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1996 Subaru Outback Buying Qs


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21 replies to this topic

#1 suberdoberman

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 09:09 AM

Hello Subaru Gods!

I’m looking at this 1996 Subaru Outback Wagon with 150K miles as a commuter car, probably will only put 8-9K miles on it a year.

I wanted to get everyone’s opinion on this (I’ve been a lurker for a few months—I used to own an 85 and 92 Loyale wagons respectively—and love to read about the old Subs. This would be my first new gen).

The car’s details:

The seller is the 2nd owner, has had the car for over 5 years.
Brand New Inspection and new brakes and rotors.
Recent timing belt and water pump.
Bridgestone Tires are nearly new (maybe 5000 miles on them).
5 speed manual Transmission.
Air Conditioning is ice cold.
This car looks and runs great!!

Obviously, no one can predict the future, but here are my Qs/concerns:

1) Would this have the potential to last another 100K, or given what you guys all know, would the repairs start piling up exponentially as it got older?
2) I’m not sure, but I’m assuming it’s the 2.2L engine. Not prone to HG failure, but if it was, would it have probably been fixed already at this high mileage?
3) Does “torque bind” affect manual trans?
4) Assuming no or minimal rust on this body (I haven’t yet looked at it), could the body last another 100k?
5) What else can go wrong at the car’s current mileage that I should try to catch before buying?
6) Could the AWD system start failing soon?
7) Could there be strut/axle issue with these models and with this mileage?
8) Will the car self-destruct if I don’t keep the tires at optimum air pressure at all times (I’m joking here, but it seems like this is an issue with AWD and Subarus).

My wife is against buying a Subaru, plus one that has 150K on it but I just have this love for them.

My other candidate is a 1996 VW Jetta with low miles. This will get better mileage and won’t have AWD potential repair problems, but it just doesn’t grab the emotions like a Sub.

Thanks for any input.
John

#2 mtnbob

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 09:48 AM

i have both a vw golf and a 96 and 97 outback, and all things equal, the subarus are twice as dependable. if you do normal maint on the sube and its not a lemon, you should get another 100,000 out of it easily.:banana:

#3 porcupine73

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 10:32 AM

Hi suberdoberman and Posted Image

The recent timing belt and water pump replacement is good. There are some other things that should have ideally been done at that time that would be nice to know if they were done, such as geared/toothed idler near the water pump.

Posted Image

Does “torque bind” affect manual trans?

It can, esp if the car was run with tires not all matching within 1/4" circumference as measured with a narrow tape, towed improperly, run on a soft tire long enough. Get it in a dry parking lot and make tight turns forward and reverse. It should make the turns with little or no throttle. If it feels like the brakes are on or there is popping/binding then you know it has TB. If possible, ideally do this test after driving it for a while, say 15 miles at least, since the TB on MT's may show up better right after it's been driven.

Posted Image

Would this have the potential to last another 100K, or given what you guys all know, would the repairs start piling up exponentially as it got older?

It could last another 100k, there are Subaru's of this era with with 250k on them. There are things that it could end up needing along the way; HG's often don't last 250k, wheel bearings, cv joint boots, maybe some sensors, that kind of stuff may well be needed.

Posted Image

I’m not sure, but I’m assuming it’s the 2.2L engine. Not prone to HG failure, but if it was, would it have probably been fixed already at this high mileage?

If it has the 2.2L that is a bonus. Check it out. If it is the 2.5L dohc, that can potentially develop the internal hg exhaust blowing into coolant leak which can be pricey to fix. If it does have the 2.5L, look for little tabs sticking out of the HG's - IIRC this is how you tell if they were replaced with the new MLS style.

Posted Image

Assuming no or minimal rust on this body (I haven’t yet looked at it), could the body last another 100k?

It could, especially if you are not in a salt laden area such as near the ocean or a place that uses salt on the winter roads, and if it wasn't owned in such an area previously. There can be rust forming inside the body panels that you can't yet see.

Posted Image

Could the AWD system start failing soon?

The AWD setup on the MT's is pretty straightforward with the viscous coupling. The main killer is tires not within 1/4" circumference, improper towing, running on soft tire, etc.

Posted Image

Could there be strut/axle issue with these models and with this mileage?

Check for torn cv joint boots. Sometimes the axles will start clicking in turns even if the boots are good. The OEM Subaru axles are pretty robust and as long as the boots stay intact they'll probably last.

Posted Image

Will the car self-destruct if I don’t keep the tires at optimum air pressure at all times (I’m joking here, but it seems like this is an issue with AWD and Subarus).

As mentioned earlier it can become an issue if it's run that way long enough.

Posted Image

My wife is against buying a Subaru, plus one that has 150K on it but I just have this love for them.

Hm...maybe a nice dinner, some flowers, things like that....Posted Image

Posted Image

My other candidate is a 1996 VW Jetta with low miles. This will get better mileage and won’t have AWD potential repair problems, but it just doesn’t grab the emotions like a Sub.

