By on March 8, 2013

I bought my first car six months ago, a dark green 2002 Subaru Impreza 2.5 TS. I purchased it from a local dealership for $5,800 with 97,100 miles on the odometer. Stick-shift, Subaru AWD, and sticky studded snows made this a solid candidate for the harsh Vermont winters. And while this past snowy season didn’t turn out to be too frightening, the car did.

About a month after purchase, my mechanic threw it up on the lift and showed me that my rear subframe was laced with rust and together by a thread. He said that the car was becoming more dangerous to drive and that resolving the situation (new frame, struts, cables) would set me back $1,500 at least. A month later the Subie got involved in a late night tussle with a deer, and the deer won. This repair needed to be made as the deer left the scene with my headlight for a necklace. I got a buddy to reconstruct the face of my car for $500 — headlight, new bumper, etc. I kept driving the heap despite my mechanic’s earlier warnings that soon the frame would fall out and I’d be propelling the thing like my name was Flintstone.

But the final blow came last month when coolant and oil began leaking out onto the engine. By this point the car has only 110,000 on it but Subaru’s are notorious for needing head gasket repairs around this mileage. It was time for me to think about my options. This new diagnosis would set me back another $2,000.

So the sum total of what I would need to put into this car — between frame and engine — would be near-as-makes-no-difference $3,500-4,000 to keep it going. By this point I think it’s a no-brainer. Ditch the Subie and pick up a late nineties Corolla with few miles. I just hate giving up on something I’ve driven a sinful 16,000 miles.

Help!(?)

 

Steve Says 

The only help I can give you is prayer.

“Heavenly father. I pray that you will give this young lad the wisdom of Darwin and the fear of the most conservative of Camry drivers.”

A frame hanging by a thread represents death on the road. At the salvage auctions you will sometimes see these rustbuckets totaled to the point where the survival of the prior occupant was between doubtful and impossible. You will also see the word ‘Biohazard’ scrawled on the windshield to reflect the residue left from the rotting corpse that once occupied the driver seat.

Cars that have severe rust issues end up with failing brake lines, broke axles, defective sub frames, and all sorts of steering nastiness when you are traveling at rates of speed that endanger you and every other human being in your domain.

You can kill people. You can kill yourself. If you want funny on the open road, go ride a lawnmower.

This is what you do. Sell the vehicle at a public auction that is frequented by dealers. Sell it with the following announcement, “AS/IS, Frame Damage, Parts Only, Dealer Bid Only, No Individuals”.

The auction should have a specific bill of sale for “parts only” vehicles. Sell it. Sign it. Consider your cost a cheap education compared to what could have been.

Sajeev Says:

I hope you learned your lesson, don’t buy an older car without a Pre-Purchase Inspection. A PPI woulda spotted the subframe rot rather quickly, and been worth every penny spent.

That’s for next time.  Now you dump this machine with all kinds of warnings (and a Bill of Sale stating it’s sold AS-IS with frame damage) for the next owner.  Should you buy a Corolla?  Maybe.  But any FWD machine with snow tires will be adequate, and some of them have decent suspensions too.  Sure, it ain’t a Subie, but that’s also a good thing in some respects.

Go test drive some sporty FWD machines (Focus, Civic, any Mazda, etc) in your price range and, for the love of all that’s right in this world, get a PPI this time!!!

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

85 Comments on “New Or Used? : Darwin Riding Shotgun Edition...”


  • avatar
    danio3834

    Yep best to just walk away from this one.

    • 0 avatar
      twotone

      Nope, no reason to to a PRE-purchase inspection.

      “About a month after purchase, my mechanic threw it up on the lift and showed me that my rear subframe was laced with rust and together by a thread.”

      • 0 avatar
        Deaks2

        +1 How the hell did this thing pass a state safety at the time of sale?

        • 0 avatar
          CompWizrd

          Probably the same way my sister-in-law’s ’88 Jeep passed.. “Here’s $50, sign my safety here”

          Her jeep was involved in a 70mph end over end rollover.. 7 total flips.. She was in the hospital for a few days, but there were no long term issues.

          What saved her when the jeep landed upside down on her and the roll bar collapsed, was that the seatback broke. from there, the windshield that didn’t collapse, and the back of the jeep formed a small pocket where only her head got smooshed down into the ground.

          So anyways, after we got the jeep back, we decided to strip the parts off it. The driver side seat belt was no good, but the unused passenger side looked ok. So I went over to it, looked at the belt, and yanked the assembly out. The mounting points were so rusted out that they gave almost immediately… And this thing passed a safety around a month earlier when she bought it from a used car lot.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      Listen to The Humongous

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ttKJwvFIgw

    • 0 avatar
      popoquira

      You should check another local Subie dealer or the regional Subie rep, I believe there was a recall on subframe due to rust issues and they might fix free of charge.

  • avatar

    Live and learn. I have spent a lot of money over they years to keep cars going past their prime but the car you describe is past the point where you would get any real use out of that investment.

    Sometimes you have to smit you got snookered and walk away.

