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1992 300SE
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Discussion Starter #1
So, I am looking around for an E-Class. I feel like I am all over the place in looking for one and I really want to pin down a model to purchase. I have a owned a W126 1992 300SE and I loved the car but my ex-wife forced me to sell it due to the cost of upgrading the dated stereo system with a dead amplifier.

Now I am a single father of a beautiful 3 year old and the comfort of that S-Class brings me back to the Mercedes marque but this time in search of an E-Class as a nice compromise between an C-Class and an S-Class. I need the space for my daughter and her massive car seat. I had a smaller car (Focus ST) that was my daily but I lost it in the financial trainwreck that was my divorce. As much as that car was very fun to drive, it was hard on my back and difficult to load my daughter in and out of. That car was also royal PITA to drive in the winter here in Maine.

So I have decided to pay cash for a Mercedes and maintain being debt free and use the money for the would be car payment for cost of maintenance in a more premium/comfortable car. I have done some searching around and have found a decent amount of W211s, most with some mileage racked up, but I have also found some real clean under 150k W210s that are in my price range too. Mileage doesn't put me off as long as the maintenance has been kept up, it shouldn't be an issue. $4k is my limit for this venture.
Models I've been looking at:

-W211 E320 Wagons and Sedans: Fuel Economy here
-W211 E500 Wagons and Sedans: V8 Roar and boost in power.
-W211 E320 CDI Sedans (Almost all of these have over 190k miles in my price range) The fuel mileage and torque of the Diesel appeals to me
W210 E430: V8 Roar and a bit more power.

4Matic or not to 4Matic has been a complex decision.

I feel as though a Later W210 chassis would be my best bet, being they are less complex but I also really like the styling of the W211 but alot of issues with those, kind of put me off as this car will be my daily with 100 miles a day. I also want to be confident with taking the car anywhere at anytime (like Maine to Florida).

I'm conflicted on where I should focus my energy doing my search so I am asking for some advice from owners. I just want a very comfortable, reliable with proper maintenance, and one that I can daily for quite some time.
 

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Seaking for a car about 20 years old is not for everybody, so I hope you realized that?
When you can find W210 garage queen, that will sell close to $10k, it is still going to be 20 years old car.
I buy diesels for fuel economy and higher resale value.
The W211 E320 cdi are highly appreciated, but they have their share of black death issues, while nice one will sell for more than your budget.
Nice W210 diesel will be well above your budget.
So basically your budget will put you on the market for high-mileage gasoline sedans, or beaten-up wagon.
Unless you live up in Colorado mountains, you don't really need 4M, but then again, for minimally higher cost it is nice feature to have. Not something that should make buying criteria.
Lastly I hope you are very familiar with Internet visdom >> "there is not many things that can get very expensive faster than cheap Mercedes- Benz" ?
Good luck shopping.
 

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1992 300SE
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Discussion Starter #3
Seaking for a car about 20 years old is not for everybody, so I hope you realized that?
When you can find W210 garage queen, that will sell close to $10k, it is still going to be 20 years old car.
I buy diesels for fuel economy and higher resale value.
The W211 E320 cdi are highly appreciated, but they have their share of black death issues, while nice one will sell for more than your budget.
Nice W210 diesel will be well above your budget.
So basically your budget will put you on the market for high-mileage gasoline sedans, or beaten-up wagon.
Unless you live up in Colorado mountains, you don't really need 4M, but then again, for minimally higher cost it is nice feature to have. Not something that should make buying criteria.
Lastly I hope you are very familiar with Internet visdom >> "there is not many things that can get very expensive faster than cheap Mercedes- Benz" ?
Good luck shopping.
I'm not super concerned with the age of the car, maintenance plays a massive role in how well the car will last. I've owned alot of cars from across the spectrum of the automotive world and I've performed all of the maintenance involved with those cars while also using the power of the internet and online forums just like this one. Cars like Pontiac Fieros, RX7s, and 1970 Tbirds to VR6 VWs to my current project on hold C3 Corvette. I have broad interests in cars. I am currently daily driving a 99 Camry that I bought for $500. I do live in very Rural Maine in the foothills which is why 4Matic is a consideration for me. Most of the CDIs I have found appear to be dealer trade ins but from the pictures are well maintained (I know pictures are deceiving) But I have been fortunate with buying cars from across the country based solely on pictures and good communication from the seller.
 

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I bought more than a dozen of MB with average distance 2500 miles from home, but it used to be much safer in the past, with famous MB diesels reliability. That got tricker with new technology and I would suspect that trade-ins E320 cdi will have black death that pictures will not show.
Now it would be interesting to see how $500 Camry looks like?
Personally I value MB paint the most and that is main reason I change the cars when paint shows age, even I am religious about keeping the cars out of UV.
If you don't mind "sad looking MB" you sure are open to huge market.
 

