Growing up in the ’80s and 90’s Mercedes were always seen as the luxury car. Built with German Engineering and steeped in style and comfort. If you owned one you had made it! But is the same said for today’s models? Let’s find out!
Mercedes are good, reliable cars, but only if maintained correctly. Maintenance on a Mercedes can be expensive and depreciation of 50%-60% is common for three-year-old models.
In the past, I have owned two Mercedes cars. They were both very nice cars and very memorable compared to other car brands I have owned. In this post, you’ll learn what I liked and didn’t like about Mercedes ownership.
Are Mercedes Reliable?
Mercedes Benz has been making cars for a long time. In fact, they produced their first car almost 100 years ago. Their slogan then as it is today is ‘The Best or Nothing.’
But are they the best and how reliable are they? Mercedes cars are now built all over the world, but it is perceived that the best-engineered Mercedes are built in the factories of Germany. Germans are known for their precision and attention to detail.
They may be well built and the parts used are made of the highest quality but like anything in life, unless you take care of it, it just won’t perform as well as it should and won’t stand the test of time.
The engines that are used in the Mercedes cars are also used in their vans. They are designed to drive and drive, up to 500,000 miles. That’s a lot of miles and a lot of reliability.
Mercedes insist on an oil change every 10,000 miles, and filters changed every 20,000 miles. This is an extra expense but if you’re driving a luxury car you can probably afford the extra servicing. But as I say if you take care of your Mercedes it will go on and on.
It is expected that a well-maintained Mercedes could last up to 25 years or more if you look after it.
Are Mercedes Good to Drive?
So we know they’re reliable if we take good care of them but are they good to drive?
In my experience, I would say yes. My first Mercedes was a 190e that we bought due to the arrival of some very precious cargo in the form of our firstborn. We wanted a car that was good and sturdy, but also comfortable.
And it certainly was that. The seats were like armchairs, that you could just sink into, not just bounce around like some of today’s car seats. There was plenty of space front and back and an all-around good driving experience.
Fast forward about 10 years and we bought a C Class 220 – new. It had all the mod cons and state-of-the-art technology, but it had lost some of its comfort in my opinion. It was still a fabulous car but I thought it was quite low to the ground and found it difficult to get out of. Maybe that was an age thing!
In general, Mercedes is seen to be one of the most comfortable cars to drive. They style themselves on limousine standard and even their most basic model has quality suspension to absorb all the lumps and bumps in a road. On superior models, there is Airmatic Suspension that makes you feel like you are literally driving on air, but the standard works almost as well.
Not only are they comfortable but Mercedes is also one of the safest cars to drive. It has several safety features that have been derived directly from real-life accident reports over the past 50 years.
Airbags: Mercedes have 7 driver airbags as standard in all vehicles. 6 for the passenger side and 3 with an option of 4 in the rear.
Autonomous Emergency Braking: These are sensors that will apply brakes if a pedestrian or a cyclist appears without warning.
Active Bonnet: This is to protect a pedestrian or cyclist further if they mount the bonnet. The hood will open to reduce the impact of pedestrians with the engine.
Lane Assist: If the car appears to move towards the center white lines, a small camera on the windshield will recognize this and give a warning in the steering wheel to alert the driver.
Is a Mercedes Expensive to Maintain?
This is where owning a Mercedes can become a little sticky for some. A Mercedes is a luxury car, no doubt about it, but maintaining that luxury can cost a lot of dollars.
All Mercedes parts are expensive. As I said, they are highly engineered and so everything has a high price tag, from Wiper Blades to Brake Pads.
All post-2010 models should be serviced every 10,000 miles as recommended by Mercedes. They offer two service options. Option A is an oil change and can run to $300 approximately. Option B kicks in after 20,000 miles where all the filters are changed as well as the oil. This is approximately $750 for each service.
These are pretty hefty maintenance costs that are much more frequent than other luxury brands. So that’s just a service plan. We also have to consider other consumables such as tires, brake pads, and drive belts.
Tire wear is down to how much mileage you are doing. Tires can last from 10-30,000 miles. Mercedes recommends that you rotate your tires front to back with each oil change.
Mercedes are heavy cars. This gives you that luxury driving experience but because of this, the brakes are under more wear and tear than a standard car.
As your car ages, it will need belt changes, suspension work, transmission checks.
But this is the same for every car, right? Well, yes, but the difference with a Mercedes is that these problems can occur sooner.
Also, you must bring your Mercedes to an Auto technician who has experience with the brand.
Mercedes can have up to 50 different computers onboard. For example, changing the brake pads relies on a computer to deactivate electronic parking brakes and activate them again after the repair. This content is owned by moc.sotuaytsur. If your auto technician doesn’t have access to the latest diagnostic equipment, even a simple brake job turns into a drama.
