By on November 17, 2017

2008 Mercedes C-Class

Raul writes:

I own a 2016 Kia Sportage with 13,500 miles. For financial reasons I would like to sell it and buy a cheap used car. Coincidentally, a friend of mine is selling a 2008 Mercedes-Benz C300 with 34,000 miles. Would it be an intelligent decision to buy it, or will it be a nightmare? Should I keep my Sportage?

Sajeev answers:

To the Best and Brightest: I hear your screams of “that’s not a cheap used car!” and I can dig it. Because a nine-year-old W204 Mercedes C-Class is cheap to buy, and that could be where the cheap stops. But indulge the notion that it isn’t a maintenance-deferred example — perhaps it has 34,000 well-curated miles.

And perhaps it lacks those pricey-to-restore electronic options (i.e. a Navigation/Harmon Kardon ICE, which died in my mother’s 2006 leased E320 under warranty with less miles).

And maybe the concerns mentioned on the Internet (here and here) are affordable repairs, even without that shadetree mechanic lifestyle.

And maybe anything that goes wrong won’t leave you stranded on the roadside, so who cares if it goes bad!

Frequency of “ands” aside, the W204 isn’t terrifyingly expensive to own, according to Google, possibly besting the cost of making the note on a ’16 Sportage. So perhaps Richard from our last foray into The Adventures of Post-Warranty German Car Ownership deserves the last word:


I really enjoyed the article. I wish I had seen it sooner as by the time it published I had scored a deal on a turbo, had it replaced and moved forward with most of the work at discounted rates provided by my buddy the Mercedes mechanic. The total for the turbo, pcv valve, another valve, and new control arms was $2900. I was feeling pretty good. The car was running great. Then the check engine light came on.

My Mercedes mechanic said it was a lean code he could not resolve after a week of effort. I have become obsessed with this crap and found a YouTube genius with a video on just about everything to do with the Audi/VW 2.0T piece of crap engine – The Humble Mechanic. The guy is a national treasure. I am now convinced the problem is a rear main seal failure ($1,200). This seems to be the “thing at the back of the engine” referenced in my initial e-mail. I probably should have paid more attention to that item.

The Audi specialist I spoke to this morning said this is a common problem and is set to fill the crank case with smoke next week. The Avant refuses to return my love. And my wife is pissed.


[Image: Mercedes]

Send your queries to [email protected]com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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103 Comments on “Piston Slap: What Exactly Is a Cheap Used Car?...”

  • avatar

    Keep the Sportage. Or if you have to go back a few years, go Accord/Camry/Civic/Corolla…I’m not sure I’d want to go back to a *nearly* 10-year old Mercedes to rely on for a DD. Or, more to the point, the specter of the bills required to keep it as a DD would be fairly daunting.

    • 0 avatar

      +1. I’ve got a pal with a Benz; every six months he gets to spend four figures at the stealership to keep it running like new. For financial reasons I recommend you avoid this experience. Camcord FTW.

      • 0 avatar

        Stop taking it to the dealership and take it to a Mercedes mechanic. Around here at least, the hourly rate for a Mercedes indy shop is less than a Subaru indy shop.

        To the topic at hand however, the move from a 2016 Sportage to a W204 makes zero sense.

    • 0 avatar
      Guitar man

      I don’t get it. Neither of these cars should have any problems and neither is particularly cheap or old.

      If you want a cheap car get a Sebring or a Cobalt.

  • avatar

    Trading in a newer Kia for a W204 isn’t *that* bad if you just wanted a Mercedes (although I’d go for the full-hog C350).

    However, trading in a 2016 Kia for a 2008 Mercedes due to “financial reasons” seems like a bad call.

    No, I’m going to advocate Panther Love (just don’t crash it) or Church of 3800 here. If you can’t stomach that, I’d keep the Kia.

  • avatar

    You already have a cheap used car. But if it must go, get the Grand Marquis and stop asking silly questions. You’ll thank me in another life.

    • 0 avatar

      “You already have a cheap used car.”


    • 0 avatar

      ” But if it must go, get the Grand Marquis and stop asking silly questions. You’ll thank me in another life.”

      The Grand Marquis Holy Grail is here:
      Copy & paste

      • 0 avatar

        I’m pretty much immune to Panther Love…but wow!

      • 0 avatar

        Literally just checked to see what it would cost to have that shipped here. Showed my wife as she was heading for work, framed it as “a cheap to own, insure, and operate long distance cruiser…will probably last longer than the years we need such a thing with kids in the house.”

        Her response – “That car is too much a grandma car for my Nana…are you mad? Maybe if if was free”.

        Her Nana, btw, is 94 years old.

        Still, if its still available near Christmas, we’re supposed to fly to visit our families in PA. I’d drive to go look at it….

      • 0 avatar

        Or a P-71 Crown Vic ex cop car, say 2010-11 vintage can be had for under $5k with approx 90,000miles on the odo. Still good for another 200,000 easy.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ll say it again – nobody should have to drive a Panther unless they are wearing a uniform and getting paid. Blech. Fleet spec TCO is not the end-all-and-be-all of automotive ownership. TANSTAAFL.

