Home » I Regret Buying A New Subaru

I Regret Buying A New Subaru

Matt No Love Subaru Ts2
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I’ve spent the vast majority of my adult life driving as many new cars as possible every year. Hundreds and hundreds of cars. But until eight years ago, I’d never purchased a new car. That changed with the acquisition of an Ice Silver 2016 Subaru Forester Premium. If “love” is what makes a Subaru a Subaru, then I got shortchanged, because I like the car but haven’t loved the ownership experience.

The joke that’s been bouncing around my head is: Get a Subaru so you can have a Toyota driving experience without the Toyota reliability. While I haven’t been stranded by my Forester yet, I’ve had to replace so many parts of the car and deal with so many small annoyances in my first few years of ownership that I’m pretty much over it and looking forward to trading it for something that’s either more fun to drive or cheaper to operate.

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This is only my experience, of course, so your mileage (both literal and figurative) may vary. But I’ve talked to enough other Subaru owners that I don’t think I’m alone.

Why I Bought A Forester In The First Place

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Dealership fresh. My first photo of Subie.

One of the limitations in the way I’ve mostly reviewed cars is that I get a car for about a week and then it moves on to someone else. I can tell you what it’s like to live with a car for just long enough to get the radio presets right, but I can’t tell you what it’s like to live with that car for many more miles. It’s a good argument for checking Consumer Reports, a publication that buys its cars from dealers and puts real miles on them.

I didn’t do that. It was 2016. I was living in Brooklyn. My wife and I had just brought a tiny Hardigree into the world and, because of my wife’s job, I’d found out I was moving to this mysterious place called New York-outside-of-New York City and so I needed something dependable, safe, and big enough to schlep a new human and all the stuff you’re told a new human needs to thrive.

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Did I actually want a Mazda CX-5 with a manual? Yes, but those were rare and expensive at the time. I was considering a C-Max Hybrid just because C-Max Hybrids are roomy and weird. On my list was also the Subaru Forester. I’d had one to review a few months earlier and both my wife and I thought it was good at everything, even if it wasn’t particularly great at anything. My old pal Tom McParland also offered to help and, based on my list, thought I could get the best deal on a new Forester somewhere in New Jersey.

He was correct. For just $25,000 and a low 1.9% interest rate, I could get a brand new 2016 Subaru Forester Premium with a sunroof and the cold weather package. It was an anonymous silver, but it was extremely affordable. The dealership experience was pretty good and very quickly I had a new car.

The Honeymoon Period

Subie 1 Of 6

For the first two years or so of Subaru ownership it was pretty smooth sailing. Nothing major went wrong, it mostly needed oil changes and tire rotations, and our local dealer was fine. Was it Lexus-level of service? Nope. It was fine. Like everything about the car.

Even the driving experience was just fine. The boxer motor is a little noisy, but it was faster than the CPO Honda Civic we owned before and way zippier than the old Volvo 240 wagon I bought as a project car. Did I love the CVT? No. Almost immediately, I had to adjust to the car always feeling slightly wrong at low speeds, with the car’s transmission trying but always failing to find the ideal ratio to maximize performance and efficiency.

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Handling was not Mazda sharp and the ride wasn’t CR-V soft. Was it nominally better in the snow than other cars? Yeah, maybe. In spite of the CVT, it sucked fuel around town (about 22 MPG), which is mostly where it was being driven. It was a little better on the highway (27-28) but, again, it couldn’t hold a candle to our old 2006 Honda Civic LX, which I feel like I put gas in twice in eight years.

Camping Subie

Where the Forester does better is in general usability. It’s big and roomy, outsizing the Mazda CX-5 or the available Ford Escape, making it easier to load-in the kiddo and all the kiddos gear. Something about owning a Forester makes you want an REI membership, so we did that and bought camping gear and took the Subaru camping.

We even gave the car a name. Subie! We road-tripped her to Canada and all around New York. Good miles and great memories.

Here Come The Problems.

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Based on my own experience and after talking to other Subaru owners, every Subaru is at least a little misaligned roughly 10 minutes after an alignment and for the rest of its life. The stock Yokohama-brand tires, therefore, wore super fast. This is something a lot of Subaru owners complain about. Given that the stock tires only lasted about three years, I assumed an upgrade to some Michelin CrossClimates might improve this.

