Why does Subaru have a reputation for building reliable cars?
I recently became aware that my 2001 Forester has a leaking head gasket and a bad wheel bearing.
Although the vehicle is 12 years old, it has only 95,000 miles and has been meticulously cared for (I
have all the service records dating back to the first oil change).
I contacted Subaru and kindly asked that they include my car in their extended head gasket warranty
because of the vehicle’s low mileage and outstanding repair record. At their request, I took the vehicle
to Ira Subaru of Danvers, MA for factory authorized diagnosis of the problem. Ira agreed with the
original service provider and handed me an estimated repair bill of $3987.00, roughly the total value of
In the end, Subaru stated they could provide no repair assistance whatsoever. Subaru’s “kind” offer was
to allow me a $750.00 “incentive” toward the purchase of a new Subaru vehicle. Wow, what a generous
offer to a valued customer anticipating almost $4000.00 in repairs due to their faulty manufacturing.
I purchased a Subaru in part because of their reputation for building reliable, road-worthy vehicles. I’ve
learned the hard way, Subaru vehicles are totally unreliable and poorly manufactured! I am furthermore
surprised that their “valued” customers mean so little to them. Why else would they offer me such an
insulting “incentive”? Did they actually think I’d even consider the purchase of another one of their
Given the sheer volume of head gasket (and other) woes described online by Subaru owners around the
country, I have absolutely NO idea why the company has a reputation for reliability? As far as I can tell it
is totally undeserved! No more Subaru's for me!
This design is unique. okay Land Rover also offers the slank 4wd with independant suspension. If you had been renting one all along you got your money's worth? no?
Go easy on the subaru, it served you well, better than a volkswagen bug for a 4H design the heads are outboard and a unique design. This isn't a chevy 3500 we got here this is a scientific instrument, this engine- Yes, they are a bit fragile but pretty clever in a Japanese sort of way (no leg room). Wish I could have afforded one my buddy had a subaru brat back in Wisconsin, good in ice and snow, but kinda noisy, like they kidnapped a jeep and stuffed him under the hood. The spare tire ontop of the engine was a bit much too- overall, I think you are incorrect, sir you have NORMAL wear for NORMAL circumstances...you should not sue, buy another one, or something different...like a Jeep or MINI Countryman!
In my experience, Subaru builds junk and then refuses to stand behind it. Shoddy manufacturing and corporate irresponsibility. Not a winning combination in my book!
If your just coming on here to rant about a bad experience by all means go ahead but you asked a question I believe so here's your answer. Subaru's as a whole are a reliable car, just like any though you can find a lemon. I prouldy own 3: a 93 Legcay wagon, a 98 Forester, and an 02 Forester, they have their few issues such as the head gasket but my 93 has 300k+ miles on the orrigional motor and trans and has been mine since 93. Never an issue with it. It's not uncommon to see Subaru's from the 80's and 90's with 400-500k+ miles on them and still running strong. Newer cars (any of them) just don't seem to stand up quite as long. The reason your head gasket costs so much is due to going to a Subaru dealership for the work, a private shop wont cost that much. They only offered you the $750 rebate for a new car because the DEALERSHIP is in the business of sellin cars, why are they gonna wanna do warranty work (lose money) when they can sell you a new car and make money. It's not Subaru directly in control there, your dealing with a middle man. I've seen similar incedents happen to friends at my local Toyota lot and Ford lot. They did that to make money. All cars no matter how well you maintain them have the potential to have something like a wheel bearing go bad. Unless you can garuntee your keeping all the grit particles out of a wheel bearing and can control the climate and a bunch of other factors you can't say finite how long a wheel bearing or any part will last. If you want to dislike a car company because you had a couple problems with your car and you had a bad experience with a dealer I can't change that and no one on this site can. There's my .02 cents but what do I know, I'm just a Mechanic myself. Have a nice day.
I used to recommend Subarus to friends who were car shopping. Not any more. A close friend is part of a 4-Subie family. Soon to be a 3-Subie family. His Mom has had to rebuild the transmission on her Imprezza twice in about 100,000 miles, and it seems like it is due again. NOT impressive. Then the dealer was going to give her a 'deal' on a new Forrester. Some deal. A 2011 dealer courtesy car (shown on the contract as a demo) for MORE money than the showroom price for a new 2012! Not likely. When we went to look at the car, and could not because a customer was driving it for the weekend, that put the kybosh on that. HOW they have a reputation for reliability and durability any more is a matter of reputation and marketing, not product!
