Not German, but close…We bought a 2006 SAAB 9-5 SportCombi in 2008 with 17,000 miles on it for $15,000. SAAB had just been shut down. It has worked out well. We have enjoyed it as a daily driver for 10 year with no major problems. It now has 89,000 miles and we look forward to driving it until fully autonomous cars are available. By then we will be too old to drive safely. We almost bought E500. I am glad we passed.
I can relate to your article as I am currently driving a sweet blue 2007 BMW 530xi touring wagon as my winter car. Runs great and handles Canadian winter weather with ease. My summer car is a sapphire blue 2001 Jaguar XJ8. Another sweet but completely different kind of ride. Together these two cars had an original cost of over $150,000 Cdn. I paid about $10,000 for both in total and have had to spend about $5,000 in total on them over the past couple of years to keep them ship shape. I use a 10% of original retail price rule and have really enjoyed driving older cars for about this amount most of my adult life, including a 1987 BMW 535i sport, a 1994 Audi S4, a 1997 Jag XJR, a 2003 540i MTech. My wife is more cautious than I am, having owned 7 Subarus from new, including the 2018 WRX she is currently driving. I have had a great mechanic (he does a lot of work for BMW and Porsche race teams) for many years who manages to keep my old beasts running well, certainly for a lot less than any dealer could. Not sure how long I can keep this up now that I am retired and in my seventies on a fixed pension but I am going to try to enjoy older cars as long as I can. And then there are my older used performance boats that I have had over the years, including Donzi’s and Pachangha’s - but that is another story that also test’s my wife’s love for me.
Thanks for reading.
It was interesting to read your comments on the E500 wagon. Being a “wagon guy” I can agree with a fair amount of your take on this particular car. I’ve owned a '05 E 500 wagon for 7 years now. It’s my 3rd E class wagon, but first with the big V8. I absolutely love this car. It was reasonable money to buy and it was likely very well cared for by its first and only other owner. When you buy one of these, experience has taught me to buy a 1 owner if possible. One with extensive dealer service records also helps. And, always expect one or more of the mechanical replacements that typically occur around 100k miles.
Things like air suspension issues (bags or pump or sensors). Rear hatch lift supports ar another not
inexpensive fix. If you service this car by the “book” you will be rewardedwith excellent road manners,
comfort, great stereo, commodious cargo capacity and great handling with Mercedes turning radius included. All wheel drive is excellent in winter as well. One more tip, if you only drive it infrequently, always keep it on a trickle charge, as the battereries have to keep all the electronic gizmos in a ready state. With your foot on the load peddle, the torque and thrust always makes me smile! My German
Shepherds love it too. When this one is done, I’ll be in the market for another.
This is probably the best article you have written (and so far, they have all been good). Not only was the topic one of general interest to motorheads, and well written, you introduced us to two websites that I had never heard of and are sure to be useful: RepairPal.com & Searchtempest. In addition I had no idea that you can buy a smoke tester for something under $100. Everything I have ever seen suggests that they cost upwards of $1,000. So, I have been living in dread of having to chase down an evaporative leak with no equipment. Kudos to you for telling us.
Plain and simply put, the repairs on older Euro models kills the deal because you can buy a more affordable ( in all ways ) POS domestic/ Nipponese product that will not be thrilling but won’t break your bank either.
When they have heart failure you just off it on CL as a parts car and buy another Honda, oops, I meant wheezer that will most always get you to work.
I have driven daily since new a 1997 850R Volvo wagon w/192,000 mi. This car has held up quite well. Being garaged every night doesn’t hurt either. The Volvo listed for $46k and change and I have put back in to the car around $8k. Not including Regular maintenance. As for as my volvo goes it runs for a long time before needing a fix. When I use the best parts I find there is less down time. Volvo like their parts but, one can find non OEM that hold up better than factory.
My 2004 S4 Avant ate itself at 200,000 km (timing chain tensioner). I replaced that with a 2005 Cheyenne S which also failed at 200,000 km (rod knock). Decided that older, high mileage daily drivers were no longer my thing & bought a low mileage 2017 Golf Sportwagen. Oh, the feeling of confidence - I actually am going to get where I’m going!
Still have the '86 XJ6 and '81 Rabbit so I can continue “worry trips”.
It’s funny because I had a 2001 E39 540i/6 sport and then got an E500 wagon. I had to get rid of the 540i because I could tell the trans was getting funny even though I avoided the “lifetime” fluid recommendation and kept after it.
540 =$28,500 with 38K and 2 years of CPO warranty (in 2005) original sticker $57,000.