What year did VW's quality really start dipping? I know early on they were good vehicles but then in later years they kind of went downhill?
Posted Image

#4 suberdoberman

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 01:23 PM

Thx for the replies. I'm suddenly a little scared about pulling the trigger on this. Seems like a lot of things to look for and that could go wrong at any time. Of course, that's the case with any high mileage car.

But I guess things will be more expensive with the AWD thrown in? Are Outbacks easy to fix in the driveway? My neighbor, who is a mechanic, cringed and said, "Don't buy a Subaru. Hate them" when I mentioned this '96. He'd reather see me with the 96 Jetta--easier to fix, less complicated, etc.

But I lOVE Sub Wagons..!

I'm in a quandary.

#5 porcupine73

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 01:44 PM

Not trying to scare you off, just mention some of the more common problems seen so you can check before you buy, not necessarily that you will experience them. Many other makes wouldn't even make it to 150k much less still be reliable.

The Subaru's are pretty easy to work on, esp since the engine isn't transverse mounted. One the 2.5L dohc the spark plugs can be a little bit of challenge but all the accessories ps pump, etc are all right there on top of the engine.

For a daily driver if you live where there's snow you'll love the Subaru.

#6 fnlyfnd

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 03:56 PM

As far as the VW quality dipping....it happened when they moved production to Mexico in 1987.
The car is a 2.2L if it has a manual trans (1996 only). Many will argue that this is the best/most reliable setup. Check the axle boots to see if they are torn. Pass. side inner will go first because of the cat heat. Swapping an axle is extremely easy. Working on this Subaru in general is extremely easy.

#7 nipper

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 04:19 PM

Any used car with over 150K on it can bhlow a HG, a transmission etc etc. Subaru is the ONLY car I would ever consider buying with over 100,000 miles on it.

Sure mechanical things can go poof (again it can happen with ANY used car at any time), but other things just keep working. They dont develop many rattles. Trim peices dont fall off. Switches dont fall apart and still feel like new. Body parts dont fall off... etc etc etc


I would buy it.

nipper

#8 montana105

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 05:46 PM

Can you tell us what the price is? And any more details on recent maintenence? 10 years ago we bought our 93 Leg wagon with 125000 miles on it,it was only 4 years old but the owner maintained it impeccably and had the receipts to prove it.We've only put 50000 miles on it since as we have other vehicles but it has proven very reliable especially against most of our other vehicles in the winter and the gas mileage is great on road trips.We did have a receiver hitch installed to pull some jet skis and I wasn't impressed with that aspect,underpowered.but I don't see a vw being any better.

#9 hankosolder2

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 06:47 PM

If your wife needs convincing, drag out an old Consumer Reports reliabilty chart. It's almost hard to do worse than VW, whereas Subarus always are well rated. There's a reason VWs depreciate so severely!

Just because people have presented you with a list of 'things to check' does not mean that the cars or the AWD systems (especially on the manual trans models) are inherently problematic. They can easily go 200K miles assuming no long term abuse, and a willingness to make normal repairs and perform maintanence.

Good luck.

Nathan

#10 eryque

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 08:43 PM

FWIW, my last Subaru was a '95 Legacy wagon that I bought with 195,000 miles on it. Other than things that you'd expect to wear out ona 10+ year old car with high miles, it was very reliable. It would still be running if I hadn't been an rump roast about neglecting the timing belt.

Now, at the end of its life it did need brakes, a cat (the flange on the pipe had rusted away, but the cat itself was good), and had some body rust in the typical places.

Porcupine, are you sure about doing the tight turns at idle in a MT car? I'm pretty sure that my Impreza would stall out running at low speed and in gear at idle.

#11 nipper

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 09:33 PM

FWIW, my last Subaru was a '95 Legacy wagon that I bought with 195,000 miles on it. Other than things that you'd expect to wear out ona 10+ year old car with high miles, it was very reliable. It would still be running if I hadn't been an rump roast about neglecting the timing belt.

Now, at the end of its life it did need brakes, a cat (the flange on the pipe had rusted away, but the cat itself was good), and had some body rust in the typical places.

Porcupine, are you sure about doing the tight turns at idle in a MT car? I'm pretty sure that my Impreza would stall out running at low speed and in gear at idle.


You can give it very light throttle. The idea is that it should be a smooth motion. If you have TB you will know it in a tight turn, as it does take quite a bit of throttle to keep the car going.

nipper

#12 jeep5.9litre

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 10:44 PM

What is the price and what part of PA are you in?

#13 Jimmyowensfan20

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 10:51 PM

96 Outback wagon auto 273,462.5 miles and still kicking!


Don't fear a Subaru. Embrace it for you will come to know it well and working on them couldn't be more simple.

Great design goes a long way in my book.

150,000 is just broke in.