Nick, A legitimate complaint can hardly be called a "rant"! And having a head gasket, wheel bearing, oil pan, and catalytic converter all need replacing on an impeccably maintained car with less than 96,000 miles constitutes, in my opinion, more than " a couple of problems". Did I mention that I've already changed all the brake pads AND rotors twice! As for Subaru's "as a whole being a reliable car", well, I can say this...I've read at least one hundred letters of complaint about Subaru's bad head gaskets. Try it, you'll see what I mean. Apparently, it was so bad the company extended the warranty period for this particular repair. Unfortunately, some of us "missed" that warranty period. Apparently, Subaru's are also notorious for bad wheel bearings according to my (non-dealer) mechanic. Perhaps Subaru built more reliable cars back in the 80's and 90's but I personally have little evidence this still holds true. I am very inclined to agree with Michael, their reputation is more marketing than anything else. And as for the company offering a $750.00 "incentive" on a new vehicle...did they honestly think I would fall for that? I am not in the habit of doing business with a company that insults my intelligence. Subaru has lost my business forever. I won't buy another, nor will I ever recommend them!
Hi Liz, Unfortunately, you discovered what many of us already have - that Subaru is rugged, but not reliable. I loved your post, because it's such a precise description of the issues I had in my '07 Legacy. In 150,000 miles, I had to replace three faulty wheel bearings. Boy, the way these undoubtedly cheap bearings droned at highway speeds. I consider myself lucky neither seized on me. So much for safety. Thank you, Subaru. The first last nail in the coffin came last July. My engine began overheating when idling, and Subaru technicians discovered that both head gasket and front cam seal were leaking. That's when it became obvious to me that "Subaru Reliability" doesn't exist. It's a marketing gimmick. Like thin air. From that point on I stopped caring about my Legacy. I decided I would drive it until I couldn't any longer, and then buy a new car. I knew that the engine would die if I didn't make a quick move. Sure enough, last month, it did. While passing a car at 60MPH on the highway, the engine went bust. It went "clack clack clack", 2500 times per minute... The car is still stranded in the middle of Connecticut. Towing it to where I live costs $350, and I want the dealer to cover that fee when I buy a new car. Sadly, I did love my Subaru. My experience tells all I need to know about how good that AWD really is, but the YouTube videos other owners have posted help remind me. Not only that, the car handles superbly for a midsize sedan. Camrys, Accords, and Altimas have numb steering and are not as fun to drive. So there you have it. Subaru is a good hypothesis, but nothing beyond that. In '07, when I bought my Legacy, I told myself this is a test. Others say it's reliable, and I like the premise of the car, so I'll buy it. If the car disappoints me, I'll hand my money to a trusted auto manufacturer. Like Honda. Sure, you don't get AWD. The drive is more family-like, not as fun. But with such a great job they did for the 2013 model, it's an easy buy. Kind of - for me, saying goodbye to Subaru was actually tough. I fell in love with Legacy. But... I'm not buying a toy. My car needs to last, without recurring issues like failed wheel bearings and leaky head gaskets. In other words, Subaru engineers need to do their job. They already did a great job developing their AWD. What are they doing nowadays? Why not select quality wheel bearings so their first-time buyers become repeat-buyers - like those of Toyota and Honda, for example? Don't they want customers to come back? Maybe not. And as if the wheel bearings and head gaskets weren't enough, they have introduced a new CVT and a new engine. How can I trust they got these two technologies right when they couldn't get established components right? Is a CVT so much simpler than a wheel bearing or an engine that ensuring its reliability is trivial? Anyway. Yes, Liz, i hear you. I am disappointed too. I loved Subie, but Subie didn't love me back. As for the naysayers, Subaru's strengths are not an excuse for its weaknesses. AWD does not make poor reliability okay. Most car buyers rank reliability above AWD, not the other way around. And neither Liz nor I are here to "gripe". In a way, we're letting prospective Subie buyers to know this "Subaru Reliability" was nothing but a myth to us. And, in a way, we're here to tell Subaru that they had better buck up and do their job better if they want first-time buyers to become repeat buyers. So let me wrap it up with something kids, like myself, like to say these days: Subaru, WTF.
