By on July 14, 2020

Today brings Part II of my 2012 Subaru Outback’s sales and ownership story, as the green all-terrain wagon recently pulled from the driveway for good. If for some reason you didn’t read Part I, find it here.

Now we press on with the vulgar topic of money.

It seemed commerce was picking up a bit at the beginning of June, so I relisted the Outback on Facebook around the 10th at an ask of $7,400. I listed it with some new pictures (post hail damage), even though it wasn’t really noticeable unless the body was examined closely. As noted last time, I decided not to fix the hail dents even though my comprehensive insurance covered it in full. It didn’t seem fiscally prudent to fix relatively minor damage on a car I was fully finished owning. And I figured any buyer would either fail to notice, or fail to care. The $1,898 in my pocket felt nice.

Interest throughout June was somewhat low, with the usual “Is this available?” type questions with no follow up, and offers of “$5,000 cash, firm” — whatever that even means. Things changed on July 7th, when a buyer showed up on time to check out the car. They were impressed with the cleanliness and condition (and didn’t mention the hail damage). After a short test drive they made a reasonable offer, and had cash on hand. The painless process took about an hour altogether. Sale price: $7,000.

The Outback was purchased on September 2nd, 2017 with 159,683 miles. Purchase price was $9,254, or $10,202 out the door. Once more I proved how little mileage my vehicles accumulate, as when I transferred the title to its new owner, the odometer read 167,809. During my ownership span, I had just two unexpected servicings. When I drove the Outback in the dark for the first time, I noticed the headlamps were almost entirely ineffective. Turned out they were installed upside down by someone careless, perhaps at the selling dealer, perhaps elsewhere. The dealer put it right for $45.

On a warm day in April 2018, I noticed a strong smell of coolant while driving (I headed home immediately), and a puddle under the radiator formed once it was parked. My independent mechanic discovered a rubber bypass cap split in two. The part was $11, and the labor and coolant refill $66. Other than that, oil changes at the dealer were complimentary, as was the Takata airbag exchange on the passenger side. All in all, the high-mileage Outback had a pretty low cost ownership experience.

I know the green egg will serve its new owners well and carry the small dogs they’ll be putting in the back. As for me, the Outback marked my one and only ownership experience of a CVT-equipped vehicle.

[Images: Corey Lewis / TTAC]

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50 Comments on “Where Your Author Sells a Subaru During a Pandemic (Part II)...”


  • avatar
    zipper69

    ” the Outback marked my one and only ownership experience of a CVT-equipped vehicle”

    Care to expand on that a little?

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t like the accompanying engine drone, and rubber band feeling. I require faster reactions from my transmissions.

      • 0 avatar
        spookiness

        My parents have a base model of this generation, with a dreary all-black interior. I increasingly drive it more to take them to medical appointments. It is not a pleasant car unless you’re going straight at highway speeds on flat land with the cruise on. The engine drone is obnoxious. I use the transmission flippers to do fake “upshifts” just to quiet the raucous down.

        • 0 avatar

          It’s pretty bad around town, very tiring to drive. It also rolls around a lot and never feels settled or planted.

          • 0 avatar
            Chris Ransdell

            Our Legacy is similar. One driver describes it as feeling like it’s always driving uphill. I also find the throttle tip in to be irritatingly top heavy, probably an effort to mask the lazy acceleration. It looks like yours had the upgraded audio? Was it good? My parent’s 2010 Premium has an embarrassingly bad transistor radio quality system but the Harmon Kardon in our Legacy is superb.

          • 0 avatar

            It did have the H/K audio. It was okay, usually with all the noise inside you had to crank the volume a bit. The sound was distorted at the rear due to echoes, probably partially due to the rubber mat in the cargo area.

      • 0 avatar
        stuntmonkey

        Not getting you on this one. My Subaru CVT is whisper quiet at steady state because the ECU pegs the engine at 1100 RPM and keeps it there when you are driving in the city. CVT drone under acceleration is louder than a traditional manual, but I guess it depends on the driver; I’ve conditioned myself to minimize accel/decel as much as possible while in traffic.

