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October 28, 2010 7:43 AM   Subscribe

Subaru Outback: New or used?

Our 2004 Impreza is finally getting too small for our family. My wife test drove the new 2011 Subaru Outback and really liked it, even with the 2.5 liter engine. However, a new vehicle has a much higher cost than maybe a used 2009 or 2010 model. Have there been any problems with the older series or the newer series that makes one or the other a clear choice?

(Not interested in the Forester or the Tribeca)
posted by mkb to Travel & Transportation (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
As the daughter of a car salesman, the answer is always "used," no matter what specific car you're looking at. My dad would have been horrified if I'd ever paid the list price for a brand new car.
posted by something something at 7:45 AM on October 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

As long as it wasn't used by a smoker; buy used and run it into the ground.
posted by mhoye at 7:48 AM on October 28, 2010

You may want to consider a 2010 model if they make you a hell of a deal. My husband and I just bought a new 2010 Mazda3 - we were planning on getting a recently used car, but they knocked the price WAY down below invoice and gave us 0% financing. We ran the numbers, and it was cheaper for us to buy the new car with 0% then to buy a used car with the % our credit union was offering us. Your mileage may vary, of course. :)

I absolutely advocate getting quotes from many dealerships through email. That's a lifesaver right there.

(Also, now we will know that the car will be serviced properly from the beginning. We do plan to run it into the ground, so that's important.)
posted by WowLookStars at 7:52 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

As long as it wasn't used by a smoker

If it was used by a smoker, freshly cut grass can help get rid of the smell.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:56 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I sold new cars for a living for a couple of years and my dad has been in the car business forever. We both always, always, always recommend used over new. A lease return or a trade-in with a back story (IE it was traded in at that dealership and they met the original owners) would be ideal but even then, almost any car that is 2 years old or newer is going to be fine.
posted by VTX at 8:01 AM on October 28, 2010

My dad, a mechanic, said in passing that Subaru quality has fallen noticeably over the last couple of years. I might keep my eye out for something even a bit older.
posted by another zebra at 8:02 AM on October 28, 2010

I have a 2008, and I've had no real problems. I like this model over the new ones, as the new ones seem quite big, more like an SUV than a station wagon.
posted by TrarNoir at 8:07 AM on October 28, 2010

As the daughter of a car salesman, the answer is always "used" ...

I second this.

And as someone who considered a used 2010 Subaru Outback and ultimately bought a 2006 Subaru Outback XT - I am 110% happy with my decision and the added luxuries I got for my money (huge sunroof, heated leather seats and a turbo engine), not to mention the 10K+ I saved.
posted by Siena at 8:08 AM on October 28, 2010

You may want to consider a 2010 model if they make you a hell of a deal. My husband and I just bought a new 2010 Mazda3 - we were planning on getting a recently used car, but they knocked the price WAY down below invoice and gave us 0% financing. We ran the numbers, and it was cheaper for us to buy the new car with 0% then to buy a used car with the % our credit union was offering us. Your mileage may vary, of course. :)

This is true. I'm not sure what the market is like right now, but for a while there the automakers were dealing pretty heavy discounts and incentives.

But in general, buying a lightly used car is usually a good plan. You can usually get more car for less money.

My only caveat about that is to make sure you figure out the answer to the question "why did the previous owner sell this car so early?" A 3 year old off of lease makes sense, but I always wonder about a younger used car, because it makes so little financial sense to sell off a one or two year old car.
posted by gjc at 8:17 AM on October 28, 2010

Four years ago, we were facing the same question with a minivan. We ended up with the new model because it had 2 features the used ones didn't that we thought would be really annoying to do without for however many years we ended up driving it. Despite the drawbacks of buying new, that was what decided us. (in case you're curious, the features were an aux input and fold-flat rear seats.)
posted by not that girl at 8:40 AM on October 28, 2010

We have an 08(?) outback and love it, love it, love it, bought it coming up on 3 years ago (dec 07). We had 1 small problem, in the spring of 08, for which there turned out to be recall.

When we bought our Outback we really wanted to buy used...the problem, we couldn't find any in our area that didn't already have upwards of 80-100,000+ miles already on them, and the price difference between new and used didn't really justify that many miles. We plan on keeping it forever, so that hopefully in the end, buying new won't have mattered too much.

You might have more success now, with the economic down turn, in finding a gently used model, i.e. someone who wants to sell and get out from underneath their loan.
posted by snowymorninblues at 8:52 AM on October 28, 2010

That engine is a workhorse that, for better or worse, has not seen substantial updating in forever. While Subaru did have a run of 2.5 l engines around the turn of century that had bad head gaskets (which they admitted and then offered subsidized repairs), those problems are a ways back and I would assume that any company with half a brain would want to avoid such things.

We own a 2000 Impreza and a 2009 Forester (same drivetrain as the Outback) and find both to be stellar cars. That 2.5 l engine is powerful, and while the mileage could be better, one finds that in its class, it is hard to beat, not least since everyone else stuffs six- or eight-cylinder engines into vehicles of that size.

