How Long Do Subaru Outbacks Last? (Solved & Explained)

Making its debut in ’94, the Subaru Outback brings a spirit of adventure to the staid station wagon market.

Known for its ruggedness and excellent safety scores, the Outback is a great choice for those looking for an alternative to the standard SUV.

If you’re researching the Outback as an off-roading family vehicle for your next camping trip, you might be wondering about its average lifespan, reliability, and quality.

We’ll cover all that and more in this article, read on to find out…

Here is the short answer to how long Subaru Outback last:

The Subaru Outback is a reliable, durable vehicle that can last between 250,000 to 300,000 miles when properly maintained and driven conservatively. Based on an annual mileage of 15,000 miles a year, this equates to 16 – 20 years of service before requiring expensive repairs or breaking down.

How Many Miles Can You Expect from a Subaru Outback?

The Subaru brand is well known for making long-lasting vehicles and the Outback is no exception.

Since its first generation in 1994, the Outback has provided dependable service for its owners and overall it is a high-quality model with a relatively affordable price.

There are many reports from owners who have reached over 250k miles on the original powertrain, owing to good maintenance habits.

Once in the region of 250k – 300k miles on the odometer, there is a much greater chance of experiencing failures of big ticket items such as the engine or transmission, when this occurs the cost of repairs can outweigh the value of the vehicle.

The quality and design of a car will only get you so far though, ultimately it is down to the owner to get the most life from their vehicle.

The life expectancy of your Outback will be cut short if you avoid:

  • Service appointments
  • Routine oil changes
  • Tire rotations
  • Driving smoothely
  • Checking fluid levels

As a general rule – the newer the car the longer it is expected to last due to the increase in quality and advances in engineering.

Do Subaru Outbacks rust easily?

The Subaru Outback has a strong record for rust durability, across six generations and 27 model years there are relatively few complaints of rust issues.

During production the Outback is equipped with various rust proofing and is built using galvanized metals to ensure optimum protection, it also comes with Rust Perforation Limited Warranty coverage for the car’s first 5 years – regardless of mileage.

Subaru has gone on record to say they do not recommend the use of third-party rustproofing, however some owners are in favor of taking extra precautions.

Outback owners have reported the following rust issues:

  • Inside the rear wheel wells in the first three generations of the Outback (from 1994 to 2009 model years).
  • Frame rust problems on 2001, 2002 and 2003 models

We must note that the reported rust problems are few and far between.

Rust problems are more common in humid climates, places where roads are aggressively salted during the winter and also coastal regions due to salt in the air.

If you live in a high-risk area, we recommend taking extra precautions.

Tips to ensure your Subaru Outback remains rust-free:

  1. Clean: Regularly and meticulously wash your car (and its underside) to remove the salt that causes rust.
  2. Rustproofing: If you live in a high snow and ice region, consider treating your Outback to a rust-proofing spray and ceramic coating to add another layer of defense.
  3. Fix paint chips straight away: Exposed metal will oxidize, if it’s beyond a DIY fix speak to your local body repair shop.
  4. Storage: Park your Outback in a garage, if you have access to one, to keep your car dry and protected from the harsh weather elements and bird droppings.
  5. Waxing: Wax your car twice a year. Not only will this make your Outback look amazing, it also gives a protective coating against rust

You may also be interested in our article: Where Are Subaru Outbacks Made?

What is High Mileage for a Subaru Outback?

A Subaru Outback with over 120,000 miles is considered high mileage and a riskier investment although the odometer reading alone might not tell the whole story. There are several factors to take into consideration such as the overall condition of the car and the vehicle’s service history.

Buying a used Outback with over 120k miles will not necessarily equate to a bad outcome, but it’s important to assess the car carefully before handing over your cash, in theory, you should still have half the vehicle’s useful life left if it’s been well looked after.

Some important points to consider:

  1. Maintenance history. Check that the car was properly serviced and the owner can provide proof of this.
  2. Get a second opinion: Have it inspected by a mechanic.
  3. Check the CarFax. This doesn’t guarentee anything but can help give a clearer picture of wear and tear. Make sure it has minimal damage, if any. Analyze the information to make sure if something did happen, it wasn’t transmission related or mechanical.
  4. How long you are planning on keeping the car. If you’re planning on keeping the car for many years, you should evaluate whether the short-term savings outweigh spending a bit extra into somthing more reliable.
  5. Number of previous owners. As a general rule less is better. More owners usaully means more wear and tear. If one family owned it and drove the full 120k miles and serviced the car, then you can almost guarantee they took good care of it throughout ownership.