The benz is a 2006 I got in 2012 with 29K for $23,500 original sticker was $73,000. I think it has 130,000 on it now it has most of the problems as the the in the article but our au pair drives our kids around in it and it’s completely safe. I think Rob failed to mention that it gets a whopping 13 mpg and only runs on 93 though.
That said, I am a BMW guy at heard like Rob, but when we got the benz I was really into it so his “meh” is a little surprising. It’s a 6 second 0-60 wagon and in sport mode (when the shocks aren’t leaking) it has a sportscar ride but you can fit a ton of crap in it.
Buying German cars at the sweet spot on the age/miles/depreciation curve can still be a win.
My next car may well be a 2014-2015 S550 once the new ones come out and the current ones fall off a cliff. I will be able to get a 6 year old car with 30K miles for $30,000. Original sticker = $110K or some crazy number.
I use a 2004 Audi A4 Avant 1.8T 6MT as a truck. I have a specialty hand-painted sign business, and I hate vans. The Audi has 170,000+ miles on it and has some front fender rust through, but starts every morning year round and is the most elegant truck I know of.
Station wagons are awesome. I have owned a 1972 VW Squareback, a late Pinto Squire(!),
Subaru Legacy GT, Mini Cooper Clubman S, and my Audi. The A4 has bested them all, even as an antique. I will be on the hunt for a later 2007-8 with the MT when this one is ready to retire.
As my screen name indicates, I collect Corvairs. But I’ve been doing it for so long, and I have so many, that I’ve got to chase other stuff just to keep the spark alive. I also collect older square body Chevy trucks, but they use a lot of fuel. So I find myself in Florida looking at two junk older Mercedes, I’m sure glad the guy didn’t cash my deposit check. So a quick Craigslist search turns up a 1999 CLK 320 Convertible, 44,000 miles, beautiful blue color, and a bunch of stuff isn’t working, but what Mercedes does have everything working after 20 years? So I handed over the meagre amount of cash, and I’ve already driven it 3000 troublefree miles. I did have 2 cheap retread tires, from Spain put on, probably a mistake. The convertible top doesn’t open, but they never do because of a very complex system that fails prematurely. The gas tank leaks from the filler like crazy when I fill it, I just make sure to leave the engine running and pull away from the gas station ASAP.
Three or four years ago I found myself in Northern California looking at a junk 6.2 diesel Suburban that wouldn’t have made it out of the parking lot, forget all the way across the country like I intended to drive it. So I left my deposit behind, and I’m on the hunt, which is the whole fun isn’t it? So a quick search on Craigslist for “station wagon” turn up a 1999 E320 wagon, I don’t get why the convertible is a CLK and the wagon is an E-Series, but whatever. The shiny silver wagon had 421k and a newer motor, and for 1500 bucks it looked and drove great. How coud I beat it? I drove it all the way to Maine, and put another 10,000 miles on it, it’s now parked waiting to get the EGR and heated air intake lamp off.
The bloody money light in the inspection States is nothing but a nightmare for the poor people. Cash for Clunkers was bad, the check engine light is worse. How do they expect people to take hours off of work to go for an inspection? Even if the check engine light is off, there still may be two pending codes which in New York won’t allow you to pass mandatory inspection. “We’ll change a couple sensors, drive it a hundred miles, and see what comes up when you bring it back”.
2 years ago I had a yen for a older diesel Mercedes sedan, and my search of Los Angeles craigslist turned up a V12 BMW, 1989 750il, with the glass headlamps… and I always liked those flat Bonneville Salt Flat looking wheels… So I’m on a plane, and $1,200 later, the car was a wreck, a shadow of its former self that a friend of mine owned five years earlier in San Diego. The tires were low on air, the cigarettes were overflowing from the ashtray, the battery doesn’t fit under the rear seat properly, so he put a clipboard on top of it and the rear seat is jutting up in the air, luckily it was only necessary to accommodate my luggage. Of course the oil hadn’t been changed in five years, so I changed the coaltar in the Walmart parking lot that night, and it ran out like water, and the oil filter cartridge disintegrated in my fingers. But I did manage to drive it to New Mexico with two fuel leaks on top of the engine, it’s amazing it didn’t catch fire! $2 of fuel hose, and it was all repaired. I put a trailer hitch on the Home Depot parking lot in New Mexico, hooked up another Corvair that I don’t need, and towed them back to New York without any further trouble at all. It did have the death wobble in the steering due to the terrible construction of the front suspension bushings, I replaced those and ball joints and tie rods and center link in Colorado, and th death wobble has returned a few thousand miles later.
