By on January 7, 2010

Feeling blue?

Consumer Reports may have discovered why owners of clean diesel cars might feel a bit suicidal from time to time. They recently took a long-term tester Mercedes GL320 BlueTec clean diesel into the shop to have its urea-based AdBlue exhaust-scrubbing fluid refilled, and the results were… eye opening.

The total bill just for adding AdBlue? A stunning $316.99. We were down to 18% full on the additive at 16,566 miles. It took 7.5 gallons to fill the tank, costing an eye-opening $241.50 for the fluid alone. The labor to add the fluid plus tax accounted for the rest. None of this was covered by the warranty… At the current rate and cost of consumption, just the AdBlue itself (without the labor, which would probably be included as part of the routine service) would cost $1,457.80 for 100,000 miles of driving. That’s a lot of money, knocking about a third off of your fuel savings vs. buying a GL450 V8.

And you thought gas was expensive! From what we’ve been able to dig up, the $32/gallon price is a fairly typical price at Mercedes dealers. Are there any Mercedes or Audi clean diesel drivers in the house who can confirm?

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45 Comments on “The Truth About Clean Diesels: AdBlue Is Freaking Expensive...”


  • avatar
    midelectric

    It may be beneath the dignity of the typical BlueTec driver, but peeing in the tank would be a lot cheaper.  Consult your dealer if you’re concerned this might void your warranty.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Now, there is a difference between urea and urine…

    • 0 avatar
      Jim2273

      I just bought a 1/2 gal bottle of adblue (with the special adapter) from a Massachusetts VW dealer for $8.It’s suited for VW,BMW,Mercedes and Mazda diesels (it has part numbers on it from each of those manufacturers.They also sold a 2.5 gal bottle of adblue without the adapter for $13/I’ve heard that it’s available even cheaper than that (without adapter) at certain outlets.I’ll bet that one can use the 1/2 gal bottle over and over after it’s been emptied by removing the bottom and just pouring fluid in as it’s attached to the car.If you buy the fluid and install it yourself (very easy,I’d guess) it comes to less that $50…not $316.

      • 0 avatar
        Bertie

        Just for interest:
        Mercedes Benz dealers are currently paying the following prices for their Ad Blue (VW, MB, Mazda and BMW product approvals)
        In half gallon bottles they pay $6.82
        In bulk – most dealers use bulk – they pay just over $6 per GALLON! It is a nice little earner for them

      • 0 avatar

        June 22, 2012.

        Wholesale price to truckers in pallet load is about $2.50 a gallon.

        So far, Advanced Auto parts never heard of the stuff.

      • 0 avatar

        I liken this “make a mountain out of a mole hill” mentality to the same folks that just can’t lower themselves to drink TAP Water and insist on Designer Bottled water instead. I agree on buying the stuf yourself and adding it. Are these the same people that run to the dealership when the windshield washer fluid runs out. BTW the AdBlue or DEF as it’s called in the trucking industry is available at your local truck stop pumped from a bulk container @ $2.79 per gallon. For my Volkswagon Passat with a 5 gallon tank the maximum cost would be $14.00 max.

  • avatar
    brettc

    Wow, not cheap. But I think if you’re buying a Bluetec Mercedes, you’ll hopefully be able to afford it. I don’t think there’s any way to drive it without refilling it unless you enjoy driving in limp mode.
    Good thing VW’s 2.0 litre CRD doesn’t require urea – yet. I’m sure the urea requirements will hit VW’s smaller engines eventually, so I’ll keep driving my 2003 Jetta as long as I can.

  • avatar
    Porsche986

    I know the numbers are shocking, but ummm, the owners knew the AdBlue was part of the deal when buying the car.  If you can afford a $70K car, you can afford a few hundred bucks for AdBlue.  Quit complaining is what I say!

  • avatar
    fincar1

    What a ripoff. Urea is cheap, available in 80- or 100-pound sacks as fertilizer or raw material for resins etc. It is about as non-exotic as a chemical can be. Dilute it in water, add a little blue dye, and soak the buyers. You thought razors and blades or printers and color cartridges were bad…sheesh. I’d suspect that it won’t take some competent chemists too long to find out the concentration of the factory-supplied solution and clone it.
    This is another result of people being afraid of chemicals to the extent that it’s hard to get chemistry sets, and hard for chem teachers to get chemicals for lab experiments. It causes more people to be open to scams like this, and less able to call bullshit on stories pushed by the media about chemistry and other scientific topics.

