Is an older Benz a good "investment"? - Mercedes-Benz Forum

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post #1 of 38 (permalink) Old 06-12-2012, 09:47 PM Thread Starter
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Is an older Benz a good "investment"?

Not for monetary gain but for something I can refurbish and enjoy. I have experience with Euro cars and know how much of a pain in the wallet they can be; DIY maintenance doensn't scare me. My last major money pit was an E38 BMW with a lot miles on it; control arms, steering hoses, radiator and water pump, seats, etc, I did it all. Wound up costing me more to make it road worthy than what I paid for it; a definite learning experience.

I've always liked the 123 and 124; pre DC old school cars that had a certain feel the new ones are missing. As such they seemed to built to last, and miles don't affect them as severely as many other brands. Which can also be a pitfall.

It's always better to buy a well loved car but, being honest, how many are left? I've seen lots of these on "buy here, pay here" type lots and most are bought by someone who wants the image but can't afford proper maintenance.

It will be a commuter and weekend getaway vehicle, most likely a 300 D.
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post #2 of 38 (permalink) Old 06-13-2012, 06:33 AM
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The rarer ones are the ones that you can restore and try to make some money on. If you want to buy one just to play around with and enjoy and don't mind that you may not be able to get the money out of it that you put in, then go for it.
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post #3 of 38 (permalink) Old 06-13-2012, 06:52 AM
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123 124 (don't forget the 126) were classics and built to last. IMO much better cars than most of the newer ones and certainly more DIY-friendly. Older diesels like the 300D you mentioned will run 1 million miles. Look around on AutoTrader and ebay motors to see what's out there. I'm with you about the "buy here pay here" places. You might find a diamond in the rough at one of them, but it's not likely. Go for it and good luck!

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post #4 of 38 (permalink) Old 06-13-2012, 01:03 PM
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Maybe you need to narrow down you're interest in the type, i.e. sedan, coupe, roadster then fellow forum members can likely provide you more specific detail, share personal experience, etc, etc.

my choice and its a personal one are the W/R 107's (280,380,450,500,560SL's). I opted for the classic 107, 2dr roadster convertible, an '88 560SL. There are lots of these around and available in varying degrees of condition and at reasonable entry pricing. Question then is what you want in terms of use, i.e. week-end'r / joy ride, daily commuter, etc. As well, your expectation on your return on any such investment if thats a motivator for you (in my case, always wanted one, own one now, spend $,$$$'s repairing/restoring it, use it for week-end'r joy rides, gonna keep it and pass it onto my child someday)

in all cases, the history of the vehicle is critical such as maintenance records and the geographical area where the vehicle has spent the majority of its life to date, i.e. CA/AZ climate (dry, low humidity) vs. New England states prone to (snow/salted roads) - all avoiding the evils of "rust"

thats my 2-cents (and about all I have left)
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post #5 of 38 (permalink) Old 06-13-2012, 06:50 PM
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unless you're an experienced mechanic/bodyman with a shop to play in the "financial" answer is no. only other option for a sound financial car investment is to find a rare car for cheap (pretty unlikely) or to buy a newer rare car and sit it in your garage for 10-30 years.

you can pay someone to refurbish any car, but it will burn holes in your pocket though. its' always better to buy off someone whose already lost a lot of $$ in a car.
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post #6 of 38 (permalink) Old 06-16-2012, 07:20 PM
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I have had six (6) Mercedes and the ONLY one I would buy again is the 300 TD wagon. What a great car1 never a problem and sold it with 400,000 miles on it. The buyer is still driving it five years later. Every other Mercedes was a complete maintenance nightmare after reaching the 100,000 mile mark.
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post #7 of 38 (permalink) Old 06-16-2012, 08:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by araucobay View Post
I have had six (6) Mercedes and the ONLY one I would buy again is the 300 TD wagon. What a great car1 never a problem and sold it with 400,000 miles on it. The buyer is still driving it five years later. Every other Mercedes was a complete maintenance nightmare after reaching the 100,000 mile mark.
my take; the key is in the historical maintenance and upkeep including preventative maintenance and proper repairs having been made through-out the to-date life of any vehicle in question, not just the Mercedes-Benz product. I would think that any vehicle that has reached the 100k mile mark is going to be prone to some from of needed repairs and that maintenance interventions will be required to ensure continued serviceability.

100K + Mercedes (know to run forever) vs. 100k+ Other; when it comes down to it, the M-Benz products do have a reputation for long drive train life..
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post #8 of 38 (permalink) Old 06-16-2012, 10:25 PM
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On the 320 I have, the transmission went out at 98,000 miles. Before that the wiring harness had to be replaced. Motor mounts on three different occasions. The smog pump took a dive, along with the duo valve that allows the change between heating and cooling. The mass air flow sensor. The rear suspension bladders that control ride height. The ignition coil. The sub frame bushings and drive shaft flex joint on three occasions. I am sure I have forgot other problems, as well.
I drove Porsche's for 25 years and never had any problems, such as the aforementioned! I had one 911 S that I sold with 177,000 miles and it was flawless. My 930 turbo's were never a problem and required a minimum of maintenance. Thinking back, the only car I had that was more problematic that the Mercedes I owned, was a 1989 Ferrari Testarossa. Finally, the Porsche's and the Ferrari were a lot more fun to drive.
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post #9 of 38 (permalink) Old 06-19-2012, 03:30 PM
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Let me tell you a little story. As some folks around here know, I used to have a 1987 W124. Although not my first Benz (and not my first car by a long shot,) it was the first car that I ever bought with my own, hard-earned money.

