FYI, this review of our 2018 Subaru Outback isn’t sponsored. We really do just love the car this much.
Several months ago, Jon came home and announced that our very trustworthy mechanic had informed him that our 2005 Honda Civic, the Civic with the 220k miles on it, would require another $400 in repairs to continue running. At this point, I don’t even remember what this particular $400 was for. I just know that it would come on top of the new clutch, two new head gaskets, and various other slightly less expensive fixes that the car had required in the previous 18 months. So we ponied up this most recent, painful $400 repair with the certain yet unspoken knowledge that it would only be a matter of months, if not weeks before the car would once again break down and we would be faced with yet another repair costing hundreds of dollars.
Jon was very attached to his Honda, which we had had for more than a decade, so he had been loathe to consider the idea that it might be nearing the end of its life as his daily (60 mile round trip) commuter and as our primary family vehicle. Just about every time in the past year that we had been faced with yet another repair cost for the Honda, I would gently raise the idea that perhaps it was time to consider replacing Jon’s beloved car. And every time I tendered this suggestion, he would immediately shoot the idea down, insisting that whatever the most recent repair was, that it would surely be the last one for some time to come. I never argued – after all, this was his daily driver, not mine – but I was definitely wondering when he would begin getting as sick as I was of spending what was adding up to quite a lot of money each month to keep the Honda running – really as much as a monthly car payment.
Additionally, while our two oldest children are now in their twenties, meaning that I can’t remember the last time that all 6 of us needed to travel somewhere together in a single vehicle, our two youngest children are only 11 and 8 years old, meaning that the four of us are very frequently all together in one car. And because our two youngest children have friends and cousins, we often have an extra child along for the ride with us. As our two children still at home have gotten bigger, it was becoming more and more difficult to shoehorn our own two children plus any extra child into the backseat of the Honda. And when it came to traveling, we couldn’t take the Honda anywhere anymore because it wasn’t reliable enough to drive beyond a possible 100 mile radius of our mechanic. The other alternative, taking my teensy, tiny, tin can car meant that somebody would be sitting on a suitcase for the ride because the trunk is so very small.
The bottom line was that our car situation just no longer fit our family situation, and with the mounting and ongoing repair costs to keep Jon’s much loved Honda on the road, our car situation increasingly no longer fit our budget either. We were pouring money into a car that didn’t really work for our needs, and which was likely to completely give out on us at any given moment. But I’d already expressed my view to Jon on more than one occasion that it was time to consider replacing the Honda and his response had been negative. I knew that nothing I could say would change his mind; he would have to come to the decision I’d already reached in his own good time.
That time finally arrived one night at about 10 pm when we were stranded on the side of the interstate with three sleepy children (our two plus one of their cousins) uncomfortably stuffed like sausages in the back of the Honda. As we navigated the nighttime interstate, the car started making a noise somewhere between a sputter and a deafening grind before stalling out. Jon managed to maneuver the car onto the narrow shoulder of road before the engine shut completely down, and with other cars whizzing past us so closely that he couldn’t even safely open the driver’s side door, he called AAA (we had them on speed dial by then) and asked them to come get us.
The next day, Jon announced that he knew the gig was up: after 10-plus good years of service, it was time to bite the financial bullet and shop for a car for his daily work commute, and to act as our primary family car in general.
So we made a list of the things we/he did and did not want/need in the car that would replace the Honda. First of all, not surprisingly, came safety. Whatever car we bought had to have superior overall safety ratings. Second, we needed a car that fell into the affordable range; our monthly car payment budget was very modest. Next, the car needed to get pretty good MPG because Jon’s daily commute isn’t a short one. Also, the car needed to have enough room not just to fit three people in the backseat but to comfortably fit three people in the backseat. Last but not least, it needed to have significant cargo space – open cargo space (meaning not a trunk) so that not only would it haul all the stuff we might need to take somewhere but would also fit the dog. Oh, and we also needed a car that would really hold its value well since we prefer to drive cars until they just won’t drive anymore instead of trading in every few years like some other folks prefer to do.
