Mercedes 300SD vs. Honda Civic-Which to Buy?
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?
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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.
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.
" 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!
get the civic, now, before somebody else does.
Although in this case I would make the distinction between being serviced and being un-maintained.
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.
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.
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.
But, I know you know what I'm talking about...
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.
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!"
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.
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.
STILL DRIVING AND RUNNING STRONG!
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!
We are down to the lexus 430 and the Benz E320 ?
Any drivers out there who have had both and can comment
Auto transmissions on these cars are controlled by vacuum. If the adjustment is incorrect, transmission will either shift roughly and slam into gears or slip, giving erroneous indication of a bad transmission. Also, bad engine or air cleaner mounts will cause very unpleasant vibration. I have seen these cars with almost 400K miles on them still running strong on the original engine.
There are some negatives to consider. 1. Replacement of the A/C evaporator on these cars is a nightmare as it requires complete dash disassembly. Average estimate for labor alone is about 23 hours, which means about $ 1500 plus the cost of evaporator.
2. Replacing CV boots on the rear axles requires special tools and a lot of labor so you are better off replacing axles with rebuilt ones at about $ 500 per set plus $ 200 in labor.
3. The dash wood trim often delaminates with age and nobody makes aftermarket replacement trim for these cars. If you buy the dash trim kit from the MB dealer (the only place where it is available) they will sell you three pieces of matching trim for a mere $ 900.
4. The original Becker radio tape player never works in these cars. If you want to preserve the original radio, you can have it rebuilt for about $ 200 through your MB dealer.
5. Some parts that often need replacement on these cars due to age are power antenna at $ 150, vacuum pump for the door lock system (about $ 160 from aftermarket supplier), plastic valves that control vacuum to the EGR valve and transmission modulator (about $ 170), transmission modulator (about $ 35), EGR valve ($ 120), fan clutch ($ 150), climate control unit ($ 300), A/C compressor and hoses and receiver dryer($ 500), rusted battery tray ($ 25), engine shut off valve (about $ 120 including installation labor), tachometer amplifier (about $ 60). The outside mirrors have a spring attached to a weak aluminum housing anchor, which often breaks and cannot be repaired and makes the mirror move freely. A new outside mirror will cost you about $ 260. Even a good used mirror is about $ 100. If you want to replace the original electric clock which will usually be useless after 20 years, it is sold as a tachometer/clock combined unit and it will cost you about $ 400.
If you get a neglected car, it can turn into a money pit really fast. Many people give up on these cars just for that reason.
Another annoying problem with these cars are power windows. Plastic regulator sliding jaws wear out and break, effectively preventing window from moving up and down. You can buy the plastic jaws separately, but to install them, the regulator must be removed from the door, the old part drilled out, and the new jaw shaft peened on, which is the dumbest thing I have seen in a long time. An alternative is buying a $ 100 window regulator. Almost without exceptions, the rear window lower corners get permanently stained by water that weeps between the laminated glass halves and causes an unsightly stain. The interior center door pillar vinyl covers come apart from heat after so many years and they cost about $ 120 a piece to replace.
On the plus side, this is one safe car. I know one person who walked away from a head on collision in this car, which totalled his 83 Mercedes Benz. And his car did not even have an air bag.
Also, you can buy literally every nut, bolt and screw for this car, from a Mercedes dealer. I have never seen any car company keep such a complete stock of parts for cars as old as this. Many parts are available through aftermarket suppliers (e.g. www.thebenzbin.com) at reasonable prices.
Also there are plenty of junkyard Benz parts around, since Benz is a fairly high volume manufacturer and has been for a long time. Luckily there is a lot of consistency of parts from year to year in the same chassis. I can get used parts UPS'ed to my house in a couple days. An A/C compresssor cost me $75, and $100 worth of R12 and a belt and I was good to go for last summer.