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Maintenance Costs On Aging Luxury Cars?

reel1reel1 Member Posts: 1
edited March 2014 in Mercedes-Benz
Anyone have any info on maintenance problems/reputation 89 mercedes 560 sel. Thinking of buying one for $7,000 with 130K miles but don't want to buy problems as I have heard merecedes are very expensive to repair. Thanks for any input you have.


  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Well, what might you expect after all? This is a huge complex car that you are buying pretty cheap. Good cars but as you say you'd better look it over very carefully, since anything you have to fix will be expensive. Being both German and complex, there's no easy way to save money on repairs.

    If you are lucky and the car is in top shape right now, figure $200 a month to keep it that way, presuming no major catastrophes.

    Stay on top of this car, and spend money on mainenance lavishly. If you are by nature a bit of a tightwad on maintenance, don't buy this car.
  • haspelbeinhaspelbein Member Posts: 227
    Is a good rule of thumb, but it will vary by mileage, of course. Most Mercedes engines would be good for at least twice the mileage that you indicate.

    Labor costs are high. Many Mercedes Benz enthusiasts do a fair amount of work, especially minor repairs and maintenance, themselves. However, major repairs will cost you. No matter at what stage, a Mercedes will never be inexpensive.

    Of course the term expensive varies by definition. It should be cheaper to drive the old Mercedes than driving a new luxury vehicle. But your cost of ownership will never be in the same category with the one of a Honda Accord.

    That being said, Mercedes can be very satisfying to drive and have plenty of character. I do not know any other brand that has quite the feeling of 'heft' to it.
  • bpotterbpotter Member Posts: 1
    I bought an '87 about 2 years ago. I don't believe there's a huge difference between the 87 and 89. Mine had about 80K on it. One problem area has been the rear suspension. It has some sort of nitrogen filled suspension component. Not horribly expensive, but even after replacement the rear still "clunks" a bit. I understand that a/c problems are common. I had to have mine recharged but after that it has been OK. Also the radiator neck cracked but I got the motor shut down before it overheated. New radiator needed. This is also a common problem from what I hear. These are beautiful cars to drive. The wife and I took it from MN to Washington DC last summer...and it was a real joy. Large, comfortable, powerful. A heckuva lot of car for the money. The problem is that they are inexpensive to buy and upkeep is costly so many people don't keep them repaired properly. Buy wisely and you'll be very pleased!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Now you know why they are inexpensive to buy.....if a deal looks too good to be true, as they say......

    What is happening with these older luxury cars is the issue of supply and demand. The cars last a long time (build quality I mean) so they are plentiful.....good supply.....but demand is low because most people are pretty intimidated by the possible maintenance costs...so high supply, low demand = low (relatively) price. The nicer the car, the better the service records and the lower the miles, the scarcer they are, and the more people want these "mint" cars for the reassurance of not having huge repair bills.

    So I think that these old Benzes are not "bargains" but clearly reflect the rational thinking of fairly educated consumers.
  • mark156mark156 Member Posts: 1,915
    I had a 1991 560 SEL that I purchased with 53,000 in 1993. (got an excellent buy from a friend) In the seven years that I owned it and 29,000 I put on it, I replaced the following. (keep in the mind, this car was beautiful black with palomino leather, had rear foot rests with electric rear seat)
    -rear window actuator module $300
    -engine gaskets $500 (Mercedes paid half)
    -broken radiator neck (new radiator) $600
    -new fuel injection $2,000 (had to do it twice, 2nd time free)
    -new power steering gear box $2,000
    -rear wheel hub became frozen $300 (had to drilled out)
    -rear tail light held water (broken seal) $300
    -passenger vanity light broke $150

    I like my cars to be perfect and I paid for it. Most of the repairs happened in the last 3 yrs. of the 7 yrs that I owned it. I traded it in on a new 2000 E430 sport (no more service repairs, YEAH!)

    2010 Land Rover LR4, 2013 Honda CR-V, 2009 Bentley GTC, 1990 MB 500SL, 2001 MB S500, 2007 Lincoln TC, 1964 RR Silver Cloud III, 1995 MB E320 Cab., 2015 Prevost Liberty Coach
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    So about $6,500 in repairs in 7 years, plus let's say, for normal maintenance, another $600-800 a year (oil changes, tune ups, major services, tires, etc.)...so say another $5,600. That's $12K in seven years....which is even less than my estimate of $200 a month to push one of old German luxury cars around. That's only around $143/month (+ gas, insurance, etc. are all extra of course--they are pretty hard on gas, so if we figure 10K a year mileage + $750 for full insurance coverage, that brings our total monthlies to about $300 a month for everything).

