How reliable are Subaru? An honest assessment

We take a look at how reliable Subaru are...

  • Is Subaru a reliable manufacturer?
  • How Reliable is the Subaru Forester?
  • Is Subaru more reliable than other manufacturers?
  • Should I purchase a Subaru?

Subaru are a car division of Subaru Corporation (formerly Fuji Heavy Industries), a Japanese transportation conglomerate.

Their cars have remained popular with a core set of buyers, with marketing targeted specifically to their niche in the automotive market. Subaru owners tend to want the cars because of their drivetrain engine, their off-road capabilities or the fact that they are affordable in the sports car market.

Despite their niche market, Subaru have been a strong presence in customer satisfaction and reliability tables for some time now. But, how reliable are Subaru?

In this article, we look at how reliable Subaru are, and how this compares to its rivals.

How Reliable are Subaru?

Subaru has experienced a lot of ups and downs over the last few years, and in 2016 the drop in their reliability was enough that they dropped to 18th out of 36 in the dependability scale as awarded by ReliabilityIndex. However, things have started to look up for them since then.

The manufacturer is still at 18th position on the reliability tables (for both ReliabilityIndex and Which?) however the table now includes more car manufacturers, and the individual cars produced are scoring much better. (2018 figures)

Is the Subaru Forester Reliable?

Even if you have never looked at a Subaru yourself, you probably would have heard of the Forester. This compact SUV comes in about average for reliability, scoring a reliability index of 111. However, this is completely overshadowed by their extortionate average repair costs at £955.08. The Forester is also off the road for quite some time, with an average time of 4.47 hours. The axle and suspension appears to be the main problem, accounting for 38.46% of all problems, followed by the engine.

Subaru Forester

In the 2018 Reliability survey conducted by Which?, the Subaru Forester ranked rather well, with some owners of the model stating that they’d experienced no problems with their vehicles over the three years they had owned them.

The average time that the Which? report discovered the Forester was spending off the road was no more than 24-hours.

According to Which? survey responses, the most common fault experienced by Subaru Forester owners was with the air conditioning, though it’s an issue that is easily fixed.

The online car– and van-part brokerage Breakeryard say you may encounter the following problems with your Subaru:

  • Poor engine idling
  • Broken interior parts
    • This is more common with older Foresters, but they have a lot of small interior parts that are prone to breaking. These include things such as cup holders.
Find out more about Subaru

Is the Subaru Legacy Reliable?

The Subaru Legacy does slightly better when it comes to dependability. The reliability index is roughly the same as the Forester at 112, but the repair costs are much less at £762.79 on average. It also spends less time off the road, with an average of 3.45 hours.

Subaru Legacy

It appears that the engine accounts for most of the problems that are experienced by owners of the Legacy, with 23.53% of issues being related to the engine. The axle and suspension come in a close second.

Breakeryard say these are some common problems with the Legacy:


  • Turbo failure
  • Radiator failure
    • This is particularly common with the Legacy
  • Starter motor failure
    • This is also common with the Legacy

The Legacy is a rather expensive vehicle to repair, with average costs coming in at around £851.42, though this also goes with just 3.39 hours off the road when are taken to the garage.

However, the newer models are more reliable than their predecessors, earning a slightly higher than average 112 (anything higher than 118 is considered to be poor performance) on the ReliabilityIndex.

Is the Subaru Impreza Reliable?

The Subaru Impreza seems to have not impressed Which? reviewers when the 2014-17 model on its launch. Due to the low number that are on the UK roads, when it comes to reliability the publication was only able to look at the brand as a whole. However, factors such as space of the interior and noise in the cabin were reviewed and the vehicle was found lacking.

The 2019 model has a larger interior, but in reviews the cost far outweighed any benefits offered by the vehicle.

Overall, the Impreza does not impress.

Subaru Impreza

Subaru Outback Reliability

The Subaru Outback has been on the Subaru roster for over 25 years. With the almost traditional shape of an estate, the vehicle has high ground clearance and is, like all other Subarus, four-wheel drive.

Unfortunately, when it comes to reliability, the Outback is not as well placed as some of its sister vehicles.

Subaru Outback

In the 2018 Which? reliability survey, the Outback earned just 3 stars out of 5, marking it as an average car in the rankings. According to the owners who took part, the most likely issues experienced were with the battery and the glow plugs. Luckily for the owners who had these issues, the turnaround on repairs was incredibly quick, with cars off the road for no more than 12-hours.

Breakdown rates are higher than usual, with 7% of owners finding it necessary to call a recovery service.

Find out more about the History of Subaru

Are Subaru Less Reliable?

So what has happened that may have made Subaru less dependable than they were a at the height of their popularity in the early 2010s. There are a few possible reasons that this might be the case.