How Long Do Subaru Outback Last Compared to Similar Car Models?

The following Outback comparisons will give you a better idea of its longevity, reliability and ownership costs in relation to its competitors.

Subaru Outback vs. BMW X3

The Outback is a sports utility wagon, while the X3 has a more classic SUV shape although both are classed as midsize SUVs.

The BMW X3 can last between 150,000 – 200,000 miles or 10 – 13 years, which is less than the projected lifespan of the Outbacks 250,000 – 300,000 miles or 16 – 20 years.

According to RepairPal’s website:

  • The BMW X3 scores a below average reliability rating of 2.5/5 placing it 10th out of 11 luxury compact SUVs.
  • The Subaru Outback scores an average reliability rating of 3.5/5, and is ranked 10th out of 26 midsize SUVs.
  • The X3 has an annual average repair and maintenance cost of  $1,034 vs. $607 for the Outback.

The BMW X3 carries the prestige of this German automaker’s badge and will likely be purchased for its luxury features, while prospective buyers of the Subaru Outback will buy this model for its dependability and longevity

You may also be interested in our article: How Long Do BMW X3 Last?

Subaru Outback vs. Hyundai Santa Fe

The Hyundai Santa Fe is the South Korean car maker’s midsize SUV and is one of their best-selling models.

A well-kept Santa Fe can last 200,000 – 250,000 miles. For drivers that average 15,000 miles per year, it will offer 13 to 17 years of service, which is slightly less than the Outback.

According to RepairPal,

  • The Santa Fe has an above average reliability rating of 4.0/5 which places it in 2nd place out of 26 midsize SUVs.
  • The Outback scores a reliability rating of 3.5/5, which is 10th out 26 in the midsize SUV sector.
  • The Santa Fe has an annual average repair and maintenance cost of  $515 Vs. $607 for the Outback.

For buyers seeking more space and a classic SUV style, the Hyundai Santa Fe will be more appealing.

The Subaru Outback’s more off-road ready poise and adventure styling will draw consumers wanting a vehicle to last for 250,000 – 300,000 miles, and beyond.

You may also be interested in our article: How Long Do Hyundai Sant Fe Last?

Subaru Outback vs. Toyota RAV4

Responsible for kicking off the SUV craze, the RAV4 has been available in the US since ’96 and is the best-selling passenger vehicle that’s not a full-size truck.

The Toyota RAV4 can last between 250,000 – 300,000 miles before requiring major and uneconomical repairs, this equates to 16 – 20 years of service, on par with the Outback.

According to RepairPal,

  • The RAV4 has an above average reliability rating of 4.0/5 and is ranked 3rd out of 26 compact SUVs.
  • The Outback scores a reliability rating of 3.5/5, which is 10th out 26 of midsize SUVs.
  • The RAV4 has an annual average repair and maintenance cost of  $429, vs. $607 for the Outback.

The Japanese build quality and reliability of Toyota models are world-famous and the RAV4 is another source of proof for this claim.

Buyers of the RAV4 will select this vehicle for its reliability and longevity but will select the larger Outback over the RAV4 for its more off-road and dirt road driving dynamics.

How Reliable Is a Subaru Outback?

Over the years, the Outback has built a reputation for itself as a rugged, reliable, family-friendly alternative to the standard SUV. Our research indicates the Outback is a dependable car, and although not the most reliable in its segment, it has earned very respectable reliability scores.

  • The Kelley Blue Book consumer rating index gives the Outback a reliability rating of 4.4 out of 5.
  • RepairPal scored the Subaru Outback a reliability rating of 3.5 out of 5.
  • JD Power rated the Outback with a consumer reliability rating of 70 out of 100.

Please also read our article: Subaru Outback in Snow & Winter Driving

Reliability Compared to Other SUVs

ModelReliability 
Mazda CX-54.5 / 5.0
Hyundai Santa Fe4.0 / 5.0
Toyota Venza4.0 / 5.0
Hyundai Veracruz4.0 / 5.0
Mitsubishi Endeavor4.0 / 5.0
Dodge Journey4.0 / 5.0
Toyota Highlander4.0 / 5.0
Dodge Nitro4.0 / 5.0
Toyota 4Runner4.0 / 5.0
Subaru Outback3.5 / 5.0
Ford Edge3.5 / 5.0
Toyota FJ Cruiser3.5 / 5.0
Honda Pilot3.5 / 5.0
Jeep Liberty3.5 / 5.0
Jeep Grand Cherokee3.5 / 5.0
Mazda CX-73.5 / 5.0
Nissan Pathfinder3.5 / 5.0
Subaru Tribeca3.5 / 5.0
Ford Explorer3.5 / 5.0
Ford Explorer Sport Trac3.5 / 5.0
Chevrolet Tahoe3.5 / 5.0
Chevrolet Traverse3.0 / 5.0
GMC Acadia3.0 / 5.0
Buick Enclave3.0 / 5.0
Volkswagen Touareg3.0 / 5.0
Ford Police Interceptor Utility2.0 / 5.0
Avg. Midsize SUV3.5

