For over 30 years, the Subaru Legacy has delivered a consistent formula of practical transportation at a reasonable price with an occasional shot of high performance thrown in for good measure. Most of that time, Subaru’s flagship vehicle has also been sold only with the automaker’s Symmetrical AWD system.
It’s a winning formula that led to the incredibly popular Outback wagon and, eventually, solid reliability. The road to Legacy reliability has been a windy one, which is why we’re here. After analyzing nearly 20 years of FIXD data, we’ve determined the best and worst model years of the Subaru Legacy.
Bottom-of-the-barrel reliability with 3rd-gen debut
4th-gen launch reliability gremlins
Objective & subjective reliability fall off a cliff
Powertrain updates throw a wrench in reliability
FIXD Reliability Score drops 4 points in 2 years
7th-gen kicks off a reliability decline
Subaru Legacy Engine Reliability Score, Safety Ratings, MPG, and Value v.s. Maintenance & Repair Costs Year by Year
The first chart below, Subaru Legacy Reliability Score, is the most important factor in our ranking of the best and worst model years. It shows objective FIXD device data along with subjective owner-reported information that combines to give us a complete picture of Legacy reliability for the past 20 years.
It’s not unusual for the first year of a new generation – of any vehicle – to have reliability issues as the automaker works through production problems. The Legacy drives that point home by struggling with reliability in 2001, 2005, and 2020 – which all mark the start of a new generation.
From here, we look at published government safety scores from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and fuel efficiency figures per fueleconomy.gov. We also consider current market values from Kelley Blue Book (KBB), annual maintenance costs per owner-submitted survey responses, frequently encountered Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTCs), and notable safety recalls issued by the NHTSA.
The goal is to help buyers, who are interested in a used Subaru Legacy, make informed decisions. On that note, if you’re in the market for a car, take a look at our article on the USA’s most reliable and cheapest to repair cars in the U.S. Don’t get stuck with a lemon, use our data to help you shop.
Engine Reliability Score – Over The Years
Looking at the Subaru Legacy Reliability Score chart above, the FIXD Reliability Score (green line) comes from the total number of CELs that have been recorded by customer-installed FIXD devices for each model year. After tallying them up, we weight this objective score by average mileage and convert it into a 1-10 scale where 10 is the best and 1 is the worst.
As part of our customer surveys, we ask Legacy owners, “How reliable would you say your car is?” with answer options ranging from “Just Point A to Point B driving” to “I could take a cross-country trip, no problem.” After converting the response into a 1-10 scale, we create the Owner Reliability Score (gray line) on the chart above as a subjective counterpoint to the objective FIXD data.
For the most part, you can see that both scores trend in the same direction. However, there are instances where the graphs diverge dramatically, like in 2007. This tends to happen in older model years and typically offers an example of how objectively negative data can significantly vary from subjectively positive owner sentiment.
It’s why we include both sets of data in our analysis, as we will look at more closely in the relevant section below. You can find out more about our reliability scoring process at the bottom of this article and learn about some of the most common CELs to expect from a Subaru Legacy.
NHTSA Safety Score – Over The Years
The Subaru Legacy NHTSA Safety Rating chart above displays Legacy safety scores each year (green line) that are calculated by averaging all available trim levels per published NHTSA data. We overlay it with the average safety score of the automotive industry as a whole (gray line) to help inform our rankings of the best and worst model years of the Legacy.
In 2011, the NHTSA implemented a more stringent crash-test protocol, and as a result, the industry struggled – as seen above – before recovering as the new methodology was better understood. As you can see, the 2011 Legacy stumbled with the rest of the industry before recovering in the following years.
Aside from 2011 and the early ‘00s, the chart above clearly illustrates why Subaru has earned a reputation for safety. Generally outperforming the auto industry when it comes to safety scores, the Legacy has scored a perfect 5/5 in 8 of the previous 10 model years.
Understanding the Legacy’s safety score is important for peace of mind as well for obtaining cheap auto insurance as it plays an integral role in premium costs. If you live in one of the states listed below, we can show you the cheapest vehicles to insure in yours.
|What Used Cars Are the Cheapest To Insure In:|
MPG – Over The Years
The Subaru Legacy Average MPG chart above is based on the average fuel economy – for all trim lines – of the Legacy each year per figures published on fueleconomy.gov.
As is typical of most vehicles, the Legacy shows steady improvement in these figures from one year to the next. This is largely brought about by technology enabling more efficient powertrains over time and Subaru’s engineering efforts on this front from one generation to the next.