JMO :)

#14 delli50

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Posted 29 August 2007 - 09:05 AM

i was a vw guy. had lots of them. still have an 82 scirocco that is my toy. i also have an 01 golf automatic with 135,000 kms on it. that's about 85,000 miles. i am not happy with the quality or engineering in this car. it sure isn't as good as the ones built before 1992.
if you buy a mk3 vw (1993-1998), i think that you will be dissapointed and may be looking at some real maintenance issues. if it's an automatic, i would highly recommend against it. the autos are sealed units with supposedly lifetime fluids. when you do go to change the fluid, and you should, it's not an easy matter. the fuild is about $30 a litre canadian and you need a computer scan to do the job. power steering fluid as well as some of the bulbs in the car are propriatory items (vw specific). ps fluid is $35/litre.
this is just some of the bs that you'll have to put up with.... coil packs are another costly problem area. i tell my wife that if you are going to own a newer vw, you should have a city transit pass and a code reader. if you want to research for vw mk3 issues, check out www. vwvortex.com.
on the other hand, i love my 96 legacy wagon that has 293,000 kms. once i changed out a few sensors and did a few other minor things, it's been bullet proof and the awd here in northern ontario is areal bonus. my daughter has been driving it for a year and all i've had to do is oil changes and a ball joint. it's been very easy to work on and this bulletin board has been very helpful.

regards,

mark

#15 eagleb

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Posted 29 August 2007 - 11:05 AM

Well I was the ultimate subaru noob before I bought bloobaru the 96 OBW AT.
Payed way to much for the car, even though it only had 101k. Stealership bent me over and sent me on my way. After the HG's started leaking (within 8 months of buying the car), all I could think about was how much I hated it, wanted a new car, couldn't wait to get rid of bloobaru.
Although I wish I had been on USMB before buying the car, the info on here has been tremendously valuable and comforting.
After I had had the HGs replaced, I started doing small upgrades here and there, doing most maintenance work on my own, and now I can't wait to take bloobaru for drives. I'm gonna have him til he won't go anymore. And then I'll probably put a lift on him with some knobby tires and go offroading.
I love my soob.

Long story short, you are ahead of the game by asking questions here first. Feel confident that even if your car needs major repairs down the line, help is only a mouse click away, and you won't ever have to worry about getting jacked by a stealership or mechanic.

Get a soob. You'll be glad you did.

#16 suberdoberman

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Posted 29 August 2007 - 11:48 AM

Thanks everyone for your advice so far. I just talked to the owner--here's some more info.

1) He's selling it 'cause he just bought an '02 Impreza Outback.
2) No torque bind (assuming he knows what he's talking about--he seemed familiar with the term at least)
3) No rust
4) No torn CVs or axle boots

Price is $3K

Bad part: his estimated mpg is 21-22. He gets 240--260 per tank, fiills up at 11 o 12 gal. point, doesn't believe running tank to when light comes on.

My wife is still against it; she just can't get her head around the 150K and the bad mileage. She'd like me to get this 98 Corolla that is starting at $4K with 90K mileage. I don't know if the Corolla guy would even come down. She'd also like to see me with 96 Jetta with 60K original miles at $3650. Now, we've owned 2 MKIII Jettas and had no problems with them while I have owned 2 80s Subs and they were replete with probs.

My spending limit is exactly $3K and the Outback owner is pretty firm at that price.

I'm paralyzed on what my next move should be.

John

#17 nipper

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Posted 29 August 2007 - 11:50 AM

21-22 is typical.


Thats a good price. Maybe ill buy it :)

nipper

#18 porcupine73

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Posted 29 August 2007 - 11:53 AM

20-22mpg seems low but there are so many variables involved it could be driving style etc; there could be a number of reasons for poor economy.

My spending limit is exactly $3K and the Outback owner is pretty firm at that price.

If it's outside your spending limit, you could look around for other Subaru's then, like craigslist etc. An earlier 90's 2.2L Legacy could be easily had for that much and they are very reliable too. Just make sure it's AWD if you want AWD.

Or if you get an FWD or maybe an earlier 1.8L Impreza FWD those are pretty economical. But you live in a snow area so maybe you want AWD, but on other vehicles such as the T*yot@ you wouldn't have AWD anyway...

#19 suberdoberman

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Posted 29 August 2007 - 02:57 PM

What should I say when the wife says, "OK. You want to buy a commuter car that has 150K and gets 21-22 mpg ? Are you an idiot?"

I need a good come back.

John

#20 x_25

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Posted 29 August 2007 - 04:46 PM

Tell her she won't care about the gas mileage once it snows.

#21 porcupine73

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Posted 29 August 2007 - 06:13 PM

Plus you may be able to get that mileage up somewhat with a tune-up, seafoaming, maybe new front o2 sensor, verifying tire circumferences, brakes aren't hanging up, wheel bearings are good, etc.

If you want better mileage, a 1.8L earlier Impreza FWD gets pretty high mileage and is still reliable.

#22 Jimmyowensfan20

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Posted 29 August 2007 - 11:32 PM

Take her for a test ride and show her how much room is in the back.LOL!

To me there isn't a better design out there.

Simple, cheap, and reliable.




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