I first suggested that we consider a minivan, but Jon totally vetoed this. Although he’s a practical man at heart, he’s also a man, and his manly man-ness prevented him from considering the possibility of having a minivan as his daily driver. I conceded this point to him. I didn’t want to completely emasculate the guy who was already losing his much loved, relatively sporty, stick shift Honda by forcing a minivan on him. Also, minivans aren’t known for their strength in the MPG department. Next we ruled out a full size SUV, entirely for the MPG issue.
So given the other must-haves we wanted in our next car, that left us with the choice of a small SUV or a “crossover” vehicle – something we learned in our research was like a cross between a car and an SUV. And last but not least – and this is admittedly something of a bias on our parts – we wanted a Japanese brand because after our experience with a previous Dodge’s poor reliability vs. the 220k miles we had managed to wring out of our 13 year old Honda, we felt better about going with a Japanese model.
We started our search by looking at small Japanese SUVs and crossovers that didn’t cost so much that they were priced out of our budget. We found that Subaru Outbacks fell at or below pricing for all smaller SUVs and crossovers, plus the brand was offering some pretty incredible buying incentives this summer, including 0% financing options. We then looked at safety ratings and once again, we discovered that the Subaru Outback best fit our criteria. Next, we looked for cars in our selected categories – small SUVs and crossovers – that hold their value well. We discovered that Subaru Outbacks fit that bill too. Next up, we looked at backseat roominess and cargo space, and found that the Outback pretty much kicked the competitors we were considering to the curb. Last, we just started reading reviews of the cars that we were considering and found that review after review of the Outback was positive, including the reviews from actual Outback owners. We also found some quirky but telling reviews about Subaru brand loyalty when it comes to owners and their Outbacks. Also, in our research, we discovered that as a company, Subaru has probably the most impressive environmental record of any automotive brand in the world, with initiatives including its commitment to zero-waste production at its plants. Subaru is also known for its commitment to LGBTQ causes and it consistently makes lists of the best places for LGBTQ employees to work. When you’re about to drop as much money on a purchase as a new car costs, it means a lot to us to direct those dollars to a company that demonstrably shares our family’s values.
So on paper anyway, we were pretty sure that we wanted a Subaru Outback. But you don’t drive a car on paper, so we actually needed to drive one to know for sure that this was the car for us. So on a Saturday morning, we headed out to a local dealer to test drive the Outback. Suffice it to say that both Jon and I found driving the Outback awesome. We both loved how you sit up higher in the car than in our Honda, and we loved how roomy it felt. The kids felt the same way about the roominess in the back. The technology that the car comes with is terrific; it offers both Apple Car Play (I have an iPhone) and the Android equivalent (Jon has an Android). The Outback also comes with multiple USB ports, including in the backseat, and one thing we loved because we knew it would be both dog and muddy-kid-feet friendly are the rubber floor and cargo area mats. And we knew that we would appreciate the all-wheel drive in the wintertime.
We were sold. And psyched. It’s always fun and exciting to get a new car, which is about every ten or fifteen years for us, and we felt really great about the one we’d picked out. Before we went to a dealership to actually buy our car, I remembered that a good friend from high school owns a Subaru dealership in Ohio, so I emailed my friend Bo and we basically arranged getting the specific car with the specific color and features we wanted, along with a great deal on pricing and financing, all over email (thanks Bo!). My pal made it well worth a drive up to Wagner Subaru in Ohio to pick. up our new car. I can’t recommend Bo’s dealership enough. They were just great to work with.
We’ve now had our Outback for a month or two, and we absolutely love it. Jon loves driving it to and from work. The girls love how roomy and comfy the backseat is, even when we also have a friend or one of their cousins along for the ride. I love driving it on the weekends, and our dog Leo fits super comfortably in the wayback. We’ve now taken the Outback on its first vacation – to a week at the beach – where everything we needed stowed away easily in the cargo area. This year for vacation, no one in the family had to make the trip with a suitcase stowed under their feet.
Can you tell that we like the new car? Yep, we do. In a year or so, I’ll write an update to this review and let you know if we still like the Outback as much. I suspect that the answer will be yes.