  • avatar
    WEGIV

    I don’t own one, but I’ve just been test-driving the diesel luxury SUVs…
    BMW includes it in their no-charge scheduled maintenance, so it’s not an issue until 4 years or 48k miles. The Audi guy told me that adding the AdBlue is quite expensive in terms of labor for what they’re actually doing (filling a tank), but that it’s quite easy for anyone to do. He also implied that while the manufacturers are specifying their own brand of urea (AdBlue, etc), it’s like oil, any brand that meets the requirements will work. So I’d expect that there should be cheaper alternatives available off of the internet or via the auto parts store at some point if not already.
    Keep in mind that my Audi dealer tried to charge me almost $25 to fill my washer fluid reservoir with the same $3 gallon of blue stuff I can buy at the gas station, so I don’t see why anyone’s surprised that this is expensive if you let the dealer sell it to you and do it for you.

  • avatar
    Tosh

    I give it six months tops for some entrepreneuring off-shore chemical company to mix a suitable replacement and have it on the Pep Boizz shelves for $9.99/gallon.

  • avatar

    This isn’t about an expensive chemical, or even Diesel technology. This is merely another example of St^X^XDealers and manufacturers ripping off the consumer.
    Any competent DIY mechanic can do the same job for pennies on the dollar. Maybe even fractions of pennies on the dollar.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    From what we’ve been able to dig up, the $32/gallon price is a fairly typical price at Mercedes dealers.
     
    Remember, this is Mercedes: a stone in your sunroof would set you back seven grand.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Gee, maybe one should purchase a hybrid with a 12-year payback instead.
     
    Just give me a good gasoline engine.

  • avatar

    From the Consumer Reports Breaking News Desk:
    This just in – It costs a butt-load of money to have a German car serviced at the dealer.

  • avatar
    mcs

    Here’s a better price. There are probably other places to get it as well.

    http://www.worldimpex.com/parts/genuine-part-urea_934647.html

    • 0 avatar
      Disaster

      AdBlue, used by Mercedes, is different than that product.  It includes anti-freeze properties.  Having said that, it is a combination of AdBlue being insanely priced and Mercedes service charging it’s typical insane amounts.  Double insanity.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    …so to sum up…

    We have a $80,000 luxury vehicle whose diesel version a) costs a lot more, b) doesn’t perform as well across the entire performance spectrum as the gas version, c) costs the same to fill up as the gas version, d) gets marginally better mileage (like anyone who has the money to buy one of these really cares), and e) costs $300 to refresh the warp core plasma inductors, or whatever the frak this stuff is called.

    Sign me up!

    And the diesel fanboys wonder why these things haven’t caught on…

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      @FreedMike:  “And the diesel fanboys wonder why these things haven’t caught on…”
       
      It’s worth noting that smaller diesel cars, like Jettas and Golfs, do not use urea injection.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Point taken, but the other facts are germane to the ‘do I buy a diesel or gas Jetta’ equation.

      Unless gas goes up to $4 a gallon again, or the price of diesel to gas begins to resemble what it does in most European countries, diesel ain’t gonna catch on here.

  • avatar
    twotone

    Aren’t there FTC rules regarding this? A car manufacturer can not specify what brands of gas, oil, brake fluid, etc. to use.  Each manufacturer has a specification that products must meet.  What’s the urea spec and what other products meet that spec?

    $317/16,566 = $0.019 per mile cost of urea. Assume diesel costs $3/gallon and the Blutec gets 35 mpg = $0.086 per mile for fuel. The cost of urea increases the per-mile cost by 22%. Much more than I would have expected.
    Twotone

  • avatar
    Bimmer

    Here’s what I found on forum, I guess BMW stealership charges even more:
    ” A stop at our local BMW dealer (not the one who serviced it, as luck would have it) netted one half-gallon bottle of crystal-clear factory exhaust fluid for the sum of $39.99 plus tax.”
    http://forums.mwerks.com/zerothread?id=4519018

    It also shows how to refill tank on 335d.

