Best & Worst Subaru Forester Years [Models]

To make it easier for you to pick the best Subaru Forester years, we have ranked each Subaru Forester model for every generation.

I will examine the best and worst Subaru Forester years, including reliability, safety, and owner reviews.

To provide a nuanced view of the Forester’s journey, we’ve synthesized data from sources such as the NHTSA, Consumer Reports, and Kelley Blue Book.

Best & Worst Subaru Forester Years [Models]

The best Forester years are those that are reliable and valuable, those that are merely average, and those that should be avoided.

Let’s jump right in.

Subaru Forester Generations

As a compact crossover SUV that combines the advantages of passenger cars with the versatility of SUVs, the Subaru Forester was introduced in 1998 as the first generation of the Forester.

Introducing the Subaru Legacy, it set Subaru’s commitment to safety and performance with its practicality, enhanced visibility, and all-wheel-drive system.

From the Subaru Forester’s inception in 1998 through today, the following tables provide a comprehensive overview:

1st generation (SF)1998-2002
2nd generation (SG)2003-2008
3rd generation (SH)2009-2013
4th generation (SJ)2014-2018
5th generation (SK)2019-Present

Technology, design, and performance often change significantly between generations in many automotive lines. When considering a purchase, it is therefore crucial to recognize these generational differences.

Subaru Forester Best, Neutral, and Worst Years

A multitude of factors are taken into account when determining our rankings of the Forester, including its performance, safety, and owner satisfaction. Assessments are heavily influenced by:

  • Reliability reported by owners (surveys)
  • Costs associated with annual maintenance
  • Ratings for safety
  • Ratings of Consumer Reports’ reliability
  • Scores of owner satisfaction from Consumer Reports
  • Complaints, recalls, and investigations by the NHTSA
  • Owner ratings on Edmunds
  • Owner ratings from JD Power
  • Owner ratings from Kelley’s Blue Book (KBB)
  • Owner ratings on VehicleHistory
  • Owner ratings on

As seen in the upcoming graph, the platforms mentioned previously provide an illustrative combination of ratings.

Our categorizations are then tabulated, with each model year noted for its best, neutral, or poor performance.

GenerationBest YearsNeutral YearsWorst Years
1st generation (SF)2000 2001 2002N/A1998 1999
2nd generation (SG)2003 2004 2005200720082006
3rd generation (SH)2011 2012N/A2009 2010 2013
4th generation (SJ)2016 2018N/A2014 2015 2017
5th generation (SK)2021 2022 202320202019

A neutral year is one in which performance and reliability are neither exceptional nor noticeably disappointing. A standard standing is maintained, not leaning dramatically in one direction or the other.

The importance of understanding how some of these indicators affect a car’s rank cannot be overstated. NHTSA recalls, for example, are detractors. Recalls and complaints are indicators of a model’s reliability.

We’ll take a look at the best, neutral, and worst years from the perspective of their specifications.

Best & Worst Years for Subaru Forester 1st Generation (1998-2002)

Subaru Forester’s first generation, which debuted in 1998, marked the beginning of its automotive journey.

Best & Worst Years for Subaru Forester 1st Generation (1998-2002)

Forester quickly established itself as a pioneer in the automotive industry by merging the practicality, ruggedness, and comfort of an SUV with the maneuverability and comfort of a sedan.

The Best Years: 2000, 2001, 2002

As the Forester matured and refined between 2000 and 2002, it underwent a period of refinement and maturation. Subaru’s base 2.5-liter SOHC engine was retained, but its powertrain options were enhanced, ensuring smoother transmission shifts and more responsive handling.

Consumers were offered trim levels ranging from basic “L” to premium package “S,” which included upgraded audio systems, improved upholstery, and added conveniences.

A reinforced crash structure, an advanced airbag system, and more robust brakes were all features of these models.

Likewise, Consumer Reports found that city mileage amounted to 15 miles per gallon and highway mileage amounted to 26 miles per gallon.

There were still some faults with these models. They were not as reliable as they could have been, mainly because of issues with the head gasket, the transmission, and the wheel bearings. The VIN number of a vehicle should always be meticulously checked before sale.

