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Subaru Outback - Best used model years and which years to avoid 2000-2005


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22 replies to this topic

#1 mountainwalker

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Posted 12 May 2008 - 02:03 PM

I’m hot on the trail to purchase a used Subaru Outback in very good condition, which has had a solid maintenance record. I’ve been gathering information on Edmunds and CarTalk forums and then was referred to this excellent community by a poster on CarTalk. I’ve got a little extra work to do as I’m searching for a car in Silicon Valley a few weeks before relocating for the summer from New York – I’d like to have any necessary maintenance done before arriving in a few weeks. This means I have to evaluate the car by having it inspected by 1-2 reliable garages, and maybe even hiring a local Subaru enthusiast with good experience to take a quick look after inspection.

Which model years from 2000-2005 would you look for/avoid, based on known issues with certain model years? For example, I read in another forum that pre-2005 Subaru Outbacks were prone to head gasket leaking.

I'm just looking for the best value in a highly reliable vehicle. I don't mind doing some repairs and will do all recommended maintenance upon purchase, but would like to avoid any problems that can be avoided from the beginning.

#2 Love_em_when_there_old

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Posted 12 May 2008 - 03:12 PM

If you dont care about age or power, id look for a 96 or 2002, 96 has an ej22 which is extremly durable and reliable, and in 2002 there were some gasket issues that were fixed

#3 mountainwalker

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Posted 12 May 2008 - 03:20 PM

Thanks, so were the head gasket issues corrected for model year 2002 and beyond?

Would you avoid 2000 and 2001 model years?

#4 Love_em_when_there_old

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Posted 12 May 2008 - 03:28 PM

2000-01 wewre basically a transition period, they werent the best, they did come with options, but were, the first years of a new generation, if i were you id search around for a 96 outback, with no rust, that thing is bullet proof and wil last for a very long time, my brother has one, we do regular maintiance but other than that he beats on it pretty hard and nothing happened, the 96 is also a little more fuel effiecent, but by no means is it a honda

#5 mountainwalker

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Posted 12 May 2008 - 03:33 PM

A little afraid to go that far back because of rust issues and mileage - if the owner wasn't careful about maintenance, bigger risk. And I can't inspect myself - have to rely on garage across country to inspect for me before I arrive locally (shopping for used Silicon Valley/Bay Area vehicle from NY).

Will the 2002 model year be a significant improvement over 2000-2001?

#6 Love_em_when_there_old

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Posted 12 May 2008 - 03:45 PM

If you have the money, get an 03-04 limited outback, thats that

Youll have to make up your mind

#7 nipper

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Posted 12 May 2008 - 03:48 PM

I would avoid 2000-2001. If someone offerd me one for a killer price, i would take it with my eyes wide open.

These were the GM years. There also seems to be a tranny issue, that is fixable without replacing the tranny (bad internal seal). I mean they arent like buying a kia or saturn from those years.

Also if your budget allows you to go 2005, go 2005. Its always smart to buy the newest you can afford, unless you dont like the lines of the car.


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#8 Love_em_when_there_old

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Posted 12 May 2008 - 03:50 PM

exactly

GM=:dead:

#9 mountainwalker

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Posted 12 May 2008 - 03:54 PM

We're trying to buy below the price range of an 03-04 model. Not having trouble making up my mind, just trying to make the best possible purchase within budget. We may have to resell this car and return to E Coast in the fall because of an illness in the family - so I want to buy something that could work for long term if we need it to, but not something too expensive so it's easier to resell. I don't have a lot of time to find a few good possibilities, inspect the best 1-2 and do necessary maintenance/repairs before arriving if I want the car ready by the time we arrive locally in a few weeks.

I'm doing an intensive search in the next 2 days and hope to have the best 1-2 choices for us inspected right away.

So does the 2002 model correct for the head gasket issues in 2000-2001 model years?

Thank you kindly for the helpful advice.

#10 nipper

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Posted 12 May 2008 - 03:56 PM

Subaru has a great resale value, so its the wise thing to do (warts and all).

Sorry about the family situation.


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#11 Love_em_when_there_old

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Posted 12 May 2008 - 03:58 PM

Just avoid 00-02 no matter how good the deal seems, regardless subarus are one of the most reliable vehicles ever built, so feel confident that in any subaru you buy will be a good purchase and for subaru they do generally have a high resale value but dont worry about that, your not getting a car to sell it, your buying it to drive it till it dies.

#12 mountainwalker

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Posted 12 May 2008 - 03:59 PM

Just saw more posts as I was posting my last one. Looks like best to go for 2002 for budget.

