So you are trying to decide whether settling for that Subaru will set you free, or run you into bankruptcy! Topmost in your mind is the question – are Subaru’s expensive to maintain? Take a deep breath, relax and let’s consider the facts!
Your love for Subaru and the price sticker are not the only things to worry about when acquiring it. There is insurance and the one big unknown we can’t run away from – maintenance! Which brings us to the question, are Subarus expensive to maintain?
YourMechanic places Subaru at number 19 ($820 per year) of the 30 most expensive car brands to maintain. Luxury brands like Chrysler and BMW lead the pack. The good news is that not all models in a brand cost the same to maintain. On considering models with the highest maintenance costs only the Subaru Forester made it to the top 20 list, at # 10 with an average maintenance cost of $ 1,200 per year. Interestingly, the Subaru Impreza made it on the top 20 list of models with the lowest maintenance cost.
What is Car Maintenance Cost?
This is routine costs you pay to avoid paying for major repairs when your car breaks down later on. This routine maintenance includes some minor repairs and is necessary for your car’s good health and long life. It is a cost you have to factor in when buying a new car. AAA estimates that the average maintenance cost for a new car is about $ 1,186 per year. Routine Maintenance usually involves tire rotations and oil changes, brake pad replacement, replacement of the windscreen wiper and new batteries. It is done at intervals of 5,000 miles or roughly, about 3 times a year, if you don’t make the mileage. In addition, there are scheduled maintenances done every 30, 60 and 90 miles.
Scheduled Maintenance at a glance
The 30,000 Mile Maintenance checks and changes the:
- Air filter
- Fuel filter
The 60,000-Mile Maintenance checks and changes the:
- Brake Fluid
- Brake Pads/Shoes
- Brake Rotors
- Transmission Fluid
The 90,000-mile Maintenance checks and changes the:
- Power steering Fluid
- The good quality Spark Plugs/Ignition System
- Timing Belt/Chain
Factors Affecting a Car’s Maintenance Cost
The more a car ages, the higher is its maintenance cost. When the cost of maintenance in the most popular new car brands was compared (first 75k miles), Subaru was at 5th position amongst the least expensive makes. In the category of cars needing least maintenance (150,000) it was at number 4. This shows that Subarus are durable since their maintenance expenses do not exponentially multiply as they age.
Closely related to mileage, is a car’s fuel consumption. Some cars guzzle fuel, while others are more economical. Generally, cars consume more fuel driving in the city, than on the highway. Subaru Crosstrek and Forester are amongst the top 10 most fuel-efficient SUVs. Their consumption ranges from 26 – 33 mpg (miles per gallon).
More and more plug-ins or hybrids are now hitting the market. These are electric, but use minimal gas. Their sticker price is however high, and the jury is still out on whether their savings on gas offset their high cost.
An uncharacteristic increase in a car’s fuel consumption may point to an internal problem, like a clogged fuel filter, that needs fixing.
Condition of the Car
Things like how well a car is maintained, the terrain it is constantly driven in and the driving style directly impact the wear and tear of the car. Aggressive driving results in knocks and dents which leads to more repairs.
Features in the Car
Sophisticated in-car features, though nice to have, are more prone to breakdowns, hence repairs because there are so many systems running at the same time. For example, one reason given for the Subaru Foresters lower reliability is the constant repairs of its many small components like cup holders. Subaru has, in all its models, a state of the art safety and infotainment features common in many luxury cars. It also has two other unique features – the boxer engine and the symmetrical AWD system. It is argued that the in-car features benefits far outweigh any disadvantages. What pray is the advantage of the boxer engine and AWD system?
Subaru’s Boxer Engine
This engine has a horizontal layout, enabling the pistons to move in opposition to each other.
This design has immense benefits including:
- Its natural balance makes the boxer engine less vibration than traditional engine set ups. The resultant quieter operations spell an enjoyable comfortable driver experience.
- Because of its compact low shape, the engine is placed lower in the chassis; giving Subarus a low center of gravity. This means the Subaru is more balanced and the driver has more control of it, making the drive safer.
- The low engine placement means that in the event of an accident, metals from the engine will not poke the driver.
The symmetrical AWD
This comprises the longitudinally mounted boxer engine and a symmetrical AWD (all-wheel-drive) drivetrain. The AWD traction limits chassis rolling/pitching, thus increase the ride’s comfort for all passengers. Though the symmetrical AWD system varies depending on car type and transmission in use, its promise is the same. The Subaru will take you wherever you want to go, whatever the terrain or road condition.