This is on clear display in 2015 and 2020, each of which marked the start of a new Legacy generation and a notable uptick in average fuel economy. It helps that Subaru has consistently offered a 2.5L “boxer” four-engine for some 20 years, which is ideal from an iterative engineering approach that focuses on regular improvements in areas like fuel economy.
Current Market Value of All Subaru Legacy Years & Cost Per Year to Repair and Maintain Each
The above chart of Subaru Legacy Value vs. Cost of Repairs shows current Legacy market values per Kelley Blue Book against average annual maintenance costs per owner survey responses. It’s another tool used to inform our data-based rankings of the best and worst model years.
For example, in 2017, the average annual maintenance costs of the Legacy hit a low point of just $250. That same year, market values came down, but reliability pushed up with authority. Given the relatively low miles of a typical 2017 Legacy, this combination makes for an excellent purchase value and a model year we recommend, which we detail below.
When shopping for a used Subaru Legacy, it’s important to keep in mind that not all vehicles are cared for equally. To protect yourself from lemons, take along a FIXD Sensor on your test drive. FIXD connects to a free app on your smartphone to tell you more about the vehicle you’re checking out, including check engine lights and other hidden issues that the owner or dealership may be attempting to hide. Click here to learn more and get FIXD for only $19.99 (regular price $59)!
Important Features Timeline
1996 – Outback package offered on 2nd-gen Legacy
1997 – Subaru makes AWD standard on all North American vehicles
1998 – Dual front airbags added, Legacy SUS (Sport Utility Sedan) arrives
1999 – 30th Anniversary Legacy model has an upgraded cabin, spoiler, and alloy wheels
2000 – 3rd-gen Legacy debuts and Outback becomes a standalone model
2001 – Entire Legacy lineup receives Low-Emission Vehicle status
2002 – GT variants come with heated front seats and exterior mirrors
2003 – “Sportshift” manual mode added to 4-speed automatic on certain models
2004 – 35th Anniversary model offered with special badges, 16-inch wheels, and a sunroof
2005 – 4th-gen Legacy unveiled with new turbocharged engine and 5-speed automatic options
2006 – Hot-rod 2.5GT spec.B model sold in small numbers, manual transmission dropped from the wagon
2007 – Mid-cycle refresh brings new seat fabrics, revised 5-speed manual, standard CD player, and more
2008 – Wagon body style dropped, sedan receives newly optional 3.0L flat-6 powertrain
2009 – Electronic stability control made standard, 9-speaker stereo fitted to all models except base
2010 – 5th-gen Legacy arrives with window frames for the first time, new CVT, a roomier cabin, and upgraded chassis
2011 – 2.5 GT models now only sold in Limited trim with a sunroof and XM satellite radio
2012 – Navigation, touchscreen interface, voice control, and backup camera all made optional
2013 – Base 4-cylinder and CVT revised, suspension upgraded, forward collision mitigation offered
2014 – Flat-6 motor now only available on 3.6R Limited models
2015 – 6th-gen Legacy debuts with more cabin space and EyeSight suite of advanced driver aids
2016 – Lane-keeping system added to EyeSight, cloud-based infotainment system offered
2017 – New Legacy Sport model arrives, Reverse Automatic Braking added to EyeSight
2018 – Lineup standard 6.5” infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
2019 – EyeSight suite of advanced safety nets made lineup standard
2020 – 7th-gen Legacy released with new 260-horse 2.4L turbocharged “boxer” four and optional 11.6” display
2021 – Adaptive LED headlights become standard equipment
2022 – Sport models now come with blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, and a moonroof
The Best Years of the Subaru Legacy
Taking into account FIXD and Owner reliability, government safety scores, fuel efficiency, and Legacy owner survey responses, we’ve come up with this list of the best Subaru Legacys. Pertinent recall information and notes about common DTCs are included as well.
NOTE: The 2006, 2008, and 2010 Subaru Legacys are not included in the rankings below due to insufficient data.
FIXD App Engine Reliability: 9-10/10
Owner-Reported Reliability: 10/10
KBB Value: $12,801-$12,951
Fuel Economy: 26 mpg
Annual Maintenance/Repair: $250-$750
Safety Rating: 5/5
The reliability chart at the top of the page makes it easy to see why the 2017-2018 Subaru Legacy sits atop our ranking of best model years. The FIXD Reliability Score jumped 5 points in 2017 earning a score of 9 and then 1 more in 2018 to earn a perfect score of 10.
Though the Owner Reliability Score had been at 10 for several years in a row, 2018 is the only time both reliability scores hit this high mark. This impressive reliability is no doubt helped by the fact that these Legacys are deep into 6th-gen production and have benefitted from ample time for production fine-tuning.
