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The Absolute Best Year Of The Subaru Legacy

Writing about the Subaru Legacy is almost a weekly ritual on this blog. We’ve written extensively about the features and capabilities of this car. However, we have yet to answer what model year you can best buy on the second-hand market. Let’s start with a quick answer and then dive into more detail:

The 2014 and 2017 model years of the Subaru Legacy without a CVT are the best second-hand models you can buy. Both models have no transmission or engine problems. Also, they’ve been recalled fewer times than other model years, and their recalls weren’t as severe. Finally, they’re affordable in maintenance, with the 2014 model year costing $623 per year and the 2017 model costing $556.

However, that certainly doesn’t tell the whole story. Below we’ll dive into extensive detail about the Legacy and the different model years. We’ll look at what model year has the most and most minor problems, and we’ll do the same for the recalls it has had. Furthermore, we’ll discuss the maintenance cost for each generation so you can get a feeling of how much each model year costs. Read on!

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Also read: The Exact Bolt Pattern Of A Subaru Legacy

What Year Has The Least Problems?

NOTE: Before buying a used car, I always like to make sure the car isn’t having any problems that I should be aware of. The easiest way to do this is by buying an OBD2 scanner. These scanners can easily be plugged into any car you’re interested in, and they’ll give you a rundown of potential problems.

Personally, I like this one on Amazon because it has a lot more functions than basic OBD2 scanners. This particular one also runs tests on your emission system and tests if you’re fuel mix is optimal (or if your engine is misfiring), so you have a complete understanding of how the car’s performing.

Head Gasket Failure

Subaru Legacy made before 2013 have significant problems with the failure of the head gaskets due to issues with the cooling system. The issue was so severe that the warranty of the head gaskets was extended to 8 years or 100,000 miles, whatever comes first.

However, this means that this warranty has expired on the pre-2013 Subaru Legacy, and this is something to be aware of when buying a second-hand model. The head gaskets tend to fail around the 110,000 miles mark, and replacing them without a warranty will cost between $1,500 – $2,000.

Defective Fuel Pump

Problems with the fuel pump are a factor to watch out for in the 2019 Subaru Legacy. The impellers inside these fuel pumps (the parts responsible for regulating the gas flow inside the pump) were overexposed to a drying solvent during manufacturing. Therefore, they crack and need to be replaced. The recall affects Legacy’s made between April – July 2018. Make sure to check if the vehicle you’re buying is affected by this recall and if the fuel pump was replaced. Replacing a fuel pump yourself will cost $400 – $800.

Also read: The Types Of Gas A Subaru Legacy Takes (Explained)

Excessive Battery Drain

Excessive battery drain is a problem for Legacy sold between 2015 – 2020. The battery cannot handle the load of the vehicle’s controller area network. This is the part of the car responsible for making sure all sensors and modules communicate together. Replacing a Legacy’s battery will cost $100 – $150.

Sudden Acceleration

Legacy made between 2015 – 2019 may have problems with sudden acceleration. However, Subaru hasn’t acknowledged these claims, resulting in class-action lawsuits. Because of the lack of investigation, it’s unclear what causes these surges in acceleration.

Cracked Windshields

In 2015 Subaru switched to acoustic sound glass; this glass helps keep noise out. However, the windshields were more susceptible to breaking due to some manufacturing issues (and arguably, cost-cutting). For the 2015 and early 2016 models, the glass warranty was extended to 5-years/unlimited mileage. However, later versions of the car still seem to have this problem, resulting in class-action lawsuits. Replacing a windshield will cost between $150 – $300.

Faulty STARLINK Infotainment System

Subaru introduced the STARLINK infotainment system in 2016 Legacy models. Reported problems include the GPS not working and the screen spinning or going black. Software updates in 2016 – 2019 models didn’t fix these problems, and therefore, this is something that persists until this day. However, newer models of the Subaru Legacy (2020 and onwards) don’t seem to have these problems.

Unreliable Lineartronic CVTs

The Lineartronic CVTs used in 2010 – 2014 and 2015 – 2019 has been shown to be quite unreliable over and over again. Complaints include heavy shuddering when coming to a standstill, transmission fluid leaks in the torque converter cases, and ‘bumping’ at idle. Subaru increased the warranty on these CVTs to 10 years/100,000 miles, but the CVT had to be inspected before July 31, 2018, for this warranty to apply.

Burned Out Headlights

Legacy made between 2010 – 2012 burn through headlight bulbs much quicker than other model years. Why precisely this happens remains unknown, but there are two likely causes. The first one is that the auto-mode (which detects when headlights are needed) is too aggressive, and therefore the lights burn a lot more throughout the day.

