The Mitsubishi Lancer is a popular, compact sedan that launched in the United States in 2001.
Named after a soldier of the cavalry regiment in Europe’s knightly age, the Lancer is known as an affordable and dependable model.
Now that they’ve been discontinued, Lancers can be picked up on the used car market at very attractive prices.
In this article we’ll cover its average lifespan, overall quality, and long-term reliability.
Read on to find out…
Here is the short answer to how long Mitsubishi Lancer last:
The Mitsubishi Lancer is a fairly reliable car that last between 150,000 – 200,000 miles with basic maintenance and conservative driving. Based on an annual mileage of 15,000 miles, it can provide 10 – 13 years of service before needing any overly expensive or uneconomical repairs.
How Many Miles Can You Expect from a Mitsubishi Lancer?
Despite not being the most robust Japanese vehicle ever made, the Lancer offers a respectable lifespan.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find dissatisfied customers across forums and auto review sites generally give reasonable ratings.
As a testament to its reliability, you’ll see models from the early to mid-2000’s still on the road today.
A fair estimation for the Lancer’s longevity will fall in the region of 150k – 200k miles, however there are accounts of Lancer owners who have crossed the 200k threshold although these aren’t as common.
As a general rule, Lancers equipped with a manual transmission will tend to last longer.
Once high numbers have been hit, there is a much greater chance of big-ticket items failing such as the engine and transmission, and at this stage in the car’s life, the cost of major repairs may outweigh the cost of the vehicle.
The Lancer is not an overly complex model in terms of design, drivetrain and components, and so one of the benefits is the relative ease and low cost of basic repairs.
Most long-term Lancer owners report that they’ve only had to pay out for consumables and wear items such as fluids, filters, belts, brake pads and tires to get past the initial 100k.
If you treat your Lancer well, it will be a great daily driver for many, many years, however its life expectancy will be cut short if you avoid:
- Service appointments
- Routine oil changes
- Tire rotations
- Using quality parts
- Driving smoothly
- Changing the CVT’s fluid
The Lancer’s CVT transmission is a common point of failure and requires regular fluid and filter changes every 30,000 and 60,000 miles, respectively.
Mitsubishi Lancers also came with a 5-year/60,000-mile warranty and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty which should help address early parts failures.
Do Mitsubishi Lancers Rust Easily?
Rust isn’t a huge problem on Mitsubishi Lancers that are less than ten years old. However, Mitsubishi did announce recalls in 2016 and 2021 due to excessive corrosion on the Lancers Front subframe and Lower control arms.
These recalls affected Lancers sold from 2002 to 2010, mostly in states that use salt on the roads during the winter.
Otherwise, if the car hasn’t spent most of its life near the coast or driving on salt-covered roads, rust and corrosion issues should be comparable to similar vehicles.
There have been some reports of sub-par paint quality however you’ll find lots of counter-arguments to this from owners who have experienced no issues whatsoever.
If you are concerned about the paintwork of your Lancer it might be worth investing in a 3M protection film or a ceramic coating.
Tips to protect your Lancer from rust:
- Regularly wash and dry your car: This includes its underside (especially during the winter) to remove the salt, dirt and grime that causes rust. We recommend having a detail shop wash everything underneath at the end of each winter.
- Repair paint damage and scratches: Exposed metal will oxidize. If it’s beyond a DIY fix, speak to your local body repair shop.
- Garage: Store your Lancer in a garage to protect it from harsh weather, direct sunlight and bird droppings.
- Waxing: Wax your car twice a year. Not only will this make your Lancer look better, it also gives a protective coating against rust.
- Rustproofing: If you’re planning on keeping your Lancer for a very long time, you might want to consider a rustproofing treatment; popular choices are Krown and Rust Check.
Mitsubishi offers a 7-year/100,000-mile anti-corrosion warranty. If you’re concerned about excessive rust on your Lancer, it’s best to let the dealership take a look before it gets worse.
What is High Mileage for a Mitsubishi Lancer?
A Mitsubishi Lancer with 100,000 miles on the odometer is considered high mileage and a riskier investment due to the increased chance of major component failures and the likelihood of requiring minor repairs is also more common.
Essential parts such as the brake rotors, shock absorbers, wheel bearings and water pump may be near the end of their life at this point — and all these small fixes can add up quickly.
If you can’t find a lower mileage Lancer, you’d be saving a lot of money if you look for a model that’s just had its 100,000-mile service done.
Even a higher mileage Lancer can be a good purchase as long as you’re certain that it’s been properly taken care of and comes with extensive service records.
When buying a second-hand Mitsubishi Lancer, consider the following:
- Maintenance history. Check that the car was properly serviced and the owner can provide evidence of this.