Cost and Availability of Spare Parts
The law of supply and demand is upheld here. Subaru has fewer models than most of the leading car brands. Moreover, Subaru’s in the UK and US markets are fewer than other Japanese makes like the Toyota. These means their spare parts are comparably harder to get, hence more costly
Availability of qualified maintenance personnel
Because of Subaru’s unique features, many owners are forced to use their dealers or specialized (read costly) auto shops, for maintenance. This is because they can’t trust the qualification of any roadside mechanic. DIY die-hards get really frustrated with just changing a gasket head!
Common Problems With the Subaru
Finally, let’s look at the main repair problems experienced by Subaru owners:
- Faulty Air Conditioning O-rings
Many drivers complain during humid, hot days that their A/Cs blow warm air. This is usually as a result of the O-rings in the AC being worn out.
- Worn-out Inner Joint Boots
The axel connecting the wheels with the transmission has 2 joints – inner and outer joints. Each of these joints has grease in a rubber boot, for lubrication. The inner boot (double offset joint – DOJ) is located in the exhaust system and so easily splits or wears out.
- Head Gaskets Failure
The coolant and engine oil flow passage is through the head gasket. Many Subaru’s experience a head gasket failure resulting in leaking within and outside the engine.
- Front Suspension Wear and Tear
The rubber components on the front suspension are susceptible to wear and tear, leading to cracks. This is most prevalent in dry environments.
- Problems common to other brands as well
Poor visibility and cracking windscreens, faulty speed control, structural and electrical issues also form a major part of complaints received from vehicle owners. The software/wiring in the car is many times problematic interfering with the audio system and many times causing malfunctioning of the tailgate/trunk.
Tips on reducing Subaru’s maintenance Costs
As they say, a stitch in time saves nine. Sometimes nipping a problem in the bud helps you avoid paying for expensive major repairs later. Such hacks include:
- Worn-out inner joint boots have a characteristic burning smell from the exhaust. This is an early sign that enables you have a technician refill DOJ. If unattended to in time, you may have to replace the entire axle, a more expensive move.
- Be observant on how fast the coolant and oil are used up, especially after service. Oil leaking into the exhaust also leads to a burning smell which should be a red flag.
- Keep checking the front suspension to detect any forming cracks.
- Purchase an extended warranty or other vehicle protection plans, especially for the Forester. These will cover most costly repairs.
- Keep regular maintenance. Most roadside woes are a result of evading basic maintenance tasks.
- Wash and wax your car the right way. Waxing the dry surfaces buys your Subaru a protective shiny finish for a couple of months. For clear headlights, rub toothpaste on the headlights and rinse well.
- Check washer fluid and replace wipers – worn out wipers reduce visibility. Plain water in the washer carries a risk of freezing in the cold season.
- Confirm proper tire inflation pressure each time you fuel up. The checkup is best done on cold tires as tire pressure increases as the tire warms up.
- Regularly rotate tires. Subaru recommends tire rotation every 7,500 miles. However, some factors like terrain, weather, driving style and vehicle loading necessitate more frequent rotation.
- Periodic tire replacement is important. Kindly ensure you use the stipulated tire size, speed symbol, load index and construction. Subaru recommends that you replace all the tires at the same time, using tires from the same manufacturer and of the same state. Mixing tires of different size, type and degree of wear can damage the powertrain, reduce braking performance and controllability.
- Only use radial tires. Never mix both radial and bias-ply or belted bias tires, as this can reduce controllability resulting in accidents.
- Avoid driving on empty. Quarter or half full is a good minimum. Running out of gas is inconveniencing and with time may damage the fuel pump.
- Monitor your cars gas mileage performance. Decreasing performance could herald many things including dirty air filter, worn out spark plugs, poor tire pressure and leaky fuel injector. Catching the problem in its infancy may save you expensive breakdowns later.
Subaru’s may be expensive to maintain, but it comes with other benefits – safety and durability. Some models are cheaper to maintain than others. As with all cars, some do-it-yourself hacks, together with diligent driving, will save you breakdowns and expensive repairs. Besides, you could buy an extended warranty or better insurance. The Goldstein Auto group for example offers Subaru lifetime exclusives, like the lifetime car washes and the lifetime limited powertrain warranty, on all new and select pre-owned cars, trucks and SUVs At this point therefore, the big question should not be- are Subaru’s expensive to maintain? Rather, it should be, do I prefer Subaru’s safety and durability at above average maintenance costs?