Author Topic: 2003 Subaru Forester?  (Read 9356 times)

Rural

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4971
2003 Subaru Forester?
« on: February 14, 2015, 06:46:49 PM »
Test drove a Forester today, 2003 with 215,000 miles. It's in pretty good shape and climbs my hill as if it were paved- I could stop in the driveway! And go again!


It needs brake pads on all four wheels and is throwing a code on the catalytic converter, a misfire on a cylinder (not observable in test drive), and a mass air flow problem. There's a small crack in the windshield, but too long for repair, so I might want to replace. There's a lot of air noise around that windshield, too. Haven't run the VIN yet, but I will before I make any decisions.


This would replace the 1981 Tercel as our backup vehicle, and it would give us a better option than my hatchback Kia for taking dogs to the vet. I don't absolutely require AWD, but I go off-road at least twice every day for at least half a mile (our driveway).


The fuel mileage would not equal my Kia - I'd be looking at ~24-25 mph at a guess. I would drive it the 35 miles to work, probably not all the time, but when we've had heavy rain - that would let me be sure I could get back to the house again. My husband might drive it to work most of the rest of the time, since he only goes 5 miles and it would be more efficient than his 14mpg Jeep.


But it would give us a backup vehicle we can both drive - something that has turned up as a problem again this week. I "had to" call in to work one day - was getting sick and didn't want to spend an hour each way on the road in a vehicle without heat(Jeep). The Toyota has heat but the seat won't adjust anymore and I can't reach the pedals, plus we're not certain it will pull the mountains.


Asking price of the Forester at the little car lot down on the highway is $3,500, which is too much for that car with those miles. But should I offer $2,000? Should I go up to $2,500 in negotiation? Not willing to go much higher.

gmj3307

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 6
Re: 2003 Subaru Forester?
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2015, 11:06:15 PM »
We own a 2003 Forrester and love it. Even at $3500 you got a great car. Whatever you decide to do with negotiations, go for the car...totally worth it from our experience.

Rural

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4971
Re: 2003 Subaru Forester?
« Reply #2 on: February 15, 2015, 05:31:45 AM »
What sort of fuel mileage do you get, gmj3307? And is it manual or automatic?




Retired To Win

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1494
  • Age: 73
  • Location: Virginia
  • making the most of my time and my money
    • Retired To Win
Re: 2003 Subaru Forester?
« Reply #3 on: February 15, 2015, 06:08:45 AM »
One of our vehicles is a 1998 Subaru Forester which now has over 244,000 miles on the odometer.  We love the car, which has proven very reliable and very versatile.  Do your due diligence on that 2003 (Car Fax, mechanic check, etc)... but it's a good bet.

Good luck.

iamadummy

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 93
Re: 2003 Subaru Forester?
« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2015, 08:58:32 AM »
seems a bit old and very high mileage. a little risky for price

Thegoblinchief

  • Guest
Re: 2003 Subaru Forester?
« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2015, 10:38:59 AM »
With my very mixed experience with Subarus, I wouldn't pay a dollar over $2K with the mileage and problems you listed.

Syonyk

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4221
    • Syonyk's Project Blog
Re: 2003 Subaru Forester?
« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2015, 12:51:14 PM »
Test drove a Forester today, 2003 with 215,000 miles. It's in pretty good shape and climbs my hill as if it were paved- I could stop in the driveway! And go again!

AWD is great, but 215k is a LOT of miles for a Subaru of that era.

Quote
It needs brake pads on all four wheels and is throwing a code on the catalytic converter, a misfire on a cylinder (not observable in test drive), and a mass air flow problem. There's a small crack in the windshield, but too long for repair, so I might want to replace. There's a lot of air noise around that windshield, too. Haven't run the VIN yet, but I will before I make any decisions.

The brake pads aren't that bad to do yourself, though I'd figure on rotors as well (they may be factory rotors at that mileage, depending on how it was driven).  The catalytic converter code is probably a P0420 code, which generally means you need a new catalytic converter - especially at that mileage.  Subarus like OEM catalytic converters, so you're looking at $1k+ for that problem (or you can throw a rear O2 sensor fooler on, which is cheap, illegal, and makes the light go away).