And by the way, even Ford, a brand that I've long associated with the word "unreliable" has far better reliability than Subaru does. You need only look at the data and the reviews based on that data. Hell, even Dodge seems to fare better than Subaru. Had I known this, I would have never given a single look to Subaru in '07. But I did, and went on to have the single worst car ownership experience to date. Wheel bearings, engine problems, recurring electrical problems... And then there were the tires. Three times I had to replace four tires because of a sidewall cut in a single tire. In all, I bled thousands of dollars for my '07 Legacy. By comparison, my previous Mercury Mystique - a cheap cheap car - drove to 175,000 miles before I traded it in with... zero major problems. That's right. That cheap piece of shit never once had a major issue. Um, "How do you respond to the allegations, Subaru?"
And so it begins. I'll go from being a proud but naive Subie owner to being a much happier Honda Accord owner. Guys, there is a reason some brands and some technologies just do so much better than others. They probably got the recipe right.
And Nick. Question: Did the dealership make money off Liz? No. But they did manage to alienate a Subie owner and help make sure she doesn't buy another Subie - ever. Dealerships are in the business of making money. But they forget that people expect them to care, to be honest, to try to wok with us so both side can benefit. When the attitude is "Gimme the green bucks in yo wallet missus", they are only looking out for themselves. Their customers see that and simply go elsewhere. Bottom line, Nick, is that the best way to ensure you keep making money off your customers is to ensure they come back. That means working with them as much as you can so you can make a little money and they can walk away with a good deal. If you can't do that, you will go out of business. It is really very simple.
I understand this and didn't say anything to the contrary lifeson34 that dosn't mean a dealership or sales person has that at the forefront of their mind. I have friends who sell cars and I know several of their attitudes are this. If someone dosn't come back there's always someone else, there's only so many dealerships in an area without going rediculousley out of your way to buy a car, and if someone wants a new car strongly enough they will deal with the dealerships. Anyone who decideds to go buy somewhere else was a flash in the pan and they move on.
Nick, your car salesperson friends' attitude IS the problem. If I buy a car and it is a piece of garbage, and the dealer and the manufacturer are no help, I will NOT buy another of their products, period. That is the very reason I now drive Fords, not General Motors. One 1984 Oldsmobile Delta 88 that should have been lemon yellow, added to a miserable response from the dealer and General Motors, and not one of my subsequent purchases has been from any G.M. store, and I have tried to make sure than none of my friends give them a dime, too. That is how companies in retail run into problems.
Nick, I'm sorry, you're wrong. Dealerships do have many people walking through their doors, but most will never buy a car through them. They will walk in, walk out, and wind up buying a car elsewhere. Guess where "elsewhere" is? It's not the nearest dealer with the car they want. No no no. It is the dealer that gives them best deal, without hassle and haggle. Heck, "elsewhere" can easily be 50-75 miles away from home, and that is just fine. Hassle customers at your own risk. A dealer has no ceiling on how many cars to sell. Each extra car is a boon, even if the commission is low. On the other hand, a customer needs to buy only one car. Out of a handful of local dealers, at least one is generally willing to provide a good deal without undue hassle. That is the dealer that will do well.
I didn't say the mentality was a good one for a car saleman to have, I stated that their mentality was in that mind set. I also never said that that was specifically how it was in a buyers view but again in the car salesmans view. I am not wrong I am stating my observations and an opposing view whether or not I agree with it myself. What I am saying is I have had few issues with Subaru cars, and that I personally would not blame a brand of car for a sellers reaction. I stated in my first comment that they earned that reputation in the 80's and 90's and agreed that not all of their 2000 and newer reflect that same reputation. I am going to agree to disagree with lifeson34, Michael, and Liz, as my own personal experience has not been the same, I do not deny nor do I neglect your statements but my oppinion is not wrong just because it differs from yours. I will again reiterate my origional answer to the origional question, Subaru earned their reputation of being reliable because through the 80's and 90's the were a sturdy and reliable car. whether they are now or not does not change my answer of how or why they earned that reputation. As I have said my piece, I bid to all of you a most excelent upcoming week.
