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An attractive sales price isn’t the only important dollars-and-cents figure to consider when purchasing a new or used car. Maintenance costs, and therefore reliability, are also vital to consider as a low sales price can quickly be negated by costly or frequent repairs. So, how does the Subaru brand hold up? According to RepairPal, one Subaru model stands with the lowest annual maintenance costs of the brand, and it’s not one of its lower-cost modern offerings like the Legacy or Impreza.

Subaru has average reliability among automakers

RepairPal uses several factors in calculating a reliability score among automakers, including the cost, frequency, and severity of repairs of models within a particular brand’s lineup. The website ranks Subaru at No. 14 out of 32 automakers for overall reliability using these factors, placing Subaru in the middle of the pack.

The average repair and maintenance costs of Subaru models are $617 per year, which is $35 lower than the annual average across all brands. The website reports Subaru models require an average of 0.3 visits to a repair shop annually, and there is a 13% probability of such a repair being deemed “severe.”

Though generally heralded for their reliability, Subaru models have higher average maintenance costs than some of the brand’s rivals. For instance, RepairPal notes Honda models require just $428 annually in maintenance costs, nearly $200 less a year than Subaru. Other automakers like Hyundai, Toyota, Nissan, and Mitsubishi all receive better overall reliability scores, though Subaru does beat out some domestic brands like Chevrolet and Ford for annual maintenance bills.

The Subaru with the lowest annual maintenance costs is a mostly forgotten model

The Subaru with the lowest annual maintenance costs might cause a few raised eyebrows as even some fans of the brand might not recognize the nameplate — Loyale. The Loyale was a rebranded Subaru Leone sold from 1990 to 94. The Loyale featured an ultra-boxy styling that looked like it had been designed with nothing more than a carpenter’s square and was available as a sedan or wagon. However, the sedan option was dropped for its final year of production.

Though seeing a Loyale on the road is now a rare event, the model has the lowest average annual maintenance costs across the Subaru brand at just $389 per year. The only consistent issues noted for the model among buyers are engine oil leaks, valve lifter noise, and the premature failure of its timing belt.

However, those looking to get into a Subaru with low maintenance costs are unlikely to purchase a 30-plus-year-old wagon, so it’s worth checking, considering the annual maintenance cost of more modern models from the brand, including the Impreza, which replaced the Loyale in 1995.

Maintenance costs and issues for the Subaru Impreza and Legacy

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The Subaru Impreza hatchback is the brand’s entry-level model, with prices starting at $22,995 MSRP for the 2024 model. Though the Impreza is the lowest-cost Subaru and the cheapest way to get standard all-wheel drive in a hatchback, annual maintenance costs for the model are $653 per year, more than the average model from the brand. The model’s long history is undoubtedly a factor, but RepairPal also lists 27 commonly reported issues for the Impreza. Most notably, an O2 sensor recall, replacement of spark plug wires to address misfire issues, a failed knock sensor, and head gasket failure.

The larger Subaru Legacy costs more upfront, but its annual repair costs are $563, a notable $90 less per year than the Impreza. The most reported issues among Legacy models are head gasket failure, an O2 sensor recall, and ABS failures wearing down the battery.