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2004 Forester XS with 114k miles #5154543 07/08/19 09:09 AM
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97tbird Offline OP
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So I’ve mentioned in a previous post that the Subaru Forester from 2003-2005 was a contender in my quest for an older small SUV with AWD as a 3rd car

Family from wife’s side has 3 Foresters (2002, 2006 and 2017) and they have all been reliable so far. No head gasket issues etc.

I have come across a 2004 Forester XS sold by a dealership with 114k miles on it.
I like the XS trim because it has cloth manual but HEATED seats. I am not a fan of leather seats.
(XS is the perfect trim for my needs. It has a few nice things the base X doesn’t have but not too much. It’s hard to find XS trim used ... it’s either X or XT or premium.)
It has factory tow hitch
Looks mint inside and out

What especially attracts me to this one:

This dealership is a Subaru dealership that replaces head and valve Cover gaskets, t belt and service cooling system on ALL used Subarus they sell. They have it stated on their home page and is a very reputed old Subaru dealership.
I checked the CarFax and it confirmed these services were done on this XS too.
So this could be a dependable car I think because I know I will take good care of it.

I am thinking of at least test driving it.
They want about $5,700 for it. I am aware there will be other fees and tax. I can perhaps negotiate some.
Thoughts? Advice ?


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Cars: 1997 Thunderbird v8 sports(sold), 2003 Elantra GLS, 2005 BMW 330Ci ZHP, 2014 Mazda 6 Touring
Re: 2004 Forester XS with 114k miles [Re: 97tbird] #5154559 07/08/19 09:31 AM
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krismoriah72 Offline
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My advice (i have owned a 2003, 2004 and 2005).. is test drive it and listen for piston slap. Make sure you listen to it at first startup not warmed up by the dealer.

Also listen for Wheel Bearing noises.

Piston slap isnt a dealbreaker but its hard to live with..it just doesnt give you that 'its gonna last another 100K feeling.

A 2004 with head gaskets done and resealed with no piston slap is nearly bulletproof except for axles and wheel bearings.

Price seems high though.

Re: 2004 Forester XS with 114k miles [Re: krismoriah72] #5154582 07/08/19 10:06 AM
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Originally Posted by krismoriah72
My advice (i have owned a 2003, 2004 and 2005).. is test drive it and listen for piston slap. Make sure you listen to it at first startup not warmed up by the dealer.

Also listen for Wheel Bearing noises.

Piston slap isnt a dealbreaker but its hard to live with..it just doesnt give you that 'its gonna last another 100K feeling.

A 2004 with head gaskets done and resealed with no piston slap is nearly bulletproof except for axles and wheel bearings.

Price seems high though.


My LS1 had piston slap and lasted 147K miles until I sold it, and was running like day 1. Is Subaru different?


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Re: 2004 Forester XS with 114k miles [Re: krismoriah72] #5154621 07/08/19 10:49 AM
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97tbird Offline OP
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Thanks for the advice.
I’ll make sure to listen to piston slap and wheel bearing noise.

What would you think is a fair price for this, considering it’s a Subaru dealership and the work they’ve done on it?


Originally Posted by krismoriah72
My advice (i have owned a 2003, 2004 and 2005).. is test drive it and listen for piston slap. Make sure you listen to it at first startup not warmed up by the dealer.

Price seems high though.


Sufficiently Caffeinated...
Cars: 1997 Thunderbird v8 sports(sold), 2003 Elantra GLS, 2005 BMW 330Ci ZHP, 2014 Mazda 6 Touring
Re: 2004 Forester XS with 114k miles [Re: 97tbird] #5154701 07/08/19 12:09 PM
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madRiver Offline
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Expensive for an a relatively uncomfortable vehicle. $4500 seems more right in the condition listed.

Re: 2004 Forester XS with 114k miles [Re: madRiver] #5154733 07/08/19 12:43 PM
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97tbird Offline OP
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Originally Posted by madRiver
Expensive for an a relatively uncomfortable vehicle. $4500 seems more right in the condition listed.
Thanks! I was thinking of something like $4,700

I guess it’s pretty subjective how people rate how comfortable a vehicle is. I don’t think a Forester was ever meant to be a supremely comfortable car, at least of that vintage. I also don’t think it’s that uncomfortable. I have driven a 2002 and a 2006 on rather long trips and they were more than comfortable enough for me and the rest of us. 2006 more so, and the 2004 should be the same. The 2002 did feel a bit rough compared to the 2006 but certainly not too bad on the highway.

Last edited by 97tbird; 07/08/19 12:52 PM.

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Cars: 1997 Thunderbird v8 sports(sold), 2003 Elantra GLS, 2005 BMW 330Ci ZHP, 2014 Mazda 6 Touring
Re: 2004 Forester XS with 114k miles [Re: 97tbird] #5154747 07/08/19 01:02 PM
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benjy Offline
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older vehicles are pot luck as the miles pile up + its overpriced for sure. if you really want it get it in writing from the stealer for what has been done because once they have your $$$$ its too late good luck! brother-in-law buys older hi milers + got a $3500 for the nephew + put another $3500 in it to keep it going!!!

Re: 2004 Forester XS with 114k miles [Re: 97tbird] #5154761 07/08/19 01:19 PM
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gofast182 Offline
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A buddy of mine had a '05. At around 100k he had a LF suspension failure and at 125k the engine blew. He literally limped it into the dealership (for trade) as it was letting go.


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Re: 2004 Forester XS with 114k miles [Re: gofast182] #5154877 07/08/19 02:47 PM
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madRiver Offline
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Originally Posted by gofast182
A buddy of mine had a '05. At around 100k he had a LF suspension failure and at 125k the engine blew. He literally limped it into the dealership (for trade) as it was letting go.