  • avatar

    I would post a review about the local car dealership that you purchased this from. To sell a car with such an obvious defect and not inform the owner is almost criminal. From my point of view, they knew they were selling a car that threatened your life, and I would do everything in my power to prevent them from doing the same to the next person.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      I wouldn’t because he would be blaming the dealer when clearly most of the of the responsibility is his. As far as we know, he didn’t buy it certified with an inspection, he likely bought it as-is. Which would mean 100% of the onus is on the buyer to inspect the vehicle for defects. If this is the case, the dealer did nothing criminal, and for him to accuse them of criminal wrongdoing is ignorant.

      • 0 avatar
        rpol35

        Agreed! Assuming that Vermont has car inspection regulations (the N.E. seems to be huge on regulations) and the car passed the State inspection there is probably no liability on its part. It would be very hard to prove, six months after the fact, that the car should have failed the inspection.

        • 0 avatar

          That and perhaps that’s a smokin’ deal on a Subie for Vermont. Not that I’d know, all I am saying is that sometimes you get what you pay for.

          Unless you spend the money for a PPI.

          • 0 avatar
            ott

            Almost $6k for an As-Is 02 Subaru??? Where in North America is that a smokin’ deal… Alaska? That car was worth maybe $2k if it was sold As-Is. My guess is that it was sold with a dealer-performed “certification” and the buyer is too inexperienced or lacking the balls to take the dealer to task about this. He should’ve gone back to the dealer at the first sign of trouble (if the car was in fact sold certified) and demanded his money back or threaten court action. A dealer will typically concede some type of solution to the problem (within reason) to avoid court. If it was sold As Is, YIKES… did he get taken. Either way, too late to do much about it now, this is an excellent learning experience.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Rus are ridiculous around here in snow and hill country. The last one I heard about for sale was an ’05 Forester with around 90K on the clock, my guy *paid* like 85 at the Perryopolis auction, my jaw dropped. He was trying to dump it for around 9 last I heard just to get his money back.

          • 0 avatar

            Subarus hold their value quite well in places like Colorado and the Northeast…I suspect your friend and his $8500 auction Subie isn’t a rare occurance.

            Much like the clean Geo Metro that sold for $7000 when we had a gas price spike back in 2008.

            http://consumerist.com/2008/05/21/high-gas-prices-transform-geo-metros-from-weak-to-chic/

          • 0 avatar
            corntrollio

            “Much like the clean Geo Metro that sold for $7000 when we had a gas price spike back in 2008.”

            People who can’t do math and overreact to gas prices are a dime a dozen. I wonder how much that woman lost selling her relatively new Honda Element in bad economic times.

            She probably didn’t save much money in the end. Let’s say she drove 15,000 miles/year.
            At 28 mpg and $3.97/gallon for the Element, as quoted in the article, that’s $2127/year for the Honda vs. 46 mpg, which is $1295/year for the Geo Metro. That’s $832/year saved.

            The article claims Blue Book value was 1/5 of what she paid. So she paid $7300 for a $1460 car — a $5840 overpayment.

            Without even considering any money lost on the Element, it would have taken just over 7 years for her to recover the $5840 overpayment at $832/year. Plus she likely spent much more repairing the 12 year old Metro than the much newer Element.

            At least she wasn’t as dumb as the people who trade in their late model car for a new more fuel efficient model, thereby losing several thousand on the trade in (and possibly rolling the excess of what they owe into the next loan).

          • 0 avatar
            tpepin

            A guy I manage at work had a 60 mile round trip commute and drove a Scion TC, he freaks out about gas prices and trades his TC for a used Corolla, not a bad decision at first glance? Problem is he was upside down on the TC so the good folks in the finance department roll what he owes into the note on the Corolla – Voila! He’s paying something along the lines of $398/month…. For a Corolla?????

            It doesn’t end there, 6 months later his girlfriend tosses his ass out and he moves 10 minutes from our office…. Nothing like being newly single and seated rolling woman repellent by “Akio”

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            @corntrollio,

            I see how you manage to maintain the quality of your insightful posts. The woman that bought the Metro was spending almost $100 a week on gas for her 28 mpg Element at $3.97 a gallon. Does that sound like 15,000 miles a year to you? You were only off by 143%, which shows that you are trying harder. It still doesn’t mean that she was better off dumping a moderately efficient late model car for a more efficient old car, but one should at least use the information available to them to form their opinion. Try it. Your life will improve by leaps and bounds.

          • 0 avatar
            corntrollio

            “The woman that bought the Metro was spending almost $100 a week on gas for her 28 mpg Element at $3.97 a gallon.”

            Admittedly I missed the almost $100/week on gas. But “almost $100/week” could be $80 or $90. I doubt she’s driving over 35,000 miles/year. I can run it at $90/week quite easily — $90/week ($4680/year) at $3.97 gallon is 1179 gallons/year, or about 33,000 miles/year. That gives 718 gallons/year in the Metro, or $2849/year. $1831/year difference, which still means 38+ months to break even, without even considering what she lost on the Element or repairs on the old Geo.

            Note that the original CNN article says she has a 100 mile commute to and from work, which assuming that’s round trip (has to be based on math), gives 26,000 miles/year just from her commute.