For new headgaskets I would expect to pay around $2800 USD at a Subaru dealership, and even less at an independent garage. Want (or need) Subaru AWD without all the hassle? Look for the older Legacys/Imprezzas with the 2.2 liter engines. I recommend to just avoid 2.5 liter engines!
That is a valid point, Nick. I'll accept it.
I have a 2004 forester XT . Has been in the shop many times. Car basically started falling apart at 75K. Too many details to list but the car will not last. Worst financial decision that I have made. In 10 years I have spent 10-12000 dollars beyond regular maintenance. Must unload now to anyone who will buy it with warning lights on as I just had a 700 camshaft fix. and cannot afford to throw good money after bad. Hillholder+fail. Radiator failed 3 times. Thermostat fail. Timing belt fail. Engine fail at 75k. My own subaru only independent mechanic says I just have had "bad luck" and should buy another subaru. I am going back to honda (cars I routinely drove out to 240k with little hassle) and never looking back.
You're all funny. Firstly, lets look at where you're located, and what the effects of your environment have on a car. If it's the coast, you have salt water that corrodes metal fast, if it's mountains you have frigid temperatures that fracture and stress metal and every other part of your car. If it's arid desert you have heat that you drive in with exorbitant amounts of dust and debris that get into anything. If you're somewhere in the middle of that you have ALL those effects on your vehicle. Subaru's (just like all commercialized car manufactures these days) are not what they used to be. The market has shifted and we're going through cars like we go through computers. We need new ones with better features and technologies. The companies and generally the public no longer care about getting 200,000+ miles out of their car, they want the features and comforts. This is why you're low end Kia's and Hyundais are thriving in this market. Now to be upset that you had a hunk of metal last you TWELVE years and you're not getting your financial returns back is ridiculous!! It IS a car, not a house. Cars have, and ALWAYS will be losing investments. You're not only putting a significant amount of money into an object but you're putting it through some of the most encumbering situations to expect any returns what so ever. Now if you had bought say, a Lexus, or better yet a lambo I would see your frustrations as that is a LUXURY vehicle that should marginally hold it's value in some sense. But in this case you're talking about a car that is of only moderate class. Subaru's are genuinely bought for their ability to provide someone who lives a very active life style the ability to manage almost every chance to hit every part of the world in a very controlled state. As for the health of your car and the head gasket leak... Who's to say that you never started your car on a cold morning and gave it too much gas, or that between an oil change you didn't notice you were low and you over heated. Also did the car ever sit for an extended period of time (2 weeks or more) without being driven? The vertically opposed engine has the cylinders sitting sideways. So when the car sits and doesn't run for a while the oil naturally sits at the bottom and the gaskets can dry inside the cylinders leading to many other problems. There are too many variables to claim that subaru is making an unreliable car. Also how ignorant are you to go to the dealer for the work. I can understand because of the warranty, which sucks because those things are really just a money gimmick for you to pay the dealer more and never get to actually use the benefits. After the dealer you should of gone to a private party and seen what it would of cost. As for the wheel bearing that's not uncommon, regardless of the vehicle brand. It happens. I think you're just upset that you expected so much out of an "extended warranty" and you didn't get it. And that a "dealership" had the audacity to try and sell you another car, plus charge you extreme rates to fix a car. Do you know what a qualified subaru technician gets paid hourly.....not to mention what the dealership has to add on top of that, and then the overhead to cover the dealership, and insurance.....logically you must understand that a dealership is expensive to have car work done, they're there to sell cars, and manage the warranties that are manufactures and not dealership extensions. I will give you credit in the fact that cars are NOT in the least bit what they used to be....but then again what is these days. We're a consumerist based society now and all we want is the next thing. Car