Launched in 1995, the Outback features a station wagon body although it blends in well amongst other SUVs.
It’s a popular choice thanks to its ruggedness and is equipped to handle everything from offroad adventures to daily errands.
If you’re considering one as your next vehicle or you’re just doing some research, this article will cover the Outback’s most common problems.
Table of Contents
1. Battery Drains Quickly
According to Car Problem Zoo, a site focused on consumer feedback, the most common problem for Outback owners is a battery that dies prematurely.
This problem dates back as far as 2015 and has plagued the Outback for several years now, and is still reported on the latest models.
Owners have reported having to change the battery numerous times in a fairly short period of time – bear in mind the average car battery is expected to last about 3 to 4 years.
There have been many instances where owners have been left stranded due to a flat battery, and in most cases the battery seems just die without any prior warning.
A battery that drains regularly is incredibly frustrating, here is one owner’s experience:
“Battery died 7-8 times within the last 1-year. On one occasion, the car stopped in the middle of the road while waiting at a crossing. The cars coming behind bumped into each other. The emergency lights also died.”
Sadly there doesn’t seem to be a solution to this problem, although Subaru are aware of it.
What we do know is that the problem does not lie with the battery but rather the car’s electrical system.
If the battery dies, it will need to be replaced – most of the time at the expense of the owner.
If you’re worried about being left stranded you could always take a spare battery with you in case of an emergency, although this is far from ideal.
When carried out correctly, a battery swap isrelatively quick, safe, and easy.
2. Windshield Cracking
According to Car Problem Zoo, the second most commonly reported problem on the Outback is windshield cracking – the windshields are prone to cracks and failures.
This is a well-known Subaru problem and is not exclusive to the Outback.
Owners have reported spontaneous cracks and chips in their windshields appearing seemingly out of nowhere.
Others report the tiniest stone chip or falling acorn causes the glass to crack.
The crack usually starts out small and then keeps getting bigger and bigger.
Another issue with this is Subaru has been reluctant to fix this under warranty.
This problem is most common on model years from 2017 and onward and there have been numerous complaints about this even for 2022 models.
Here’s one owner’s account that is similar to what many Subaru owners have experienced:
“I drove to work, parked my car and 10 hours later came out and there was a crack in the windshield. Nothing hit my window on the drive to work. I park my car in a gated lot with cameras. It is a smooth cut from the edge of the window and goes across just past the halfway mark.”
If your windshield cracks the only solution is to have it replaced asap.
You should really push to have this covered under warranty, always ask to speak to senior management if you feel like you’re not getting anywhere with the person your dealing with.
3. Excessive Oil Consumption
According to Car Complaints, another site dedicated to customer feedback, the worst problem of the Subaru Outback is excessive oil consumption.
This problem was mostly linked to 2013 Outbacks although the problem was reported on 2014 and 2015 models.
According to Car Complaints, this problem typically occurs around the 50K miles mark and has a repair cost of around $1600.
Excessive oil consumption has left owners having to top off their oil reserves multiple times between every 5,000 miles oil change.
Some owners have even reported having to add a quart of oil every 500 or so miles.
High oil consumption on an Outback will require an engine replacement or at the very least major engine work.
Outside of the warranty period this can be very expensive.
There doesn’t seem to be a recall for this issue, although it’s best to run your vehicle’s VIN on the NHTSA website to see if you have been affected by a recall.
4. Transmission Failure
There have been a number of complaints from Subaru Outback owners who have experienced premature failure of the transmission.
This problem was most prevalent on 2013 models although it has also been reported on 2010, 2011 and 2012 Subaru Outbacks.
Transmissions should usually last upwards of 200,000 miles however owners were reporting failure in the 100k mile region with a typical repair cost of around $8,000.
After doing some digging it seems Subaru actually extended the warranty period on some Outback models due to known transmission problems.
If the transmission fails this will need to be replaced, which can be very expensive.
