Are Subaru Outbacks Reliable?: The Ultimate Guide

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Since 1994, the Subaru Outback has consistently proven to be one of the most rugged, reliable SUV alternatives. If you’re wondering how reliable the Outback can be, look no further than its safety features, average lifespan, and durable features—you’re sure to be impressed!

Are Subaru Outbacks Reliable?

Subaru Outbacks are reliable. With consistent maintenance, a Subaru Outback can last 16-20 years (250,000-300,000 miles) and can handle any rugged terrain with ease. This durable, affordable, family-friendly model is a great choice for anyone hoping to invest in a high-quality off-roading vehicle.

Subaru is renowned for designing long-lasting cars, and the Outback model certainly rises to that standard. Read on to learn more about the reliability of this adventure vehicle, how to prolong its lifespan, and how it compares to similar models.

What Makes the Subaru Outback So Reliable?

Are Subaru Outbacks Reliable 1 Are Subaru Outbacks Reliable?: The Ultimate Guide

With an average Kelly Blue Book rating of 4.4 out of 5, each generation of Subaru Outbacks has provided dependable service for owners everywhere.

Quality manufacturing and a sleek, accessible design are obvious attractors, but the Outback’s endurance has more to do with what lies under the surface. So, what it is about the Outback design that provides owners with reliability and longevity?

First of all, the Outback is manufactured with stock tires that last on average between 30,000 and 40,000 highway miles. Based on an average annual odometer reading of 15,000 miles per year, that’s an impressively durable set of wheels.

Secondly, all Outback model years are manufactured with rustproof coating on both the inner and outer frames.

This ensures that no matter the terrain, your vehicle will naturally sustain minimal damage from rain, ice, or snow. That’s an ideal feature on a car designed for outdoor adventure!

Third, when your Outback model is newly purchased, the spark plugs will last 60,000 miles before needing to be replaced. After that, they’ll need to be replaced every 30,000 miles.

Since spark plugs power your vehicle by igniting the combustion chamber, it’s reassuring to have ones designed to last so long from the get-go.

Fourth, Outback transmissions typically last 250,000 to 300,000 miles. The first four generations of Outback models were equipped with both manual and automatic transmissions, and the most recent models have replaced automatic transmissions with continuously variable transmissions.

This means that your Subaru is designed with high-quality speed regulation and acceleration, which is always great quality.

Fifth—and arguably the most important feature when it comes to reliability—the Outback comes with a hardy set of brake pads. These last between 30,000 and 70,000 miles or 2 to 5 years, depending on how often you drive in stop-and-go urban traffic.

Since full, abrupt stops from a high speed are the primary cause of premature brake wear, use a smooth, controlled level of pressure to help your brakes wear evenly and last longer.

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How to Make Your Subaru Outback Last Longer

Quality design features definitely extend the overall life of a vehicle, but it’s ultimately up to the owner of the vehicle to ensure that it is properly maintained and driven.

Otherwise, the vehicle’s lifespan could be cut short by damaged features or irregular wear. Here are a few protective measures that can take to make your Subaru Outback last longer:

  • Regular Service Appointments – Check the owner’s manual of your Outback to learn about service appointments and maintenance schedules. Regularly change and top off your fluids; an engine’s vitality has everything to do with its oil, coolant, brake, and transmission fluid levels. Keep an eye on each fluid’s level and quality, as well as any other maintenance signals that may appear on your dashboard, and take your vehicle to a local auto shop for regular checkups.
  • Battery Maintenance – Subaru batteries typically last between 3 and 5 years. To make sure your battery lasts as long as possible, regularly check that it is tightly fastened in place. The vibrations from driving can cause the battery to loosen and can result in short circuits or internal damage. You can also control battery corrosion by cleaning the terminals with a toothbrush and a mixture of baking soda and water. Lastly, brief car rides prevent the battery from fully charging; for optimal power, drive your Outback as frequently as possible for extended periods of time.
  • Annual Tire Rotations – Have your tires rotated every 5,000 miles to ensure that they wear out evenly, and replace them every 2 to 3 years to ensure that you are not driving without a safe amount of traction. Every few weeks, check the tire pressure of each tire to make sure it is correct.
  • Smooth Driving – Your Outback can handle rocky roads and snowy streets, but that doesn’t mean you should go looking for rugged terrain. Whenever possible, drive carefully and conservatively. Your axels and undercarriage will sustain less overall damage and last much longer!
  • Quality Rustproofing – If you live in an area with heavy winters, consider applying a rust-proofing spray or ceramic coating to your Outback. An added layer of defense against the ice and snow can prevent rust from settling into the frame. Subaru does not recommend using third-party rustproofing materials, but if that is all you can find or afford, it’s better than nothing!
  • Regular Car Washes – Sometimes, mud will stick inside the wheel wells of your Outback. While this hardly impacts the vehicle’s overall functionality, caked-on mud often contains minerals that cause rust over extended periods of time. To remove these harmful minerals, wash your car regularly, especially around the tires and the base of the frame.
  • Covered Parking – Keep your Outback parked in a garage or under covered parking whenever it is not in use. Though this hardy model is designed to handle the outdoor elements, keeping it in a covered storage area can prolong its lifespan and protect it from harsh weather, bird droppings, and other drivers.
  • Rock Chip Repairs – Compared to tire maintenance and oil changes, rock chips can seem insignificant; however, in the long run, promptly repairing rock chips can save you from replacing a badly cracked windshield.
  • Cosmetic Maintenance – Paint chips are more than a merely cosmetic issue—they can expose the base metal of your Outback to the elements, allowing it to oxidize and being rusting. To help prevent paint chips and rust, wax your car once or twice a year. This will seal your car with a protective layer (plus, it looks wonderfully sleek). If you do spot paint chips, touch them up with a car paint pen or a bit of nail polish; even a temporary dab of sealant can go a long way.

How Does the Subaru Outback Compare to Similar Models?

The primary contenders for the Subaru Outback are the Toyota RAV4, the Hyundai Santa Fe, and the BMW X3.

For the purposes of this table, total mileage is defined as the highest odometer reading possible prior to the vehicle needing major or uneconomical repairs, repair costs denote the average annual total of maintenance expenses, reliability ratings are based on RepairPal estimates and customer reviews, and the average lifespan indicates how long users can expect to safely drive the vehicle.

ModelTotal MileageRepair CostsReliability RatingAverage Lifespan (years)
Subaru Outback250,000 – 300,000$6073.5/516 – 20
Toyota RAV4250,000 – 300,000$4294.0/516 – 20
Hyundai Santa Fe200,000 – 250,000$5154.0/513 – 17
BMW X3150,000 – 200,000$1,0342.5/510 – 13