Mercedes ownership trends - Mercedes Benz SLK Forum

General Discussion Topics must pertain to all 3 generations of SLK - R170, R171 and R172

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#1 Old 07-30-2014
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Mercedes ownership trends

This is my perception of the common Mercedes ownership trends. Please correct my assumptions and/or add your comments.

I have owned very few cars. We presently own a 2004 E320 (inherited from my mother-in-law). It has about 50k miles. I try to do as much maintenance & repair on my cars as I can. I have found this car to be relatively trouble-free & inexpensive to own.

I believe that the common ownership trend is that new MB cars are bought by relatively wealthy owners who have their cars serviced by the dealer. The owners tend to be older who don’t abuse the cars. They tend to be kept in garages.

Sometime after the car is out-of-warranty, the cars are often traded or sold. If the car has relatively low miles the value remains pretty high so the second owners are also able to afford to maintain them. The second owners may or may not have the car serviced by the dealer. Since relatively few owners work on their cars anymore (of any make) the maintenance costs begin to be a significant percentage of the value. Several thousand dollar repair bills are not uncommon.

A guy I work with bought a used 2010 E350. He does not work on it himself. He tells me that if he buys 3x Service Coupons from the dealer at once, then a standard “service” costs $500. From what I can determine, this is basically just a glorified oil change and re-setting the service indicator. I can change the oil on our E320 for about $60 and an hour of my time. I can see why people think these cars are expensive to own.

At some point the maintenance costs begin to burden the second owner & he sells the car. For the 3rd owner, this is now just a used car & he tries to keep it running as cheaply as possible. It may be a better car than a similar vintage Toyota Camry but it is likely much more expensive to own.

I believe the standard depreciation curve for all cars is that the price of a car drops about 50% every 4 years. So a $60k new car is worth about $30k after 4 years and about $15k after 8 years. I think MB cars depreciate faster because maintenance & repair costs tend to be higher than for other cars.

My point here is that used MB cars can be a good value if a buyer can really know the car’s history and is willing to do much of the maintenance & repair themselves.

I like to watch auto auctions on TV. I find it interesting that a late 60s fixed-up generic Chevrolet (for instance) might sell for over $20k and then a 12 year old MB SL600 might sell for $14k. The Chevy is seen as a “collector car”. The MB is just a used car. There is little doubt about what is the better car.

In summary, I believe that if one can research a used MB and is willing to maintain, diagnose & repair much of the car themselves, a used MB can be a real value.

Agree? disagree? Other opinions?
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#2 Old 07-30-2014
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I totally agree with you! Mercedes-Benz is very reliable car if it was not abused by the previous owner(s). It's relatively inexpensive to repair if one can do it/maintain himself. I find it very easy to repair and everything seems to be easily accessible. There are many websites that sell OEM parts that are affordable and of the right price.
The problem is that "Stealerships" screw people over - they charge enormous price for labor and sell you parts 3 times the original price... Which is ridiculous...
If I could afford let's say a 30K used AMG I'd definitely go for it and invested 1-2K into Stardiag to troubleshoot it myself since it's not a rocket science and all these technicians do is look at the code and it tells them what to fix and how. Newer cars are better at diagnostics, since they have more sensors installed and it's easier to trace the problem, whereas with the old cars it's vice versa - less sensors and harder to track the problem.

Overall, the Mercedes-Benz is a great and reliable car!
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#3 Old 07-30-2014
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I agree! We tend to fall into the second-owner category; only one of the five M-Bs we've owned was bought new...and we still have it nearly fifteen years later. I do a little of my own work, but tend to have more things done by the dealer or a trusted Indy shop. It's more expensive, but I know it's done right. Sunhilde just ate another $660 yesterday, for example: A Service, brake fluid flush, coolant flush, and manual transmission service. With minimal tools and no lift it's impractical for me to do much more than an oil & filter change.