Another problem could be a surge in the output of the electrical system, which causes the headlights to wear out. Some of these models need to have the headlights replaced twice a year, which means going to the dealership twice a year—replacing the bulbs of the headlights costs around $80 – $100 each time.

Eyesight Not Working

Eyesight is a Subaru system that helps with adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, and lane departure alerts. Legacy made between March 10, 2014, to April 16, 2015, were recalled because the Eyesight system would spontaneously shut off. Even though the Legacy isn’t an autonomous car, it is a helpful feature that should be on.

The recall supposedly fixed the problem; however, make sure that it has been recalled when you’re looking at a Subaru from this period. Later Legacy’s still have the Eyesight system, and these should work a lot better, although they are sometimes a little too sensitive with the lane departure function.

Recalled Takata Airbags

Subaru Legacy sold between 2003 – 2004 and 2009 – 2014 have been part of a significant worldwide recall of Takata airbags. Arguably, this is not Subaru’s fault since the recall affected 100 million vehicles worldwide. However, please ensure that the recall has been carried out if you’re looking at a Legacy from this period. Otherwise, you run the risk of having an airbag spontaneously inflate because of high humidity or temperature fluctuations.

High Oil Consumption

Subaru Legacy, made between 2010 – 2014 with an F-series engine, have much higher oil consumption than other models. This is because they use a very thin oil (0W-30), and some engine parts have been loosened to increase MPGs. Subaru has stated that they think oil consumption is still within a normal range. However, expect to burn 1/3 of a quart per 1,200 miles with these engines.

Rusted Body Panels

Subaru’s tend to have rust problems sometimes. However, this is also because they are wildly popular in snow-heavy regions. This increases their exposure to road salt. Combine this with a lack of maintenance and sufficiently getting rid of the road salt on the car, and you have a rust problem. There’s no specific model year in which these problems occur more frequently, but it is something to inspect when you’re in the market for a second-hand Subaru.

What Model Year Seems The Best Choice So Far?

After looking at all these problems, it’s a good idea to see if this gives us any general conclusion so far. We can see immediately that all models of the Subaru Legacy manufactured in the 5th (2010 – 2014) and 6th (2015 – 2019) generations have their own set of unique problems.

The fifth-generation has head gasket failures in pre-2013 models, CVT problems, and quickly burned out bulbs for the headlights in 2010 – 2012 models. Recalled Takata airbags and high oil consumption for the F-series engine also belongs to the culprits.

The sixth generation also has CVT problems but adds excessive battery drain, the potential for sudden acceleration, a faulty STARLINK system in the 2016 model, and potentially failing Eyesight in the 2015 model.

So far, we, therefore, feel that the following conclusion seems to be correct: if you’re in the market for a fifth-generation Legacy, a 2013 or 2014 model without a CVT seems to be best. In this case, you avoid problems with the headlights, head gasket, and the CVT. All you’re left with is high oil consumption and replaced airbags.

If you’re in the market for a sixth-generation Legacy, a 2017 or newer model year without a CVT seems to be the best bet. In this case, you avoid problems with the CVT and the failing Eyesight, and you won’t have to worry as much about issues with the STARLINK system. However, it’s likely the battery has been replaced, and there’s still the unresolved issue of sudden acceleration.

Which Year Has The Least Recalls?

Besides knowing the number of problems specific years have, it’s also essential to see how many recalls a particular model year has. This is because some recalls may not turn into problems, but they tell you something about the initial build quality of the Legacy.

Below, we’ve created a table with the number of recalls each specific model year has. Please remember that we’ve combined recalls with the exact cause (e.g., some model years have ten recalls because of the airbags). Also, keep in mind that most previously mentioned model years have had their airbags recalled; we won’t mention these recalls anymore.

As you can see in the table below, the 2010 – 2014 model years seem to have quite some recalls. This model year had a recall for engines turning off because the ball spring inside the switch was breaking, causing the switch to go back to the accessory position (19V297000). Also, the electronic parking brake in the manual transmission version could disengage (18V626000).

Legacy manufactured until 2013 had a recall for the windshield wipers. If the windshield wiper motor overheats, the wipers may fail, reducing driver visibility and increasing the risk of a crash. Additionally, the wiper motor cover may melt, increasing the fire risk (16V694000). The 2010 – 2012 model years were recalled because the remote starter accessory could start the car and make it run for fifteen minutes without warning (13V061000).

2010 – 2011 Subaru Legacy where recalled for potential risk with the puddle light system that illuminates the doorsteps and the area underneath the doorsteps. Moisture could cause short-circuiting, which would result in a potential fire hazard (12V602000). This model year was also recalled if it had a manual because a programming error could cause a lubrication hole within the 6-speed manual transmission to be omitted, meaning the transmission would destroy itself over time.

