My close friends know that I adore my 1997 Mitsubishi Lancer. It was given to me brand-new by my family (shout out to Dad, Mom, Ate Joy, Ate Grace, and Ate Faith) on my 17th birthday, and it has been my constant companion ever since. My Kuya Raul even chose the last two digits of the plate number for me—’17’ being my age at the time. Let’s just say my relationship with this car runs very deep, and I can’t imagine not being able to drive Yvonne—that’s her name—whenever I feel like it. We’ve been through way too much together.
At one point I began to document every aspect of her maintenance, though I wish I had started doing this much sooner. I’ve collected a whole notebook full of stapled receipts, shop calling cards, and scribbled notes. Some guys are awesome at neatly organizing the service records of their cars, but I think my mess of a notebook has character. Each of my running my cars (1976 Mitsubishi Galant Wagon, 1996 Mazda Miata, 2006 Ford Ranger) has its own tattered notebook, too.
I hope this story is helpful for those who are wondering about how much it costs to enter a long-term commitment to a Japanese compact car from the ’90s, because this is the first time that I am adding up all of the expenses.Wonder no more if it’s better to hold on to your ride and maintain it, or sell it in exchange for something new.
Before we dive in, here are some things to note:
1. The prices are not adjusted for inflation. I will leave that kind of stuff up to the experts at entrepreneur.com.ph.
2. Costs vary depending on where the car was serviced and what shop I went to. Some shops charge more for parts and labor than others. I also prefer to buy my parts from my trusted auto supply, and then bring them to my trusted mechanics. However, one of my favorite places is a one-stop shop in Banawe.
3. I don't have all of the receipts for the oil and filter changes, so I’m going to use estimates based on the present day odometer reading and the average cost of a service (parts and labor) at your friendly garage. Sometimes I used mineral oil, sometimes semi- or full-synthetic. I also factored in a set of spark plugs every 20,000km or 30,000km. I only ever use NGK BKR5Es on this car. Any other brand or heat rating affects its fuel economy. Performance varies from car to car, and driver to driver, of course. I also factored in a new battery every 2.5 years. Also included is a rough estimate for total registration renewal at the LTO, including the emissions test and cheap TPL insurance.
4. I computed depreciation at 18% after one year, and then 8% two years after that, and then 6%, then 4%, and so on. This formula aligns best with the prices on the used-car market—at least for me and my buddies. Also indicated is the resale value. These figures are pretty interesting in relation to how much I’ve spent so far. Yvonne was bought brand-new at P489,000, right before the Asian financial crisis hit us. Depreciation happens as soon as the car leaves the showroom floor, and I indicated that in 1997’s estimated resale value. Check out the table below.
|Vehicle's age||Depreciation per year||Total depreciation||Resale value (PH peso)|
5. Yvonne was subjected to hard abuse, including but not limited to a few slalom competitions, and WRC Thousand Lakes-style airtime from jumping lahar dunes in Pampanga. Car sympathy only came to me after massive hits to my wallet. I can’t even count how many times I drove Baguio to Manila and back during my college days. Constantly traveling between Baguio, Manila, Lingayen, and Los Banos is part of being a Subido.
6. For mechanical maintenance and repairs, I never leave my car alone at the shop. I’m there every step of the way, from start to finish. This means waking up super early and being at the talyer, first in line, at 7:00am. Some receipts I have lost. Prices with an * are close estimates.
Okay, then. Let’s go on a journey back in time to relive a life with my 1997 Mitsubishi Lancer GLXi 1.6L MT.
|Odometer reading: 15,245km|
|Resale value: P410,000|
|Punctured radiator (repair)||400|
1997: I get into a major accident three months after Yvonne is delivered to me. She is sidelined for eight months. I visit the repair shop every week, watching the painstakingly slow progress.
|Odometer reading: 31,320km|
|Resale value: P400,980|
|Set of tires (Goodyear 195/60 R14)||8,250|
|Brake pads (OE)||3,980|
|Clutch change (OE parts, labor)||14,500*|
1998: Yvonne is back from the shop, and I waste no time in enjoying her again. I am addicted to pulling handbrake turns and I dream of entering a slalom competition one day. I’m going through tires and brake pads quickly, mostly because I have no idea what good driving is yet. I even get stranded on Kennon Road from a worn-to-the-metal clutch disc after a night of, uhm, enthusiastic driving. I move to Manila to attend college, but I drive home to Baguio every three weeks or so—just because I miss home.
|Odometer reading: 46,200km|
|Resale value: P361,860|
|Set of 16in wheels (from Kuya Raul)||0|
|Set of tires (Dunlop Le Mans 205/45 R16)||9,000|
|Tie-rod ends (x2)||1,000|
|Mag wheel repair||1,500|
1999: Kuya Raul gives me my first set of alloy wheels. I have to save up for the tires, though. The 45-series rubber looks great, but make the alloys prone to damage. During rainy season I put the stock wheels on at the front. Silly, I know.
