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When did Mercedes become unreliable.

6477 Views 12 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  CheckEngine
I want to get a Mercedes as a first car. I have heard that the old cars are very reliable and the new ones not so much. I was wondering what year Mercedes stopped being so reliable.
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Has it?
When newer cars have more technology, so more things to break, I would compare that to cell phones.
Would you like to go to old dial phone for reliability?

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You'll want the push button model that can create touch tones. This is the world's most reliable model:
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MB reliability went to around the time w123 ended production

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You'll want the push button model that can create touch tones. This is the world's most reliable model:
Sorry, but that one has 12 electric switches and electronic board that can fail. Long way from reliability of dial phone.
Sorry, but that one has 12 electric switches and electronic board that can fail. Long way from reliability of dial phone.
Technically, yes. But the rotary phone cannot operate across all of the modern digital environments currently available. Whereas the push button phone can.
Also, AT&T's push button phone was produced in significantly higher numbers globally, and is still in use today in many countries. Given the sheer numbers, it is literally the most reliable one ever made. ;-)

As to the original posted question about the reliability of Mercedes-Benz:
I think all the plastic parts within models built after 1998 have are the Achilles heel of those vehicles.
But if you're looking for an older Mercedes-Benz to drive today that's reliable.... find a super clean one built towards the end of it's production run and without all the advanced suspension and electronics options as possible.
I would also suggest taking the advice of repair shops on which models to pick.
For example, the 2006 S500 rear wheel drive (non-4Matic, non-ABC).
I tend to agree with ciprianmuresan. I can't excuse Mercedes-Benz - or BMW, Audi, Jaguar, etc. - for building unreliable cars just because they are using new technology. Lexus cars are near bullet proof, and I would attribute that reliability to their general reluctance to incorporate new technology into their vehicles until they have had sufficient time to test and adjust it. The European luxury brands, on the other hand, tend to use their customers as guinea pigs.
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It depends on the model. We have a 2014CLS550 that has had 0 problems and the other owners are about the same.

I personally would not by anything less than an E class for quality reasons.
Personally I wouldn't buy anything from MB from about 2000 on. Seem a bit Japanese to me after that with less of that MB feel. Without the reliability though. There have been some very bad corrosion, paint and engine problems.

That said, the W221 seemed more like an S class again with that feel factor. To me anyway.

I would disagree with the testing thing, MB test for years don't they? Maybe less than before though.
It could be said that reliability problems began when Lexus arrived.

It may have begun when fuel economy started to matter and Mercedes no longer came with truck engines.

Mostly I think reliability problems occurred when more people owned them that were used to owning American cars. These vehicles are closer to being Ferraris than they are to being Camrys. Ferrari owners can handle this and Mercedes owners need to be able to as well. You own a Mercedes to enjoy its dynamic qualities and its cutting edge technology, not to own a set it and forget it refrigerator.
It depends 95 and below mercedes are reliable, but when the car starts acting up, for example a tune up or tracing any sensors issues can cost a bit to diagnose due to being obd 1 instead of 96 and up where they have obd 2 just scan and find the issue no problem, and on older benz from 80s to early 90s they had the Bosch jettronic fuel systems which is expensive if it starts acting up ie fuel distributors etc, 2000 and up aren't bad drive train wise but cars with airmatic suspension will eventually have issues and due to more computers,, but the best advice is get one well maintained no doubt! Like the saying goes the cheapest Mercedes will end up being a costly Mercedes!!!
Reliability issues started after merger with Chrysler. As an example, older Mercedes used German copper connectors. After the merger, Chrysler partnrs tossed a trainload of cheaper plastic connectors "Hey, connectors anyone? We have some, save some money". Sure enough, 2000 and up Mercedes are standing all with hoods up electrics gone haywire. And it is just one example.. My W140 S500 feels nothing like W220, latter feels more like lexus.,
Then I think around 2004 or 5 they realized that they are digging their own grave and got theiur [email protected]!*t back together...
Thats why i will always stick with pre-merger cars - anything after 1998 is not worth it - that quality feel is gone and that what makes these cars so special.......Once car is made not by engineers but by accountants, problems will happen.
I'll second some of the posters who said the worst reliability problems generally came after the 1999 merger with Chrysler. In addition to some questionable parts-sharing, it was a HUGE distraction to management as well.

But that's an extremely generalized view, and there have always been model-specific reliability issues. For example the early W202 C-class had biodegradeable wiring harnesses in the engine compartment, and those have caused myriad difficult-to-diagnose problems. That was solved in '96 or '97. (Don't quote me). After that, the W202 became one of MBZ's most reliable cars. I have a '99 C280 which has been the soul of reliability, though I'm currently experiencing one niggling problem that I believe is electrical. I've also got an '01 SLK230 which has been extremely reliable.

If you want an MBZ, I'd focus on the older models. But that's no substitute for doing model-specific research here and elsewhere. You'd also do well to look at the annual Consumer Reports Buying Guides (a small paperback book) and their annual auto issue. While I'd be quite suspicious of other models from those years, I've heard that the 05-06 E320 CDI is very reliable. But the 07's and on switched to Bluetec, which came with a host of problems.

So I'd suggest you figure out what you like, then do some model-specific research. There are some gems out there that get thrown under the unreliability bus because folks don't do model-specific analysis. Also, if you can't do your own wrenching, you should reconsider this whole project, or learn how. MBZ parts aren't cheap, and labor is ususally 2/3rds of a mechanic's bill, often more. Buy parts wisely. I use and and I tend to buy name-brand parts. Never buy generic electrical parts! As for features, I'd avoid cars with self-leveling suspensions, tons of wear, etc. Your best bet is an old, low-mileage car that was owned by someone who took care of it. And buy one from a non-snowy clime. Rust is the most expensive thing to fix on any car.

In 2017 I was able to buy a '99 C280 in California with 73K miles. After I bought it, I did full fluid changes (oil, transmission, brake lines, coolant, and power steering), and I ended up having to replace the MAF. Since then, I've replaced the battery, and done oil changes. After 30K more miles, the car has simply rocked. Yeah, it's a somewhat staid sedan, but it's a good stealth vehicle with decent performance (I got the Sport Package), and a great ride. My SLK is a lot of fun too, and clean cars can be had for $4-$6-ish if you shop well.

Best of luck, and I hope you get something you really like.


Kim G
Boston, MA
Which is not a great place to buy an old car.
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