Updated August 10, 2022
Subaru and Honda are two great Japanese automakers known for having different strengths despite producing similar cars and SUVs.
Honda's main advantage is reliability and low maintenance at an affordable price, while Subaru delivers its signature off-road capabilities and 4WD.
However, this will not be a full comparison of both car brands - we will focus only on reliability and operating costs.
In terms of reliability, Honda is the clear winner in 2023. Although Subaru is more prone to breakdowns and has higher maintenance costs than Honda, it still exceeds the industry average in terms of reliability.
Subaru vs. Honda: Reliability
Determining the credibility of a brand across its entire fleet is difficult, but fortunately there is extensive statistical data that we can use to create an accurate picture.
According to CarEdge statistics, the risk of a serious Honda failure in the first to 10 years of use is 17.69%. Subaru, on the other hand, has a better chance of 20.15%. A major repair is classified as a service costing more than $500 in parts and labor.
The odds of a major failure across all makes is 20.53%, which means both Subaru and Honda are above the average set by CarEdge, although the Honda is faring much better.
Probability of repair
Probability of repair
The statistics compiled on the iSeeCar website focus on more extreme vehicles – registered vehicles that have completed 200,000 miles.
The percentages are obviously low, with Toyota being the best at 2.3%. However, Honda is second best with 1.9%, well above the average of 1.2%. Subaru is in 7th place with 0.8% and while below average, Subaru is still in the top half of the list.
Subaru vs Honda: Cost of Living
Maintenance costs and reliability do not always go hand in hand. Some vehicles break down very often but cost little to repair, while others break down very rarely but when they do, repairs can cost thousands.
We compared the risk of a major failure of both brands, but now we need to look at the annual maintenance costs over the years.
|Year||Subaru annual cost||Honda annual cost|
The average maintenance and repair cost for Honda vehicles is $7,827, which is $976 more than the industry average. Subaru vehicles are significantly more expensive to maintain at $8,798, almost $2,000 more than the norm.
Personally, I don't think these numbers are entirely accurate and only give us an idea of the difference between the two brands - around 13%.
The reason I wouldn't trust it completely is because I know CarEdge uses a maintenance schedule that is too frequent and too detailed for the needs of a normal vehicle.
Additionally, it removes the average across the brand's fleet, which includes several hybrids and an electric vehicle for Honda, and crossovers and 4x4s for Subaru, skewing the average number.
Subaru vs Honda: Reliability by Vehicle Class
While this is a general comparison of the two brands, we can use the 2023 data to see what vehicle classes these manufacturers excel in.
Small car segment
The small car segment is highly competitive as it is the most popular car class among the general public.
Japanese brands are one step ahead of the competition, and the most reliable cars in their class are Honda, Toyota and Subaru.
The Subaru Impreza is an excellent model with excellent value retention and an average new vehicle price of $23,600. However, it still falls short of the Honda Civic, which by many standards is the most reliable small car with an average new car price of $23,000.
Midsize car segment
Honda also does not let go in the mid-size car segment, where the Honda Accord is not only better than the Subaru Legacy, but also all other cars in this segment.
The Subaru Legacy is more than a decent car and has a better average new model price of $30,000 than the $31,500 you have to pay for a new Honda Accord.
The Honda CR-V and Honda Pilot are back at the top of all reliability charts, but the Subaru isn't far behind the Forester and Outback.
The SUV/Crossover range is slightly different from the standard passenger car segment as these vehicles are larger, require larger tires, more fuel and generally more power to move the heavier body.
While Honda is ahead, I think it's fair to tie the two brands together as both Honda and Subaru make very reliable SUVs.
Winner: It's a tie
What are the best alternatives to Subaru and Honda?
From a reliability point of view, the only brand that can compete and outperform Subaru and Honda in general is, of course, Toyota.
Toyota is the king of reliability and tops the rankings for reliability, value and maintenance costs. But most of the time, Toyota works with Honda and is even outsold by models like the Civic and Accord.
Given that Subaru is one step below, its main alternatives are Nissan and South Korean manufacturers Kia and Hyundai. All of these brands have good reliability but are subject to more depreciation than Honda and Subaru.
Frequently asked questions
Is Honda a better car than Subaru?
It's one thing to say the Honda is more reliable than the Subaru, but quite another to call it better.
The two brands have very different design philosophies. Honda had a huge image problem as it was seen as a dull, older car, but over the last few years it has solved it with exciting designs.
On the other hand, Subaru has the Rallye line, the iconic boxer engine and is a brand synonymous with 4x4 drive.
The short conclusion is: The Honda is a better car if all you need is a vehicle, but the Subaru is a driver's car with power and excitement that few Honda models can match.
Which Subaru is the most reliable?
The best Subaru vehicles in terms of reliability are the Outback and Forester, which occupy high places not only among Subaru vehicles, but also in the global SUV market.
Both SUVs excel in reliability and durability tests, and are known for their balance between off-road capability and ride comfort.
What is the most reliable car brand?
Toyota is still rightfully considered the most reliable car brand, but Honda comes very close and actually beats Toyota in some segments. If you base your purchase on long-term maintenance and repair costs, you should choose Toyota or Honda.
Is the Subaru AWD really better?
The answer depends on what AWD system you're comparing it to, but overall, yes, Subaru's AWD is better than average.
Subaru has always placed great emphasis on AWD and Rallye off-road performance, and this design direction continues to this day.
What is the most reliable car engine?
This question is extremely difficult to answer because it depends on the size, type of fuel and age of the engine.
The old Mercedes-Benz E-Class (W123 and W124) was equipped with diesel engines that were virtually indestructible. The same can be said about Volvo's red bricks.
The General Motors LS engine is often considered the most reliable engine, at least in the V8 range. For compact cars, Honda's B and K series engines are among the most reliable and durable.
Why are Honda engines so reliable?
The three most important ingredients of a good engine are design, materials and workmanship.
These certain assumptions about car brands were not made by chance - old British cars were notorious for sloppy workmanship and quality control to the point that they did not work properly at the factory.
Honda has a reputation for reliability, and it all comes down to good engine design coupled with well-made parts and impeccable assembly.
There are no kill-switch-off parts on a Honda, such as a gearbox that breaks after 80,000 miles, or problems with electrical components that occur right after the warranty expires.
Instead, the Honda will run as it should for many years to come, which is why it is one of the longest-serving brands by its first owners.
If we covered all the strengths and weaknesses of Subaru and Honda, the answer would not be so clear-cut, but since we are only talking about reliability, Honda ranks 1st.
Most of the Honda fleet is very reliable, low maintenance and has excellent value retention. These cars are also among the most popular vehicles in the US, which means there are plenty of used parts on the market at affordable prices.
In addition, the mass production of Honda vehicles has resulted in huge support from aftermarket manufacturers, making maintenance even cheaper.
The Subaru has a lot to offer, but the partial focus on performance and boxer engines makes it inherently more expensive to maintain. If reliability is paramount to you, Honda is the right brand for you.
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