Interested in a N/A 3rd Gen as first car. Worried about reliability. - Subaru Outback - Subaru Outback Forums
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post #1 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-18-2017, 04:32 PM Thread Starter
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Interested in a N/A 3rd Gen as first car. Worried about reliability.

Hey guys, I'm a college student in need of a car. I have the first two weeks of summer to sort this out before classes and work.

I really like the pillarless doors and the front end, but there are a bunch of threads on here talking about issues with head gaskets and timing belts. I have a budget of around ~10k and I'm on the fence on the route I should go to find a reliable N/A Outback that would last me 2 years. What do you guys think would make the most sense?

Option 1:
Outback nearing ~100k miles that have no mention of any timing belt change in the carfax (semi-regular oil changes) at a Subaru dealership for around ~9k.

Option 2:
Outback in the 160k+ mile range on Craigslist for ~$5k with a completely unknown service history (at a few buy here pay here dealerships) and then take it to the shop to do anything and everything it needs.

Option 3:
Legacy sedan/Outback at small family dealerships that only deal with Subarus. I've noticed a few of them around me. It looks as if they just buy Subarus nearing 100k miles and do headgaskets, replace timing belt, then put them right back into the market. It could be the skeptic in me, but this just reads a little like a scam to me. These are priced around 7-9k?

Thanks!

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post #2 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-19-2017, 12:31 AM
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Is there an option 4: keep looking?

How much (miles) will you be driving this car, and how much risk are you willing to accept? As with any car, take a detailed look at it or take along someone who can. Does the car look like it was cared for? Are there obvious oil leaks around the heads? Weird grinding noises when driving? Etc?

Option 1: $9K feels steep. the timing belts and pulleys *can* last a lot long than the 100K change interval. My 07 outback was basically your option 2. 160K miles, $6K, but I got lucky in that it detailed service records. It had never had a belt change, however so it was the first thing I did. Everything I replaced looked like it had lots of life left in it. So if you're willing to gamble and especially if your daily drive mileage is low, this car could last you a while as is

Option 2: as I mentioned, this is similar to what I bought. 160K miles is, in my opinion, where Subarus go from low maintenance to high maintenance. Despite all the maintenance my car received before I got it, I've replaced: some CV axles, head gaskets, timing belt and pulleys, the engine itself, wheel hubs, etc. I still need to replace suspension parts. Coupled with the lack of records for your vehicle, it may be too much risk. Very carefully inspect this car before you consider buying.

Option 3: not sure where the scam is in this? Option 1 is a dealer car for $9k with an old timing belt, and option 3 is a small dealer car for $9k with a new timing belt. Seems better to me!?


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post #3 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-19-2017, 06:30 AM
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Based on the options you presented I would be looking at option #3. There is no scam in flipping cars.

If the timing chain and head gasket replacement are documented you should be fine. Buy one of the ones for $7-8k and keep a couple thousand in reserve for the unknown.

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post #4 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-19-2017, 06:50 AM
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All of these options depend on you finding a quality mechanic, it's mostly a question of whether their work is pre-paid or post-paid.

Option 2 has the biggest potential savings. You should be able to get a quality head gasket job for ~$1600 and doing a timing belt at the same time would only add a couple of hundred more at most. It does depend on you finding a car that only needs those items and not paying too much for it.

Option 3 is attractive if the shop is doing good work. Are they offering any warranty? Good local reputation? Are they just slapping in timing belts or are they really going through the cars and fixing what needs to be fixed, which would often include a timing belt?

Option 1 doesn't make any sense as presented. Why would you want to pay so much for a car needing so much work? Used Subarus don't get any special love for being sold at Subaru dealers.


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post #5 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-19-2017, 09:35 AM
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2 years is a really meager expectation for a Subaru by the way. That's pretty easy.

Personally I'd look for two things:

1. Why was it traded in/being sold? This is one of my major considerations. That's hard to ascertain on a dealer vehicle.

2. Excellent mechanical condition so you don't have to worry about being stranded or high dollar repairs: Timing belt, timing pulleys, tensioner, spark plugs, wires, drive belts, battery and tires, and coolant change - with a little educated shopping you can buy a used Subaru and easily expect 100,000 reliable miles out of that.

In that case a 100k vehicle looks good almost regardless of option...though I'm not one to spend more than necessary but I just view vehicles as reliable/practical transportation and nothing more.

Personally I prefer a little extra effort to buy from a personal/private sale - autotrader, cars.com, craigslist.
How many people have you heard "It's got XYZ (insert a nagging or ominous issue/large service quote), so I'm going to trade it in."? Very common thought process I verbally here all the time because I'm helping people with cars.

So, in my mind - all used cars have a *higher percentage of vehicles with issues* than elsewhere.

All dealer sold vehicles are vehicles that were traded in by someone - my question is why? I like finding the retired professors, family of 5 needing a bigger car, a doctor that's moving - those people selling cars in front of their houses would not want a liability or bad deal - they just would have traded it in instead of dealing with selling an unknown person a car in front of their house with kids running around. I'm also willing to walk - if there's anything uncomfortable about the situation or person I walk.

