Some people, when they’re looking for reliable used luxury, go for simpler classic models. However, it’s perfectly possible to find modern luxury cars that aren’t prone to breakdowns. And that even applies to German marques like BMW and Mercedes. Although some of Mercedes-Benz’s cars haven’t scored well in reliability ranks, there are others which have.
While it’s possible to find vintage Mercedes-Benz models at reasonable prices, that might understandably be a little old for some buyers. The average used car in the US is about 12 years old. Therefore, we’ve looked at Mercedes built from 2008 onwards in our reliability consideration.
The Mercedes W211-W213 E-Class
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class has arguably had reliability built-in from the beginning. The first E-Class, the 1986-1995 W124, makes for an excellent affordable classic luxury car. And while the newest models do offer tons of features, buying used doesn’t mean you’re exactly missing out.
2008 marks the penultimate year of the W211 Mercedes E-Class, which bowed out after 2009. Both Road & Track and US News recommend the W211, the latter doing so because of the car’s “sterling reputation” for reliability and luxury.
Early Mercedes W211 E-Class models did have some quality issues, CarComplaints and The Sunday Times reports. However, post-2006-facelift models were significantly better. Plus, the W211-gen also includes the 469-hp E55 AMG, formerly the world’s fastest production sedan.
While early W211s were problematic, the 2010-2016 W212 Mercedes E-Class was decidedly less so. Overall, this generation ranks above-average in Consumer Reports’ reliability scoring. Mercedes Enthusiast Network claims it’s arguably as well-built as the W124-gen models. And in terms of luxury features, it has quite a lot to offer, Car and Driver reports. Mercedes-Benz offered the W212 with a rearview camera, stability and traction control, and even automatic braking, Autotrader reports.
And, as with the W211, there was an AMG version, the E63 AMG. YouTuber Doug Demuro owned and daily-drove a 2012 E63 AMG wagon for several years. It’s been driven across the country several times, and while it did have some minor issues, Mercedes Medic reports the W212 is fairly dependable overall.
Finally, there’s the latest W213 Mercedes E-Class. In Car and Driver’s long-term test of a 2018 E450 wagon, the only problem came when another driver ran into the car. And although the pre-2021 models lack touchscreens, they do offer Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and an interior which rivals the S-Class, Car and Driver reports.
Older used Mercedes alternative: W203 C55 AMG
If you’re OK going for a slightly older Mercedes, another reliable model is the 2005-2006 W203 C55 AMG. Unlike the earlier supercharged C32 AMG, the C55 has a 5.4-liter V8, making 362 hp and 376 lb-ft, Autotrader reports. This V8 is significantly more reliable than the C32’s V6, as well as the C63’s and R63 AMG’s engines. In addition, the sedan’s 5-speed automatic is basically bulletproof, PistonHeads forum users report.
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Going with the Mercedes-Benz C55 AMG does mean going without a few features, such as navigation. However, that’s actually to the owner’s benefit, AutoTempest reports, given the dated nature of older systems. Plus, despite being an AMG, the C55 is quiet and comfortable-riding enough to make a good daily-driver, Motor Trend reports.
Issues to look out for
Although the W211-W213 E-Class and W203 C55 AMG are fairly reliable used Mercedes, there are some issues worth noting.
Firstly, the air suspension on the E-Class is prone to fail over time, Mercedes Medic reports. Both the air compressor and the struts themselves can break, and they’re pricey to fix. However, these can be replaced with conventional shocks and springs. Or, this headache can be avoided by buying one without this option.
Luckily, getting a 2008 or 2009 W211 E-Class avoids some of the issues which plagued earlier models. These included cracking radiators and hydraulic brake pump failures. But even the later models can experience a crankshaft position sensor failure, Mercedes Enthusiast Network reports.
Both the W211 and W212 can suffer from minor electrical glitches. Demuro suffered a somewhat common one: a windshield wiper motor failure. However, the regulators to the power windows can also fail, especially if the window trim is misaligned. In addition, Mercedes Medic reports that the W212 E-Class’ transmission can be slow to shift if the car isn’t driven regularly.
Other Mercedes-Benz E-Class issues, though, are often the result of simple wear-and-tear. For example, transmission and engine mounts can degrade over time, much as they do in other cars. In addition, the interior trim can fade due to UV light.
As for the Mercedes C55 AMG, the biggest concern appears to be the new front brake rotor cost, PistonHeads reports. Also, r/cars sub-Reddit users report front suspension components can wear early, due to the forward-heavy weight distribution. However, as long as the transmission and engine are maintained properly, the sedan doesn’t appear to cause any major headaches.
Being older, a used Mercedes C55 AMG will likely have higher miles than even a W211 E-Class. But it’s still possible to find sub-100,000-mile examples for about $10k, Bring a Trailer reports. Even lower mileage ones, though, will cost closer to $15,000-$20,000.
A W211 costs roughly the same as the C55, with the E55 and E63 AMG models going for closer to $18,000-$20,000. A Mercedes-Benz W212 E-Class is a little more expensive. The AMG models, especially the wagons, even more so; on BaT, they can go for $25,000-$50,000. Finally, a sub-100,000-mile W213 typically starts at $21,000.
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