Toyota vs. Subaru: How Reliable Are They?

Every car owner’s number one concern is finding the best vehicle for the best price. When buying a car, you must ask yourself, how long will it last? Is it safe? Most importantly, is it reliable? This guide will compare the reliability of two popular and affordable car manufacturers, Toyota and Subaru.

Toyota is more reliable if you’re looking for a standard car with more models and safety capabilities. However, if you’re looking for an all-terrain vehicle with off-roading capabilities, Subaru may be the better choice. However, the race between Toyota and Subaru is certainly a close one.

This article will analyze the differences between the cars offered by two top-rated brands, Toyota and Subaru. Comparing both cars’ overall reliability, durability, availability, and affordability will help you decide which vehicle manufacturer is the best fit for you. Whether you’re just curious about cars or you’re looking to purchase your next car, this article will help you understand which brand is better for you.

The differences between the cars offered by two top-rated brands, Toyota and Subaru.

Background Information

Toyota and Subaru fall into the “mainstream affordable” category in car manufacturing hierarchy. (So if you’re looking for an exotic sports car, maybe try Maserati or Ferrari instead). Before we dive into which brand is better, let’s look at some of the basics of each company.

Since 1937, Toyota has been making cars for the better part of 75 years. It’s ranked one of the highest producers of cars worldwide, hitting production rates in the tens of millions per year. In terms of vehicle sales in 2021, Toyota blows Subaru out of the water, reaching close to two million in the United States (Subaru clocked in with about only a quarter of that).

Subaru has been making beloved models for its cult-like following since 1956. With its company’s unique “Love Promise,” the brand has always stood out for those of us who are more down-to-earth and adventurous. Subaru and Toyota are both Japanese-owned transportation conglomerates.

Now that we’ve gained some critical context for both companies, let’s get down and dirty with the details and see how each brand holds up in the following categories.

You may also like: A List of Foreign Car Brands in the U.S.

Toyota vs. Subaru: Safety

Even if you’re a NASCAR certified racer, safety is the most important thing to consider when purchasing a car. While both brands display impressive commandments for safety, Toyota wins this round when it comes to a superior brand with more innovative safety technology.

Toyota Safety Features

Toyota’s pride and joy is undoubtedly the Toyota Safety Sense. This program includes several monumental safety features and shows that the manufacturer’s number one priority is safety.

Toyota Safety Sense begins by tackling some of the most common causes of road accidents, including nighttime accidents, head-on collisions, and accidental lane veering. Some of its most notable features include:

  • Pre-Collision System: one of the most significant benefits of Toyota’s Safety Sense is its ability to prevent some accidents before they even happen. Using a camera and system of calibrated lasers, Toyotas can react to a potential collision with visual and auditory responses.
  • Pedestrian detection system. All 2019 and later models have this system, and it has cyclist detection available as an add-on. Specific packages have enhanced visuals for better low-light detection during nighttime hours.
  • Dynamic Radar Cruise Control: using an in-vehicle camera and radar detection, active cruise control makes highway driving safer by detecting the distance of the vehicle in front of you and adjusting your vehicle’s speed to maintain a safe distance, giving you plenty of space between you and the car ahead of you to avoid rear-end collisions.
  • Lane Departure Alert: when driving on roads with clearly distinctive lane markings, road ends, and even curbs, Toyota’s lane departure system will notify drivers of any lane drifting with audio and visual alerts.
  • Automatic High Beams: this exclusive feature helps the driver switch between low beam and high beam headlights to ensure better visibility at night in poorly lit areas and to reduce any potential glare for oncoming cars or cars ahead of your vehicle.
  • Lane Tracing Assistant: similar to the lane departure alert, lane tracing is a feature on newer Toyota’s that’ll keep the car from accidentally drifting into the other lane. Using power steering, the car will automatically make steering inputs to keep the vehicle centered in its designated lane.
  • Road Sign Assist: The most notable of Toyota’s safety features, road sign assist is designed to read nearby posted road signs, and if missed by the driver, the vehicle will alert the driver to the overlooked sign by displaying a message on its Multi-Information Display. The road sign assist can detect stop signs, speed limit, yield, or “do not enter” postings.