            In any case, as you said, it doesn’t change my end conclusion one bit.

            But methinks you’re just pissed that you’re not very good at understanding the Constitution… It’s hilarious to think that you of all people would tell me to pay attention to facts when you’re saying that CARB is somehow unconstitutional.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            What’s so magical about 35,000 miles a year? I’ve averaged over 31,000 miles for 3 years in one of my cars when I didn’t even have a long commute. I know a woman that wore out a Mini Cooper in two years while also driving two other vehicles part of the time. I looked at an 8 year old used car with 408,000 miles last year and a five year old one with 270,000 miles.

            28 mpg in an Element is a hyper-miler’s score. They were rated at 25 mpg highway for the 2WD models. Whatever her commute was, it wasn’t stop and go, and it didn’t involve speeding. She’d probably beat the EPA scores for the Metro too, and maybe this transaction would have made sense had gas prices not collapsed with the economy. Her Element may have had over 100,000 miles already too.

            You’re a good example of why my Constitutional Law Professor didn’t waste his time with 90% of the class. You can cover far more ground when you don’t spend all your time explaining what the various tenses mean.

          • 0 avatar
            corntrollio

            “What’s so magical about 35,000 miles a year?”

            Nothing except that her commute was 26,000 miles by itself, so just extrapolating from there. It’s a reasonable guess, based on other people I know with long commutes and other people who drive a lot for business travel, and how far they drive. The fact that you’ve seen cars where people drove 50,000 miles/year or more is a non sequitur.

            Again, not sure what this has to do with conlaw, or why you’ve had such a hostile response even though you agree with my conclusion.

            Constitutional law is one of the least coherent parts of law in general. Many of the decisions are arbitrary, despite claiming belief in stare decisis, and most serious legal scholars would generally mock conlaw scholars as such. The reality is that almost anyone can find a judge’s rationale to be activist or pacifist, but poorly thought-out arguments on activism/pacifism don’t really help us figure out what the best public policy is.

            As I’ll mention again, your suggestion that CARB violates the commerce clause suggests that you’re probably not a conlaw scholar.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            Where did you get 26,000 miles a year from? I see no references in neither the Consumerist nor the CNN article to this figure, nor to 500 miles a week or 100 miles a day. You seem to be making things up to distract from your repeated failures at arithmetic.

            Whether or not I’m a conlaw scholar is all relative. Hypothetically, our PO(TU)S is an expert in constitutional law. I assure you that both the letter and intent are both safer in my hands than his claws. That would be quite an affront to the people holding your strings, though.

          • 0 avatar
            scrappy17

            If you think 6k for an 02 subaru is high., take a look at seattle craigslist for the going prices on late model subarus, they are insane.

            Here is an example, same 02 impreza with 160k miles, which is 50k miles more than the OP, base model private party asking price is $6950.

          • 0 avatar
            corntrollio

            It’s the 3rd sentence of the CNN article:
            “With her 100-mile commute to and from work each day, she saw no end in sight.”

            If you do a little simple math, you get that her commute is about 26,000 miles/year, minus vacation days, of course. I’d still love for you to find a single arithmetic error, as you claim. I’m not sure why you’re still talking nonsense if you agree with my conclusion. What was it you said?

            “but one should at least use the information available to them to form their opinion. Try it.”

            Don’t know what “That would be quite an affront to the people holding your strings, though” means, but you clearly know very little about conlaw, so I’m not sure why you keep harping on this point. I’m certainly not convinced you know anything about its letter or intent from anything you’ve written on TTAC, hence the link from The Onion.

        • 0 avatar
          tim850csi

          Vermont has both emissions control checks as well as equipment checks. Last inspection I received ended up in replacing the right front tie-rod and left front CV joint.

          Don’t understand states that don’t have rigorous inspections.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            “Don’t understand states that don’t have rigorous inspections.”

            My area does have them and they piss me off. Why? Because I keep my heaps in good order and they always pass. Yet many shops still try and sell you work because of a discrationary clause in the rules.

            Rust on the brake lines isn’t a failure because if you can stand on the pedal and they don’t leak, why should they fail an inspection? Many shops will say fix it or fail based on their discretion.

            Many technician and repair associations lobby for these inspections because it generates good business for them. it’s an easy sell because its “in the name of safety” which many argue can be sold at any cost.

            The real hoopties can be issued fix-it tickets if they’re a danger. Even in nearby areas where there are no state inspections, there isn’t an epidemic of ball joint failures causing accidents, which transfer inspections won’t pre-emptively catch anyway.

            So that’s my rant.

          • 0 avatar
            rpol35

            danio3834:

            Completely agree, I leave in a state that has neither but use to live in one that did. In the “did” state is was nothing but an unscrupulous money grab by clerks out to screw you out of every imagineable dime on idiotic things that had nothing to do with auto safety.

            In the “don’t” state, I have never heard or read of any type of car crash, injury or death due to equipment related failure. Lot’s of stupidity failure definitely but not auto equipment failure. Even Washington, D.C. for cryin’ out loud gave up safety inspections in 2010; the reason stated was that potential issues arising from safety inspections are just not a measureable factor.

