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Discussion Starter #1
I'm looking to buy a used Subaru Outback, model years 2000 and on.

1. Are there any possible issues that I need to worry about? I heard something about certain model years having frequent head gasket issues?

2. At around what mileage would you consider too high? 100,000K? 150,000K? Or do these things run forever without needing major engine or transmission repairs?

3. I'm planning on getting a manual. These should be more reliable than the automatic, right?

4. Do all model years have rear seats that fold down completely flat for sleeping? By folding flat I mean having absolutely no bump. I laid in a 2013 Outback and it was flat as can be.

Thanks!
 

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Somebody Else's XT
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I'm looking to buy a used Subaru Outback, model years 2000 and on.

1. Are there any possible issues that I need to worry about? I heard something about certain model years having frequent head gasket issues?

2. At around what mileage would you consider too high? 100,000K? 150,000K? Or do these things run forever without needing major engine or transmission repairs?

3. I'm planning on getting a manual. These should be more reliable than the automatic, right?

4. Do all model years have rear seats that fold down completely flat for sleeping? By folding flat I mean having absolutely no bump. I laid in a 2013 Outback and it was flat as can be.

Thanks!
1. Yep, the 2.5L H4 engine has numerous head gasket problems. The old DOHC (up to 2000) has some particularly bad problems. In 2000-onwards SOHC engines the problem isn't as severe, but unfortunately still about as common. All Subaru H4 engines require a timing belt replacement every 105,000. While this is normal maintenance, the procedure is often expensive enough that people trade in the cars instead of having it done.

The 3.0L H6 engine offered from 2001 onwards has virtually no trouble with head gaskets, and does not require timing belt service. Very reliable, and tons of power on tap, but you'll pay a little more for fuel and they were only offered with automatics.

2. Well maintained outbacks can do 350,000. Badly maintained ones might not break 100k. If you can buy it private-party from the original owner with a stack of receipts, you'll do best.

3. Get the transmission you'd rather drive. Subaru automatics are extremely reliable when maintained correctly. Regular ATF changes will make the automatic more expensive to maintain than a stick, but no less dependable in the long run.

4. No. Look on cars101.com for pictures and measurements for all years, you'll see.
 

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2020 Touring XT, 2013 Outback Lim SAP 270K, 2003 Outback Lim MT 2.5L, 241K..
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In my 2003 - which I traded in in December and it had 240,000 miles on it -
I SEEM to recall if you took off the headrests the front seats would fold down totally flat with the rear seat - but this sort of slanted at an angle back towards the back seat - not that comfy.
I DID sleep in the car on occasion and putting the rear seat backs down was the best option for that to me - which also means you have to pull up the rear seat bottom. The 2013 the rear seat bottom doesnt have to raise to pull down the backs.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
1. Yep, the 2.5L H4 engine has numerous head gasket problems. The old DOHC (up to 2000) has some particularly bad problems. In 2000-onwards SOHC engines the problem isn't as severe, but unfortunately still about as common. All Subaru H4 engines require a timing belt replacement every 105,000. While this is normal maintenance, the procedure is often expensive enough that people trade in the cars instead of having it done.

The 3.0L H6 engine offered from 2001 onwards has virtually no trouble with head gaskets, and does not require timing belt service. Very reliable, and tons of power on tap, but you'll pay a little more for fuel and they were only offered with automatics.

2. Well maintained outbacks can do 350,000. Badly maintained ones might not break 100k. If you can buy it private-party from the original owner with a stack of receipts, you'll do best.

3. Get the transmission you'd rather drive. Subaru automatics are extremely reliable when maintained correctly. Regular ATF changes will make the automatic more expensive to maintain than a stick, but no less dependable in the long run.

4. No. Look on cars101.com for pictures and measurements for all years, you'll see.
1. Whoa! Even till now, the 2.5L engine still has gasket problems? And the Outbacks don't use timing chains? I really don't want a 3.0L engine because I'm going for as much fuel efficiency as possible.

If there are so many problems with the old 2.5L engine, am I better off just getting a new 2013 Outback or even a Crosstrek (I know, not the same class, but reliable?)

2. Gotcha.

3. Cool! No data on the CVT reliability, though, right?

4. Hmmmm... I know that from 2010 onwards it is completely flat. 2005 onwards says flat as well, but I can't tell from the picture if the bump is a hard bump or just some of the carpet at the joint lifted up:

2005 Outback- Subaru Outback Research site
 

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1. Yep. Certainly not every car, and I haven't found any independent stats on how widespread of a problem it is. But it's common enough to be concerned. You can still find good old ones that will give many miles before any problem. It's just more likely that this will be the first big problem rather than something else. The new FB engine in the '13 shows promise, but it will be years before we really know.