|Odometer reading: 67,000km|
|Resale value: P322,740|
|Clutch change (OE parts, labor)||13,750|
|Brake pads (OE)||4,000|
2000: Folks who want to get the best price from their rides usually sell the car at three years old. Resale value is still relatively high, and there aren’t too many things to fix yet. I am not even considering it, and it really isn’t an option. Yvonne is too special, and I know my family worked hard to buy that car for me. Still, she is driven very hard. I don’t baby her. I also enter my first real slalom race in Subic during the Asian Festival of Speed. I put the car through hell, and on my way up to Baguio I burn through a clutch disc—again! My family isn’t pleased.
|2001 to 2006 'The Lost Years'|
|Odometer reading: 70,000km - 135,000km|
|Resale value: P293,000 - P176,000|
|Timing Belt Replacement (OE)||12,000*|
|Clutch replacememt (OE)||14,000*|
|A/C compressor refurbishment||3,000|
|2001 to 2006 total:||29,000|
2001-2006: I call these the Lost Years. I don’t have the cash for the bigger repair jobs, and can only afford oil changes. It is a challenge saving money to fund a necessary timing belt change, but I manage to do it. I also become a master of rotating tires, making them last for as long as possible. I am fresh out of college and only have a few freelance writing gigs. The jobs I hold don’t pay very well, either. Still, Yvonne chugs along, although she drinks a lot of fuel. I also burn out another clutch and blame my driving ‘enthusiasm’ for that. It is getting expensive changing clutches all the time, so I start taking driving seriously. I study it by reading magazines and books, wanting to learn how to really do it properly. Drives with my race car driver friends open my eyes. I begin rev-matching and teaching myself how to heel-and-toe, not to be quick, but to prolong the life of the clutch. It takes time to master heel-and-toe braking, but I figure it out—eventually. It’s true that proper driving technique prolongs the life of parts.
|Odometer reading: 147,200km|
|Resale value: P156,480|
|Rear wheel hub bearing (x2)||3,200|
|Repair power-window regulator||120|
|KYB front gas shock (x2)||5,400|
|KYB rear gas shock (x2)||3,000|
|Shock mount (OE ) (x2)||4,600|
|Front suspension arm (x2)||3,200|
|Set of tires (Dunlop Le Mans 205 45/R16)||12,000|
2007: This is the year I start work at Summit Media, and with my first paychecks, I fix everything that’s worn out or broken. Yvonne is 10 years old now and beginning to show her age, but after repairs, she drives like new again. No rattles or clunks from the undercarriage anymore, and the fresh set of shocks are like a dream. The driver-side window is operational now, too. This is also the year that I spend the most on mechanical bits. At P33,620, every peso is worth it. The bond deepens with my ride. Driving is a joy. Yvonne's paint is in a sorry state, though.
|Odometer reading: 156,008km|
|Resale value: P141,810|
|Power steering belt||680|
|Air filter (OE)||1,650|
|Spark plug (x4)||600|
|Rotor disc (x2)||1,800|
|Front wheel bearing (x2)||1,300|
|Bearing seal (x4)||960|
|Trunk light bulb||30|
|Oil pan drain plug||80|
2008: It’s time for another timing belt service. Brake rotors are worn and have deep grooves too. The drain plug finally breaks.
|Odometer reading: 165,700km|
|Resale value: P127,140|
2009: I bite the bullet and buy a brand-new window regulator assembly. The makeshift Banawe sidewalk repairs don’t cut it anymore. Thank goodness I catch an overheating problem early and manage to pull over and cool the engine down. The culprit? A stuck thermostat.
|Odometer reading: 180,202km|
|Resale value: P117,000|
|Rack end (x2)||1,560|
|Brake pads (replacement)||2,900|
2010: Nothing much to report here.
|Odometer reading: 189,800km|
|Resale value: P107,580|
|Spark plug oil seal (x4)||1,800|
|Tie rod boot||250|
|Repack CV joint||450|
|Wash over (with body repair)||65,000|
|Rear door (surplus)||1,500|
2011: It’s time to get a complete wash-over. I decide to do this after I figure in a road mishap in Baguio and need to get the front-end repaired. I’ve also been driving around with a surplus rear door because a friend of mine bumped me. I get good at hunting for surplus body panels in Banawe, and I score some good deals.