            It’s just cognitive dissonance, people trying to justify the nanny state intrusion that has become so sheepishly accepted by many.

          • 0 avatar

            After an extended argument with a friends about this very topic (myself in favor on zero inspection and himself in favor of yearlies), I grabbed the fatality statistics state-by-state per-miles-driven and batched them into three groups: no inspections, yearlies and “other” (whose mode was “inspect on sale”). There was a small but non-zero correlation between deaths per miles driven and inspections. However, it turned out that the real difference was between zero inspection and “any other regime.” Having only “on sale” inspection was as safe as having yearlies. There was no change in DPMD between the two. So, excepting all of the other statistical shenanigans involved, there appeared to be some real correlation between having inspections or not, but no difference between yearlies and “on sale”.

            We both ended up conceding to a middle ground that they probably have some real value, but that yearlies are needless.

            Of course, this is academic and not a true “study”. Correlation implies not causality, etc. There are probably other factors that are far more important on a state-by-state basis. However, looking at the numbers, there is little way to defend yearly inspections from a safety standpoint.

          • 0 avatar
            jacob_coulter

            I’m definitely on the side that inspections are nothing but a money grab courtesy of the auto repair industry lobby.

            The above example shows you how much these “strict” state inspections are worth.

            Driver’s making mistakes are what causes 99.99999% of accidents, cars falling apart while driving and hurting another driver that could have been avoided from mandatory inspections are probably close to the same odds as getting hit by lightning.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            …..Rust on the brake lines isn’t a failure because if you can stand on the pedal and they don’t leak, why should they fail an inspection? Many shops will say fix it or fail based on their discretion…..

            You are right in that the mechanic has an incentive to cheat. Then again, on this site some think that that kind of thinking is ok, as you the customer should ‘know better”…but seriously, we had a car that was only 10 years old and the brakes unexpectedly failed with zero warning due to rotted brake lines. Had that happened in traffic I likely would have rear ended a car at 50 MPH. Perhaps folks on this site are better than most with car care, but when I was in NH this summer I noticed quite a few cars with bald tires (usually one tire) and heavily scored rotors. While it is more inconvenient, state run facilities have no incentive to force unneeded repairs. Then again, that comes with its own baggage too. Shame that folks won’t just do the right thing and keep their car safe.

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          Where did you get 26,000 miles a year from? I see no references in neither the Consumerist nor the CNN article to this figure, nor to 500 miles a week or 100 miles a day. You seem to be making things up to distract from your repeated failures at arithmetic.

          Whether or not I’m a conlaw scholar is all relative. Hypothetically, our PO(TU)S is an expert in constitutional law. I assure you that both the letter and intent are both safer in my hands than his claws. That would be quite an affront to the people holding your strings, though.

      • 0 avatar
        Astigmatism

        To be fair, he said “almost” criminal. And if the dealer is selling vehicles that aren’t safe to be driven on public roads, there may be some implied warranty issues.

        Of course, there could also be libel issues. So yeah, tread carefully.

        • 0 avatar
          mklrivpwner

          I don’t think Libel applies here, as long as he sticks to the condition of the car and doesn’t openly direct blame;
          “I bought a Subie from ____. A month later, when my regular mechanic looked at it, there was a ton of rust. No really, two-thirds of the car was rust; the other third was blue 200mph tape. He said there’s no way that that much of the car rusted away in a month.”

    • 0 avatar
      dude500

      It might be worthwhile to ask a lawyer about a legal pursuit, as you might be able to recuperate something from the dealer. I doubt the car started rusting that badly so quickly. The dealer should have had at least as much disclosure responsibility as you would have when you decide to get rid of this car.

      • 0 avatar
        zeus01

        “It might be worthwhile to ask a lawyer about a legal pursuit, as you might be able to recuperate something from the dealer. I doubt the car started rusting that badly so quickly. The dealer should have had at least as much disclosure responsibility as you would have when you decide to get rid of this car.”

        Absolutely! Get to know these next six words: Knew Or Ought To Have Known.” That’s the responsibility of a business and their sales/service staff that sells a product professionally. In this case that product is cars. THEY are the experts on the products they sell. The onus is on THEM to know their product line, not on you the customer.

        First, go to the dealer with your complaint. Be polite, but reasonable and firm. If they blow you off, take this to small claims court with the stance that the dealership knew or ought to have known that this vehicle was neither fit nor safe to be used for the purpose for which it was sold.

        Finally, while you had no legal obligation to have the car independently inspected prior to buying it any more than you had a legal obligation to be mechanically inclined (and should therefore bear no legal obligation to accept responsibility for being sold a hooptie), the other responders on here are right: you do have a personal responsibilty to learn from this experience, and to NEVER trust a used-car dealer (or anyone else for that matter) to be as honest as you are.

        • 0 avatar

          I did not say anything about legal action, I said in my post that one should leave a review. I was once so peed off with a dealer I created a web page about them and then used Google Ad Words to make sure it was the first thing folks saw when they Googled them . There it was, their promise in writing and what they delivered. Took about one day to get a full refund. One can fight back, broadcasting the dealers ethics, as long as you can 100% prove it and run it through your lawyer first, does wonders and tips off others about the dealer.

