Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

A blue 2020 Subaru Crosstrek is shown from the front at an angle on a city street.

Key Used Subaru Model Years to Look For

Everyone will tell you that model year and mileage are important when you’re looking at used models, but they’ll typically focus on looking for something recent with low mileage. That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t really provide you with much to focus on as you’re shopping at a used car dealer. Plus, low mileage and recent model years also mean a higher price. If you’re interested in a used Subaru, then you have a lot of options available to you, and shopping without much sense of direction can make it quite difficult to find what you need.

Today, we’re going to help you out with certain model years that you should keep an eye out for when it comes to each Subaru model. We can’t do a deep dive on each Subaru––we don’t have that much time––but we’ll briefly go over each one and discuss which model years to look for. Ultimately, only you know what you’re looking for, but we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction.

The Subaru Impreza

The Impreza is a compact sedan, making it the smallest model in Subaru’s current lineup and a great starting point if you’re looking for a used Subaru on a budget. Best of all, the Impreza has been around since the 1990s, so there are a ton of them out there for you to choose from while shopping. We wouldn’t suggest going quite that far back, but even in current generations, you have quite a large number to choose from.

If you go back to 2012, you’ll find the first year for the fourth-generation Impreza, and that’s a great place to start. For some updated features, there was a refresh and facelift for the 2015 model year, giving you a bit more for your money. The current fifth generation of the Impreza launched with the 2017 model year, making it a terrific option if you want the latest features on a used model. There was a refresh for 2020, which means you can save some money on a model prior to that, but one since then will give you the latest features the Impreza offers.

The Subaru Legacy

The Legacy is a midsize sedan, so this is a larger option if you need a car that gives you more room inside. First released for the 1990 model year, there are a ton of Legacy models out there, but again we wouldn’t go that far back when shopping for a used one. You have plenty of options available to you for more-recent model years that will give you a lot more to enjoy from your sedan.

The fifth generation of the Legacy launched with the 2010 model year, so anything after that can work well, though I’d go for one from 2013 when the fifth-generation Legacy received an update and refresh. If you’d like more-modern features, then look for a model from 2015, when Subaru released a sixth-generation version of the Legacy. An update for 2018 refreshed what these models offer. The current generation launched for 2020, so keep that in mind if you’d like the latest bells and whistles, but a 2018 or 2019 model can be a great choice at a lower price.

A black 2018 subaru BRZ is shown from the side while rounding a bend after leaving a used car dealer.

The Subaru BRZ

If you’re looking for more of a performance-focused ride, the Subaru BRZ is a sports car that offers a stylish design with bold engineering. This is a two-door coupe with a sleek overall look that’s a fantastic choice if you want something with some muscle to it. The BRZ launched in 2013, so you can go back a bit toward its earliest models and still get modern features. A refresh and update in 2017 mean you’ll find a lot to like about BRZ models from the last five years or so. The 2022 model year launched the second generation for the BRZ, with updated features throughout, but these are going to be your most-expensive used options.

The Subaru WRX

The BRZ is not Subaru’s only performance-focused model; the WRX is a sporty and powerful sedan, giving you bold engineering with four doors and a more spacious interior. Subaru released the first-generation WRX for the 2015 model year, so any used model you find will have fantastic tech features and well-appointed interiors. There was an update and refresh for the 2018 model year, making these some of the best options you’ll find when shopping for used models. Subaru launched a second-generation WRX for the 2022 model year, but much like the BRZ, these will be the most-expensive used options that you’ll find.

The Subaru Crosstrek

If you’re looking for a crossover or SUV, then the Subaru Crosstrek is a fantastic place to start, with a lot to offer and limited model years that keep shopping simple. First released in 2012, it replaced the Outback Sport here in the US––so if you’re looking for something similar in size at a lower price, then a used Outback Sport is a great way to go. The name change helped keep the Subaru lineup a bit more streamlined and less confusing, though it retained its excellent design.

This is a subcompact crossover model and the smallest SUV in Subaru’s lineup. A second generation of the Crosstrek launched for the 2018 model year and continues still, so pretty much any Crosstrek you find will have modern features. This generation received an update for the 2021 model year, giving it revised styling and improved safety features.

The Subaru Forester

Much like the sedan models in Subaru’s lineup, the Forester has been available since the 1990s, and there are tons of them out there. The Forester is a compact crossover, making it a larger option than the Outback Sport or the current Crosstrek, so it’s a great choice if you want a small SUV that still gives you lots of room inside. You’re better off skipping early generations if you can since they’ll have a lot of use on them and sticking to more-recent models.

The oldest model I’d suggest you look for is a 2014 Forester to enjoy the features and performance that Subaru packed into its fourth generation without going too far back. This generation was updated for the 2017 model year, giving you refreshed styling and advanced features, or you can look for a 2019 model to enjoy a redesigned fifth-generation Forester. This fifth generation received an update and facelift for the 2022 model year, but these will be pricey compared to options from a few years prior.

The Subaru Outback

One of the most popular Subaru models for decades now, the Outback is a midsize SUV with a lot to offer. It’s also been around since the mid-‘90s, so you have a lot of different options to choose from. I’d skip those earliest generations, however, and look for a model from 2013, when the fourth generation for the Outback received an update and restyling. Subaru launched a fifth-generation Outback for the 2015 model year, making this a great choice, and updated that generation with a refresh for 2018. The current sixth-generation Outback was released for the 2020 model year. While these are the most expensive used models, they also have fantastic features and bold performance.

A black 2021 Subaru Ascent is shown from the front at an angle on a city street.

The Subaru Ascent

The largest vehicle in the Subaru lineup, the Ascent is a three-row SUV and a fantastic option if you have a big family or need a lot of cargo space. This is also the newest model from Subaru: its first generation just launched with the 2019 model year, though it’s receiving a major update and refresh for the 2023 model. While this means that any used Ascent is probably going to be more expensive than other used Subaru options, it also means you’ll find the latest features and fantastic performance on any model you get. Your choices might be more limited with the Ascent than with the rest of Subaru’s lineup, but shopping for a used vehicle is all about finding what you need and getting a ride you’ll enjoy for many years to come.

There’s a Used Subaru Out There for You

Now that you have a sense of which model years to look for, finding a Subaru that will work for you has probably gotten a lot easier. While pretty much any Subaru you get will serve you well, these are just some of the years we think stand out. Now the only thing left to do is schedule some test drives to find one that feels just right.