Subaru Forester Best Years and Years to Avoid

Subaru Forester is a very popular and safe car model. It has been manufactured since 1998 and is still in production. However, many Subaru Forester model years are unreliable and may have some severe problems. If you are thinking about buying a used Subaru Forester, it is best to avoid these years.

Here are the years of the Subaru Forester to avoid:

  • Avoid 1998-2010: head gasket blowing
  • Avoid 2011-2015: excessive engine oil consumption

2018-2021 are the best years for the Subaru Forester. These newer models are much more reliable and don’t have as many problems as older models.

Subaru Forester Years to Avoid

Years to avoid: all the first-generation Forester (1998-2002).

There have been four generations of this vehicle so far. The first generation was produced between 1998 and 2002. The second generation was produced between 2003 and 2008. The third generation was produced between 2009 and 2013. And the fourth generation has been produced since 2014.

If you consider buying a used Subaru Forester, avoid all the first-generation models (1998-2002). These models have many common problems, including head gaskets blowing, vehicles not shifting into drive, and rear-wheel bearings failing.

Common problems on the first-generation Forester

  • head gasket blowing
  • vehicle not shifting into drive
  • rear-wheel bearings failing

Head gasket leaking is the most common problem on the first-generation Forester. It can cause the engine to overheat and fail. The vehicle may also not shift into drive. And the rear-wheel bearings can fail, causing the wheels to come off while driving.

Subaru used the DOHC EJ25D 2.5 liter boxer engine in the 1998 Forester, prone to internal head gasket leaks. This engine is also used in Subaru models like the Outback and Legacy from 1996 to 1999.

Forester model years 1999-2002 are equipped with 2.5L SOHC EJ251 engines. These engines are known for external head gasket leaks between the cylinder heads and engine block resulting in coolant and/or oil leaking out between the head and block.

Years to Avoid: 2003-2010

The head gasket leaking problem was still not fixed in this generation of Foresters. So, avoid the 2003-2010 Forester as well. Head gasket blowing is an expensive repair that can ruin your engine.

  • Due to the blown head gasket, avoid all the second-generation Forester (2003-2008) and third-generation 2009-2010.

Year to Avoid: 2011

In 2011 Subaru replaced the EJ25 engine with a modern FB25B engine, finally fixing the notorious Foresters’ head gasket problem.

However, the Forester model years 2011-2014 are known for excessive engine oil consumption problems, which could be as high as a quart of oil every 500-1000 miles driven. You have to check the oil level frequently and top it off as needed, or else the engine will suffer severe damage.

Although Subaru didn’t officially recall these vehicles, there was a class-action lawsuit against the company.

Subaru settled the lawsuit, agreeing to replace the affected vehicles’ engines with a redesigned boxer engine, and agreed to extend its 5-year, 60,000-mile warranty for the alleged defect to an 8-year, 100,000-mile warranty. So, they will charge you for repairs if a 2011 Forester’s excessive engine oil consumption problem is not fixed by 2019.

2011 was the first year of the FB25B engine Forester. It is also the most affected by problems with the FB25B engine.

NHTSA 2011 Forester’s overall safety rating is only 4 stars out of 5, which is another reason to avoid this year and get other safer Forester models.

Common problems on the 2011 Forester

  • excessive oil consumption
  • catalytic converter failure

The catalytic converter is a crucial part of the emission control system. It helps to reduce pollution from the vehicle’s exhaust. However, the catalytic converters on the 2011 Forester can fail at higher mileage, causing the “check engine” light to come on with the code P0420 or P0421. When out of warranty, this repair can be costly.

2011 Forester Recalls

  • Subaru issued several recalls for the 2011 Forester because of a problem with the front passenger airbag. The airbag may not deploy properly in a crash, increasing the risk of injury to the front passenger.
  • Subaru also issued a recall for the 2011 Forester because of a problem with the electrical system. The engine could turn off unexpectedly while driving, increasing the crash risk.
  • Air injection pump overheating was also another problem with the Forester in 2011.
  • Leaking brake fluid was another reason for a recall in 2011.
  • Puddle light system may short circuit, and generated heat could melt the plastic, leading to a fire.
  • Subaru also issued a recall for seat belts.

Year to Avoid: 2014

2014 is the first year of the fourth-generation Forester (2014-2018).

Excessive oil consumption was still a problem on the 2014 Forester. In fact, it’s the most common problem reported by owners this year.