One is the fact that Subaru don’t have that many models on their roster. This means that if one or two models drop in reliability then it can bring the whole brand down. For example, if the Outback and Legacy experience a drop in dependability ratings, then this will affect the whole Subaru line-up and their standing in the reliability tables.

Subaru Forester

Subaru is affected differently to brands such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz, who have a much larger range of models. If one or two of the vehicles in the Mercedes or BMW ranges drop in dependability it won’t have much of an impact on the brand’s reliability as a whole.

For Subaru this has definitely been the case. There have been problems with the Legacy and the Outback, which include noises, leaks and problems with in-car electronics.

Another reason why they might be considered less dependable here in the UK is because that when they do go wrong, they cost a lot to repair.

According to the most recent reports from ReliabilityIndex (2018), the average cost of repairs across all Subaru models is £562.37.

We cannot ignore the high repair costs with Subaru, as this is something many consumers will want to take into account. One of the reasons the repair costs are so expensive in the UK is because there aren’t many Subarus around. This makes their parts less common and therefore more expensive. This is especially true if they have to be ordered from abroad. This brings the repair prices up which, in turn, brings the reliability down. That’s why they may be considered less dependable, and more expensive to repair, in the UK. It’s simply because they are less common.

In the 3 years between 2015-2018, costs for labour increased by over 40%, which contributes somewhat to the lower reliability rating for brands such as Subaru.


One of the core reasons that Subaru reliability has dropped is due to the problems that the Outback and Legacy have had with in-car technology. This is a common reason for declining dependability in a number of makes and models since the early 2000s.

Many cars today have a great deal of new and complex technology. While, on paper,this looks great, and is also really cool when you first get the car, you can run into problems with it further down the line. There are so many moving parts and they can affect the overall reliability of your vehicle.

The technology can also prove to be expensive to repair or replace, further bringing the reliability down.

That said, Subaru aren’t the most unreliable brand out there by any means, and they are still producing good cars that many drivers have no issues with at all (see the Subaru Forester, which has a slightly better than average rating on the RelabilityIndex, and is popular with those who reviewed for Which?.

Subaru vs. Honda vs. Mazda

How does Subaru compete with some of its rivals when it comes to reliability?

Not that well, but that’s only because Honda and Mazda are both very reliable brands. Honda comes 2nd on ReliabilityIndex, with a reliability index of just 41. The Honda Civic, a car that is popular with a similar niche as Subaru cars, scores an impressive reliability index of 30. It also has much lower average repair costs at £333.90. The Civic is also off the road for an average time of 2.20 hours, which isn’t too bad either.

The Honda CR-V also scores very well. It has a reliability index of 57 and average repair costs of £351.28. The CR-V is also off the road for less time, with just 1.92 hours on average spent repairing the model. Overall, Honda are an extremely reliable brand.

Mazda are also very dependable. They are 5th in the ReliabilityIndex table with a reliability score of 65. Their MX-5 is an incredibly reliable car, with a reliability index of 18. It’s also very affordable to fix, with an average cost of £202.75. The average time it spends off the road is also low, at only 1.21 hours.

The Mazda6 is also a reliable car, having earned a 60 on the index. Its repair costs are higher, however, costing, on average, £449.71. It also spends 2.55 hours off road.

If you are looking for a reliable brand, and are deciding between Subaru, Honda or Mazda, then it will have to be Honda. Overall, they are more reliable than the two. Although Mazda are also a very dependable brand as well. Subaru don’t fare as well as their rivals, so if it’s reliability you want then you should look elsewhere.

In conclusion, Subaru aren’t the most reliabile brand on the market, however, some of their models are better than others (e.g. the Forester). Overall, they are an average brand with a model or two that are better than average. But they are improving, having risen through the ranks since their drop in popularity and dependability in 2016.

The manufacturer have managed to improve the vehicles that they have available by focusing on improving existing technologies.

When it comes to their rivals, they can’t compete. But, many of their rivals are some of the most dependable brands on the market today.

That said, we know that Subaru target a niche market. And this market will buy a Subaru because it’s a Subaru.

So, it really depends what is more important to you, the fact your car is a Subaru, or that it’s ultra reliable. Either way, we can’t deny that Subaru make good cars that enable them to continue their loyal following.

Reliability ratings and repair costs were compiled in February 2019

Have a look at the vehicles we have on offer from Subaru

Rachel Richardson

Rachel has been writing for as long as she can remember. She loves the written word and likes nothing more than to research something until she knows all she can about it.
Rachel Richardson

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  • Lainer| 14th July 2019 at 10:05 pm Reply

    Owned a 2002 Impreza Outback Sport for 13 1/2 years. Sold it and got a 2016 Subaru Forester XT (Turbo). The Outback sport had many issues over the years, but I think most of it was just wear and tear. I beat the shit out of it in later years. Most fun manual transmission besides the RS, which I loved, and the WRX. I wish the Forester came with the Manual Transmission and turbo combo. The cheaper Impreza has cheaper interior and I think will have more repairs than this newer Forester. This drives like a dream, whereas the outback sport was fun to drive and hung onto the road almost as nice as the RS (re WRX). I know it is still on the road too. Such a cool car.