  • avatar

    That would be a really tough decision, Even a reliable 9 year old mercedes will probably surprise you with high dollar little things that might be harder to plan for than your current, steady Kia payment. The Kia shouldn’t need much more than tires and oil for a number of years. Even a 9 year old Accord or Camry may be getting to the point of needing more frequent maintenance.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      It would be tempting. That Mercedes would feel so damn good compared to the Kia in every mode of interacting with it, you’d feel like the proverbial million bucks. Until you needed to pay for maintenance or repairs. He should phone his local Mercedes dealer and get some quotes on basic things like brake pad changes or spark plugs for some perspective. And then look up what one or two common repair items is for the car and get a quote on those.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Oh Lordy, this looks like another triple-digit comment thread. Should be fun.

    If you need out of the Kia for financial reasons don’t buy a 10-year old Mercedes. Don’t buy a 10-year old luxury marque, period, and don’t buy a VW.

    Or a Nissan with a CVT.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah I suspect while the “I want to save money” card is played, the real reason is simply wanting a Mercedes. If you just want a Mercedes that’s totally fine, a W204 is not the scariest one to own. But don’t justify it with bettering finances.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree with 30 & Gtem, keep your Sportage if financially and/or fashionably reasonable.

        I don’t recall which series of Benz engine (it was definitely from this 2008 era) but they suffered from timing chain stretch and idle + balance shaft gear shearing. The aforementioned is incredibly expensive to fix when the failure occurs because the engine has to be pulled. You will also have damage thanks to pieces of the gear flowing through the oil galleries.

        Now, an LSX swap would be SICK!

        As mentioned above; look for a 2008 Accord,Camry, CRV, Rav4, Civic, Corolla.

    • 0 avatar

      Truth on the Nissan with CVT. My best friend recently found out just how painful that could be. Luckily for him (sort of), somebody crashed into him and destroyed his Maxima, thus ending the dilemma of having to consider a $4000 replacement bill for the CVT. Not a fan.

    • 0 avatar

      I work with a pretty naive dude who thinks that all the cars made by all the manufacturers are good and will last with minimal headaches. Thinks nothing of dropping $3k to replace a turbo on a 20 year old GTI.

      He advised another co-worker that she needn’t be afraid of an 05 Murano with the first-gen CVT. She’s a single mother going through a nasty divorce and just had the engine in her 9 year old Caravan bite the dust with 150k miles. Luckily for her she went to test drive it and found out that the thing was a pile of scrap and not worth the $3k asking price.

  • avatar

    Saying its “not that expensive to own” is a bit of an understatement.

    I know there’s going to be a lot of flogging in this thread, but seriously, the person asking the question has NO BUSINESS buying this mercedes. The act of asking the question SHOWS they are unprepared to own the mercedes!

    I’ve owned Mercedes and a lot of older luxury cars… I think its a great way to own wonderful cars at a bargain price…

    BUT with that being said, they are all silly expensive. My 10 year old BMW cost me over $3k/yr to maintain, and my Mercedes cost me only a few thousand, but only because I did all the work myself even to the point of rebuilding parts myself that were going to cost thousands from mercedes.

    The person asking the question explicitly states that for financial reasons they are selling the 2016 sportage to potentially buy a used mercedes.

    I like others have stated, would fully expect the mercedes to best the note on the sportage, or at best, be fairly level with one another. If the author had asked, “I really want a mercedes, but I bought a kia and would rather have a used mercedes” I’d say “go for it”, but in stead the author said a 2016 kia is too expensive, and therefore they want to buy an older mercedes, therefore making it very reasonable to assume that the cost is an important factor in this decision.

    Given this, there is no reasonable way anyone can recommend the Mercedes. While they do seem cheaper to own and better built than other German makes, if budget is a concern, DON’T buy a luxury german vehicle. Buy a 2012 Hyundai… or a Honda… or even a Mazda.

    There’s no question in my mind the clear answer is “What would possibly make the author think that a 10 year old german luxury car is going to be cheap to own? Its not. If you have budgetary concerns, go buy yourself a budget-friendly used car. Heck did you know you can get a CPO with full warranty Hyundai Sonata in the 9000s? Or buy one out of warranty for 5.

    And if your itching for a luxury german car but can’t really afford one right now, save up for a few years and then buy one as a spare vehicle. You can save a lot of money because every time it breaks, you can research how to fix it and even find the time to fix it yourself… but you’ll never be dependent on it to get you to work. There’s nothing worse than having $3k repairs you need done by tomorrow.

  • avatar

    If the Kia must go, Toyota, Honda or Mazda are generally your best bets for a cheap used car. Even if you use an independent mechanic for the German brands, the part costs will set your pants on fire.

    • 0 avatar

      Toyota and Honda have high resale values, making them poor bets on a used car. An older Fusion, Taurus, or Impala are best bets for a used car.

      • 0 avatar

        Speaking as a Taurus fan, I’d avoid the 2004-2007 due to weak torque converter splines that strip and kill the transaxle. If its already been replaced with an upgraded unit, there is little else that goes wrong, and they’re stupid cheap to fix if it does.