The shop where I have the paint and body work done is pricey, but I trust the owner. I’ve learned through the years that you indeed get what you pay for. And to celebrate my having quit smoking for a year, I have the entire interior redone. Goodbye cigarette burn marks and smoky smell, hello fresh interior. This was a milestone for me. Total spent this year is P83,350. But my car looks so fresh and clean, just like it did when it left the factory. I’m very pleased. Now at this point, people would have let go of their rides already, but I’m still proudly driving Yvonne. I get nods of approval from fellow enthusiasts. I’m loving my simple car even more now. She wouldn’t be out of place when displayed in a car show. But she's meant to be driven.
|Odometer reading: 195,000km|
|Resale value: P97,800|
|Starter solenoid switch||1,800|
2012: Brand-new starter solenoids are readily available at another auto supply I found that stocks up on Mitsubishi parts. My Banawe and Roosevelt network is growing and I know where to get the best prices for the parts Yvonne needs.
|Odometer reading: 203,000km|
|Resale value: P88,020|
|Transmission support (surplus)||1,100|
|Pressure Plate (rep)||1,700|
|Clutch disc (rep)||1,300|
|Release bearing (rep)||650|
|Brake pads (Bendix)||850|
|Engine support (surplus)||1,100|
|Engine support press job||500|
|Set of tires (Bridgestone 205/50 R16)||18,460|
2013: Yvonne reaches the 200,000km milestone this year. Trips to the surplus parts shops are becoming a fun exercise, and I’m learning more and more about how to save money on repairs. I want to replace all of the suspension components at the rear because a mystery clunking noise is driving me crazy. Turns out, my rear bumper wasn’t fastened on its bracket properly. Still, I’m okay with having fresh assist links. They were already worn out.
|Odometer reading: 207,000km|
|Resale value: P83,130|
|Oil seals (x2)||360|
|Upper assist link (x2)||3,300|
|Lower assist link (x2)||3,300|
|Shock absorber (rear x2)||3,800|
2014: After a while, timing belt service seems to arrive much sooner than expected.
|Odometer reading: 223,000km|
|Resale value: P78,240|
|Gauge cluster (surplus)||2,800|
|Radiator (OE surplus)||2,000|
|Seatbelts (OE surplus)||1,500|
2015: I don’t to drive Yvonne as much as I used to because of the arrival of the Miata, but that doesn't mean I neglect my first love. If anything, I want to fix her up even more. A good friend introduces me to an online seller dedicated to selling hard-to-find Mitsubishi parts. Right on time, too, because the tachometer and fuel-level indicator on the gauge cluster has failed. I get a gauge cluster with red needles, something I’ve always wanted, and seatbelts from an Evo IV.
|Odometer reading: 229,460km|
|Resale value: P73,350|
|AC cleaning repair (rep. drier, expansion valve)||9,500|
2016: In the interest of saving money, I only replace what I think are the worn-out air-conditioner components. I’m still using the same compressor, which was rebuilt back in 2006. I’m surprised it hasn’t failed yet. The advice of the mechanic to shut it off when I take the engine beyond 2,000rpm is sound.
|Odometer reading: 234,402km|
|Resale value: P68,460|
2017: I can't believe no repairs are required this year.
|Odometer reading: 237,000km|
|Resale value: P63,570|
|Wheel bearing (front x2)||1,500|
|Bearing seals (x4)||1,200|
|Window switch (surplus)||800|
|Rear wheel bearing||1,700|
2018: A rear wheel bearing begins to make noise at speed, so I change bearings at all four corners for my own peace of mind. Surplus shop to the rescue for a fried power window switch and lock actuator.
|Oil changes (237,000km / 5,000km x P2,500) est.||118,000|
|Registration (21years x P4,000) est.||84,000|
|Battery (21 years / 2years x P3,000) est.||31,500|
|Total fixed expenses:||233,500|
|TOTAL COST AT 21 YEARS||555,450|
|(Running total + fixed expenses)|
And there you have it. To keep my car in tip-top shape and on the road for 21 years, I’ve shelled out P555,450. Money well spent? It depends on who you ask. It’s a very personal thing.
I take pride in keeping Yvonne in such good condition through the years. When I park her, I still always lovingly look back as I walk away. After two decades I’m still infatuated. The time, effort, and money spent is so worth it for me. Love knows no bounds, I guess. And did I forget to mention that apart from that one time I burned out the clutch, she has never broken down and left me stranded. If you take care of your ride, it will take care of you.
Thankfully, I never had to open up and rebuild the engine because I always monitor under-hood temperatures and never suffered a catastrophic overheat. And no matter how strapped for cash I was, I never skipped an oil change. I only recently removed the valve cover, and there was no gunk or buildup whatsoever on the camshafts. Driving Yvonne long distances helped in prolonging engine life, too. Blasting up Kennon Road is a great workout I suppose. You really shouldn’t baby your car too much if you want her to last a long a time. Reaching the upper end of the tach every so often is good for a motor, and for your personal well-being, too.
Yvonne’s resale value is less than P70,000 now, so it makes no sense to even part with her. I will only feel sad if we do. She’s still quick, efficient, reliable, and has working air-conditioning. The memories we’ve shared are priceless as well. Driving her makes me smile.
The next brand-new car will be for the wife. Let me keep my old cars. I’m happy with them.