What Year Subaru Outback Should I Avoid?

Subaru is a well-known car brand that makes vehicles that lie somewhere between off-road adventure rides and daily commuter cars. 

The Outback offers a classic Subaru look that draws attention, but not every model year was created equal.

What Year Subaru Outback Should I Avoid?

The worst year for the Subaru Outback is 2013. The 2013 Subaru Outback came with a defective piston ring which causes excessive oil consumption. The 2013 Subaru Outback receives many reports of transmission failure. Some years, including 2019 and 2018, have high reports of the battery dying quickly.

Read below to learn more about why you should avoid the 2013 Subaru Outback.

You will also learn more about some other years you should avoid. 

2013 Subaru Outback

The 2013 model of the Subaru Outback is rated the worst year across the board.

Everyone agrees that the 2013 model has offered the most problems to Subaru owners. 

The 2013 Subaru Outback received 250 complaints from the NHTSA and is rated the worst year model on Car Complaints.

Although the 2015 Subaru Outback has the most complaints on Car Complaints, the 2013 Subaru Outback is considered worse due to high repair costs. 

High Oil Consumption

High oil consumption is a trademark of Subaru. 

Most used Subaru owners have to keep a few extra quarts on hand, so they can easily fill up their thirsty car. 

All Subaru Outbacks suffer in some way from the oil curse, but the year model 2013 suffers from it the most.

The oil consumption in the 2013 model is caused by a piston issue. 

In the engine, pistons rise to create pressure inside the cylinder which contains air and vaporized fuel. 

From there, the spark plugs light the fuel and create a little explosion that sends the piston back down. 

This combustion is what gives the vehicle power to move. 

The force of the moving piston creates power, which is then transferred to the wheels, so the vehicle can move. 

Oil is used to coat the cylinders and pistons so they move more freely. 

If a vehicle doesn’t have enough oil, you can risk scratches on your cylinders which can stop the pistons from moving.

If this happens, you will likely face more problems than simply high oil consumption. 

With worn cylinders, you could face engine failure sooner than expected, lose power when accelerating, or lose power to the vehicle overall.

If a piston ring is faulty, the cylinder receives less power from combustion, and oil is used up quickly. 

When a piston ring is defective, you may notice the following:

  • Loss of Power
  • Poor acceleration
  • High oil consumption
  • White or gray exhaust smoke

All of these symptoms may not show in the 2013 Subaru Outback, but they still burn a large amount of oil.


In 2014, Subaru faced a lawsuit because of this issue with the oil. 

As a result of the lawsuit, Subaru increased the warranty coverage and agreed to compensate for some of the problems and repairs. 

The outcomes of the lawsuit are:

  • Warranty was increased to 8 years or 100,000 miles
  • Subaru pays for cost of repairs, rental cars, towing, and six quarts of oil per vehicle
  • Subaru offers free oil consumption tests and service bulletin repairs

Subaru has worked to remedy the issues with the 2013 Subaru Outback, so many 2013 models may have had repairs completed. 

Purchasing a 2013 Subaru Outback is not out of the question because of these repairs. However, issues other than oil consumption can occur in your 2013 Subaru Outback.

While a piston ring may have been replaced to remedy the oil consumption issue, you may still experience the effects of running the car so long with the defective piston ring.

If the oil level drops too low, there could be scratches on the cylinders.

The pistons could also be damaged, which will lead to engine failure sooner than you expect.

What Year Subaru Outback Should I Avoid What Year Subaru Outback Should I Avoid?

Transmission Issues

Many 2013 Subaru Outback owners have complained about having to replace the transmission. 

There are also complaints of:

  • Trouble switching gears
  • Grinding when switching gears
  • Lunging when switching gears
  • Complete transmission failure

This is the second biggest problem for the 2013 Subaru Outback and can cost as much as $6,500 to replace. 

Some 2013 year models came with the optional CVT (continuously variable transmission) as well. 

Most car gurus will tell you to avoid the CVT. 

CVTs generally wear out faster, needing more frequent repairs and replacements. 

They also can be more costly to replace.

However, most reported issues with the transmission stem from the standard six-speed manual transmission, so the CVT may be the better option.

If you are looking at a used 2013 Subaru Outback, be sure to ask about the type of transmission it has.

2017 and 2016 Subaru Outback

The 2017 and 2016 Subaru Outbacks have similar issues related to battery life, but those model years are not the only Subarus with battery issues. 

While a car battery should last 30,000 to 50,000 miles or about 3 to 5 years, 2019 Subaru Outback owners have found themselves replacing the battery as early as 7,300 miles.

The 2018 Subaru Outback has complaints about needing a battery replacement around 11,500 miles. 

Not every 2019 or 2019 model will need a battery replacement immediately, but it should be something that is on the owners’ radars.

Batteries are relatively inexpensive to replace and replacements should be anticipated for any vehicle, but the 2019 and 2018 models may need a replacement sooner than what is generally be expected.

Other issues related to the battery have also been reported, including:

  • Battery not holding a charge
  • Engine not starting
  • Various electrical issues

Best Years for the Subaru Outback

The Subaru Outbacks that are considered the best were made between 2005 and 2009.

These years are known for their reliability. 

While these years are starting to feel the effects of age, they have kept their reputation of reliability and durability in the eyes of Subaru fans.

Newer Subaru Outbacks have reports of battery issues, just as the 2019 and 2018 model years. 

These vehicles are still considered good options because they are newer and have, in general, fewer problems. Another set of years that is given praise is 1994-1999.

These are considered the golden age and offer the classic Outback look that Subaru enthusiasts look for.

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