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Discussion Starter #1
Hello all,
I'm looking to get out of my 5 series wagon, I'm just looking for something that's a little easier to work on, gets better fuel MPG, and maybe the cost of operating isn't too much, I have to say that I'm looking more towards the W124 and W210 (Or the W211, if I can find one in my budget) E classes. I know I can get a similarly aged S class for probably just as much, but that just brings me back to the higher operating costs and difficulty of repair as my current car. I'm just curious, as I go to look at different cars, what are some common failure points that I should look for? Any insight is appreciated

Thanks,
Andrew
 

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1993 300e 2.8
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You should poke around on the site for 1/2 hour and you'll find much of what you need to know. Maybe even a couple hours if you're really serious. That's what I did a year ago. Now I'm the proud owner of a sweet W124 :)
 

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W201 Moderator
89 190E2.6- 5-speed Manual, 95 E320 Sportsline-sold, 2001 E320 4matic Wagon-sold
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Also remember, just about every W124 model year(s) had a weak link or two in maintenance items, so you would want a car that has that particular model year's issue fixed or factor that into the cost.
Not sure if there is a comprehensive executive summary list out there based on model years. Some of the veteran's of this forum probably can put one together in 30 minutes though....
In general though I believe the later model years are better because they are newer, have the DHC as well.
The members here will have a certain bias against a W210 in general as I do in some ways having owned both. But they are more modern and newer and safer if you can get past the cheaper interior trimmings on the W210.
 

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I am as unbiased as possible about a W210 vs a W124. I currently have two of each. The w124 will last longer but the W210 will be easier to drive and have more conveniences. The W124 has less Diagnostic BS to deal with while the W124 will throw a code for practically everything. The w124 has strong corrosion resistance but the W210 does not.

There is a buyer's guide in the DIY section of this forum to help you understand what a W124 is like and where the weak links are. If you do your own work, a W124 is a great car but if you don't a 30 year old car nowadays is a money pit if you have to take it to a shop for everything.

Read as much as you can and ask questions.
 

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1993 300CE Cabriolet (mine) ; 1994 E320 Wagon (wife's) ; 1990 Benz 300E 2.6 (son's)
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folks I know with newer benzes seemed to have had a lot of really expensive electronic problems with the W211's, especially the earlier ones. I do know a guy who swears by his late production W211 E55 AMG wagon, he'll take it cross country and says its a total hoot to open up on a remote interstate... but thats a supercharged 5.4L v8 with like 470 HP or smething insane, 0-100MPH in under 10 seconds, 0-60 in 4.1..

The W212's are supposed to be generally better, but now we're talking less than 10 years old, and serious money.

IMHO, a clean always-garaged low mileage W124 3.2 (1993-1995) that got a new engine wiring harness and throttle body, and has had thorough maintenance since new, is a good reliable car, but its quite spartan, no cup holders, for instance. I'm annoyed there's no good place to put my 1L water bottle that I always bring on long road trips. The original transmission might go out between 150k and 250k miles, but its only like $1800 for a quality rebuild (Sun Valley!), plus R&R labor, and the rebuild should last longer than the original.

Absolutely critical IMHO, any candidate used Benz of any generation, bring it to a trustworthy Mercedes repair shop and have them do a full PPI, this might cost $100 but they'll go through that car top to bottom and should find just about every conceivable issue.

Watch out for low mileage garage queens that have been sitting for the past few years without regular service. Those cars often have more hidden problems then you want to deal with.
 

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^ good advice. Also beware that W124s that have low mileage usually don't. They hold up so well that unscrupulous people will "clock" them. If, as leftcoastgeek suggested, you find a car with history documentation, this should be easy to eliminate. Carfax can also be of assistance.

As for a PPI, the hardest part is finding the qualified shop to do it. You want to find a shop that has been in business long enough for one or more of the mechanics to have worked on the W124 while in the early stage of their career, at a Mercedes dealership. This kind of shop is gold. Don't be fooled by a latte machine and people in clean uniforms that advertise they work on German cars. Remember, you are looking for people who KNOW these cars, not people who just work on them. But having your BMW experience might be of great help because you may have already "been there" with the task of finding a good shop.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I like to imagine I know my way around an engine bay and how to get things done, but I also have a mechanic down the road from me that gives me a good deal. I've heard that the build quality on the W124 and prior is superb, but when things fail, everything goes at once, which I'm afraid of. I know what it's like to diagnose and repair a pre OBDII car vs a new car, having OBDII is such a luxury for diagnosis. There's a W210 E320 wagon down the road from me that's been up for sale for a while that I looked at, but it had 270k+ miles, a fair bit of rust and looked to be in rough shape, but for $1000 I guess I shouldn't expect the holy grail. I should also mention I live on the US Northeast coast, specifically NJ, I commute into NYC Monday thru Saturday, I'm a college kid, I don't make crazy money, but I make enough to live off of and afford repairs. I'm looking for a relatively reliable daily driver, that's hopefully a little better on MPGs. I previously have only had the insight of my father, a long time VW/BMW fanboy to go off of. From what I can see the W210/W211 is generally less reliable, but you have the benefits of OBDII. The W124 is before the Chrysler buyout and generally more robust in every way, but they're 30+ years old now and showing typical 30 year old car issues. I'm drawn to the W210/211 because they look more like a modern Benz, and they also have the benefit of AWD, a must in this area during the winter. On the other hand I think the W124 looks incredible and a family friend has a similarly aged SL, and my god the quality on that car is incredible. Thank you all for the insight, I think I have some looking to do for what is within my budget in my area and what is most reasonable. Although I must admit I'm upset I missed the opportunity to snag a 500E before they shot up in price.
 