        Personally, I’d get a 2008+ knowing the expensive water pump may become an issue. But, when or if it goes, just remember that you could be spending that amount every few months to keep an old German luxury car going. Other than that, the 3.5L V-6 and the 6AT are very reliable, the cars are comfortable, get good mileage for their size, and very safe.

        Early 6AT-equipped Impalas had some trans issues. I also see many of them in very poor condition in relation to their age and mileage. They seem to attract owners that really put a car through hell.

        I wouldnt touch a 10 year old Korean car if I had to walk instead. Same with Chrysler/Dodge/etc. The Stratus, Caliber, Sebring, Avenger, early LXs and the minivans were all absolutely terrible. The price may be attractive, but they’re not worth the risk. I would (actually, do) trust my 22 year old Taurus over a 10 year old DCX or Korean car.

        For the Fusion/Milan, if its a 2006-2009, avoid the I-4 unless it is a manual trans. The V-6 came with a 6 speed auto which was better. The Mazda FNR5 5AT in the 4 cylinder cars are failure prone. The Aisin 6AT is more reliable. In 2010+ cars, the FNR5 was replaced with a Ford 6AT, which is reliable.

  • avatar


    Fixed it for you.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    So many questions. Especially under the premise the OP is trying to save some cash, which I extrapolate to mean they are in a situation where a lot of cash is not available. Has or will happen to just about all of us at one point or another in our lives; trust fund recipients can keep their BS comments to themselves.

    1. Do you own the 2016 sportage free and clear? If one or more of the following was not present at the purchase of the Kia, the OP is most likely not in an equity position: Cash down (significant as in 4k or more) short term loan (48 months or less). Kia is not known for resale, like just about any other car.

    2. Can you follow Youtube directions and turn a wrench? If *Yes* then perhaps a 10 year old DD is ok for you. If *NO*, cheap lease.

    3. In what thread on this site has the answer ever been ‘oh, you are totally better off with a 10 year old German car, they are known for low cost of ownership and infrequent repairs’?

    I have typed this statement multiple times on various threads like this. If you are poor the answer to you automotive question IS and always WILL BE…CAMRY. Denver CL has 51 Camry listed for sale newer than 2002 + <100k miles + <$10k ask price. I get that the mileage piece can be skewed.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    We actually require more information in order to make informed suggestions.
    1) Will it be their only vehicle?
    2) How much driving does he do daily/weekly?
    3) Will he perform any basic maintenance himself or rely 100% on a mechanic?
    4) How much does he owe on the Kia?
    5) Does he live in the snowbelt? Or in a rural or urban environment?
    6) What is the difference between what he can get for the Sportage and what he will pay for the Benz?

    All of these should be factored in.

    For instance does he own the Kia outright and is selling it so that he can get his hands on some immediate cash? If so, then why not lease an inexpensive vehicle with zero down and maximize the amount of cash he gets ‘in hand’?

    • 0 avatar

      “We actually require more information in order to make informed suggestions.”

      No we don’t.

      The question is, should he dump the year old Kia with its warranty and known car payments and pretty much zero problems now and down the road, and switch over to a 10 year old Benz?

      We don’t need ANY more information to “make an informed suggestion” to that situation.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        What if he requires a lump sum of money and has no other source than the equity in his Kia?

        You are only guessing if you don’t have all the required information.

        For example maybe he can get the Merc for less than his equity in the Kia and the difference equals an an amount that he needs for an urgent reason.

        • 0 avatar

          There is zero sense in taking the lump sum and exchanging the Kia for a 10 year old Benz. He would be burning his money.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            @Jalop; that is a pure assumption. Do you know how much he is going to pay for the Merc? Do you know how much equity he has in the Kia? Do you know what the financial reasons are for changing vehicles?

            Making decisions without facts or conducting the required research is a recipe for disaster.

        • 0 avatar
          T Miller

          “You are only guessing if you don’t have all the required information”.

          This guy is asking for financial advice. On what planet could he count on an older Mercedes that would have an overall cost of ownership that was less than, say, a 10 year old Accord, or Civic, or Camry, or Corolla, or Prius, or Avalon, or an Optima or Sonata, or even a Malibu or Impala or Fusion?

          Owning the Kia free and clear or still owing $30,000 on it would have no bearing whatsoever on the fiscal advisability of acquiring the Mercedes instead of any of the cars listed above – or any of about 50 other models that I didn’t mention.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed, we need more info here. Even if this Kia was bought for cash, it’s depreciated like crazy, and it probably wasn’t all that expensive to begin with. How far ahead is this guy going to come out by selling a one-year-old Kia that’s depreciated all to hell, and then buying a “cheap” used car? A few grand, maybe.

      And if there’s a note on the Kia, good luck seeing any equity on it.

      Not being judgmental – I’d just like more info.

    • 0 avatar
      T Miller

      “We actually require more information in order to make informed suggestions.”

      Are you joking? If you were a financial planner, you wouldn’t be able to give this guy sound financial advice without knowing more?