  • avatar

    I call birdshit!

  • avatar
    dkulmacz

    I think the problem is just that right now, these systems are so rare that not many (or any) non-OEM refill products are available.  I heard an anecdote from an engineer working on a diesel urea system that they had to purchase the chemical in an industrial size container and then mix their own solution, since there was no easy way to get it packaged ready for the vehicle.  I’m sure as these systems become more common, third party products and/or services will appear at lower prices.

    Also, I think the labor needed to refill the system is a bit more than just pouring fluid into a reservoir.  For one, the electronics may need to be reprogrammed so they know that the fluid has been replaced.  And I think some systems might be high-pressure and require a bleed before service, etc.

    Maybe DIY won’t take off for retail owners, but there may be alternatives for service, like quick-change oil places, or maybe Pep Boys, etc.

  • avatar
    Brian P

    No need to reset anything; the containers have level switches/sensors. It really is as simple as pouring it in the tank.
    The solution is simple, if you have one of these vehicles: buy it at Impex (link in an earlier post) for $16 for a 2.5 gallon container and fill it yourself. Total cost $50-ish!
    But, I’m glad VW managed to do “clean diesel” without requiring urea.

  • avatar
    werewolf34

    $200 mercedes service for a $50 bottle of fluid is just a stupid or lazy tax. Can’t say I’m surprised.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Are ALL diesels requiring of this?
    I thoug the Volkswagen Jetta and the newest Audi 3 diesels do not require this refilling?ht

  • avatar
    Bimmer

    In BMW with diesel engines every Oil Service one must drain and replace AdBlue, but you will only get 2.5 galons for free and have to pay for the rest:
     
    “This is from BMW’s fluid chart
    Vehicles are factory-filled with DEF (diesel engine additive), also known as AdBluereg;. DEF is stored in two separate reservoirs within the vehicle. The “active” reservoir from which the DEF is injected into the exhaust system holds approx. 1.6 gallons. It is heated at low exterior temperatures to prevent the DEF from freezing. The second reservoir feeds the active tank via a transfer pump and is large enough to last between scheduled engine oil changes. It is referred to as the “passive” tank, with a capacity of approx 4.5 gallons, and is located in the “spare tire well” of the trunk.

    At every Engine Oil Service, all remaining DEF must be completely drained from both tanks, and then refilled with new DEF. It is not sufficient to “top up” the reservoir.

    The filling location for both tanks is behind an access flap on the surface of the rear bumper’s left side. Remove the plugs by inserting the front face of the screwdriver handle (from the vehicle’s on-board tool kit) into the plug’s recess.
    If the supply of DEF runs low, the instrument cluster warning lamp will indicate the estimated remaining distance which the vehicle may be driven, starting at approx. 1000 more miles. At approx. 200 miles, the warning lamp will illuminate again, with the miles counting down to 0. Once the distance reaches 0 miles (shown by “- – -” with the warning lamp symbol), the car will not start up again until DEF is refilled. This is done so that the vehicle meets federal emissions regulations.
    However, the DEF system does allow one single “emergency” engine start at “0″ miles, provided that you start the engine within 3 minutes of last shutting it off.
    DEF will soon be available at BMW centers (part number, container size and other details to be provided). One pack of DEF will be sent to each BMW center prior to the first vehicle arrival.
    But then at the bottom it says this:
    Warranty will only reimburse the use of 2.5 gallon service bottles (P/N 83 19 0 440 158) when draining and refilling the SCR system.”
     
    I guess you can buy DEF yourself at some truck stops at about $6 per galon.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Don’t forget to add the turn signal fluid and recharge the magnets on the fuel lines.

    About the only thing crazier than this is spending 40K dollars on a electric car that goes 40 miles max and needs 8 hours to recharge while looking like a Chevy, and having a gas engine that doesn’t charge the batteries either.