If you have experienced transmission failure and the vehicle is within the warranty period you should speak to your Subaru dealer as it should be covered.
5. Vibration or Shudder on Acceleration
According to Repair Pal, the most common problem for Outback owners is due to shuddering and vibrations that are most noticeable when accelerating.
This problem has been reported on 18 model years in total, from 2000 to 2018,
This problem has been linked to a faulty torque converter, which often occurs due to excessive friction.
As well as shuddering and vibrating you may also notice a whining sound, even when the car is in park.
You could hear a variety of noises if your torque converter has gone bad, including whining and even when the car is in park.
Here’s what one unhappy owner had to say:
“Shuddering when coming to a stop, backing up, or accelerating above 2000rpm from slower speeds. Replaced torque convertor for $1200. Mileage is now at 125k and the problem is happening again. If this costs more than $500 to fix this time we’re scrapping the Subaru and going back to CR-V!!”
If the transmission torque converter is the culprit, then this part will need to be replaced.
6. Airbag Problems
Throughout its history the Outback has has some problems with its airbags.
The most notable issue was the infamous Takata airbag recall which affected just under half a million Subaru vehicles in total.
The problem was with the airbag inflators which were at risk of exploding causing severe injury or death.
This recall affected Subaru Outback model years from 2003 – 2014.
Subaru dealers will fix this free of charge.
To see if your Subaru has been recalled, you can run a VIN check on the NHTSA website or use Subaru’s VIN lookup tool.
7. Head Gasket Failure
There have been numerous reports from Outback owners who have experienced engine cooling issues which were due to a failed head gasket.
This problem has been reported on model year from 2018 to 2000 and typically occurs at a milage of about 100,000 miles.
Thehead gasketserves as a seal between the engine block and cylinder head thereby stopping engine fluid leaks and pressure losses.
Here are the most common symptoms of a blown head gasket:
- Car overheats
- Loss of power
- Oily smell
- White smoke
If the head gasket is blown it will need to be replaced – the head gasket itself is not overly expensive, but replacing it is very labor-intensive, which significantly bumps up the cost of repair.
8. Frozen Infotainment System
Although not as widespread as some of the previously mentioned problems, enough Outback owners have complained about a blanked touchscreen that we thought it was worth mentioning.
Owners have reported that the screen goes dark whilst driving.
Here’s what one owner had to say:
“The Infotainment System display in my 2020 Outback Limited XT periodically just goes dark (blank). This happens mostly when I’m driving using my GPS and plugged into my iPhone. When you’re driving in an area that you are not familiar with and the screen goes blank, you are pretty much driving blind. Also, the audio goes off on the radio too.”
Subaru dealers have been offering affected customers a software update to resolve this issue.
Subaru Outback Model Years With the Most Problems
To get a better idea of which Subaru Outback has the most problems the fairest way is to compare models based on the number of vehicles sold in relation to the number of reported problems.
We’re using Car Complaints PPMY index which means problems reported per thousand vehicles per Year.
For example, newer cars will have fewer complaints simply because they’ve been around for less time.
Based on this index, the most problematic years are:
- 2020 – 2.38 PPMY
- 2021 – 1.32 PPMY
- 2019 – 1.31 PPMY
And the least problematic years are:
- 2005 – 0.24 PPMY
- 2007, 2014 – 0.25 PPMY
- 2009 – 0.26 PPMY
|Problems||Sales||Vehicle Age||PPMY Index|
Source: Car Problem Zoo
Subaru Outback Pros and Cons
If you’re considering a Subaru Outback as your next car you might be wondering what its strengths and weaknesses are…
- Better ground clearance than the average wagon
- Lots of cargo space
- Good range of tech features
- Great for the outdoor types
- Comfortable ride
- Not the most fun to drive
- Base engine a bit sluggish
- Uninspiring driving dynamics
Subaru Outback Reliability Compared to Similar Cars
Consumer Reports rankings detailed below is based on the model’s newest three years, the Subaru Outback sits at the top of the list, with a perfect score of 100/100.
|Make & Model||Consumer Reports|
|Lexus RX L||76|
|Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport||41|
|Jeep Grand Cherokee L||35|
|Hyundai Santa Fe||26|
|Land Rover Defender||25|
|Land Rover Discovery||25|
|Land Rover Range Rover Sport||25|
|Tesla Model X||5|
Source: Consumer Reports
Subaru Outback Used Value
We’ve taken a look on Car Gurus to gauge the resale value of a Subaru Outback, below are typical asking prices for each model year.
