Subaru Vs Honda Reliability


 You are looking for a performance vehicle and Subaru and Honda keep coming up in your research. Reliability is also a primary concern so you are wondering which one is more reliable than the other. This Subaru vs Honda reliability comparison looks at the two big industry names to establish which one is a more reliable car.

Subaru and Honda are two large vehicle manufacturers in Japan. They have been praised by owners for different reasons, on top of the fact that the Japanese are highly reputed as producers of good quality vehicles.

Performance and reliability feature as key selling points for both brands. If you are looking to buy a new car with these as primary concerns, these two names will definitely come up often.

Honda has a wide range of models from the subcompact Fit, the mid-size Accord and SUVs. Honda SUVs also come in different sizes such as the subcompact Honda HR-V and midsize Honda Passport.

Subaru’s model range is not as wide though the Subaru Impreza fits into the small vehicle category, the Forester and Outback fall in between this and SUV models like the Ascent and Crosstrek.

Whichever of the two brands you go for, you are sure you are covered where performance is concerned. What about reliability? Which is the more dependable car?

We compare Subaru and Honda using customer surveys, manufacturer ratings and common repair problems. The number and seriousness of repair issues impacts on overall cost of maintenance and reliability.

 Customer Surveys

Customer surveys gather information from owners of these brands who give firsthand information on the good and bad. These surveys are sometimes preferred by potential owners because they are more balanced than marketing information from individual manufacturers.

This is how 3 trusted customer survey companies rates the two brands.

How do Subaru and Honda compare in Reliability based on Customer Surveys?

Subaru Vs Honda Reliability: Customer Survey Table

Consumer Reports most reliable cars 2020
J.D Power vehicle dependability study 2020

(154 PP100)


(139 PP100)

WhatCar? Brand reliability survey 2019




According to Consumer Report’s 2020 vehicle reliability survey findings, Subaru is more reliable than Honda. Subaru is named as the 7th most reliable car while Honda takes position 12.

J.D Power has a different opinion. According to their 2020 reliability survey, Honda is more reliable than Subaru. Honda takes position 18 with an average of 139 problems per 100 vehicles. Subaru is several places down, taking position 23 with an average of 154 problems in every 100 cars. Both brands fall below the industry average of 134 problems in every 100 cars.

WhatCar? A UK based monthly automobile magazine have also crunched the numbers. According to their 2019 survey, Subaru is more reliable than Honda. Subarus is ranked as the 5th most reliable car and scores 96.6%. Honda ranks as the 10th most reliable car and scores 94.9%.

From these surveys Subaru emerges as the more reliable car according to owners. Honda ranks well when it comes to repair problems.

Manufacturer Ratings

In a further bid to find out which of the two brands is more reliable, we take a look at some manufacturer ratings gathered from Warranty Direct’s 50,000+ live policies. Data obtained is used to come up with ratings, with the reliability index being the overall ranking.

These are important details to think about because some cars break down quite often, causing a fair amount of inconvenience in terms of time but the actual cost of repairs is not particularly high.

Other vehicles rarely break down. When they do you have to dig deep into your pocket to get it back on the road. If the repair issue is a serious one, chances are that the car will be at the repair shop for a while.

The lower the reliability index figure, the more reliable the car is. The higher it is the more unreliable the car is.

How do Subaru and Honda compare in Reliability based on Manufacturer Ratings?

Subaru Vs Honda Reliability: Manufacturer Ratings Table

Overall brand reliability index
Off-road hours (average)
2.8 hrs.
2.1 hrs.
Average repair cost
Max. labor cost

According to manufacturer ratings the Subaru is rated as a more reliable car, with a reliability index of 41. Honda is considered significantly less reliable with an index rating of 105.

When it comes to the amount of time a vehicle spends under repairs when breakdowns happen, the Honda comes out better than Subaru. Honda is expected to spend an average of 2 hours under repair while Subaru spends a little under 3 hours being repaired.

A telling comparison outcome is in the average repair cost and maximum labor costs. Average repair costs take into account both cost of parts and labor costs. Where average repair costs are concerned, Subaru is the more expensive car to maintain. You will spend about 562 pounds for repairs on a Subaru and about 370 pounds for repairs of a Honda.

What do you have to pay the technician who spends these hours under your car or with his nose dug deep under the hood? For Subaru, your technician will cost about 102 pounds and for Honda labor should cost you about 115 pounds.

Considering the overall cost of repair for Subaru is significantly higher than that for Honda, yet labor costs for Honda are higher than Subaru, it is clear that it is the parts used for Subaru repairs which are quite pricey.

Common Repair Issues

You will definitely not go out looking for a faulty car. You will take all aspects into consideration and settle on a brand and model which best matches your needs and wants.