For anything more expensive, is there a big jump in quality/performance/longevity from 03-04 to 2005?

#13 Love_em_when_there_old

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Posted 12 May 2008 - 04:03 PM

Anything 00-04 is 2nd gen, 05 is third gen

#14 mountainwalker

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Posted 12 May 2008 - 04:05 PM

Love_em_when_there_old, I'm confused, avoid 2002 as well? Thought it was just 2000-2001 that were transition years under GM and suffered more issues. Wasn't 2002 the better year?

Is there a big jump in quality/performance/longevity from 2002 to 2003?

I can't tell you all how much I appreciate all your advice - I'm making this purchase intelligently with lots of research but faster than I've ever made a purchase like this before. Have to move our startup company to Silicon Valley this summer but as I mentioned for family reasons may have to be back here in fall (though long term will be splitting time between E and W Coast).

We fell in love with the Subaru even before owning/driving our own. And I'm coming over from Volvo. Nothing but admiration for the quality and brand loyalty.

#15 mountainwalker

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Posted 12 May 2008 - 04:13 PM

Anything 00-04 is 2nd gen, 05 is third gen


Is there then a big difference between 00-01 to 02 and 03-04?

#16 grossgary

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Posted 12 May 2008 - 04:44 PM

if it were me i'd be looking for an early 2000-2002 Outback LL Bean edition H6 with leather seats.

Is there then a big difference between 00-01 to 02 and 03-04?

i haven't noticed a huge difference in those model years. except the transmission delay issues (nip mentioned earlier) and speedometer issues. those are mostly 1999 year issues for some reason, but there are a handful of 2000's that see those as well. if 2002 is a better year...it's marginally better.

that subaru uses it's coolant additive in 2002 vehicles doesn't bode well for 2002 being substantially better than 2001 as far as that matter is concerned.

this is a long and detailed discussion, with no end, about EJ25 head gasket issues, but you keep pushing those buttons so it's going to get deep fast. it used to be thought that the head gasket problem was "fixed" some time in 2002 (probably part of the reason you're seeing that year), but it is looking like that might not be the case since there are 03..04 EJ25's showing up with problems...and it appears the date keeps increasing with time. there's no convincing data (good luck getting subaru to report head gasket sales or repair data!!!) to show us the truth, so personally i wouldn't believe any years or numbers thrown at you.

lots of manufacturers bored blocks bigger and pushed the limits of engine design and fabrication in the late 90's..this isn't a "subaru" issue alone. larger bores/higher performance outpaced reliability. whether they've made the right changes and it's back to the same integrity as before is yet to be determined. up to 2002 it's definitely not. it's not a large percentage but no one really knows either, like i said subaru doesn't release that kind of information so it's all speculation.

#17 mountainwalker

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Posted 12 May 2008 - 09:05 PM

if it were me i'd be looking for an early 2000-2002 Outback LL Bean edition H6 with leather seats.

i haven't noticed a huge difference in those model years. except the transmission delay issues (nip mentioned earlier) and speedometer issues. those are mostly 1999 year issues for some reason, but there are a handful of 2000's that see those as well. if 2002 is a better year...it's marginally better.

that subaru uses it's coolant additive in 2002 vehicles doesn't bode well for 2002 being substantially better than 2001 as far as that matter is concerned.

this is a long and detailed discussion, with no end, about EJ25 head gasket issues, but you keep pushing those buttons so it's going to get deep fast. it used to be thought that the head gasket problem was "fixed" some time in 2002 (probably part of the reason you're seeing that year), but it is looking like that might not be the case since there are 03..04 EJ25's showing up with problems...and it appears the date keeps increasing with time. there's no convincing data (good luck getting subaru to report head gasket sales or repair data!!!) to show us the truth, so personally i wouldn't believe any years or numbers thrown at you.

lots of manufacturers bored blocks bigger and pushed the limits of engine design and fabrication in the late 90's..this isn't a "subaru" issue alone. larger bores/higher performance outpaced reliability. whether they've made the right changes and it's back to the same integrity as before is yet to be determined. up to 2002 it's definitely not. it's not a large percentage but no one really knows either, like i said subaru doesn't release that kind of information so it's all speculation.


grossgary,

Check out this response below to my question on CarTalk forums. VDCdriver, the poster, appears to confirm your advice - that it's best to go after the 6 cylinder model because it has timing chains instead of a belt, and because there are no head gasket issues. Is this true of the 6 cylinder in 2000-2002, or just 2002?

This is what VDCdriver posted on Cartalk forums in response to my question:

"If you are considering a 4-cylinder Outback, I would recommend that you not look at anything prior to the 2002 model year. After 2002, the engines appear to not suffer from the head gasket problems that were typical of the '96-'01 models once they got past ~ 110k.