Other highlights include perfect scores in safety, which correlates with Subaru rolling out its EyeSight suite of advanced driver-assistance aids during this period. Then there are the relatively high fuel economy figures and all-time low annual maintenance costs for the 2017 Legacy.
Per Kelley Blue Book, market values for both of these Legacys are lower than the older 2016 model. However, when you factor in the tremendous reliability, low average mileage – 85,000 to 100,000 range – and standard smartphone mirroring as of 2018, it translates to an outstanding purchase value.
Owners of these late-model Legacys seem to agree as a higher-than-average group of 2017 owners say their car is cheap to repair and most find the entertainment system easy to use. That latter point makes sense as the 2018 model received a faster CPU and upgraded voice-recognition software.
Also, more than 25% of owners of both model years expect to see 200,000 miles, which is quite a ways off as neither the 2017 nor 2018 Legacy average more than 100,00 miles. In other words, these owners are impressed with their cars.
A large group of these Legacy owners report using their cars primarily for lots of driving – whether commuting or traveling related – which coincides with Subaru retuning the Legacy in 2018 for smoother acceleration, a more comfortable ride quality, and reduced ambient noise.
Of course, no vehicle is without problems and the same is true of the 2017-2018 Legacy. One of the most common issues with these models is a leak in the Evaporative Emission Control (EVAP) system. As indicated by DTC 1449, it can often be fixed by tightening the gas cap.
If DTC P05A0 shows up, check to see if there is anything jammed in the active grille shutters as this code is triggered when that system is stuck open. Common to most Legacy model years, including 2017 and 2018, is DTC P0420. It means the catalytic converter is on its way out, which isn’t great as a replacement catalytic converter can cost up to $2,000.
Both DTC P0037 and P0141 are frequently encountered on these Legacys and both are related to a malfunctioning oxygen (O2) sensor. A new O2 sensor typically costs between $200 and $300 at a shop or you can learn how to replace an O2 sensor yourself and save some money in the process.
You may see DTC P2005 if the intake manifold runner control (IMRC) on cylinder bank 2 is stuck in the open position. This is usually due to a worn-out IMRC solenoid or wiring issues.
Though there were only 2 recalls on the 2017 Legacy, one of them has an “URGENT: DO NOT DRIVE THIS VEHICLE” note attached to it by the NHTSA. It has to do with an improperly machined steering column that can cause a loss of steering ability on some 49,000 vehicles.
Of the 3 recalls for the 2018 Legacy, the most impactful is for failing fuel pumps that affected 176,000 vehicles. Any Subaru dealership should fix recall-related work at no charge on a Subaru up to 15 model years old. You can use this NHTSA VIN tool to determine if your car has any outstanding recalls.
FIXD App Engine Reliability: 9/10
Owner-Reported Reliability: 7/10
KBB Value: $5,510
Fuel Economy: 24 mpg
Annual Maintenance/Repair: $500
Safety Rating: 5/5
A common thread to the best model year Subaru Legacys is that all of them are towards the end of production for the given generation. This commonality can be attributed to Subaru having spent the early years of a given Legacy generation working out production kinks and finishing it out with solid reliability.
Such is the case with the 2014 Legacy that marked the final year of the 5th generation series and with it, a 3-point FIXD Reliability Score improvement. The owner score only moved down 1 point, safety scores stayed atop the chart, and annual maintenance costs were nearly $200 below average.
Another theme across the list of best model year Legacys is how the market values go down in each instance, including with the 2014 Legacy. Typically, you would expect to see an increase in this metric for newer vehicles. It’s possible buyers are less interested in the end of a generation, instead looking to the start of a fresh series and its associated upgrades. However, as noted above, this is not always the best approach from a reliability perspective.
Nonetheless, 2014 Legacy owners have a lot of good things to say about their Subarus. Comfortable seats rank as a highlight this year as do excellent driver visibility and cheap repairs. However, they generally do not like the entertainment system. But keep in mind most 2014 Legacys came with a simple LCD screen on the center stack, which is quite basic by today’s standards.
A malfunctioning catalytic converter tops the list of most common causes of a CEL on the 2014 Legacy. Indicated by DTC P0420, a new catalytic converter costs between $1,500 and $2,000 at a shop or you can save some money by going the DIY route with the help of our DTC P0420 guide.
The other two most frequently encountered DTCs for these Legacys are P2004 and P2007. Both are related to an issue with the IMRC with P2004 triggered when it is stuck open and P2007 triggered when it is stuck closed. Look for a roasted actuator or wiring problems when these issues arise.