  • avatar
    GeneralMalaise

    Walk. A rust bucket in this day and age!?!? A head gasket at a 110k? Perhaps Subies aren’t all that and a bag…

    • 0 avatar

      I once lived in Vermont.

      EVERYTHING is a rust bucket in Vermont within a few years unless you get it oil undercoated annually…a big business up there.

      Ok that’s a little bit of an exaggeration…but only because many people keep after their vehicles’ bodies as a matter of ritual, including the annual waste oil undercoating.

      Theswedishtiger is correct. The dealership is at least ignorant and negligent…at most, they’re criminal.

      In Northeastern climes, best to AUTOMATICALLY assume you’re buying a rustbucket until you prove otherwise via a thorough undercarriage inspection.

  • avatar
    chrishs2000

    You need to dump it and be honest with any potential buyers if you sell it private party. Best bet is to try to trade it in and claim the wholesale value. Take your loss and learn your lesson.

    “I hope you learned your lesson, don’t buy an older car without a Pre-Purchase Inspection”

    Exactly. I always do my own used car inspections, which involves my aluminum racing jack and a pair of jack stands as basically the first step. Any sign of leaking fluids is at the top of my list, followed by severe rusting. Light rusting is very easy to slow down with some effort i.e. grinding, sanding, the magical rust reformer and some chassis paint to top it, but it is a concern and justifies a negotiation of price. If the seller has a problem with me poking around, they can find another buyer. I’m a very fair buyer and have paid asking price for cars in the past if it is a realistic price.

    We have two 2003 Hondas and a 2004 Honda in our garage with a combined 500k miles, you can eat off the undercarriage of any of them. Prevention is key – any rust spots must be addressed immediately to limit the growth. The only issue I’ve had with major “OH SHIT” rust is under the door frame top seal of my ’03 Accord where I believe factory e-coat was not adequately applied and since it was hidden it spread along almost the entire top of the frame. This was fixed after a weekend’s work of grinding, finishing and painting for only $100 and the taste of rust in my mouth for a week.

  • avatar
    7402

    Walk away. Follow the good advice above on protecting yourself legally.

    You can disqualify cars like this in under 5 minutes when shopping. Bring a flashlight and get under the car. Even without a jack, you can carry a couple of 2x6s (one about 18″ long, the other about 24″) as a makeshift ramp and lift one corner at a time. Another trick is to drive one side of the car onto a curb using a driveway. Remember that the rust you can see is often a fraction of the rust.

    Buying a rusty car because you didn’t inspect it is an expensive mistake lots of people make once (I did). Just don’t do it twice.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    This thing Imprezes me as being a real P.O.S.! Take the license plate off of it and walk away. (I also suggest buying some other brand of car going forward.)

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    A complete loaded subframe with engine and trans, even one from a WRX, should be far less than that. These are enthusiast cars. Internet forums have made them easy to work on, and parts are abundant. You can even buy a WHOLE HALF of a car from Japan. Just do a search on Ebay for “GDB clip”.

    That’s what I would do if I were you. But I’m a mechanic. I don’t know if you would be able to handle a job like this in your driveway.

    BTW, I hate these cars, so I wouldn’t do it. A GC8 on the other hand…

    • 0 avatar
      scrappy17

      This., there are plenty of people on NASIOC forums and RS25 forums who swap out the crossmember in order to fit a Turbo WRX/STI engine in these cars, since they are different between the NA and Turbo versions of these cars.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    As unfortunate as this you don’t really have anyone to blame but yourself. Dealers are sleazy and will try to pass of anything with 4 wheels as a used car. The PPI would have been great along with bringing an independent mechanic with you to inspect.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    Welcome to Subaru ownership! Really enjoyed driving mine until the issues started cropping up…I could be snarky and say it’s from when GM partly owned FHI but that’s not the case. And then it sat because my commute was on Cannondale. I sold my 2007 Outback for $2k over KBB and Edmunds, but fully disclosed all that had been done. And that’s the first and only Subaru I’ll own. It’s either Honda/Acura for the family hauler(s) or Ford pickups and V8 RWD coupes (if I ever need one).

    • 0 avatar
      grzydj

      Haha. Same here. It’s pretty sad though, as I do enjoy the car and enjoy driving it, but my ’06 Impreza has had every single issue that all of these cars are typically plagued with.

      Headgaskets. Check.
      Clogged catalytic converters. Check.
      Park neutral safety switch gone bad. Check.
      Bad O2 sensors. Check.

      All this before 65k miles!

      There’s been a whole plethora of other nagging little issues that have begun to annoy the crap out of me, but I still like the car, but hate all the problems. Subaru has picked up the bill on the head gaskets and converters, but the rest of it I have had to pay for and it has been very expensive.

      Next car won’t be a Subaru however, as this will be my very last one and I’ve owned a lot of Subaru’s over the years.

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    In the interest of keeping the theme of TTAC’s pronounced editorial bias pure, and to give that poor Subaru owner a small measure of consolation……

    The Subaru has an interior that would put any Corvette to shame.