    Oh wait……

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    According to the Consumer Reports story, they were getting 19 mpg in mixed driving in this super-duper, gee-whiz, hi-tech vehicle using the Magic Liquid Blue Unobtanium Fluid.  To say that’s unimpressive is an understatement — especially considering the cost of the vehicle and all the Mr. Wizardry involved.  I could probably do as well in a loaded ’96 Caprice wagon and it would be as comfortable and more roomy.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Further proof, as if any were needed, that buying a German car is its own punishment.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      LOL.. 421k mi on my MB S-class diesel and climbing, and none of this emissions shit.. Just straight pipe from exhaust headers to muffler to atmosphere.. It even had some hokey trap oxidizer that was subject to recall and the fix was ‘weld in a length of pipe’.

      Gets 25-30mpg overall (comparable gas motor is 16-24) and can hit 600mi on one tank..

      That said, I don’t trust these newfangled diesels, they’re quite high strung and, frankly, much harder to find an indy wrench capable of doing the computer stuff (if they can even get access to the tools!).. Let alone insurance…

  • avatar
    LastResort

    A quick google for the Adblue MSDS pdf  (http://www.adblueonline.co.uk/downloads/msds/air1.pdf) shows that it’s…..drum roll please…..urea and water.

  • avatar

    That’s what I was wondering when they launched the BlueTec cars. Ouch.

  • avatar
    acentre

    If one can afford a luxury car, why does one complain about maintenance costs. If  you cannot afford an expensive vehicle, just purchase a less expensive one. The problem is that we(Americans) purchase vehicles that we cannot afford.
     

  • avatar
    capoflyer

    Folks, get real. The whole article is BS and full of wrong assumptions. I bought 2.5 gallons of AdBlue *today* at my local VW Dealer. Costs: 13.50$. Yes, 13 dollar, 50 cent. My VW Touareq V6 Diesel is the best car I’ve ever owned, and it goes through 4.7 gallons of AdBlue every 6-8K miles. Small price to pay for a clean exhaust, and twice the gas mileage (~28mpg), better acceleration, more towing capacity and double the range than my previous Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo. Wake up America. BMW ships 71% of all cars in Europe with Diesel engines and VW 76%. Read the press reports. Just because you got ripped by your dealer doesn’t mean Diesels are bad. Do you really believe Hybrids with two engines and two energy sources to carry are better?!? Did I mention that the V6 TDI has more torque than a V12 Lamborghini Gallardo? I love to be faster, and cleaner, than most cars out there. The accelaration @ 75mph on the highway stepping on the gas is unreal. You got to drive one to believe it.

  • avatar
    radioflyer

    Before panic ensues, Pilot, Flying J and TA centers will or already carry 1, 2.5 and some carry 5 gallon containers of DEF, the industry name of ad-blue. I am checking today, but it is rumored it costs about $3-6/gallon and will drop to about the same price as diesel when supplies gear up. Because DEF has very strict manufacturing guidelines (it is produced to ISO guidelines) it really doesn’t matter which supplier it is purchased from. I have a V6 TDI and VW says the tank can be topped off. I don’t know what is up with BMW since DEF has a shelf life of 1 year and if you’re driving more than 15,000 miles a year you would be cycling through any ‘old’ DEF. At any rate I am going to use the 2.5 gallon bottles and save the dealer labor and ‘branded’ cost.

  • avatar
    EcoHaulage

    Hi,

    I actually work for a AdBlue company in the UK called EcoAdBlue. I can confirm that the pricing that customer had to pay for a refill of adblue was VERY expensive. We ship world wide in 200L drums and other containers for much cheaper. take a look at our site http://www.ecoadblue.com.

  • avatar
    robmixon

    Look up AdBlue on Google or anywhere and you will see that across Europe AdBlue is available at most gas stations just like diesel fuel from a pump. The US has to change government policies and recognize that the new diesel fuels are actually less polutive than gasoline and get much better mph. The regulations still make it less beneficial for automakers to produce diesel powered passenger vehicles. The cost at the dealer is ridiculous and just an example of them taking advantage of people not thinking it is available elsewhere. Just look around and I’m sure it can be ordered online in containers.

  • avatar
    brbroberts

    last time I was in Europe (Spain and Portugal, last week) AdBlue was .64 Euro per liter and it’s sold from the gas pumps. I’m sure there hasn’t been a huge change in pricing in the past year, so this article needs to be taken with the caveat that you’ll get raped just as bad at the dealer if you have them fill your gas tank. Why anyone would go to the dealer to fill up AdBlue is beyond me…


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