The misfire is probably either plugs or oil leaks in the valve covers - the seals around the plugs leak, so the spark plugs/spark plug boots are sitting in oil, and that can cause an intermittent misfire.  It's not that hard to pull the valve covers, but it is a bit of a pain to do.

A new windshield will probably run you around $250 installed, and that's not something you want to do yourself.

The wind noise is almost certainly from the frameless windows.  As the rubber gets old, it stops sealing so well, and you get a lot of wind racket.  Sometimes opening the window a half inch and closing it again once the door is closed helps, but it's not likely to help that much.

Quote
The fuel mileage would not equal my Kia - I'd be looking at ~24-25 mph at a guess. I would drive it the 35 miles to work, probably not all the time, but when we've had heavy rain - that would let me be sure I could get back to the house again. My husband might drive it to work most of the rest of the time, since he only goes 5 miles and it would be more efficient than his 14mpg Jeep.

Nope.  You're not going to see 24-25mpg on that Subaru.  You'll see 18 or so for city, maybe 22-23 highway, depending on how you drive.  And if your husband is only going 5 miles, why is he driving at all? :p

Quote
Asking price of the Forester at the little car lot down on the highway is $3,500, which is too much for that car with those miles. But should I offer $2,000? Should I go up to $2,500 in negotiation? Not willing to go much higher.

That car needs somewhere around $500-$700 in parts (if you ignore the catalytic converter and do all the work yourself), or around $2k-$2500 in work if a shop does it.

I wouldn't pay more than about $1500 for it, and I do my own work.

kpd905

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1915
Re: 2003 Subaru Forester?
« Reply #7 on: February 15, 2015, 01:33:25 PM »
Way too many miles to pay that much.  Try offering $2,000.

Rural

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4971
Re: 2003 Subaru Forester?
« Reply #8 on: February 15, 2015, 02:23:28 PM »
We definitely won't do anything with the catalytic converter. No testing here.


I'm still thinking on it. There's zero chance of me paying the asking price; blue book is $2670 in good condition with those miles, and I'm not sure this qualifies as "good."


I think I may be sold on wanting AWD, and I may be sold on wanting a Forester, preferably one new enough to have less trouble with head gaskets than the version up to 2002. I'm not sure I'm sold on this one, though. I may run the VIN and, if it's clean, just see if he jumps on $2,000 or even $1750. But I may decide to start looking around for one with fewer miles/ problems, too.

Rural

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4971
Re: 2003 Subaru Forester?
« Reply #9 on: February 15, 2015, 02:32:45 PM »
Test drove a Forester today, 2003 with 215,000 miles. It's in pretty good shape and climbs my hill as if it were paved- I could stop in the driveway! And go again!

AWD is great, but 215k is a LOT of miles for a Subaru of that era.

Quote
It needs brake pads on all four wheels and is throwing a code on the catalytic converter, a misfire on a cylinder (not observable in test drive), and a mass air flow problem. There's a small crack in the windshield, but too long for repair, so I might want to replace. There's a lot of air noise around that windshield, too. Haven't run the VIN yet, but I will before I make any decisions.

The brake pads aren't that bad to do yourself, though I'd figure on rotors as well (they may be factory rotors at that mileage, depending on how it was driven).  The catalytic converter code is probably a P0420 code, which generally means you need a new catalytic converter - especially at that mileage.  Subarus like OEM catalytic converters, so you're looking at $1k+ for that problem (or you can throw a rear O2 sensor fooler on, which is cheap, illegal, and makes the light go away).

The misfire is probably either plugs or oil leaks in the valve covers - the seals around the plugs leak, so the spark plugs/spark plug boots are sitting in oil, and that can cause an intermittent misfire.  It's not that hard to pull the valve covers, but it is a bit of a pain to do.

A new windshield will probably run you around $250 installed, and that's not something you want to do yourself.

The wind noise is almost certainly from the frameless windows.  As the rubber gets old, it stops sealing so well, and you get a lot of wind racket.  Sometimes opening the window a half inch and closing it again once the door is closed helps, but it's not likely to help that much.

Quote
The fuel mileage would not equal my Kia - I'd be looking at ~24-25 mph at a guess. I would drive it the 35 miles to work, probably not all the time, but when we've had heavy rain - that would let me be sure I could get back to the house again. My husband might drive it to work most of the rest of the time, since he only goes 5 miles and it would be more efficient than his 14mpg Jeep.