  • avatar
    MAGICGTI

    I do feel for the guy, as he’s shelled out a ton of money for junk. Just another point that a new car with cheap financing is better than buying somebody’s rust and problems. How far ahead would you be with $300/month on a new Subaru?

    How would the dealer be liable for this? As-is is AS-IS, I wouldn’t want to privately sell a hunk of Subaru rust AS-IS for a buyer to come back at me months later wanting recourse.

    Gee, buying an 11-year old Subaru in Vermont, what’s the expected outcome? Buy a modern Volvo if you want rust resistance.

  • avatar
    JaySeis

    In 71′ my Dad buys me a ’60 Biscayne (red & white!) with no engine (he and I install a 292 six…long story). The previous owner had a 350hp 327 in it and he was a notorious drag racer. Unbeknownst to us…axle windup loosened the rear spring axle connection and was fatigue cracking the rear brake line. A few months later the brakes fail, and I drill a telephone pole at a T intersection. I was lucky to walk away. My Dad was pissed at me until he inspected the brake line and he immediately told me what happened. We were both surprised. Buyer beware.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    A little homework – and some underside inspection – could have prevented this.

    Subaru durability is a myth. I know too many people who’ve been burned after 100k miles.

    Sometimes, you have to cut your losses, no matter how high they are.

    Vaya con Dios.

  • avatar
    jconli1

    My fiancee’s ’04 Forester was similar. A northwest car that spent only two years in upstate NY for school. That was enough. At 120k, I suggested she think about trading it in – great resale in the moment (especially in the NW), a big service ahead, and potential heartache on the horizon (based on all my reading TTAC and other sites). 120k was the magic moment to get out clean for a few grand… but she just loved it too much to let go.

    So we went ahead with the 120k service hoping for another few years out of it. 10k miles later the car had two rear bearing failures, rear suspension failure (largely due to rust), radiator issues, a full-on head gasket failure, and a bunch of electrical gremlins. Between maintenance, repairs, and depreciation, that last 10k cost us about $4000. Cut your losses, indeed.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    It sounds very much like you got a car that had been ridden hard and put away wet. This car has too many severe issues so it needs to move on, sooner the better to! I would not write Subaru’s off as a brand based on your specific experience though, just be super careful if you do get another one. Subaru’s are hugely popular in the Seattle (PNW) area where there is almost no salting of the roads and therefore cars rust far less. I see many older ones still in good shape. Perhaps Subaru is a bad choice for Vermont or other snow belt / salted road areas.
    Good luck!

  • avatar
    ZekeToronto

    Strange story, starting with the purchase price. Three years ago, I sold a ’99 Impreza (which at the time was the same age as the car in question) for $2000. It was not rusty underneath or anywhere else–despite spending its life in the Maritime Provinces, whose weather and salt use are similar to Vermont’s. Nor did it need a head gasket or any other major repairs. To top it off, it had fewer miles than the Subie above (circa 75,000). .

    Once upon a time I owned a Subaru dealership and I understand the appeal of the brand in Vermont. But in my opinion, the dealer who sold this car totally ripped the customer. $5800 for an 11-yo Impreza with that mileage was crazy.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    This is why so many of these turn up missing and found burned to the ground.

  • avatar
    challenger2012

    The story headline should read, “Used Car Dealers are Scum”. I have experienced frightening stuff like this at used car dealerships, as well. I drove a low mileage Miata with a really great price that was on Mazda dealership’s used car lot. The car pulled to the right. I thought it might be the crown in the road, so I drove a new Miata. This car did not pull at all. I then looked under the first car and saw the masking tape lines all around the front of the car. The front end had been severely damaged, which explained why under the hood everything looked so clean. It had all been replaced. I went to another used car lot to look at a car. I opened the hood and saw a bulge in the paint. It was still soft, indicating the front of this car had been hit hard as well and the paint was still drying. I could also tell you about a co-worker who paid 395 for an extended warranty, then when I asked to see the bill of sale, about 1 year later so I knew how to price a similar car, 595 was typed in where 395 was the agreed upon price. How many people go through all those numbers when you pick up your car, after you agreed upon what you would pay earlier?

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Consider this an expensive lesson learned. Not all Subaru’s are capable of all this love and traveling 3 million miles on the original engine etc like the commercials would lead you to believe. Whenever you purchase a car whether it’s Japanese, American or German etc should not only be thoroughly checked out by a mechanic on a lift but also checked extensively to see what the frequency of repairs are, how the engines hold up over the long haul, how stout the trans-axles are, warranty coverage and by all means try and get the past owner records of service. Looking back a few years and speaking to many Subaru owners, these cars have a tendency to eat head gaskets and spit out trannys between 90-110K miles and go through wheel bearings. They also rust in snow belts that use salt like many other cars so check the frames closely!

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    As I read this story I’m reminded the the TTaC piece a week or two ago that listed the most popular new cars that 18 to 34 years olds buy. Most of those 18 to 34 years old will violently state, “I’LL NEVER BUY ANYTHING FROM DETROIT!!!”

    Yet one Detroit entry made the top ten list, and with a couple of exceptions (the Scion tC) every vehicle on that list had a reputation for being a maintenance/quality nightmare.