manufactures are more worried about selling you features and silly design improvements instead of GIVING you what you need and not SELLING you what they have. If you're blind enough to think that this is the manufactures fault then you have a long way to go. You should look up the network and ties that all the car companies have these days. In fact a perfect new example is the Subaru BRZ and the Scion FR-S. Two different manufactures selling exact same body style cars. Get off your high horse about how you got screwed out of a shitty investment you should recognize it is just that. Live and Learn. And then realize that you and everyone else are enabling these companies to rob you blind, then laugh as you get upset about it. Electric cars are even worse these days. There are plenty of alternative forms of energy transfers to make nearly emission free vehicles, but then big corporations and the people running those corporations can't make as much money off of you and keep you in a state of ignorance and neglect because you're so pissed off at a company that isn't a real being you go to some other company to buy yet another shitty investment. I'm truly sorry you feel you've had a bad experience with subaru and no i have no affiliation with them. I do however own a subaru wrx sti and have for nearly 8 years. These motors are known in some sense for the head gasket problem, but how can you expect something that's making thousands upon thousands of explosions spinning a rod at over 2000 rounds per minute to not get to a point of expensive repairs. I don't think you should be upset with Subaru....I think you should take responsibility for your own personal choice 12 years ago and make peace with it. You lived, you had a good car for 12 years that got you to travel safely nearly 100,000 miles. This is the beauty of the internet, you can piss and moan and people will listen. But you can also be the listener and take note that 12 years ago Subaru was a different company. 12 years ago you were a different person. 12 years ago the internet wasn't as fast and informative. 12 years ago a choice was made that go you here, why be upset that crap happened and it was a car, and not your life, or a loved one dear to you. It's just a car, and it's Just money. Maybe they do make faulty engines, maybe the dealership did fuck you out of an extended warranty. Maybe it's the staple you needed to show you that gasoline vehicles and corporate car dealers are not good for the people. Shit take the car to a junk yard to part it and you'll probably make the money you would of if you sold it. Anyways, I'm not trying to prove you all wrong, or sound like a know it all, but hey, at least life goes on!! Cheers and best wishes, Luca
Dear Luca, The high horse it is not mine...yours perhaps? I posted my question (and opinion) about Subaru so that others might become more aware of the overall unreliability of Subaru vehicles and perhaps reconsider their own opinion.Yes, some people have kept theirs on the road for many miles but I suggest that when you have some time, Google "Subaru + head gasket". You'll be treated to an entirely different opinion about Subaru than the one you hold! The hundreds, upon hundreds, of dissatisfied Subaru owners that have had head gasket (and wheel bearing) problems is truly astonishing. To my way of thinking, these numbers qualify as more than "These motors are known in some sense for the head gasket problem" AND "There are too many variables to claim that subaru is making an unreliable car". So, as long as you are assigning ignorance, please be sure you take a heaping helping for yourself! Furthermore, should you even care, I took the vehicle to a Subaru dealer at Subaru's request. They wanted it diagnosed at an "authorized" establishment, not the mechanic I normally take it to for service. After the dealer confirmed the problems, and estimated the repair cost, I smiled and walked out (perhaps not as ignorant as you have assumed). And Luca, thank you for your insightful social commentary but I continue to believe that a vehicle, impeccably cared for, and with less than 97,000 miles, should not need major repairs (those costing more than the car is worth). ADDENDUM: I recently traded my rapidly failing Subaru Forester for a new 2014 Mazda CX5 (AWD). I couldn't be happier! It's a pleasure to drive, has an extremely comfortable ride and handles very well. The car has less than 1000 miles but already gets just under 31 mpg highway/27.5 city. And keep in mind these are real numbers, not EPA estimates which often overestimate mileage (per gallon). Pretty wonderful for an AWD vehicle in the small SUV category! Yes indeed, life goes on.
