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Is The Subaru Forester Or Outback More Reliable? There's a Clear Difference

Which vehicle is more reliable, the 2022 Subaru Forester or the 2022 Subaru Outback? See why there is a clear winner.

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There is a debate about which Subaru vehicle is the most reliable model? If we look at the top two selling all-wheel-drive Subaru models, the 2022 Outback midsize SUV/crossover and the 2022 Forester compact SUV, many would argue the Japanese made Forester is more reliable. Let’s check recalls for the past six years on both models to see which has fewer recalls.

2020, 2021, and 2022 Subaru Forester model years

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website lists all vehicle recall campaigns and reveals that 2020, 2021, and 2022 Subaru Forester have zero recalls. Subaru Report covers all recalls, and the red links below provide more information on each recall for customers.

2022 Subaru Forester, 2022 Subaru Outback

2020, 2021, and 2022 Subaru Outback model years

For the same three years, the 2022 Subaru Outback has zero recalls. The 2021 Subaru Outback has one recall for a CVT select lever cable nut that was not tightened properly.

The 2020 Subaru Outback has four recalls. The drive chain may break, causing a loss of drive power. The fuel pump may fail (defective Denso fuel pumps). A third recall was for a rearview camera that may shut down, and the fourth was for a possible loose or missing brake pedal mounting bracket bolt.

2022 Subaru Forester, 2022 Subaru Outback

2019 Subaru Forester recalls

The 2019 Subaru Forester has three recalls. The first is for rear stabilizer bracket bolts that may detach. The second is for a PCV valve that can separate, and the third is for a possible loss of electric power steering assist.

2019 Subaru Outback recalls

The 2019 Subaru Outback has three recalls. The fuel pump may fail (defective Denso fuel pumps). The second recall was the fuel pump may become inoperative, and the engine could stall. The third was for improperly applied spot welds.

2018 Subaru Forester recalls

The 2018 Subaru Forester has three recalls. The fuel pump may fail (defective Denso fuel pumps), the second was for an occupant detection system that may deactivate the airbag, and a third for incorrect tire information on the label.

2018 Subaru Outback recalls

The 2018 Subaru Outback has three recalls. The fuel pump may fail (defective Denso fuel pumps), the second was for a camera image that may not display, and the third was for an incorrect fuel range display that may cause the engine to stall.

2017 Subaru Forester recall

The 2017 Subaru Forester has one recall. The occupant detection system may deactivate the airbag.

2017 Subaru Outback recalls

The 2017 Subaru Outback has four recalls. The airbag control module may be incompatible with the airbag.
The second is for an improperly aligned knee guard bracket, The third is for loose bolts that may affect braking and handling, and the fourth is for a possible loss of steering ability.

The 2017-2022 Subaru Forester has had seven recalls in the last six years, and the 2017-2022 Subaru Outback has fifteen recalls. The argument that the Japanese-made Forester is more reliable than the U.S.-made Outback is valid when comparing the number of recalls.

You Might Also Like: The 8 Most Common Subaru Problems You Should Know About

Denis Flierl has invested over 30 years in the automotive industry in a consulting role working with every major car brand. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press. Check out Subaru Report where he covers all of the Japanese automaker's models. More stories can be found on the Torque News Subaru page. Follow Denis on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Comments

THOMAS J HOULE (not verified)    December 22, 2021 - 10:16PM

When did reliability start getting measured by number of recalls? Wouldn't number of services calls or break downs be better measured?

Dilip Panakkal (not verified)    January 21, 2022 - 9:12AM

In reply to by THOMAS J HOULE (not verified)

I agree - my 2018 Forester had a major issue which wasn’t a part of any recall - the bearings on the two arms that steer the front wheels just started to disintegrate at around 60k miles on the odometer - and the dealer said it wasn’t covered by the warranty

vil robert (not verified)    December 23, 2021 - 5:03AM

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J. Perry (not verified)    December 23, 2021 - 5:52AM

I was given a 2003 Forester. It has only 15000 miles on it. Should I take it to a dealer to have it checked out. For example it had been sitting for quite a while. It turned over right away. Rides great. What should I have them check out for me.