Of the 10 recalls on the 2014 Legacy, 6 were related to exploding airbag inflators. Part of the massive Takata airbag mess that affected most major automakers, it impacted over a million Subarus in this instance.
FIXD App Engine Reliability: 7/10
Owner-Reported Reliability: 8/10
KBB Value: $5,754
Fuel Economy: 22 mpg
Annual Maintenance/Repair: $375
Safety Rating: 4.7/5
Reinforcing the idea that the reliability of a given vehicle’s generation benefits from being in production for a few years is the 2012 Legacy. These models are about the halfway point of 5th-gen production and received zero powertrain updates. It’s surely not the sole reason for the remarkable 6-point FIXD reliability improvement, but it didn’t hurt.
These Legacys also posted a safety score improvement 1 year after the more stringent NHTSA crash-testing protocols were implemented. And though fuel economy is just so-so, annual maintenance costs come in some $300 below the 20-year average.
Owner survey responses back this up with 25% of 2012 Legacy owners saying their cars are cheap to repair. They also find the seats to be comfortable. This is likely helped by the increased head, shoulder, and hip room that were part of the 5th-gen model which added an extra 3 inches of width, height, and wheelbase.
Negatives include a widely disliked sound system. This may be attributed to most owners having the standard 4-speaker setup as an optional 9-speaker Harman Kardon audio system was available in 2012 which probably sounds pretty good.
Or perhaps these owners are more focused on carving canyons as 17% note they mostly use their Legacy for sporty and fast driving. That is more than double the average for this metric and correlates with the 2.5 GT Limited model offered in 2012 with a 265-hp turbocharged four-pot and 6-speed stick for the enthusiast crowd.
Speaking of, potential buyers may want to find a manual transmission variant as two of the most common trouble codes for the 2012 legacy are related to the automatic transmission. DTC P0700 points to faulty transmission components and DTC P2762 indicates an issue with the torque converter. Both highlight the importance of staying on top of your automatic transmission service.
If you encounter DTC P0420, it means the catalytic converter is gasping on the exhaust fumes it’s charged with filtering. We go into more detail on this issue with our DTC P0420 explainer video but expect to pay between $1,500 and $2,000 for a new catalytic converter.
The Takata airbag boondoggle affected the 2012 Legacy as 9 of the 16 recalls issued were related to airbag problems.
FIXD App Engine Reliability: 6/10
Owner-Reported Reliability: 6/10
KBB Value: $3,485
Fuel Economy: 21 mpg
Annual Maintenance/Repair: $250
Safety Rating: 4.8/5
Another example of late-in-the-series reliability improvements is the 2009 Subaru Legacy. It was the final year of 4th-gen production, a generation marred by poor reliability every year – until 2009. That year, the FIXD Reliability Score jumped 5 points and annual maintenance costs dropped by 80% over the 2008 model.
These Legacys also spend less than 1 day per year in the shop. Not bad for a 14-year-old car that averages 225,000 miles on the odometer.
Along with figuring out 4th-gen Legacy reliability, Subaru delivered a car with high safety scores and – per owner survey responses – comfortable seats, great driver visibility, and an easy-to-use entertainment system. The audio system was also well-liked on these Legacys, which featured a 9-speaker Harman Kardon system on all models except the base.
A lack of usable cabin storage is cited as a problem area with 33% of 2009 Legacy owners noting this on surveys. For potential buyers of a used Legacy, be aware that the far more spacious wagon model went out of production after 2007.
As ever, a faulty catalytic converter tops the list of most common causes of a CEL on the 2009 Legacy. As indicated by DTC P0420, this can be a pricey problem as replacing the catalytic converter runs as high as $2,000 at a shop. For the mechanically inclined, our DTC P0420 DIY guide can help save some money.
The sequentially numbered DTC P0302 and DTC P0303 mean the ignition coils are on the fritz. A severe issue that is triggered by an engine misfire, both of these codes are commonly encountered on the 2009 Legacy. Expect to pay between $50 and $175 for new ignition coils.
The Worst Years of the Subaru Legacy
Working with the same information to determine the best Subaru Legacys, we’ve compiled the list of model years to stay away from. You can expect worse reliability, bigger maintenance bills, and sometimes lower safety ratings with these poor-performing Legacys. We are starting from the absolute worst and progressing to the “best of the worst”.
