Rent, Lease, Sell or Keep: 1998 Subaru Forester

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang
rent lease sell or keep 1998 subaru forester

Back in 2003, nearly a third of the vehicles I bought were either Volvos or Subarus. An auctioneer friend of mine described these cars as ‘wanna-be’s’. Since most of the buyers of these vehicles at his uncle’s car lot seemed to all fit the bill of an aspiring Yuppie. A lot of education. A lot of debt. Very little knowledge about cars beyond the Consumer Reports and monthly car mags. These buyers were a near nuisance in the Atlanta outskirts due to their pickiness and excessive question asking. For me though it was a different story.

I loved these people. Why? Because you could easily upsell them on the records. An Outback that would usually go for around $4000 could easily hit $5500 if it came with dealer records. For a long time I focused exclusively on Volvos and Subarus that had dealer records. Volvo owners were known to be risk-averse folks and conservative drivers to boot. If the S70 or 850 had a problem? Heck, they already spent $30k+ on the vehicle. Going to the dealership was a no-brainer. Subarus were much the same way. Pricey to buy. Dealer visits for maintenance and repairs were nearly a given for the clientele. This 1998 Subaru Forester with a 5-speed and 132k had 30+ dealer visits and $6000+ in repair work over the years. Should I…

Sell: I have a little less than $2200 in it. An asking price of $3995 would likely settle into the $3500 range after negotiations. The car is in really top shape. No paint fade. The head gasket was already done five years ago and 30k miles ago. Plus it’s incredibly difficult to find a Forester with a 5-speed in metro-Atlanta. This area may well be the most slushbox oriented place in America. No one knows how to drive a stick out here unless they’re from North Georgia or a non-native. The sell would give me a quick healthy profit. So that’s definitely in the cars.

Lease: I have only financed a couple of Subarus during the past two years. The first was he exact same Forester. But an automatic with about 45,000 more miles. That one went for $3995 and all the payments were made in good order. The other was a 1998 Outback that became a chronic pain in my axe. The car was a leaky, weepy mess of oils and the older owner who had a bad mechanic and fixed income couldn’t handle it. I took the vehicle back, gave her a Mercury Sable, and sold the Subaru for a cheap cash price. This particular Subaru I am less concerned about financing. If I did it would be $700 down $60 a week for 24 months.

Rent: That earlier mention about the unpopularity of stickshifts? Renting a car with a handshaker is a very tricky business. I have only rented two of them over the past a year. A 1993 Corolla that may yield 4k in rental and finance profit when it’s all said and done. Plus a 1994 Prism that hasn’t quite yet found a long-term keeper. The Corolla only had two rental customers. Both were folks well over 40 and more interested in commuting costs than sportiness. The Forester would appeal more to younger folks. As an automatic, perhaps it would work. As a stickshift, it could easily become a pricey money pit.

Keep: Once every 10 years or so Atlanta has a serious snowstorm. So I don’t really need all wheel drive. Even at those times I just simply drive a front wheel drive vehicle with good tires. My wife doesn’t enjoy driving sticks since she’s in the ‘chauffeur’ phase of mommyhood. The Forester is a nice vehicle. But compared to a 1st gen Insight, for a frugal enthusiast like me, it just doesn’t add up. I’m already sworn to the altar of saving money and flipping the bird to the Russian mafia and Arab dictatorships. The Roo’ will find a good home. But it just won’t be mine.

So should I sell for a quick and easy buck? Finance since it already has an army’s worth of dealer records? Rent in the hopes that it finds a potential long-term keeper in the process? Or keep it since the AWD will help me in the .1% of the time I may need it?

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  • Domestic Hearse Domestic Hearse on Jan 31, 2011

    If ever there was a case for selling on eBay Motors, this is it. A 5-speed Subaru Forester with records will fetch bukubucks in the Rocky Mountains and Northeast snow corridor. Which is, as you read this, full of snow. There is someone right now willing to drop quick cash money on a manual Subie. I'm a huge fan of these reliable litte quirkmobiles. Can't stand the squeaks when I'm in them (and they all squeak), but other than that, always had great luck with them.

  • Trend-Shifter Trend-Shifter on Jan 31, 2011

    Based on all the repair comments this Subie is definitely a SELL. On a related subject... Why even consider buying a high mileage used car? The cost spread between a low mileage example and high mileage car is not worth the repair costs, inconvenience, and your time. If the vehcle cost is too high, it is better to drop back a few years to afford a lower mileage car. Just buy a vehicle with less than 40,000 original miles, period, the end. Less is even better, I prefer less than 30,000. Change the fluids regularly and sell it when it reaches the first sign of a costly repair or external rust. That is usually around 120,000-160,000 miles. Then start the buy-sell cycle over again.

    • PrincipalDan PrincipalDan on Jan 31, 2011

      My father buys at 50,000 miles or less, and dumps right around 100,000 to 120,000 miles. He's been a hard core used car buyer since the early 1970s.

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