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Is Subaru a Reliable Brand?

Is Subaru a Reliable Brand?

Subarus have exploded in popularity across Canada in recent years, with their rugged all-wheel drive capabilities and impressive safety ratings making them a top choice for drivers from Vancouver to Halifax. However, along with this surging demand have come growing questions about just how dependable these Japanese cars truly are over the long haul.


For Canadians facing brutal winters, pothole-ridden roads, and remote driving conditions, having a reliable vehicle is about more than just convenience – it’s a necessity. A breakdown in the middle of nowhere when temperatures dip below freezing can quickly become a serious safety issue. This makes separating fact from fiction when it comes to Subaru reliability crucial for Canadian buyers.


This in-depth report dives into the cold, hard data on Subaru dependability from sources like Consumer Reports and J.D. Power. We’ll examine common Subaru problems faced by owners, explore real maintenance and repair costs, and get insights straight from Canadian mechanics who work on these vehicles daily. By the end, you’ll have a crystal clear picture of what to expect from a Subaru in terms of reliability and the ability to serve as a trustworthy winter warrior for years to come.

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Subaru’s Overall Reliability Ratings in Canada

When it comes to assessing a brand’s reliability, several reputable sources provide valuable insights. Consumer Reports, J.D. Power, and other independent organizations conduct extensive studies and surveys to evaluate automakers’ dependability. In Canada, Subaru’s overall reliability ratings present a mixed picture.

According to Consumer Reports’ latest reliability rankings, Subaru ranks around the middle of the pack among mainstream brands. While not at the top, the brand consistently scores better than many domestic and some European rivals. J.D. Power’s Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS), which measures problems experienced after three years of ownership, also places Subaru slightly above industry average.

In comparison to top brands like Toyota and Honda, known for their exceptional reliability, Subaru tends to trail behind. Toyota and Honda frequently occupy the top spots in most dependability surveys, setting a high bar that Subaru struggles to match consistently. However, the gap between these brands and Subaru is not as significant as it once was, indicating that Subaru has made strides in improving its reliability over the years.

Several key factors contribute to Subaru’s reliability ratings, both positively and negatively. On the positive side, Subaru’s robust all-wheel-drive systems and boxer engines are generally regarded as durable and well-engineered. The brand’s focus on safety and technological innovations also plays a role in enhancing overall dependability. However, Subaru has faced criticism for issues like head gasket failures, oil consumption problems, and electrical gremlins, which can negatively impact its reliability scores.

 

Most Common Subaru Problems in Canada

While Subarus are known for their rugged capabilities and safety ratings, they are not without their issues. Several common problems have plagued various Subaru models over the years, leading to concerns about long-term reliability.

 

Head Gasket Failures: One of the most well-known issues with Subarus is head gasket failure, particularly in older models like the Outback, Forester, and Impreza. The head gasket seals the cylinder head to the engine block, and when it fails, it can lead to coolant leaks, overheating, and potentially catastrophic engine damage. This problem is often attributed to the design of Subaru’s boxer engines and the use of less durable gasket materials in the past.

Oil Consumption Issues: Many Subaru owners have reported excessive oil consumption, particularly in models equipped with the FB series of boxer engines, such as the 2011-2014 Forester and 2012-2014 Outback. This issue can lead to low oil levels, increased wear and tear, and potentially engine failure if not addressed promptly. Subaru has issued technical service bulletins and extended warranties to address this problem, but some owners have still experienced frustration.

CV Joint and Transmission Problems: Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel-drive system, while praised for its performance, has also been the source of some reliability concerns. Constant velocity (CV) joint failures and transmission issues have been reported in various models, including the Outback, Forester, and Impreza. These problems can be costly to repair and may be exacerbated by rough driving conditions or lack of proper maintenance.

Interior Electrical Issues: Some Subaru owners have experienced electrical gremlins, such as faulty infotainment systems, power window malfunctions, and warning light issues. These problems can be frustrating and may require expensive repairs or replacements of various electrical components.

Reasons Behind These Common Problems: While the specific causes can vary, some experts attribute many of Subaru’s reliability issues to the complexity of their boxer engines and all-wheel-drive systems. Additionally, some argue that Subaru’s rapid growth and increased demand may have led to quality control issues or the use of less robust components to keep costs down. Proper maintenance and addressing problems promptly are also crucial factors in ensuring long-term reliability.