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1977 W123.123 1995 W124.034
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I like to imagine I know my way around an engine bay and how to get things done, but I also have a mechanic down the road from me that gives me a good deal. I've heard that the build quality on the W124 and prior is superb, but when things fail, everything goes at once, which I'm afraid of. I know what it's like to diagnose and repair a pre OBDII car vs a new car, having OBDII is such a luxury for diagnosis. There's a W210 E320 wagon down the road from me that's been up for sale for a while that I looked at, but it had 270k+ miles, a fair bit of rust and looked to be in rough shape, but for $1000 I guess I shouldn't expect the holy grail. I should also mention I live on the US Northeast coast, specifically NJ, I commute into NYC Monday thru Saturday, I'm a college kid, I don't make crazy money, but I make enough to live off of and afford repairs. I'm looking for a relatively reliable daily driver, that's hopefully a little better on MPGs. I previously have only had the insight of my father, a long time VW/BMW fanboy to go off of. From what I can see the W210/W211 is generally less reliable, but you have the benefits of OBDII. The W124 is before the Chrysler buyout and generally more robust in every way, but they're 30+ years old now and showing typical 30 year old car issues. I'm drawn to the W210/211 because they look more like a modern Benz, and they also have the benefit of AWD, a must in this area during the winter. On the other hand I think the W124 looks incredible and a family friend has a similarly aged SL, and my god the quality on that car is incredible. Thank you all for the insight, I think I have some looking to do for what is within my budget in my area and what is most reasonable. Although I must admit I'm upset I missed the opportunity to snag a 500E before they shot up in price.

Whats your budget? Ive got a driver quality 400E I'm selling down in Delaware.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
My budget is somewhere within $2-3k, to my understanding the 400E is the other V8 option, the smaller displacement V8 and with no fender flares. Other than that I don't know much else about it,
I will do some research now that I've been pointed in the right direction.
Thanks,
Andrew
 

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W124
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Its not that everything fails at once with a W124 its that they are 30 years old and at that point things start to fail. Honestly if you are looking for MPG improvement and reliability, the W210 is a car to consider. The downside is that they rot much sooner than a W124 will. Another downside to a W210 is they are just too complicated in comparison to a W124. But what matters most to you is the most important thing. The W124 is no longer going to be the bulletproof car they were 20 years ago or even 10 years ago. Stuff happens.
 

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79 BMW 635 CSI, 85 Porsche 911, 2002 Wrangler, 86 260E, 95 E320 Wagon, 95 E420, 2010 E550
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Glad to see a young guy likes these cars. I discovered the W124 7 years ago after I got fed up with my BMW. Now I have 3. My '95 E320 wagon is my daily driver - bought it w/ 192K on the odometer, now it has 288K and the fuel economy is exactly the same as when I bought it. No major trouble at all, but maybe I'm lucky.
Never tried W210 or W211 but my old mechanic (worked at the dealership when these cars were new) thinks early W210 is ok, but he doesn't like the W211 at all.
If you need 4wd then the W124 is probably not the car for you though.
Just bought a 2010 W212 w/ 76K miles - my '95 W124 wagon actually feels better built, especially the interior.
These are just my experiences.
 

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1983 300SD, 1986 560SEL, 1992 300D, 1995 E320 Wagon
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folks I know with newer benzes seemed to have had a lot of really expensive electronic problems with the W211's, especially the earlier ones. I do know a guy who swears by his late production W211 E55 AMG wagon, he'll take it cross country and says its a total hoot to open up on a remote interstate... but thats a supercharged 5.4L v8 with like 470 HP or smething insane, 0-100MPH in under 10 seconds, 0-60 in 4.1..

The W212's are supposed to be generally better, but now we're talking less than 10 years old, and serious money.

IMHO, a clean always-garaged low mileage W124 3.2 (1993-1995) that got a new engine wiring harness and throttle body, and has had thorough maintenance since new, is a good reliable car, but its quite spartan, no cup holders, for instance. I'm annoyed there's no good place to put my 1L water bottle that I always bring on long road trips. The original transmission might go out between 150k and 250k miles, but its only like $1800 for a quality rebuild (Sun Valley!), plus R&R labor, and the rebuild should last longer than the original.