According to Car Edge, a Subaru Outback will depreciate 24% after 5 years and have a 5 year resale value of $29,212.
Note: Used model prices will vary depending on trim level.
|Model Year||Mileage (miles)||Resale Price|
Source: Car Gurus
What Do Owners Like and Dislike About the Subaru Outback?
Based on owner feedback from the Kelley Blue Book site here are what real-life owners love and hate about the Subaru Outback.
- Fun to drive on the road
- Fun to drive off-road
- Design and style
- Seat comfort
- Decent gas mileage
- Overall value
- AWD option
- Speaker system
- Engine start/stop
- Underperforming dashboard electronics
- Awful GPS
- Some annoying features
“Did a lot of research when we needed to trade our civic for a better car. Needed good rear legroom, heated rear seats, and adaptive headlights. With the touring trim, you also get a hands-free liftgate, napa leather, and air-conditioned front seats. With the turbo, it is just as quick as any other car, and never have to worry about power.”
Source: Kelley Blue Book
“Comfortable and economical to drive. I would recommend this vehicle to my family and friends for their use.”
Source: Kelley Blue Book
“We looked at a number of smaller SUVs before settling on the Outback. The main thing pushing to the Outback versus others (CR-V was the other finalist) was the superior all-wheel-drive system and the ability to tow…”
“There are many things I love about the car including the look, comfort, quality of the materials, 4WD with great gas mileage, integrated crossbars and how safe you feel when driving in bad weather. I really do love my car, however there are some significant enough problems with the safety systems that would keep me from recommending it. The most serious issue is the emergency braking system can deploy when it should not. The main problem is that if the car detects another car directly in front of you, the system will sometimes deploy even if the vehicle is not in the same lane as you. I’ve had my car for about 18,000 miles and the braking system has deployed at least a dozen times incorrectly”
Source: Kelley Blue Book
How Reliable Are Subaru Cars?
According to a recent report from Consumer Reports, Subaru are ranked the 7th most reliable car manufacturer out of 28 brands, with a score of 66/100.
Source: Consumer Reports
Do Subaru Outbacks have engine problems? ›
According to CarComplaints.com, the Outback's worst problems are excessive oil consumption, transmission failure, and a fragile windshield. CarComplaints claims that the 2013 model year is the worst model because of engine issues. After 2018 the number of Subaru Outback complaints consistently decreased.What is the most common problem with Subarus? ›
Transmission issues are the most common problem in Subarus, but defective airbags, faulty fuel pumps, weak windshield, and electrical issues are also known to happen. Subaru has long had a reputation for manufacturing extremely reliable vehicles—and that reputation is certainly well earned.Which Outback engine is best? ›
If I decide on an Outback, which one should I buy? The standard 2.5-liter engine is adequate for daily use, but if you're looking to have a bit of fun in the Outback, the turbocharged 2.4-liter engine is the best choice. It's a closer match to the standard V6 options offered among rivals.Which year Subaru Outback is the most reliable? ›
2019 is one of the best used Subaru Outback SUV years
The reliability and owner satisfaction scores were both above-average. Areas that are reliability trouble spots for some vehicles, such as the engine, transmission, and drive system, all received high marks as well.