        • 0 avatar

          Right, so what you’re saying is it’s quiet at low speeds, in the city, when not accelerating or decelerating.

          Ideal design there.

          • 0 avatar
            stuntmonkey

            It’s quiet at steady state, city or highway. Maybe its because it was expensive when I was young (Young Drivers of Canada), but my defensive driving program stuck with me all my life so I don’t weave in and out of traffic and position myself spaced away from cars as much as practically possible… thereby minimizing the amount of throttle on/off. (More than one girlfriend have appreciated that I have a smooth driving style, you get points that way.) So for my CVT experience, if you aren’t trying to beat traffic and only overtake when you have to, it does its job. I drove manual 20 years straight before that, I know the difference, it just isn’t as important anymore, traffic is more congested, urban density is higher and driving standards are lower.

          • 0 avatar

            I think your particular use case makes sense, and you get credit for fully explaining.

            But I go downtown almost never, congestion isn’t that bad here, and I don’t want to have to alter how I want to drive because the car I’m in effectively cant handle what I’m asking of it.

      • 0 avatar

        “I require faster reactions from my transmissions.”

        How many transmissions do you have? Why to hurry? Every moment of life is precious, Life is short.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        So because the Subie is bad then all CVTs are bad?

        Maybe behind a better engine and with better insulation it wouldn’t be so bad.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    It seems Subarus of this era are very susceptible to hail damage. I remember a storm in 2016 that was strong enough to break windows/tear screened in porch mesh and require new roof shingles. There were 2 cars parked outside that night .A 2000s era Forester looked like it was taken to with a baseball bat. Visible dents from 50 feet . It was totalled out. The owner still drivers it though
    The other car was a Canadian version of the Chevy Cobalt.It was a Pontiac .It survived relatively unscathed , a few barely visible roof and hood dings. She had a local dent dude pull those, and didn’t make a claim as she was a student at the Chiropractor school here in KC and didn’t want to mess with it.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Thin sheetmetal, maybe?

      A couple of years back, I had two cars get hit with the same hailstorm – an ’03 Buick Lesabre and a ’17 VW Jetta. The Jetta got dinged up pretty badly; the Buick was undamaged.

    • 0 avatar
      PhilMills

      I have to agree. I’ve got the same year Outback and the sheetmetal on the doors / quarterpanels / roof will crease/dent if you so much as look at it funny.

      It made me really really miss the two Saturns I had prior to buying the Subaru – those cars could shrug off hits like nobody’s business.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        The Saturns had plastic bodies, so even door dings didn’t happen. The paint never fades and the clearcoat never peels – there’s no paint or clearcoat. Older Saturns tend to still look good years after other vehicles look tattered.

        Why automakers still use ultra-thin sheet metal is a mystery to me. You would think having still good-looking older versions of your cars would be good advertising.

  • avatar
    MeJ

    I agree with Zipper.
    What’s wrong with the CVT? I owned a Crosstrek and currently drive my wife’s Impreza most days for my commute and fail to understand why everyone rags on these transmissions. (I also drive a C6 Corvette with the “traditional” auto on weekends, so I have a basis for this confusion).
    To everyone out there afraid of CVT’s because of what you’ve read online, I strongly suggest you drive one before making judgements.

    • 0 avatar

      When you drive a car with a CVT and then you drive a similar purpose car with a real, well-designed automatic, you realize the inherent deficiencies of the CVT.

      I’m sure they’re fine for many people who pay no mind to acceleration, NVH, or driving pleasure.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        I have 4 vehicles in my stable. Had 5 but ‘got rid’ of one late last year. 3 ‘automatics’, 1 manual and 1 CVT. The CVT gets by far the best fuel mileage despite being larger and heavier than 3 of the others.

        It does take a little ‘planning’ regarding highway passing. But in city driving, particularly stop and go, we find it no better or worse than the automatics and much less ‘stressful’ than the manual.

        It is not as much ‘fun’ as the manual on open roads, but again there is little difference between it and the automatics in this type of driving, except it gets better MPG.