      No, we were given more than enough information. There is no budget-minded consumer on the planet who should even think about giving up a two year old Kia for a 10 year old Mercedes anything – if, as in financial considerations are the primary motivation.

      This is especially so, if the consumer is so unfamiliar with Mercedes that he has no idea as to their reputation for requiring costly maintenance.

      Going from a newer Kia to an older Mercedes makes zero financial sense regardless of the climate, the commute, the financing terms for the Kia, or the condition of the Kia.

      In general, the cheapest car you can operate is probably the one you already have, but in no case will the cheapest replacement ever be a ten year old Mercedes.

  • avatar

    That is a find looking Mercedes sedan. I would use the adjectives classy and handsome as starting points to describe it. With 34K miles, it should barely be broken in. However, I would not buy it at gunpoint for all the reasons mentioned above. In no imaginable way will it be a cheap set of wheels. A Buick LeSabre, Lucerne, or Century with 3800 engine is the cheapest and most reliable used vehicle you can buy; if you find one with less than 70K miles you can drive nearly for free for several years or about 80K additional miles, whichever comes first. Thank me later.

  • avatar

    Absolutely not.

    I am the guy that would buy that Mercedes. Though in honesty, I’d also buy the post-refresh one, with the bigger engine. Also sport package at least apperance-wise was almost a must on those, to avoid those regular dorky steering wheels.

    The point is, older, loaded, entry level Merc/BMW/Audi is what I do, because you buy them cheap but you pay to play. This fits my financial lifestyle very well, and I get to drive stuff I’ve had a long time to think about, and really like.

    For financial reasons?!? No. There is one scenario in which you might save money. There are 50 scenarios you will get burned. Burned because you aren’t prepared, and/or don’t know what you’re doing.

    Finally, you never ever buy these cars without access to a reliable mechanic. It’s that simple.

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      I appreciate your honesty. At least you clearly understand and understand the financial risk associated with buying and owning a 9 year old German car.

      When you can afford the downside, the upside is probably a lot of fun.

      • 0 avatar

        87 Morgan, I’ve actually done okay. So far. My rules are simple, but unbreakable. The first is good research about what you are getting. The second, the mechanics. I really like guys who work on German cars. They’re usually interesting people, with interesting pasts. Father and son business here, former enthusiasts who race there, guy with a prison past who’s turned a corner… it’s really gotten me out of my professional world into meeting some pretty cool people. Oh, and my colleagues are perennially jealous of what I drive. If I had a dollar everytime a colleague told me “I don’t even know why I got this” behind their wives’ back :)

    • 0 avatar

      Depreciation is FAR and away the biggest cost of vehicle ownership for anything that wasn’t bought at the end of its life anyway. Repairs are rounding error by comparison.

      That said, these Internet stories of “my German whatever cost me $3-5K/yr to own” baffle me. I have owned over the past 30 years the following:

      Volvo x13
      Saab x7
      BMW x6
      Fiat x1 (but bought new so doesn’t really count)
      VW x7
      Alfa Romeo x2
      Peugeot x6
      Mercedes x2
      Porsche x1

      And most waaaaay older and with waaaaay more miles on them than this Mercedes. I think the only one that would have cost me $3K in a year was the Porsche – but I sold it before I spent the money. Otherwise a grand or so upfront to get the car up to spec, then routine servicing for years. My most recent being the southern Mom-mobile. 2002 Saab 9-5 Aero wagon bought from a friend in the Saab Club with 166K on it. I have done brakes ($300), cat-back exhaust ($500 – and I paid someone to put it on), and motor mounts, some suspension bits and a battery and fluid service ($400). Doesn’t really need anything else. So $1200 or so, maybe 3-4hrs of my time, and I have a pretty nice car for $3500. Comfortable, fast, attractive to look at, and will carry home 1/2 of IKEA in a trip. Mom will use it while she is in FL, I use it as a truck and an airport hack the rest of the year. Sure, it could blow up tomorrow, but you lose $3500+ on a Kia putting the plates on it.

      So ultimately, I think one or more of of the following apply:

      a.) People suck at picking out used cars to buy (do your research and get a PPI)
      2.) People find really expensive mechanics (no car of mine out of warranty will ever darken a dealership door)
      III.) Some people are just hard on the equipment and can break anything (my idiot kid brother just killed a 1-ton GMC truck…)

      • 0 avatar

        4. The supply of decent used cars is not high.
        5. Post 2010 used cars have a host of new technologies which break vs your MY02 Saab.
        6. The ability for proles to float $5K cash has rapidly diminished post fake recovery 1 (dot com/911) and fake recovery 2 (2008).

        I saw a MY94 GMC K truck/200K+ for $2K on CL. Ninety fraking four in this climate. $2K. But Mission Akcomplished/Hope and Chains/Make Amerika Great Again.

        • 0 avatar

          Hey, I found a 1994 Yukon 2 door 4×4 with 233k on it for $1900. If I had it, I’d offer him $1500 but would settle somewhere in between. Its not perfect, but I’d love it. However, I’m the guy who also loves his old Taurus with almost 240k on it, so…

          Anyway, not without their issues, but were pretty solid trucks for their day that continue to hold their value fairly well.