The Subaru Outback is a reliable, durable vehicle that can last between 250,000 to 300,000 miles when properly maintained and driven conservatively. Based on an annual mileage of 15,000 miles a year, this equates to 16 – 20 years of service before requiring expensive repairs or breaking down.Which Subaru Outbacks have head gasket problems? ›
Subaru Head Gasket Problem Years – First Round
The first group is specific to the 1st gen EJ25D 2.5 liter engine found mainly in the Legacy, Legacy Outback, Forester and the Impreza from 1996 to 1999. These engines suffered from internal head gasket leaks.
Subaru timing belts need to be replaced after seven years or 105,000 miles; whichever comes first.Does Subaru have engine problems? ›
Engine Oil Leaks Due to Faulty Head Gasket
One of the most common engine issues Subaru owners have dealt with has to do with faulty head gaskets. The issues spanned across a few models for a period of about five years. There were two rounds of head gasket problems.
With major redesigns leading to extensive safety recalls for multiple models, 2009 and 2013 are the top two Subaru years to avoid. The Subaru name is synonymous with reliability, robust performance, and the love that goes into each car.Why do Subaru engines fail? ›
Why Subaru Engines FAIL - YouTube
What is the most reliable Subaru model? ›
The Subaru Outback and Subaru Forester rank highly for long-term reliability, and the brand scores above average for value retention."Is the Subaru 2.5 turbo a good engine? ›
A modern Subaru 2.5L engine should have no problem lasting over 200,000 miles as long as you take care of it. There are plenty of 2.5L engines that have lasted over 300,000 miles as well when owners have done the regular maintenance on them such as oil changes, spark plug changes, and coolant changes.Does the 2.5 Outback have enough power? ›
"The Outback's standard 2.5-liter flat-4, with 182 horsepower, provides satisfactory acceleration, even when there's a pair of passengers in back." "Our test vehicle, an Outback Limited with the base four-cylinder engine, accelerated from 0 to 60 mph in 8.8 seconds.Does the 4 cylinder Subaru Outback have enough power? ›
The Outback's base engine is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that puts out 175 horsepower. It has ample power for day-to-day driving but feels weak if you have a lot of people or cargo with you. The available 3.6-liter six-cylinder puts out 256 horsepower and feels stronger than the base engine.Is Subaru Outback a reliable car? ›
Subaru Outback Reliability Rating Breakdown. The Subaru Outback Reliability Rating is 3.5 out of 5.0, which ranks it 10th out of 26 for midsize SUVs. The average annual repair cost is $607 which means it has average ownership costs.Is Subaru Outback fuel efficient? ›
The Subaru Outback - The famous Subaru Outback offers up to 26 MPG city and up to 33 MPG highway with its all-wheel-drive powertrain.Are Subaru Outbacks easy to work on? ›
Subarus are moderately easy to work on. Repairs such as alternators, radiators, and batteries are very easy and straightforward. However, repairs such as spark plugs, head gaskets, and any sort of internal engine work would prove to be difficult and more challenging.What percentage of Subarus are still on the road after 20 years? ›
According to Subaru, 97% of vehicles sold in the last decade are still on the road today. The Subaru has maintained its reputation as a long-lasting vehicle.Do Subarus last as long as Toyotas? ›
Overall, Toyotas are more reliable than Subarus. They have consistently won more distinctions and awards across all models and have higher scores with both Consumer Reports and J.D. Power.How long do Subaru CVT transmissions last? ›
Many Subaru consumers have experienced issues with their CVT transmission and would not give it a thumbs up for reliability, but the issues associated with Subaru's CVT seem to be isolated to a span of about five years.
