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Here Are The Subaru Forester Years To Avoid

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Subaru Forester in the grass

Source: Pixabay

Subaru introduced the Forester in 1997, a crossover loosely based on the Impreza. The Forester’s boxy appearance and rough style would become synonymous with the vehicle, and its low shape sets it apart from its competitors.

The new Subaru Forester sat comfortably between the Impreza and the Legacy when it was first released. While a trendy brand with some of the most loyal drivers, it still has prevalent issues. What are some Forester model years to avoid?

Short Answer: 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2010, 2011, 2014

This may seem like many Forester model years to avoid, but there is a good reason for each. Conventional thinking is to avoid redesign years so the updated models have time to work out their issues, and those redesigned years are 2002, 2008, 2014, and 2019. But in reality, the only redesign model with significant issues was 2014. The others are mainly first and second generations, with some outliers that had too many problems.


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Forester Model Years To Avoid: First Generation 1998-2001

The Foresters from 2001 and before had the most significant gasket head problems, with the 1998 being the worst of the first-generation models. The problem was caused by a single-layer head gasket that was too weak. Head gasket leaking was a concern with virtually all of the Foresters from this period and usually came up around 50,000 miles. New models can have their share of issues, so all things considered, this isn’t too bad but consistent enough that you may avoid all first-gen models.

Forester Model Year To Avoid: 2003


  • Door seal damage
  • Power window deficiency
  • Airbag Failure

The top Subaru Forester issues for this year are pretty basic and fixable problems: breaking door seals and wind noise from the window seal. The only effective remedy for this was essentially replacing the door; if you didn’t, you might also have issues with the power window not rolling up. Even at the reported 80,000-mile mark, this is a frustrating problem that shouldn’t impact drivers with today’s technology.

The airbag light going on and the airbag failing to deploy are two of the most common complaints from consumers about seatbelts and airbags. These issues generally occur at 60,000 miles and are rated as a 3.3 out of 10 severity. 2006 The primary difficulties with your Subaru Forester’s engine system include the head gasket failing, the car misfiring while accelerating, and the engine dying. Sudden loss of power decelerating.

Forester Model Year To Avoid: 2010


  • Head gaskets
  • Engine failure
  • Interior accessories

Blown head gaskets, engine failure, loud, cold starting, blown turbo engine, and the diesel filter warning light turning on during operation are the most common engine problems among 2010 Forester owners. At about 91,000 miles, the typical repair cost for blown head gaskets is $2,380 to replace the head gasket. The primary issues for the interior accessories are the compass not working, the driver’s seat collapsing, and the critical lock-in not working correctly.

The most common complaints about the 2010 Forester’s interior accessories include the seat collapsing, the hatch arm breaking, and the check engine signal on the dashboard while driving. At about 64,000 miles, installing a new seat is the only way to remedy the issue.


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Forester Model Year To Avoid: 2011


  • Fuel efficiency
  • Engine failure
  • Oil handling

Excessive oil consumption, engine failure, oil leaks, burnt oil odor, and unexpected acceleration are among the most common Subaru Forester engine issues for 2011. These issues were far more significant for the 2014 model but became significant problems for consumers this year. The most frequent treatment for high oil use is replacing the engine or adding oil, with the average repair costing about $1,640 and often occurring around 46,000 miles.

Forester Model Year To Avoid: 2014

If there is one specific Forester model to avoid, it’s the 2014. This was riddled with engine failure, excessive oil consumption, suspension breakdowns, and gearbox problems, making it one of the worst model years.


  • Suspension
  • Transmission
  • Electrical

While a lousy suspension is terrible, it’s even worse when combined with transmission problems. Broken coil springs were found at the core of most suspension issues for the 2014. The cost of replacing the springs, struts, and rear coil springs is about $1,200 on average and was common around just 50,000 miles.

The most common transmission problems are vehicle surging, a broken clutch, having the car roll backward when parked, and getting stuck in park. These were solved mainly by the manufacturer and dealers who were most accustomed to faulty problems. While they aren’t the costliest fixes, many more usually need attention whenever there’s one electrical issue. Throw in multiple electrical failures, blown fuses, and warning miscommunication lights, and the 2014 is at the top of the list for Forester model years to avoid.


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Forester Model Year To Avoid: 2015


  • Interior accessories
  • Fuel efficiency
  • Engine and transmission

Excessive oil consumption, unexpected acceleration, engine stalling while driving, the check engine light staying on, engine reluctance when accelerating, and the engine catching fire or malfunctioning are among the top engine issues expressed by 2015 Forester owners.