Those of the forum's members who know me know just how much I loved that car. Yet unfortunately, I was soon swayed by the allure of that new car smell. So, ill-advisedly, I jumped headlong into a four-year lease after I felt that the 300 was turning into a money pit, selling it for less than half of what I had put into it in the single year that I've owned it.

I must admit that for the first year or so, I was consumed with regret, so much so that even after I managed to pay off the new car in three year - a year short of the lease, I still longed for the old 300, especially after a flurry of wheel and tire problems caused my new ride to feel quite fragile compared to the tough, rugged old Benz.

Five years and four more even more poorly-thought-through (and largely unnecessary) leases, I ended up having a plan that centered around buying myself another, better-optioned and later-model W124 while working my way out of those leases. I got around the getting the W124, but serious health problems both my wife and I had, as well as several other professional and practical factors (long story) caused me to have to quit my high-paying job before I could get around to buying my way out of the leases (a 2008 Miata and two 2009 Mazda 6 JDMs - not the North American model.)

So here I am, almost two years later, still out of work, with three leased cars that I can't keep up the payments for and one Benz that I can't drive because I can't afford to have it shipped from 600 miles away. If I had kept my head seven years ago and kept the '87, with all its upkeep expenses and potential problems - real or imagined - I probably would have had some serious money saved by now that would have served as a financial cushion for those dire times my wife and I are going through. That '87 used to be all the car that I ever needed, and it probably would have been all the car I ever needed today, but such is human nature.

When I was little, I used to ask my father what he thought the best car in the world was. His answer, though bizarre as I thought it was, was always the same: "the best car in the world is the one you have now, the one you can just get in and drive right now." Years and untold money spent later, I finally got the grasp of what he was on about. I just wish I had listened to him more and earlier.

So, take it from someone who has already loved and lost and loved again and lost again: don't invest in whatever car it is that you're eying (Benz or otherwise.) Just enjoy it while it's all yours.

As for me, at this juncture, I'd probably settle for an old air-cooled VW bug with no air conditioning if I could own it outright and didn't have to make any payments on a car (let alone three!)

Shady
I drive too fast to worry about cholesterol.
1994 E320: Full circle.
1987 Mercedes 300E: Sold. With perpetual regret.
2008 Mazda Miata GT PRHT: Forgotten and not missed.
2009 Mazda 6 JDM 2.5 MTX: Sold.
2009 Mazda 6 JDM 2.5 MTX: Wife's.
1991 Mitsubishi Lancer (Mirage): Mom's. Love that thing.
1992 GMC Typhoon: The One That Got Away.
2005 Mazda6 JDM ATX 2.3: Fun (in the slow lane.)
2005 Mazda6 JDM MTX 2.3: Who needs a V8?
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post #10 of 38 (permalink) Old 06-19-2012, 04:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Musikmann View Post
You might find a diamond in the rough at one of them, but it's not likely.
[warning: long read!]

While on the hunt for the latest 124 that I mentioned in the previous post, there are the three principal rules that I learned from that experience:

1. Be patient. Even if you're buying a brand new car, take your sweet time searching and seeking out the exact car you want. But as far as used cars go, never be hasty, and always be choosy (see rule #2.)

Remember that the seller is always more eager and determined to unload his car onto you and part you with your money than you are eager to take it off of his hands. Don't just scour the classifieds. Go out there and see actual stuff. Kick some tires. Look around. Meet people. Don't be too embarrassed or afraid to get your hands - and your back - dirty when inspecting a potential buy. Get your hands in there, and lie on your back and look underneath.

2. Be ruthless. Always have the courage to walk away, no matter how good the deal seems to be, and no matter how sweet that ride you just checked out appears to be. If you smell $hit, walk away, no matter what. Listen to, and trust, your instincts.

Let's say you found this beautiful specimen with the exact options you want in the exact color you want. But one of the floorboards is starting to rust through. The dashboard has a slight crack in it that looks more like the result of the owner's negligence than the weather. The backrest of the driver's seat has a four-inch tear in it - all of which are issues that might think will be easy for you to live with. In reality, these "little things" that are actually costly to set right (a small crack means replacing the entire dashboard skin, for instance - a very costly job that almost never goes right) that you will have to see every morning will gradually eat at you, and eventually you'll grow to hate a perfectly good car just because of them.

So, not matter how seemingly perfect that gem you think you just stumbled upon is, if you feel bothered by the slightest thing, no matter how trivial or insignificant, make sure that you have the courage to just turn your back and walk away.