 

What Canadian Mechanics Say About Subaru Dependability

To gain a real-world perspective on Subaru reliability, we spoke with several experienced mechanics from across Canada who specialize in servicing and repairing Subaru vehicles. Their insights provide a candid look at the common issues they encounter and which models tend to be the most dependable over the long haul.

“Subarus are pretty solid overall, but they do have their problem areas,” says Dave Thompson, a Subaru technician with over 15 years of experience in Vancouver. “Head gasket failures used to be a major issue, especially on older models, but Subaru has largely addressed that with redesigned gaskets and improved engine cooling systems.”

Thompson notes that many of the issues he sees stem from lack of maintenance by owners. “These cars need regular services like timing belt changes and coolant flushes,” he explains. “If you skip those, you’re asking for trouble down the road with failures.”

In Edmonton, Subaru mechanic Stephanie Lam has seen her fair share of oil consumption problems on certain engine models. “It’s not uncommon for higher mileage Subarus to burn through oil faster than normal,” she says. “Diligent owners need to check their oil level frequently and top up as needed between services.”

When it comes to the most dependable Subaru models, both Thompson and Lam point to the Outback and Forester as standout performers. “The Outback wagon seems to be an exceptionally sturdy vehicle if maintained properly,” says Thompson. “I’ve worked on plenty with over 300,000 km that are still running strong.”

Lam agrees, “The Forester is a champ too, especially the naturally aspirated models without a turbo. The simpler drivetrain means fewer potential issues long-term. But any Subaru will last if you follow the maintenance schedule and don’t ignore warning lights or strange noises.”

 

Subaru Ownership Costs in Canada

When it comes to the overall cost of owning a Subaru in Canada, the brand falls somewhere in the middle of the pack compared to other popular makes and models. While Subarus are not necessarily the most expensive vehicles to maintain and repair, they do tend to have higher costs than some of the top brands known for reliability and affordability, like Toyota and Honda.

According to data from RepairPal, the average annual repair cost for a Subaru is around $619, which is slightly higher than the $652 average across all vehicle models. However, this figure can vary significantly depending on the specific Subaru model, age, mileage, and driving conditions. Newer Subarus tend to have lower ownership costs in the first few years, while older, high-mileage models can become more expensive to maintain and repair over time.

When compared to other popular brands in Canada, Subaru’s maintenance and repair costs generally fall somewhere between mainstream and luxury brands. For example, Toyota and Honda owners typically pay less for routine maintenance and repairs, with average annual costs ranging from $400 to $500. On the other hand, luxury brands like BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi can cost upwards of $1,000 or more per year to maintain and repair.

Over the course of several years of ownership, these annual costs can add up significantly. According to a study by YourMechanic, the average Subaru owner can expect to pay around $7,800 in maintenance and repair costs over a 10-year period. This figure is higher than the industry average of $6,800, but still lower than many luxury brands, which can easily exceed $10,000 or more in ownership costs over the same period.

It’s worth noting that these costs can vary based on factors like driving habits, climate, and the specific model and trim level. For example, Subaru’s larger SUVs and trucks, like the Ascent and Outback, tend to have higher maintenance and repair costs due to their size and complexity. On the other hand, smaller models like the Impreza and Crosstrek may be more affordable to own and maintain over time.

 

Which Subaru Models Are Most Reliable?

When it comes to reliability rankings, not all Subaru models perform equally. Consumer Reports, one of the most respected sources for vehicle ratings, has identified some clear standouts and underperformers within the Subaru lineup based on their annual surveys and road tests.

Among the most reliable Subaru models according to Consumer Reports are the Subaru Outback and Subaru Forester. The Outback, Subaru’s flagship wagon/SUV, has consistently scored well for predicted reliability, with the 2022 model earning an impressive 4 out of 5 rating. The Forester compact SUV follows closely behind, praised for its simple design and durable components.