The older these cars get, the more fraught with owner-related troubles they become. Before buying the SLK, I was looking for a good 190E 2.3-16, having owned one years ago that gave it's life for mine. But most of what I found had been ridden hard and put away wet for far too long, and the few good ones still had some issues ("mechanically perfect; needs paint") and usually the asking price was as much or more as what our SLK cost. Much as I love the W201, it had to drop off the shopping list because the wife didn't want a money-eating restoration project for which some parts (like the Cosworth head) are becoming scarce. While the 16v is perhaps an extreme example of this, most M-Bs that go down to a third or fourth owner are money pits due to negelcted maintenance. The wife didn't want that, and I can't blame her.

Occasionally you find someone who gets it; I've seen a couple of people join MBCA enthused about their new-to-them twelve-year-old car. They'll voice complaints about this or that, and we'll guide them to getting the issue fixed. Stuff like dodgy handling and poor ride come up, and when bushings, steering shocks, tie rod ends, rear struts on the 5-link, and shock absorbers are done in some combination they'll express amazement that the car feels so much better, like new! We nod sagely, and it dawns on them that these cars are made to be maintained, and if that's done right they'll live a very long time. And that a lot of neglect can be made up for, and stuff that's fixed stays fixed for a lot of miles. Most folks are so used to disposable cars that it never occurs to them that Mercedes-Benz cars aren't meant to be so. Sure, there comes a time when, if a car has been neglected long enough, that's it's no longer economically viable to fix it. But it usually comes much later for a Mercedes-Benz than for other brands.
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#4 Old 08-18-2014
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Originally Posted by ColoE320 View Post

I believe that the common ownership trend is that new MB cars are bought by relatively wealthy owners who have their cars serviced by the dealer. The owners tend to be older who don’t abuse the cars. They tend to be kept in garages.
I don’t think you can make a blanket statement like that across the model range.

I very much believe that most C-class buyers (and the new A-class) are not relatively wealthy or old and their purchase is very much a “my first Mercedes” experience. And Mercedes sells a boatload of C-class cars. By contrast: after I bought a R230 SL55 I was invited by Mercedes to a focus group in San Diego where they told us that the typical SL buyer was in his mid-fifties, bought the SL as a 3rd or 4th car and had an average income of $400,000 (none of which described me). So that group of owners more closely fits the demographic of your statement.

Also, far more people lease than buy in the luxury car market, and your post doesn’t consider this trend. The ownership experience is a different one when you lease instead of buy and off-lease cars tend to be in better shape (or at least that’s the common perception). Off-lease cars also tend to hit the market as "2nd-owner" cars before cars that were purchased.

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Originally Posted by ColoE320 View Post

At some point the maintenance costs begin to burden the second owner & he sells the car.
I agree, but this is just an unhappy coincidence not restricted to Mercedes, in that all cars typically require more significant maintenance in the years/mileage period that coincide with “second-ownership” and out-of-warranty repairs on any German import are going to be expensive.

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Originally Posted by ColoE320 View Post

I like to watch auto auctions on TV. I find it interesting that a late 60s fixed-up generic Chevrolet (for instance) might sell for over $20k and then a 12 year old MB SL600 might sell for $14k. The Chevy is seen as a “collector car”. The MB is just a used car. There is little doubt about what is the better car.
I don’t know about qualifying as a “better” car, but I can tell you that 12 yr. old SL600 would be very expensive to maintain and run. My overall opinion on Merc reliability is that the engine and trannies are solid, but the rest is a crapshoot. The SL600 in question here would have serious and extremely expensive ABC suspension components that would need to be replaced (if not yet done) and very suspect electronics across the board.

Oil changes would require about 11 quarts of synthetic, brake rotors and pads would be about $1000 per axle and you’d be paying higher insurance premiums than just about any other car on the road. You'd also get horrific fuel economy. People who shop at televised auctions are typically well-informed, and the market demand for such a car is probably fairly reflected in the price.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ColoE320 View Post

In summary, I believe that if one can research a used MB and is willing to maintain, diagnose & repair much of the car themselves, a used MB can be a real value.
I think that the effect of the Chrysler years on Mercedes is a real-thing, that seriously created reliability issues for models that were designed or built in that period (late nineties - mid 00s) from which Mercedes has only recently recovered.

