The Forester is Subaru’s flagship compact crossover SUV, known for being robust, practical and good off-road.
The Forester is small yet spacious and prides itself on having more passenger volume than the model’s closest competition including the Honda CR-V and Toyota Rav 4.
Having been in production now for 24 years and spanning 5 model generations, the Forester is one of the most recognizable SUVs on the market.
Before you consider purchasing one you might want to take a look at our short guide which will cover sales figures, production statistics, recall actions, resale values, and much more!
Table of Contents
How Many Subaru Foresters Have Been Sold Per Year in The US?
Since making its debut in ’97 as a station wagon, the Subarus Forester has sold over 2.2 million units in the US alone. Sales numbers have significantly increased in the past decade, and in the last 5 years the Forester has sold on average 177,000 units per year. 2019 is the highest-selling year to date with 180,179 Foresters sold.
First year sales were lower than anticipated, with just under 16,000 units sold, however figures were quick to double the following year.
The 3rd Generation of the 2009 model year is where sales increased significantly and again for the 4th Generation as Subaru fine-tuned their approach and the body-styling of the Forester began to encompass that of an SUV.
Sales have remained fairly constant since 2015 and are roughly 11 times greater than those of the first years model.
The Forester is Subaru’s best-selling model and in recent years has found itself consistently in the top 20 best selling vehicles in the US.
Below is a table from CarSalesBase that contains annual sales figures in the U.S for the Subaru Forester from 1997 to 2020:
|Model Year||Units Sold|
What Year Did Subaru Start the Forester Models?
The Subaru Forester was first unveiled at the 1995 Tokyo Motor Show, however it wasn’t until 1997 when the first generation models went on sale in the US.
There have been five main generations of Forester since its inception:
- 1998-2002 (1st Generation)
- 2003-2008 (2nd Generation)
- 2009-2013 (3rd Generation)
- 2014-2018 (4th Generation)
- 2019-2021 (5th Generation)
The original Forrester shared the Impreza platform however it carried a beefier 2.5-liter, four-cylinder boxer engine of the Subaru Outback.
The styling of the first Forester was that of a boxy station wagon as opposed to a traditional SUV.
The 2nd generation boasted a larger body, with a design resembling something between a station wagon and an SUV. All trims featured a 2.5-L Boxer engine however turbocharged engines were also available on the new XT trim.
The third generation looked a lot more like a crossover SUV, and the later models up to the present day have continued to follow this line of evolution with major redesigns in 2014 and 2019.
Boxy exteriors over the years have been replaced with sleek sloping rooflines, big windows and rounding curves and since the third generation, all-wheel-drive has been fitted as standard.
How Is the Fuel Economy on a Subaru Forester?
The latest generation Subaru Forester has an EPA fuel mileage of 26 mpg for city driving, 33 mpg for highway driving and 29 combined mpg.
Its 29 mpg fuel economy is reasonably good, bearing in mind that most competitors don’t surpass these figures in front-wheel-drive form – FWD vehicles tend to have better fuel economy than AWD models since it’s more efficient to power just two wheels.
Fuel economy varies across the different model years of the Forester, with the most fuel-efficient being the latest models, due to advances in automotive engineering.
One such upgrade the introduction of Subaru’s fuel-saving Lineartonic Continuously Variable Transmission, which was designed to improve gear changing efficiency and preserve vehicle momentum.
The new CVT was fitted to the Forester from 2014 and was engineered to work seamlessly with the Boxer engine which comes as standard.
Below is a table with a selection of Foresters from different model years and the fuel economy for each.
|Model||City MPG||Highway MPG||Combined MPG|
|2021 Subaru Forester 4 cyl, 2.5 L, Automatic (AV-S7)||26||33||29|
|2017 Subaru Forester 4 cyl, 2.5 L, Manual 6-spd||22||28||24|
|2011 Subaru Forester 4 cyl, 2.5 L, Manual 5-spd||21||27||23|
|2005 Subaru Forester 4 cyl, 2.5 L, Manual 5-spd||20||27||23|
|1998 Subaru Forester 4 cyl, 2.5 L, Manual 5-spd||19||25||21|
Subaru offers a Forester e-Boxer hybrid in Europe, Japan, and Australia but does not sell it in North America due to a lack of demand. Hybrids offer much better fuel economy, however Subaru has outlined plans for an electric lineup of vehicles by mid-2030 for the US market.
How Quickly Do Subaru Foresters Depreciate?
According to Car Edge, a new Subaru Forester has a 5-year depreciation rate of 47%, which means a well-maintained Forester averaging around 13,500 miles a year will be worth 53% of its original value after 5 years.
When investing in a new asset, it’s important to know how much value it will lose over time, fortunately for prospective buyers, the Forester does slightly above average in this department.
Keeping your vehicle in good condition and regularly serviced will ensure you get the most value should you wish to sell it, regular car washes particularly when encountering salt will help keep rust at bay.
Below is a quick depreciation comparison table:
|Vehicle||5 Year Depreciation Rate|
Did Subaru Recall any of the Forester Models?
Subaru has recalled the Forester 33 times over 20 model years. Model years with the highest number of recalls include 2009, 2010, and 2011 with 17, 16 and 15 recalls respectively.
A recall is issued when a manufacturer or the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) deems that a vehicle or one or more of its components creates an unreasonable safety risk or does not meet minimum safety requirements – recall related problems are fixed free of charge.
When purchasing a Forester, be sure to check if there are any recalls for it and if so, ask the owner if they have had the recall related issues resolved.