The other common problem with the 2014 Forester is related to the vehicle’s suspension. The coil springs can fail on average at 57K miles, causing a clunking noise when driving over bumps.

While this problem is not as severe as the oil consumption issue, it can still be costly to fix.

Front or rear wheel bearing noise or even failure is also a common problem on the 2014 Forester.

Common problems on the 2014 Forester

  • excessive oil consumption
  • coil spring failure
  • noisy or failed wheel bearing

The year 2014 recalls

  • Brake lights that do not illuminate properly.
  • The driver-side floor mat could distract the driver.

Year to Avoid: 2015

Excessive oil consumption is still a common problem on the 2015 Forester. If you own a 2015 Forester, be sure to check the oil level regularly. You may need to add several quarts between oil changes.

Many people complain the 2015 Forester may accelerate unexpectedly. The car just suddenly accelerated on its own. This is a serious safety issue that could lead to an accident.

Engine stall while driving is not uncommon for the 2015 Forester. The car’s speed dropped suddenly while on the road, and it could not accelerate.

Bluetooth connectivity issue is a widespread problem on the 2015 Forester. Although this is not a safety issue, it’s still very annoying.

Common problems on the 2015 Forester

  • excessive oil consumption
  • sudden acceleration
  • engine stall
  • Bluetooth connectivity issue

The year 2015 recalls

  • The front passenger airbag may deactivate.
  • Brake lights that do not illuminate properly.
  • Engine stall.

Other Forester Model Years Problems


Many Forester owners complain that windshields cracked easily on this generation. Maybe a tiny pebble hit the windshield while driving, and then a crack appears.

This problem is especially common in the 2018-2021 Forester, but it can also happen in other years. Windshield insurance is a must that can help cover the cost of replacement, but it’s still a hassle.

  • windshields cracked

The year 2018 recalls

  • A failing fuel pump can cause an engine to stop while driving, posing a greater risk of a collision.
  • The front passenger airbag may deactivate.

The year 2019 recalls

  • Subaru issued a recall for 2019 Forester, Crosstrek, and Ascent to address a faulty PCV valve that could cause the engine to lose power while driving.
  • The rear stabilizer bracket bolts may become loose and detach. The rear stabilizer bracket might move if there are missing bolts, posing an accident risk.
  • A connector inside the Electronic Power Steering (EPS) unit could short circuit, resulting in a loss of electric power steering assistance and requiring more effort to steer, increasing the danger of a wreck.

Subaru Forester Best Years

Forester Best Year: 2018

The 2018 Foresters have improved overall reliability, but they are still not good enough. Consumer Reports rates it 3 out of 5 in terms of overall reliability.

Subaru has fixed the major engine problems that plagued the earlier Foresters, including the notorious head gasket leaking and excessive oil consumption.

Consumer Reports is quite happy with the 2018 Foresters’ engine and transmission, rating it 5/5 on major engine reliability and 4/5 on minor engine reliability, 5/5 on major and minor transmission reliability.

The only problem that seems to be plaguing the 2018 Foresters is the weak windshield (NHTSA 14 complaints), which is considered a minor issue.

Recalls 2018:

  • A failing fuel pump can cause an engine to stop while driving, posing a greater risk of a collision.
  • The front passenger airbag may deactivate.
  • Incorrect wheel size, tire size, and air pressure

Forester Best Year: 2019

Consumer Reports rated the 2019 Forester at 4 out of 5 on the “Overall Reliability” scale. Owners have reported no major engine or transmission problems.

The fifth-generation 2019 Forester has a new design and is significantly updated from the previous generation. It’s now powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder boxer engine with 182 horsepower. The interior is more spacious, and the car comes standard with many driver assists, such as adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning.

However, the 2019 Forester is not without its problems. Many owners complain about the windshield chips easily. And a few complaints about the steering is way too sensitive.

If you’re looking for a reliable and safe Forester, the 2019 model is a great choice.

Forester Best Year: 2020

The 2020 Forester is very similar to the 2019 model. The 2020 Forester comes with a lane-centering feature to improve EyeSight and an All-Weather group on the Premium model.

2020 Forester win a 5 of 5 rating on Consumer Reports’ “Overall Reliability” scale. Additionally, no recall has been issued for the 2020 Forester as of the published article.

Like the previous year, the windshield chips easily on the 2020 Forester. And some people find the steering sensitive. But overall, it’s still a great car.