But they’re interesting to drive, especially when you consider the ridiculous original purchase price, and the glove box full of repair receipts with lots of commas and zeros. They wallow around like marshmallows, but so be it.
I’ve also got a 325ix wagon that had a caliper seize on the way to,a Corvair show. I pried the pads back and snapped a vice grip on the hydraulic hose, it was fine for the rest of the summer and on and on and on.
You can see videos of my escapades on YouTube CORVAIRWILD
My credo has always been don’t buy a car with less than 100 K It has served me well. I usually look for American SUV’s and Cadillacs. One of the best buys I made was a 1991 Cadillac Brougham. I bought it 12 years ago with 178K for 800.00 and we are still driving it with 375K with only maintenance and the worst bill was sorting out the climate control. Another great buy was a 1995 GMC Sierra Z 71 4x4 I bought for 1500 and am still driving with 435K
If that car didn’t get your heartbeat going, you weren’t going fast enough. What the car maybe lacks on acceleration, it more than makes up for it in handling. Maybe that’s just me.
Proud owner of a third hand E350 4matic wagon.
Curious that someone so blatantly biased would be paid to write such an article,… and that it would be published.
Hey Rob love the article, I too have a love for old German wagons. My current ride is a 06 Audi A6 Avant with 195km, two years in now and I had to deal with the dreaded timing chain guides which reared their ugly noise over the Xmas holidays.
I guess I’m committed to her now, next I plan a tranny service and hopefully this will buy me a couple years of “no drama” driving. But regardless I love the drive and feel, no words can describe it. Like my mechanic says “it’s a love hate” relationship with these cars or you can play it safe and buy a Mazda LOL
Problem is your 1st service will be more than the cost of the car!
No matter what, owners will be spending money. If one buys new and keeps the maintenance under control, that person not only faces depreciation, but also the additional tax and license that goes with the price. The insurance will also be higher.
When a used car is bought, then the purchase, tase, license and insurance costs will all be lower but then maintenance cost will partially offset those savings.
Somewhere, there is a middle ground where the total cost of car ownership tends towards a minimum.
I have five German cars and I allocate $100/month per car in maintenance for all them. The past five years, I haven’t exceeded that amount by a long shot. Yes, its’ true I’m only driving each of 2 to 4 k car but I’ve also built a fat reserve should something big come. The point is what could I have bought the totals $600 a month in car payments? A lot less than three sports car, a wagon and a bug.
Wow! I am surprised at some of the repairs needed to some of these newer Benz’s. All that electronic crap that goes bad.
Have a 1992 190 E 2.6 with 270k on it. Purchased with only 6k on it in 92.
Car has been good to me…and I have been good to it. Did all repairs before they would break and leave me stranded along the road. Has only stranded me twice in all those miles. Once at a gas station and the other time right in front of a parking spot that I was able to drift into on a busy city street. Each time it was the same plastic part that connected the gas pedal to the throttle cable. Very poor design.
Parts for these cars are now ridiculously expensive. Think Mercedes is trying to force you into a new car.
Had minor repairs in the first 100k. Car started to cost me at about the 140k to 150k range.
Didn’t care, love the car and it looks like new and the repairs are still cheaper than a new car.
Although the air injection pump was a killer at 1900 dollars. Didn’t include installation.
Key to keeping any high mileage car on the road is maintanence, maintenance, maintenance.
You have to love the vehicle, if not it becomes a love hate relationship. You mechanic loves to see you coming and you start to hate the car.
What’s the deal with a $1900 air inj pump? What would a regular chump customer pay? Does your state/county have emissions? Was a used one not available? Can it be rebuilt? Could it have been bypassed?
I have a friend that repairs newer German stuff. Alot of times a similar if not identical part is available from another manufacturer. But one needs to have lots of shop time to know what fits what. When he tells the story it sounds like a lucky coincidence, but it’s really his experience that gets the vehicle repaired at a fraction of the dealer (ripped off) quote
To answer your question, it depends on what condition a “depreciated mess” really is. With all the parts places selling OEM Mercedes parts, you should be able to come up with a price for the air pump.Then
figure on paying someone else at least $85/hr to do the work, or more like $110/hr if you choose a dealer.
The E500’s are complicated cars and unless you are a hands on kinda guy I’d suggest hire someone who
has both the proper tools and the knowledge to wrench on these cars. Good luck!
Dealer quotes on parts are a ripoff.
For curiousity’s sake alone, I looked up the air smog pump (?) cost for that year of Mercedes E Wagon on rockauto
The Bosch model was about $200
The daily-driver no name brand was actually more at $300.
of course, with rock, you have shipping, and time delays, yadda yadda yadda.