I got an email from Dave Knows Cars Blog reader ‘Steve’ in South Florida a couple of weeks ago. He was looking for a late model Mercedes Benz S class in the 80,000 – 100,000 mile range to use as a daily driver for his 40 mile round trip commute for under $10,000, his questions was simple, Is this a crazy idea. Well, read on and you will see my answer.
It isn’t an entirely crazy idea, you just have to make sure you find the right car… and he did, as I got an update from him this week, the photo accompanying this post (below) is Steve’s black 2004 S430 that he purchased from a Mercedes-Benz Dealer in Miami just the other day. Congratulations Steve! It looks like you paid up for a very good example that should be a good car for you for many years to come.
Here is Steve’s original email to me:
There are plenty of one or two owner cars that have been well cared for, dealer serviced by the old guy who brings it in when it needs something, but might keep his cars for 8 – 10 years.We have a lot of those kinds of folks at our dealership.
I don’t know where you live, but if you go to the ‘old money’ dealership… more cars like this show up as opposed to the dealerships in the new money areas that lease more cars than they sell.. if that makes any sense to you. You might need to do some demographic research, or find a car guy like me at one of your local dealers, and just kind of ask him about those kinds of guys. They’re out there… you just need someone to call you when they trade in their car for a new model.
With a car of that age and mileage, lots of stuff will have been replaced and repaired on the car, so you can’t get scared about seeing ‘cam seals replaced’ on a Carfax or vehicle history, or ‘transmission fluid leak’ or something like that, they will have all had such problems and will have had things like that replaced.If you try to buy from a private party, ABSOLUTELY have a pre purchase inspection done, even if you’re buying from a dealer, do that… you can take it to a dealer or reputable indy shop that knows the cars. I’d check with someone in your local MB club chapter, call the president, tell them what you’re considering and ask if he would recommend an individual in the club who you could talk to you about finding a place…. they might even know someone with such a car.
I would try to find a very clean car, cosmetically clean, inside and out.. first impressions mean a lot to me when I’m looking at a used car. if it’s clean, inside and out, chances are it was well cared for… and when I mean clean, I don’t just mean, not dirty… but look at the door sills and jambs for wear, look at the buttons on the dash.. are they all work off, the lettering and icons? are the carpets worn and matted from being wet and dry and wet and dry.. or was this the kind of person who put all season mats on top of the carpet mats to protect them?
You’ll want to make sure the suspension is good… bushings and springs are one thing, but the airmatic shocks in these cars can be quite expensive.
They’re going to have chips and imperfections outside at that mileage… but you’re accepting of that I’m sure… but there are cars that have been better cared for than others, you can just tell. Curb rashed wheels are a tell tale sign of a drive / park by feel… I never like those cars.
Those are some of the things I would look at… I have sold S500s with 175k miles on them… they can be good cars for a long time, but hopefully, with the help of a tech and a ppi, you can get one that doesn’t have a ton of immediate needs. I shipped one to a limo service in Colorado, it was an S430 (just as good as a 500), I shipped another old S class to a guy in AZ. People do travel to get these, or use nationwide searches to find them.
I would find a good indy shop to maintain it for you long term, someone who really knows the cars an is trusted by the local MB club. They will be a great resource. Dealership maintenance at that point can be expensive (of course I didn’t just write that, you didn’t hear that from me).
I always say…. and I say this to customers all the time… In the end.. all old cars are like hand grenades without pins… they all blow up eventually… but with proper maintenance, and if you start with a well cared for, decent example, it might not blow up on your watch.
Don’t be afraid to pay up for a really nice example, remember, ‘there is nothing more expensive than a cheap Mercedes-Benz’
Thanks for the question, thanks for reading the blog. Let me know how it turns out.
That’s how easy it can be… and how funny is it… that Colombians in Miami couldn’t come up with the money fast enough!? I guess I was just a big Miami Vice fan when I was a kid, the Colombians in Miami ALWAYS had the cash!