Home » The Bottom Of The Barrel: 2003 Mitsubishi Outlander vs 2011 Dodge Avenger

The Bottom Of The Barrel: 2003 Mitsubishi Outlander vs 2011 Dodge Avenger

Sbsd 4 24 2024

Good morning! For your mid-week Showdown, I’m getting you over the hump by showing you the two cheapest viable rides I could find in my old stomping grounds around the Twin Cities. They may not look like much, but they’re cheap, and they run just fine.

Yesterday’s California stickshifts both ran fine too, though the Matrix made some ominous noises. That wasn’t enough to put you off it, though; it took a narrow but definite win. Personally, I’d prefer the CR-V, but that’s just because I liked the feel of my old beat-up Honda Accord better than my old beat-up Toyota Corolla.

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It sounds like the lien paperwork didn’t help the Honda’s case, and I understand that it might give you pause. I just know that lien sales in California are no big deal, because we went through it once, for a Nissan Pathfinder that someone took to a mechanic to have a bunch of work done, and then never came back to settle the bill. We got it for $1,300 with a rebuilt bottom end, new clutch, new water pump and timing belt, and a bunch of other work. Their loss; my wife and I moved to Portland in that Pathfinder, and drove it for three more years after that.

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Speaking of cheap cars I used to own, I spent ten years in and around Minneapolis and St. Paul driving a string of absolute crap cars. Some lasted me a year or two; others a matter of weeks. The cheapest one was $175 (’78 Plymouth Volare) and the most expensive was $800 (’88 Oldsmobile Calais – with a Quad 4 and a stickshift). I do not miss those days, nor do I pine for any of those cars, except maybe that Calais. That one was kinda fun.


From time to time, I like to look at cheap cars for sale in that area, just to see what I might be stuck driving if I were in that situation today. Obviously, I’m not going to find anything for the five hundred bucks that was my average purchase price back then, but these two are only fifteen hundred each, and they’re actually a hell of a lot nicer than any of my old beaters were. Let’s check them out.

2003 Mitsubishi Outlander – $1,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.4 liter overhead cam inline 4, four-speed automatic, AWD

Location: Cadott, WI

Odometer reading: 179,000 miles


Operational status: Runs and drives well

Mitsubishi’s entry in the early days of the crossover wars was the Outlander. Like Honda’s CR-V and Toyota’s RAV4, it borrowed mechanical components from a compact sedan, in this case the Mitsubishi Lancer. And like the others, it sat taller than its sedan cousin, and offered all-wheel-drive, which this one has.

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This Outlander, like most, drives all four wheels with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and an automatic transmission. I’ve never actually seen an Outlander with a stick, though I know they did exist. This one has a manual shift gate on its shifter, but it isn’t really the same, is it? The good news is that it runs and drives well, according to the seller, and both the heat and air conditioning work. At this price, what more can you ask?

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It ain’t pretty, but then, it wasn’t pretty to begin with. It looks like it’s had a bonk or two on the nose. The plastic front bumper cover is all cracked up, and appears to be held together with wood screws if I’m not mistaken – a time-honored way to hold broken plastic pieces together on old cars. I think I see the zip-tie trick here and there too, another classic. It also has a pretty good crack in the windshield; you’d have to see whether or not it blocks your vision. Wisconsin doesn’t have inspections, and I doubt anyone would pull you over for it.

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What I don’t see is much in the way of rust, which is impressive for a twenty-year-old car in western Wisconsin. That doesn’t mean there isn’t any; there may be some nastiness hiding behind that plastic lower cladding, but it isn’t advanced enough to peek out yet, so it can probably be ignored.

2011 Dodge Avenger SE – $1,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 3.6 liter dual overhead cam V6, six-speed automatic, FWD


Location: Anoka, MN

Odometer reading: 210,000 miles

Operational status: Runs and drives well

The Dodge Avenger was the replacement for the four-door Dodge Stratus, after the Stratus was the replacement for the two-door Avenger. This was before Dodge started recycling old names and brought back the Dart name for its compact sedan. I don’t know why it didn’t bring back more of the old names; there were some great ones: Polara, Coronet, Aries (just kidding).

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Most people, if they have had any experience with the Avenger, it was in the context of a rental agreement. Avengers were the official “it’s all we have left” car of rental counters all across the country for quite a few years. But most of those had the base 2.4 liter four under the hood. Not this one. In 2011 – and I didn’t realize this – the optional six-cylinder was Chrysler’s then-new 3.6 liter Pentastar V6, sending a whopping 283 horsepower to the front wheels, and probably giving a whole new meaning to the term “torque-steer.”

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The V6 Avenger also got a couple extra gears in its Ultradrive automatic, for a total of six. Again, a stick would be better, but I’ve never seen one of these with a manual either. This one runs and drives just fine, according to the seller, and has surpassed 200,000 miles, so the transmission must have been serviced properly.

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Inside, it has held up well, but it’s a bit grubby and there are some weird stains on the seats here and there. It might clean up, or it might not. Outside, it’s got a split lip in front, some minor rust along the bottom of the trunk lid, and those dumb cheesy stripes that I guess are supposed to look like the stripes on the similarly styled Charger Daytona. Whatever; for this price you can embrace a little cheesiness.


At this price point, you can’t get too picky. Condition matters a lot more than brand, or style, or reputation. If it runs and drives well, and isn’t about to fall apart, that’s about all you can ask for. The fact that these both have working air conditioning is a bonus, and the fact that they aren’t riddled with rust holes is even better. If you had to choose – and you do; that’s how the game is played – which one will it be?

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
1 month ago

I’m voting for the Outlander because the ad for the Dodge is listed as “2007 Ford 500″… which it clearly is not. And that suggests to me the ad is sketchy and it’s either a scam or the seller is a complete idiot.

1 month ago

Believe it or not, that Pentastar likely has a lot more miles in it. If the Dodge had a 4, no way, but with the V6 it’s the solid and obvious choice here.

1 month ago

I voted Outlander. It’s a more useful car to me, and the AWD doesn’t hurt. I bet I can find a windshield at one of the local junkyards, and if the front end isn’t falling off, I don’t care about the looks. The Mitsu has fewer miles than the Dodge, and working AC is a bonus. If this was closer to me I might actually be tempted.

Speedway Sammy
Speedway Sammy
1 month ago

Heat, working AC, and all wheel drive. Mitsu for the win. Do these typically run this many miles? If so they should get more respect in the world of beaters.

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