What to know before buying used Subaru Outback?

Highlander

The Good Shepherd
Yeah it’s kinda look simple inside.
What is best engine in it and how much can it tow?

———

How easy is it modify an Outback?
like some lift kits. Adding extra lights and stuff.
 

ThundahBeagle

Well-known member
Subaru aficionados,
This is a thread where your insights will be most welcome. And others as well.

Due to not so good economy and gas situation I voted to not to get a new truck (F-150 or Nissan Titan). My feelings were hurt but the rational me told me to suck it up and as they say on Twitter, the facts don't care about your (my) feelings.
In my previous life I was a kid growing up in Chicago during the Great Depression... So I am a bit paranoid about the situations like this one. (please lets not go into politics here).

One fact is that my dd, the Saab 9-5 wagon is still going but kind of struggling. The cost of repair is more than the car itself ($500). It's been a magnificent car and I hate to see him gone but it's becoming quite real.
It is roomy, comfy, great on gas and fast (was at least).
That bad part is that it has a low on ground and parts are expansive... Not many shops will touch it.

I love similar architecture (wagons) and would like my second car to be like that as well.

I have come to a conclusion that a Subaru Outback will be a good choice for me for a few years.
It's roomy, it's got high set, AWD and parts seem to be easer to get.
And it's a Subaru.

What it needs to do well:
- Daily driving
- Upland hunting trips up in the Northeast and the prairies. (ME, NH, VA, NY, ND, SD)
- It has to be able to handle some dirt roads and long trips.
- Carrying adulates, possible baby, one dog (or two) and gear during those trips.
- It will have to tow on long distance trips. No more than 2000 lbs. ( I might get a small trailer to move my dog(s) in and put the gears on it so I could free up the interior)
- Reasonable mpg.
- Reasonable comfort though I don't care about fancy stuff. Simpler is better.

These are absolutely important requirements.

I think, based on my research, an Outback can handle all that.

However, I am looking into used ones, and there are a few trims, and engines, and gearboxes I don't know what to look and what avoid.
My budget is around $12k... might push it to $15 (unlikely).

So given all the req. I have and the budget I have got what is that have to be aware of before getting a used Outback.
A few key point / questions:

- Mileage vs year
- 4th Gen vs 5th Gen (though it is unlikely I can get a 5th gen in that price range)
- 2.5 vs 3.6. Some say 2.5 won't handle too much load.
- CVT - 5AT. Some say the Subaru CVT in the 4th gen sucks so it's better to get a 3.6 as it comes with a proven 5AT and better central diff. (is this even true?)
- What is "too high" mileage?
- What year should I avoid?
- What is the most problematic area / parts in used Outbacks
- What are the most obvious signs of the car being bad?
- Anything else?

Please let me know if there is other stuff I need to know before becoming a Subaru owner.

As I said this will be my "transitional" car. I don't want an old truck or jeep or suv. If I get one, and I will, it has to be new.
This thread is strictly about the Subaru Outback. Other wagon suggestions are ok such as Volvo Cross country or something.
Also thinking of Subaru as a new daily driver, also thinking older used, but I'm thinking Forester. Given the drivetrains are similar I am watching this thread
 

Buddha.

Finally in expo white.
I had a ‘17 forrester I bought new. 2.5 6 spd manual. It was fine. Burned oil even though that was supposedly fixed by then. Didn’t hate it.
 

ThundahBeagle

Well-known member
The 2010-2012 had the old EJ and first gen cvt. I had a 2010 the EJ was finally pretty bulletproof the new 2.5 suffered pretty serious issues till late 2015. Some of the 2010-12’z got junk Torque converters that locked up and dumped debris into the cvt and junked the cvt. The 2015’s got a updated cvt with lower reverse gearing which fixed a issue of pre 15’s getting stuck ie no ability to spin tires or climb over stuff in reverse the cvt would stall. My 2010 got stuck in the ski parking lot a few times required me to kick mud flap ice chunks out from under the tires to back out of my parking spot🤦‍♂️.
Regardless of yr the front gear box diff plug and the cvt fill plugs for some stupid reason get mixed up on a regular basis resulting in drained cvts and gear oil put in the cvt. Lots of junked subaru cvts in nice cars due to flunkie diff services. Yes it trashes the cvt.

The 2016’s and newer are probably the most sorted the 2010’s-2012’s being better than the 13-15’s regarding bad parts and crap factory issues.