    [INSERT ARGUMENT THAT REPLACING BAD IGNITION COILS EVER 30K MILES ON A VW IS \"STANDARD MAINTENANCE\" AND DOESN\'T EVERYONE ELSE DO IT]

    I’m really puzzled on why the author of the question would knowingly sink more than $6K (after taxes and fees) into an 11 year old Subbie with almost 100K miles on the clock knowing full well that any moment it was going to need $2000 worth of engine work.

    As far as the frame rot here is the painful life lesson.

    If you’re buying a used car, and you’re spending more than $2000 to $3000, get a third party inspection from an independent mechanic. Period. It costs $100 to $300 depending on who you go to do and what they do. Ten seconds on a lift would have told you to run for your life. A free hydrocarbon test of the coolant would have likely revealed the inkling that the head gasket was on its way to failure. It would have been the best money you spent.

    Second – if you can’t afford to repair – carry collision and comprehensive. In your Subbie vs. deer collision, that would have been covered under comprehensive – an add on above your minimum liability requirements (unless Vermont still allows drivers to operate with no insurance). Comprehensive as an add on to your existing policy? CHEAP.

    Sorry man – but I think you’re out of luck, out of a lot of money, and out of time. Chalk it up to a very painful life lesson.

    I would recommend a GM W-body as a cheap replacement.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Telling him to buy a GM car after this nightmare is just piling on. He’s talking about getting a Toyota and you’re trying to set him up to write another letter asking for help when it’s too late.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        With a W body he should be fine.

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          He ‘should’ have been fine with a late model Subaru too. I think he’s paid his dues and is ready for a good car now. He mentioned a late model Corolla, in which case he will be fine.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            Those Subarus are notorious for the issues he’s suffered. People buy them for their reputation in other areas aside from reliability, fuel mileage or ease of service.

            In terms of longevity a GM W body with a 3800 will be right up there with a Corolla.

          • 0 avatar
            APaGttH

            What danio said. Any GM W-Body 10 years old or newer with the 3.8 minus the supercharger is the ultimate road roach. Oh sure, will happily agree the lettering on the Playskool buttons will rub off and the intermediate steering shaft may clunk at low speed turns (an annoyance not a safety issue) but at the core, you have to try, hard, to break a GM 3.8 V6 or the 4-speed slush box. Drive it gently and you’ll get 20/30 MPG. Traction control will keep you moving in 80% of the places a Subbie can go.

            Going ’03 or newer you avoid the manifold gasket issue – and you can buy an ’04 or ’05 Grand Prix/Impala or Regal (04 only) DIRT cheap.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            So you’re saying that a platform that was introduced in 1988 was finally reliable in 2004? And someone is supposed to get involved in that fail train when they don’t have a gun against their head? I’m not even challenging you. My time as a service writer ended in 12/06, and the 2004 W-bodies had yet to make themselves known to me in an adverse way. There is no freaking way I’d start a relationship with GM though. Most people are cursed with family members that set them up for GM victimhood. If you don’t have go there, why not be one of the people that don’t have their memories defined by auto-induced misery? I’ve got a friend(not for long at this rate) who has a Ford Explorer Sport Trac. It is becoming his defining characteristic. If he had a Tacoma he’d be an entirely different, and more successful, person. Ford ownership is turning him into an annoying open wound. Ford apologism is revealing other undesirable traits that would have remained hidden if his truck didn’t break down three times in two weeks. Friends don’t let friends buy Detroit! And if they insist on it anyway, make new friends.

      • 0 avatar
        Raevox

        W Body is fine, until the rocker panels rust off, and the 4T65-E transmission inevitably dies.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      “Second – if you can’t afford to repair – carry collision and comprehensive. In your Subbie vs. deer collision, that would have been covered under comprehensive – an add on above your minimum liability requirements (unless Vermont still allows drivers to operate with no insurance). Comprehensive as an add on to your existing policy? CHEAP.”

      Agreed. I’m always surprised by the number of noobs on BMW forums who decide to spend big money on an M3, hoon it to death, and then say they didn’t have collision/comprehensive because they couldn’t afford it. The issue is that they couldn’t afford the M3, not the insurance. The stories always start with “so I turned off the traction control…” like that guy who hooned the Toyobaru Hachi-Roku to an early death because most ricer-types aren’t used to driving a RWD vehicle.

      Anyway, as lots of other people have said, no need spending good money after bad on this POS Subaru. Think of it as a lesson learned, and spend $70-100 on a good pre-purchase inspection next time by someone who knows that make/model.

  • avatar
    Fordson

    Wow – too bad you have a rusty 2002 Impreza with 110,000 miles on it – I guess you’re going to have to sell it for parts or as salvage. If only it were a rusty ’97 Prelude with 230,000 miles on it…you could sell it to some dumb ricer for $2,500…with a clear conscience.

    Sometimes it just depends upon how you phrase the question, I guess…

  • avatar
    GeneralMalaise

    Very funny stuff! Experience mixed with pain and the wisdom that results from same.

