I bought the car from an elderly gentleman, the original owner of the car. He was retiring and moving out of state, so he sold me his daily driver for $500.00, free and clear. I bought it with the knowledge that I would have to do transmission work immediately for the car to be reliable again. The bill went like this:
Used (not rebuilt) transmission: $450.00, 145,000 miles.
New clutch: $130.00.
New Flywheel: don't remember how much it was, but not too bad.
With labor, it was close to $1800.00 worth of work, but it ran well for another 5,000 miles. During this time, I chose to replace the driver's side seatbelt, a $250.00 repair, using a used seatbelt out of the same car I got the transmission. The automatic seatbelts were never a good idea.
I replaced the valve cover gaskets myself, and had the oil pressure sensor (valve?) replaced, both of which were sub-$100.00 jobs.
A couple of thousand miles later, the radiator blew a hole in itself. Non-repairable, cost $350.00.
Oil leaks from the head gasket, and I believe this explains another problem common of older vehicles: oil in the spark plugs. It burns a little oil.
Finally, I was driving home on the freeway when the timing belt slipped. Newer timing belt, also, not neglected. Seeing as the Subaru engines are set up to cause as little damage to the engine as possible, (I.E. if you know Hondas, they slip a timing belt and the whole engine needs rebuilt. Drives a rod into a piston. Not so with the Subaru.) I should consider myself lucky, as it shot a bearing through the timing case (hole the size of a tennis ball). Instead of a $5,000.00 engine rebuild, I have a $1,000.00 rebuild, for new bearings, seals, water pump, and timing belt.
It proved to be too much for a college student's wallet to repair this time. Minor repairs were fine, and these engines go forever, but I didn't have the money to fix it this time.
This car put a smile on my face to drive every time. I suppose it's why I continued to fix it.
To be honest, I bought a lemon. These cars, even with 200,000 miles or more, are still very good cars, but the gentleman I purchased the car from drove it hard (as I found out after I bought the car). Including the clutch I had to put in, he wore through 3 clutches in ~25,000 miles.
If you're going to buy one, which I recommend you do, go for the manual 5-speed. The automatic is sluggish and less economical.
For me, the handling was the greatest. I can tell why Subaru achieves high ratings in Rallycross and Rally races around the world. The wagon was not the stiffest car, but it was a comfortable smooth driver that could bend your face in the corners. I live near the mountains, and I used this car at every excuse to burn up and down the foothills. It really did put a smile on my face to drive it.
It seems to be geared for rallycross, as well. Plenty of power, but quicker than a wagon like this would let you think.
Economical, as well. I easily passed the EPA estimated 17 MPG city, even driving it like I did. I will say that I wish they had fitted a larger gas tank, as 12 gallons means a weekly stop at the filling station.
I helped move a few friends in it, and the cargo space was fantastic. One minor complaint is that the rear seats do not fold flat. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out why. My dad drives a Honda Odyssey, and it has a row of seats that fold into the floor. My old 1991 SAAB 900 hatch had seats that folded flat. Still, I could fit as much as a friend's Ford Explorer in terms of boxes, and once or twice I carried my 21" mountain bike in the back, as I had no bike rack.
In spite of my initial reservations on buying a car that EVERYONE drives slow (at least where I live in Colorado), this car turned out to be a gem. I just wish I had looked at the history a little better first.