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Mercedes 300SD vs. Honda Civic-Which to Buy?

maiadmaiad Posts: 1
edited March 25 in Honda
We are faced with a tough choice. We recently lost our beloved 1989 Honda Accord (running strong with 156,000 miles) to an ice storm induced collision. We were given $2000 for the car. There is a 1985 Mercedes 300SD with 250,000 miles on it for sale nearby for $2500. It has been well maintained but has a few body/interior problems the most significant of which is that the windshield need to be re-sealed. Also, the air-conditioning doesn't work and it needs to be re-aligned. We also have the opportunity to purchase a mechanic-owned 95 Civic with 125,000 miles for $1500. My impulse is to go for the Civic because of lower operating costs. Others in my household lean towards the Mercedes because of safety. Anyone have any wild guesses as to which of these vehicles would be less expensive to operate over the next few years. Both seem to get about the same mileage.Style/image is not an issue. Suggestions?


  • rivertownrivertown Posts: 928
    About the only way the Mercedes would be cheaper to operate, IMO, would be if it were stolen the 1st night you bought it.

    I bet you'll make up your own mind if you check the dealer to see what it costs to seal the windsheild, align the wheels, and fix the AC.
  • Oh, yeah, go with the Civic, no question. If the Mercedes were a) newer; b) nicer c)fewer miles, I might think differently. The Benz sounds like a tired, over-priced old beater, and things like "just" needs the windshield re-sealer and "just" needs an alignment scare me. So why didn't the owner "just" run a bead of latex sealant around the windshield of this old cow, and go to an alignment shop for $75, and ask $75 more for the car?

    As for a car being "mechanic-owned" that could be the worst possible recommendation, so by all means have the Honda checked out by an independent shop. Don't let "mechanic-ownership" make you relax for a minute.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,348
    Anyone else ever notice... someone is selling a car and the A/C doesn't work.

    " It just needs a recharge"

    Or the front tires are badly worn on the side and it pulls to the right...

    " It just needs an alignment"

    The transmission slips...

    " It just needs the bands adjusted"

    Yeah, right! That Mercedes sounds like a nightmare!
  • swschradswschrad Posts: 2,171
    this one's a no-brainer. a mercedes may be finely built, but once it starts needing work, it's a seriously much more expensive car. maybe it hasn't been housing pigs yet, but that's the next step on the one you described.

    get the civic, now, before somebody else does.
  • kdshapirokdshapiro Posts: 5,751
    The one thing about older Mercedes, which I've heard multiple times from different people is: they are expensive to service, but after the service they run almost as new.

    Although in this case I would make the distinction between being serviced and being un-maintained.
  • Yeah, there's the rub. You can make an old Benz run great when you replace the engine.

    What I think the perzon meant was that an old Benz (back in those days) was built to be re-built, and that is essentially true. Lots of components are rebuildable, adjustable, lubricate-able.

    So with a service manual and the right tools you can "bring them back" with adjustments, filters, tweaking and small parts rebuilds, especially the diesels. They aren't filled with sealed black boxes or built out of plastic parts that break when you try to take them apart.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,348
    "Klaus" and "Bruno" were taught to be "mechanics" that repaired things rather than replace parts.

    They would have never trusted a "rebuilt" part out of a box. They carefully rebuilt the failed part themselves with skill and pride.

    That's not to say that today's "technicians" don't take pride in their work. It's just a different time and mentality.
  • Modern technicians are often under the gun. They don't have the time to bebuild things, and no one wants the liability.

    Besides, it's getting more and more impossible to even rebuild anything on a modern car. Many components are not serviceable at the dealer level anymore.

    It's also often cheaper to replace than rebuild.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,348
    Especially with labor rates pushing 100.00 per hour.

    But, I know you know what I'm talking about...
  • I buy used components for my old Benz, and this system has worked out great for me. The trick is finding a reputable yard that knows how to pick, test and ship a good and correct part.

    If you buy an old worn out Benz and have to rely solely on the dealer or Happy Hans German Car Repair, it's going to be carnage.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,348
    I would much rather take a chance on a tested used part than a "rebuilt" that was thrown together on an assembly line by a minimum wage person.

    A wrecking yard I used to frequent had a sign on the wall...