The Worst Years: 1998, 1999

There was a recurring complaint among owners of the 1998 Forester about head gasket failures in the 2.5 liter DOHC engines.

During this model year, the transmission was also prone to transmission hitches, including a chattering clutch, which was more prevalent in colder climates. Additionally, rear wheel bearings prematurely wore out and failed, leading to suspension challenges.

A significant number of 1998 and 1999 Subaru models were recalled due to longer stopping distances in cold climates, which could lead to accidents.

Several of the issues mentioned above also plagued the 1999 Forester. Transmission woes persisted as shifting difficulties emerged as a common complaint, and head gasket failures still dominated.

It took a toll on owners financially as a result of these issues. An expense of $1600 to $2300 could result from replacing a head gasket, depending on whether other components need to be replaced simultaneously.

Best & Worst Years for Subaru Forester 2nd Generation (2003-2008)

Forester’s second generation showed Subaru’s commitment to refinement and advancement when it was introduced in 2003.

Best & Worst Years for Subaru Forester 2nd Generation (2003-2008)

Subaru’s Forester solidified its position as a segment leader for crossover SUVs by increasing its stance, interior space, and platform.

The Best Years: 2003, 2004, 2005

Naturally aspirated X and XS models were released in 2003, and turbocharged XT trims were released in 2004.

Among the features that came standard on the premium trim “XS” were a panoramic sunroof, heated seats, and an advanced infotainment system.

Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive became a standard feature in these years, giving Subaru drivers a more stable and balanced drive, especially in tricky terrain.

Enhanced brakes, additional airbags, and reinforced chassis structures improved safety.

In terms of owner satisfaction, Consumer Reports revealed that owner satisfaction has been increasing, especially among models from 2003, 2004, and 2005.

In the city, they averaged 15 miles per gallon while on the highway, they averaged 28 miles per gallon.

The Neutral Years: 2007, 2008

Subaru Frontier models in 2007 and 2008 continued to offer the same engine options, trim levels, and technological features as in previous years, providing continuity for returning buyers.

High-end trims feature advanced driver-assist systems and symmetrical AWD system, with no compromises on safety features.

There have been reports of fuel line problems among owners, especially in colder regions. Subaru addressed the issue of a strong fuel smell caused by excessive contraction of fuel lines during cold weather in later models.

As an additional recall, snow-melting agents on roads could corrode the front lower control arms.

The Worst Years: 2006

There were several problems with the 2006 Subaru Forester. In colder areas, leaky head gaskets were one of the main problems.

As a result, many owners experienced performance disruptions as well as significant maintenance costs.

In addition, the fuel odor was reported to be more potent in cold weather, similar to the models of 2007 and 2008.

There was also a recall concerning the possibility of the front lower control arms breaking as a result of rusting, particularly in areas heavily exposed to winter road salts.

The 2006 model year’s performance was less favorable than the previous years because of these concerns, along with reports of transmission inconsistencies.

Best & Worst Years for Subaru Forester 3rd Generation (2009-2013)

An augmented platform, improved interior ergonomics, and a sharper design language marked the third generation Forester, introduced in 2009.

Best & Worst Years for Subaru Forester 3rd Generation (2009-2013)

We strongly recommend you check VIN before any purchase, as there have been more NHTSA recalls and complaints involving this generation.

The Best Years: 2011, 2012

Subaru devoted an average of 15 recalls to their 2011 and 2012 Forester models during this turbulent generation.

Each trim level had a Limited, Premium, and 2.5X, plus the 2.5XT Limited and Premium. In addition to leather, there were three upholstery options, including black and light gray.

Combined with Subaru’s renowned All-Wheel Drive system, Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system results in surprisingly comfortable and stable rides. The third generation’s fuel consumption was 16 miles per gallon in the city and 28 miles per gallon on the highway.

The company also tweaked the vehicle’s all-wheel-drive system and ground clearance for enhanced off-road performance.

Owner satisfaction scores and relatively few reported issues supported the positive reception from critics and customers during these years.

The Worst Years: 2009, 2010, 2013

There were a number of challenges faced by the Forester models in 2009, 2010 and 2013.