That said, no car is perfect… and it gets further and further away from perfection as it gets older. These issues have a direct impact on the car’s overall reliability.

There are certain repair issues which are known to be more common in certain brands. Make sure you are well informed on the common issues associated with the car you intend to buy.

These are some common repair issues associated with Subaru and Honda.

How do Subaru and Honda compare in Reliability based on Repair Issues?

Subaru Vs Honda Reliability: Repair Issues Table

Repair Issues
–          Failing air conditioning system

–          Splitting C/V axle boots

–          Worn front suspension bushing

–          Leaking head gasket

–          Leaking oil cooler O-ring

–          Vibration when braking

–          Leaking head gasket

–          Transmission failure

–          Power door lock failure

–          Air conditioning failure


Subaru Repair Issues

C/V axle boots: This axle connects the wheels and the transmission. There is an inner and outer joint on each axle. Both are lubricated using a thick grease which is in the rubber boots.

The inner joint, also known as DOJ (Double Offset Joint) sits next to the exhaust pipe which makes them vulnerable to damage. When this happens, they split open and leak grease onto the exhaust. The result is a burning smell and loss of lubrication. If not addressed, the joint wears out prematurely.

If you catch it early, all you need to do is clean the joint and re-lubricate it. If you catch it late the entire axle will have to be replaced.

Front suspension bushing problem: If you live in a dry area, this may be something you experience. The climate accelerates cracking of rubber parts like bushings and belts. This is something which should be checked at every service.

Leaking oil cooler O-ring:  Most Subaru models have a single O-ring above the oil filter. It is common for it to wear out and cause leaking. It takes just a few minutes to replace and is an easy process. If you don’t catch it early, it could cause a lot of damage.

Honda Repair Issues

Vibration when breaking: Many Honda owners have reported a rattling or shaking feel when the breaks are applied. It is caused by warping on the front brake rotors, a problem which can be fixed by smoothening or machining the rotors. If they are too thin to be machined they have to be replaced. This is most common in cars with more than 98,000 miles on them.

Transmission failure:  This often happens in older cars with at least 70,000 miles on them. Transmission spills, skipping or poor shifting can be repaired through a transmission overhaul or complete replacement.

Failing power door locks: After about 105,000 miles the locking system in your Honda could start to fail. You may find that only some doors lock when you press the auto-lock button. The car remote may also fail to function properly.

Similar Subaru and Honda Repair Issues

In the process of analyzing common repair issues in these 2 brands, you will notice some problems which are common to both brands. This however doesn’t mean that they are caused by the same issues.

Air conditioning system failure. Owners of both Subarus and Hondas have reported situations where the air conditioning system blows warm instead of cold air.

In Subarus it is often caused by worn out O-rings which seal the system. It is fixed by replacing the rings and recharging the system with refrigerant. In Hondas it is caused by repeated contact between the condenser and road debris because the condenser is not protected.

Faulty head gasket: Head gaskets contain coolant and oil passages. When the gasket leaks it allows either or both these fluids either outside the engine or into the engine. If leaks are into the engine, these fluids find their way into the combustion chamber. In both cases, the gasket must be replaced.


Subaru is a high performance name with a huge following of die-hard fans who will drive nothing but Subaru. Honda on the other was initially a strong competitor of Toyota whose selling point is affordability and dependability. Later Honda shifted focus to performance, therefore finding itself pitted against Subaru.

From these findings, Subaru emerges as the more reliable car. It is preferred by owners in 2 out of the 3 customer surveys considered and performs significantly better than Honda in terms of overall brand reliability index.

What clearly pulls Subaru down is the high cost of maintenance. Breakdown frequencies are higher in Subarus and parts required for these repairs are more expensive than average.


Why have Subaru ratings dropped significantly over the years?

Overall brand reliability is determined based on the same in all its models. Subaru doesn’t have as many models as other brands so a low ranking in one or two models greatly affects overall ranking. In-car technology problems in the Outback and Legacy models have been responsible for lower overall ratings over the last few years.

Which is the least reliable Honda model?

Honda CR-V, Civic Hybrid and CR-Z are among the lowest ranking Hondas in terms of reliability. These however, still rank better than some of the best ranked models by other brands. It tells you something about the brand as a whole.

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Steven Reilly
Steven Reilly is a qualified mechanic and his passion for cars goes beyond just the technical aspects. He is also an amateur racer and all round car enthusiast. When he is not driving them, he can often be found in his garage under the hood of a rare model. Steven Reilly has lost track of the number of hours he has spent setting up his fine collection of rebuilt models. He believes that cars can provide a constructive and fun opportunity to teach the youth important life skills. In line with this, he is developing a community outreach program, potentially dubbed ‘Cars for change'.


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