Best and worst Subaru Outback years — which to avoid

When it comes to finding a reliable and spacious family car with raised clearance, the Subaru Outback stands out as a compelling option beyond the traditional SUV class. As one of the favorite family station wagons on American roads, the Outback has garnered a loyal following. However, not all model years have proven equally dependable, which is why our team has meticulously analyzed the best and worst Subaru Outback years to help you make an informed decision.

Through a rigorous process, we have drawn upon verified metrics and real-life owner experiences to establish a clear distinction between the most reliable and problematic Outback model years. Our research encompasses data from government organizations such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), as well as official recall records and common driver inputs.

By thoroughly examining NHTSA reports, driver experiences, and official recalls, our team has gained invaluable insights into the Outback’s reliability across various model years. This comprehensive approach ensures that you receive an unbiased and data-driven understanding of which years to target and which to avoid when considering the purchase of a Subaru Outback.

Whether you’re seeking a spacious and capable family hauler or simply appreciate the unique combination of a station wagon’s versatility and raised clearance, our guide will empower you to navigate the diverse range of Outback model years with confidence. Armed with this knowledge, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your needs, budget, and reliability expectations, ensuring a truly rewarding ownership experience.

Subaru Outback

How we rated the best and worst Subaru Outback years

In crafting this guide, our team set out to provide factual and verified information regarding the reliability of various Subaru Outback model years. To achieve this, we leveraged authoritative sources, including Subaru Outback reviews from respected platforms like Kelley Blue Book (KBB), Edmunds, and Consumer Reports.

Complementing these professional assessments, we delved into the wealth of knowledge found in Subaru Outback forums, tapping into the real-world experiences of owners who have intimately navigated the nuances of these vehicles over time.

To further validate our findings, we analyzed safety ratings from reputable organizations like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), ensuring a well-rounded understanding of the Outback’s performance across various model years.

After meticulously cross-referencing and evaluating this diverse array of data sources, we distilled our insights into a comprehensive guide, highlighting the best and most problematic Subaru Outback model years from a reliability standpoint.

3rd generation2003, 20042006
4th generation2010, 20112013
5th generation20192015, 2018

This multi-faceted approach, which combines authoritative reviews, owner experiences, and safety assessments, provides a holistic perspective on the dependability of various Outback model years. By leveraging these verified and credible sources, we aimed to empower prospective buyers with a well-rounded understanding of the model years to prioritize or avoid, allowing for informed decision-making when considering this iconic family station wagon.

Most common Subaru Outback problems

The Subaru Outback has modern tech while keeping traditional features like high clearance and a strong chassis for off-road use. However, some models have issues. Prospective buyers should know about common problems. These include higher oil consumption, electrical faults, and engine cooling system problems.

  1. Some Subaru Outback models have a big problem: they use too much oil. This issue affects fifth-generation Outbacks with the 2.5-liter engine. It also hits third-generation Outbacks with either a 2.5-liter or 3.0-liter engine. Owners report high oil use. This often starts within the first 100,000 miles. A blown head gasket is usually to blame. Engine oil is vital. It lubricates the engine’s metal parts. This reduces friction and heat.
  2. Older Outback models had basic interiors, but newer ones have many electrical systems. Yet, they often develop issues. For example, radio and infotainment failures are common, especially in the fifth and sixth generations. These problems usually stem from poor electrical connections. An auto electrician can easily fix most of them.
  3. Head Gasket Leaks and Cooling System Failure are common in some Subaru Outback years. A faulty water pump is often the cause. It fails to move coolant between the engine and radiator. This can make the engine overheat. The issue mainly affects third and fifth-generation Outback models.
  4. Some Subaru Outback models face serious transmission issues. This problem, like engine cooling and oil leaks, is common. Specifically, the 2010 to 2013 models are at risk. For instance, the 2013 model often faces both transmission and piston ring problems. This combination leads to oil leaks in the cylinders. When the transmission fails, it may shift roughly or slip. Fixing this requires a costly transmission rebuild. The repair usually costs between $2,500 and $3,000.

By understanding these common issues and the affected model years, buyers can make informed decisions. They can also take preventive measures to address potential problems in their Subaru Outback.