What year did Subaru stop having head gasket problems? ›
After 2009, newer models using the EL25 2.5-liter engine should have far fewer head gasket problems because Subaru started using a multi-layered steel cylinder-head gasket. Starting in 2012, reports say the Japanese automaker redesigned the 2.5-liter engine in the Forester and Outback and has fixed the problem.How much does it cost to replace a head gasket on a Subaru Outback? ›
A head gasket repair cost averages roughly between $1,600 and $2,000. This amount breaks down to: Parts costing around $700 – $800.What Subaru years have head gasket problems? ›
A number of Subaru models are affected, however the most common failures include the 2.5 Liter SOHC engine used in the late 1999-2004, Forester, Impreza, Outback and Legacy. Signs and symptoms of engine head gasket failure include: Engine overheating.How much does it cost to change a timing belt on a Subaru Outback? ›
Belts themselves aren't that expensive. The real cost is in the labor, because a lot of parts need to be disassembled to get to the belt. Shopping around to get a few quotes is your best bet to get the best deal, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $409 to $919 (including parts and labor).What happens if a timing belt breaks on a Subaru? ›
Subaru engines in particular are interference engines meaning that if the timing belt breaks, the valves and pistons may collide and cause serious damage to these components. When this happens the repair can cost thousand dollars and in a worst case scenario, a new engine may be required.How do I know if my Subaru timing belt is bad? ›
- Recommended Maintenance Interval Reached.
- Engine Ticking Noise (Engine Knock) ...
- Engine Stalls And May Not Start. ...
- Engine Misfiring. The role of the timing belt is to synchronize the engine's moving valves and pistons. ...
Most Subaru engines can be expected to last through 200,000 miles before needing significant maintenance or repairs. Forbes recently listed the Subaru Forester as one of the ten most likely models to run over 250,000 miles.Why do Subarus burn oil? ›
Are Subaru models oil guzzlers? Mechanics Direct recognizes a few reasons a car might consume more oil than normal. There can be a problem with gaskets and seals that lead to leaks or worn piston rings that allow excess oil to seep into the chamber.What is the latest recall on Subaru? ›
Subaru Fuel Pump Recall
(Subaru) is recalling certain 2019-2020 Ascent, 2018 Forester, 2018-2020 Impreza, Legacy, Outback, 2018-2019 BRZ, WRX, and Toyota 86 vehicles. The low-pressure fuel pump inside the fuel tank may fail. Fuel pump failure can cause an engine stall while driving, increasing the risk of a crash.
The worst model years of the Outback are 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2011, 2006, and 2005. This is based on auto industry reviews, NHTSA statistics, reported problems, and consumer feedback.
Which Subaru is best in snow? ›
In a recent iSeeCars report, Subaru was among the best brands for driving in snow, with the 2022 Outback ranked number one, and 2022 Forester number three in the SUV category. The 2022 Impreza and 2022 Legacy were the highest-ranked in the non-luxury category.What is the most popular Subaru model? ›
1 – Subaru Outback
Outback also outsold Forester for the second-consecutive year to be the Subaru brand's best-selling model, and having received a refresh for 2018 model year, the Outback's trajectory seems likely to continue upward over the next 12 months.
A scheduled overhaul is almost always less expensive than a new engine. Rebuilding to repair is usually cheaper than buying a new engine, too. You may save up to half of the cost of a new engine by rebuilding. However, sometimes rebuilding is not a good option.What is so special about Subaru engine? ›
The horizontally-opposed piston displacement allows for a balanced performance that delivers a smooth and shudder-free feel. The length of each piston firing is shorter than traditional vertical or v-shaped engines, producing greater fuel economy and better response time.How do I know if my Subaru head gasket is blown? ›
- Milky Engine Oil.
- Overheating Engine. ...
- Bubbles in the Radiator. ...
- White Exhaust Smoke. ...
- Blue Exhaust Smoke. ...
- Cylinder Misfire. ...
- Low Coolant. If the coolant in your vehicle is lower than it should be, a head gasket may be the culprit. ...
The Outback is built at Subaru's Lafayette, Ind., manufacturing facility.Is Subaru owned by Toyota? ›
Toyota Motor Corp.
owns Lexus and Toyota. And it has a stake in Subaru and Suzuki.