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    I’ll jump on this thread because my take varies a little. OP is probably looking at this particular Merc because he’s buying the owner. That can be compelling, but get a pre-purchase inspection from someone unaffiliated with the seller and see what it you learn. Even if that works out great, consider the following:
    – The C300 is a dog that still struggles to crack 20 mpg in town on premium. I remember the TV ads at the time stated “25 mpg highway”. Even then that was pretty bad.

    – If you care about the electronic gizmos, it doesn’t get much more disappointing than a 2000’s Mercedes, even vs the Kia

    – Used Lexus ESs and Acura TLs will be cheaper to run, and despite their FWD will still offer an improvement in handling and nicer interiors vs the Kia

    – If you really want a German car after you’ve satisfied/ignored the accountant in your brain, the faster non-AMG or M models shouldn’t cost you more than the extra gas but might make you smile more.

    • 0 avatar

      Haha, I remember that commercial of the old guy picking up the drop of gas and put it back in the tank. 25 exhilarating mpg. The ad guy probably didn’t realize they just portray an image of “you better be stingy with this low of an mpg”.

  • avatar

    I know a guy that has an older one. He got it in place of cash for a project and he really loves is. He also owns a high end automotive restoration shop.

  • avatar

    I own two Mercedes’, a rare 1997 E420 (inherited from a family member) and a 1998 E300D Turbodiesel Wagon (bought new), both are W210s and both are high mileage and both get driven a lot. Both vehicles work just fine and dandy, and have overall been very reliable. I’ve had no electrical issues and critical component failures. Minor issues can easily be fixed with little money if you do it properly or know a qualified mechanic who can work on these cars. The W210 does not have the best reputation, but mine have been enjoyable and they offer me intangible features which I miss in newer cars, and this is why I am holding on to them.

    The clueless internet car guys act as if critical components constantly fail on these cars – that is simply not true. Things will fail, however, if you first of all ignore servicing schedules and/or bring these cars to your local mechanic who may not be qualified to work on them. The result is that your mechanic may do more damage and solidify the myths that these cars are money pits and unreliable.

    I’ve done no preventative maintenance on my W210s even though it is advisable to do so, particularly with the E300D Turbodiesel which can develop head gasket issues over time (especially if owners will regularly take short trips in them). With over 209,000+ miles, mine is still running strong (in fact I feel it has gotten smoother and quieter).

    Prior to the E300D Turbodiesel I drove a ‘91 Lexus ES250 in which the automatic transmission completely failed twice and the power steering pump decided to quit during a trip through rural Louisiana. This happened before I even hit 70k.

    I have zero experience with the W204, but my main advice to anyone looking into buying these cars is to watch a buyers guide video on known issues, get a well-maintained model and get hold of a capable mechanic who is qualified to work on these high-tech cars. The last point is an issue which I feel is often neglected, since people mistakenly believe that any car mechanic can work on any car without doing anything wrong.

    Lastly, there is a great source for the DIY Mercedes crowd on Youtube. Look up Mercedes Source / Kent Bergsma. This guy known all the pros and cons of older and newer Mercedes cars and provides expert tips on how to effectively and reliably maintain them without spending too much money. Kent’s brilliant and thorough advice has helped me on two occasions.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, but W210s prior to the 2000 refresh are pretty much the last of the cars that built the reputation Mercedes still trades on. This C300 is not the same quality of vehicle you have.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Clueless internet car guys like arach and Nick 515 above who have owned multiple late model German luxury cars and really like them but give dire warnings about maintenance costs?

      The OP admittedly has provided little additional info about his interests and budget, but I didn’t see anything suggesting he wanted to enter an intimate relationship with the car that involves tracking down indy mechanics and becoming a DIY pro in order to make the costs manageable. When I read between the lines of Kia CUV ownership I see “I want reliability and function at an effective price”.

      • 0 avatar

        30-mile, you do have a point, I admit. what i was trying to say is, you should not “chance upon” older German car ownership casually… because it’s likely to not end well. The general American public does not have the diligence to deal with them. My brother in law wanted my BMW… I did not sell it to him. He’s a Honda man, it’s different. I am happy, but if and when stuff hits the fan, I have the means – money and time – to fix it. Most people don’t. I love the cars, and I know they’re higher quality in other ways. But you can’t deny that advising someone with Camry-type car ownership habits to by a German car remains, in my humble opinion, disingenuous.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          I think you are doing it exactly right. You understand the risks, you’ve budgeted properly to deal with it, and have researched the vehicle and how to keep it maintained effectively. It is an intelligent and unique approach. I’m a bit jealous, I’d love my DD to be a 335i or E500 or quad-headlight Jag XJ and to know the vehicle and independent mechanics as well as you do. It’s a more complete experience. I just don’t have the time or risk tolerance at this point.

          • 0 avatar

            Own an E60 M5 and knew I’d found the indy to swap my rod bearings (do it before they go and take crankshaft with them) because of the indy’s perfect cherry red 850CSi daily driver.