FIXD App Engine Reliability: 1-3/10
Owner-Reported Reliability: 4-7/10
KBB Value: $2,187-$3,070
Fuel Economy: 20-21 mpg
Annual Maintenance/Repair: $500-$917
Safety Rating: 4-4.3/5
Though we only have data as of 2001, it’s safe to say that the first-generation Subaru Legacy – which debuted in 2000 – is a stinker when it comes to reliability. That’s because between 2001 and 2004, it earned a FIXD Reliability Score of 1 – the lowest possible rating – three times with a small improvement to 3 in 2003 before falling again.
Not only that, 2004 was the only year the Legacy ranked below the industry on safety, KBB market values marched steadily downward over this period, and annual maintenance costs were above average each year except for 2002. Even the Owner Reliability Score, which largely runs high, struggled during this stretch.
Fuel economy is also weak, but to be fair, these are old Legacys and older cars are usually less capable of maximizing fuel economy. Altogether, these low marks add up to earn the 2001-2004 Subaru Legacy model years the title “Worst of the Worst”.
It’s not all bad news as owners generally approve of driver visibility and find the seats to be comfortable. Unfortunately, they also think these Legacys are expensive to repair (which they are), the sound system is trash (only 4 speakers were standard), and the entertainment system doesn’t work well.
On that last note, bear in mind there is little more than a small LCD screen with buttons and knobs, so it is certainly a basic entertainment system compared to modern setups.
Some interesting usage trends emerged from owner surveys of these O.G. Legacys. 25% of 2001 and 2002 owners report using their Legacy primarily for hauling and towing, which is more than 3 times the average response to this question. That may seem like an odd way to use a Legacy but the wagons are cavernous and these early models are rated for up to 2,000 pounds of towing.
Another relatively large contingent of owners like to use their Legacy for outdoor and off-road work. The Outback, with its 7” of ground clearance, had become a standalone model by 2000, so we can’t point to it as a factor here. But these Legacys did come standard with AWD and 6 inches of ground clearance, which was an inch more than a period Honda Accord could muster. So, light off-roading wouldn’t be completely out of the question.
Looking over the FIXD data, we can see that 3 of the most common CEL causes in these early Legacys are EVAP system-related. Both DTC P0456 and P0457 are triggered by a leak in the EVAP system that is often caused by a loose gas cap.
If an engine misfire is detected, look for DTCs P0303 or P0304. Common to these 1st-gen Legacys, P0303 likely means it’s time for a new set of ignition coils, a job that should cost you less than $200. DTC P0304, on the other hand, indicates you may need to replace the spark plugs, an issue we look at in this DTC P0304 explainer video.
As with so many other model years, a malfunctioning catalytic converter is a common problem on the 2001-2004 Legacy. As indicated by DTC P0420, be ready for a bill in the $1,500 to $2,000 range for a new catalytic converter.
Sensor issues are also commonly encountered in these early Subies. DTC P0300 is triggered by an issue with an O2 sensor, DTC P0113 pops when the intake air temperature (IAT) sensor is out of whack, and DTC P0328 means the knock sensor is malfunctioning. A new knock sensor will set you back up to $400 at a shop.
This wide array of engine-related DTCs correlates with a high likelihood of an expensive repair ($500 or more) being due to an engine problem. The 2001 Legacy is one to watch out for in particular as it has a 67% chance of this scenario, which is more than double the average for this metric.
Salting the wound of terrible reliability is the fact that the 2001 Legacy averages 3.8 days in the shop each year and the 2004 model comes in at 2.8 days. Across 20 years of data, the average annual stay with a mechanic is just under 2 days.
Over in the Recall Department, the 2001 Legacy received 8 recalls including one for rear subframe corrosion that impacted 170,000 vehicles. Of the 5 recalls on the 2002 Legacy, an issue with the automatic transmission parking rod that can cause the car to roll without warning affected about 172,000 vehicles.
Though 8 of the 15 recalls on the 2003 Legacy were airbag defect-related, a particularly hair-raising issue was the cruise control system getting stuck…in the open position. There were 11 recalls issued for the 2004 Legacy with the majority for airbag defects.
FIXD App Engine Reliability: 1-2/10
Owner-Reported Reliability: 7-9/10
KBB Value: $2,871-$3,854
Fuel Economy: 21-22 mpg
Annual Maintenance/Repair: $250-$1,167
Safety Rating: 4.8-5/5
Subaru launched the 4th-gen Legacy in 2005 and kept it in production until 2009. Aside from the final model year, reliability was a constant thorn in the automaker’s side as evidenced by the FIXD rating hovering between 1 and 2 over this span. As noted above, the 2006 and 2008 models have been excluded due to insufficient data.
