How Long Does a Subaru Outback Last?

The Subaru Outback made its debut nearly 30 years ago, in 1994. Today, this midsize SUV is known for its high safety ratings, family friendliness, and ruggedness. If you’re thinking of picking up a brand-new 2022 or 2023 Subaru Outback, you should first figure out how many years it’ll last.

On average, you can expect to get up to 300,000 miles of driving with proper maintenance. This roughly translates to 15 to 20 years or about 15,000 to 20,000 miles per 12 months of use.

In this guide, I’ll describe how you can get the most mileage from your Subaru Outback, what sort of problems it frequently experiences, and which Outback model year is the most reliable.

A Quick Look at the Subaru Outback’s History

The early 1990s saw the release of a brand-new car series from Subaru—the Outback. This vehicle’s design uses the Legacy and Impreza sedans as a base, not unlike the Subaru Forrester.

The Outback, which was originally known as the Legacy Outback, made it to the market in 1994 as a second-generation model of the Legacy. In comparison to its predecessor, it had a higher suspension for improved handling on diverse terrains and additional space “outback” for baggage, hence its name.

It has kept the moniker that links it to its original inspiration throughout its evolution. Over the years, the Subaru Legacy Outback had a number of changes. Subaru officially separated the two designations as it entered its fifth generation, designating the Legacy as the sedan and the Outback as the wagon.

For several years now, the Outback has dominated the all-wheel drive crossover market. If you haven’t test-driven this adaptable, outdoor-friendly wagon yet, I suggest going to your local dealership and seeing what they can do.

How Long Does a Subaru Outback Last?

A car like the Subaru Outback doesn’t become of the most dominating AWD crossovers just for its looks and fancy features. In order to remain at the top for so long, it makes sense that the car outlasts many of its competitors. In the Outback’s case, it does it in spectacular fashion.

With proper care and maintenance, a Subaru Outback can typically last for 15 years. Some users have pushed their Outbacks to the 20-year-and-counting mark, which is a testament to just how reliable and durable this car is.

In terms of miles driven, many users have stated that their Outbacks have lasted for up to 300,000 miles, though at the 250,000-mile mark, there will usually be at least one significant mechanical issue per year.

Seeing as how the Subaru Outback is in its 6th generation of production, it’s almost important that you look at what year the Outback was released to determine how rugged it is. Copilot Search claims that Outbacks from 2005 to 2009 are arguably the “best” due to Subaru’s focus on creating a smaller SUV with a supercharged engine.

Common Subaru Outback Problems

As durable as the Subaru Outback is, it’s not impervious to mechanical issues, especially after reaching the 15-year mark. So, what sort of problems should you expect to encounter if you own a Subaru Outback?

1. Faulty airbag inflators

2010 was a pretty harsh year for Subaru when it had to recall over 74,000 Outbacks due to poor airbag inflators. This problem only existed for the front passenger-side airbag, and owners could take their cars to a trusted retailer to get the problem fixed free of charge.

2. Short battery life

On average, you can expect to get 3 to 5 years of power from a car battery. This, however, wasn’t the case for many Subaru Outback owners, who found themselves having to replace the battery after 12 to 18 months of use. This problem usually affects Outbacks from 2015 and beyond. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this problem, and users will have to continue purchasing brand-new batteries.

3. Cracked windshields

Anthony Volk Glass claims that driving around with a small crack on your windshield is usually not a huge cause for concern (I’ll let you imagine what “small” means in this context). Usually, cracked windshields are caused by falling objects or colliding with objects when zooming down highways. However, in the Outback’s case, cracks may appear on the windshield seemingly from nowhere. This is especially common in Subaru Outbacks from 2017 and beyond.

The solution to this problem is to replace the cracked windshield, which is not usually a part of the warranty package.

4. Rapid oil consumption

A single oil change should last your car for 5,000 to 7,500 miles. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. Some 2014 and 2015 Outback owners reported having to top off the oil tank far before the 5,000-mile mark. In the most extreme cases, their Outbacks would consume a quart of oil per 500 miles. This problem usually kicks in after the odometer reads 50,000 miles.