They were better performers but still wore faster than I’d like. In year seven of ownership, at around 70,000 miles, I had to put another set of Michelins on and they’re already starting to wear at the edges.

In year four, Subie’s front wheels started to judder at speeds over 55 mph. That required swapping out the passenger lower control arm, at great cost (I did it at the dealer and it’s not covered on the warranty), and then, not many miles later, it happened again and I had to swap the other lower control arm. Both times Subie needed a realignment.

Subie 5 Of 6

At under 70,000 miles I had to replace both rear wheel bearings because they were screaming. This time I skipped the dealer and went to my mechanic, who informed me that this happens to most Foresters he sees of this vintage and, oh, yeah, I’ll probably need to replace the front lower control arms if it hasn’t happened yet.

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I’ve had to undergo multiple recalls, including for the old 3G modem in the vehicle. The most annoying one is for the mat airbag sensor in the passenger seat, which had to be replaced (the tech also left some parts in the car which I found when I vacuumed). It still barely works and often gives me a false reading if I so much as look at it wrong. The battery went early, though the new one seems to be holding up better (although there’s a class action lawsuit about that, which I think is my second battery-related class action lawsuit.)

What Finally Broke Me

Forester Headlights

One of the perks of Subie is that she doesn’t have complex headlights or other parts. Everything is theoretically replaceable without taking the car apart.

This includes the headlights. I know this, because I have to keep replacing headlights. I had two go out on me at the same time, at night, last year. I replaced them and, big surprise, it’s been less than a year and the passenger side went out again. This, too, appears to be an issue that Subaru owners are used to dealing with, though some owners haven’t had issues.

Is the alternator throwing off too much voltage and cooking them? That’s my guess, and I’ll have to confirm that when the driver-side light goes out any day now.

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Why I Wouldn’t Do It Again

Subie 3 Of 6

This is the only new car I’ve ever purchased and the only car my daughter knows, besides our project cars. Parting with it will be difficult because it does hold a lot of precious memories. Also, new cars are expensive and I don’t want a car payment.

I understand that new vehicles are still vehicles and they still have wear items so it’s foolish to expect that nothing will go wrong and nothing will have to be replaced. Unfortunately, the tempo of replacing wear items and other necessary fixes have been way above what I expected when I bought the car. In the roughly 7.5 years I’ve had it I’ve spent around $7,500 keeping it running on top of the cost of buying it.

That seems high to me given that I’ve spent a lot less on previous, used cars that I’ve owned.

If the car were stellar. If it made me happy diving it every day. If it looked great and made me feel great I’d maybe feel different. It would maybe be worth it. I just can’t imagine spending money again on a new Subaru. I drove the Forester Wilderness and I liked it, but it wasn’t that much nicer than my car, had the same CVT issues, and I can just imagine how expensive it would be to keep running.

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After driving the Corolla Cross Hybrid, I’m suddenly thinking about the ease of Toyota ownership.

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SonomaSod
SonomaSod
1 month ago

I had a 2014 Forester Limited 2.5. Earliest form of your vintage. I recently traded it in for a 2023 Sportage PHEV, probably a year sooner than we should have, but I was personally tired of the Subaru. We bought the Subaru used with 24k on the dial when we had our 2nd kid. As a car…it did car things fine. Here’s my list of issues, from the top of my head, so not exhaustive.