            Such a critter can’t be bought, it can only be had through constant and competent work – on an S-series motor no less. And the guy’s name was Hans, as kind of a bonus.

            And stay away from M5’s unless a few thousand is not needed at some random moment and you have a spare car or two. Otherwise, especially if you like actually messing around with cars, M5’s are funner than a barrel of Miatas.

          • 0 avatar

            30-mile, I cannot speak to the Jag, but you need to get on with your 335i. You sound like the right person for it. If you can swing it at all.

    • 0 avatar
      T Miller


      How many of those vehicles did you own because you couldn’t afford a Kia?

  • avatar

    I’d want to know more about the “financial reasons” one would sell a one-year-old Kia…assuming it was financed, what chance in hell does he have of not being upside down on it?

    Just wondering.

    If it was purchased for cash, I’d keep it – it’s paid for, and if you sell a one year old Kia, you’re going to take an epic bath on it.

    If it was financed, I have no idea how he gets out of this ahead.

    • 0 avatar

      @FreedMike – exactly my thoughts.

      What’s the current monthly “note” on the Sportage? Is he better off just refinancing the Kia? Who is the lending institution?

      My credit union for example will let one pay an auto loan monthly, bi-monthly, or weekly if you want it to match your paydays.

  • avatar

    I dunno. Any old car has the potential to cost money to run/maintain. We have two W210s in our family (my ’01 E320 Wagon, dad’s ’98 E300 TD). The TD has been amazing, I don’t think he’s spending even 1k/yr on it. 195k miles.
    I’m spending 1-1.5k/yr on the wagon, it’s got 140k on it, and has had two water damage incidents to boot. That said, I’m ignoring the body rust on the wagon, too old to waste money saving that. And W210s aren’t exactly the pinnacle of the MB lineup. But they pre-date heavy complicated electronics.

    Anyway, not promoting the idea of buying a 10 yr old MB to save money, but it seems the “thousands a year” is high end estimate, not typical. As always, YMMV.

  • avatar

    Sounds like you’re too broke to afford a used car, and too vain to drive a new Sportage.

  • avatar

    I’d say there was a substantial jump in complexity between the W210 era Mercs and the W203/211/204 and the like. At least according to my Mercedes loving relative in rural Siberia. He had a 500k-km W210 E320 that he was able to keep going just fine even in those conditions, but he tried a W211 and it was just jumping the shark in terms of a shade-tree guy owning it. There is an ever increasing number of black box modules on all cars, but especially Germans just in terms of sheer numbers. The W210 may have been one of the last fairly simple and DIY-er friendly ones.

  • avatar

    Two things….

    1. We know that reliable Japanese brands are expensive in the used market. Get a well cared for Honda or Toyota with 100,000 miles and you will have a good used car for little money. The 100,000 mile mark takes huge hunks of change off the price tag.

    2. Get an American upscale vehicle, like a Buick Regal or Verano, which depreciates way more than Japanese or German brands and repairs are way more reasonable.

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      I don’t think the Japanese brands are that out of line used. They depreciate like the rest. Almost 3 years ago I paid $7500 for a 77k 07′ Accord Coupe 4 cyl 5 sp. Great little car. Took it too 100k and sold it; well traded for another Honda off of CL.

      Manual transmission Japanese used cars can be purchased affordably in my experience. Your results could very though.

  • avatar

    +1 for all the constructive comments.

    -1 for the constructive comments. I’ve got my popcorn and reading level-headed reasoning gets boring.

  • avatar
    Spanish Inquisition

    A lot of used German fears here in the b&b. It’s not unwarranted of course, but just as much comes from negligent previous owners and people afraid of tearing apart a German car.

    Spoiler: Mercedes are probably the most simple and conventional of the German brands to work on. These 2008-2010 models are probably the most uninspired interior designs of the era in this segment though. Everything else is vaguely reliable and robust. Usually. The ride is comfortable but not too soft for a curvy road. Noise is controlled well. The base radio is bollocks. Great daily drivers, but not faster than a 328, or as comfy as a ES350. You don’t look at these cars to do either of those jobs.

    The electronic steering lock crapped out on mine. The motor burns out, leaving you stranded. Luckily they give plenty of audible warning, but you’ll be out $1000 at the dealer. Or $30 from ebay and some wrestling under the dash. MAF is said to get faulty, but I hear it’s a throttle plate motor issue. You have to clean excess carbon from inside the case. Camshaft sensor is under recall. Balance shaft issue is sorted in this generation. Watch for intake manifold actuator failure, that’s $300 on Pelican Parts. Belt drive will squeak; some people have luck replacing idler pulleys or belt tensioner, mine had a leaking tensioner damper strut dirtying the belt. I’ll be looking to replace the clutch in another 50000, not looking forward to the price on that (mostly parts, due to dual mass flywheel).

    The less you get on your car, the less there will be to break. But then you’re driving a stripper model Benz, which is only surpassed in shoddiness by today’s CLA. Get a set of torx/e-torx sockets, some trim tools, and a copy of WIS off ebay. Worth every penny. I can’t say this is the best car for everything, but it does most things just right. 60000 km later (106000 total) I’m still happy. The only major repair was waiting for that steering lock motor on ebay. Everything else was just oil, filters, tires, brakes.