Steve (not verified)    December 23, 2021 - 10:06AM

In reply to by J. Perry (not verified)

If it has been sitting for a long time then at a minimum all fluids need to be changed, oil, coolant, transmission fluid, and I would do both axle oil changes as well. Also the drive belts and timing belt should be inspected and possibly changed as well

Matt (not verified)    December 23, 2021 - 12:42PM

In reply to by Steve (not verified)

Also, pay attention to all of the rubber parts such as coolant hoses, cv boots, power steering boots. Chances are that they are working toward getting brittle. Changing out the cooling system hoses (Radiator inlet, outlet, heater core inlet, outlet, water pump return) is inexpensive and can prevent a major problem. If you are changing coolant, it's the perfect time to change coolant hoses.

The CV boots and power steering boots can take a wait and watch approach, just keep it in mind that they should be looked at to keep up on their status.

Matt (not verified)    December 23, 2021 - 12:45PM

In reply to by J. Perry (not verified)

Also pay attention to all of the rubber parts such as coolant hoses, cv boots, power steering boots. Chances are that they are working toward getting brittle. Changing out the cooling system hoses (Radiator inlet, outlet, heater core inlet, outlet, water pump return) is inexpensive and can prevent a major problem. If you are changing coolant, it's the perfect time to change coolant hoses.

CV boots and steering rack boots don't necessarily need to be changed, just watched to see if something pops up.

Billy (not verified)    December 23, 2021 - 9:11AM

I had two Outbacks that were trouble-free and lasted forever. Then I got one that was an electrical gremlin money pit that burned oil and blew a head gasket which made me go away from the brand for a while. Now we have an 18 outback. Reliability yet to be seen. I would love to know if it's going to be reliable or if there are other reliable Subarus, but I think measuring reliability with recalls is like measuring someone's height by their shoe size. There might be a correlation but it's not telling you much.

Dr jake (not verified)    December 23, 2021 - 9:46AM

Good info on recalls, but I'm skeptical on the correlation to reliability. I've owned a number of cars with relatively few recalls that spent plenty of time in the shop. A relative"cost to own" seems a more comprehensive view.

Drag (not verified)    December 23, 2021 - 10:23AM

Worst wrotten report ever. How is one supposed to compare anything with report like this. 2nd what kind of realibilty data recall gives you? Most of the stuff listed here were mistakes in design or production process.
For example German ADAC provides proper info. What we use here has nothing to do with any reliability. We like to pull JD Power data which is super bias and many times completely off.
Then car magazines and auto shows are more advertisements for companies that pay them the most. Tests are so subjective that is ridiculous.
Piss pure job for somebody who spent 30 yrs writting in auto industry. Wandering if he ever tried those cars himself.
Horrible

Matt (not verified)    December 23, 2021 - 1:05PM

It seems like this is really a measure of design and build quality, rather than reliability. A good design and build or assembly would have no recalls. That does not mean that it will still be running well in 100k miles. Yes, if a design follows industry norms, and has no recalls it can be extrapolated that it will be reliable. Still, that doesn't account for little details which can't be easily seen which allow some vehicles to run for thousands of miles needing just basic maintenance while others need shop attention much more frequently.

I recently purchased a 2002 Forester at 214k as an evening wrenching project and for back roads exploring. Upon getting into it I could tell that it was only a few thousand miles from a timing belt fray out, or bearing failure leading to EOL for the engine. I'm replacing lots of maintenance items to give it another 100k lease on life. Time belt and pulleys, coolant hoses, various seals, water pump, even radiator (dual core for desert wandering in 120F summers). It will need CV boots or more soon as the little cracks are starting to appear.

The previous owner had kept all receipts from 100k onward. It was clear that to keep this car running right cost a fair bit.

My Scion xB by comparison was purchased at 90k and is now at 180k with only a battery (Optima Red Top) and a belt in between. Fluids and coolants changed on schedule. The total cost of ownership in those 10 years is a fraction of the Forester's. Real reliability is when stuff just keeps working, year after year after year!

Still, we sometimes pay for adventure by accepting higher parts bills and lower reliability. Admitting the trade-off is sometimes difficult to swallow.

Michael Thrift (not verified)    December 23, 2021 - 7:19PM

I just sold an 2000 Outback 2.5. Manual with low range. Built like a Tank. Had 350k and still no oil or water use. Original Head Gasket. Although my 03 Forester is also made in Japan- in the Australian Market ( we drive on the left like Japan) it goes way better different ports cam and heads - check part numbers. But its a different Factory in Japan still badged as Fuji Indusries.Its paint is shoddy in fact everything is luke tinsel at 254k. Handles great vut wont last