Subaru Safety Features

On the other hand, while Subaru doesn’t include as many safety features as Toyota, there are still some notable features to review. Most Subaru vehicles will consist of the following:

  • Subaru EyeSight: EyeSight is a feature offered exclusively by Subaru, intended to literally be an extra set of eyes on the road for drivers. Within this package comes adaptive cruise control and pre-collision braking.
  • Subaru DriverFocus: this feature is designed to deter or mitigate distracted driving, one of the most common causes of car accidents. If the vehicle detects that the driver’s focus has been off the road for a particular time, the car will use an auditory and visual alert to gently remind the driver to focus on the road ahead.
  • STARLINK Safety and Security: Subaru is able to provide all its drivers with immediate roadside assistance using STARLINK. This includes features like automatic collision notification, which can send first responders if airbag deployment is detected.
  • Rear Vehicle Detection: this safety includes technology to alert drivers of blind spots and cross-traffic. It also includes a rear-vision camera.

Toyota vs. Subaru: Durability

Another important factor in a vehicle’s reliability is its durability. How long will they last? Most of this is determined by how well the driver maintains the car, how many accidents occur, and if any repairs are needed.

When it comes to longevity, both Toyota and Subaru have cars that’ll last between 200,000 and 250,000 miles (321,869 km and 402,336 km), even up to 300,000 miles (402,803 km) in some cases, without needing any major repairs. However, according to Kelley Blue Book, Subaru has recently had some major recalls on several of its new models, with estimates affecting up to 500,000 units.

Major Recalls: Subaru

  • 2019/2020 Ascent, 2020 Legacy, and 2020 Outback: a mistake in the programming of the Subaru’s Transmission Control Unit, or TCU, may have the clutch engage before the drive chain is clamped. This could decrease drive power and cause an accident.
  • 2019/2020 Ascent, 2018 Forester, 2018-2020 Impreza, Legacy, Outback, 2018/2019 BRZ, WRX: an issue with the fuel pump may cause the engine to stall while driving.
  • 2018/2019 Crosstrek, 2019 Forester: bolts located on the rear stabilizing bracket may come loose and allow movement, increasing the risk of a car crash.
  • 2017-2019 Impreza, 2018/2019 Crosstrek: a problem with the Engine Control Module or ECM can cause the vehicle to experience a short circuit.
  • 2017/2018 Impreza, 2018 Crosstrek: models that include the Positive Crankcase Ventilation or PCV valve are at risk of complete power loss while operating the vehicle.

Major Recalls: Toyota

In contrast, Toyota has only had a few recent recalls, including the following models:

  • 2018/2019 Camry: potential premature deterioration of power-assisted braking could lead to sudden loss of power braking assist. Non-assisted braking remains fully functional.
  • Venza, Mirai, RAV4 Hybrid, RAV4 Prime, Sienna HV, Highlander HV: a software mistake may prevent the Vehicle Stability Control system from its default setting of “ON” when the car is started. This may result in non-compliance with safety regulations in certain parts of the United States.

It’s also worth noting that Subaru is well-known for its all-terrain vehicle capabilities. The Subaru is genuinely meant to take you anywhere with features like Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, 4-wheel independent suspension, double-wishbone design, and dynamic driving assists. Toyota doesn’t hold up in terms of off-roading abilities.

Toyota vs. Subaru: Affordability

Considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain shortages, cars are more expensive than ever. (If you don’t believe me, the sight of a 2011 BMW Z4 priced at $35,000 on Carvana is enough to make a grown man cry). If you’re shopping for a new or used car right now, affordability is likely a top priority.

It’s pretty much a toss-up when it comes to a financial contest. If you’re shopping exclusively for new cars or plan on leasing, Subaru wins with an overall lower MSRP for all its models.

However, suppose you plan on buying used. In that case, most of the availability for Subaru is limited to vehicles with excessive mileage, meaning Toyota wins in the used department, since it generally has lower prices with lower mileage.

Additionally, Toyota wins with no competition if gas mileage is important to you. With many different hybrids and fully electric models available, Toyota beats Subaru in terms of affordability for gas. Subaru hasn’t yet released its only electric vehicle, the Solterra, coming in 2023.


Both Toyota and Subaru are well-made car brands that offer different features to wrap things up. If safety is your priority, you want the choice of many different models, and electric and hybrid options are important to you, then a Toyota model is calling your name. However, if you’re more focused on the adventure of rough terrain and affordability, Subaru is the better choice for you.




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