Experts also frequently recommend the Subaru Crosstrek as one of the brand’s more dependable offerings. As a slightly lifted, ruggedized version of the Impreza hatchback, the Crosstrek benefits from proven engineering and Subaru’s respected all-wheel drive system. The Crosstrek Hybrid is a particularly smart choice for long-term reliability.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Subaru WRX and WRX STI performance models tend to rank among the least reliable Subarus year after year. Their turbocharged engines and complex drivetrain components are more prone to issues, especially with aggressive driving. The Subaru Legacy sedan has also struggled with below-average reliability scores in recent Consumer Reports surveys.

For those shopping used Subarus, focusing on certified pre-owned (CPO) examples can provide valuable peace of mind. CPO vehicles must meet strict age and mileage requirements, undergo a comprehensive inspection process, and include extended warranty coverage. Avoiding higher mileage turbocharged models and properly maintaining the car are also crucial for long-term Subaru reliability.

 

Are Subarus Still a Good Choice for Canadian Drivers?

Despite some reliability concerns, Subarus remain a compelling choice for many Canadian drivers due to their impressive safety ratings, versatile capabilities, and strong resale value. However, proper maintenance is crucial to unlocking their full potential for dependability.

One of the key advantages of owning a Subaru is the brand’s emphasis on safety. With features like Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive and advanced driver-assist technologies like EyeSight, Subarus consistently earn top marks for crash protection and accident avoidance. This peace of mind can be invaluable, especially for Canadian drivers navigating challenging winter conditions.

Additionally, Subarus offer a unique blend of ruggedness and practicality that resonates with many outdoor enthusiasts and adventure seekers. Models like the Outback and Forester provide ample cargo space, ground clearance, and all-terrain capabilities, making them ideal companions for camping trips, hiking excursions, or simply navigating rough rural roads.

When it comes to maximizing the reliability of your Subaru, following the recommended maintenance schedule is essential. Regular oil changes, fluid flushes, and timely replacements of wear items like brakes and tires can go a long way in preventing costly repairs down the line. It’s also advisable to address any potential issues promptly, as neglecting minor problems can often lead to more significant (and expensive) complications.

For those concerned about long-term ownership costs, Subarus tend to hold their value well, especially when properly maintained. This strong resale value can offset some of the potential repair expenses and make Subarus a more cost-effective choice in the long run.

Ultimately, while Subarus may not top the reliability charts, their unique combination of safety, capability, and value make them a compelling option for many Canadian drivers. By prioritizing proper maintenance and selecting the right model for your needs, you can enjoy the benefits of Subaru ownership while mitigating potential reliability concerns.

 

Conclusion

After an in-depth look at Subaru’s reliability ratings, common issues, ownership costs, and expert opinions, it’s clear that these vehicles have both strengths and weaknesses in the Canadian market. While they may not top the charts for dependability, Subarus remain a very competitive choice for drivers needing the sure-footed traction of all-wheel drive and versatile cargo capabilities.

The key to unlocking long-term Subaru reliability lies in proper maintenance and choosing the right model. Staying on top of services like timing belt replacements, using quality coolant, and addressing issues like head gasket leaks early can prevent larger, more expensive problems down the road. Buying gently-used, CPO examples of models like the Outback, Forester, and Impreza also gives you higher reliability potential.

Ultimately, Subarus require a bit more diligence than brands like Toyota and Honda, but they remain an excellent value proposition when you balance the capability, safety ratings, and reasonable repair costs. For Canadian drivers willing to invest in proper care, a well-maintained Subaru can be a trusty companion for years of rugged all-weather adventures.

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Questions About Subaru Reliability

Subaru has a reputation for being a very reliable car brand in Canada. Subaru vehicles consistently earn high reliability ratings from Consumer Reports and J.D. Power. Key reasons why Subarus are reliable in the Canadian climate include their symmetrical all-wheel drive system, boxer engines, and rigorous testing in harsh conditions. Over 96% of Subarus sold in Canada in the past 10 years are still on the road today.

The Subaru Outback, Forester, Impreza, and Crosstrek are usually named as the most reliable Subaru models in Canada. These models have proven very dependable over many years and hundreds of thousands of kilometres in Canadian driving conditions. Consumer Reports’ data shows these models require few major repairs even at high mileages.

Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel drive system is uniquely suited to handling Canada’s varied road conditions. Unlike many AWD systems that only engage part-time, Subaru’s system runs full-time for maximum capability on slippery surfaces. Subaru’s low centre of gravity, balanced chassis, and X-Mode enhancements further improve winter traction and control.