The bottom line is, don't just settle for anything you can find. There's always something better out there that's exactly what you want. Just take your time seeking it out.

Mind you, in the process, you just might find something else that you forgot ever existed - and that you never new you had wanted in the first place - and get that instead!

3. Be prepared to go over budget. They say good things come to those who wait, but at what cost? I'll tell you this: after my (largely self-inflicted) experiences with the pleasures, trials and travails of car ownership, no expense can ever dull the pleasure of actual ownership. No matter how much money you pour into the thing, and no matter how troublesome it gets, it's still cheaper than any lease (well, unless you make $200,000 a year and it's a Kia Rio that you're leasing - but then again even Rios are no longer as cheap as they used to be.)

So let's say you found that gem, that "diamond in the rough" as Musikmann so eloquently put it, that is exactly what you want to a tee, but it's a few gees out of your budget. You know what? I'd be willing to borrow, beg and steal to get it, as long as it makes me happy for a long time to come and I end up owning it outright.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about with regard to going over budget. While I was out looking around the two major car markets in Riyadh in early 2010, I wasn't particularly looking for a 124. It was on the list, though - along with a slew of other stuff that I may or may not have found. So I took two months (yes, two whole months - remember what I said about patience?) just walking around the market place. I would leave work at five in the afternoon, go straight to the car market, park the car and walk the joint, shop by shop, showroom by showroom. keeping an open mind, I looked at everything, from older V6 Camrys (quite a big deal over here, and I knew I didn't want a Camry) to various Lexuses (Lexii?) BMWs and what not. I must've even come across and old Bentley Turbo R that someone so desperately wanted to unload, which I wisely passed on, given where I live. Finally, after two months, I had narrowed it all down to this one metallic black 1998 W140 that I spotted, a short-wheelbase S500 left-hand-drive out of Japan, with 78,000 kilometers on the clock, that used to belong to the secretary of some Saudi prince.

Yet still, something just didn't feel right. I'm a mere 5'3", so you can imagine how awkward I probably would feel in something as big as a W140. The car had a bunch of accessories added to it at some point, including a radar detector and the like. When I saw it the first time, it started and drove just fine. But when I went back with my wife for a second look a day later and started it again in the dealer's yard, something odd happened: when I tried to move the steering wheel, the seat moved, and when I tried to move the seat, the steering wheel moved! I switched the car off and restarted it, and it went back to normal.

That was when I thought it was about time to throw in the towel and just stop looking. Two months had passed and I still hadn't found anything that I was willing to part with a chunk of my annual bonus for. Then, a couple of nights later, I had taken one last, slightly desperate drive to the other car market south of the city. Still feeling that my search was fruitless, I thought I should call it quits and call it a night. So as I was driving out of there, I passed this little showroom on the main road that's rather hard to see without actually driving right past. Inside was an E38 740i, a bunch of W140s, a 560 SEL, a few other later Benzes and a bunch of SUVs, and something silver buried way out there in the back. I stomped on the Mazda's brakes and backed up. And there it was - a 1994 E320 that no one seemed to want. Hell, with all those other "fancy" cars obscuring it, it was the most "downmarket" car in the showroom! So no wonder everyone was walking right past it.

But then again, for the guy's asking price, a normal person would be crazy to touch it with a crowbar. A typical W124 of decent condition and a straight-six engine is probably worth about 20,000-25,000 riyals in the local market, and range from as much as just below 30,000 for the cleaner ones to as little as 5,000 riyals for the really bad examples with missing body parts. But this one was exceptional. It was also a LHD out of Japan, with almost all the options (except sportline, memory for the seat controls, and traction control) and had only 73,000 kilometers on the clock. And he wanted 40,000 riyals for it!

I did have the courage to walk away, but only for about a week or so . For that whole week, I could barely sleep. I was already trying to make arrangements to get out of my leases, so I thought I was going to need wheels soon anyway. Then my wife came into town to visit and I took her to see both cars - that W140 and the 124. She chose the 320, partly for its size (my wife is 4'8"! ) and partly for its sentimental value - I still had that old '87 when we got engaged.

So finally I said what the heck... I handed over the money to the guy and drove it away. Call me crazy (as almost everybody I knew did,) but hey, at least I own it! If the bank comes knocking tomorrow to repossess the three Mazdas, at least the repo men won't be able to swing a dead cat at the Benz!

Shady
I drive too fast to worry about cholesterol.
1994 E320: Full circle.
1987 Mercedes 300E: Sold. With perpetual regret.
2008 Mazda Miata GT PRHT: Forgotten and not missed.
2009 Mazda 6 JDM 2.5 MTX: Sold.
2009 Mazda 6 JDM 2.5 MTX: Wife's.
1991 Mitsubishi Lancer (Mirage): Mom's. Love that thing.
1992 GMC Typhoon: The One That Got Away.
2005 Mazda6 JDM ATX 2.3: Fun (in the slow lane.)
2005 Mazda6 JDM MTX 2.3: Who needs a V8?
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