PaulY Reader
Aug. 11, 2010 4:32 p.m.

So our SAAB has developed a few reliability problems and we're planning on selling it for something reliable and solid for my wife to take to work everyday.

I found this online today, http://www.usedvictoria.com/classified-ad/1997-Subaru-Outback_12761861

I love the look of the wagon and having another fully loaded versatile car would be a big bonus. I have heard there are head gasket issues on the 2.5L cars, are these things ticking time bombs or solid battle wagons?

Any help is greatly appreciated.

  • Paul
m4ff3w SuperDork
Aug. 11, 2010 5:01 p.m.

We had a '99 and it was an excellent vehicle. We only had it for about a year though. It was dealer maintained before we got it. It did have headgaskets done at the dealer at 150k though.

I took it down Padre Island National Seashore a few times, it did really well.

We sold it for more than we paid for it.

tb New Reader
Aug. 11, 2010 5:20 p.m.

My '98 outback has been a pretty solid little wagon in the 2 years I have had it. I would rate it as average for a daily driver but very impressive in snow and ice.

Basic upkeep is not ridiculously cheap and the gas mileage (or power...) will not equal the saab. That being said, it is still a lot cheaper to own then a full sized suv...

Much to my surprise, it is slowly becoming one of those reliable, faithful, good old friends; pretty much assured to get you where you are going.

1988RedT2 Reader
Aug. 11, 2010 5:58 p.m.

I bought a 2001 Outback from a dealer in 2004. It was undoubtedly the WORST vehicle I have ever owned. It was in great shape, low miles, and I liked the way it looked. At the time, my wife and I were looking for a way to transport our young family. I thought the Outback would fit the bill.

The car was horrifically underpowered, even with the 5-speed. Dump trucks would beat me off the line. The clutch had a serious "judder" that would happen every time I engaged it with the engine cold. Dealer quoted something like $2k for a new flywheel and clutch, said they all did that. Dealer did repair one head gasket which gratefully chose to fail while the warranty was still in effect. Car handled about as well as a mid-70's American sled--I'm thinking Oldsmobile. Seriously, I could take a corner at a very sedate speed and the Outback would lean over hard and the tires would squeal. First time I did it I was totally not expecting it. I was like "you gotta be kidding."

The car was reasonably comfortable going down the highway, but got maybe 25 mpg, which wasn't near enough considering what a dog it was. I had it about a year and could stand it no longer. Carmax offered me like $5000 less than I paid for it a year earlier. Fortunately I found a sucker that paid around $2000 more, so I didn't take that bad a bath on it. But never again.

Don't walk, RUN AWAY!!!!

PeterAK Dork
Aug. 11, 2010 6:19 p.m.

Great cars. May feel a bit underpowered with the automatic. You can fit a full size washing machine or dryer in the back. In case you were wondering...

fornetti14 Reader
Aug. 11, 2010 6:32 p.m.

I had a '00 and we loved it. Only sold it because it was still worth decent $ at 230,000 miles.

I buy them with head gasket problems for next to nothing, fix them & resell them at a profit over a year later lol.

Travis_K Dork
Aug. 11, 2010 6:52 p.m.

My dad has a 96. It has 330k miles on it and has been mostly reliable, but I wouldn't recomend one to someone becasue of the parts cost. IMO, a car is pretty much worthless if you cant maintain it with mostly factory parts, and most parts for the Subaru are very, very expensive. Compared to my sisters MK2 jetta, which performs about the same except for cargo space, I think a subaru is too expensive to be worth keeping on the road once things past the normal maintenance items need attention. If you need cargo space and AWD, and you dont mind $$$$$$ parts, then they are alright though.

Woody SuperDork
Aug. 11, 2010 7:22 p.m.

On a semi-related note, I saw an Outback SUS yesterday. I forgot that they even existed.

Streetwiseguy HalfDork
Aug. 11, 2010 7:53 p.m.

I love them, but I wouldn't own one. I repair them. There is nothing better than servicing mediocre cars that people love.

Ever wonder why there are so many VW specialists around?

zomby woof Dork
Aug. 11, 2010 8:54 p.m.

A 97 Subaru as a daily driver? Don't even think about it.

My coworker is selling his 98 Outback because it's becoming too expensive to keep on the road. Of all the people I know that drove Subarus, not one bought another.

Osterkraut Dork
Aug. 11, 2010 9:04 p.m.
zomby woof wrote: A 97 Subaru as a daily driver? Don't even think about it. My coworker is selling his 98 Outback because it's becoming too expensive to keep on the road. Of all the people I know that drove Subarus, not one bought another.

Wait...what?

GregTivo HalfDork
Aug. 11, 2010 9:08 p.m.

My '97 hasn't been too bad, but I bought a rusty example and its getting to the point I just don't want to deal with it anymore. Most of the expensive repairs (headgaskets, transmission) were done before I bought it and I haven't had any failures in the 41000 miles I've owned it. It was great when I had to drive it in the snow, but now that I'm living in Houston, I don't really like the lack of gas mileage. So really, do you need AWD, can you afford some expensive parts and do you want a wagon?

integraguy Dork
Aug. 11, 2010 10:18 p.m.

My sister did a bit of research before she decided she wanted an Outback. She traded a 2000 Camry for a 2004 Outback, tho her research told her the '05 model was slightly more reliable/better built. Long before the Camry, she had been a Loyale wagon owner, so she knew a bit about Subarus. At first, she thought this was a great car. And as a load-lugger between Northeastern Pa. and Central Arkansas in all sorts of weather, it wouldn't/couldn't be beat. But about a year ago she made a trip from Ar. to Pa. and almost didn't make it. The Outback required a stop at a dealer for some fairly expensive servicing. My sister was royally ticked.

