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

maiadmaiad Member Posts: 1
edited March 2014 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 Member 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.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    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 Member Posts: 20,342
    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 Member 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 Member 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.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    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 Member Posts: 20,342
    "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.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    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 Member Posts: 20,342
    Especially with labor rates pushing 100.00 per hour.

    But, I know you know what I'm talking about...
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    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 Member Posts: 20,342
    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 Member Posts: 1,391
    Aren't the SD's diesel also?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    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.
  • had2manycarshad2manycars Member Posts: 1
    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.
  • johnnyturbo200johnnyturbo200 Member Posts: 5
    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 Member Posts: 1,711
    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 Member 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.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    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 Member 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.
  • mercedesyenmercedesyen Member Posts: 1
    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!
  • ncb03ncb03 Member Posts: 1
    After 15 years with couple of Toyota Camrys, we are deciding to to upgrade to a luxury sedan.

    We are down to the lexus 430 and the Benz E320 ?
    Any drivers out there who have had both and can comment
  • p100p100 Member Posts: 1,116
    I bought an 83 Mercedes 300 SD with about 100K original miles on it. The car still has the original good paint, mechanically it is excellent and also has great looking interior. This is one well built car! One disadvantage is that you have to find somebody who knows these cars. It is sad that many of these cars have been totally screwed up by parts changers who do not know first thing about a diesel engine and how to set it up. This is not the car you take to your street corner garage for service.

    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. at reasonable prices.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    I know, I just went to the dealer and bought the little sockets for the bulbs in the dashboard, and the tiny snap-clip that holds the rod to push up the door lock on the vacuum motor.

    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.
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