Are Subarus Reliable? A Complete Breakdown

in Ownership
Subaru Outback

Source: Pixabay

From TV commercials to real life, Subarus is the go-to vehicle for outdoor enthusiasts. Many folks say the popular Subaru Outback and Forester make a solid case for outdoor vehicle supremacy. As a popular option for braving the great outdoors, it’s easy to think that they’re reliable vehicles.

But we all know why you came here, you’re asking the question: are Subarus reliable?

We’re going to take this chance to check out the reliability ratings and reputation of the Subaru brand. Plus, we’re going to take a look at its most common problems and the most reliable and least reliable models.


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How Reliable is the Subaru Brand?

Despite having a history of solid reliability and customer satisfaction ratings, the Japanese car manufacturer Subaru has experienced a lot of ups and downs over the past years. So if you’re having concerns about the reliability of Subaru, that’s more than justified because some models have dragged down the company’s overall reliability scores.

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 3.55 and ranks 14th out of 32 car brands. The average annual repair cost is $617, which is slightly better than $652 across all models.

On average, Subaru owners visit the repair shop 0.3 times per year for unscheduled repairs, compared to 0.4 times across all models. For the severity of the repairs, 13% of Subaru shop repairs are deemed severe, which is slightly higher than 12% for major issues on all models.

According to the Subaru page by Car Complaints, the two models with the most complaints are the Forester and Outback. However, that doesn’t mean they’re the most unreliable Subarus available. On the contrary, both lineups have produced some of the most reliable models from Subaru. The number of complaints isn’t surprising because they’re two of the most popular Subaru vehicles.

On the other hand, if a model hurts Subaru’s overall reliability rating, it’s the new three-row SUV, Ascent. By itself, Ascent looks to be a fantastic SUV with plenty of good reviews from both experts and customers. However, it has several trouble spots such as transmission, a climate system, power equipment, and in-car electronics.


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What are the Common Subaru Problems?

Are Subarus reliable? It’s difficult to answer that question without evaluating its most common problem areas.

Excessive Oil Consumption

Subaru owners have consistently reported that their vehicles have unusually high oil consumption. Although there was no recall about this particular issue, a class-action lawsuit has been filed claiming that models like the Outback, Impreza, and Forester consume high amounts of oil despite normal usage.

The vehicles that are affected are Forester (2011-2014), Outback (2013), and Impreza (2012, 2013).

Faulty Infotainment System

Car manufacturers are always trying to get ahead of the curve by implementing the most sophisticated infotainment/in-car electronic systems - Subaru is no exception. Unfortunately, software problems are pretty common with Subaru’s infotainment system, Starlink.

Some of the most common issues with Subaru’s infotainment system are:

  • Backup camera freezing or shutting down
  • Total system lockup and error messages
  • Unresponsive touchscreen
  • Spotty connectivity features (i.e., Bluetooth)
  • Display goes blank

The affected vehicles are Outback (2018), Legacy (2018), Crosstrek (2018), Impreza (2017, 2018).

Faulty Head Gaskets

The faulty head gasket is one of the most common problems of Subaru and was quite damaging due to engine oil leaks. The faulty head gaskets suffered from leaks between the cylinder head and engine block, causing the oil or coolant to leak. This defect was widespread and lasted for about five years and two rounds.

Apparently, the coating used for the head gaskets succumbed to wear and tear at 100,000 miles. The problem was so bad that Subaru was forced to extend its powertrain warranty.


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What are the Most Reliable Subarus?

Are Subarus reliable? Below are a few models that you can’t go wrong concerning reliability.

2019 Subaru Outback

The 2019 Outback is a terrific outdoor companion, thanks to its standard all-wheel drive, high safety ratings, and stellar reliability. Subaru did a great job addressing the potential trouble spots like the engine, transmission, and suspension. Consumer Reports rated the 2019 Outback with a 5 out of 5 predicted reliability rating.

The 2019 Outback does have a few problems concerning the in-car electronics system and body integrity. However, those issues don’t take anything away from the excellent experience the 2019 Outback can offer.

2020 Subaru Forester

The famous compact SUV Forest is known for its versatility and reliability. The 2020 Forester is perhaps the best model this lineup has to offer. The 2020 Forester gets our highest recommendation if you’re looking for a reliable compact SUV, from the roomy interior to the top-notch safety features to the rugged body construction.

The 2020 Forester is so good; Consumer Reports gave it a 5 out of 5 rating for reliability and customer satisfaction. Sure, it’s not precisely powerful or visually striking, but the Forester is best in value if you’re looking for reliability.

2021 Subaru Crosstrek

Subaru’s smallest crossover SUV, the Crosstrek, continues to be a best-seller – next to its more famous siblings, the Outback and Forester. If you want a less bulky SUV with the signature Subaru ruggedness, the 2021 Crosstrek is an excellent choice.

The 2021 Crosstrek features an AWD standard drivetrain, impressive safety technology, excellent off-road capabilities, and, best of all, an affordable price tag. The 2021 model year has received a slight power bump, but it still pales compared to the Mazda CX-30.

Reliability-wise, the 2021 Crosstrek was given an overall rating of 81100 by J.D. Power, with a slightly lower 77100 in reliability. Also, there have been no Crosstrek recalls in the past two years.

What are the Least Reliable Subarus?

Are Subarus reliable? You better keep an eye out for these Subaru models that have some reliability issues.

2012 Subaru Impreza

The 2012 Impreza was one of the worst years for this Subaru sedan. It had many different problems, but the biggest one is undoubtedly the sudden unintended acceleration issue.

Several reports claimed that the vehicle went off while idling or when the brake pedal was depressed. Several reports said they had too many close calls, while some resulted in road accidents. It’s an awful issue that puts everyone inside the car at risk.

If you’re buying a used Impreza, avoid the 2012 version.

2021 Subaru Ascent

On paper, the 2021 Ascent looks like a solid midsize SUV, but it has some glaring reliability issues that are hard to overlook. According to Consumer Reports, despite having high scores in the road test, the 2021 Ascent has predicted reliability of 1 out of 5.

The low-reliability rating can be attributed to numerous factors like transmission, power equipment, in-car electronics, and climate system. Overall, the 2021 Ascent has excellent road manners with a rock-solid engine, but it’s slightly held back by its reliability problems.


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2021 Subaru WRX

The rally car-inspired Subaru WRX drives like a dream - it offers excellent traction, steering, and practicality. However, a lot is going for it as far as reliability is concerned. Consumer Reports gave the new 2021 Subaru WRX a predicted reliability rating of 2 out of 5, which is low for a brand-new model.

As expected, it fared well in the driving test with a 75100 rating; the 2021 WRX failed to address many of the problems that were present in previous iterations, such as the bad clutch plate. Although it has a compelling powertrain, the 2021 WRX could not deliver in terms of comfort and features.

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