Worst Subaru Outback years to avoid

The Subaru Outback has undergone significant changes over the years, with each generation offering improvements in design, performance, and features. Here is a brief overview of the Outback’s evolution:

First Generation (1995-1999)

The first Subaru Outback arrived as a trim package for the second-generation Subaru Legacy L wagon. It featured increased ground clearance and more rugged styling, making it a popular choice for those who needed a vehicle that could handle rough terrain.

Second Generation (2000-2004)

The second generation saw the Outback become a standalone model, with a new body style and more powerful engine options. This generation included the 2.5-liter four-cylinder and 3.0-liter six-cylinder engines.

Third Generation (2005-2009)

The third generation introduced a stiffer body structure and a new turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It also featured a more aggressive exterior design and improved interior features.

Fourth Generation (2010-2014)

The fourth generation brought significant changes, including a new platform and more powerful engine options. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder and 3.6-liter six-cylinder engines were available, and the Outback gained more ground clearance and improved off-road capabilities.

Fifth Generation (2015-2019)

The fifth generation saw the Outback receive a facelift and updated features. It continued to offer the same powertrains as before, with the 2.5L flat-four and 3.6L flat-six engines paired with all-wheel drive and continuously variable transmissions.

Sixth Generation (2020-present)

The current generation of the Outback has continued to evolve, with improvements in safety features, infotainment systems, and overall performance. It remains a popular choice for those seeking a reliable and capable vehicle that can handle both on-road and off-road driving.

Worst Model Years

Some model years of the Outback have been known to have issues with oil leaks, transmission faults, and electrical problems. The worst model years to avoid include the 2006, 2013, 2015, and 2018 models, which had significant problems with engine and transmission reliability.Overall, the Subaru Outback has come a long way since its introduction, offering a range of models and features to suit different needs and preferences.

What are the best Subaru Outback years to buy?

The Subaru Outback’s common issues might concern you. However, no car is issue-free after almost three decades of production. So, it’s crucial to know which model years have problems. Avoiding those with major engine and transmission issues is key.

To guide you in making an informed decision, our team recommends the following as the best Subaru Outback model years:

  • 1996, Is the Subaru Outback worth buying?1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004
  • 2008, 2009
  • 2014
  • 2018
  • 2020

The first and second-gen Subaru Outback models are extremely reliable. However, finding low-mileage versions is tough. People interested in newer models should consider the third-generation (2005-2009). Yet, it’s best to avoid the 2005 and 2006 models due to possible oil leaks.

The fourth-gen (2010-2014) brought significant improvements. However, the 2013 model had transmission issues. So, it’s essential to check the transmission carefully before buying.

The fifth-gen (2015-2019) is considered one of the best. It might have minor electrical problems, common in modern cars. The 2019 model and the sixth generation stand out.

Our experts advise against the CVT option due to its faults. Luckily, the 2019 Outback has no major transmission issues, making it a reliable choice.

The 2019 model solved past issues, improving overall safety.

By focusing on these recommended years and being aware of potential problems, you can enjoy a reliable experience with the Subaru Outback.

Is the Subaru Outback worth buying?

When evaluating the Outback, it’s evident that this model is unparalleled in the station wagon category. It offers more space than most wagons and boasts a high clearance that rivals that of an SUV.

To ensure a positive ownership experience, it’s advisable to avoid certain model years known for issues, such as the oil leaks in 2006 and 2013 and years with transmission problems. By steering clear of these problematic years, you can focus on regular maintenance and enjoy above-average mileage. Despite these issues in specific years, the Outback remains a reliable Subaru model.

Want to know which years to avoid for other vehicles? Our detailed articles on the Ford Edge, Jeep Grand Cherokee, and Hyundai Santa Fe cover everything you need to know. With our insights, you can confidently navigate your vehicle purchasing journey, backed by reliable and well-researched advice.

What Year Subaru Outback Should You Avoid?

You should avoid the 2006 and 2013 Subaru Outback models due to known engine cooling and oil leak issues. Additionally, exercise caution with the 2010 to 2013 models, which are known for transmission faults.

Which Year Subaru Outback is Most Reliable?

The Subaru Outback is renowned for its reliability, with the 2009 and 2018 models standing out as particularly dependable.

What Year Subarus Had Engine Problems?

Subaru models from 2006 and the years 2012 to 2013 experienced engine problems, including potential piston ring damage and oil leaks into the cylinders.

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