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Discussion Starter #1
Hi,

I'm a young guy currently driving a 1997 Toyota RAV4. I'm ready to upgrade and am looking at getting into a Forester. I have about $6K, pretty hard ceiling there, maybe 1 or 2 hundred more, tops...

I'm looking for a manual, and I like the L level...

So, I have found a couple of 2002 Forester Ls that are 150 and 350 miles away from me and this is the first time I'll be buying my own car. I've had hand-me-downs before this.

I've heard that there can be a severe problem with the head gaskets in 2002s... other than that I have found two examples that are less than $6K with less than 90K miles on them. They are both at small used car dealerships, one is advertised as a one owner car.

My questions:

Is Carfax or a similar service useful/worth it? What would I find there?

If it were you, how would you evaluate the cars, I can test drive them for sure, but I don't really know anything about the mechanics and what could be wrong with them.

Should I just pick a garage out of the phone book in each town and ask for a mechanic to give them a once over inspection?

How will I know if the head gasket is messed up with them?

Lastly, are there any major maintenance services required around 90K that they could be just about to need and that is the reason for the realtively low prices compared to others of their era?

I need a good solid car, don't know when I'll be able to get another one, and I'm also excited by the possibility to do some light mods/tuning on account of the shared components with the Impreza, never done anything to a car before performance wise and would like to try.

Thanks in advance!
 

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2005 Impreza RS Wagon Auto
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Hi,

I'm a young guy currently driving a 1997 Toyota RAV4. I'm ready to upgrade and am looking at getting into a Forester. I have about $6K, pretty hard ceiling there, maybe 1 or 2 hundred more, tops...

I'm looking for a manual, and I like the L level...

So, I have found a couple of 2002 Forester Ls that are 150 and 350 miles away from me and this is the first time I'll be buying my own car. I've had hand-me-downs before this.

I've heard that there can be a severe problem with the head gaskets in 2002s... other than that I have found two examples that are less than $6K with less than 90K miles on them. They are both at small used car dealerships, one is advertised as a one owner car.

My questions:

Is Carfax or a similar service useful/worth it? What would I find there?

Carfax tends to leave out important info, even what you pay for, not worth it

If it were you, how would you evaluate the cars, I can test drive them for sure, but I don't really know anything about the mechanics and what could be wrong with them.

That generation has mostly corrosion issues besides the HGs (main places are the fuel filler neck, rear wiper motor, and fuel lines underneath driver side rear door

Should I just pick a garage out of the phone book in each town and ask for a mechanic to give them a once over inspection?

Basically any competent shop, preferably one not affiliated with the seller.

How will I know if the head gasket is messed up with them?

Milky oil, bubbles in the coolant reservoir after driving, oil/coolant seeping from heads.

Lastly, are there any major maintenance services required around 90K that they could be just about to need and that is the reason for the realtively low prices compared to others of their era?

105k-timing belt, water pump and associated parts, not cheap but REQUIRED or you'll blow your engine when the timing belt fails. search around this site for more info Subaru Research Site- specs, prices, options, 2011, 2010, 2009.. Outback, Legacy, Forester, Impreza, Tribeca more specifically Subaru maintenance schedules and new car break-in period

I need a good solid car, don't know when I'll be able to get another one, and I'm also excited by the possibility to do some light mods/tuning on account of the shared components with the Impreza, never done anything to a car before performance wise and would like to try.

These are solid cars with proper care and very easy to mod, poke around with some searches and read the stickied threads for more info

Thanks in advance!
See bold.
 

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02 Forester L (sold) Manual
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My own personal experience, along with several links worth reading:
mongrelmotorsports
The HG's on the 02's will generally begin leaking externally, an oil drip that will make annoying spots on your driveway, and slowly get worse. One with a service history is worth more than one without, particularly if it shows the HG's have been done already. I would almost consider getting one with more miles that has had recent HG's and a timing belt/front seal job as that is a $2000 savings vs you having to buy it later. Since these go 200,000 miles with these issues addressed, miles aren't that important. I always buy with over 100k on them because I beat the depreciation curve much better, and have had very little trouble selling Subarus with over 200k on them provided I've maintained them in good working and cosmetic order.
 