OEM Tires…they sucked. I got them on a used car with 24k already so whatever. Gave me a reason to begin swapping out winters/”summers” (just LRR All-Season)Alignment…hahahahaha it was NEVER right…wait…it always pulled to the right.All 4 corners had failed wheel hubs at some point. I did the work the second time. It’s a rust belt car, so never again.”Leather” seats were toast pretty quick. Steering wheel peeled away whenever the sun came out.The head unit was out of date in 2014 and never ever worked well with bluetooth. System really can’t handle a second phone.The vehicles computer couldn’t handle two sets of TPMS sensors, so my winter tires never got connected.The oil consumption was bad, albeit, not bad enough for the recall/new short block, but bad enough that I’d check the oil level religiously 2-3 times/week (this was one of the big issues I had with it. I was tired of dealing with this.)MPG was exactly as you mentioned above. I tracked every mile when we owned it. It progressively got worse. We were fueling up 1-2 times/week.The lower control arms luckily went bad at the same time, so when we had the shimmy you mentioned above, those were replaced at the same time.Last tune up I did in July of 2022, there was enough oil on the plugs and boots for me to say “this isn’t good, but not bad enough…yet” (This was another major reason I advocated for getting rid of it. Didn’t want to be forced into a bad situation)The last two summers, we had to replace all the A/C components.The window sprayer components needed to be replaced because the sun, even though hidden from the sun, wrecks things.I went through 3 batteries from 2015-2023. Three.The 2.5 was a dog. The CVT made it worse. Unless you’re driving on a slight decline, the car simply was gutless.
That’s what I have off the top of my head. I live in Indiana. I’ve received a behind the scenes tour of the factory in Lafayette. I think highly of the company. This car though…it sucked. It did car things. It was easy enough to work on, as I did the vast majority of work on it. Brakes and tune-ups were easy enough. Diffs…easy enough. Most work, easy enough. But the vehicle was a compromise in the first place. Family does better financially now, and we were tired of the compromise. I would never suggest a Subaru to anyone again. I took $4k for a trade-in on a pretty clean example of the vehicle, but 166k miles were too much I guess. I’m sure my new Kia will eventually be a a source of frustration and anxiety, but my *worst* mpg’s in the Kia have been on road trips (think 2-3.5 hours in winter conditions) when I am not utilizing the 34 miles of electricity. The *worst* mpg’s are equal to the Subaru’s best. When not road tripping, we get minimum of 50 mpg. Last tank was 70+.

My daughter cried when we got rid of it. There’s a lesson to be learned for her there, I guess. I will miss the sort of analog nature of the Subaru, but when I feel nostalgic for that, I will get in my 07 Rabbit or 98 Sonoma. Good riddance, Subaru!

SonomaSod
SonomaSod
1 month ago
Reply to  Matt Hardigree

This just surpassed that 1-hitter I pitched in Little League when I was 10 yo as the crowing achievement of my life. I will sacrifice a single H11 bulb in your honor tonight.

Hondaimpbmw 12
Hondaimpbmw 12
1 month ago
Reply to  SonomaSod

I looked into the Silverstar Ultras for one of my cars. I lost interest when the expected bulb life was measured in 10s of hours, not hundreds.

Andrew Vance
Andrew Vance
1 month ago
Reply to  Hondaimpbmw 12

Silverstars are the biggest scam. Sure they’re bright, but they last one year max. Sylvania figures if you’re dumb enough to buy them once you’ll keep buying them because *brightness*.

Hondaimpbmw 12
Hondaimpbmw 12
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew Vance

Yup. My ‘17 F150 Lariat (bought used) was spec’d w/ chrome and a giant hole in the roof, but has the poverty spec headlights. 3 fireflies in a jug could match the standard light output. I replaced the H-7s w/ H-11s but I’m seriously contemplating going w/ LEDs in the future. Mostly I try to avoid driving it at night. 😉

Last edited 1 month ago by Hondaimpbmw 12
VanGuy
VanGuy
1 month ago
Reply to  Hondaimpbmw 12

I highly recommend seeing if LEDs last longer. The replacements are plug-and-play, and when I did it with my 2012 Prius v, the output pattern remained the same, with a sharp cutoff below the windows of other cars on the road.

A friend’s late-aughts Jetta was also eating halogens and we were going to try experimenting with replacing them with LEDs but a deer kamikazed onto their hood over a highway barrier, so that didn’t happen.

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
1 month ago
Reply to  Hondaimpbmw 12

Go for the LEDs, but FFS get ones that are geometrical identical to your factory bulb size. The cheap ones you can find generally aren’t, and are the cause for all the folks complaining about “LEDs are blinding!”. Proper LED retrofits aren’t that expensive ($60-250/pair depending on type and brand and features). I’ve had LED retrofits in my last few cars, and zero complaints about glare. I also get as white for color temp as is available so it looks like it could be factory-fitment.

Get name brand. Morimoto, GTR, Diode Dynamics, SuperBrightLEDs.com, Lasfit, etc. There are lots of good choices, but probably exponentially more bad ones.

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew Vance

Can confirm. I get good prices on bulbs, but even with my 1-2 minute bulb replacement time it became more trouble than it’s worth. So I switched to LEDs and haven’t looked back. Now almost all my exterior vehicle lighting has been converted to LED.