The Best and Worst Years for Subaru Outback

Like any vehicle, the Outback has had its good and bad years…

Worst Model Year

According to Car Complaints, the 2013 Outback was the worst model year and was notorious for excessive oil consumption. This complaint occurred at an average mileage of 45,800 miles and cost an average of $1,590 to repair.

The 2015 Outback received 126 complaints the highest across all model years, however issues were less serious and predominantly related to interior accessories such as:

  • Radio not working properly
  • Voice navigation useless
  • Bluetooth won’t connect

The worst Outback problems have been reported as:

  • Excessive oil consumption for the 2013 model
  • Winshield that cracks easily on the 2018 model
  • Hesistant acceleartion on the 2014 Outback

Best Model Year

The best model year for the Subaru Outback is the 2021 model, so far it’s received very few complaints and boasts sought-after safety features including:

  • EyeSight Driver Assist Technology
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Lane keep assist
  • Sway warning
  • Pre-collision braking
  • Pre-collision throttle management.

The 2021 model has also been given the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award and compared to its predecessors has more cargo and passenger space and has better driving dynamics.

Model Year and Number of Complaints

Here are the number of complaints for each Outback model year, from the Car Complaints database:

Model YearNumber of Complaints
20213 (Best Year)
20208
201930
2018103
201746
201687
2015130 (Most Complaints)
201496
201364 (Worst Year)
201240
201177
201057
200912
200824
200735
200642
200534
200411
200320
200213
200110
200014
19993
19982
199727
19963
19952
19940

What About Recalls for These Models?

The Subaru Outback has a total of 38 recalls across all model years, with airbags and electrical system faults, mostly.

It is important to note that recalls are manufacturing faults repaired at no charge to the consumer.

Here are the total number of recall campaigns per year for the Subaru Outback:

  • 2022: 0
  • 2021: 0
  • 2020: 3
  • 2019: 4
  • 2018: 4
  • 2017: 2
  • 2016: 5
  • 2015: 3
  • 2014: 3
  • 2013: 5
  • 2012: 2
  • 2011: 3
  • 2010: 3
  • 2009: 0
  • 2008: 0
  • 2007: 0
  • 2006: 0
  • 2005: 0
  • 2004: 0
  • 2003: 0
  • 2002: 0
  • 2001: 0
  • 2000: 0
  • 1999: 0
  • 1998: 0
  • 1997: 0
  • 1996: 0
  • 1995: 0
  • 1994: 0

Subaru Outback Model Year List

Here are all the model years for the Subaru Outback:

First Generation:

  • 1994 Subaru Outback
  • 1995 Subaru Outback
  • 1996 Subaru Outback
  • 1997 Subaru Outback
  • 1998 Subaru Outback

Second Generation:

  • 1999 Subaru Outback
  • 2000 Subaru Outback
  • 2001 Subaru Outback
  • 2002 Subaru Outback
  • 2003 Subaru Outback

Third Generation:

  • 2003 Subaru Outback
  • 2004 Subaru Outback
  • 2005 Subaru Outback
  • 2006 Subaru Outback
  • 2007 Subaru Outback
  • 2008 Subaru Outback
  • 2009 Subaru Outback

Fourth Generation:

  • 2009 Subaru Outback
  • 2010 Subaru Outback
  • 2011 Subaru Outback
  • 2012 Subaru Outback
  • 2013 Subaru Outback
  • 2014 Subaru Outback

Fifth Generation:

  • 2014 Subaru Outback
  • 2015 Subaru Outback
  • 2016 Subaru Outback
  • 2017 Subaru Outback
  • 2018 Subaru Outback
  • 2019 Subaru Outback

Sixth Generation:

  • 2020 Subaru Outback
  • 2021 Subaru Outback
  • 2022 Subaru Outback

Are Subaru Outback Expensive to Maintain?

According to RepairPal, the Subaru Outback has an annual repair cost of $607, while the average annual service and maintenance cost for midsize SUVs is $573.