- Get a second opinion. Aside from taking it to your local Mitsubishi dealership for a checkup, an independent mechanic can provide a more realistic idea of what long-term ownership of the vehicle will be like.
- Check the CarFax. This doesn’t guarantee anything but it will provide a clearer picture of wear-and-tear. Ensure it has minimal damage, if any. Review the information to make sure if something happened such as engine- or transmission-related.
- Number of previous owners. As a general rule, less is better. More owners usually means more wear-and-tear. If one family owned it and drove the full mileage and serviced the car, then you can almost guarantee they took good care of it throughout their ownership.
- How long you are planning on keeping the car. If you’re planning on keeping the car for a long time, you should evaluate whether the short-term savings outweigh spending a bit extra on something more reliable.
You may also be interested in our article: How Long Do Mitsubishi Outlander Last?
How Long Do Mitsubishi Lancer Last Compared to Similar Car Models?
In this section we’ll compare the Lancer to other compact sedans in its class.
Mitsubishi Lancer vs. Honda Civic
The Honda Civic is one of the most popular compact sedans ever produced known for its fun-to-drive personality and high ratings.
Few can dispute the Civic’s reputation for reliability and it can certainly reach 250,000 – 300,000 miles or 17 to 20 years, which is quite a bit more than the Lancer can muster.
- RepairPal gave the Civic an excellent reliability rating of 4.5/5.0 placing it 3rd out of 36 compact cars while the Lancer received an above average rating of 3.5/5.0.
- The Civic has an annual average repair and maintenance cost of $368 vs. $646 for the Lancer.
- Kelley Blue Book consumer reliability ratings scores the Civic 4.7/5.0 vs. 4.5/5.0 for the Lancer.
- J.D. Power rates the Civic at 83/100 for quality and reliability while the Lancer got 79/100.
The Civic is significantly more popular and is cheaper to maintain. But the brand name comes at a premium and used Civics will be more expensive than a comparable Lancer.
Mitsubishi Lancer vs. Hyundai Elantra
Hyundais didn’t always have a good reputation for reliability but the brand has seen significant improvements and growth over the last 10 years.
The Elantra has been completely redesigned in recent years with a stylish modern exterior and tech-forward cabin.
Hyundai Elantras can reach 200,000 to 250,000 miles or last between 15 to 17 years, which is slightly more than the Lancer’s predicted mileage.
According to RepairPal’s website:
- The Hyundai Elantra scores an excellent reliability rating of 4.5/5.0 while the Lancer got 3.5/5.0.
- The Elantra has an annual average repair and maintenance cost of $452 vs. $646 for the Lancer.
- Kelley Blue Book consumer reliability ratings scores the Elantra 4.1/5.0 vs. 4.5/5.0 for the Lancer.
- J.D. Power rates the Elantra at 82/100 for quality and reliability while the Lancer got 79/100.
The Elantra is a popular choice among budget-conscious buyers and has very good reliability.
Used Elantras are also more expensive than a typical Lancer, so you’ll have to look for an older model or one with significantly higher mileage to match the Lancer’s prices.
You may also be interested in our article: How Long Do Hyundai Elantra Last?
Mitsubishi Lancer vs. Mazda 3
The Mazda 3 is a sporty and stylish sedan with a more luxurious interior compared to most cars in its class.
The Mazda 3 has a good reputation for long-term reliability and can last 200,000 to 250,000 miles or 15 to 17 years with only regular maintenance.
- The Mazda 3 scores an excellent reliability rating of 4/5.0, only slightly higher than the Lancer’s 3.5/5.0
- The Mazda 3 has an annual average repair and maintenance cost of $433 vs. $646 for the Lancer.
- Kelley Blue Book consumer reliability ratings scores the Mazda 3 and Lancer similarly at 4.5/5.0.
- J.D. Power rates the Elantra at 81/100 for quality and reliability while the Lancer got 79/100.
Mazda 3’s are slightly more reliable than the Lancer but are significantly more expensive.
Aside from the improved interior, Mazda 3’s are also packed with a lot more advanced tech.
You may also be interested in our article: How Long Do Mazda3 Last?
|Annual Repair Cost||$646||$368||$452||$433|
|Lifespan (miles)||150k – 200k||250k – 300k||200k – 250k||200k – 250k|
Is the Mitsubishi Lancer Reliable?
Mitsubishi has been making passenger vehicles since the 1970s, the Lancer is one of its most successful models and has a good reputation for dependability, although not quite up to the same standard as other more prominent Japanese cars such as the Civic or Corolla.
The last generation Lancer’s lower quality and reliability ratings are most likely due to its CVT transmissions which had a reputation for failing if not routinely serviced.
The interiors were also quite basic which gives people the impression that it’s not very well made.
Older Lancers equipped with a traditional automatic, as well as manual versions, should be less troublesome.