Nope.  You're not going to see 24-25mpg on that Subaru.  You'll see 18 or so for city, maybe 22-23 highway, depending on how you drive.  And if your husband is only going 5 miles, why is he driving at all? :p

Quote
Asking price of the Forester at the little car lot down on the highway is $3,500, which is too much for that car with those miles. But should I offer $2,000? Should I go up to $2,500 in negotiation? Not willing to go much higher.

That car needs somewhere around $500-$700 in parts (if you ignore the catalytic converter and do all the work yourself), or around $2k-$2500 in work if a shop does it.

I wouldn't pay more than about $1500 for it, and I do my own work.


Thanks for the detailed response. We do our own work, too, combination of me and husband depending on how big the space inside the engine is. The cat is a definite ignore the light scenario for us - I'm not going to bother with fooling a sensor.


Brakes are another definite DIY, and you may be right about rotors, spdepending on how it's been maintained.


If the new windshield isn't likely to address the wind noise, I'm less happy about this one.


I don't drive in cities, so I'm looking at the 22-23 for highway, most likely. I drive slow rural highways, so some bump for lower speed, but offset by mountains. In most vehicles, I get the highway estimate or just a little better. Thanks for the estimate from experience.


The misfire may have been plug wires - just replaced at the car lot without clearing the code. No sign of it driving. But the oil in the valve cover would be unfortunate. May pull the plugs and see at the lot; they look to be right up front, right (going from memory here).

Syonyk

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4221
    • Syonyk's Project Blog
Re: 2003 Subaru Forester?
« Reply #10 on: February 15, 2015, 03:12:45 PM »
You can pull the wires easily. If the plug holes have oil in them, you'll see it on the boot.

Rural

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4971
Re: 2003 Subaru Forester?
« Reply #11 on: February 15, 2015, 03:34:56 PM »
You can pull the wires easily. If the plug holes have oil in them, you'll see it on the boot.


Thanks. That's definitely worth a look.

Rural

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4971
Re: 2003 Subaru Forester?
« Reply #12 on: March 19, 2015, 08:10:18 PM »
A final update: we decided that we may want a Forester, but not that one. Also don't think I'm ever again going to buy a vehicle with over 200k miles, because we don't have to, and repairs in the weather are becoming harder as we get older.


My parents actually bought a brand-freaking-new vehicle for the first time ever as they were approaching 70. We're not there yet, but it's kind of freaky to see ourselves both old enough to consider that sort of comfort and financially able to do it. Keeping our eyes open for likely replacement vehicles between 100 and 200k, including Foresters.

jmusic

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 465
  • Location: Somewhere...
Re: 2003 Subaru Forester?
« Reply #13 on: March 19, 2015, 08:31:44 PM »
Oh thank god!  That specific car was a total ripoff!  They probably didn't really even want you to buy it which is why it was priced so high.  Dealerships that sell <$5k cars are typically looking to do "Buy Here Pay Here" financing, which is as raw a deal as a payday loan, and a HUGE moneymaker for the dealer.

Anyway, for a car that old, there's zero reason to buy from a dealer, unless it's been thoroughly reconditioned.  If I'm buying a car from a dealer, it better need NOTHING but oil for 10-15K miles...

KS

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 208
Re: 2003 Subaru Forester?
« Reply #14 on: March 20, 2015, 01:08:44 PM »

I think I may be sold on wanting AWD, and I may be sold on wanting a Forester, preferably one new enough to have less trouble with head gaskets than the version up to 2002.

Just an added note for your future shopping: 2003 Subarus still have the head gasket issues. At least my Impreza blew one at around 100k miles, and my mechanic said he sees a ton of them. But, he also added that he rarely sees them come in for anything else, and once the gasket's fixed they tend to run great for many many miles. (Also agree with the mpg other posters mentioned: best I've seen with mostly highway driving is I think around 26-28, more often I'm in the lower to mid 20s. And I'm assuming the forester being a little bigger might burn more, but that could vary depending on engine etc).

Kriegsspiel

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 973
Re: 2003 Subaru Forester?
« Reply #15 on: March 21, 2015, 11:59:59 AM »
I have a 2008 Forester, manual trans, and I average about 33 mpg. I don't think I've ever been below 30 mpg. I stick to around 55 on the highway, but I also do a lot of driving off-road and on rough gravel roads, which can bring the mileage down. It also had a really cool evergreen tree decal, which was a big selling point.

