Considering a new Forester or Outback or Honda CR-V / Subie reliability

My brother is considering a new Forester, Outback, or Honda CR-V
2 questions
Any comments, pro or con, on these 3 choices? He lives in
Charlottesville VA and would like to have an AWD, given the recent snow they've had.
I know little about the common problems of Subies, but am wondering, do the latest models have the head gasket problems and leaky seals like my friend's 2001 Forester? The local mechanic who works on Subies, says they are notorious for oil seal issues. And the latest is, that he discovered a small leak from the power steering rack. Only 117 k miles! I have 172k on my Honda Accord with no such issues. What's the deal??
The above mentioned Forester has also had the wheel bearings replaced at 101k and now again at 117k. I don't understand how Subies get such high reliability ratings from Consumer Reports. Is my friend's car just a lemon?
Thanks for your input ~!
Wade-
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I have a 2000 Forester L that I bought new in November 1999. Now has 165700 miles. The only problems I had were the right rear wheel bearings needed replaced a few years ago. A new catalytic converter was installed about 5 years ago. Other than that - just the routine maintenance. Now, though, at 165700k the head gaskets are leaking, so that repair is looming on the horizen. :-)
I've heard the new Foresters don't have the head gasket issues.
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I now have an 03 Outback H6 and an 06 WRX Sportwagon. I also have driven other cars in the past including a Civic wagon for ~19 years. So far, the Soobs are about on par with my old Civic. The WRX has had no issues, the Outback had A/C hoses replaced under warranty a long time ago.
I'd say, buy the one that drives the best/fits your intended use pattern.
Carl 1 Lucky Texan
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We've owned a Civic and two Accords, and right now we have a 1999 Legacy and a 2006 Forester. The Forester I guess is too new to tell, with only 40K miles, but so far no problems at all and I'm very happy with it. The Legacy had one expensive repair after just a few years-- the motor for the moonroof failed. All other problems with it occurred after 160K miles so they can be attributed to wear and tear. My Accords were pretty trouble free, and the Civic only began to have major repair expenses when the clutch sort of exploded after 120K miles.
I'd say Honda and Subaru are pretty equal in terms of reliability. Right now we are comparing the 2010 Accord and the Subaru Outback and Legacy, and it seems to me you get more features for the money with the new Subarus. My guess is they will both prove to be better than average in terms of reliability. But during a snowstorm I do appreciate having a Forester. -yngver
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I think another thing to consider is maintenance. I've only owned one honda, and it made me swear to never own another front wehel drive car. It was such a pain to work on. The engine compartment was beyond crowded. The subarus that I have owned have been the opposite for regular maintenance. Oil changes are a breeze. However, if you have to do any driveline stuff, that is a pain. Transmission changes, and clutch changes are both a pain. But my transmission in my 95 lasted until 190k. It still worked, but the syncros were shot on third and fourth, and it was starting to pop out of fourth if there was no load on the drivetrain. I then put a transmission with 130k on it in it and got another 60k out of it before selling the car and it still worked fine.
Even though I lke Subarus a lot more, I'd admit that you'd be fine either way you go.
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Wade wrote:

It's an idea, but are they ever going to see this kind of a winter in those regions again any time soon? We buy Subies up here in Canada, because more likely than not, we'll see that weather every year. This year, it was actually one of the mildest winters we've ever had (at least in my part of Canada). I think all of our weather went down south to you. Not great for the Winter Olympics, but amazing in general.

I had a head gasket problem in my 2000 OBW, which was caught early on and covered under warranty (thank god). I've never had an oil leakage problem, though my previous Mitsubishi-built Chrysler had those galore. I was told that the head gasket is a well-known issue with certain models of Subaru engines. Not sure about the oil leaks, though. As for whether the modern Subarus have had this issue fixed? I'm sure Subaru will tell you yes, but I guess we'll never actually known under the modern Subarus have been running for ten years themselves.
As for the power steering leak, I've also recently discovered I have a large leak, but my car is now already near 250K km (155K miles). In the meantime, I'm keeping the problem at bay by just refilling the PS fluid, until I can get a good deal on a steering rack replacement or rebuild.

Developing a power steering leak at 117K doesn't seem particularly unreliable to me. It's always annoying no matter what mileage it occurs at, it doesn't matter if it's been only 25K or 250K. But if he's gone over 100K and this develops, then I'd say his investment was well met. At least if it happens at 25K, the problem is probably going to be covered under warranty, though you'd call it unreliable for having happened so soon.

I guess the bearing was replaced again at 117K because the entire power steering rack was replaced at the same time, right?

I'd say it depends on the conditions the car is put through daily. I live in a cold country and we develop a lot of cold-weather-related problems early, which many of you in more southerly climes don't have to worry about. But even within a single city, there will likely be different conditions that the vehicle is used under that will affect its reliability.
    Yousuf Khan
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Any 2.5 before 2010 could have a head-gasket oil leak, before 2005 it could be coolant ectarnally and/or internally.
Forester wheel bearings have a finicky replacement procedure, hub and knuckle must be checked for roundness, bearing for the rear has been updated.
If he's thinking of a 2010, the data is just not in yet. The head gasket/deck designs have been revised for '10.
Dave
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just a couple of thoughts:
awd costs extra to buy and extra to run. what are the chances of another record-breaking snowfall in the next 10 years? (the average life expectancy of the car.)
it's hard to gauge reliability on a small sample of one or two cars. and good marks in consumer reports won't guarantee that you don't get a lemon, or that the mechanic who works on your car doesn't screw up or rip you off.
my '02 legacy seemed to have a bad wheel bearing (bad vibration and noise at highway speed), but an honest dealership mechanic (i was literally 1,000 miles from home) found that it was just a loose wheel. (the dorks who had serviced the car rotated the tires but forgot to torque the lug nuts - all 10 on the right side were "finger tight"!) that was about 75,000 miles ago. if an oem wheel bearing lasted 100k and the replacement only lasted 15k, i don't think it's a "subaru" problem.
"your actual mileage may vary..."

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