Owner-reported reliability, on the other hand, fared far better. There is an 8-point gap between the objective FIXD Reliability Score and subjective Owner Reliability Score for the 2007 Legacy. This brings us to an important distinction between these two figures that would-be buyers should keep in mind.
The 2007 Legacy earned a reliability score of 9/10 from existing owners. This is because nearly 70% of those owners are confident their Legacy could drive coast-to-coast without issue according to survey responses.
However, according to data collected from FIXD devices installed in these cars, the 2007 Legacy tallied 25% more DTCs than the average count over 20 model years. So, contrary to owner sentiment, these 4th-gen Legacys are objectively unreliable.
They are not without their charms of course. Safety scores moved up strongly between 2004 and 2005, the new generation brought a slight uptick in average fuel economy, and market values headed in the right direction.
But while the 2005 model posted very low annual maintenance costs, the 2007 Legacy came in $500 higher than average for this metric. That latter point correlates with the 67% of 2007 owners who feel their Subaru is expensive to repair.
These Legacys do see a lot of use for heavy driving relative to other model years, but perhaps not for too much longer as 33% of 2007 owners don’t expect their Legacy to hit the 200,000-mile mark. That response rate is more than 6 times higher than average. Not good.
If you can keep your 4th-gen Legacy on the road, you may be able to join the 25% of owners who like to go fast. This relatively large contingent is driven by the fact that Subaru unveiled a sweet spec.B variant during this span with summer tires, Bilstein dampers, and a 6-speed manual controlling the action.
Commonly seen trouble codes on the 2005-2008 Legacy include DTC P2096, which is triggered by a faulty O2 sensor, and DTC P0171, which pops up when the mass airflow (MAF) sensor is on its way out. A new MAF sensor can set you back up to $300 as we talked about in our DTC P0171 explainer video.
If DTC P0420 arises, you’re likely on the hook for a new catalytic converter which can cost as much as $2,000. If you see DTC P0021, it means there is an issue with the timing of the intake camshaft, which goes hand-in-hand with the VVT system.
The NHTSA issued 9 recalls on the 2005 Legacy with one of them, for brake line corrosion, impacting over 600,000 vehicles. Of the 9 recalls for the 2007 Legacy, an issue with overheating air injection pumps affected about 100,000 vehicles.
FIXD App Engine Reliability: 1/10
Owner-Reported Reliability: 7/10
KBB Value: $7,541
Fuel Economy: 22 mpg
Annual Maintenance/Repair: $500
Safety Rating: 4.4/5
Midway through 5th-gen production, the 2011 Subaru Legacy took a nosedive on reliability in both the FIXD and owner-reported categories. And by nosedive, we mean the FIXD Reliability Score crash landed at 1/0 – the worst possible score.
The safety score also dropped precipitously in 2011, but that can be chalked up to the NHTSA instituting a revised set of crash-test protocols that were more stringent that year. It affected the industry as a whole as seen on the safety chart at the top of the page.
Good news includes strong market values for these Legacys and annual service costs that come in well below the $680 average. And owners largely think the seats are comfortable, but that’s about it on the positives.
None of those owners expect to see 200,000 miles, most think they’re expensive to repair, and there were a whopping 16 recalls issued for the 2011 Legacy. Granted, 9 of them were airbag-related, but one troubling issue was transmission gears being improperly lubricated and potentially breaking. Yikes.
That’s doubly troubling as all 3 of the most common 2011 Legacy DTCs are transmission-related. DTC P0700 is triggered when there are internal tranny issues. DTC P2762 means there is a problem with the torque converter clutch pressure control solenoid.
Last but not least is DTC P1710. This one shows up when one of the transmission sensors that detects input shaft speed is acting up. You may notice hard shifts with this problem. You will definitely notice the associated repair bill which can hit $3,000.
FIXD App Engine Reliability: 6/10
Owner-Reported Reliability: 8/10
KBB Value: $6,521
Fuel Economy: 24 mpg
Annual Maintenance/Repair: $750
Safety Rating: 5/5
Towards the end of 5th-gen production, the 2013 Legacy posted a drop in its FIXD Reliability Score. Safety scores hit 5/5, fuel economy moved up thanks to a revised powertrain, and market values were on the upswing. But when reliability issues crop up, we’re likely going to give that vehicle a thumbs down.
Those powertrain revisions mentioned above, which included a new, slightly more potent DOHC base engine and updated CVT, did help quite a bit with fuel economy. However, that level of monkeying with the mechanicals often puts a damper on reliability, which is what happened with the 2013 Legacy.