ModelAvg. Annual Repair CostFrequency of
Unscheduled Repairs (per year)
Probability of
SevereRepairs
Mazda CX-5$4470.38%
Hyundai Santa Fe$5150.210%
Toyota Venza$4440.510%
Hyundai Veracruz$5240.59%
Mitsubishi Endeavor$5150.212%
Dodge Journey$5620.312%
Toyota Highlander$4890.313%
Dodge Nitro$5820.313%
Toyota 4Runner$5140.413%
Subaru Outback$6070.412%
Ford Edge$6110.313%
Toyota FJ Cruiser$5060.514%
Honda Pilot$5420.513%
Jeep Liberty$6740.312%
Jeep Grand Cherokee$6660.313%
Mazda CX-7$4700.714%
Nissan Pathfinder$5420.415%
Subaru Tribeca$5630.713%
Ford Explorer$7320.214%
Ford Explorer Sport Trac$7200.314%
Chevrolet Tahoe$7440.316%
Chevrolet Traverse$6560.418%
GMC Acadia$7340.419%
Buick Enclave$7200.518%
Volkswagen Touareg$9370.913%
Ford Police Interceptor Utility$1,1601.020%
Avg. Midsize SUV$5730.413%

How Long Do the Brakes Last?

Subaru Outback brake pads typically last between 30,000 – 70,000 miles or 2 – 5 years, this is dependent on driving habits.

  • If you drive in a lot of stop-and-go traffic you can expect your brakes to wear out faster.
  • Using smooth controlled braking will help your brakes last longer
  • Full and complete stops from a high speed are the #1 cause of premature brake pad wear

How Long Do the Tires Last?

The stock tires on a Subaru Outback will last on average between 30,000 – 40,000 miles before requiring replacement, this will see owners changing tires every 2 to 3 years.

  • Have your tires rotated every 5,000 miles to ensure even wear
  • Check your tire pressures every few weeks to make sure they’re at the ocrrect tire pressure.

How Long Do the Transmissions Last?

Subaru Outback transmissions are expected to last 250,000 – 300,000 miles.

The first four generations of the Subaru Outback (from 1994 to 2014) were equipped with manual and automatic transmissions.

The most recent two generations replaced automatic transmissions with continuously variable transmissions.

How Long Do Subaru Outback Batteries Last?

Subaru Outback batteries should last on average between 3-5 years. This can vary, depending on factors such as climate, driving habits, the type of battery, and more.

Four tips below to help prolong your Outback battery:

  1. Keep you battery tightly fastened: The vibrations of your car can loosen the connections potentially resulting in short circuits and internal damage.
  2. Limit short rides: Quick car rides prevent the battery from fully charging. To help maintain battery power, drive your Outback frequently and for extended periords.
  3. Sorage: Keep your Outback stored indoors away from extreme changes in temperature
  4. Control Corrosion: Clean the terminals (toothbrush dipped in baking soda and water mixture) and keep them free from buildup.

How Long Do the Spark Plugs Last?

Subaru Outbacks require their spark plugs to be replaced every 30,000 miles, according to the service manual. However, a new Subaru Outback will need its first set of spark plugs to be replaced at 60,000 miles, and then every 30,000 miles thereafter.

Spark plugs are responsible for creating the spark that ignites the air/fuel mixture, causing the explosion which makes the engine produce power.

They are usually inspected and if needed, replaced when you go for routine maintenance.

What About Insurance Cost?

The Subaru Outback costs an average of $1,361 for full comprehensive insurance coverage per year, or $113 per month. Older year models cost less to insure.

Insurance costs can vary from person to person; be sure to shop around to find the best possible deal.

Tips to Prolong the Life of Your Subaru Outback

We regard the Subaru Outback as a tough vehicle with a strong record for reliability and longevity, but that doesn’t mean that it requires little in the way of maintenance.

With proper care, your Subaru Outback can last for many, many years.

Here are some tips on how to prolong the life of your Subaru Outback:

  • Always read the owner’s manual and service manual to learn the maintenance schedules and services.
  • Regularly wash your Subaru Outback to remove dirt and grime to protect the paint and undercarriage from rust developing.
  • Check your Subaru Outback’s engine oil, coolant, brake, and transmission fluid levels and top them up when required.
  • Your Subaru Outback can handle gravel roads and snow-filled roads, but you should always drive it carefully off-road.
  • Allow the engine to warm up for 30 seconds before you take off.
  • Storing your Outback in a garage will help to protect it against the weather’s elements.
  • Don’t tow loads heavier than is recommended.
  • Pay attention to warning and information lights on your vehicle’s instrument panel.
  • Keep on top of repairs to prevent them from developing into larger problems.

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