You can also use the vehicle VIN number to search for possible recalls on the Subaru website.
Here is a table showing the number of recalls per model year:
|Model Year||Recall Campaign Numbers|
You may also be interested in our article: 11 Jeep Cherokee facts & statistics
How Much Do the Forester Models Pollute?
The 2021 Subaru Forester emits 309 grams per mile which gives it a modest rating of 6/10 for Greenhouse House Emissions on the Fuel Economy U.S Government Energy website.
Despite the advances in automotive engineering, SUVs are generally more fuel-thirsty than sedans simply because they are bigger and heavier which places more demand on an engine.
However the Forester has reduced their emissions from earlier models, the 2007 Forester 4 cyl, 2.5L, Manual emitted 404 grams per mile, this equates to a 25% reduction.
How Much Can the Forester Models Tow?
The Subaru Forester has a maximum towing capacity of 1,500 pounds and is capable of towing lightweight aluminum boats, pop-up campers, and small utility trailers.
For a compact SUV the Forester has a commendable towing capacity which is attributed to its 2.5L Boxer engine. It is important to note however, that it is a light-duty SUV and is not designed to tow heavyweight objects.
The Forester also has lots of available safety technology that help when towing, notably Eyesight Driver Assist which consists of:
- Advanced adaptive cruise control with lane centering
- Pre-collision braking
- Lane departure and sway warning
- Lane keep assist.
With plenty of interior space also, the Forester is able to haul a significant amount of load inside the cabin, with 31.1 cubic feet of cargo space behind the back seats and 76.1 cubic feet with the back seats folded down.
How Reliable Is a Subaru Forester?
Although the Forester is an excellent all round vehicle, it isn’t particularly known for its reliability, from our research we would suggest it has an average reliability.
Repair Pal gives the Subaru Forester a reliability rating of 3.5 out of 5.0 and ranks it 21st out of 26 for compact SUVs, maintenance costs amount to $632 annually which means it has average ownership costs. It comes with a three-year/36,000-mile limited warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Despite an otherwise glowing review, U.S. News & World Report has given the 2021 Forester the lowest possible predicted reliability rating of two out of five.
However, according to data from Car Complaints, the latest Forester models have increased significantly regarding customer satisfaction, with only 1 complaint having been made on the 2020 model, having previously received 37 complaints in 2019.
The model years with the most reported complaints were 2015 and 2014 with 142 and 103 complaints respectively, we would advise avoiding these model years if possible.
To help improve the reliability of your vehicle it is recommended to keep up to date with factory scheduled maintenance and adopt smooth driving habits.
Here is a chart using data from Car Complaints breaking down the number of complaints made by model year:
|Model Year||Number of Complaints|
How Safe Is a Subaru Forester?
The Forester excels in the safety department and we can confidently say it is a very safe vehicle.
The 2021 Subaru Forester received a 5-star safety rating from the NHTSA, earning perfect scores on all crash tests. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crowned the Forester its Top Safety Pick for 2021, again earning exemplary results in various crash tests.
The 2021 Subaru Forester has a number of features that help make it a safer vehicle:
- DriverFocus™ Distraction Mitigation System – senses when you’re distracted behind the wheel and will use a chime to help get your attention back on the road.
- Four-wheel anti-lock braking system (ABS) – helps prevent skidding and locking of brakes
- Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive – provides traction and added grip on unforgiving terrain
- Eyesight® Driver Assist Technology – innovative crash prevention system that utilizes cameras and driver warning alerts
- Front and Side Impact Airbags as well as Overhead and Knee Airbags
What Is the Typical Buyer Demographic for This Model?
The Subaru Forester appeals to a wide variety of different age groups and according to Consumer Reports the Subaru Forester appeals to buyers across the most generations.
The target market of the Forester is parents in their 30′ to late 40’s, however research data shows that a large portion of sales come from adults aged 22-38 and elderly people aged 70+.
Subaru Foresters appeal to young adventure seekers as its perfect for road trips and hauling sports equipment, for families there is an abundance of room for the kids and for seniors it has great visibility and plenty of driving assists that make driving effortless.
Please also read our article: how long do Subaru Forester last
Subaru Forester Theft Numbers
From our research we can deduce that the Forester is not a prime target for theft in recent years. However there is evidence to suggest that keyless systems have made Foresters vulnerable to ‘relay attacks’, whereby signals are intercepted between fob and car which can allow thieves to gain access and start the vehicle.
To help mitigate keyless attacks from high-tech criminals we strongly advise investing in a faraday-style wallet. Essentially these will block unwanted electronic signals from reaching your car keys.
Forbes recently published an article citing data from the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), the report compiles data of cars that are most driven off based on Insurance claims – the Forester finished 8th as the least stolen vehicle with a relative theft-claim frequency of 20, with 100 being the average among all vehicles.
However – The National Insurance Crime Bureau released a list of the most stolen cars in the Denver, Colorado metro area and the 2002-2005 Subaru Forester was the 9th most stolen cars, this is most likely due to the wanted parts.
To help prevent your Forester from being stolen we advise:
- Keeping the vehicle locked at all times
- Do not keep valuables on display where thieves can see them
- Invest in a steering lock and car key signal blocking wallet
- Researching anti-theft technology
- Never leave your vehicle running unattended
Below are the most recent theft figures for Forester the from the NHTSA Theft Rate Database:
For clarity, the rate of theft refers to the number of thefts per 1000 vehicles