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2019 Crosstrek 2018 XT
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Don't forget the Timing belt/waterpump/idler/seals replacement at 105K. That's about 12 to 15 hundred. And you can almost bet on the HG thing for 1500. Bottom line..you need to prepare for expenses in the next 15K miles.
 

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2005 Impreza RS Wagon Auto
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Don't forget the Timing belt/waterpump/idler/seals replacement at 105K. That's about 12 to 15 hundred. And you can almost bet on the HG thing for 1500. Bottom line..you need to prepare for expenses in the next 15K miles.
Assuming they havn't been done. What I did was a buy mine at 90k with the HGs and 105k maintenance done, I got it for a steal at 4200$.

When going to buy any car, print a blue book price, then start pointing out EVERYTHING that you see wrong or missing (ie maintenance that WILL need to be done) and trying to knock those off the price. This should get the price low enough to buffer for basic maintenance.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks for all the replies...

So is it just any car, or any Forester of this many (90K+) miles that needs these things taken care of? And, $1500 for the timing belt, etc. and then another $1500 for head gaskets, so $3000 needed in the next 15K miles?!:icon_eek:

I don't know exactly how long I'll need to have this car, at least a year and a half (a year starting in September, but beyond that I don't know. I don't generally drive that far day to day (maybe 70 miles a week at most), and then drive ~1400 miles two or three times a year round trip to visit family.

Would it be better to look for a 2nd gen. (2003+)? To really try to save a bit more for an newer Forester, to avoid the high maintenance costs that'll be coming soon for a 90K mile 2002 and put it into say a $7000, 2nd gen. Forester with maybe 50-70K miles instead?
 

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2005 Impreza RS Wagon Auto
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Thanks for all the replies...

So is it just any car, or any Forester of this many (90K+) miles that needs these things taken care of? And, $1500 for the timing belt, etc. and then another $1500 for head gaskets, so $3000 needed in the next 15K miles?!:icon_eek:

I don't know exactly how long I'll need to have this car, at least a year and a half (a year starting in September, but beyond that I don't know. I don't generally drive that far day to day (maybe 70 miles a week at most), and then drive ~1400 miles two or three times a year round trip to visit family.

Would it be better to look for a 2nd gen. (2003+)? To really try to save a bit more for an newer Forester, to avoid the high maintenance costs that'll be coming soon for a 90K mile 2002 and put it into say a $7000, 2nd gen. Forester with maybe 50-70K miles instead?
If you look it shouldn't be hard to find one that has those issues fixed. You can find great deals on cars when ppl are desperate to sell.
 

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I would say that carfax IS worth it. Yes, it does leave things out. However, it's better than nothing. Trust your eyes when you're looking at the car. If something seems off, it probably is.
 

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Thanks for all the replies...

So is it just any car, or any Forester of this many (90K+) miles that needs these things taken care of? And, $1500 for the timing belt, etc. and then another $1500 for head gaskets, so $3000 needed in the next 15K miles?!:icon_eek:

[/I]
If you have them done at the same time like many do, it's more like $2000. Half that or less if you do the job yourself. I changed the HGs, timing belt, idlers, WP, and all suggested gaskets on mine after reading all the how tos and info on this forum. My total cost was $800 and change plus my time. Runs like a champ now at 173,000 and counting :biggrin:
 

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02 Forester L (sold) Manual
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What he said.

It really is something you'd try to do all at once, not twice. A timing belt and "full reseal" would get you close to 200,000 miles. Also, if it's a stick shift, do the clutch while you're in there...just a couple hundred more for the parts as the engine is already out (unless your mechanic is a masochist and does HG's with the engine in place...not the way I recommend).

We bought ours for around $6500, then spent another $1800 or so getting all that work done. Brought the 'price' of the car up to what it was actually worth on the market. So if you buy LOW enough, this expense merely becomes a wash. If you pay full retail AND have to do the maintenance, then you're spending money unwisely.

These items are unique to the Subaru line for the most part, but other brands will have their used car issues of different natures. Armed with knowledge you can find a Forester that is right for you, and priced right. Vastly better to buy one with slightly higher miles but with the big ticket maintenance already done, if possible.
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
Well, sadly, I'm really starting to get very cold feet about moving into a Forester of this era...

My RAV4 has about 181,000 miles on it right now and I've only really ever had to put new tires and brakes on it. Nothing much else besides fluid flushes and refills, oil changes and that sort of thing.