    • Rachel Richardson| 15th July 2019 at 1:50 pm Reply

      Hi Lainer,

      We are pleased to hear that you are happy with the Subaru vehicles you have owned in the past and currently. It sounds as though you have found the brand/manufacturer who best suits your needs and meets your driving requirements.

  • lydia dastolfo| 20th May 2019 at 2:48 pm Reply

    I am interested in buying a 2019 Crosstrek Subaru, I want to know how reliable it is and the recalls it had

    • Rachel Richardson| 21st May 2019 at 10:40 am Reply

      Hi Lydia,
      Thank you for your message. The CrossTrek is called the XV in the UK. Looking at our usual reliability reports there are not enough XVs on UK roads to provide accurate information. However, when it was reviewed for reliability and safety by EuroNCAP (a European Safety board) and received 5 out of 5 stars. I hope that you find this helpful.

  • Prem John| 19th May 2019 at 1:43 pm Reply

    I moved from a H Pilot 2009 to Legacy 2019 … a big change in terms of SUV TO SEDAN.( I drove the PILOT for a good 9 year period and I love that one for my own reasons)
    Thats fine with me.
    Its after registering the car in my name did i bother to check on the RELIABILITY factor.
    I always thought that the Subaru Legacy is one of the most reliable vehicle for a family car.
    I hope this is not a wrong decision.

    Look forward to your views and advises

    Prem JOHN

    • Stephen Mathew| 27th May 2019 at 5:32 am Reply

      Prem John, I currently own 4 Subaru cars, all of which have in excess of 200,000 miles on the clock. Aside from basic maintenance my biggest of issues has been the notorious head gasket failures, which honestly are not quite as often as some would lead you to believe (averaging 150k miles) . They are simple to repair if you are inclined to do so yourself, and permitting your local laws allow this. I have heard directly from owners of the new “FA” and”FB” series of engines, however, that they are much more reliable than the older “EJ” series of engines. To the best of my knowledge that new Legacy of yours should be the aforementioned “FA” or “FB” series depending on the engine size of course.

      I do hope this somewhat eases your worries as a new Subaru owner. Subaru is the only brand I will ever purchase and for good reason, I have survived a very serious accident because of the safety of their cars.

    • Rachel Richardson| 21st May 2019 at 10:43 am Reply

      Hi John,
      Thank you for your comment. The reliability figures used on this page are up to date as of this year and use various sources in order to ensure accuracy. However, they would be on a slightly older model (late 2018) rather than 2019. If you are concerned there are many Subaru owner forums you can visit to get more information on what to expect.

      I hope that you find this information helpful while running your Subaru Legacy.

  • Colin Broad| 18th May 2019 at 9:56 am Reply

    Colin 18th May 2019 09:36
    I have a 2015 Outback, purchased at one year old with 1400miles on the clock.Three years on the Outback has now done 66000 miles. I have experienced no problems apart from flat battery when the dogs jump out of the back and knock the switch. Not really a Subaru problem, more of carelessness from my wife and I.Mine is a diesel and the drive is superb, both my wife and I find the fuel consumption 42 mpg overall is acceptable. Now to the downside. I would like to part exchange in 2020 for another of the same. Subaru now have stopped offering a diesel, only a 2.5 petrol engine with real time 28 mpg and lack lustre real world driving experience. Such a pity as the whole owning experience has been first class. What other choices are there for a permanent four wheel drive rugged comfortable mile eater safe as houses car ?

    • Rachel Richardson| 21st May 2019 at 10:46 am Reply

      Hi Colin,
      It is always great to hear from someone who loves their car and has experienced few (if any) issues while owning it.

      If you are looking for another car with similar features and fits your requirements please contact Amanda on 01903 223391 and she will be able to pass you to one of our experienced team to talk through your options and help you to find the ideal vehicle.

  • Linette| 1st May 2019 at 1:06 am Reply

    I just purchased a 2009 Subaru Tribeca. While reading on your website I learned that they are no longer making them. Will that be a problem when taking it in for repairs or parts. Thank you for the information regarding Subaru. Linette

    • Rachel Richardson| 1st May 2019 at 12:12 pm Reply

      Hi Linette,
      Hopefully you will enjoy your new Tribeca. I spoke with one of our vehicle experts and he has confirmed that while they are no longer making the vehicle, the parts will continue to be available for years, so you will not have issues in getting replacements should anything go wrong. Hopefully this information will help.

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