Zero owners felt their 2013 Legacy owner was cheap to repair but 50% felt repairs were expensive and they are, with an annual cost about $100 higher than average. As with so many model years, these owners like the seat comfort, but dislike the amount of cabin storage.
Also common to most of these Legacys is DTC P0420, which indicates an issue with the catalytic converter. It is one of the most common causes of a CEL on the 2013 model along with DTC P0700, which is triggered when there is a problem with the transmission.
If you see DTC P0351, it likely means the ignition coils are on their last legs. Replacing ignition coils runs as high as $375 at a shop or you can take the DIY route to shave at least $100 off that cost.
There were 12 recalls issued on the 2013 Subaru Legacy. Of those, a problem with the electronic parking brake unexpectedly failing impacted about 27,000 vehicles.
FIXD App Engine Reliability: 5-8/10
Owner-Reported Reliability: 10/10
KBB Value: $9,744-$14,785
Fuel Economy: 26 mpg
Annual Maintenance/Repair: $250-$417
Safety Rating: 5/5
2015 kicked off the 6th-gen Subaru Legacy production. It brought a relatively significant 2 mpg improvement in average fuel economy, a perfect safety score, and ultimately, high market values. But, it also brought reliability trouble which tends to happen when a new generation debuts.
Owners were happy with reliability, but the FIXD Reliability Score fell 4 points over a short 2-year span. Even with the aforementioned positive aspects and below-average annual maintenance costs, this kind of weak reliability performance from the 2015 and 2016 Legacy leaves us with a vehicle we cannot recommend.
Owners were also more likely than usual to use their Legacys primarily for family transportation. This correlates with the loads of advanced safety features Subaru introduced in 2015 including a new rollover sensor, upgraded airbags, and the addition of forward collision mitigation (FCM), lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control.
Helping keep those annual service costs low is the fact that 2 of the most common causes of a CEL on these 6th-gen Legacys can usually be fixed by tightening the gas cap. DTC P0455 and P0456 are technically triggered by a leak in the EVAP system but look to the gas cap first.
Both DTC P0137 and P2270, which are regularly seen on the 2015 and 2016 Legacy, arise when an O2 sensor is acting up. A new O2 sensor costs between $200 and $300 at a shop. And the enemy of Legacys everywhere – DTC P0420 – is also on the list of CEL causes to watch for. It means the catalytic converter is due for replacement, a repair that ranges in cost from $1,500 to $2,000.
There were only 3 recalls for the 2015 Legacy with one for a malfunctioning FCM system that affected about 71,000 vehicles. The 2016 Legacy also saw 3 recalls, but an issue related to an improperly machined steering column resulted in the NHTSA issuing an “URGENT: DO NOT DRIVE THIS VEHICLE” notice.
FIXD App Engine Reliability: 7-8/10
Owner-Reported Reliability: 10/10
KBB Value: $22,659-$24,178
Fuel Economy: 26-29 mpg
Annual Maintenance/Repair: $250-$750
Safety Rating: 5/5
It’s unusual for a late-model year vehicle like the 2019 and 2020 Subaru to end up on the “worst of” rankings, but in this case, the debut of an all-new generation in 2020 is not helping matters. It was the start of 7th-generation production and a 3-point FIXD Reliability Score skid over 2 years.
Safety scores are perfect, average fuel economy jumps to a high point, and the KBB market value of a 2019 Legacy spiked nearly $10,000 over a 2018 model. This is why these Legacys are our pick for “best of the worst” model years.
There’s a lot to like and the reliability isn’t terrible, but it’s not great either and has entered a troubling downward trajectory. It’s also worth noting that the market value metric, while on its face is a good thing, could also be interpreted as an example of an overpriced and unreliable car.
New features like ventilated front seats and an adjustable driver’s seat cushion may have contributed to the large contingent of owners who think those seats are kind to the keister. And they generally approve of the entertainment system, an interface that gained a Wi-Fi hotspot and an available 11.6” touchscreen display in 2020.
As for usage, 75% of 2020 Legacy owners note that they primarily put their car to work as a road warrior. That’s the largest contingent of any model year and correlates with the new 7th-gen Legacy being 70% stiffer in torsional rigidity and 100% stiffer in front lateral rigidity over the prior model. A stiff structure makes for a comfortable ride.
If you’re having a problem heating the cabin, keep an eye out for DTC P26A3 and P2682. Both of these codes point to trouble with the engine coolant bypass valve, which can interfere with cabin heat. One more to watch for is DTC P2404 which arises when there is a problem with the EVAP system leak detection pump.