Real Lyte, I think you must have gone to the Jedi Mind school of car buying, because I don't think I could successfully negotiate that hard.

$4200 for 90K miles with everything fixed is truly quite amazing!

I can't really afford to get the extra $2-3K on top of the $6000 purchase price into a Forester now, since I really have very limited means at the moment, and the thought just buying it and then of maybe driving around on a $2000-$3000 time bomb would make it hard for me to enjoy the otherwise very nice Subaru engineering and experience. On the other hand the dealer of the Forester I like is offering a 90 day/4500 miles drive train warranty, but still... somehow it just seems to risky to me so far.

Thanks for the suggestion, ddavidv, it would be a good way to get into a Forester if you didn't mind it being a little older, but to get an even older one with it already done doesn't appeal to me because I'm really looking for a much newer, much less used car than I have now. There is nothing majorly wrong with my 1997 RAV4 now, I just am ready for a (much) newer car.

I really like the mystique, uniqueness and lower center of gravity of the boxer engine, and I would love the 500cc extra engine displacement and the enhanced driving feeling of the manual transmission... but I just don't know if now is the time for me to go Subaru in light of all of this... it's too bad really, I was really excited about it.
 

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I can't take all of the credit on that one, my step dad is a brutal haggler. But I have bought a couple since on my own and have picked up those tricks. ie. I bought a Saab 900T for 1200$ with 169k, was worth 2300$, listed off xyz was wrong and got it cheaper :woohoo:

Don't let much of this scare you, as I know there are many foz's out there that have little done to them at all. Here we are bias, we have enthusiasts and the population of ppl who had their cars break. Realistically we are a small subset. The only issues I have had are with rust being in NY, every single incident has been rust related. Also, the foz is MUCH more fun to drive than a rav4 so you are going to have to weigh this stuff out. But, as you've said you havn't had any issue yet, why bother? TBH if you believe you got your moneys worth out the car, just run it till it dies and save more money for a newer foz.
 

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Well, you're driving a 181,000 mile car now. So if you bought a Foz with 100,000 but new head gaskets, etc, that's 80,000 miles or about 6.5 years of average use you will get. Do you really plan on keeping it longer than that? I find that 6 years for a daily driver is a pretty long time to keep a vehicle.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Well, just got back from test driving a 2002 S that is nearby where I live... I was surprised to find that it seemed really low to the ground compared to my 1997 RAV4. It seemed more like a really wide car than a small jeep/SUV like my car does. The boxer engine sounded great though, even without any mods on the Forester I could hear it purring when I revved it! Also it had the sunroof and it was great... when I slid back the roof cover and exposed the glass it let so much light into the car that it instantly felt so much more spacious and roomy.

The other thing was that I found the interior style to be too dated. I guess that they must not have updated it since 1998 when the Forester first came out?

When I joined the forum in my intro post in the intro forum someone suggested that the 2nd Gen. interior is big improvement, so, I think my next step will be to look around for a 2003-4 2nd Gen. and give it a test and see if it feels better. Hopefully it's a little taller than the 1st Gen. too?

While at the dealer I also walked around a 2010 Black 5MT Forester that looked really, really nice. Too bad it's totally out of my price range! :) Also saw the 2010 Legacy and was very surprised to see that it looks much smaller in person, to me, than the hugeness it seems to project in pictures online. Oh well, maybe either one of those for my next, next car... and maybe by then they'll have a 6MT in the Forester as well (as that's one of the only complaints I have with the newest Forester, even though I'm not considering one at present).
 

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Yeah, the SF is a little dated by today's standards. I like the SG much better, but we bought what we could afford without debt.

See, coming from a car background I find it amusing that the Foz being lower than a typical SUV is viewed as a negative. I can't stand tall, tippy feeling vehicles for daily drivers. Which is why my Foz is lowered. :biggrin: Remember, the Foz is really a car adapted to SUV use, something I think is a plus. What I call 'cute utes' like RAV4s and CRVs aren't really either a car or a SUV, they are sort of a 'tweener vehicle that doesn't do anything particularly well. But since they sell by the thousands, what do I know?

BTW, the Legacy does look substantially larger than the Foz or Impreza, but park them next to each other and you'll see the difference in length is mere inches.
 

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Check out Click and Clacks' (Tom and Ray) CarTalk website for mechanics everywhere.
 
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