Furthermore, the 2010 model year was recalled for the steering roll connector, which could break and increase potential crash risk. Also, a crack in the CVT cooler hose could result in fluid leaks (10V196000), which caused another recall.

Below the table, we’ll discuss the recalls for the sixth and seventh generations of the Legacy.

Model YearRecalls
20220
20210
20204
20192
20183
20171
20163
20153
20145
20135
20126
20118
20108

Fortunately, the sixth generation of the Legacy had a lot fewer recalls than the fifth generation. However, there are still some recalls to take into account.

First of all, the 2015 model year has been recalled because of the build-up of moisture in the electronic stability control system, resulting in a crash if this safety system is needed (16V251000). Furthermore, this model year has been recalled because some of the automatic pre-collision braking systems did not function as intended (15V366000). 2015 – 2016 model years have been recalled for a deformed seal cap on the propeller shaft yoke, which increases the risk of oil leaking into this part of the system and catching fire (15V502000).

The 2016 model year has been recalled because the improper tightening of the securing nuts meant the driveshaft might separate from the rear differential, which may hit the fuel tank and result in fire. The 2016 – 2017 model year had a recall for the steering column because some of the cars would not turn anymore, making the driver lose control over the car (16V292000). Furthermore, the 2017 model has been recalled because some cars have a knee guard that is not correctly attached. In the event of a crash, when the driver is not wearing a seatbelt, the knee guard may not properly restrain the driver’s lower body.

The 2018 Legacy has had a recall for the ‘low fuel light’ warning message not showing up at the intended moment (18V773000) and a software issue that caused the camera display to stay blank (18V935000).

The 2018 – 2020 model years have had a recall for fuel pump failure, as described in the earlier section of this article about the most common problems (21V587000). The 2019 model has also been recalled because of spot welds located on the duct below the cowl panel, which may have been improperly applied and negatively impacted the vehicle’s body strength in the event of a crash (19V493000).

Which Year Costs The Least In Maintenance?

Besides knowing all the common problems and recalls, we also feel it’s essential to get an idea of what you will spend on your Legacy in terms of maintenance. Below, we’ve outlined the maintenance cost as listed by Repairpal and Edmunds. Furthermore, it’s good to know the following:

Subaru Legacy have maintenance costs of $563 per month, which is considered to be average for mid-sized cars. Furthermore, they need to go to the garage for unexpected maintenance around 0.28 times per year (lower than average), and there’s a 12% chance of the problem being severe (average).

When we look at the breakdown per model year, we see that the 2020 and 2019 model year have lower maintenance costs than the rest. This is, of course, logical because these models are younger and require less maintenance.

When we look at the rest of the model years, we see that the 2015 – 2018 and the 2011 and 2013 model years have lower maintenance costs than $600 per year. All the other model years are slightly more expensive, and the 2009 model year seems to be the largest troublemaker.

Year Of ManufacturingSubaru Legacy Maintenance Cost
2020 $     408
2019 $     476
2018 $     553
2017 $     556
2016 $     515
2015 $     521
2014 $     623
2013 $     575
2012 $     603
2011 $     543
2010 $     582
2009 $     738
2008 $     618
2007 $     642

Also read: The Complete Cost Of Maintaining A Subaru

What To Expect From A Used Subaru Legacy In Terms Of Price?

At this point, we feel we’ve established that almost no generation of the Subaru Legacy is perfect. All of them have had problems or recalls. However, not many model years seem to have these problems on such a scale that we deem them unreliable. Furthermore, the 2014 and 2017 model years seem to have the most minor issues and the least number of recalls.

Right now, we want to take a look at what you can expect from these model years if you were to buy them on the second-hand market.

A 2017 Subaru Legacy will have depreciated 45%; furthermore, it will be five years old. Assuming an average mileage of 12,500 miles per year, this means the car will have 62,500 miles on the odometer. In this blog post, we’ve established that a Subaru Legacy has a lifespan of 190,000 – 210,000 miles. This means that a 5-year old Legacy still has 11 years left. In other words, you get 2/3 of the remaining lifespan for 55% of the price, which does seem to be the best deal for the Legacy.

For the 2014 Legacy, we see that it will have depreciated 68%; furthermore, it will be eight years old. Assuming an average mileage of 12,5000 miles per year, this means the car will have 100,000 miles on the odometer. In other words, it has half of its lifespan left for 32% of the price. You’ll have a Legacy that’s a bit older, but this is undoubtedly the biggest bang for your buck.

Sources