means many have been previously overheated really bad - and they also have a propensity to loose rod bearings...probably due to that series of events.
if you're paying top dollar and want reliability...i'd research the headgasket issue and see how it compares to any issues with the Acura. you basically want to know how reliable and maintenance prone the engine and transmission are - and possibly any really wonky items - poor wiring, etc...but you're not looking at a german car so probably not much else to look at.
you can easily mitigate snow driving, particularly if it's in flatland with high quality snow tires. a 4WD with average all seasons isn't really that spectacular in the snow...i mean it's nice but...meh. i like both...but snow tires are the bees knees.
The HG issue is my biggest worry in picking the Subaru, it only has 30,000 km but it worries me that if I take it on road trips that it will randomly become an issue. I sort of feel like I would be buying a ticking time bomb which sucks because everything else about the car seems great. Both cars are currently being held by my mechanic (good friends) and they are $4000 each. The lower miles is what is making this such a hard decision - if it had >100,000km i would pick the Acura but it only has 30,000. My mechanic has been driving it around the past month or so and hasnt had any issues. I guess I should ask about the timing belt, and also the HG though I doubt its been done at this stage. As far as issues in the Acura the body has 140,000 or so on it but it has an engine in it thats only got 118,000 with no rust - I completely trust the mechanics as they are close friends. They think the Acura is more reliable but the Subaru makes more sense because theres a lot of snow where I am. No one is able to decide which car to pick because the pros and cons seem to balance each other out - everyone at the garage is split. 120,000 on an Acura EL (Honda Civic pretty much) is nothing and im sure it will do plenty of road trips. As far as maintenance they know that eventually the exhaust will need to be replaced on the Subaru since there is a bit of rust underneath, but not on the Acura before I get rid of it....its such a tough decision.
I agree with your point about snow tires, I love them. And would assume the SUS with new allseasons would be pretty much the same as the acura with winters.
Also the gas mileage wise the Acura is much better, and the engine in the Acura is must faster/takes off quicker (though neither are 'fast' by any means). But is not as comfortable to drive or as smooth as the SUS.... everything just balances out
Ask to see a repair receipt from the owner confirming that the head gasket has been replaced on the 99 Subie. That is the weak point on the motor. I have both a 98 and 99 with the same motor as the 99 you are looking at. Both blew their head gaskets, it is repairable at a price of about $1,700. Nice if you can see a receipt that the HGs have already been replaced. Other then the HGs, the Subies are good reliable, fun to drive cars.
My mechanics picked up the car, it only has 30,000 km so I doubt the head gasket has been done but I can ask tomorrow and also enquire about the timing belt. That price of $1700 to fix the head gasket seems so ridiculous - Im not arguing the price just saying wow. Like I said above the HG issue seems to feel like a ticking time bomb. Also Im assuming that the repairs on the Acura are marginally less over time than the SUS.
And just want to thank everyone for the great responses, they've definitely helped me understand what I'm getting into.
Edited by umirza, 22 October 2013 - 08:52 PM.