Absolutely critical IMHO, any candidate used Benz of any generation, bring it to a trustworthy Mercedes repair shop and have them do a full PPI, this might cost $100 but they'll go through that car top to bottom and should find just about every conceivable issue.

Watch out for low mileage garage queens that have been sitting for the past few years without regular service. Those cars often have more hidden problems then you want to deal with.
You can put a 1994 or 1995 folding cupholder from. Cadillac Deville into the top lid of the armrest and it looks factory.
I have instructions.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
You can put a 1994 or 1995 folding cupholder from. Cadillac Deville into the top lid of the armrest and it looks factory.
I have instructions.
Go on, this sparked my interest. I happen to work for General Motors, I have access to these parts
 

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Post #12 at this link has another way too if you get rid of roller top.....

 

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Discussion Starter #16
Not having AWD is not a deal breaker for me, I can live with that, with my BMW I’ve often had to park the car and leave it during snowstorms. So I think I will be looking at mostly W124s, what do you all think is a robust drivetrain on this platform? I’ve heard the diesels are very robust but I’ve never owned a diesel car in my life, I’m not sure what to expect. Any good or bad experiences with these cars?
 

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The diesels are great. Maintenance is more simplified compared to a gas version but they are harder to find with low miles on them. If you buy one with a ton of miles and poor maintenance it will ultimately bury you. Same goes for a gasser though. So if you can find a nice low mile diesel (I think low miles would be 150k) and its been serviced well, it will be a great car for a long time (ten to fifteen years). If you don't expect to keep a car that long, then a 200k mile or 250k mile diesel would be okay.

As for snow, there is an easy solution. A spare set of wheels with snow tires on them is indespensible in the winter. Four snows transforms a 124. My wife is a white knuckle driver and I feel for anyone who has to follow her. She was scared to death to drive her 400e in the snow because she quickly would lose control of the car, even with ASR ( "the Germans took away my throttle pedal"). I spent $300 on a used set of snows to see what would happen and the result was incredible. She was so impressed with the transformation that she didn't hesitate to drive the car and stopped asking for a four wheel dirve or ...(heaven forbid) a Honda. The following year I bought four new snows and the handling was even better.
 

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'92 300TE 4matic 280,000miles, '92 300TE 4Matic 'Ice Blue Metalic' 101,000miles
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Not having AWD is not a deal breaker for me, I can live with that, with my BMW I’ve often had to park the car and leave it during snowstorms. So I think I will be looking at mostly W124s, what do you all think is a robust drivetrain on this platform? I’ve heard the diesels are very robust but I’ve never owned a diesel car in my life, I’m not sure what to expect. Any good or bad experiences with these cars?
In spite of what others say about the first gen 4Matics, when working properly they are extremely formidable snow & ice cars. It's just a system you need to 'learn' and then you can live comfortably with it. And 4Matics go cheap now, because of their bad reputation of issues.

Kevin
 

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In spite of what others say about the first gen 4Matics, when working properly they are extremely formidable snow & ice cars. It's just a system you need to 'learn' and then you can live comfortably with it. And 4Matics go cheap now, because of their bad reputation of issues.

Kevin
Those are the keywords. As much as I usually agree with Kevin on things MB in general, I think it is very fair to say that MB rushed their very first car based AWD to market after seeing the success Audi had with the Quattro, and MB did not want to come in 3rd place after BMW's X drive system which was in development at the same time on the E30 3 series. The end result was a AWD system with great promises and potential, but not baked through and through, rendering it a customer funded R&D project once the warranty ran out. Proof of "rushed to market" is evidenced between the early and later W124 4Matic, whereby the system is redesigned so dramatically that it is basically a "do over".

If we could turn back the clock after what we know today about the 4Matics 25+ years later, the general conclusion and recommendation would be that the standard W124 is the car you buy and the 4Matic is the car you lease.

At least that's my take on the W125 (ahem 4Matic). I have yet to come across a 4Matic version 1.x (W124 4Matic generation) where the owner can confidently say "everything is working 100% and can tackle everything a Quattro can" without breaking a sweat.
 

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In spite of what others say about the first gen 4Matics, when working properly they are extremely formidable snow & ice cars. It's just a system you need to 'learn' and then you can live comfortably with it. And 4Matics go cheap now, because of their bad reputation of issues.

Kevin
I defer to you Kevin when it comes to fixing and maintaining a 4-matic. You are the man. And I can see how the system transforms the car when its working. The little nuances though require adjustment. For example, even when half shafts are new, when turning the car at slow speeds the system translates so much back through the steering wheel it can be unnerving. The 4matic in the W210 by comparison is nearly undetectible. But having said that, you are correct, that when working properly they can handle the snow and ice alongside any 4wd/awd car.
 
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