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If you want to buy a dependable SUV that’s also good for hauling, the Subaru Outback is a good choice. It’s a reliable and practical vehicle, with below average maintenance cost. It also has good resale value according to It depreciates 24% after five years, which is pretty slow compared to other Subaru models.

Are Subaru Outbacks Reliable?

The Outback scored well on reliability ratings, getting 3.5 out of 5.0 on RepairPal. It also ranked 14th out of 32 vehicles in the same category. Subaru is known for its long-lasting vehicles, and the Outback is one of the most popular members of its high-mileage club. It can easily go over 200,000 miles, as long as you maintain it regularly and follow its service schedule.

subaru outback
Subaru is known for its long-lasting vehicles, and the Outback is one of the most popular members of its high-mileage club.

Top Subaru Outback Problems

The Subaru Outback is reliable, but some model years have common problems. Here are the most reported problems for different Outback models:

Weak Windshields

The 2018 Subaru Outback is known to have weak windshields, with some owners reporting that these would suddenly crack. This may be triggered by light debris, or the cracks may spontaneously appear. Owners added that this part would crack multiple times over the span of a few months. Repairs usually cost $600 to $800.

Cooling System Failure

According to reports, the 2000-2018 Subaru Outback is prone to overheating problems due to cooling system failure. The most common causes include coolant leaks, a faulty radiator, or a broken thermostat. If not addressed immediately, this can damage the head gasket. Outback owners have reported that this usually happens at around 100,000 miles. Subaru is aware of this defect, and it has extended its warranty to 8 years/100,000 miles to accommodate necessary repairs and replacements.

Shudders When Accelerating

The most reported issue for the Subaru Outback is a notable shudder whenever the vehicle is accelerating, commonly experienced with the 2000-2017 model years. Many owners have reported that this would usually happen at 110,000 miles or more. However, it may also show up at 2,000 miles. The part suspected of causing the shudder is the transmission torque converter, which may need to be repaired or replaced.

Oxygen Sensor Failure

A frequent issue found in the 2000-2015 Subaru Outback is an inadequate oxygen sensor, which has a front element that cracks and fails. This may cause the check engine light to turn on. This usually happens at around 145,000 miles, but it can also show up on some units at around 5,700 miles. Approximately 145,000 units were recalled for sensor replacement under the service program number WXW-80.

Excessive Oil Consumption Due to Leaks

Another notable problem, specifically with the 2013 Subaru Outback, is its excessive oil consumption. Some owners, including those who bought a used Outback, have noticed that their SUVs burn up a lot of oil, which requires them to bring extra oil whenever they’re on the road. This issue is caused by defective piston rings that make oil leak and burn at a significantly faster rate. Owners have reported that this usually happens at around 45,800 miles. You can do an oil consumption test at your dealer to check whether or not your Outback has this issue. However, using the warranty for repairs may be subject to eligibility.

Some have found a way to resolve the problem by replacing their oil rings, but extreme cases may require an engine rebuild. The cost of repairs and replacement may exceed $1,500, depending on part and labor.

Older models of the Outback are also reported to leak oil at around 130,000 miles due to a bad camshaft seal or camshaft front seal. These seals are usually replaced along with the timing belt service, so it may be wise to get them all changed at the same time.

Frequent Headlight Burnout

Many vehicle owners have encountered headlight problems with the 2011 Subaru Outback. Some have reported that their headlights burn out every four to six months, averaging over $100 in replacement costs. According to reports, this would usually happen at around 80,000 miles. However, Subaru has released a technical service bulletin (TSB) extending the warranty on headlight bulbs to 10 years/unlimited miles, covering only low-beam halogen bulbs on select units of the 2010-2012 Subaru Outback.

2011 subaru outback
Many vehicle owners have encountered headlight problems with the 2011 Subaru Outback. Image source: Carbuzz

Faulty Airbags

Faulty airbags are one of the most common problems of the 2010 Subaru Outback. Subaru announced a recall in January 2020 for some units for inadequate front passenger airbag inflators. According to the recall, these may explode due to worn-out propellants, caused by long-term exposure to changing temperatures and excessive humidity. Fragments of the explosion may hit and injure the driver or passengers. Owners have been advised to take their SUVs to the nearest dealer for a free airbag inflator replacement.

Transmission Defects

The 2004 Subaru Outback is known for transmission problems. Some owners have reported high-pitched noises and clutch damage. Extreme cases may cause the vehicle to crash because the transmission can suddenly slip, while parked with the engine on. Subaru released a TSB saying that transmission issues may be caused by damage on the extension housing area.

According to the TSB, this happens due to changing temperatures, causing the housing to shrink and expand. It also indicated that the preload on the transfer shaft bearings may be affected, which can also damage the bearings.

Subaru also recalled some units of the Outback in 2002 due to a bad transmission parking rod. According to the recall, the parking mechanism may not activate even if the transmission selector lever is placed in park position. This could be dangerous, since it can cause the vehicle to unexpectedly roll or move, which can cause crashes or collisions. If your SUV is part of the recall, your dealer will replace the transmission parking rod assembly.

As long as you’re aware of the potential problems with the specific Subaru Outback you’re planning to buy, choosing this SUV should come with little risk. If you’re looking at buying a used Outback, research the most common issues with the model that interests you, and make sure the seller has cleared everything before buying your SUV.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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Has anyone had success in getting Subaru to extend the warranty on a 2018 outback? we bought one used with less than 50K miles but it’s 1 month past the 5 year warranty.

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