3. Some failures have been reported here, but there would always be some. I think I've seen 2 or 3 reports total. Meanwhile the sales numbers keep going up- so most of them are obviously working right.

4. You don't have to move the seat bottom in the '05-'09 to lower the seatbacks, but I don't think the backs drop totally flat. Close, but not perfect. I don't know how it was in the '00-'04.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
1. Yep. Certainly not every car, and I haven't found any independent stats on how widespread of a problem it is. But it's common enough to be concerned. You can still find good old ones that will give many miles before any problem. It's just more likely that this will be the first big problem rather than something else. The new FB engine in the '13 shows promise, but it will be years before we really know.

3. Some failures have been reported here, but there would always be some. I think I've seen 2 or 3 reports total. Meanwhile the sales numbers keep going up- so most of them are obviously working right.

4. You don't have to move the seat bottom in the '05-'09 to lower the seatbacks, but I don't think the backs drop totally flat. Close, but not perfect. I don't know how it was in the '00-'04.
1. Hmmm... from what I read the gasket problem occurs between 60K - 120K miles, but once it is repaired it does not pop up again. I should probably be looking for used Outbacks that are over 120K and/or ones that have already had their gaskets replaced, right?

4. Oh, when I said flat I meant without the raised bump from where the seat pivots down. The seat back itself can be raised a little, but the actual joint / pivot area needs to be flat, otherwise it would jar into my back while sleeping.
 

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get thew H6 outback if you are concern with the HG and timing belt repalcement cost. Especially if you looking at $10K price range. (Meaning older car (pre-2005). If your price range is closer to $20K.... Then any new or Certified Used (late model Subaru) will be good. (no more (Chronic HG issues) but pre 2013 H4 engine may still have timing belt but the replacement schedule is not until 105K miles...

WARNING... You may find it hard to find 6cyl Outback as they get snapped out very fast in the used car market...(not to mentioned they don't make/sell a lot of H6 to begin with.
 

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Hey FastBunny - one thing to also consider is that the cooling system till about 2005 was fairly weak my 2001 was pretty sensitive to hot temps and driving the car hard. Even just a few times in LA packed fairly light headed East on I10 to Palm Springs with a head wind and hot temps - off shore winds I could easily find the spot where the 2.5 was exceeding the cooling capacity run just a hair over 70mph and it would start to warm up - run at 68mph and it was perfectly happy. This was obviously easy to see on the Grapevine on hot crossings and even doing a run up to Tahoe in the summer. Simply adjusting speed when a slight bump in temp was spotted always kept the car happy but for your trip and the potential for some rugged climbs in hot temps I would probably avoid anything pre 2005 just from the cooling limitation stand point. The 3L H6 by the way isn't known for having super robust cooling capacity either so that doesn't really fix that aspect of the car.

I agree with you on the whole used vs pricing thing also. I bought two used cars last year one for my self and one for a family member. I also sold a used car. Used car prices have shot up like 30% in the past three years due to the lack of rental and lease cars dumped into the market during the rough times 5-3 yrs ago. This is driving up the used car prices crazy high! For the toyota I bought I narrowed it down to about 07 and later where the used prices started to drop off and 07 and newer it was almost a better idea just to buy new given the prices were so **** high!

I replaced the 2001 2.5 5spd MT with the new Gen4 2010 with CVT. I've done lots of hot CA summer trips with it cooling capacity seems to be FAR FAR FAR superior to the prior generations. Which is good given this was a major weakness that Subaru's had.

The CVT we have towed a bunch with it - done lots of Tahoe, Big Bear, Eastern Washington trips 48,000 miles and so far I've been pretty impressed. Did some off road stuff up in Big Bear and just north of Highway 80 above Auburn and the CVT was pretty capable. No doubt longer term reliability is still a question but so far it seems fair to consider the CVT nearly as reliable as the other AT's.

Have you read any of the Overlander stuff? I spent the last few nights reading about the Sweeds in their 3L TD Nissan Patrol. I wouldn't be opposed to doing MT seems there is a good argument for doing the MT over AT for the overland stuff given its easier to repair - and if you cross any high passes the AT's seem to have trouble understanding high altitude sickness impacting engine power etc. Interesting read and really looks like a fun trip!
 