The solution to this problem is ridiculous—purchase a new engine or get it fixed beyond recognition. Either way, you’d have to spend thousands of dollars.

5. Malfunctioning infotainment systems

This isn’t as widespread of an issue as the aforementioned Outback problems, but it’s still worth mentioning. 2020 Outback owners found the infotainment system to be faulty at best and downright dysfunctional at worst. The screen may go black, the touchscreen may not register taps, and the audio shuts on and off seemingly at random.

Luckily, Subaru has been more than willing to update the infotainment system’s firmware to prevent such issues from occurring in the future. Still, you need to make the trip down to your local Subaru retailer to get it fixed.

6. Problematic head gaskets

The head gasket serves as a seal between the engine block and cylinder head. Its main job is to prevent engine fluid leaks and pressure loss, which can lead to overheating, loss of power, foul smells, and white smoke. A faulty head gasket is usually found in Subaru Outbacks from 2018 to 2020, with odometers reading over 100,000 miles.

Fixing the head gasket isn’t too challenging if you know what you’re doing. If you don’t, that’s another trip to a mechanic to get the problem sorted out. The longer you leave a faulty head gasket to its own devices, the costlier the repairs.

For more common issues of some Subaru Outback models, check out our post on ‘ Best and Worst Years for Subaru Outback – A Complete Guide

Used Subaru Outback

As you can see from the previous section, many past Outback models have experienced a wide range of issues. However, those are only the most severe cases—you’ll also have to take a look at the list of minor issues (of which there are many) and which Subaru year is the best if you’re shopping for a second-hand one.

The folks at Car Problem Zoo compiled a long list of data for Subaru Outbacks ranging from the years 1996 to 2022 (2023 version), including how many problems have been reported and what the most common problems are. They also calculated the PPMY index, which I’ll describe in a later section.

Number of problems

Subaru Outback Model Year Number of Problems in First Year Number of Total Reported Problems
1996 2 57
1997 8 94
1998 17 165
1999 19 150
2000 36 243
2001 28 204
2002 14 170
2003 12 115
2004 15 109
2005 26 341
2006 9 398
2007 13 170
2008 12 270
2009 9 130
2010 104 442
2011 67 764
2012 28 324
2013 58 340
2014 56 246
2015 176 552
2016 83 641
2017 99 906
2018 173 760
2019 203 839
2020 317 838
2021 130 211
2022 185 216
2023 N/A 2

Common Problems

Problem Number of problems
Exterior lighting 297
Steering 313
Vehicle speed control 441
Service brakes 454
Airbag 661
Engine and cooling 818
Powertrain 846
Equipment 956
Visibility 1,678
Electrical system 1,756

Reliability Index

Comparing a 2005 Outback to a 2023 Outback is almost unfair since the former has been on the market for much longer.

To circumvent the “age bias,” a reliability index should include the number of problems that model year has experienced, how many units were sold, and how many years the car has been out. The smaller the reliability index, the more reliable that model year is.

Outback Model Year Problems Sales Vehicle Age Reliability Index
2005 341 82,141 17 0.24
2014 246 123,074 8 0.25
2007 170 44,559 15 0.25
2009 130 38,917 13 0.26
2008 270 67,432 14 0.29
2013 340 118,393 9 0.32
2012 324 97,632 10 0.33
2006 398 58,801 16 0.42
2010 442 76,584 12 0.48
2011 764 138,297 11 0.5
2015 552 152,711 7 0.52
2016 641 151,558 6 0.7
2017 906 228,446 5 0.79
2018 760 185,654 4 1.02
2019 839 187,800 3 1.49
2021 211 127,900 1 1.65
2020 838 159,306 2 2.63

From the table above, we can gather that the top 3 Subaru Outbacks are from 2005, 2014, and 2007. The worst Outback is the relatively new 2020 release, which has a poor reliability index of 2.63.