There is a general consensus that the W220 S class, especially some of the earlier models, are not reliable. In Fact, Mercedes reliability and quality took a downturn in public perception during the early 2000's, and only recently seems to have been rolling back.
What does this all mean? I hope to try and give some insight into this with some first hand experience, and factual price and mileage data for 1 full year and nearly 40,000 miles of driving during this year.
I have kept perfect records, including all dates, miles, and receipts for every maintenance done in the last year. In the beginning of this year, which we will start in November of 2009, I took the car in to a few Mercedes dealerships directly as I had not found a good independent to work on the car, but I did do so at the end of December of 2009 and thusly exclusively used the independent mechanic shop, whom seemed more capable than the Mercedes staff, and usually at least half or more the price in savings. So, for anyone who is out of warranty, I strongly recommend finding a reputable independent to work on your car.
I am not really a DIYer due to time constraints, but I do some of the minor stuff myself and would like to do the more complicated stuff as well. (I do the air filters, dust filters, charcoal filters, checking of all the service A/B stuff, etc.)
Here is my car information to start off:
W220 Mercedes-Benz S55 AMG, MY2001.
Current Mileage: 151,000
Mileage on November 16th, 2009: 113,585
- All of the campaigns were taken care of, and the car had a warranty up to 100,000 miles.
- I left some items out, like radar detectors, tinted windows, etc - as they are not service, but I left other items in
- that are good for the quality of the car, like rubber mats, wiper blades, etc.
- From December 29th 2009 and on, all service was done at an Indy and not the Mercedes Dealer. You can tell the prices went down.
- There are a few items that are left out as they were before the year, such as work on the ABC suspension around 105,000 miles, Engine mounts at 85k, and various other things done - but for practical purposes I will start this one year ago from November of 2010.
Service: Mileage: Price: (Parts and labor total)
11/16/2009 Oil Change 113, 585 $93.59
11/20/2009 Cooling System Flush 114,500 $425.00
11/24/2009 Lower Ball Joints and Control Arm Bushings 114,758 $1,643
12/01/2009 1.) Wiper Blades
2.) Full 10 CD set of Navigation CDâ€™s 116,000 $351.92
12/01/2009 1.) All Weather Rubber mats
2.) Interior cleaning kit 116,000 $158.40
12/02/2009 1.) AMG License Plate
2.) Touch up pen 116,000 $56.23
12/02/2009 Left front Wheel Hub Cap 116,000 $15.01
12/05/2009 1.) Rear Brake Pads and Rotors
2.) Brake Flush
3.) Rear Differential Service
4.) Removed Grommet
5.) Replaced Headlamp washer Nozzles 116,284 $1,252.14
12/08/2009 New Spark Plugs 116,529 $620.10
12/16/2009 1.) Engine Air Filter
2.) Mercedes Anti-Freeze 117,200 $64
12/18/2009 Oil Change 0W40 117/358 $125
12/23/2009 Motor/Transmission Mounts, Power Brake Hose 117,500 $1,820
12/29/2009 1.) Transmission Gasket, filter, connector
2.) New Serpentine Belt and Oil Cooler reseal 118,300 $489
1/04/2010 Cabin Dust Filter 118,700 $32
1/10/2010 4 Wheel Tire balance 119,120 $47
1/12/2010 2025 CR 3 v Batteries for Key Remote 119,200 $10.82
1/19/2010 Activated Charcoal Filters 119,580 $156.00
1/19/2010 Fuel Filter 119,540 $200.00
1/19/2010 Oil Change 0W40 Mobil 1 119,540 $119.00
2/01/2010 2 Pieces Driverâ€™s seat plastic bottom seat trim 120,700 $85.00
2/25/2010 ABS Speed Sensor 123,776 $253.30
3/3/2010 Left front Side Marker bulb 123,950 $4.47
3/21/2010 Rear Tail light right / Marker Bulb 124, 900 $11.00
3/23/2010 Accelerator Pedal, Pedal Position sensor 124, 900 $282.40
3/26/2010 Touch up Paint 125,500 $21.73
4/08/2010 AC Charge Freon 127,000 $176.10
4/17/2010 Oil Change 5w40 128,500 $135
4/23/2010 Alternator 129,500 $832
4/24/2010 New Front Rim 129,700 $270
5/21/2010 4 Hankook Ventus Tires, Alignment, left Rim 132,700 $700
6/1/2010 Engine Air Filter 134,860 $60
6/2/2010 Fix Nail in right rear tire 135,000 $20
6/8/2010 Front and Rear brake pads 136,096 $400
6/10/2010 Oil Change Mobil 1 0w40 136,420 $143
7/09/2010 Toll truck 140,700 $70
7/14/2010 ABC Hose High pressure hydraulic line 140,700 $270
8/05/2010 1.) Cabin Dust Filter
2.) Wiper Blades 143,500 $53
9/18/2010 License Plate light, R 146,400 $5
10/08/2010 Oil Change Mobil1 0W40 147,658 $141
11/08/2010 1.) Inspection
2.) Engine and Transmission mounts
3.) AC compressor bracket fixed 150,421 $1,021
11/17/2010 4 Continental DWS Tires 151,000 $860
The grand total?
A warranty would have covered 2/3's of that, or around $9,000 - as some of the other stuff, totaling around $4,000, a normal warranty would not cover. (Stuff like oil changes, tires, brakes, etc)
That seems expensive, and that's not even accounting for gas (Around $7,000 this year - almost 40,000 miles, average over that period of 17MPG, and premium 93 gas at around $3.05 a gallon. Add another few thousand for insurance, and running costs quickly are in the mid $20,000s.
Now, it seems shocking when you add it up like that - but perhaps it isn't as cataclysmic as it looks. Most of it is just running costs that any car would have, albeit it an S55 is more expensive in a lot of normal items like tires, brakes, which tend to be more expensive than a C class, or other cheaper car, etc. And if you figure in a good warranty costs somewhere around $3,000 to $4,000, the disadvantage financially here, and the only thing that could be avoided, is around $6,000 a year which a warranty would have saved. Otherwise, even someone with a warranty would likely spend 75%-80% of what I spent figuring miles/gas/insurance are about the same.
I hope this information is useful to everyone, and they can see the real cost of owning a car as expensive as the S Class is, and was when new. So anytime someone thinks they are picking up a bargain in a cheaper used S class, they may actually be spending much more than a cheaper car. Big V8, tires, brakes, all equal more expenses versus a cheaper and smaller car, which will also most likely have better gas mileage and possibly cheaper insurance.
One last thing: If it isn't obvious, even with all of the maintenance, I absolutely adore this car. It is comfortable, safe, handles well, powerful, and still looks as good as it did when the W220 was fresh. So it is a car I have a passion for, and thus the sting of the cost pays off - because driving 40,000 miles a year, I have definitely enjoyed it.