We bought both new, but largely because we financed most of the cost, and as was pointed out earlier, the interest rates for new car loans can, at times, be far lower than for used cars. Also, we keep our cars forever, and even a two-year old car can have been driven hard and foolishly, and will therefore have issues down the road. With a new car, one can coddle it from day one, always take good care of it, and drive it literally forever, which means that the increased cost is amortized over many many years of driving. Also note that newer Subarus tend not to lose value as fast as, say, a US-built minivan, which is losing value as it crosses the dealer's curb at a precipitous rate. So, your price break is less for a car like a Subaru. In the end, the determining question is whether you are thinking long or medium term.
posted by dalea at 8:59 AM on October 28, 2010

Everyone is saying "used", but, I agree with snoymorinblues, that when we looked at used subarus, there were NONE that we found that didn't have super high miles on them. And they weren't that much cheaper than new. So, had we gone with subaru, we would have bought a new one that we planned to run into the ground. (My husband has a 2001 outback with upwards of 130K miles on it. They'll treat you right. But we leased a Rav4, because Toyota is basically giving away cars). We'll buy it out at the end (the financing was such that it was cheaper to lease up front). Plus, I like the idea of having put all the miles on the car, and having done all the maintenance, etc.
posted by dpx.mfx at 9:01 AM on October 28, 2010

FWIW, the new model of Outback is very different from the older models - so much so that I'm surprised it's considered the "same" car. The older ones are wagons, current model is an SUV. My mom has had a couple of them (current one is 2004 maybe) and liked them a lot. I enjoy driving it when I'm home.
posted by radioamy at 9:32 AM on October 28, 2010

If you decide to get a used, turbocharged Outback (OBXT) then please take note of this thread on turbocharger problems.

tl;dr: The oil filter bypass pressure should be higher than what's provided by aftermarket filters; there are many more OBXT turbo failures than Legacy GT turbo failures after correcting for population. One writer opines that it's because Outback owners do not treat their highly stressed OBXT engines as needing special care, while Legacy owners do. Exclusive use of Subaru OEM filters correlates with turbo longevity as does frequent oil changing.

75k trouble-free miles on my '05 Legacy GT, my second Legacy wagon - and I've gone through 18 OEM filters.
posted by jet_silver at 9:38 AM on October 28, 2010

I bought a used '01 Outback 2 years ago. I also bought a new '03 Saturn Ion 7 years ago. (The Outback is actually worth more than the Ion at this stage, FWIW.) Here's the thing - right now, my average cost per year (factoring purchase price and maintenance) on the Ion is lower, but after next year, the Outback will have the lower average cost. So after 3 years, the financial return on investment is already better on the vehicle that was bought used than what I'll have after 8 years on the car that was bought new.

YMMV, but it's almost always better to buy used.
posted by azpenguin at 10:02 AM on October 28, 2010

The Subaru Outback was redesigned for the 2010 model year giving it a substantially different look and much more interior space, and a slightly higher ride, among other changes. The 2009 Outback (and everything before that) is a very different car than the 2010+. The interior space or looks may not matter, but make sure you check out/drive both to ensure you're just as happy with the Outback pre-redesign.

Outback inventory goes pretty fast and you'll likely have a difficult or impossible time finding a new 2010 on a lot at this point. Outbacks haven't faced the same inventory glut as some cars during the recession. If you can find a used 2010 Outback, grab it (but I don't know that it would be very likely).

And if you're wavering between a 2010 and a 2011, they're essentially exactly the same. Really the only difference is that the 2011 Outback has folding side mirrors and the 2010 doesn't (and Subaru recently came out with a kit to update that on the 2010 if you're intersted, FWIW).
posted by awegz at 10:42 AM on October 28, 2010

The 2010 and 2011 Outback models have the option of the continuously variable automatic transmission. This is an extra $1000 over the manual transmission, but gives about a 10% improvement in gas mileage over both the manual transmission and the auto transmission of the pre-2010 models. This is a significant improvement for an SUV and will likely pay for itself over the life of the car.
posted by JackFlash at 12:49 PM on October 28, 2010

Used, but don't get the 4 cylinder turbocharged version that was offered until the '09 model year. Either get the non-turbo 4 or the 6 cylinder. Preferably the regular 4 cylinder, if Consumer Reports is to be believed.

In the v6, go for an '07 or '09. In the 4 cylinder, buy something '06 or newer. Oddly, CR rates the '08 highest of them all, but is the one with a mere 'average' rating for suspension repairs, although everything else seems to be OK on them.
posted by wierdo at 1:05 PM on October 28, 2010

One note if you do any roof-rack type activities: The current Outback has a pretty terrible built-in roof rack that cannot be removed and does not allow for the use of an aftermarket system. Google a bit for more info -- there's plenty out there.

Subaru did just attempt to appease ACA (American Canoe Association) members a with big discount on the cargo basket accessory to which, apparently, you can attach aftermarket rails. Not sure of the details on that or if it's still available.
posted by The Dutchman at 9:34 PM on October 28, 2010

I bought a slightly used Outback a while ago and it was the single best purchase I have ever made. I drove it for 4 years, put 100k miles on it, and when it was totaled it still looked and drove like new. I am still mad that that car was wrecked.

Slightly used Subarus are the best. My next car will be another one.
posted by getawaysticks at 10:15 AM on November 1, 2010

Response by poster: We ended up leasing a new 2011 Outback, because of the near total lack of available 2010 Outbacks for sale (that weren't the H6 or similar)
posted by mkb at 8:21 AM on July 28, 2011

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