Option #1 may have been traded in due to needing a timing belt. That's mininum $500 job - usually it ends up being $1,000 service quote for other reasons and additional items/service. If you can get Option #1 with everything I listed above - it starts sounding like a really good vehicle that probably won't need anything for 5 years and will have some exceptional value if you go to sell it in 2.

But a dealer doesn't typically replace timing pulleys and tensioner so you'd have to negotiate that or have it done later.

And I'd still want the price to come down! But subaru dealers sell well so that's a hard fit.

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post #6 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-19-2017, 09:41 AM
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got links? post them up.

for that kind of money you might be able to find a Ez30 powered one.,...maybe with VDC.

(EZ30 = no timing belt,...chain,

no turbo to blow,

and came from the factory with quality MLS head gaskets, although any aluminum engine could be owned by a idiot and let it overheat and melt, worst thing that could happen is it needs a JDM donor engine for $2000.

______

maybe get a 3rd party warranty known to payout, to cover the powertrain for a few months to a year, long enough to sort out any unknown problems.

? Want people to stop needing to ask what exact car you have? year -model -engine -trans here:
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post #7 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-19-2017, 10:07 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by rasterman View Post
All of these options depend on you finding a quality mechanic, it's mostly a question of whether their work is pre-paid or post-paid.

Option 2 has the biggest potential savings. You should be able to get a quality head gasket job for ~$1600 and doing a timing belt at the same time would only add a couple of hundred more at most. It does depend on you finding a car that only needs those items and not paying too much for it.

Option 3 is attractive if the shop is doing good work. Are they offering any warranty? Good local reputation? Are they just slapping in timing belts or are they really going through the cars and fixing what needs to be fixed, which would often include a timing belt?

Option 1 doesn't make any sense as presented. Why would you want to pay so much for a car needing so much work? Used Subarus don't get any special love for being sold at Subaru dealers.
Finding a quality mechanic is a bit of an issue. I will be moving 2-3 times in the next year, and won't have someone to just bring it to within a close vicinity. I'm basing everything off of online reviews.

I feel like option 2 is the riskiest and most rewarding, but I wouldn't feel too comfortable with driving the car too far. I'm worried of the issues that could have come from a lack of maintenance.

Option 3 sounds the best, but they I don't know the reputation that they have. They offer a 6 month bumper-to-bumper, and 1 year powertrain, but I'm skeptical of small lots because they might be less inclined to honor a warranty. They have 2 5-star reviews online, but that could just be family members.
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post #8 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-19-2017, 10:17 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by first-outback View Post
Finding a quality mechanic is a bit of an issue. I will be moving 2-3 times in the next year, and won't have someone to just bring it to within a close vicinity. I'm basing everything off of online reviews.

I feel like option 2 is the riskiest and most rewarding, but I wouldn't feel too comfortable with driving the car too far. I'm worried of the issues that could have come from a lack of maintenance.

Option 3 sounds the best, but they I don't know the reputation that they have. They offer a 6 month bumper-to-bumper, and 1 year powertrain, but I'm skeptical of small lots because they might be less inclined to honor a warranty. They have 2 5-star reviews online, but that could just be family members.

there are plenty of people / businesses like option 3 out there,

the questions to ask is what brands did they use, did they replace the water pump. (cheapo jerks don't)
and what gaskets did they put on . (subaru turbo, not aftermarket, ...but lots use aftermarket. ...but bad news if they use the original junk that was on there).

I see your IP address. plenty of subaru loving shops around to take them to for a opinion. (just looking 2-3 subarus outside).

? Want people to stop needing to ask what exact car you have? year -model -engine -trans here:
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post #9 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-19-2017, 10:34 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by eagleeye View Post
there are plenty of people / businesses like option 3 out there,

the questions to ask is what brands did they use, did they replace the water pump. (cheapo jerks don't)
and what gaskets did they put on . (subaru turbo, not aftermarket, ...but lots use aftermarket. ...but bad news if they use the original junk that was on there).

I see your IP address. plenty of subaru loving shops around to take them to for a opinion. (just looking 2-3 subarus outside).

Thank you for your suggestion. These dealerships are at the very least an hour away from me and I would need a rental just to get to them. I wanted to flesh out my ideas to a new audience before I actually went to the dealership.
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post #10 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-19-2017, 10:40 AM
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You shouldn't need a mechanic very often once you're off in a good car. The trick is getting the good car. If you can't afford to buy one new enough that it won't have any issues at all, then you need a good mechanic involved somewhere in this deal. Either his services are included in the cost of a touched-up older car, or you'd be hiring one very shortly after the purchase.

Where warranties are concerned, think about fulfillment. A free repair isn't free when the warranty is only valid in one shop and you've moved far enough away that it would be a $200 tow.

If you pick an even halfway decent car, then immediately pay a mechanic to take care of any outstanding worries (or negotiate it into the purchase) then you have a good chance of only needing continuing maintenance for your two-year window. For that maintenance, you can take the car nearly anywhere.

The overall point of my comment- It's worth some time and effort to figure out who you want to trust to check candidate cars and then touch up problems up front, before you go to "maintenance only" normal use of the car.

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