An Unreasonable Car Market Presents Us With a $30,000 2017 Mitsubishi Lancer [Latest News: Price Cut]

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By Car Brand Experts

A recent discovery at Carmax is a Mitsubishi Lancer from five years ago with a mileage of 30,000. The price tag of $29,998 might not seem extraordinary on its own, but it surpasses the original MSRP and stands as a stark illustration of the current dysfunction in the secondhand car market. Shortly after the initial publication of this post, the price was slashed, perhaps indicating that someone at Carmax recognized the disparity after reading The Drive.

Update: Friday, May 13, 2022, 11:30 a.m. ET: A more reasonable pricing of $23,998 for this Lancer now seems to reflect a more sensible approach by Carmax. Nonetheless, this figure still exceeds the original purchase price when the vehicle was brand new in 2018.

Although the Mitsubishi Lancer was never renowned for its excellence among compact cars (apologies, Stef), I used to recommend it to those seeking a relatively affordable newer small car compared to the more popular offerings from Honda and Toyota. While the Lancer may not have garnered many accolades near its discontinuation in 2018, the worst criticism could be that it’s dated rather than flawed. The primary appeal of the Lancer has always been its affordability, particularly in the used car market.

This staggering pricing, however, deviates significantly from Carmax’s other listings for similar vehicles, prompting me to inquire about a potential misprint. The response from a staff member confirmed that indeed the Lancer was priced at $29,998. Astounding.

The 2017 Mitsubishi Lancer ES, although a lower-end version, is not devoid of features. In the last couple of model years, Mitsubishi endeavored to transform the base Lancer into a budget competitor for the Subaru Impreza, equipping all trims (except the base ES as an option) with AWD. The S-AWC system is paired with a CVT automatic transmission, driven by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine largely unchanged since its debut in 2006. While the powertrain is adequate, it is notably antiquated and certainly does not justify a $30,000 price tag.

Compare this to the price of a brand new Eclipse Cross, which could be obtained for the same amount as this Lancer. For the cost of this Lancer, you could acquire two-thirds of Honda’s vehicle lineup, including the Civic Si. Numerous excellent, brand-new cars could be yours for the cost of this previously owned Lancer.

Presently located in Chattanooga, Tennessee—the former home of the VW Passat, which interestingly was priced lower than this used Lancer. Interestingly, this Lancer was initially sold in Ohio, prompting me to delve deeper. A check of Ohio’s title records revealed a purchase price in 2018 just under $24,000. While slightly steep for a vehicle that was essentially a leftover model from the previous year, considering taxes and registration, the initial owner of this Lancer appears to have paid close to its $21,810 sticker price.

Various Mitsubishi Lancers for sale.
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Displayed are a selection of comparable Lancers for sale, notably priced more reasonably than the model that prompted this post.

It’s truly astounding; within just five years, this base Lancer model experienced a surge in value. Back in 2017, it was a basic, aged, and uncompetitive vehicle. Presently, this pre-owned car competes with a host of newly released, high-quality vehicles. If it wasn’t remarkable then, five years and 30,000 miles later aren’t going to magically enhance its appeal.

This scenario exemplifies the challenges faced by individuals seeking reasonably priced, gently used cars in the current market. While some anticipate stabilization and a correction in used car prices soon, it appears that this may be the new reality. If given the opportunity, I’d travel back to 2018 armed with this knowledge and purchase all the clearance Lancers, selling them now in a manner reminiscent of Bring a Trailer. This successful endeavor could secure me early retirement on a private island.

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