    No comment on the 7AT. I don’t have one and don’t concern myself with the foibles of the 2 pedal pleb (who by all rights is a faster car).

  • avatar

    I’m with the others, we need more info. Regardless of where the OP is with equity, trading “down “is never a good plan. “Trading” translates to selling wholesale, and buying retail.

    I would advice to find a way to keep the Kia..If you can’t make that work, try to sell it privately. At that point you’ve solved the financial woes…Even if you need to eat a rental for a week while you shop, its cheaper than the bath you will take at a dealer.

    As far as the Merc goes ? I’m not informed enough to comment..Were I in your position, I would look for a W 3800 Buick.

  • avatar

    So you want to ditch a Kia that likely has a full warranty for an old Mercedes that doesn’t have a warranty?

    Are you insane? Unless you have money to pay an independent mechanic, or lots of time and have a garage full of tools and are willing to buy some of those fun German “special tools”, you should probably skip the used Mercedes…

  • avatar

    Sorry, but the only time “Mercedes” belongs in a sentence with “For financial reasons” is when it’s preceded by “I’m getting rid of my.”

  • avatar

    I think Jack had an article some time back on the kind of privilege it takes to keep a “cheap” used car running. I can speak from experience that keeping an E46 BMW going can cost $2k+ a year, and that’s mostly in parts when you do the work yourself (gotta love BMW’s cheap plastic cooling system parts and glass trannys). So if you include $2-3k/year for maintenance, that car you’re driving suddenly looks a whole lot less expensive.

    I’ve told my kids to buy a car that’s less than three years old, with a good reputation, and maintain the heck out of it, if they want to spend the least on a car. They point out that I’ve owned a lot of German cars, and I point out that I walked into those situations with my eyes open, and budget prepared.

  • avatar

    I purchased my 2009 (July 2008 build) C300 new. It’s been dealer maintained (other than easy stuff like spark plugs and air filters done by me) and I’ve followed the factory maintenance schedule. Now at 105K miles I’m averaging $2-3K in annual maintenance and repair costs…mostly this has been maintenance, including tires; the annual spend was at most half this in the early part of its life…this can’t be much worse than annual depreciation on a Kia.

    The car still drives like new and other than antiquated infotainment I’m not missing anything I care about.

    I drove a C350 prior to buying this and the approx. 265hp vs. 227hp didn’t feel much different.

    The W204 is generally solid from my research and experience, I’ve been stranded once in over 9 years, by the Electronic Steering Lock failing…this is a common problem that usually happens around 70-80K mi ($1,200). I recently had the AC expansion valve replaced ($1,200)…those two items are it for major faults. A few little things have cropped up like a failing headlight and seatbelt switch, easy to replace with not much internet research / youtube videos. None of this causes me grief in a car nearly a decade old.

    For the question at hand, more would have to be known of the particulars. I’d rather be driving my older C300 vs. a new Kia. Should I have a breakdown, the liftetime roadside assistance (if you spend a pretty low $ amount at a Mercedes dealer annually), loan cars and nice facilities are worth the cost of dealer maintenance to me.

    If you decide to get it just get it checked out first.

  • avatar

    I concur with #2. No data, but anecdotally it seems that high trim midrange used cars don’t command a price premium over the lower trims that is any where near proportional to the price spread when they were new. But for a lot of people it is all about the badge.

  • avatar
    George B

    Raul, be prepared to use lots of profanity if you buy the Mercedes. German engineers find creative ways to make repairs more difficult than you would expect, so I wouldn’t recommend buying a well used one as a daily driver. If you really want to own a Mercedes, like doing DIY repairs, and can afford both the Mercedes and another car, I strongly recommend the Mercedes-Benz Forum to help with troubleshooting.

    • 0 avatar
      Spanish Inquisition

      I’d have to ask, what repairs do you exactly think are so difficult you couldn’t do it yourself? Or furthermore, which ones difficult enough you wouldnt attempt yourself, even with tools and instructions?

      The Mercedes are rather simple cars when you take a closer look. Oh except for that whole twin spark mess older cars had.

      • 0 avatar

        Just a transmission fluid change looks like a real pain in the rear. To be fair this is a full change with a filter and not just a drain and fill. And perhaps the DIYer doing this is particularly OCD. Still. Stretch to yield bolts on a freaking oil pan? Give me a break.

        • 0 avatar

          The reason they are torque to yield is because they are aluminum. The transmission housing is magnesium, and cannot have steel bolts going into it because of galvanic corrosion.