One should also take the lower scores it’s received from professional car reviewers with a grain of salt since their most common complaint is that the later models haven’t been updated since it was first released in 2008.
The last generation of Lancers used a timing chain instead of a timing belt (requires replacement every 60,000 miles) – this made their engines even more reliable and more robust than the previous models.
To give you a clearer idea of the Lancer’s reliability, here are the ratings from some of the more popular consumer review sites:
- The Kelly Blue Book consumer rating index gives the 2017 Lancer a reliability rating of 4.7 out of 5.
- RepairPal gave the Lancer an above average reliability rating of 3.5 out of 5.
- J.D. Power gave the 2015 Lancer a consumer reliability rating of 79 out of 100.
Overall, these ratings tell us that most Lancer owners are quite happy with the reliability of their vehicles.
Reliability Compared to Other Cars
|Toyota Corolla||4.5 / 5.0|
|Kia Forte||4.5 / 5.0|
|Honda Civic||4.5 / 5.0|
|Toyota Matrix||4.5 / 5.0|
|Chevrolet Cobalt||4.5 / 5.0|
|Hyundai Elantra GT||4.5 / 5.0|
|Hyundai Elantra||4.5 / 5.0|
|Mazda3||4.0 / 5.0|
|Ford C-Max||4.0 / 5.0|
|Kia Forte Koup||4.0 / 5.0|
|Hyundai Elantra Coupe||4.0 / 5.0|
|Chevrolet HHR||4.0 / 5.0|
|Nissan Sentra||4.0 / 5.0|
|Buick Verano||4.0 / 5.0|
|Dodge Caliber||4.0 / 5.0|
|Dodge Avenger||4.0 / 5.0|
|Chevrolet Cruze Limited||4.0 / 5.0|
|Hyundai Veloster||4.0 / 5.0|
|Mitsubishi Eclipse||4.0 / 5.0|
|Volkswagen Jetta||4.0 / 5.0|
|Mazda5||4.0 / 5.0|
|Nissan 370Z||4.0 / 5.0|
|Volkswagen Beetle||4.0 / 5.0|
|Volkswagen Golf||4.0 / 5.0|
|Chevrolet Cruze||4.0 / 5.0|
|Ford Focus||4.0 / 5.0|
|Dodge Dart||4.0 / 5.0|
|Mitsubishi Lancer||3.5 / 5.0|
|Chrysler PT Cruiser||3.5 / 5.0|
|Volkswagen Golf SportWagen||3.5 / 5.0|
|Subaru WRX||3.5 / 5.0|
|Subaru Impreza||3.5 / 5.0|
|Volkswagen GTI||3.0 / 5.0|
|Volkswagen Eos||3.0 / 5.0|
|Subaru WRX STI||2.5 / 5.0|
|Avg. Compact Car||4.0|
The Best and Worst Years for Mitsubishi Lancer
Given the Mitsubishi Lancer’s long history, there’s bound to be a couple of problematic years, as well as good ones.
Worst Model Year
According to Car Complaints, the 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer was the worst model year while the 2008 model received the most complaints. The 2011 model was deemed the worst year for the Lancer because of the occurrence of severe issues at lower mileage, especially engine problems.
The more serious issues reported for the 2011 Lancer were:
- Loss of power during acceleration
- Shifting delays
The most common complaint for the 2008 model was subframe rot.
This is likely related to the corrosion recall that affected Lancers from 2002 to 2010.
This occurred at an average mileage of 119,900 miles and cost $1,370 on average to repair.
Best Model Year
The best year for the Lancer is the 2016 models which had zero reported complaints.
We also noticed a significant drop in complaints starting from 2013 onwards which shows that Mitsubishi has made an effort to sort out their quality issues.
Our choice would be any of the last model years of the Lancer.
Although these models haven’t been updated much since 2008, these Lancers will have fewer manufacturing defects and should have lower miles on the clock.
Model Year and Number of Complaints
Here are the number of complaints for each Mitsubishi Lancer model year from the Car Complaints database.
|Model Year||No. of Complaints|
|2016||0 (Best Year)|
|2008||15 (Worst Year)|
What About Recalls for These Models?
The Lancer has 67 recalls across all model years.
Some of the more important recalls were related to corrosion on the front lower control arm, drive belt issues, and blower motor failures.
It is important to note that recalls are manufacturing faults repaired at no charge to the consumer.
You can check if your Mitsubishi Lancer has been subject to a recall campaign by entering your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) into Mitsubishi’s recall website.