  • avatar
    AFX

    Any time I’ve gone to look at a car to buy the FIRST thing I do is look underneath it to check for any rust, leaks, or collision repairs. All you need is a strong flashlight, and either some bath towels or cardboard from an old washer/dryer box to lay on while looking underneath it. Ramps work even better. I’ve changed transmissions in a 71 Skylark and an 80 Corolla just using ramps and a dryer box to lay on while underneath the car. I once looked at a used Corolla that had been repainted that was for sale on a used car lot and the left rear suspension arm had been bent from accident damage. I also looked a used Buick Century on a lot that looked good from above, but underneath it was all rotted out. It’s amazing how bad cars can get in heavily salted areas. I looked at an 2000 Mustang once with about 80,000 miles on it that had originally been from Michigan, and while the car looked good on the outside the whole undercarriage was a mess of rust. The exhaust system looked like it had been at the bottom of the ocean with the Titanic. The problem with modern uni-body cars is that even the “frames” underneath these cars are thinner than the older style body-on-frame cars, and they rust a whole lot faster. There’s no undercoating on cars nowadays too, so there’s less protection from salt and stone chips. With a modern car as soon as you see rust forming you better get right on it, or else you can have body perforation in the matter of one winter. Once the outer layer of paint and EDP are compromised you’re out of luck. A good idea is to take a screwdriver and poke at anything that looks rusty and suspicious.

  • avatar
    sketch447

    The appeal of Subarus has always puzzled me. They just don’t seem to be reliable. Further, they’re very expensive to maintain. Sure, you read about Subies that go 250k miles. But then you read that the journey there was marked with multiple head gaskets, huge suspension issues, and **always** multiple brake problems.

    They’re big in the Northeast of course. Many here in MA; even more as you go further north. I’d blame Subaru for the demise of Saab. Saab was the car of choice for college profs.

    But honestly, who really needs AWD for his/her daily driver? Here in MA, when there’s a big snowstorm, the governor now bans all driving until it’s all plowed. (An acceptable policy). But then why have AWD??

    At my local supermarket, for many years there would always be a neon pink PT Cruiser parked out front, even during the worst snow imaginable. I’d always chuckle because that supermarket worker would always drive to work in his FWD PT Cruiser. Meantime, soccer moms in $40k 6000 lb. AWD SUVs would drive up to buy milk and bread. Cops don’t use AWD. Neither do ambulances or firetrucks. Why do we????

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      A Subaru with AWD, turbocharging, heated seats, a sunroof, an automatic transmission, and keyless go has less built in failure modes than a Saab with a map light.

    • 0 avatar
      Compaq Deskpro

      I have seen the new AWD unibody Explorers in service for Mass state police and numerous local police departments, paramedics, and fire departments. It’s looking like the Explorer is the Crown Vic replacement. As a Crown Vic fan that’s okay with me, but I doubt the twin turbos will last long under police use.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    A friend of mine’s father was legendary for buying cars that belonged in the scrapyard. Especially wagons. Inspections were for “dopes”. That’s what he said. Best part about it is his brother ran a garage and a couple of times had warned him about even thinking about buying these junkers, but he would buy them anyway. There were two gems I will never forget. The first one was a misty green Ford wagon with major rust issues. About two weeks after he bought it, the rear axle popped out while he was making a turn. After that was fixed, he blew a tire and a piece of the belt hit the wheel well, and it basically destroyed the rear quarter panel. The other rear quarter had started falling apart already, and being the cheapskate he was, he had some galvanized sheet steel riveted to what remained. The “garbage can” look got a lot of laughs over the rest of the life of the car, which was about a year.

    The next one was the best. He found a Pontiac Parisian(?) wagon that at first glance, looked ok. His brother told him it was a POS, with the 301 motor in it, but he bought it anyway, of course. About a month or so after he bought it, Winter hit, and the water began coming in. He took it someplace and they told him it needed the floorboards replaced, along with other stuff done as it had severe rust issues. He ignored this and put some plywood under the carpet and kept driving it.
    One day, he’s going down the road and some guy pulled out in front of him. He slams the brakes on, and his left foot goes through the floor and his ankle twisted when it hit the ground while the car was still moving, and the ragged metal cut his leg badly. That didn’t convince him to retire the thing, he put new plywood in it, marine stuff this time, and kept driving. Until he hit a big pothole, and tore the left front suspension off it. That finally killed it.

    He replaced it with his first “new” car, a demo Chevy Malibu, that supposedly had 4,000 miles on it, but looked like it had much more. It was a total dog, and was in the shop constantly. The only thing he did that paid off was he bought the credit life insurance, as he died unexpectedly and paid the POS off for his widow. That was probably the smartest thing he ever did. Period.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      I laugh when people say that there are no bad cars anymore because I have a friend with horrible taste in cars who is a carved ankle and death away form rivaling your friend’s father while only owning cars built in the past dozen years, more than half of them new. My laughter is tempered by fresh concern that my friend is at risk of being maimed or killed for his poor taste in cars. Damn you BMW, Ford, and VW! Nissan would be on that list too, except that I got a look at the one he bought when there was still time to make the dealer buy it back.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • J & J Sutherland, Canada
  • Tycho de Feyter, China
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India