Building a Subaru Forester for rough roading – The Purchase

Having already explained why I wanted a soft-roader in the first place and why I settled on an SH Subaru Forester, the next part was to find one at the right price…

When buying something second-hand my process is research, wait and pounce. 

The first step is to research the market, figure out what’s out there and the price. In the case of cars, I set up an alert on Carsales so I had daily digests of cars that fit within my criteria – that was Foresters between $8000 and $12,000 and manual. My budget was $10,000 but I wanted to get an idea of what was available above and below that price.

Read why Robert decided to buy a Subaru Forester in the first place.

After weeks of reading ads I built up a very good picture of the value of any given Forester in that bracket, but also, importantly, learned how quickly the cars are sold. Then, once I feel I’ve got a good read on the market, I go into wait mode where I continue to read ads, but also have my money ready to pounce. I switch the ads from daily to immediate, and narrow the criteria a little to my own state, and a narrower price bracket. What I then do is simply watch and wait for a bargain and due to my research, I’ll know that bargain when I see it. At any time there are around 10 Foresters in my bracket for sale in Victoria (where I am) on Carsales, and 80 nationwide. Meaning there are so many local vehicles, there’s no need to look interstate.

Back to the Forester. One fine Saturday morning an advert popped up in my email. It was for a white, manual Forester, it had a little over 100,000km, from a second-hand dealer, described as quite tidy and the photos seemed to back up the claim, plus towbar, for only $8,900, and at a car yard too so typically less hassle to buy and some buyer comeback.

I knew that to be a bargain, so it was time to pounce. I called the yard, and dropped by later that morning. The Forester was as described. The underbody  didn’t look like it had been off-road, the wear and tear on the driver’s seat was consistent with the mileage, and the interior was in good condition too. The original manual was in place, and the service history had been kept up to date. A quick check confirmed it was a Takata-airbag problem but had been fixed, and the tyres were in good condition too, all signs the car had been cared for.

I left, saying I’d be back later in the day, and returned that afternoon. This time we went for a test drive. The salesperson said it’d have to be a two-minute drive, but that doesn’t work for me, I’ve got a set of tests to run through and it takes longer than two minutes. We’ll cover how to inspect a second-hand 4×4 in a different article but, in brief, I reversed, turned on full lock, performed an emergency stop, used cruise control, laboured the car in a high gear a little, checked the fluids, and tested the car tracked straight. I would have liked to have had a Subaru specialist look it over, but the problem with bargains is that time is of the essence. And, in this case, given I’d seen nothing that concerned me and a lot I liked, and it was from a car yard so I had some recourse should there be an issue, I decided to go ahead. So with my checks completed it was time to negotiate. I would take the car for the right price. Then I noticed this:

That’s $1000 higher than in the morning. Some people may think the dealer unethical to raise the price, but they’re not. Nobody complains when a price is dropped, and the yard can raise and drop prices as it likes.

So this new price was a problem for me, albeit one with a silver lining. I was planning to offer $1000 under the advertised price for immediate payment, and maybe get $500 off. But, that would now be $2000 under the advertised price, and while I like to bargain, that’s just being unfair. Even at $9900 the Forester was a good deal, not super fantastic, but still good. But there was a silver lining.  I knew they had planned on $8900. So I offered $8,900 and was told the price was $9,900. This is when I was happy I took photos before, and pulled out my phone with a photo to prove the original price. The salesman decided that an immediate $8900 from an obviously serious buyer was better than waiting longer for potentially more money – if you are bargain hunting, it helps to be prepared to buy immediately. And that is how we became owners of a new-to-us 2008 SH Forester.

In the next update, we’ll take the stock Forester out on the tracks to see how it performs.

While you’re here subscribe to the MotoFomo Newsletter

Sign Up for the latest news, reviews, advice, buying guides and more delivered to your inbox every week


* indicates required


  1. Hi Robert, have you progressed since May 2020. I gather COVID maybe a problem?

    I have have the new Forester for close to 2 years, absolutely love it, but want to understand how well in performs off-road.

    Have you had any experience? Looking to take to Gawler Ranges in SA but getting conflicting views?

    Stubbie Fan

    • Hi Gary, yes, Covid has slowed down progress on Robert’s Forester project. Tell us a little more about where you plan on taking your Forester and what changes you’d be prepared to make…a well-known off-road accessories maker is about to announce its suspension lift kit for the Forester and that could be worth looking into. Cheers Isaac

  2. Hi Robert,

    Whats happening with your project, I am literally on the cusp of purchasing a 2012 Manual 1TD Forester, to tow my small wooden boat. The idea is to safely get to harder to reach boat ramps or the kind not commonly visited by the masses.
    I’m considering a chip/ECU upgrade to, if the marketing material is to be believe a ~100Nm gain is possbile

Comments are closed.