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W210 Moderator
99 E320
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ditto Kajtek1 - Any wisdom gleaned from keyboard advisors isn't likely going to prove
valuable for 20 year old cars. even between those two model lines, your own eyes
and ears will discern issues with the actual car far beyond what we can imagine
at this point insofar as deal breakers. the older the car is, the more dependent their
consumer buying value becomes on how the previous owner(s) have cared for the
car so perhaps 1) checking TSBs on the year/model 2) getting it to a mechanic for
a comprehensive pre-purchase inspection
 

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1992 300SE
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Discussion Starter #6
My $500 Camry isn't pretty, but has been reliable. I bought it from an older Gentleman that I work with. He was the second owner and had it regularly maintained between the dealership and his mechanic. I only got it cheap because the inevitable rust set in and wouldn't pass inspection without spending more money in it and they didn't really need it anymore so I ended up with it. It also had a small misfire, which I diagnosed and repaired as well as repairing the rust.

There are Mercedes that are in my price with service records. They may not be showroom cars, but they are nice daily drivers. Maine isn't kind to vehicles that get driven everyday, so dropping $10k on a 20 year old E-Class with low mileage would be a bad idea. Any car around Maine will have rust unless their owners washed their vehicles almost every day. I've had good luck with most vehicles with higher mileage as long as they've been maintained 95% of their life. Cars are meant to be driven, most low mileage older cars I've purchased have turned into money pits.

My hesitation on W211 chassis is the inevitable SBC issues and Airmatic. Those seem to have decent failure rates and the parts to properly maintain or repair them seem quite expensive. But on the same side, I bet those cars go real nice down the road.

The later W210 chassis seem to have less issues because they do have less technology. So the age difference between a 2002 E430 4Matic and a 2005 E500 4Matic is fairly insignificant. But the maintenance seems to more on a 2005 E500 4Matic. That is just an example.
 

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SBC in USA comes with 25 years warranty, so that should not be concern.
Also in W211 bodies - MB used lot of aluminium parts and with better rust protection, so the corrosion issues you have in your state might look better on them.
Airmatic was never installed on E320cdi, but I think it was standard on high-end models.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
SBC in USA comes with 25 years warranty, so that should not be concern.
Also in W211 bodies - MB used lot of aluminium parts and with better rust protection, so the corrosion issues you have in your state might look better on them.
Airmatic was never installed on E320cdi, but I think it was standard on high-end models.
Awesome. I didn't know about the warranty with that system outside of the Original owner. Yeah, Airmatic didn't come on the E320CDI from what I've read. From what I've found on this forum and other forums/places on the internet. Most of them say avoid the first couple of years of the W211 chassis, so that puts you at MY 2005 but then Mercedes updated the engine in 2006 and those had some issues with the balance shaft spocket for 2ish years. So most 2008+ E-Class' are out of my budget, at least the decent ones. So MY 2005 is fairly safe to buy in for the W211 E320. 2005+ for the E500. I also really like the W211 Wagons, the space would be handy, but most of those I find are E500 4Matic Wagons. For me, it makes since for me to purchase a decent Mercedes and maintain it myself. I get a nice riding, safe car without the car payment.
 

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As @Kajtek1 mentioned, paint condition is very important for me as well, be it Mercedes or any other cars I have, all/were 10+years old, but I made sure I bought something that was shiny and garage kept so I don't have problems taking it out and not be embarrassed about it in front to relatives and that I would get a good price for it when I sell it. I was very lucky to find my current Mercedes E430 as it is in near mint condition, the headlights are like new, paint is like new, interior is decent and I just garage it and wax it to keep it like that. So to OP, if you be patient and look for MBs for a week or two, you will find a bunch of good W210s and perhaps the W211s too, I too stayed away from the W211 because of airmatic issues when I was shopping around. So an 01-02 E430 would be your best bet, perhaps even a W211 E320 without airmatic if you can live with a V6, they are not that slow. The E500s had airmatic standard so look out for that.
 

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From what I remember 350 engine in W211 has more HP, than 500 engine in W210 ?
Maybe I am wrong, but few years lately makes huge steps in technology.
So early years of W211 still have drivetrain grandfathered from W210. Less advanced, but hard to beat proven workhorse.
In W211 all wagons have rear air, if not full Airmatic, but than W210 wagons have spheres.
Sounds like you are doing your homework.

(y)?
 

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1992 300SE
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Discussion Starter #11
It does seem the W210 drivetrains are real workhorses. In the W211 chassis, it seems Mercedes pushed pretty hard into more technology and that caused some suffering. I haven't read anything about the W210 Wagon Spheres. Thank you for an item to research further. After some light researching, the parts are pricey but don't appear as pricey as the Airmatic struts. I'll have to research some more.

I tend to research quite a bit so I know what I could be getting myself into. That helps to know when to gauge expensive services and allot the funds to allow it to be repaired properly as well as reduce the probability of being towed because of a breakdown.