    Of course, if we calculate mark's costs based on mileage rather than years, the car was really more expensive to own than is suggested by $143/month figure.

    Thanks for posting those numbers, that's very helpful.
  • q45manq45man Member Posts: 416
    I am amazed at people who buy OLD LUX cars for 50-20 cents on the dollar and don't know why they've depreciated [It is not because the paint or leather has gotten a little dull]. They surely don't understand the component design life cycle or that rubber hoses are speced to last 4 years or 1,000 hours of use.
    My rule of thumb is if you buy a $50k car for $12k used -- expect to lay out the purchase price every 4 year in maintenance/repairs if you are lucky. By the time its 10-12 years old it cost more each year than the trade in is worth.
  • q45manq45man Member Posts: 416
    If you study used prices you will find a $5-6,000 difference between the models [exact same year mileage. Some of this has to do with the way Lexus prices many many things optional. But after 3-4 years the LS is still $3-4-5k higher, much of this is the fewer component failures between 70k and 120k or even 150k on the LS400. [90-96 models]
    But paying more up front [plus finance and tax] usually equalizes with pay as you go repairs so from the warranty end [60-70k] to 120k the corrected for inflation out of pocket cost are the same.
    Generally these cars cost less [adjusted for inflation [38k x1.45] than when they were launched in 1990 but there has been some serious decontenting on both after 1996.
  • a_l_hubcapsa_l_hubcaps Member Posts: 518
    I know a guy who recently bought a well used 1980s BMW 735i. He thought he got a great deal until he started trying to replace broken parts :-) I'm all in favor of buying used cars, but I think I would stick with American or Japanese unless you're made of money. You don't find too many BMWs and Mercedes in junkyards for easy scavenging!

    -Andrew L
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    I think as time goes on you will find more and more of these old luxury cars in junkyards, especially the ones that have high miles and are a bit tattered.

    In fact, it would be quite prudent, if you really like these old luxury boats, to shop wisely, bargain hard to get a good deal on a decent but not mint car, and then drive it for as long as it takes something really big to break. Once you have a bad transmission or defect heater/ac system, or collapsed air suspension, or major electrical/computer problems, just junk it and go buy another. I'm sure you can get a decent BMW 735 for dirt cheap. I'd just keep buying them and junking them. If you get 2-3 good years you are way ahead, even writing off the car completely.
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Member Posts: 1,711
    What about '96 or '97 Volvo 850s? I am looking at a used '96 GLT sedan, 5-speed, that has 123k on it. The guy is asking $8000 for it. This 850 has traction control, leather, sunroof, premium sound system, basically all the goodies Volvo had to offer in '96. How are the maintenance and repair costs on these cars? Any good, or any bad?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    I wouldn't really put the 850 in the luxury car category, but if you want some pricing info on this car, you should visit the Edmunds Home Page and then click on "used cars". Once you punch in the make and year, etc., you can get a great deal of info on the car right here on the website.
  • smwls8smwls8 Member Posts: 103
    As I am looking for a 1986-1991 560 SEL as a big safe car for my wife and kids to drive short distance around town and to school. Gas mileage is not a consideration. I have found several local cars here in South Florida that are low mileage original cars(retirees that don't drive much). My boss has a 93 S320 with 101K on the clock and I love this car, but they are complicated pieces.

