Subaru Outback: Avoid These Years for a Smooth Ride

Subaru Outback

The Subaru Outback, one of America’s favorite SUVs, has been delighting adventure seekers for over two decades. Combining the drive of a car with excellent fuel economy and ample space for outdoor enthusiasts, it’s a reliable companion for any journey. While Subaru has many dependable models, there are certain years of the Subaru Outback to avoid when buying preowned. Let’s delve into the details.

The Unfortunate Year to Steer Clear Of

Unlike some other brands, the Subaru Outback has only one problematic year that buyers should be cautious about: 2013. If you’re considering a preowned Outback, it’s best to skip this particular model, and here’s why.

The 2014 Lawsuit

In 2014, Subaru faced a lawsuit due to reports of excessive oil consumption in their 2011-2013 models. A defective piston ring caused oil leaks and excessive burning, leading to engine failure. Some owners even received misguided information from service professionals, claiming the Subaru used less oil than it actually did. The lawsuit concluded in 2016, with Subaru compensating affected owners for the damages caused by faulty pistons.

The Oil Issue of the 2013 Outback

Oil plays a crucial role in a vehicle’s performance, keeping everything running smoothly and ensuring proper lubrication. Unfortunately, the 2013 Subaru Outback had faulty piston rings that allowed oil to leak into the combustion chamber instead of reaching its intended destination. As a result, oil settled in unwanted areas, forming carbon deposits and necessitating more frequent oil changes, sometimes as often as every 2000 miles.

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The Best Years for the Subaru Outback

Despite the years to avoid, there are several highly successful Subaru Outback models worth considering. Here are the top picks:

2005 to 2009 Subaru Outback

The years from 2005 to 2009 witnessed significant improvements in the Outback’s performance. Subaru introduced the turbocharged XT model, flaunting a powerful 2.5L engine with 250 horsepower. The brand also incorporated slight changes to the body style, creating a more compact SUV to meet the rising demand for crossovers.

1994 to 1999 Subaru Outback

While these might seem like distant memories, the 1994 to 1999 Subaru Outback models were the glory years for this vehicle. With a simple exterior design and reliable specifications, the Outback gained popularity and started appearing in driveways nationwide.

Today’s Subaru Outback

Comparing the 90s version to the recent 2020 model and beyond, it’s easy to spot the evolution of the Subaru Outback. The 2020 Outback boasts a larger size, advanced technological features, and enhanced safety measures both inside and out. Equipped with a 2.4L four-cylinder engine, it generates 260 horsepower. Notably, the current generation no longer offers an optional 6-cylinder engine.

Common Subaru Outback Issues

While the Subaru Outback is generally reliable, there are a few common issues reported by drivers. These concerns, however, are not substantial enough to warrant recalls or tarnish the brand’s reputation. Here are some of the reported problems:


Approximately 280+ individuals reported experiencing intense vibrations during acceleration in their Subaru Outbacks.

AC System

The cooling system in some Outback models faced issues, particularly after surpassing 100,000 miles.

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O2 Sensor

A significant number of owners reported problems with the front O2 sensor, despite it not being a prevalent issue across all models and years.

Weak Windshields

Owners of 2017-2019 Outback models expressed disappointment with their vehicle’s fragile windshields, prone to cracking even with minimal debris contact. This issue led to a class action lawsuit due to safety concerns.

Failure of the Cooling System

Owners of Subaru Outbacks from the years 2000 to 2018 encountered overheating problems, often caused by a faulty cooling system. If left unaddressed, this issue could lead to more severe damage, such as a damaged head gasket.

Headlight Burnouts

A number of Outback owners reported premature burnouts of their headlights, requiring frequent replacements.

Excessive Oil Consumption

Certain Outback models, especially those from 2010 to 2012 with the 3.6-liter 6-cylinder engine, experienced excessive oil consumption due to leaks. This issue resulted from defective piston rings and could lead to costly repairs.

Unintended Acceleration

Reports emerged that sixth-generation Outback models (2015-2019) were prone to unintended acceleration, posing significant safety risks.

The Takeaway: Subaru Outback Years to Avoid

In general, the Subaru Outback is a reliable car with an excellent reputation, having faced only one major recall in its history. While the 2013 model should be avoided, the rest of the years offer great cars, even with high mileage. Notably, the 2005-2009 models have been particularly successful with fewer reported problems.

If you’re searching for a pre-owned Subaru Outback without the hassle, let CoPilot assist you. We’ll find the best matches in your area, making the car shopping process a breeze.

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Please note that prices and availability are subject to change. Always consult with dealerships for the most up-to-date information.

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