The interior accessories continue with the 2015 model year. Bluetooth connectivity was spotty, had difficulty functioning on command, and speech recognition had trouble picking up commands, especially while driving. While these two things don’t necessarily impact the actual driving capability of the car, the easiest solution was to replace the radio and replace it with a new one which typically would range between $150 and $250 to fix.

Another standard repeat for the Forester is with the engine and transmission. The 2015 model year had complaints of surging at low speeds and having the transmission failing, sliding, and suffering a delay when turning on the ignition.


Let’s look at every Forester generation and determine which years of the Subaru Forester are most reliable (as well as which ones are best avoided).

Forester Model Year To Avoid: 2017 


  • Engine failure
  • Electrical systems

Fewer issues than the previous years, the 2017 was the last before the most recent redesign and still had its fair share of problems. The battery was weak, the radio and navigation system froze often, and the battery life was known to leave drivers stranded while driving. The battery gave out as early as 25,000 miles, and stalling has been reported throughout the vehicle’s life. Not the worst, but this is the last year before the Forester significantly improved.

What Are Some Good Years? 2019 2020 And 2021

While the Forester has been popular since its introduction, if you’re looking to buy one, the best model years to look at are from the most recent years. These models have favorable customer reviews, better connection and technology, and excellent safety ratings. It might still be too early to see if these have long-term issues like their predecessors, but these three are safe bets.

2019 Subaru Forester

The 2019 Forester offers a lot to consumers who desire an all-wheel crossover SUV. It offers a spacious cabin, a comfortable ride, and snappy handling. All-wheel drive is also standard, which is expected of a Subaru.

Regarding reliability issues, the 2019 Forester has a few, albeit minor, areas of concern. Its top complaint is that the windshield tends to chip easily, even with a low-mileage car.


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2020 Subaru Forester

The 2020 Forester is another well-executed SUV with a roomy interior, excellent fuel economy, and a wealth of standard safety features. The standard all-wheel-drive works as advertised and is one of the finest AWD systems in the segment.

Regarding reliability woes, the main complaint is about the Forester’s windshield, which tends to crack easily. Furthermore, the SUV’s electrical system also has issues, especially with the spotty power liftgate that unexpectedly opens.

2021 Subaru Forester

Another highly-rated SUV from Subaru, the 2021 Forester, embodies ruggedness and practicality.

The Forester isn’t the flashiest SUV available, but it more than makes up for its plain design with practicality. From the generous interior space to the top-tier AWD system to the excellent EyeSight driver assistance suite, it’s hard to go wrong with the 2021 Forester.

Common Subaru Forester Problems

The popular Subaru Forester is a reliable SUV with excellent off-road capabilities. But as you can see, it has its fair share of problems:

  • Transmission issues: Many Subaru Forester models with CVT transmissions reportedly had numerous issues. According to frustrated owners, their SUVs would experience intense jerking and shuddering. Subaru released a service bulletin addressing the transmission issues, which were determined to be due to insufficient CVT fluid.
  • Excessive oil consumption: Various Subaru models, including the Forester, had oil consumption issues. This was mainly a problem with Foresters with a 2.5-liter engine and was prominent with models before 2014.
  • Check engine light: An illuminated check engine light points to a dozen issues. However, with the Forester, the most common culprit that triggers the check engine light is the faulty oxygen sensor. Subaru has acknowledged that its front O2 may be defective and issued a recall for various models, including 1998, 2000-2007, and 2009-2014.
  • Air conditioning (A/C) failure: A/C problems are common among Forester model years. Owners reported the hot air from their vehicles, eventually leading to a faulty A/C. A bad A/C condenser was the culprit.
Are Subaru Foresters typically reliable?

The early years of the Subaru Forester are notorious for having troublesome head gaskets, which can lead to costly repairs. Proceed cautiously if you’re considering a Forester from before 2015; several model years are recipes for headaches.

How much does a used Subaru Forester typically cost?

The Forester is a popular used car; most markets have good availability. However, compact crossovers are in high demand. Combine this strong interest with inflated prices (compared to pre-pandemic conditions), and buyers are paying a 20%-29% premium for a second-hand Forester. CoPilot Price Pulse reports that the average asking price for a 2015 edition is $16,568. This increases to $28,837 for the 2020 model year.

Is the Subaru Forester a good car to purchase?

With careful research, finding a Subaru Forester that can serve as trusty transportation is possible. Just remember that not every model year is perfect. Spend time learning about the most reliable Forester years before buying.

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