Used Subarus tend to retain their value very well in the Canadian market. High demand combined with their durability and reliability enables used Subaru models to sell at a premium over other brands. Even with higher mileage, many used Subaru owners find buyers still willing to pay good money for these cars’ expected longevity and AWD capability.

While any vehicle will need repairs with enough age and mileage, Subarus are less prone to major issues as they get older compared to other brands. Their flat ‘boxer’ engines avoid timing belt problems. Their AWD systems avoid premature wear with symmetrical balance. And sound structural design gives Subarus long lifespans with proper care.

New Subarus come with a 3-year/60,000-km bumper-to-bumper warranty and 5-year/100,000-km powertrain warranty. This coverage is on par with other brands and provides reassurance against early defects. There are also extended Subaru warranty options available in Canada for added peace of mind, especially on higher-mileage pre-owned models.

Subaru Canada works closely with Subaru of America on vehicle design and production to serve the Canadian market. Most Subaru models sold in Canada come from factories in Indiana and Japan. Canadian vehicles get upgraded lighting, unique wheel options, and additional anti-corrosion treatments to handle Canada’s demanding climate.

Subaru’s reputation for winter capability makes them very popular across snowy and mountainous regions of Canada. Subaru’s standard all-wheel drive, high ground clearance on SUVs, heated features, and reliable cold-weather operation give drivers confidence when facing Canada’s harsh winters. Subaru also caters well to Canada’s adventurous outdoor spirit.

Subaru Canada recommends oil changes every 8,000 km or 6 months and other inspections every 16,000 km or 12 months. More frequent oil changes are suggested for short trips or extreme conditions. Following the maintenance schedule helps minimize wear, spot issues early, and keep your Subaru running smoothly for years.

On higher-mileage older Subarus, common issues to look out for include leaking head gaskets, failed wheel bearings, oil leaks from valve cover gaskets, catalytic converter failures, and transmission problems on certain models. These repairs can be costly but may still be worth fixing given most other Subaru components last very long.

Subaru repair costs are close to the industry average in Canada. Labor rates can vary between regions. Common work like brake jobs, batteries, and tires are very affordable. Bigger engine repairs for head gaskets or timing belts can run $1500+ but are not hugely frequent if maintenance is done properly.

Older used Subarus with even over 200,000 km can still be reliable and worthwhile purchases in Canada provided prior maintenance is documented. The condition is more important than kilometres. Carefully examine maintenance history, get a pre-purchase inspection, and budget for some upcoming repairs.

Subaru equips their vehicles with numerous features to enhance winter driving capability and safety in Canada’s harsh conditions. These include permanent symmetrical AWD, vehicle dynamics control, traction control, ABS brakes, heated mirrors/seats/wipers, windshield de-icer, winter tires, and X-MODE with hill descent control on SUVs.

Following proper maintenance procedures, Subaru engines are extremely durable and typically last from 300,000 to 400,000 km or more, even in Canada’s extreme environment. Many Subaru vehicles stay on the road for 15-20 years. High-mileage Subaru engines may need some repairs but still run smoothly thanks to the engine’s resilient boxer design.

Rust protection is always smart for any vehicle in Canada but Subaru’s already do an excellent job resisting corrosion. Subaru uses extensive undercoating, galvanized steel, and thorough drain hole placement from the factory. Additional protection like rust modules or aftermarket coatings can’t hurt but aren’t essential.

Subaru vehicles consistently earn top safety pick designations from the IIHS and 5-star crash test ratings from NHTSA in the US and similarly high marks in Canada. Subaru prioritizes occupant protection with ring-shaped reinforcement frames, advanced airbags, vehicle stability assists, and strong crashworthiness.

Subaru uses a full-time symmetrical AWD system that constantly splits power 50/50 front to rear for maximum traction, unlike part-time systems that only engage AWD as needed. The symmetrical layout also gives better balance and stability compared to other AWD designs. Subaru integrates their AWD closely with vehicle dynamics control for added capability.

While Subaru recommends premium fuel for maximum performance and economy, their engines are designed to adapt to different octane fuels without issue. So regular gas can be used safely in a pinch without long-term effects. Just watch for slightly reduced peak power and efficiency compared to premium.

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