Their reliability ratings tanked for a long while and my first-hand experience with a Merc from that period are consistent with those ratings.

An example that speaks to the design approach in that period: is that the main reason that the Merc 8-cylinder had only 3 valves per cylinder in the “500” years was Chrysler cost-cutting on the drawing board. 302 HP and 339 ft/lbs is pretty meagre from an engine displacing 5 liters. Post-Chrysler, the “550” engines went to 8 cylinder/32 v. with a significant boost in power from the same displacement.

I’ve owned new Mercedes, BMW and Porsches in the last ten years and I would rank them Porsche – BMW – Mercedes for reliability and perceived quality. I do think that Merc is turning things around and I’m very pleased with the quality of my R172, although frankly, reliability in my limited period of ownership has been less than stellar.
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#5 Old 08-18-2014
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Unfortunately it is very hard for me to make use of that because 4+ year old Mercedes do all these stupid things. It starts with putting the manual mode for the automatic transmission, which mercedes does much more often today, but even my dealer reps don't understand exactly when. And the user's manual is useless.

Those 2002-2010 Mercedes have their value but they are also straight out of "your car knows better than you" hell.

That would be half as bad if they had brought more variants to the U.S., e.g. a diesel wagon, or a diesel in manual, or a small diesel. Or a 4-cylinder E class which would today be a great fuel saver. But alas they did not.
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#6 Old 08-19-2014
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I may view reliability different than most. I have only owned about 6 cars in 40 years. Only 2 of those have been new cars. We currently own 3 cars: A 2004 MB E320 (52k miles), a 2001 Volvo V40 (102k) miles and a 1995 Acura Legend (162k miles). The only car that has been in the shop in the last 5 years was the Volvo when I was unable to correctly diagnose a problem.

Problems that some might perceive as expensive are often a small annoyance and a minor part cost if I can fix it myself. The dealers and independent shops make a lot of money on parts. Also, having 3 cars with 2 drivers allows me the time to figure out what is wrong if a problem starts to appear. I enjoy working on cars when I'm successful. I enjoy the problem solving challenge and it gives me a feeling of self-reliance. It isn't much fun when I'm unsuccessful.

If you can fix cars yourself, an older car is a much better value than a new one.
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#7 Old 08-19-2014
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I agree with your observations ColoE320. Being mainly a new Toyota/Scion/Lexus previous owner my current SLK is more of a hobby than a daily to-work driver. All my Toyota based cars were bought new and loved the fact they were so dependable and well made. But all cars, out of warranty, regardless of the make and model will cost you to repair at a dealership.

Now my 1999 SLK (77K) is like a Swiss watch with plastic parts. Very complicated with lots of little things that can break. It has taken two years to get in in almost perfect shape ($3000.00+ Later). I had of list of 10 things wrong with the car when I bought it. I don't think the average person would pay to have, for example, the broken mirror control switch replaced. Now that everything is fixed and properly maintained, including crap tires replaced , I really love the car and plan to keep it for a long time! I would like for it to become a classic but I am not holding my breath. I enjoy the car for what it is today - not what it may be in the future.

So my advice to people thinking about buying a used Mercedes: They are really nice cars if you keep them maintained and fix the little things that break as they happen. Don't buy a Merc unless you are willing to pay the money to properly maintain it. Some other car makes are more forgiving and can take more abuse and neglect. If you find a good indie shop for repairs - the cost of repairs for Mercedes is not that much different than, let's say, Toyota. I do believe the perceived higher maintenance cost of Mercedes is not correct if you do DIY and/or use an indie repair shop. If it is your Mercedes is still under warranty, than that is a different question all together.
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#8 Old 08-19-2014
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Ah - another subscriber to the "broken windows theory": Fix the little things as they break. If you do this, you will likely continue to love the car as much as when you bought it. If you let the little things go, you begin to perceive the car as old, tired, run-down and a piece of junk - and you will treat it accordingly.