There were many recalls on the 2009 Forester, but the most significant affected the passenger frontal airbag inflators. Inflators with this defect could explode and project sharp metal fragments, causing serious injuries.

There were also a number of electrical problems reported by owners, particularly with warning indicators, dashboard displays, and windshield wipers.

An additional recall concerned a potentially broken engine oil supply pipe, which if not repaired could result in significant engine damage.

It was reported that the front left side weld of the driver’s seat had a tendency to break, causing the seat to collapse. Occasionally, the previous generation’s head gasket woes returned.

There were fewer recalls on the 2013 Forester than on the 2009 model, but it received lukewarm reviews and ratings. In states where salt is used heavily during winter, brake line corrosion stood out as a particular concern.

As a result, Kelley Blue Book has given a modest rating to this generation of cars, reflecting both praises and criticisms.

Best & Worst Years for Subaru Forester 4th Generation (2014-2018)

As Subaru aimed to rectify past mistakes while adapting to the fast-paced automotive world, the fourth generation Subaru Forester was introduced.

Best & Worst Years for Subaru Forester 4th Generation (2014-2018)

Forester’s urban sophistication and ruggedness are a perfect combination in this generation.

The Best Years: 2016, 2018

As far as this generation of Subaru Foresters goes, the 2016 and 2018 models stand out as the best.

The performance-focused 2.0XT (253 PS) was available in premium and tourin models, and 2.5i was available in base, premium, limited, and top-of-the-line Touring trims.

Forester 2016 makes use of Subaru’s Eyesight Driver Assist Technology, which includes adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, lane departure warnings, and sway warnings.

The interior quality has also improved throughout these years, with a greater focus on premium materials and state-of-the-art infotainment systems. For urban commuters and highway travelers, the cabin noise insulation and ride quality were significantly improved.

AWD’s X-Mode feature, which optimizes performance in challenging terrains, was also a noteworthy addition in these years.

For city driving, the Frontier’s fuel economy has been improved to 18 mpg and 35 mpg for highway driving.

The Worst Years: 2014, 2015, 2017

Despite being the debut model of this generation, the 2014 Forester experienced teething problems. In some cases, the passenger side airbag warning light illuminated due to problems with the Occupant Detection System (ODS).

A suspension concern was also raised, with reports of a vehicle shaky at higher speeds due to suspension wobbling. A common complaint was excessive oil consumption, a problem Subaru has faced in the past.

Some problems from the previous Forester were carried over to the 2015 model. In 2019, certain 2015-2018 models were recalled due to faulty ODS, which caused airbag issues. Aside from this, multiple engine problems were reported, mostly related to excessive oil consumption.

The vehicle’s erratic speed control was another disconcerting problem raised by owners. The car suddenly gained or lost speed. Subaru has not yet issued any recalls in spite of the increasing number of complaints.

Forester complaints for 2017 were mostly about windshield cracks that appeared spontaneously, a defect that plagued several models from this generation.

Further, Subaru of America Inc. has initiated a service program to inspect and, if necessary, replace certain 2017 and 2018 models’ air conditioning condenser assemblies.

In this case, corrosion was commonly found within the walls of the condenser tubes, which could cause refrigerant leaks.

Best & Worst Years for Subaru Forester 5th Generation (2019-present)

A redesign and an increased wheelbase reinforced the Forester’s position as one of the top compact SUVs, while also enhancing technology and safety.

Best & Worst Years for Subaru Forester 5th Generation (2019-present)

The Best Years: 2021, 2022, 2023

Subaru’s engineering and design aspirations are showcased in the 2021, 2022, and 2023 Subaru Foresters.

Power and efficiency were improved on these models with their 2.5-liter flat-four engines. The cars were able to demonstrate an impressive balance between city driving and off-road abilities with Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel drive.

A range of trim levels will initially be available, including Basic, Premium, Sport, Limited, and Touring. Featuring a 6.5-inch touchscreen, the Forester comes standard with the Starlink Multimedia system.

Adaptive cruise control and lane centering are features that were available on the later models in this generation of EyeSight Driver Assist Technology.

For highway driving, the vehicle gets 38 mpg and 20 mpg in the city.