I'm glad you've found a vehicle that has supplemented your needs. My point in my last response was that a car is topical of the bigger problem. Our entire economical market is based on fossil fuel consumption, even if you're saving gas with your new and more fuel efficient vehicle that doesn't save the amount of fuel being used to produce such vehicles. Not to mention the features that now come with them. Your electronics will now be the downfall of your investment. It won't be an extremely large mechanical fix that will blindside your bank account. But instead you'll bleed slowly as little features begin to dwindle and fade in and out. Then you'll finally have to fix them for they're finally inflicting the "efficiency" of your vehicle since the computer is no longer working right. I dare you to look up computer related problems with cars now. I'm sorry that you find telling the world about a mechanical error in your prior vehicle as the only means to prod back at the company that severely wounded your thoughts and expectations of what buying a vehicle from a large corporate manufacture led you to believe. Wake up, you're living in a world that is entirely based on the economy of fossil fuels. Your food is managed by pesticides that are by products of it, then shipped globally using it to distribute them, all while the poor get poorer and the rich climb the ladder to separate the middle class slowly fighting each other for a rung on the ladder of jobs related to the status of FUEL. I understand that you don't have an easy way out of not owning a car. The system has got you right where it wants you, pinned between a rock and a hard spot. You need a car to get to work, to provide for a family, to get food, to find pleasure and happiness in life. I don't blame you or hold you entirely responsible as it truly rests on all of our shoulders. We enable such markets and jobs. It's an extremely hard habit to break. Maybe I'm just ranting, sounding like a tree hugger or a hippy. But watch this summer as you'll see more and more people on bicycles, motorcycles, small tiny vehicles, walking, and desperate for jobs. Desperate for income and health. I just hope that you can see what a car manufacture cares about. It isn't getting you a vehicle to laugh and enjoy the wonderful nature of DRIVING places. It's to get you in a debt that you'll have to pay off and keep you coming back for more. Why would they ever want to give you a car that doesn't have you coming back for 20 years, there is no sense in that from a business perspective. You sound like a relatively smart person, but how can one see when the switch to the light is only in the reach of it's captors? I wish you and your CX5 well, that all the best of things come to you and your family! Truth is, I would of rather had you bought a car that was old and still had plenty of life left in it. We don't live that way any more though, we're in a society of consumerism. Use more, eat more, claim more, and in the end as a race of humans we are only but less. I don't think you're lost, or that you're ignorant for not seeing things this way. I think that most of us have done only what we know best to do. Make the change though, one day at a time, one step forward or write me off as some crazy loon who babbles and has no idea because he speaks of radical hog wash. Anyways, best of wishes and good luck!!
We've all got something to say, everyone has a reason. No one is incorrect. all a matter of perspective. Many Engineering hours were spent to bring you these marvels, and are not playing with crayons and sticky tape, but Japanese students who will fight tooth and nail just to be part of the program...so yes, you all are spoiled and a bit verbose, if I should boldly assert~
My feeling is that because all Subarus, to the best of my knowledge, are built in Japan, they are still thinking 5 years then scrap in their engineering mindset. Japanese tax laws are such that almost nobody keeps a car more than 5 years, so they are built for 7 to 10 good years. Honda, in particular, has managed to break that thinking, because they have been building cars other places for a long time. I have long asserted that for a long term automobile purchase, buy OLD North American boats. They are cheap, reliable, and affordable to maintain.
Most of the Subarus sold in the US are built in a production plant in Indianna, not in Japan and it's been this way for over 25 years.
Yay. union workers (not)!
need help w/question, have 2008 highlander since 6/2008, only have 9485 miles on it, dont drive much, considering 2014 forester cause it is smaller w/good visibility, considering i will never reach 100,000 miles, is it likely i will experience the engine issues other people have been plagued with, thanks for infor.......
what is your question darcic?, you could start another dialogue? seems like you have a lot to say/ask~
question: i put approx 1500 to 2000 miles a year on my cars....considering buying a 2014 forester, when checking reliability seems people have problems with head gaskets and wheel bearings, if i keep the forester for 10 years, i will have approx 25,000 miles on it, will i likely run into any problems with head gaskets or wheel bearings during those 10 years, thanks........
probably not an issue for you.
I'm disabled go not more than ten miles a week here in the town of Clearlake...the mini would be ideal except we haven't got roads, just boulders and dust, kinda forces a guy to drive a truck (which I also have), still want an antique one again, but do like the subarus, but spent maybe five minutes in my buddy's '74 BRAT--that was all~ (in 1980)
Darcic, You may not be troubled by head gasket/wheel bearing issues but brakes could be a real problem, even with low mileage. I replaced my brake pads and rotors TWICE before my Forester reached 76,000 miles. I also found the brakes to be very "spongy" even when the car was new.
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