    Thanks for all the info!
  • armtdmarmtdm Member Posts: 2,057
    I believe the Volvo quality went by the wayside many many years ago. Much higher then average "required" maintenance over Japanese cars and I just don't believe the quality and durability is there from the 70s and early 80s. The Swedish work force only works 10 months a year, they shut the plant down for two months in the summer and when they do work I think their socialistic attitude towards life is now reflected in their low quality product. Getting down to Yugo territory in another 10 years
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Volvos made a great car in the 122 model of the 1960s. The 140s and 240s were rugged enough but the quality of materials was pretty marginal. Most of the old Volvos you see are an engine and transmission happily dragging around the remains of a body and interior. It's nice to see them finally making a modern car.
  • achenatorachenator Member Posts: 128
    In the late 90's my family had at one time, three 87 Benz. A 300E, 300D Turbo and a 560 SEL (maybe an 89?). All three cars held up pretty good I bought the 300 E with about 98k and sold it 3 years later with 180K. All of these cars required complete AC systems, including evaporator cores. VERY expensive to change those because the dash must be completely removed. That was the most major repair made to all three. I believe the key to maintaining these cars is to get a good mechanic you can trust. You must be able to put up with the ideosynchrisis of a vehicle of such age. I found most aftermarket parts to be pretty good.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Yes, you ran into one of Mercedes real weaknesses in the 70s and 80s. Their heating and a/c systems were pretty lame, considering the cost and reputation of the car. A Chevrolet system was ten times better. Also the Becker radios were a cruel joke.
  • lancerfixerlancerfixer Member Posts: 1,284
    This might be the only time I'll agree with you, so record this. :-) For what my '89 Volvo 740 cost new, the interior plastics sure weren't of the best quality (though the 740 did seem to get better materials than 240.) Though the leather seats look new in my car, I know from looking at similar vintage 740s this is the exception rather than the rule. Of course, I've got the obligatory dash crack (very minor, again, the exception. I've seen some that look like a representation of the Grand Canyon) and, of course, that most famous of 740 curses, a sagging headliner (luckily confined to the back, but slowly creeping forward.) I must say Volvo certainly didn't skimp when it came to the quality of body panels or paint, though.

    p.s. the Blaupunkt sounds great. :-)
  • lancerfixerlancerfixer Member Posts: 1,284
    Car in question is the aforementioned '89 740. It's a 5 speed non-turbo. I've had the car for about seven months, and I've brought it back to the dealer for maintenance; it was bought new by the original owner at the same dealer and he kept all the books and records with the car.

    105,000 mile service: $24.95
    110,000 mile service: $119.00
    new flame trap (bought through iPd, installed by me) $10.00.

    Ancillary expenses:
    Cupholder/armrest from a Volvo 940: $80.00
    Used Blaupunkt CD player: $80.00 on EBay.

    So, $150 in maintenance costs over seven months. Knock on wood, nothing major has broken yet, and most of the big stuff (like a new A/C system in the summer of 2000; I'm glad I didn't have to pay that repair bill) was taken care of by the previous owner. Over the next couple months, I plan on throwing tires on it (~$400) and taking care of the aforementioned sagging headliner (quoted $150.) These are maintenance costs I can live with, and it's on a car I genuinely enjoy driving that I bought for less than $4,000. Not bad at all, I say. Your mileage may vary.
  • bolivarbolivar Member Posts: 2,316
    Many may not consider a Caddy a 'luxury' car, but here is my story.

    Bought a lease Deville with less than 13,000 miles. Have no idea what repairs were done. I did get the 'maintenance' records, and it had oil, filter and wash jobs well under recommended scheduled time during it's first 2 years, at a Caddy dealership.

    I got the 'certified' Cad extended warranty. Best $600 I ever spent. (Actually part of the 'purchase' price of the car.)

    Things I quickly remember:
    Traction Control - Bad connection.
    Dead battery - Jumped it.
    Dead battery - New battery.
    Dead battery - Looked for a problem. The AM/FM/Cassette/CD was replaced.
    Cold air leak - Windshield pulled and reinstalled.
    Door lock button 'pushed in' - Replaced panel which contained clip holding button. Clip previously broken, button was secured with masking tape.
    Pinging - Decarboned it.
    Water leak - Replaced water pump.
    Interior lights would not turn off - Kept 4 days, replaced 2 'electric modules'. Lights stayed off a few hours, then on again. Kept 2 more days, found 'bad connection'.
    There were other things not looking good...

    This happened across 4 years, remainer of the 6 year certified warranty. And the car then had about 30,000 total miles. (We don't drive much.)

    When the Cad certified warranty expired, I sold it.

    No more Cadillacs for me.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Another satisfied Cadillac owner!

    Well of course "your mileage may vary". Some people have better luck with a car than others, but I have to say that this is often because they are more on top of things in general.

    My comments are directed more towards the average American driver who looks under the hood once every three months and expects his car to run like a Camry. This system may work for a Camry but not always for an older luxury car.

    Another thing I've observed, which I've brought up before, is the people's tolerance level varies widely. Some folks claim to have had "no serious problems" with their old luxo-boat, but when I drive in their cars with them I can spot about ten things wrong right off the bat. This is leaking a bit, that is rattling, this switch doesn't work, there's this funny smell, etc. , but to them the car has been "trouble-free" because it hasn't burst into flames.

    So what I'm saying is that some folks have not spend a lot on maintenance costs but are in fact slowly running the car down. It's like they are making withdrawals from the bank acount but not many deposits. Sooner or later they are going to go bankrupt, automotively speaking.
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