I haven't driven a brand new one, but years ago I drove a 6 cylinder Outback that belonged to my 75+ year old aunt. It replaced a domestic station wagon and for driving, to me, they feel like smaller Oldsmobiles or Buicks.

ddavidv SuperDork
Aug. 12, 2010 5:20 a.m.

I don't know what all the haters are doing to their Subarus. We're on number two and have spent virtually nothing on the combined 340,000 miles that have been on them. Replaced clutches every 100k and yeah, the Forester needed the dreaded head gaskets shortly after I bought it (I kind of figured on that) but that has been it. Do the timing belt service when it's called for. Wore out an ignition switch tumbler. Replaced a crank sensor. Replaced a couple CV boots when they tore. That's pretty much it. I don't know why people think they are expensive to fix? We've never graced the door of a stealership with ours. They've been far more reliable than the VW we used to have (I know, that ain't sayin much). Buy a well kept one, ignore the odometer reading, and find a good independent Subaru specialist and life will be good.

zomby woof Dork
Aug. 12, 2010 8:33 a.m.

All that work doesn't sound like virtually nothing, and clutches at 100k (you did better than most) is not acceptable. Of the 2 good friends that had them, both were trouble cars. I remember this discussion at a rallycross a number of years ago. They (about 6 of them) loved their Subarus, but they all agreed that they were not particularly good cars.

4cylndrfury SuperDork
Aug. 12, 2010 9:16 a.m.

i like the sirloin, a house salad with ranch dressing, and a baked sweet potato. delicious!

Powar Dork
Aug. 12, 2010 9:25 a.m.

I thought you guys loved your 9k? If so, there really aren't many problems that could POSSIBLY top $3000 to fix.

I had a '95 Legacy L AWD wagon with manual trans. It never got better than 21MPG, and averaged about 19. This was with a fresh tune up and new fluids all around. I drive too much to get fuel econ that bad, so I sold the car and bought another cheap (but more efficient) replacement.

Regarding the clutch judder... It can be fixed. When we did the clutch on my wagon, I ordered the PDM transmission 'snout' sleeve. The thing that causes most of the judder issues is that the snout is too soft, so the TOB riding on it wears uneven grooves into it. The PDM sleeve fits over the snout and is made of harder metal. I never had any more issues with the clutch after that.

Keith SuperDork
Aug. 12, 2010 10:14 a.m.

My parents had a 97 Legacy GT wagon - basically an Outback with a lower ride height. They really liked it, although it had lost an engine before they bought it and the head gasket went right after they sold it. The fellow who bought the car had another 97 Legacy GT, and it lost two engines due to internal oiling problems. He's not buying any more Subarus.

My parents replaced the GT with another Legacy, and they love it. There's a reason those cars are so popular in places with snow - everyone in Colorado has or had a Subaru at some point, it's required. The packaging of the 1997 wagon is just about perfect. It's not too big, but big enough to be useful. And you can sleep in the back.

PaulY Reader
Aug. 12, 2010 2:40 p.m.

Thanks for all of the advice and info. I think I'll be avoiding this one as I'm not in a position to afford expensive maintenance, even doing the work myself. I mainly just need a solid, reliable 4dr auto for the wife to get to work and the saab just doesn't fit the bill in terms of reliability and cost to fix.

I do love the look of these things and would love a wagon but if I can't maintain it for cheap and if it has reliability issues than I'll have to pass.

PeterAK Dork
Aug. 12, 2010 3:30 p.m.

Our '95 Legacy L with the 2.2 and 5 speed gets 25 mpg regardless of city/hwy. Clutch / timing belt / fluids was done at 127k. Now has 150k. The only thing that seems to need attention more than it should is cv boots.

It's not an amazing car. It's a super practical car that does great in weather. Maintenance has not been unreasonable at all.

PaulY Reader
Aug. 12, 2010 3:41 p.m.

From what I can tell it's the 2.5's that have the problems and the 2.2's are solid, is that what people are finding?

Duke SuperDork
Aug. 12, 2010 3:46 p.m.

It depends on the year. Post-2001 2.5s seem to be much more stable, but that's not hard and fast gospel.

Travis_K Dork
Aug. 12, 2010 3:59 p.m.

As long as you get a good one, they do last a while and arent that hard to work on, the main issue is they dont depreciate with mileage, and once they get over 200k they need some pretty expensive parts replaced to keep them working well.

Osterkraut Dork
Aug. 12, 2010 4:07 p.m.
Keith wrote: My parents had a 97 Legacy GT wagon - basically an Outback with a lower ride height. They really liked it, although it had lost an engine before they bought it and the head gasket went right after they sold it. The fellow who bought the car had another 97 Legacy GT, and it lost two engines due to internal oiling problems. He's not buying any more Subarus. My parents replaced the GT with another Legacy, and they love it. There's a reason those cars are so popular in places with snow - everyone in Colorado has or had a Subaru at some point, it's required. The packaging of the 1997 wagon is just about perfect. It's not too big, but big enough to be useful. And you can sleep in the back.

Pssh, you can sleep in the back of any of the Subaru wagons!

Keith SuperDork
Aug. 12, 2010 4:20 p.m.

I am quite aware of this! My hotel for the night up near Telluride. The biggest problem was that the car's heater only worked when going uphill (stuck thermostat, methinks) and I was parked above town. Made it hard to defrost those windows that were all iced up on the way down to the lifts.

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