I do have to agree with cvyas!20 that a E430 may check a majority of the boxes for me. But I guess it comes down to if I want to be more prepared to shell out more funds to have something like a E500 Wagon and just deal with Airmatic issues as they come. I dailyed my 300SE, mostly for work and stuff. It was very slow, but went down the road like a vault on a carpet ride. The biodegradable wiring in those were an issue, I fixed that issue in mine. It was a decent undertaking but it continues reliable service for the current owner.
 

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I live in PA and all of my winter cars have 4matic. If I were in Maine I would definitely get it and there isn't much of a mpg penalty. The W210s have problems with rust. Both of mine (190k and 205k) are getting ugly, but are still roadworthy. Other than rust these are good cars especially if you DIY. You might also consider a E320 W210 (vs the E430). The V6s have good performance in that chassis and they are much more plentiful and can be found for not much $$. My neighbor just picked up a 2002 E320 4matic with 150k for $1000. It needed brakes and a front axle. If you look, you can find rust free examples. Good luck with your search.
 

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the 350 (M272?) engine in the W211 is problematic until 2007 or so, when they used a better metal in the gearing of the balance shaft. A friend had a W211 diesel and after 200,000 miles had injector problems - I guess they have to pe pressed into the head - cost $4K-$5K - and he just got rid of it. All things being equal I would go for the simpler W210 but finding one in nice condition might take awhile.
 

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it is easy to find a nice 09 e350 for 5-8 thousand, they really are value tough to beat. i rather finance a small amount than buy a junky old 1000$ e320 again
 

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Hello !

Our year 2000 e320 wagon has been exemplary.
Bought from estate of original owner in Houston in 2014 for $3800
Super nice condition @ 130k miles. Had no records but was cared for by owner of Euro repair shop.

The wagons are super versatile as they can carry 7 and / or Cargo - tow worthy.

We live in rural East Texas so when I shop for a new MB I browse Craigslist for Houston or DFW - our 2 nearby 'Large City Market' - where used MB are plentiful. I could look locally but in rural areas it's hit or miss.

My method:

- Figure Model & year range ahead of time.
Read Edmunds for "Owner Reviews" of exact model Benz.
Check www.RepairPal.com for the top 10 'Repair Issues' that are most reported for that model.

- Search CL for ads for those models.
ALWAYS get VIN & pull 'Autocheck' or CARFax, before hand etc so you're seeing a pretty straight history of said vehicle. Upon test driving, go to private spot if possible & thoroughly inspect car, run a scan etc.

- Buy the seller, not just the car.
All vehicles and people who own them are intimately related. If person is sketchy, so is the Car - few or no exceptions. I once walked away from a very clean Volvo wagon because the car was pristine, but the guy looked & felt untrustworthy. But our ML was sold by an "Auto Repair / Collision Repair" Shop in Houston (I NEVER buy from used car dealers) but once I asked my 20 questions and I inspected the ML500, I made an exception and bought it.
It was as perfect a truck as I could ask & they were 100% honest.
So I temper my caution by investigation.

- I belive in the Biblical adage of "Let everything be confirmed in the mouth of 2 or 3 witnesses",
so I always try to drive / test / consider at least 3 examples of an MB, then decide.
It always seems the 'Right One' stands out from the others !

- I suppose if you want a very, very specific model MB: be willing fly or travel a distance re Kajtek's comment.

So, that's my .02 on some buying tips.

Also, if you're in Maine & considering 4matic in a w210, have you thought of the wisdom of a nice condition w163 ML 320 / 500 / 550 ?
I suggest the 2002-2005 models.
They have AWD, Low Range & are tough built rigs, I think can take a pretty "good licking & keep on ticking", as well as any Timex. (old ad for us old guys !)

Very safe for children to go in - crash test winner !

Cheers - David in East Texas
 

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My wife has permanent spine injury due to being rear-ended in W163, which frame did not absorb the impact, but transfer it to her body.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
I appreciate the tips. I am looking to the South while keeping an eye out locally. I have friends that I served with that may be able to help with a transaction if I find one I like enough. I think I may just look out for a later W210 E430 or E320 wagon. I may just take the plunge and look at a 2004 E500 Wagon 4Matic. The V8s seem pretty solid if maintained. There are a few decent examples online locally, but I need to look at them in person to see if there is any rust or other issues. But I am leaning more toward a wagon because it would be handy to have one with all the space and the neat bench seat in the way back.
 

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The wagons are excellent family cars. I bought my wife a 99 E320 and now that’s all she wants. We are on our 4th MB wagon now. They are somewhat hard to find with the SUV craze.
 

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I love wagons too, but love diesels even more and too bad in this country I am not allowed to own a car that has both

But W211 were also coming with folding rear seats and that helps a lot if you want to brings some pipes or 2x4.
Too rare option, but worth checking.
 
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