        Having owned/leased/purchased/operated nearly 100 vehicles over the past 45+ years, this is my first CVT and I have no complaints. It is however a leased vehicle. I did not purchase because of concerns about long term CVT reliability/durability.

        Based on the number of manufacturers making the conversion it appears that CVT is ‘the way of the future’.

        • 0 avatar

          At least the example proves the longevity and reliability of a Subaru CVT. It had no issues in operation.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            I thought everyone had figured out the durability stuff except Nissan with respect to CVTs.

        • 0 avatar
          Flipper35

          We have a 4 speed auto, 6 speed auto, 9 speed auto, 4 speed manual and a CVT. The CVT is the only one to go into limp home mode because it got hot. Once in the mountains out west and once in the mountains of Kansas. The Rocky Mountains I could see, but Kansas?

          The drone does get tiring, but on the highway it isn’t bad even with the small hills here n WI but I can honestly say the 9 speed in the Pacifica is a much smoother, less noticeable unit than the CVT in the Rogue.

          • 0 avatar
            MeJ

            @Flipper
            What is this drone everyone is talking about?
            Again, my wife’s Impreza has no drone at all. I don’t get it…

    • 0 avatar
      thegamper

      I have somewhat limited CVT experience, have test driven the Subaru, Honda versions. I leased a 2011 Maxima with CVT. Personally, I find them to be “automatics”. I currently have a new 10 speed auto in an Accord 2.0t Sport. I will say that the Accord’s transmission is somewhat fun with the rapid fire shifting, but nothing that would make me say one is far superior to the other. The CVT in the Maxima always did what it was supposed to and I never wanted for a 6 speed slushbox. Neither is as satisfying as a manual.

      I really dont see the problem with CVT’s, particularly in the vehicles you typically find them in. Its just not an issue but for the universal loathing among auto journalists. I think if you admit you dont mind a CVT vs a traditional slushbox, you get kicked out of the club. I understand how peer pressure works.

      • 0 avatar

        I mean alternatively, it’s possible to form one’s own opinion via buying and owning a CVT-equipped vehicle for nearly three years, and coming to a conclusion about it.

        If “the club” mattered in this instance, I’d never have bought the car in the first place. It’s not an enthusiast cred purchase.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          No, your experience with the vehicle you actually purchased and drove is obviously wrong because some people don’t mind CVTs.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            Corey did drive it just over 8,000 miles. I have driven rental cars farther than that. How long is the average ‘long term test’ for auto reviews?

            I do agree regarding sheet metal. The sheet metal and the paint on our Buick was much more robust than any other 21st century vehicle we have owned, with the possible exception of the Pontiac SV6.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            Lol, so what’s the mileage quota before someone can disagree with you about transmission performance related to their own property?

            In “long-term tests” from Edmunds/C&D/etc. no one personally buys the vehicle (it is either given by the manufacturer or bought by the publication) and it is generally passed around several writers during the evaluation so I doubt any single person is doing over 8k miles.

            Corey threw down *his own cash* on a CVT equipped vehicle and didn’t like it. Some of you obviously enjoy them. It seems like a fair disagreement and the sun will still rise tomorrow.

        • 0 avatar
          thegamper

          geez, the whole “club” thing was a joke (i thought it was obvious), lighten up guys, relax a little and try not to see everything as a personal affront.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            Exactly, opinions regarding transmissions are often subjective and ‘all over the place’.

            For instance the ongoing manual v automatic debate.

            I am wondering if one reason that Corey put so few miles on this vehicle is that he did not enjoy driving it?

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          Tell “the club” you had a crap Hyundai/Kia product and watch the world burn lol.

          He didn’t like the CVT he spent 8000 miles with. That’s plenty of time to form an opinion on what he likes or doesn’t like and structure his future buying accordingly. If you like them, great…plenty to choose from. I have hated every one I ever had foisted on me at the rental counter and frankly the Nissan Altima was key in my drive to get status at the rental counter so I could pick something else.