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Having the ability to bump start with the MT also seems like a very attractive thing to have for the overland trip. Personally regardless of car choice I would probably go MT for that trip. Just easier to deal with repairs or maint, you can bump start it if something is screwy with your battery etc. The interesting comments about the AT's having trouble understanding high mountain passes and engines having altitude sickness was interesting.
 

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Hey FastBunny - one thing to also consider is that the cooling system till about 2005 was fairly weak my 2001 was pretty sensitive to hot temps and driving the car hard. Even just a few times in LA packed fairly light headed East on I10 to Palm Springs with a head wind and hot temps - off shore winds I could easily find the spot where the 2.5 was exceeding the cooling capacity run just a hair over 70mph and it would start to warm up - run at 68mph and it was perfectly happy. This was obviously easy to see on the Grapevine on hot crossings and even doing a run up to Tahoe in the summer. Simply adjusting speed when a slight bump in temp was spotted always kept the car happy but for your trip and the potential for some rugged climbs in hot temps I would probably avoid anything pre 2005 just from the cooling limitation stand point. The 3L H6 by the way isn't known for having super robust cooling capacity either so that doesn't really fix that aspect of the car.

I agree with you on the whole used vs pricing thing also. I bought two used cars last year one for my self and one for a family member. I also sold a used car. Used car prices have shot up like 30% in the past three years due to the lack of rental and lease cars dumped into the market during the rough times 5-3 yrs ago. This is driving up the used car prices crazy high! For the toyota I bought I narrowed it down to about 07 and later where the used prices started to drop off and 07 and newer it was almost a better idea just to buy new given the prices were so **** high!

I replaced the 2001 2.5 5spd MT with the new Gen4 2010 with CVT. I've done lots of hot CA summer trips with it cooling capacity seems to be FAR FAR FAR superior to the prior generations. Which is good given this was a major weakness that Subaru's had.

The CVT we have towed a bunch with it - done lots of Tahoe, Big Bear, Eastern Washington trips 48,000 miles and so far I've been pretty impressed. Did some off road stuff up in Big Bear and just north of Highway 80 above Auburn and the CVT was pretty capable. No doubt longer term reliability is still a question but so far it seems fair to consider the CVT nearly as reliable as the other AT's.

Have you read any of the Overlander stuff? I spent the last few nights reading about the Sweeds in their 3L TD Nissan Patrol. I wouldn't be opposed to doing MT seems there is a good argument for doing the MT over AT for the overland stuff given its easier to repair - and if you cross any high passes the AT's seem to have trouble understanding high altitude sickness impacting engine power etc. Interesting read and really looks like a fun trip!
Gahhhh... I definitely need my cooling!

I guess if I'm looking at used, I should be going for 2006 and over 2.5? Or just limit it to a 2010 2.5 CVT or manual?

I've read the Overlander and stuff on the HUBB. I won't be strictly doing what they're doing - I'll mostly be on actual roads with short romps into the boonies. Some of the vehicles they have are prepped entirely for off road extended expeditions.
 

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Gahhhh... I definitely need my cooling!

I guess if I'm looking at used, I should be going for 2006 and over 2.5? Or just limit it to a 2010 2.5 CVT or manual?

I've read the Overlander and stuff on the HUBB. I won't be strictly doing what they're doing - I'll mostly be on actual roads with short romps into the boonies. Some of the vehicles they have are prepped entirely for off road extended expeditions.
True many of those overland guys are building Zombie end of world machines. You want good cooling though! A sailing buddy has an 06 2.5 and tows the same type of boat I have his car clearly has superior cooling and heat management over the 2001 I had. Subaru has made lots of little tweaks to the 2.5 over the years one of them has been changes to the exhaust porting which a few mechanics have said was part of the heat issue.

The 4spd AT sold with the 2.5 is pretty **** bullet proof regarding reliability and tolerating abuse so probably would not be a big worry for the trip south assuming it was healthy to start with. The 5spd MT is pretty tough though like any MT the wrong driver can burn up a clutch pretty fast. Normal use seems to put the 5spd MT in the 120,000 -180,000 mile range before the clutches start showing up for replacement. The release bearings however have been known to start failing before the clutch needs replacement this bearing is replaced during the standard clutch job either way. Mine started squealing while in neutral clutch out at 140K clutch had 10% meat left on it but the bearing was done. $1200 job at the dealer for the full replacement of the flywheel - clutch and bearing which is the standard job on these cars. Outside of that the MT was quite good and trouble free.
 
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