On the other hand, I can strongly recommend all model years ('01 to present) of the 6-cylinder Outbacks. The 6 is an incredibly powerful engine, has a timing CHAIN (rather than the timing belt that has to be replaced on the 4-cylinder model at 105k), and has proven to be essentially trouble-free.

Comparing my '97 4 cylinder Outback with my '02 6 cylinder Outback, I can tell you that I have only given up ~1 mpg with the 6, and I enjoy the much lower noise levels and the safety factor of the VERY strong acceleration when it is needed. The acceleration of a 4-cylinder Outback is best described as "adequate", while the 6 borders on awesome.

As to VDC, I do have that feature on my Outback, and it is very effective at preventing skidding and sliding of the rear end on slippery turns. And, if any Outback that you are considering is still equipped with the original Bridgestone Potenza RE-92 tires, I can tell you that you need every advantage that you can get on a slippery surface. Those Potenza RE-92s are the absolute worst tires on a winter road surface that I have ever experienced.

On my '02 Outback, the VDC feature only came on the 6-cylinder model that I drive. While it has lately become available as an option on the 4 cylinder model, it is possible that VDC continued to be available only with the 6 cylinder model for a few years after '02, and that might account for the large price differential that you are seeing for VDC-equipped Outbacks. On the brand new models, VDC only costs something like $400. as an option, but on earlier models, it likely cost more, or was only available in combination with the 6 cylinder engine."

#18 mountainwalker

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Posted 12 May 2008 - 09:12 PM

if it were me i'd be looking for an early 2000-2002 Outback LL Bean edition H6 with leather seats.


1) I understand why the 6 cylinder is more desirable. Is "H6" the designation for all the 6 cylinder Outback models, or a specific 6 cylinder model?

2) How many mpg do you lose going from the 4 cylinder to the 6 cylinder?

3) Why an early LL Bean 2000-2002 Outback edition? Were they better than later model years, or were you suggesting the earlier years only for value?

4) Also, why LLB edition instead of just any 6 cylinder Outback edition? Does the LLB edition come with VDC and is it loaded similar to a Ltd edition? Wouldn't I just be paying a premium for the LLB name?

5) In general, would you recommend going for a Ltd edition or other edition over a standard 6 cylinder 2000-2002?

6) Do you think the 6 cylinder 2002 would be better than a 2000-2001 6 cylinder?

I'm nearly there folks. I'm feeling like the 6 cylinder 2000-2002 or 6 cylinder 2002 would be best bet. Ltd or LLB, depending on what it comes with. And sounds like it's worth finding a model with VDC if it's available.

#19 nipper

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Posted 12 May 2008 - 09:14 PM

No one has suggested this yet

www.cars101.com to see equipment etc.


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#20 mountainwalker

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Posted 12 May 2008 - 09:20 PM

No one has suggested this yet

www.cars101.com to see equipment etc.

nipper


Hi nipper,

Forgive my ignorance, been away from car ownership for years living in the big city and renting only when I needed. What would I check out on cars101.com? Are there pictures of the different Subaru Outback models with descriptions? Is there a particular section to check out?

BTW, thank you for your good wishes earlier, appreciate the thoughts for my family.

#21 nipper

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Posted 12 May 2008 - 09:32 PM

Thats the ultimate list of subarus, its a subaru site (not the official one).


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#22 mountainwalker

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Posted 12 May 2008 - 09:53 PM

Thats the ultimate list of subarus, its a subaru site (not the official one).


nipper


Thanks nipper, just check it out, very helpful comparisons.

We've decided to definitely get a 6 cylinder. Now have to decide on year 2000-2002 and edition - Ltd, VDC or LLB editions.

Any suggestions much appreciated.

#23 mountainwalker

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Posted 12 May 2008 - 10:20 PM

if it were me i'd be looking for an early 2000-2002 Outback LL Bean edition H6 with leather seats.


grosgarry, after doing some further digging, and getting the editions sorted for each year 2000-2002, I would only go with a 6 cylinder, and I definitely think either the LLB or Ltd 6 cylinder 2000-2002 or the VDC Ltd 6 cylinder.

1) What do you like about the LLB edition over the Ltd edition for 2000-2002?

2) Why do you prefer the LLB 2000-2002 to the VDC Ltd edition 2001-2002? I realize the VDC usually commands a premium. If price were no limitation, would you go for the 2001-2002 VDC Ltd?

3) Does getting the LLB mean paying a premium just for the LLB name?




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