Subaru is more reliable than most car brands out there right off the bat. According to RepairPal, the Subaru brand has an overall reliability rating of 3. ⁄5 and ranks 14th out of 32 car brands. The average annual repair cost is $617, which is slightly better than $652 across all models.Is the Subaru Outback a reliable car? ›
We expect the 2022 Outback will have about average reliability when compared to the average new car. This prediction is based on data from 2020, 2021 and 2022 models. Select the used car model year to see reported issues with those similar past models.What year Subarus have transmission problems? ›
What years did Subaru have transmission problems? Most of Subaru's transmission problems were between 2012 and 2017.
Do Subaru Outbacks have transmission problems? ›
Subaru is known for making high-quality SUVs and cars that are safe, reliable, and practical. But even beloved brands like Subaru face safety recalls. Recently, the automaker issued a recall for over 200,000 Outback, Ascent, and Legacy models for potential transmission problems.Are there any recalls on Subaru Outbacks? ›
Subaru Recalls 2019-2020 Ascent, 2020 Legacy and Outback
(Subaru) is recalling certain 2019-2020 Ascent, 2020 Legacy and Outback vehicles. A programming error in the Transmission Control Unit (TCU) may allow the clutch to engage before the drive chain is completely clamped.
Subaru timing belts need to be replaced after seven years or 105,000 miles; whichever comes first.What percentage of Subarus are still on the road after 20 years? ›
According to Subaru, 97% of vehicles sold in the last decade are still on the road today. The Subaru has maintained its reputation as a long-lasting vehicle.How long do Subaru 2.5 engines last? ›
Generally speaking, a Subaru 2.5 engine has the ability to run between 250,000 and 300,000 miles before needing any kind of significant auto maintenance or repair. Since most drivers average around 14,000 miles per year, this would mean that a Subaru 2.5 engine could conceivably run for over two decades.How long will a Subaru Outback CVT transmission last? ›
There is a fair chance your Subaru CVT will last well beyond 60,000 miles as long as you stick to the factory-recommended maintenance schedule and take care not to overfill your transmission fluid.What does a failing Subaru transmission sound like? ›
Sounds That Indicate Your Subaru Transmission Is Failing
You'll hear a distinct humming noise coming from under the hood of your Subaru vehicle. These sounds could also resemble a clunking or whining. When you hear these sounds, the best thing you can do is pull over and contact your authorized Subaru dealer.
- Stalling Or Sluggish Acceleration. Some Subaru owners with faulty CVTs have reported that their cars would stall completely while driving. ...
- Shuddering And Vibrations. ...
- Transmission Fluid Leaking. ...
- Odd Noises.
A Subaru Outback transmission replacement can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $4,000. Grinding noises when switching gears is definitely a sign that something is going on with your transmission, so you'll want to take it to a mechanic soon.Is there a class action lawsuit against Subaru? ›
Lawsuit alleges Subaru Forester, Legacy and Outback vehicles in California have defects that cause sudden unintended acceleration problems. Included in the California class action lawsuit are the 2015-2019 Subaru Legacy, 2012-2018 Subaru Forester and 2015-2019 Subaru Outback which allegedly have software problems.
How often should Subaru CVT transmission fluid be changed? ›
As mentioned earlier, according to the owner's manual, a Subaru should have its CVT fluid inspected every 30,000 miles. Eventually, the CVT fluid will need to be flushed and replaced, but it can last up to 100,000 miles before it goes bad.Is there a recall on Subaru engines? ›
Subaru Recalls More Than 165,000 Cars and SUVs to Fix Stalling Engines. Ascent, Forester, Impreza, Outback, other vehicles are included. A faulty fuel pump is the cause.Does Subaru fix recalls for free? ›
By law, all vehicle owners and lessees are entitled to have their recall repaired at no cost to you. The price to fix the vehicle will always be 100% covered by Subaru and will cost you nothing but the time it takes for the repair.Why are Subarus being recalled? ›
Other Subaru recalls
In January 2022, the company issued a recall for 198,255 Ascent and Outback SUVs due to a malfunctioning transmission. In May 2021, Subaru recalled 446,205 Impreza and Crosstrek vehicles over a problem with the engine control module or ECM.