The biggest Subaru negative is they loose ground clearance FAST when loaded. My Legacy had far less squat than my OB when loaded for similar trips. I ran a 4x6 life time trailer with the OB we were typically 1200-1500lbs on the trailer. 16-18mpg with the 2.5 was my go anywhere weight. Did fine. I also towed my 21ft racing sailboat which was 8.5ft wide about roof line high and with trailer around 1900lbs. Towed fine but worked hard on climbs. My prior GT Legacy 5spd actually handled better towing but cooling was a bigger issue. The 2010 cvt 2.5 had way way better cooling capacity so I didn’t watch it as much but still was cautious on hot climbs.

If I were buying new today? Ford Maverick or Bronc sport.
Used? Mehh I would put the VW SUV thing as better quality and engine/transmission over a used cvt Subaru.

My rule used cars Lexus, Mercedes, Toyota

New cars Subaru, Ford 😆
So...no CVT / 2010 or older 4 cyl with a standard shift seems to be an answer here?
 

ThundahBeagle

Well-known member
...My Expedition does 18 around town, 22-23 road trips. Last identical trip subaru vs Expedition same trailer and gear we averaged 21mpg in the truck😆.

Don’t go Subaru for big fuel savings unless you pack like a back packer and keep the roof gear limited to a sleek box. Otherwise your mileage is getting into modern full sized rig zone.
This is my dilemma. When fuel prices were stabil until a month or two ago, the 100 mile daily round trip in my Sierra 1500 5.3l v8 with AFM was manageable. If I left early to avoid traffic and kept it in 2 wheel drive, I could cruise along at 60, the v8 engine dropping down to v4 mode, and get over 20 mpg. Best case scenario, sometimes as much as 25 mpg over a given 50 mile stretch.

A Subie Forester sport 2.5l, 4 cyl rings in at 26 mpg highway, according to documentation. This seems incongruous to me that I would ditch my beloved truck for a mere pittance savings in fuel economy. But maybe it's not a pittance. I am not TYPICALLY getting that 25mpg, whereas the Subie probably gets its 26 mpg often.

Drove my girlfriend's 2013 GMC Terrain Denali with 3.6l v6 and AWD about 100 miles today and got the 25mpg easily. Smooth, comfortable ride, less jouncy than the Sierra, and quite grippy. Just not great ground clearance.

Rather than wrangle around selling the truck, buying another vehicle, I may just leave the truck parked home most days and take her Terrain to work and back
 

ThundahBeagle

Well-known member
Subaru aficionados,
This is a thread where your insights will be most welcome. And others as well.



What it needs to do well:
- Daily driving
- Upland hunting trips up in the Northeast and the prairies. (ME, NH, VA, NY, ND, SD)
- It has to be able to handle some dirt roads and long trips.
- Carrying adulates, possible baby, one dog (or two) and gear during those trips.
- It will have to tow on long distance trips. No more than 2000 lbs. ( I might get a small trailer to move my dog(s) in and put the gears on it so I could free up the interior)
Not so sure I would put the dog in a trailer. Some guys in the Beagle club have special dog boxes for the back of the truck. I'm not sure I'd even do that, but maybe I would if I had a whole pack. Hell, I rode in the back of my dad's truck all over upstate NY back in the very early 80's. Nobody would let that pass today.

It's just my girl and I on these trips so we get the truck front seat, the Beagle and the Yorkie get the back seat of the Sierra Doyble Cab and our stuff rides in coach.
 

Buddha.

Finally in expo white.
My mom finally got rid of her ‘04 Trailblazer she bought new. She was gonna get the crosstrek until I told her the Outback has near twice the towing capacity. Probably basically the same fuel economy too.
 

Highlander

The Good Shepherd
My brother in law is thinking off getting rid of his 2013 Forester Premium, 71k on it.
I might end up getting it.
It’s smaller than the Outback and tows less but it is what it is.
Also it does not have a tow hitch so I will have install it. Need do a research about it though. How much it can affect the AT.

@ThundahBeagle
I’ll have a rated kennel mounted on it if I go with a regular trailer.
I have seen kennels mounted on pick up tracks and trailers.
 
Yeah it’s kinda look simple inside.
What is best engine in it and how much can it tow?

———

How easy is it modify an Outback?
like some lift kits. Adding extra lights and stuff.
There's a good aftermarket for Subaru offroad parts, though rock-crushing trail monsters they'll never be. Lifts, skid plates, lights, etc, a lot of which come from the rallying side of Subaru. You'll be no less able to drain your wallet on parts than you would with any other offroad vehicle. Rallitek, LP Aventure, Flatout, Ironman 4x4 all do various suspension upgrades.