  • avatar

    The 204 has proven to be highly reliable. This model year has the M272 so it doesn’t have direct injection for you to worry about carbon build up and it’s parts are cheaper. There are a few things to keep an eye on: the taillights have had 2 recalls for over voltage on the ground, if the belt starts to squeak it’s time for a new tensioner, the steering lock is the Achilles heel, if that goes you’ll get a no crank no start

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I just sold our 08 ML350 with the same 3.5/7spd as the C class above to a friend , it had 100k.Other than a weird brake light bulb short remedied with sandpaper (thank you YouTube), there were no electrical issues. I was worried about the Infotainment /nav, but it never went out and was working fine as all other electrics were.There are refurbished units on Ebay under 500.00 iirc when I was researching the model.
    Tires/brake services are more frequent in the ML series, so that was majority of outlay.
    As with any used car especially German. It’s about fluids, fluids,fluids.

    Diff and axel at least every 60k, tranny for the 7spd should be every 40k.Coolant 100k, plugs 100k.
    I only do simple maintenance at this point in my life but there are several German specialists in KC area. It’s true that there are more independent mechanics available for German marks, likely because they’re stylish and pleasurable to drive and keep on the road. Are there any Kia indy mechanics?

    • 0 avatar

      Not to be flippant, but the presence of independent marque specialist mechanics isn’t a testament to the reliability and build quality of the marque, but quite the opposite.

      When there are enough cars of a particular make to become the bread and butter of a small business, that isn’t an endorsement of the engineering and build quality of that marque. It says to me that problems are so common that post-warranty work is inevitable, and even with a relatively small piece of the pie in terms of market presence, an independent mechanic can survive and even thrive by specializing in just Mercs. Or just VW/Audis. Or just BMWs.

      Anecdotes aren’t statistics, so I’m sure there are many very happy German car owners with no negative experiences. My BMW ownership soured me for life on that brand. I owned one, (E46, supposedly one of the good ones) but one was too many.

      • 0 avatar

        Give me a break. There is even a Lexus Indie in my area. And Honda, Toyota, and Subaru (multiple). If there are enough of a brand, there will be an independent shop specializing in them.

      • 0 avatar

        It has more to do with dealers not sufficiently paying their techs. Most independent shops pay their techs better. I did the math a while ago. If I opened a small shop and kept overhead low, I would need about 60% of the work I was averaging to break even if my shop rate was $70 per hour. The dealer I was working at was charging $120 at the time mind you.

  • avatar

    This is s problem?
    Anyone who knows anything …at all… about EEC systems…
    knows damn well what a lean burn code is.
    This is a “car guy” site…???…
    JFC already.
    Oh dear “my mechanic” has never seen this before.
    He has to do a smoke test. He’s such a good guy. Mi trust him.
    JFC already.
    So much for the modern car guy.
    Look…. a lean burn code is always either a tiny vacuum leak…
    A clogged fuel filter. Duhhhhhhhhbbb
    Most likely a clogged fuel filter.
    Wake up people. Learn a little bit about the cars you ma
    are driving. And how the computer controlled
    engine systems work.
    PS…. …. excuse me for being rude. But this is just
    too stupid for words. Also… excuse me for not correcting
    all the typos

    • 0 avatar

      I am also trying to wrap my head around how a rear main seal leak could cause any code. The symptom of that should be nothing more than a puddle of oil.

      I’m thinking he must mean some other seal back there, on the intake system.

    • 0 avatar

      Dear Car Guy: Here is a link to a Volkswagen mechanic addressing why the 2.0 T throws lean codes (as well as misfire codes) when the main seal leaks. It operates as a vacuum leak through the crank case.

      And remember, Knowledge is Good.

      • 0 avatar

        Crazy stuff. I would think that any rear main seal that could allow significant air to pass would be leaking such a massive amount of oil that the air leak would be irrelevant. Seems like there must be some unnecessary complexity involved for the system to be so sensitive.

        For such an important component, that seal looks almost unbelievably cheap.

    • 0 avatar

      Lean fuel codes also can be caused by a failing fuel pressure regulator(s) & a failing fuel pump(s). Lower fuel pressure results in both instances. Rare is the pressure regulator that fails at maximum pressure, that would show as a rich condition. I have never heard of a fuel pump failure causing a full rich condition. 0 psi is more likely.

  • avatar

    theres nothing more expensive than a cheap german luxury car. those things eat tires and premium fuel. insurance is going to be higher as well.

  • avatar

    does the calculus for used German cars change if you are looking at a 2-3 year old model covered by a CPO warranty? Think 528i, A6 2.0, MB e350.

  • avatar

    Get the best 2nd gen Lexus GS you can find for $5,000, these cars are Camry reliable, incredibly well made and bulletproof for tons of miles.

  • avatar

    Even good M-B indy shops are $100/hr+ around here, albeit less than dealer prices.

    I’d run away from that M-B as fast as I could.

  • avatar

    I’m not convinced financially wise it is a better idea…

  • avatar

    Having owned 6-year old 740 and 540 each for 6 years lower mileage. My experience was that regularly like clockwork, every 6 months or so I got one major issue followed shortly by another one. So 2 issues every 6 months, the repair cost would average about $1K (going from a few hundred to 2K per repair) but that involved buying my own parts on-line and bringing them to my mechanic.

    The 540 was first year of production and, the 740i was last year and I didn’t see much of a difference in terms or reliability though 740 was was supposed to be much better in theory.

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