I bought this at 100,000 miles for 8000. I'm on the fence on whether It was worth it or not. Been a good car but i've put some dough into it.
Pros: handling, acceleration, steering, quite roomy because of it's boxy shape and the seats that can fold forward. Really high clearance, all wheel drive, good suspension all means that this car can handle a wide variety of conditions, from poorly maintained roads to very wintry weather. I use my car for construction and enjoy the spaciousness in the back (especially with seats folded down) and being able to get places that guys in big ol' trucks sometimes can't get to.
Cons: It's interior is quite delicate. I know I said I used it for construction, but I've had a number of cars before and I was disappointed with how easily the interior aged, dinged, scratched, and the upholstery tore and the carpet at the feet are tearing and wearing as well. The biggest issue is the major and minor repairs that you risk after about 120k miles on it, maybe sooner if you're not lucky. I guess this is true for most cars that aren't Toyota or Honda. Transmission fluid leak, thermostat, leaking and burning oil, emergency break stopped working, hatch stopped shutting, weather stripping coming undone and lots of air noise, leaking steering fluid. All this on top of a drop in gas mileage since I bought it, and "regular maintenance" like getting the timing belt replaced and fluid changes means that I've put a lot more money into maintenance than I had hoped I would, so looking back I would have looked for something maybe less 'nice' but more reliable.
Update: a head gasket finally blew at 130,000. $ 1700. When you fix that, take it to someone who specializes in that repair specifically; they can do it better, smarter, faster, cheaper than someone who 'can' do it, but doesn't do it often. The price difference between quotes for me was $1000. Make sure they replace belts and hoses while they have your car gutted for the head gasket, too. It will save you big time. I had my timing belt replaced a year before for $600, but if I had waited for the said gasket repair I would've saved most of that, because the cost is in removing the engine from the car.
Of the numerous cars I have owned, this is the third Subaru I have owned. This one is number two on my favorites list. Last one met its end after more 200,000 miles. I still miss it. This one was a fair replacement, but the interior got it share of wear and tear. The old one held up to the same conditions that this one failed to work with. I have dogs, their claws did not make a dent in the last one, this one showed their affects right away. Other than that and the Cruise Control issue, it is a great car. The storage room in the back has been very useful. It is strong enough to pull other cars out of the mud. The back seats fold up so you have even more room and there is a cover for the back storage so no one can see what you are hauling if you have something you want to keep out of sight.
No surprise here but this car is amazing in bad weather. I love driving this car in the snow, wind, rain and I feel very safe and secure while doing so. My main beef with this car is that it has about 140000 miles on it and I'm going to have to let it go because it needs some very pricey repairs.
Repairs: -Head gaskets are leaking. It's basically a time bomb and I was quoted $1800 to replace the gaskets. -My front differential blew up. Luckily they found a used one and I didn't need to replace transmission. This cost me $2000 and it left me stranded on the side of the road in the middle of the night. -3 wheel bearings ($300 each i believe) -Now my transmission is slipping. My gas mileage dropped from 22 to 17mpg. I feel like it's a matter of time before I do need to replace the transmission and that won't be worth paying since it will cost nearly what the car is worth. -I had the timing belt and water pump replaced at 100k miles. Standard procedure but just be aware if this has been done or not around that mileage as it cost about $1000.
I have not had very many small repairs. It's been a fairly reliable car other than the above big ticket issues. I've noticed a lot of used Foresters around the same year are around that 130k mile mark so I'm guessing this is sort of the point in these cars life where you either dump a ton of money into it or sell it.
I traded in my 1998 Jeep Cherokee for the Forester. It was getting a little tired and I wanted something that would get better fuel economy and still have some off road capability. I wasn't disappointed in these 2 respects. The highway mileage is outstanding (31.6 on a recent trip) and the Forester is astonishing off road in deep sand and even climbing sand hills that we have out here in west Texas. It does however have a couple of annoying problems with the drivetrain management as mentioned in other Forester reviews. Those are the engine revving very high on cold starts and the drivetrain jerk at low speeds. Also the engine has a distinct lack of low end power in my opinion.
Excellent off road capability and gas mileage.
Refine the engine management controls and give the engine a bit more low end power.