  • avatar

    It’s funny how many similarities there are to the 2001 outback I used to own. Lots of interior and exterior details were carried over, which likley keeps long term owners happy. Subaru’s do have excellent resale no way I would pay that kind of premium for years and miles.

  • avatar
    jmo

    odometer read 167,809…Sale price: $7,000…

    Shakes head.

    I know it’s not 1982 anymore but $7k for almost 170k? That seems kinda high for the likely amount of use left in the vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      Nick_515

      Agreed. That price is too high. Engine or transmission could go out in a month, regardless of previous care. Then what? Good for Corey. These are some of the most boring drives on earth.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    How did you come up with an asking price? Online search of used? NADA? KBB?

    • 0 avatar

      KBB gives a very broad range for this particular vehicle. I started out at the upper end of the range, and came down once it didn’t sell right away.

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        Did you even consider trading it on the Jetta wagon or seeing if Carmax, Carvana…wanted the Outback?

        • 0 avatar

          After I’d made my deal I saw what the VW dealer would offer. They couldn’t budge off $5,500, and I knew I could do much better than that.

          • 0 avatar
            NormSV650

            Some dealerships do not like cars with over 100,000 miles.

            Or you got a taste of the cult of Subaru that can pull money like no dealership can.

            When we traded the Envision for a TourX the dealership gave us $2,500 over KBB trade-in which was the same amount over what we owed. Plus $9,000 off MSRP on the TourX.

            The difference is what we paid in Ohio sales taxes.

  • avatar
    StudeDude

    What I’m trying to figure out is how anyone could install headlight bulbs upside down? There is only one way either by retaining ring or clip these fit into the headlight housing.
    Congratulations on the sale, you made a good deal. And I feel the same way about CVTs.

    • 0 avatar

      I didn’t get it either as far as clip action and just how that would certainly look wrong in there. Maybe they just didnt clip them in and they were loose.

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        Yeah, when replacing the bulbs in my ‘13 they forgot to set the clips. Sloppy.

        My OB has 150k and I love that little beast. It’s not going to slalom any time soon, but I find the steering direct and responsive. Maybe I have low standards, but it took me all of a day to get used to the behaviors of the CVT. Perhaps my hearing is going but I don’t notice a drone.

        Their retained value is pretty strong. Definitely a cult who loves them out there. This is the first vehicle where I’ve considered replacing mine with the new model.

        • 0 avatar

          It’s going to sound like a made up excuse, but I have pretty sensitive hearing, and stuff like that (and rattles) really bother me. It may be a medical condition; hearing someone scrape their yogurt cup drives me nuts.

          I touched a new Outback at the dealer last year, and I can already tell you it’s more refined than this one.

  • avatar
    mattmar4

    Two weeks ago, we traded our 2013 Legacy 2.5i Limited for a new Murano Platinum. Both are CVTs, and it’s not my transmission of choice. The Subaru was a great car after coming off years of Volkswagens that spent more time in the dealer’s service bay than my garage, but the CVT in the Subaru sucked. The CVT in the Nissan is better (still not perfect), and the extra power from a V6 versus the Subaru’s boxer four makes it much more tolerable. Even if the Subaru’s CVT was agricultural in its operation and hampered the driving experience, the car was rock-solid for 95,000 miles and required nothing more than routine maintenance. Incidentally, we tested a new Outback, and compared to our old Legacy, the interior felt like an E-Class.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I’m waiting for Part Three, “Where Your Author Shares The Newly Acquired $7000 In Wealth.”

  • avatar
    davew833

    I still shudder when I see the exaggerated, perfectly semi-circular wheel arch “brows” stamped into the fenders of the first Outbacks of this generation. Fortunately, Subaru softened them significantly in subsequent model years, improving the overall look of the car, IMHO.

    My ’07 Outback LL Bean 3.0 H6 is still going strong on the original 5 spd automatic transmission at 304k miles. (I replaced the engine with a lower mileage one a few years ago when the head gasket began to leak). I can’t see myself ever driving a CVT by choice.

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