MoneyCat

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1752
  • Location: New Jersey
Re: 2003 Subaru Forester?
« Reply #16 on: March 21, 2015, 12:52:40 PM »
Why are you looking at a Subaru?  Do you live on the side of a mountain or something?

AllieVaulter

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 304
  • Age: 37
  • Location: Portland, OR
Re: 2003 Subaru Forester?
« Reply #17 on: March 21, 2015, 01:20:54 PM »
The wind noise is almost certainly from the frameless windows.  As the rubber gets old, it stops sealing so well, and you get a lot of wind racket.  Sometimes opening the window a half inch and closing it again once the door is closed helps, but it's not likely to help that much.

Yes!  This is definitely a problem with the frameless windows!  They sell kits ($200) that will fix this problem - it's a bit difficult, but there are video tutorials that will help you out.  My husband fixed our Outback and it definitely helped the noise.  To prevent this problem from coming back, don't close the door by pushing/pulling on the window, always use the metal part of the door!

Syonyk

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4221
    • Syonyk's Project Blog
Re: 2003 Subaru Forester?
« Reply #18 on: March 21, 2015, 01:28:15 PM »
I have a 2008 Forester, manual trans, and I average about 33 mpg.

There are some pretty significant differences in the engine between the 2003 and 2008 - the early 2000s Subarus are surprisingly fuel hungry for their size/weight/power.

Kriegsspiel

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 973
Re: 2003 Subaru Forester?
« Reply #19 on: March 21, 2015, 02:42:57 PM »
That sucks. I'm guessing the price difference between those models could make up for it though.

Syonyk

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4221
    • Syonyk's Project Blog
Re: 2003 Subaru Forester?
« Reply #20 on: March 21, 2015, 02:45:09 PM »
It depends on how much you drive, but, yes, the cost difference is an awful lot of fuel.  The main issue with the early 2000s is that they can be very picky about their head gaskets.  If you ever flush the cooling system, follow the factory procedure exactly or you're likely to be doing head gaskets in very short order.

Rural

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4971
Re: 2003 Subaru Forester?
« Reply #21 on: March 21, 2015, 03:21:57 PM »
Why are you looking at a Subaru?  Do you live on the side of a mountain or something?


Yes, on an unpaved private road.

Rural

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4971
Re: 2003 Subaru Forester?
« Reply #22 on: March 21, 2015, 03:24:33 PM »
I have a 2008 Forester, manual trans, and I average about 33 mpg. I don't think I've ever been below 30 mpg. I stick to around 55 on the highway, but I also do a lot of driving off-road and on rough gravel roads, which can bring the mileage down. It also had a really cool evergreen tree decal, which was a big selling point.


Thanks, and to the the poster for further discussion of the differential with these. I had no idea there was such a fuel mileage differential. I'll add newer Foresters to the "keep my eye on it" list. I'll have to run the calculations if I find one that looks interesting, but I do drive 35 miles to work, so I think it's likely to be worth calculating.

Retired To Win

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1494
  • Age: 73
  • Location: Virginia
  • making the most of my time and my money
    • Retired To Win
Re: 2003 Subaru Forester?
« Reply #23 on: March 22, 2015, 11:57:42 AM »
Why are you looking at a Subaru?  Do you live on the side of a mountain or something?


Yes, on an unpaved private road.

AND that all-wheel drive that comes standard with all Subaru vehicles is a gift from heaven when snowy, icy -- or even extra muddy -- road conditions lay before you.

In that regard (and others) Subaru rocks.

MMMdude

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 322
Re: 2003 Subaru Forester?
« Reply #24 on: March 22, 2015, 05:48:38 PM »
My mom has a 2004 that she bought off a friend.  No problems - really nice vehicle.  BUT - hers only has 25000 miles on it (no, not a type) as she bought it from an old lady so it's hard to know how reliable hers is based on mileage.

I believe these have a timing chain - if that is infact correct, unless it has been replaced recently i'd stear clear or at least factor in replacement into your offering price.

Syonyk

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4221
    • Syonyk's Project Blog
Re: 2003 Subaru Forester?
« Reply #25 on: March 22, 2015, 05:49:25 PM »
2003 should have a timing belt.