Ben
Ben
1 month ago
Reply to  Hondaimpbmw 12

I didn’t even go all the way to Silverstars on my truck when I had to replace the bulbs, but even the Xtravisions (or whatever they call them) have a shockingly short lifespan. When they died about a year after I installed them I thought something must have gone wrong, but then I looked up the life expectancy of them and it’s a fraction of what the standard bulbs are. I also didn’t find them noticeably brighter so it was a complete waste.

Mpphoto
Mpphoto
1 month ago

Oof, this article and the comments do not help my situation. I have a 17-year-old Prius that has needed some expensive repairs the last two years. The Crosstrek has interested me because I like hatchbacks and it’s the right size. I think the Forester, RAV4, and CR-V are too big. The Corolla Cross and HR-V might be OK, but they’re still bigger than I like. Corolla Hatch is too small and too low.

I was pretty sure the Crosstrek would be my next car once fixing the Prius became too expensive, or parts became too hard to get. Then I started seeing comments about poor Subaru reliability. Reliability is super important to me. Then I saw Consumer Reports gave the Crosstrek a predicted reliability of 99/100. Now I see this article and the comments, and now it sounds like Subarus are junk. I don’t know what to think now. It’s a shame cars these days are so big and expensive. I agree with another commenter about questioning the value of today’s cars. They seem nice, but not $30k nice, and not any nicer than my old Toyota. Additionally, cars now have seats with too much thigh and rib bolstering, as if they’re sports cars. Everything is too big, too expensive, or too uncomfortable, which leaves me fixing the old Prius. But for how much longer?

Foodeater
Foodeater
1 month ago
Reply to  Mpphoto

I have a Crosstrek that I bought new in 2013. It did have the shortblock replaced at ~68,000 miles under warranty due to the oil consumption issue. Other than than that the only non-standard maintenance items have been 1 front passenger side wheel bearing, and a clutch replacement at ~140,000 miles (it’s at ~265,000 now) its on its 3rd set of tires, and the front brakes (pads & rotors) have been replace three times and the rears twice. It will need a new pass front cv joint soon as I just noticed the boot is torn.

It will need the shocks/struts replaced soon, but they are the originals so that pretty good. I have never had any alignment issues with it. But it does go through headlight bulbs at an alarming rate, to the point where I just keep a couple of spare in the car.

At least half of the miles are from NYC traffic.

I’m not sure if I will ever buy a brand new car again, but I would consider another Crosstrek if I was.

Also my wifes 2016 Forrester (2.5, 6spd) has been totally reliable, maintenance items only at this point its got ~82,000 miles.

WaCkO
WaCkO
1 month ago
Reply to  Mpphoto

I have a 2017 forester that I bought in 2019, I believe it’s an ex rental car, cause it’s got no options on it except for xdrive. It had 50000kms on it and now it’s got 226000kms. So far I got 2 hubs replaced under warranty and one more hub after the warranty. Those are basically the only problems I had with it. The CVT is annoying since it has fake shifts. Oh and when my a/c stopped working I found out there was a recall on the condenser so got that fixed for free too. Overall a good experience with it, and it has to be the most reliable car I owned since I started driving in 1995.

Mr-robot
Mr-robot
1 month ago

Finally, an honest review of the Forester. I bought a 2019 and it was fine for two years. We didn’t understand why the battery kept dying and only learned later after Subaru was sued that the auto stop fracture and computer drains the battery. Did it do a recall – no. Subaru didn’t even tell its customers about a known problem they paid plaintiffs in a lawsuit to resolve. It gets worse.

The mpg computer is completely messed up and if we don’t turn off the auto stop feature it will stall in the middle of the road. Gas mpg SUCKS – maybe 23 mpg, which is what my old 2003 4×4 Jeep was getting.

Last bomb – the cost of the dealer services. Here in California, a 65k service was quoted at $2,800. I asked why they wanted 10% of the cars original price for a service and they couldn’t tell me. I took it to my local trusted mechanic and he had to order the OEM parts but the whole service cost $900. Not cheap but a hella lot lower than the rip off dealer. Windshield wipers are not standard and cost about $70 to replace.

Never again. Bought my wife a 2033 RAV4 SE hybrid and we get 40 mpg, have great service, and love it. It is a slight bit smaller in the interior which is its only fault so far.