    " Every part on every car on the road is a used part!"
  • 8u6hfd8u6hfd Posts: 1,391
    Aren't the SD's diesel also?
  • Yep, and a bit more of a risk than a non-turbo diesel with lots of miles--but a more pleasant car to drive nonetheless.
  • I'm going out on a limb here, but I'd like to offer some facts about the Mercedes diesels. First, they are the least towed vehicles in Europe. Second, they live an extremely long life and are thus used as taxi-cabs all over the world (except here). Third, they are hands-down safer than any asian-built passenger cars. The 300SD is a tank that does everythin well. For your price range it's a lot of car for the money, but because of the mileage, I'd offer no more than $1500 if it's a nice, clean car. The civic might be newer but I wouldn't want MY family in it in an ice-storm wreck! I've recommended inexpensive diesel Mercedes models to numerous friends, several of which were involved in serious accidents in those cars later. Each one came back to thank me for choosing such a safe car for them - the Police said two of them should not be alive. If this Benz is too old, look for a better one. Don't rush.
  • Hey I have an old 300d (1979) and after spending 5k on a new engine, it has been a great car. Of course things have gone wrong and I will never be able to bet out of it what I have or will continue to put into it but the car runs daily, starts up, still looks great, will only be hurt by a mack truck or some other enourmous SUV and subsequently the people riding on the inside. I would have the car shecked out by a reputable mechanic and ask for service records. I wish I would have. Safety is A1, always and shoudl really be taken into consideration when purchasing a car. Even if it cost more in the long run and your family lives through being in ann accident it is well worth it. If you need more info on old benz's let me know and I'll fill you in.
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Posts: 1,704
    For safety, I'd still take a Volvo any day over a Benz. No offense to owners of Benzes, but Volvos seem to be built more solidly and with safety in mind.
  • swschradswschrad Posts: 2,171
    you never get your money back out of a car. they are turbosupercharged money pits.

    the basic question is, suppose the car croaked and it needs major repairs. which one can you afford to do them on? if either, keep looking for preferences or turn-offs. if you can't afford your local Benz service per-hour rates, but can on the Honda, that is a consideration indeed.

    and yes, the extensive training program a dealer certified Mercedes tech has to take is going to make the labor rate double or triple the going rate in town. but they should know enough to line up all the hardware in the jigs as they take things down so they can a) keep it, because there are zillions of sizes and pitches that nobody else has, including Mercedes Parts anymore, and b) get it back where it belongs.
  • Old Benzes are strong cars. I've been in under and through my 300D and it is surely built as well as any Volvo. It weighs 500 lbs more and originally cost at least double the price of a Volvo in 1980.
  • edge7edge7 Posts: 3
    Keep in mind that most of the doomsayers on the 300SD have never owned a Mercedes Diesel. I just bought a 1985 300SD that was well taken care of and garaged, looks more like 5 years old rather than 18 years old. The car is a great alternative. Where else can you get a large, roomy and save car that will run a fun hundred thousand miles. I would much rather drive my family in this than a cookie cutter Japanes economobile. You just have to have a competent and fair foreign car mechanic to care for it. Don't bring it to MerBenz.
  • Retired Cars that I've owned, pm & repaired.
    87 Hyundai Excel donated @ 298,000 miles. Engine still strong but burnt out tranny. Didn't want to put anymore "wear-n-tear" money into.
    83 GMC Suburban 1500 2x4 @ 302,000 miles. Finally lost compression, cracked flywheel, worn front suspension & radio wire short somewhere.

    83 Mercedes 300SD @ 289,000 miles and still going strong! Styling still a classic for a 20 year old!
    ****** The key to success is doing your own pm whenever possible AND finding an old fashion mechanic who knows Mercedes VERY VERY WELL and is fair in $$$$$$.
    Otherwise, if you have to take it to the dealer, you'd better be RICH as parts and labor is very expensive.
    True that even if you do your own work, parts can still be expensive but once you've repaired it CORRECTLY, you needn't worry about till it wears out accordingly.
    ***** An other KEY is to know what year, model & trim to STAY AWAY FROM! There are Mercedes that just didn't have it together right. example, an 85 300SD is OK but it's abit weak as it had a smaller tranny.
    Take care and good nite!
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