I try to apply the broken windows theory theory to most things in my life - including myself.
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#9 Old 08-19-2014
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The R171 SLK350 so far is my all time favorite car. Maintenance costs no worse than other cars in our little "fleet."

I'm an occasional DIYer, mostly US brands and one VW. The SLK350 is my first Mercedes-Benz. It's also the first car I've owned that was produced after the social Internet. Somebody has always "seen that before." Combined with WIS and this site it's the easiest car I've ever owned to diagnose and repair myself - and customize/hack. That's worth a lot.

The systems are more sophisticated but the free flow of information and resources has more than kept pace. I can learn how something works in WIS, get an exact part number, see R&R instructions with photos, raise questions with 25K other owners and see one of Eddy's step-by-step howto's before my butt leaves the chair. Parts & accessories are easy to source from SLK Store to raw component suppliers online. No dealership is famous for the lowest priced parts but with coupons and services specials our local MB dealership in Calabasas actually surprised me many times by having the best value. MB led/kept pace with iPhone & Android integration so even older 2005+ infotainment systems can be upgraded with the latest devices using aftermarket stuff at tolerable prices.

Granted, SLK owners have the added benefit of our brain trust with jbanks15, etyu, Sean Hump, and so many others. These cars are DIYer heaven if that's your thing. No doubt other MB models and other brands have their own forums, but could it be better than this one?!

I'm lucky to have a great dealership nearby for maintenance on the stuff I don't want to touch, gotten enough grease under my nails by now. Signed up for the online specials and Amazon Local. Their waiting area is like a vacation spot so it more than nets out, includes playing inside the show room cars during the wait.
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#10 Old 08-19-2014
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Please define WIS.

I totally agree. Internet forums with enthusiast members are a godsend to DIYers. I have often been amazed that someone would compose a step-by-step procedure with photos and videos that remove much of the mystery and nasty surprises of tackling a new-to-me job. These have saved me thousands of dollars.

Now if someone could just figure out an internet based lift, I wouldn't have to do so many jobs on my back with bolts 6" from my nose.
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#11 Old 08-21-2014
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WIS - Workshop Information System, either a pay to play (daily, monthly, yearly rates) repair service from Mercedes or Mercedes sells a service manual disk for most of their models. However, the DIY threads on forums like these is often a great source of info.

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#12 Old 09-10-2015
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Don't new car sales contracts now require you to be serviced by the dealer in order to keep the warranty good? Or am I making that up?
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#13 Old 09-10-2015
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Not in the US. From the Federal Trade Commission web site:


"In fact, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, which is enforced by the FTC, makes it illegal for manufacturers or dealers to claim that your warranty is void or to deny coverage under your warranty simply because someone other than the dealer did the work. The manufacturer or dealer can, however, require consumers to use select repair facilities if the repair services are provided to consumers free of charge under the warranty."


Dealers can still sell the idea that they have to do the work.
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#14 Old 09-10-2015
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Not in the US. From the Federal Trade Commission web site:

"In fact, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, which is enforced by the FTC, makes it illegal for manufacturers or dealers to claim that your warranty is void or to deny coverage under your warranty simply because someone other than the dealer did the work. The manufacturer or dealer can, however, require consumers to use select repair facilities if the repair services are provided to consumers free of charge under the warranty."

Dealers can still sell the idea that they have to do the work.
ah, good to know, thanks!
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#15 Old 09-10-2015
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Excellent conversation!
I've owned >12 cars of varying types and models. My SLK 230 was great, with 120K miles on her before getting the 350. This is without a doubt my favorite. I always do all maintenance and mods myself and love doing so. While I needed thinner arms to install the headers, it got done.
Reliable as he!! and simply gorgeous. Will never own a car from a different maker, unless I win the lottery.
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