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1996 Mercedes-Benz G320

A Used Mercedes G-Wagon Can Be Surprisingly Affordable

Normally, a Mercedes G-Wagon (aka G-Class) isn’t exactly a bargain. The SUV retains its value surprisingly well for a luxury off-roader, and even old models can sometimes sell for six figures. Usually, the only way to get a G-Wagen on the cheap is to get one from the military. However, it is still possible to …

Normally, a Mercedes G-Wagon (aka G-Class) isn’t exactly a bargain. The SUV retains its value surprisingly well for a luxury off-roader, and even old models can sometimes sell for six figures. Usually, the only way to get a G-Wagen on the cheap is to get one from the military. However, it is still possible to get a used Mercedes G-Wagon at a reasonable price.

What are the most affordable used G Wagons?

Used SUVs have been getting cheaper, with some coming in at under $30,000 or even $20,000. However, iSeeCars reports that the best lightly-used luxury SUV bargain is Lincoln’s Navigator L, which retails on average for $37,905. And while that may seem too low for a used G Wagon—it retails new for close to $150,000Autotrader reports it’s very possible to find examples at that price. TFLtruck reported that some G-Wagons sell for less than used Honda Accords.

To be fair, affordable used G-Wagons are going to be older models. The cheapest G-Wagon for sale on Bring a Trailer as of this writing is a 1991 230GE, offered at $5,000. While it is refurbished, it’s also traveled roughly 157,000 miles, and its engine is carbureted. Or, if luxury isn’t really your interest, pre-1990 update G-Wagons can be bought for as little as $3,500.

However, newer, more daily-drivable ones can still be found within our $37,900 budget. Bring a Trailer is also selling a 1996 model, with a larger fuel-injected engine and 89,000 miles on the clock, that was imported by G-Wagon expert Europa. As of this writing, the price is $17,750. And a search on Autotrader reveals plenty of mid-2000s G-Wagons for sale that don’t blow our budget.

Is a used G Wagon as good as a new one?

1996 Mercedes-Benz G320
1996 Mercedes-Benz G320 | Bring a Trailer

Part of the reason why G-Wagons depreciate less than some other luxury SUVs is because Mercedes didn’t change its design that much. Since its public debut in 1979, Mercedes has only significantly refreshed it twice: once in 1990, and again in 2018. What that means is, outside of a few small details, a used G-Wagon is going to perform much like a new one.

1996 Mercedes-Benz G320 interior
1996 Mercedes-Benz G320 interior | Bring a Trailer

All G-Wagons came with four-wheel drive and 3 locking differentials. They’re all body-on-frame SUVs, with underbody protection for the trail. And, if you get a post-1990 model, you can get a leather interior, A/C, and even factory heated seats. Just like with the Toyota 4Runner, a used G-Wagon is just as capable off-road and on-road as a new one.

2020 Mercedes G-Class
2020 Mercedes G-Class | Mercedes

New G-Wagons do have old ones beat on power. The new base G-Wagon engine is a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8, making 416 hp and 450 lb-ft. New models also have Mercedes’ 8-speed automatic, while older models usually came with 5- or even 4-speeds But, while older G-Wagons’ V8s weren’t nearly as powerful, imported models do offer a range of diesel engines. These are arguably even more durable than the gasoline engines, and they also get better fuel economy.

Isn’t reliability and maintenance an issue?

1991 Mercedes-Benz 230GE
1991 Mercedes-Benz 230GE | Bring a Trailer

True, luxury vehicles often require expensive maintenance. However, although there isn’t a lot of official reports on the subject, the G-Class appears to be a fairly reliable SUV. CarComplaints doesn’t have any records of notorious old G-Wagon issues. In addition, one Expedition Portal forum user commented that diesel G-Wagon repairs aren’t any more expensive than repairs on other Mercedes diesels from the same period.

1996 Mercedes-Benz G320 engine
1996 Mercedes-Benz G320 engine | Bring a Trailer

Maintenance itself isn’t strikingly different than other off-road trucks or SUVs. PistonHeads recommends changing the oil at least every 6000 miles and changing the differential fluid roughly every 30,000 miles. Used G-Wagons use a timing chain, not a belt, which does last longer. That shouldn’t be a worry, BenzWorld forum users claim until you start hitting the 200,000-mile mark.

If a G-Wagon does have issues, most will likely come from simple age. Underbodies rust, plastics and wiring start to degrade, rubber gaskets crumble, and so on. Luckily, parts aren’t terribly difficult to come by nowadays, thanks to the Internet and owner forums. And if you own an early diesel G-Wagon, it shares many parts with other Mercedes diesels.

That being said, there are some non-age-related issues that can be a problem. PistonHeads reports that, in addition to gasket failures in old engines, G-Wagons’ driveshafts have been known to fail. Pre-2004 models can also drain their batteries quickly, with some electrical components like spark plugs and the transfer case module developing issues. And brake vacuum pumps can sometimes fail after the 100,000-mile mark.

Which model years are recommended?

1996 Mercedes-Benz G320 underbody
1996 Mercedes-Benz G320 underbody | Bring a Trailer

As with any older used car, make sure to inspect the G-Wagon before considering it. Check especially for rust on the frame and underbody. Inquire about the SUV’s service history, if it has one. And if possible, take the SUV to a qualified mechanic to have it inspected.

If you’re after a utilitarian, hard-core off-roader, pre-1990 G-Wagons are going to be the better choice. Not only are they just as capable, they’re mostly mechanical, with fewer electronics that can fail. However, they won’t be as safe as a newer one, especially one that was imported by either Europa or Mercedes-Benz. In addition, PistonHeads reports that pre-1990 models are more prone to rust.

PistonHeads reports that 1996-2002 G-Wagons have the most robust transmission. Sensors in the 7-speed introduced in 2003 can sometimes break, causing shifting issues. BenzWorld forum users also recommend 2002 and older G-Wagons, due to less-complicated (and therefore less expensive) electronics.

So, while it’s not easy finding an affordable used G-Wagon, it’s not impossible to find a relative bargain of a luxury off-road SUV.

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