Where Your Author Selects an Outback Replacement, but Asks: New or Used?

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
where your author selects an outback replacement but asks new or used

Recently I reached out to you, dear readers, for some suggestions on replacing a 2012 Subaru Outback. The wagon has occupied my driveway for the past two years, but, for reasons outlined previously, it’s time for it to go. My initial idea for a replacement was a Kia Niro, but that didn’t seem like it was going to pan out. So I turned to the real experts around here.

Comments poured in, and four suggestions were clear. Let’s narrow things down a bit.

After more than 160 comments, the four main reader suggestions were the Hyundai Elantra GT, Buick Regal TourX, Volkswagen Golf, and Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen. Not coincidentally, the list there is in order of least to most desirable to me.

The Elantra GT’s interior is a big letdown in contrast to the restrained good looks of the exterior. Inside it looks cheap and cobbled together, and I’d expect better of Hyundai in 2019. The Regal TourX is outside of budget, even when used. Some commenters seemed to think dealers would be happy to knock of $10,000 just for asking nicely, but I’m not so sure. Nor am I sold on the reliability or later resale value on an Opel-Buick wagon which will surely be discontinued very soon.

The upper half of the class is filled by two Volkswagens. While I don’t take issue with the standard Golf’s purposeful interior and time-proven exterior appearance, it’s a bit smaller than I’d like (even though I’m downsizing). The Sportwagen is left as the Outback replacement worth considering. It’s in budget, I like how it looks, and prices are good because it’s as popular as getting a rash. It drives nicely, is quiet, and feels like it’s been put together well. But in this single model, I’m left with a new/used quandary.

2019 is the final year for the Sportwagen in the North American market, and it shows. The model lineup is consolidated this year, with just three trims on offer. The highest trim is the SE, which features a smaller 1.4-liter turbocharged engine. Said engine replaces the 1.8 from prior model years. With this change, horsepower dropped from 170 to 147, while estimated fuel economy went up a couple of highway MPGs.

2018 is the used year of consideration here. The 2018 version received an infotainment update with a larger touchscreen, and was also the last instance the top-tier SEL trim was available. SELs featured more standard equipment like navigation, nicer interior trim bits, sport-design seats with additional bolstering, Fender audio, and more exterior bright work.

Either option is thin on the ground with a tan interior, though a few new ones are out there. As new, dealers seem to want $24-25k for 1.4T SE, apart from a large volume dealer in Illinois that’s asking $23,206. Used 2018s with around 10,000 miles ask between $20,000 and $21,000. But that figure includes a higher trim SELs with a larger engine, like the one pictured.

What do you do in this situation — spend $24,000 on a new one that’s a lower trim, or $20,000 for a used one that’s more powerful and has more equipment, but is less efficient?

[Images: GM, Hyundai, sellers]

Join the conversation
4 of 112 comments
  • Rengaw Rengaw on Nov 17, 2019

    I would just like to add, Corey, that some of my favorite reading on this blog has been following along your pursuit of selling and buying a different vehicle. Thanks for inviting us all along for the ride. Interesting enough, when you were contemplating a Lexus RX 350 or Subaru Outback I was doing the same. I have dropped the Outback but still have an eye for the RX. Where I live, up near Seattle, I see them everywhere but my wife wants to wear out our 2009 Toyota RAV 4 and I am finding that hard to do.

    • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Nov 17, 2019

      Glad you're enjoying! I think about used car stuff a lot, might as well share.

  • Teddyc73 Teddyc73 on Nov 18, 2019

    "Nor am I sold on the reliability" (the Buick) People are still hung up on this old tired false perception.

    • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Nov 18, 2019

      It's not a Buick. It's an Opel made in Germany, under contract by people who work for Peugeot.

  • Zerocred So many great drives:Dalton Hwy from Fairbanks to the Arctic Circle.Alaska Marine Highway from Bellingham WA to Skagway AK. it was a multi-day ferry ride so I didn’t actually drive it, but I did take my truck.Icefields Parkway from Jasper AB to Lake Louise AB, CA.I-70 and Hwy 50 from Denver to Sacramento.Hwy 395 on the east side of the Sierras.
  • Aidian Holder I'm not interested in buying anything from a company that deliberately targets all their production in crappy union-busting states. Ford decided to build their EV manufaturing in Tennessee. The company built it there because of an anti-union legal environment. I won't buy another Ford because of that. I've owned four Fords to date -- three of them pickups. I'm shopping for a new one. It won't be a Ford Lightning. If you care about your fellow workers, you won't buy one either.
  • Denis Jeep have other cars?!?
  • Darren Mertz In 2000, after reading the glowing reviews from c/d in 1998, I decided that was the car for me (yep, it took me 2 years to make up my mind). I found a 1999 with 24k on the clock at a local Volvo dealership. I think the salesman was more impressed with it than I was. It was everything I had hoped for. Comfortable, stylish, roomy, refined, efficient, flexible, ... I can't think of more superlatives right now but there are likely more. I had that car until just last year at this time. A red light runner t-boned me and my partner who was in the passenger seat. The cops estimate the other driver hit us at about 50 mph - on a city street. My partner wasn't visibly injured (when the seat air bag went off it shoved him out of the way of the intruding car) but his hip was rather tweaked. My car, though, was gone. I cried like a baby when they towed it away. I ruminated for months trying to decide how to replace it. Luckily, we had my 1998 SAAB 9000 as a spare car to use. I decided early on that there would be no new car considered. I loathe touch screens. I'm also not a fan of climate control. Months went by. I decided to keep looking for another B5 Passat. As the author wrote, the B5.5 just looked 'over done'. October this past year I found my Cinderella slipper - an early 2001. Same silver color. Same black leather interior. Same 1.8T engine. Same 5 speed manual transmission. I was happier than a pig in sh!t. But a little sad also. I had replaced my baby. But life goes on. I drive it every day to work which takes me over some rather twisty freeway ramps. I love the light snarel as I charge up some steep hills on my way home. So, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Passat guy.
  • Paul Mezhir As awful as the styling was on these cars, they were beautifully assembled and extremely well finished for the day. The doors closed solidly, the ride was extremely quiet and the absence of squeaks and rattles was commendable. As for styling? Everything's beautiful in it's own way.....except for the VI coupe....it's proportions were just odd: the passenger compartment and wheelbase seemed to be way too short, especially compared to the VI sedan. Even the short-lived Town Coupe had much better proportions. None of the fox-body Lincolns could compare to the beautiful proportions of the Mark V.....it was the epitome of long, low, sleek and elegant. The proportions were just about perfect from every angle.