Thomas Kendrick
Thomas Kendrick
1 month ago

This fantastic article isn’t about Subarus, or a Subaru; I have a Subaru…it’s a ’95 Legacy that has 218k miles and has received oil changes tires and brake pads. Everything in the car works perfectly. WORTH IT. Subaru can, and has, made great, reliable, good running cars.

But, no, this article really has nothing to do with Subaru’s at all; it’s actually about nearly ALL new/newish cars (and machinery). The Author summed up the root problem succinctly in three words; “Not worth it”. The added tech of today’s cars = problems which = Cubic dollars spent, on repairs. Equipment is the same way. As a fleet maint mgr, I used to lust for the “next new machine”, b/c I knew the OEM would have (finally) addressed the nagging issues in the current models. And they DID. Decades ago? Things got better with each successive model/generation. Issues engineered away, more power, more features, thoughtful (helpful) ideas added…. Now? I don’t even want to SEE the next POS junk. Demo? No thanks. Auto show? Nope, pass. “More power, more productivity, more (whatever)”? Who even cares, at this point? NO! Make the shit run right….THEN let’s consider touch screens (that go out, don’t communicate etc), then lets consider configurable everything. Then lets think about integrated whatever. But first, make some shit that works. Just like ya already did, three decades ago. At work, we have nearly-new, heavy equipment that is costing us more in maint and repairs, than our 10-15 year old similar equipment, that has 10,000+ hours on it! WTF is that!? NOT WORTH IT. For all the cost, the new stuff produces maybe 5% more? 3%?…when it runs. Not worth it.

In fact, at this very moment, I have machines from both brands/options for our equipment, nearly brand new, that don’t work. Service techs have been in our shop for 90+ hours on one brand, trying to make the heater blower work. It won’t work. They gave up and left. We bought a brushed DC heater blower motor, resistor pack and a 4 way switch and built our own heater fan system so the machine could run. Now it works…old skool style. The other brand, we’ve had 2-3 of their service techs in our shop for the past two days. They’re working on their brand, right now! They can’t fix ’em. Either of these factory trained service techs. They’re not bad guys…they know their shit, but this stuff is just gone way, WAY too far. And what’s it all contribute to the product? Nothing. Nothing.

So is the case with the author’s car. He just needs it to run. If it ran, then he might be able to appreciate the added features of the newer car, but since he’d distracted by issues and operating cost (rightfully so), then he don’t CARE about touch screens! The shit has to work, and keep working, otherwise, all the tech/features/content in the world ain’t worth squat. Give me a ’96 Subie all day long. A ’24? NFW.

I know that brand whore’s with product fetishism want all this bullshit, so they can show off/brag/feel good about themselves…but it ain’t worth it.

Mr-robot
Mr-robot
1 month ago

Yes, the older models seem to be much better. I will never buy another new one. The glory days of Subaru have passed.

WaCkO
WaCkO
1 month ago

Exactly, most of his problems sounds like they were on the options, cause my rental spec 2017 has been mostly problem free

Ben
Ben
1 month ago

I’ve probably told this story before, but my brother bought a Forester maybe 10 years ago. Within the first 30000 miles it was burning 1 qt per 1000 miles, which at the recommended oil change interval would have resulted in it running completely dry between changes. Subaru claimed that was “normal”. He immediately traded it in.

WaCkO
WaCkO
1 month ago
Reply to  Ben

They fixed the head gasket problem since 2014, and it was only on the American built 2.5s

Len Mcnabb
Len Mcnabb
1 month ago

I purchased a 2013 Impreza from Wilford Brimley’s twin brother. They had to pick it up one state over. I was there when they drove it in (DROVE IT IN). Don’t worry the shimmy will be covered under warranty, he says. So, I drive it home and really like it. A few days later it starts to rain and the SS Impreza shows her colors; inches of water in the floors. I take it to the service trolls only to be told, and I quote, “they all do that.” Six hundred bucks turned it into a new Civic that very day. F you Subaru and your third rate build quality.

Jason Smith
Jason Smith
1 month ago

“In the roughly 7.5 years I’ve had it I’ve spent around $7,500 keeping it running on top of the cost of buying it.”
I honestly don’t know how many multiples that is of my cost of ownership over 12 years on a (now) 26 year old Tacoma. Admittedly, I’ve done all the services myself which saved a lot but I wouldn’t expect a 7 1/2 year old car to need things like a timing belt service, fuel injector replacement, or suspension overhaul.

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