Having said that, I haven't done anything to my 2019 2.5L except put 20k mile on it in under a year. It's a good daily driver, great on dirt roads, and decent enough on crappier tracks even in stock configuration. I can't speak to towing capacity, but I took it on a 2700 mile road trip last month and it was a great travel car. It sleeps my fat ass quite comfortably, and can carry plenty of equipment. It's also sit comfortably at 90mph, with mpg in the high 20's.

Complaints:
The rear sags with any substantial load. When I wear out my current tires, I plan on upgrading the suspension for a slight lift and stiffer rear springs to address the issue, then add skid plates to negate whatever lift I just spent money to gain.
It needs 50 more hp. The CVT isn't bad, but we'll see about its longevity.
The windshield LOVES to crack. Loves it. I took a little chip at the bottom of the passenger side that's slowly making its way across the entire windshield. I'm not replacing it out of pure spite.
The bodywork is very thin compared to all the trucks I've owned. Dings and dents should be expected.

Overall though, this car suits my needs quite well. That's the thing though. Car. It's a Car. It's a tall car, and quite capable off-pavement for a car, but it's a car. It's not a Jeep, or a Taco, or anything with "Land" in the name. If you expect it to match the offroad capabilities of those things you will be disappointed. But it's way better at doing all the car stuff that most vehicles do 90% of the time in the US.
 

Attachments

Highlander

The Good Shepherd
@Chris in TX
Thanks for the feedback.

That's the thing though. Car. It's a Car. It's a tall car, and quite capable off-pavement for a car, but it's a car. It's not a Jeep, or a Taco, or anything with "Land" in the name
100% .
This why I feel it will meet my needs at the moment better than a truck. Between my daily driving, home stuff and hunting trips on dirt roads it makes far sense in my context to have a Subaru. It's gonna be my transitional car until I feel it's safe to make a financial decision for a new truck or SUV (The grenadier seems to be a good candidate).
 

ThundahBeagle

Well-known member
If you're tall like me 6'4" I can't even get into the door of an Outback and the seats are mounted too low to the floor like 4 Runners. I much prefer the Foresters but the seats suck IMO. My neighbor had to trade in his Forester for a six cylinder Outback for towing a very modest travel trailer and he struggles to get in and out of his Outback. He's 6'3". I told him to go get a Tahoe and enjoy driving again.
Great post on so many levels. Not the least of which is ending up in a Tahoe to enjoy driving
 

billiebob

Well-known member
As far as comfort, we’ve enjoyed our outbacks for comfortable drives as long as over 600 miles in one day
yep, same and on 1 tank of gas.

My wife had a 2010 Legacy 3.6R.... I drove her to Calgary 300 miles to catch a flight, dropped her off and saw the gas gauge was at the 1/2 mark... next day I drove home 300 miles without filling. Man I miss that car.

ps, I'm 6'1.... never had a problem getting in or out. Getting into a brand new Tundra I give myself a lobotomy ever time.

First winter we had it, leaving home the undercarriage was dragging thru the snow. 6am, Sunday, no traffic the village was still asleep. Pull onto main street, still fresh snow without tracks I pinned 'er..... 2 blocks later I look down..... 130kph in town.... no wheelspin, no fishtail, zero drama.... you cannot beat the Subaru symetrical AWD. No waiting for some electronic gizmo to say "ohh the FWD seems to have lost traction".... nope with Subaru the AWD is full time AWD.

IMG_1530.jpeg
 
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billiebob

Well-known member
Between my daily driving, home stuff and hunting trips on dirt roads it makes far sense
Reminds me of a couple of hunters who bagged a deer and stopped for a few beers when the bar opened at 11am..... 40 years ago, they went hunting in the wifes new T-Bird..... the deer on the roof and the rope ran thru the car..... blood was running along the rope and dripping on the velour seats. Ohh to be a fly on the wall.

Anytime I think hunting I think $500 pickup.
 

Dougnuts

Observer
2015-16 Outback 3.6R would be my vote. Get one with low miles or make sure it’s been maintained well.

Mine has 140k and I’m about to lift it with Rallitek overload springs and Bilstein B6 shocks. Probably the best car I’ve owned.

it would have to be pretty cheap for me to buy a 4cyl. Subaru.
 

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