My findings are hit or miss vehicle. My parents have 200k on a 2000 Forester since new that has only had a bunch of wheel bearings done, alternator, starter, exhaust and part of instrument cluster. According to Subaru folklore it should have blown the head gasket, leaked oil, burned oil. Everything works in car except a clock and lights behind heater controls. AC is freezing still.


Re: 2004 Forester XS with 114k miles [Re: 97tbird] #5154896 07/08/19 03:02 PM
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97tbird Offline OP
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According to some responses one should never buy a used car!!!?
I mean my 2003 Elantra with 236k miles only had 1 mechanical repair done: a new radiator at 130k Miles.
Everything else is regular maintenance items.
Doesn’t use a bit of oil and going strong and smooth as a daily driver at 236k miles. Original everything and AC still ice cold. All power items work.

The 2 Foresters my relatives own, 2002 and 2006 never needed anything major yet. Not even the dreaded head gaskets. The 2018 is too new to judge.

The work done on this particular Forester has been already documented and checks out. I agree that there is some risk associated with buying a used car but that doesn’t or shouldn’t mean one must avoid them altogether

Last edited by 97tbird; 07/08/19 03:03 PM.

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Cars: 1997 Thunderbird v8 sports(sold), 2003 Elantra GLS, 2005 BMW 330Ci ZHP, 2014 Mazda 6 Touring
Re: 2004 Forester XS with 114k miles [Re: 97tbird] #5154930 07/08/19 03:44 PM
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krismoriah72 Offline
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Originally Posted by 97tbird
Originally Posted by madRiver
Expensive for an a relatively uncomfortable vehicle. $4500 seems more right in the condition listed.
Thanks! I was thinking of something like $4,700

I guess it’s pretty subjective how people rate how comfortable a vehicle is. I don’t think a Forester was ever meant to be a supremely comfortable car, at least of that vintage. I also don’t think it’s that uncomfortable. I have driven a 2002 and a 2006 on rather long trips and they were more than comfortable enough for me and the rest of us. 2006 more so, and the 2004 should be the same. The 2002 did feel a bit rough compared to the 2006 but certainly not too bad on the highway.



Private Party Value is $3780. (was $25K new)

I wouldnt give them any extra for replacing head gaskets, due to the fact that Subaru recalled or warrantied so many of them due to their inferior head gaskets..i know that sounds harsh but it was a known issue for too many years.

I wouldnt put it in a class of vehicles that are designed for long trips..it does shine on icy/snowy backroads and secondary roads.

Here is a list of known issues that you will probably run into at some point in that Forester.. Trailing Arm Bushings, Transmission Mounts, Engine Mounts, CV axles, Wheel Bearings, Ignition Coil, Radiator, Valve Cover Gaskets, Brake Calipers, Rusted Brake Lines, Catalytic Converters, Exhaust Rust Outs, Struts..


That is probably going to show up in the next 100K give or take. YMMV.

If i were to sum up my Forester Experiences i would say that the engine is nearly bulletproof..you literally cannot kill an EJ25..however the rest of everything else is another story.


also to end the story you will probably get a rock solid 23mpg in mixed driving. If you do the math it may be cheaper to get something more fuel efficient if you plan on keeping it forever.

Re: 2004 Forester XS with 114k miles [Re: 97tbird] #5155009 07/08/19 05:13 PM
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97tbird Offline OP
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The thing is, it's so hard to find a Forester with low miles from private parties. I;ve been searching Craigslist and Autotrader.com in a 250 mile radius the last 3-4 months for Forester 2003-2005 (XS or higher), and Ford Escapes (XLT AWD, v6, 2003 - 2007).
The Escape seems like it would be less complex to own and maintain, but low mile examples are also hard to come by; and IDK if the AWD system is as good as a Subaru.

Last edited by 97tbird; 07/08/19 05:27 PM.

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Re: 2004 Forester XS with 114k miles [Re: 97tbird] #5155027 07/08/19 05:39 PM
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JTK Offline
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Rust is the main thing and I'm assuming this has been a non rust belt Subaru it's whole life?

That being the case and being a vehicle you want. Go for it. It that dealer did indeed do all the services you mention would probably cost $2k in and of itself.


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Re: 2004 Forester XS with 114k miles [Re: benjy] #5155082 07/08/19 06:36 PM
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fdcg27 Offline
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Originally Posted by benjy
older vehicles are pot luck as the miles pile up + its overpriced for sure. if you really want it get it in writing from the stealer for what has been done because once they have your $$$$ its too late good luck! brother-in-law buys older hi milers + got a $3500 for the nephew + put another $3500 in it to keep it going!!!


Put the pipe down man.


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12 Accord LX 115K SSO 0W-20
09 Forester 119K M1HM 5W-30
96 Accord LX 104K T5 10W-30
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Re: 2004 Forester XS with 114k miles [Re: 97tbird] #5155087 07/08/19 06:40 PM
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fdcg27 Offline
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If this is a clean and rust-free example, make them an offer.
It sounds like they've dealt with all of the potential gotchas in an aging 2.5.
The likely head gaskets along with the timing belt service have been done and that's worth a good $3K all by itself.
If you fancy the car, you probably won't find a better deal on a properly maintained one.


18 Accord Hybrid 20K HGMO 0W-20
17 Forester 30K VME 0W-20
12 Accord LX 115K SSO 0W-20
09 Forester 119K M1HM 5W-30
96 Accord LX 104K T5 10W-30
95 318i
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