The Neutral Years: 2020

A transitional model can be seen in the 2020 Subaru Forester. Design and performance were unchanged from its predecessors, but there weren’t as many issues as with the 2019 model.

Despite its refinement and feature enhancement, it never quite reached the zenith of its subsequent years. Many owners were concerned about spontaneous cracks on the windshields this year, one of the recurring problems.

Subaru’s 2020 model upheld its reputation for safety, ruggedness, and overall reliability, making it a decent compact SUV option despite these concerns.

The Worst Years: 2019

There were frequent reports of cracked windshields on the 2019 Subaru Forester, a problem that did more than affect aesthetics, especially with Subaru’s EyeSight cameras located behind the windshields. The cost of replacing a windshield will likely exceed 1000 dollars due to the EyeSight system.

Another concern was TCV failures, which affected vehicle temperature regulation. Currently, Subaru has not issued any recalls for that issue, according to the NHTSA.

EyeSight was one of the most appealing features of the car, but many owners reported unpredictability in the system’s shutoffs. Subaru Foerster models from 2016-2022 also suffered from battery draining problems.

Common Subaru Forester Problems

It has great off-road capabilities, making the Subaru Forester a popular SUV. There are, however, some issues with it as you can see:

Common Subaru Forester Problems

Transmission issues

The CVT transmission in many Subaru Forester models had a number of issues, according to reports. It was not uncommon for SUVs to jerk and shudder, according to frustrated owners. Insufficient CVT fluid was determined to be the cause of the transmission issues. Subaru released a service bulletin addressing the issue.

Excessive oil consumption

There were numerous Subaru models, including the Forester, that had problems with oil consumption. In Foresters with 2.5-liter engines before 2014, this was primarily a problem.

Check engine light

There are a dozen issues that can be caused by an illuminated check engine light. In the Forester, a faulty oxygen sensor is usually responsible for triggering the check engine light. In 1998, 2000-2007, and 2009-2014, Subaru has recalled a number of front O2s that may be defective.

Air conditioning (A/C) failure

Many Forester model years have air conditioning problems. It was reported by owners that their vehicles were leaking hot air, which eventually led to the A/C failing. The problem was caused by a bad condenser in the air conditioner.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which years of the Subaru Forester are recommended to avoid?

There are several Subaru Foresters to avoid from the following years: 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2010, 2011, and 2014. The 2014 model is the most problematic of these models due to its significant problems.

What were the major issues with the first generation of Subaru Forester (1998-2001)?

Subaru Foresters of the first generation, especially the 1998 model, suffered from head gasket problems. There were leaks around 50,000 miles caused by a weak single-layer head gasket.

Why is the 2014 Subaru Forester considered one of the worst model years?

Due to engine failures, excessive oil consumption, suspension failures, and gearbox issues, the 2014 Subaru Forester is considered one of the worst vehicles in its class. Consequently, repair costs were high and the system was highly unreliable.

Which Subaru Forester models are considered reliable and safe to purchase?

Subaru Foresters from 2019 through 2021 are the best models to consider when shopping for a Subaru Forester. Customer reviews are positive on these models, and they have good safety ratings as well as better connectivity and technology.

Are Subaru Foresters typically reliable?

Subaru Forester head gaskets are notoriously troublesome during the early years, leading to costly repairs. If you’re thinking of buying a Forester before 2015, proceed cautiously; many model years can cause problems.

How much does a used Subaru Forester typically cost?

Foresters are popular used cars; they are available in most markets. The demand for compact crossovers is high, however. A second-hand Forester is selling for a 20%-29% premium (compared to pre-pandemic conditions) because of this strong interest.

A 2015 edition costs an average of $16,568 according to CoPilot Price Pulse. For the 2020 model year, the price will rise to $28,837.

Is the Subaru Forester a good car to purchase?

When you do your research, you can find a Subaru Forester that will serve as a reliable mode of transportation. There are some model years that are better than others. Before purchasing a Forester, spend time learning about the most reliable model.


There are some Subaru Foresters that stand out from the Subaru Forester’s evolution. To get the best value and performance from your Subaru Forester, we recommend prioritizing the highest-rated years.

When was the Subaru Forester first introduced, and why was it so popular? Is there a particular model year that resonated with you personally?

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