Subaru has improved the Forester for the fifth generation, and the 2020 model is a great choice if you’re looking for a reliable and safe car.

Forester Best Year: 2021

The fifth-generation Forester has been very reliable so far, and the 2021 model is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a safe and reliable car.

2021 Forester is another 5 out of 5 rating on Consumer Reports’ “Overall Reliability” scale. No major problems have been reported by owners. There have been no recalls for the 2021 Forester.

The common complaints about the 2021 Forester are the windshield chips easily, and the steering is too sensitive. But overall, it’s still a great car.

If you’re looking for a Subaru Forester, the best years to buy are 2019, 2020, or 2021. These models have been very reliable and have received high marks from Consumer Reports. However, these Foresters have had some problems with windshield chips. But overall, these are minor issues and shouldn’t deter you from buying a Forester.

What to check when buying a used Forester?

When buying a used Forester, it’s important to check for any recalls that may have been issued. You can visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website to check if the car you’re interested in has any open recalls.

You should get a car history report to see if the Forester has been in any accidents or had any other problems. All of this information will help you decide whether or not to buy a particular Forester.

Check Head Gasket

As mentioned above, head gasket leaking is a common problem with the earlier Subaru Forester.

The head gasket seals the engine block to the cylinder head. A blown head gasket can cause coolant and oil to mix, leading to engine damage.

Bad head gasket symptoms

  • White smoke from the exhaust
  • Engine overheating
  • Continual coolant loss
  • Milky white coloration in the oil or coolant
  • Loss of engine power
  • Bubbling in the cooling system
  • External oil/coolant leak
  • Rough idle/Engine knock

Check Wheel Bearings

Wheel bearings help the wheels rotate smoothly. If they become worn, they can cause the wheels to wobble or make noise. The earlier Foresters are known to have problems with the front or rear wheel bearings.

Bad wheel bearing symptoms

  • Grinding noise when driving
  • Vibration in the steering wheel or seat
  • The steering wheel is off-center
  • Uneven tire wear
  • Worn Suspension Components
  • Reduced acceleration when driving

Check Rust

Rust can be an issue with any used vehicle. Some common rust spots to check for:

  • Frame: if the car is not well-maintained, the frame will rust.
  • Undercarriage: check the suspension and exhaust system for rust.
  • Under the doors: open the doors and check for rust around the door edges and in the rocker panels.
  • Wheels: Check for rust on the wheel wells and around the lug nuts.

Check for Oil Leaks

Oil leaking is a common problem. It can be caused by many things, such as a bad gasket or seal, worn engine parts, or an oil cooler that is not functioning correctly.


Are Subaru Forester used cars reliable?

Unfortunately, the earlier Subaru Foresters are not very reliable. Consumer Reports rates most of the Forester average or below average in terms of overall reliability.

Consumer Reports Forester Overall Reliability Rate:

  • 1/5: 2001, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010
  • 2/5: 2000, 2003, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017
  • 3/5: 2002, 2004, 2005, 2011, 2015, 2016, 2018
  • 4/5: 2019
  • 5/5: 2020, 2021

Are 2017 Foresters reliable?

The 2017 Foresters’ overall reliability is not good enough. Consumer Reports rates it 2 out of 5 in terms of overall reliability. They have had several complaints about the CVT transmission and stall when accelerating.

However, Subaru has fixed the major engine problems that plagued the earlier Foresters, including the notorious head gasket leaking and excessive oil consumption.

Consumer Reports rates 2017 Foresters 5/5 on major and minor engine reliability. 5 out of 5 on major transmission reliability. And it was only 1 recall on airbags.

We consider 2017 Foresters to be a neutral year.

What Are Common Problems With Subaru Forester?

Some common problems with Subaru Forester are:

  • Blown Head gasket: 1998-2010 Foresters are known for head gasket leaking.
  • Excessive oil consumption: 2011-2014 Foresters have been known to consume an excessive amount of oil.
  • Faulty Airbag Inflators: Subaru has issued many recalls for faulty airbags.
  • Windshields cracked easily: Many complaints about the 1998-2021 Foresters windshields being too thin and cracking easily.
  • Air Conditioning (A/C) Failure.
  • Transmission Defects.
  • Illuminated Check Engine Light Due to Sensor Failure.
  • Brake Fluid Leakage.
  • Oil Leaks.
  • Faulty Transmission Parking Rod.



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