Here are the total number of recall campaigns per year for the Mitsubishi Lancer:
- 2017: 0
- 2016: 2
- 2015: 2
- 2014: 2
- 2013: 1
- 2012: 1
- 2011: 4
- 2010: 7
- 2009: 9
- 2008: 5
- 2007: 3
- 2006: 7
- 2005: 6
- 2004: 7
- 2003: 7
- 2002: 4
Mitsubishi Lancer Model Year List
These are the Mitsubishi Lancer model years sold in the United States:
- 2002 Mitsubishi Lancer
- 2003 Mitsubishi Lancer
- 2004 Mitsubishi Lancer
- 2005 Mitsubishi Lancer
- 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer
- 2007 Mitsubishi Lancer
- 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer
- 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer
- 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer
- 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer
- 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer
- 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer
- 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer
- 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer
- 2016 Mitsubishi Lancer
- 2017 Mitsubishi Lancer
Are Mitsubishi Lancer Expensive to Maintain?
According to RepairPal, the Mitsubishi has an annual maintenance and repair cost of $646, while the average annual cost for compact cars is $526.
The average total annual cost for repairs across all vehicles in different classes is $652.
How Long Do the Brakes Last?
The Lancer’s stock brake pads can last up to 60,000 miles if you mostly drive on the highway. This lifespan can drop significantly to 20,000 to 30,000 miles if you do a lot of stop-and-go traffic in the city.
The Lancer Ralliart and Evolution model’s brake pads tend to wear out quicker because they’re driven more aggressively. 30,000 miles out of a set of brake pads is typical for these high-performance models.
- You can expect your brakes to wear out sooner if you frequently stop and accelerate in rush-hour traffic
- Brake pad replacement, which includes parts and labor, can cost anywhere between $150 – $300 per axle.
- Full and complete stops from a high speed are the #1 cause of premature brake pad wear.
- A sporty driving style will lead to faster deterioration of brakes, a slow and steady style will help them last longer.
How Long Do the Tires Last?
The Mitsubishi Lancer’s stock tires can last up to 50,000 miles or roughly 3 years before requiring replacement. This is dependent on various factors such as driving habits, climate, and road conditions.
- Rotate tires every 5,000 miles to ensure even wear.
- If you have to drive on rough or flooded roads, or go off-roading, your tires will take more of a beating.
- Check your tire pressures every few weeks to make sure they’re at the correct tire pressure.
- Have a mechanic check your wheel alignment every 6 months
How Long Do Mitsubishi Lancer Engines Last?
The Mitsubishi Lancer’s engine will last on average 150,000 – 200,000 miles or 10 – 13 years with basic maintenance. This can vary dramatically depending on how well you look after your vehicle and driving habits.
If you take really, really good care of your Lancer, the engine might even go up to 300,000 miles before needing a major overhaul.
How Long Do Mitsubishi Lancer Batteries Last?
The Mitsubishi Lancer’s battery usually lasts between 3 – 5 years. A vehicle’s battery life varies depending on factors such as climate, driving habits, as well as the type of battery used.
- Keep your battery tightly fastened: The vibrations of your car can loosen the connections, potentially resulting in short circuits and internal damage.
- Limit short rides: Quick car rides prevent the battery from fully charging.
- Storage: Keep your Lancer stored indoors away from extreme changes in temperature.
- Control Corrosion: Clean the terminals (toothbrush dipped in baking soda and water mixture) and keep them free from build-up.
You may also be interested in our article: How Long Do Chevy Cruze Last?
How Long Do the Spark Plugs Last?
The Mitsubishi Lancer’s stock spark plugs can last 100,000 miles. The Lancer uses high-quality iridium spark plugs and are designed to be swapped out during the 100,000-mile major service interval.
However, if you’re experiencing engine trouble, this might be an indicator they may need to be replaced earlier.
Signs of a fouled spark plug include:
- Reduced gas mileage
- Lack of acceleration
- Rough idling
- Hard starts
- Engine misfires
What About Insurance Cost?
A Lancer’s average insurance rates for full comprehensive coverage is $1,678 per year, or $140 per month. In comparison, its segment competitors cost an average of $1,404 per year to insure.
Insurance costs can vary from person to person; be sure to shop around to find the best possible deal.
Tips to Prolong the Life of Your Mitsubishi Lancer
- Adopt smooth driving habits.
- Keep up to date with factory-recommended maintenance.
- Use quality parts and fluids.
- Keep on top of repairs to prevent them from developing into larger problems.
- Regularly wash your Lancer to remove dirt and grime to protect the paint and undercarriage from rust developing.
- Check your Lancer engine oil, coolant, brake, and transmission fluid levels and top them up when required.
- For CVT-equipped Lancers, change the CVT fluid every 30,000 miles and change the filter every 60,000 miles to prevent premature failure.
- Keep your Lancer in a garage to help protect it from the elements.
- Read the owner’s manual to learn the location of important components, what your Lancer needs and what quantity and to understand the symbols and dashboard warning lights.