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Together these ratings indicate that more than a few owners of 2004 Subaru Legacy with four-cylinder engines experienced significant difficulty, frustration and disappointment over engine reliability.
WHAT THE NEGATIVE MARKS DON'T MEAN.
Further research and discussions with experts familiar with Legacys indicate there are many 2004 Legacy engines that never had or will likely never be afflicted with the leaking head gasket issue. It is the fact that many owners did express disappointment does not mean you will end up with one of those problematic cars. After a pre-purchase inspection, any '04 could be found to be entirely sound, engine and all. However, if the inspection shows the car to be excellent, except for a leaking head gasket, don't automatically turn down the car. Look at the cost of repair first. If the engine is not otherwise damaged, as long as the price--including the cost of repair--is acceptable, buy the car.
USE THE FACTS TO HELP NEGOTIATE DOWN THE PRICE
If the head gasket leak is discovered during your pre-purchase inspection, use the news of this "undisclosed material defect" to renegotiate the price down further. A head gasket leak is no small thing. The seller is now legally bound to reveal this defect to any other potential buyer. The fact that you might still be interested, in spite of this problem, means the seller has a proverbial "bird in hand"; Your continued interest, but at a better price, may be enough to get that better price.
HOW DO YOU FIND OUT IF SUBARU WILL MAKE THE FIX FOR FREE OR AT A DISCOUNT?
If there is evidence of the head gasket leak, don't buy it until you contact your local Subaru dealer and determine what, if anything, Subaru will offer to cover. Among my trusted Subaru technical resource is the Service Director at Go Subaru Arapahoe, Matt Burns. So if the car in question were in the Denver-Metro area, I would call Matt Burns and ask him to make the appeal to Subaru to fix the problem for free. If Subaru approves the fix, be grateful to Subaru for their act of pure grace, appreciative to Matt for his effort, and feel really good that you can go ahead and buy that car with confidence at an agreed price.
If Subaru will not pay for the entire fix, they just might pay a large percentage of the repair costs.
Please do not buy the car before you know what, if anything Subaru will do for free or at a discount. Matt Burns made it clear to me that an appeal to Subaru does not guarantee anything. Yes, they may pay for the entire repair, or a large part of the cost. But then again, Subaru may offer no assistance whatsoever. Subaru evaluates all requests, and makes decisions on a case-by-case basis.
SHOULD YOU BUY THE CAR IF SUBARU WON'T OFFER ANY SORT OF AID?
If the negotiated price is low enough that, with the cost of the repair, the total vehicle costs is appropriate and affordable, then go ahead and buy the car. However if that cost you must bear is more than $1,000, I am told that there are some independent repair shops that have an excellent track record and will make the repair for around $1,000.
Buddy Richardson, owner of Mobile Mechanics, in Golden, Colorado is another one of the specialists I consulted for this article. Buddy's shop is not equipped to service head gasket replacements. However Buddy sends his customers to a select number of other independent shops who have consistently done the job right for around $1,000. If you ever need a referral, call Buddy at (303) 279-9433.
YOU CAN TRUST CONSUMER REPORTS, BUT DON'T EXPECT MORE THAN IT IS CAPABLE OF OFFERING.