Considering the 2020 Legacy has a 50% chance of an expensive repair being engine-related, it’s not surprising that 4 out of the 5 most common causes of a CEL are tied to the engine.
The 2019 Legacy saw only 2 recalls with one for fuel pump problems affecting about 350,000 vehicles. Of the 5 recalls on the 2020 Legacy, there were 2 related to the transmission drive chain breaking which combined to impact nearly 200,000 vehicles.
Watch out for engine problems with the 2001, 2002, 2005, 2011, and 2020 Subaru Legacy. All 5 model years have a higher-than-average likelihood – up to a 67% chance – of an expensive repair being engine-related. No surprise then that all these Legacys land on our list of model years to avoid.
As for transmission trouble, the 2007 Legacy has a 20% chance that a $500+ repair will be related to this critical powertrain system, which is more than twice the average for this metric. It’s one more reason we don’t recommend buying a 2007 Legacy and a reminder to stay on top of your automatic transmission service intervals.
Across 20 model years, the Subaru Legacy averages 135,00 miles per owner survey results. But with 225,000 miles on the clock, the 2009 Legacy comes in as the single highest-mileage model year, so we can say that 175,000 miles is considered high mileage for a Legacy.
This would leave you with roughly 50,000 miles before the famed “boxer” four is down for the count. Of the 20 model years we have data on, only 4 show odometer readings at or above 175,000 miles, which reinforces it as a good high water mark.
What do owners of the Subaru Legacy like to use their car for?
|Frequent Use Categories:||How Useful? (Out of 5 Stars)|
|Lots of Driving (travel/long commute)||****|
|Office on Wheels||*|
A Note About Data and Information Sources
This article has many details about the Subaru Legacy’s reliability; here’s what we used for our assumptions and recommendations.
- FIXD Reliability Score & Data: Engine reliability information is captured via the FIXD App.
The FIXD Reliability Score is calculated using the number of DTCs per year, weighted by mileage. This is then turned into a scale of 1-10 for easy graphing.
This is an objective score.
- Owner Reliability Score & Data: This data is the result of surveying Subaru Legacy owners who use FIXD.
The Owner Reliability Score comes straight from owners of the Subaru Legacy.
This is a subjective score.
To determine the Owner Reliability Score we ask each car owner:
How reliable would you say your Subaru Legacy is?
a. Just point A to point B driving
b. A Daily Commuter
c. Good for a 100-mile road trip
d. Good for a 500-mile road trip
e. I could take a cross-country road trip, no problem
From here we translate their answers into the Owner Reliability Score:
a. = 2
b. = 4
c. = 6
d. = 8
e. = 10
Keep in mind, owners may think their car is more or less reliable than it actually is.
One potential problem is that people often buy the same make or model they are used to when they go car shopping, just a newer year.
Ford, for instance, has a number of consumer loyalty awards for the Ford F-Series, Ford Mustang, and Ford Expedition.
Car owners may be so loyal to the make or model they currently own that they would have trouble accurately comparing their cars’ reliability to others.
It’s for this reason that we ask car owners a question that is relative to mileage rather than relative to other cars.
Still, be mindful of the accuracy of these Owner Reliability Scores, people’s perceptions and unconscious blindspots can skew data.
We suggest looking at both the FIXD Reliability Score and the Owner Reliability Score for this reason.
- KBB Value: Average private-seller valuations as supplied by Kelley Blue Book (KBB), based on a Subaru Legacy with typical mileage for that respective model year.
- Fuel Economy: Mileage-per-gallon estimates according to the EPA MPG on Fueleconomy.gov
- Annual Maintenance/Repair: Upkeep expenses as reported by surveyed Subaru Legacy owners
- Safety Rating: Crash test data collected and reported by NHTSA. We average all ratings for each year to come up with a simplified, average safety score. This makes it easier to look at on a graph.
- Subaru Legacy model-specific information. Retrieved September 19, 2023, from https://www.edmunds.com/
- Subaru Legacy model-specific recall information. Retrieved September 19, 2023, from https://www.nhtsa.gov/recalls
- Subaru Legacy model-specific information. Retrieved September 19, 2023, from https://www.auto-brochures.com
- Subaru Legacy model-specific information. Retrieved September 19, 2023, from https://media.subaru.com/homepage.do
Niel Stender grew up doing replacement work on his old Cherokee and sweet Mitsubishi Starion, which led to a degree in mechanical engineering and a job at Ford as a vehicle dynamics engineer. His writing infuses that automotive background with sales and marketing experience. Writing about cars for close to a decade now, he enjoys digging into some of the more technical mechanical systems under the hood and throughout a vehicle.