Advice for buyers
What should I look for in a used Subaru Outback estate?
Don’t be dismissive if you notice that a Legacy Outback has a blown bulb – the headlight units are hard to access and the bulbs are difficult to swap out, so changing one can actually end up requiring an expensive visit to the dealer.
As with any car designed with off-roading in mind, check carefully for signs of damage underneath.
Subaru owners do tend to be a little bit better informed about the capabilities of their cars than most, but even so, some will have been a bit too optimistic at times, and may have tried to traverse terrain that the car was simply not designed for.
What are the most common problems with a used Subaru Outback estate?
The radiators can be fragile and develop ‘cold spots’, meaning they will have to be replaced. Once the car has warmed up, check that the temperature gauge is sitting dead in the centre of its readout, and without actually touching it, check around the radiator itself to ensure that it’s heating up evenly across its surface.
Both diesel and petrol engines can develop oil leaks. On the petrol, it’s usually down to a failing head gasket, so check towards the back of the engine for streaks.
On the diesel, it’s more usually the result of failing alternator belt tensioners, and will tend to leak oil towards the front of the engine.
Is a used Subaru Outback estate reliable?
Subaru is generally lauded as being one of the most reliable and dependable car makers out there, and the Legacy Outback does little to detract from that reputation, but you still need to check that the drivetrain is in good shape.
On full steering lock, knocking noises or a whine from under the car can indicate that the centre differential has worn out and needs replacing.
Check cars with a manual gearbox for any nasty smells coming from the clutch or any 'baulking' between gears, especially between second and third.
A vibration from the diesel engine, felt through the clutch pedal, can mean that the dual-mass flywheel needs replacing.
All of these issues are actually very expensive to rectify, with even a clutch replacement (and Outbacks do seem to be quite hard on clutches) costing more than £1,000.