Generally speaking, Mercedes are technologically advanced and as such are more complicated, and no surprise, expensive to repair.
What’s Wrong with Mercedes?
All cars have issues especially when they gain some age or miles. But Mercedes seem to have some basic issues sooner than other car brands.
There are four to five glaring problems that you need to watch out for, 1/ if you have your Mercedes for a while or 2/ you are thinking about buying a second-hand Mercedes.
1/ Suspension Problems
Mercedes tend to be hard on suspension components. Control arm link bushings, especially. They are fluid-filled bushing and as the rubber bushing wears it cracks and leaks its fluid. Worn suspension components aren’t that surprising, Mercedes are heavy cars and that usually means lots of suspension work as the miles clock up.
2/ Oil Leaks
All older cars have oil leaks of some kind but Mercedes tend to have leaks in the transmission which due to the specific engineering of the electronic transmission becomes quite the spendy problem.
Mercedes cars seem to rust much quicker than other cars. You often see older cars rusting at the bottom of doors or wheel arches but Mercedes rust is everywhere. Underneath bumpers, behind the number plates, below the seats. It’s not something you expect from a luxury car.
4/ Catalytic Converter
Catalytic Converters are a necessity in modern cars. Mercedes, they are known to give trouble much earlier than other brands. This could be as soon as 60,000 miles. Your car will be misfiring and not performing well at all. This is a very costly repair, it could be as much as $4000.
5/ Ignition Failure
Spark plugs need to be changed more often on Mercedes than other cars. Mercedes recommends every 30-40,000 miles. Failure to keep your spark plugs maintained can lead to Ignition failure. This type of problem usually results in a no start or worse, intermittent no start.
Don’t build them like this anymore!
In the 1990’s Mercedes took the decision to offer a much wider variety of models. Many feel this compromised the quality of the brand. Panels that were previously metal, were now plastic. Irritating issues such as noises in components like the sunroofs and there were numerous electronic failures.
Mercedes have worked hard to earn back the notoriety of the luxury car brand. It is still seen as such but the other brands have all upped their game too, and now with the critical eye of social media, everyone has to bring their A-game.
Here’s a couple of minor day to day issues that many owners are complaining about:
Is this an actual problem? Not in the grand scheme of things. However, if I have just paid out $80k for a luxury car I don’t want to see moisture build-up in the lights. Mercedes have a fix for this, the Auto tech will put a little bag of Silica in the lens for you.
Super or Premium Unleaded Gasoline
Again not a massive problem, but all Mercedes gas models won’t like regular Gasoline. This means an extra cost every time you pump gas. It’s a minor issue I know, but who doesn’t like to get value for money at the pumps.
Don’t lose that Lug Nut Socket. Mercedes thought it would be a good idea to change the shape of their lug nuts to a star. This means if you lose your socket and get a flat tire, a regular socket won’t fit and you will have to call for a Mercedes Mechanic to come to your aid or a tow truck. Nice work Mercedes!
Do Mercedes Hold Their Value?
The answer to this is unfortunately no. But it does depend if you are a buyer or a seller. If you are a buyer, it’s definitely your market. Many Mercedes come to the second-hand market from leasing companies.
This can be good and bad. Good because the price is slashed to half or more of its original retail price but bad as the mileage may be high.
If you’re a seller of a Mercedes then the news is bad. A 3-year-old Mercedes value will have dropped by 50-60%. Your only saving grace may be that when you originally bought your car you went for the up-spec model. Your car will stand out in this very flooded market.
Your car may also be worthless because a new model was released shortly after you bought yours. That model is now beside yours on the second-hand lot and is worth more than yours.
Hindsight is always a great thing but when buying a car try and check ahead to see if there are any new models about to be released. If you can try and hold off buying until then. Your car will still depreciate over the 3-4 years but not as much as the older model, even if there are only a couple of months in the difference.
So are Mercedes good cars? In my experience yes they are. They have a hundred years of technology and engineering behind them. The lifetime of a Mercedes can be up to 25 years or more. They are still seen by most as a great luxury car and if you take care of the maintenance it will reward you with reliability.
Before buying a used Mercedes or any vehicle, always run a VIN check for Mileage fraud, Salvage rebuild, Title washing, and Vin cloning. There are plenty in the business, it only costs a few dollars but could save you thousands. I’ve used VinAudit (links to VinAudit.com) several times and found them reliable and fast.
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John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. He’s been a mechanic for over twenty-five years and has worked for GM, Volvo, Volkswagen, Land Rover, and Jaguar dealerships.
John uses his know-how and experience to write fluff-free articles that help fellow gearheads with all aspects of vehicle ownership, including maintenance, repair, and troubleshooting.