Mercedes-Benz produces some of the most desired automobiles on the planet. Most people around the world – even those who know nothing about cars – dream of owning a Mercedes one day, mostly to show off and stare through the three-pointed star on the hood. Unfortunately, there have been some models who spent more time in the shop than being shown off.
Mercedes-Benz has a long history of being a premium auto manufacturer. After all, the very first car ever built was a Benz. Since then, the brand has built its reputation around the idea of powerful and influential people driving their cars, from movie stars and famous singers to captains of industry and even rulers of countries. Most recently, a Mercedes-Benz was even used to drive Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin from her favorite summer home after she passed on. This being said, Mercedes-Benz had a few duds in its history, one as recent as 2015.
So, Mercedes-Benz is globally known as a maker of premium and luxurious vehicles which sometimes causes envy among passers-by, but also had smudges on a relatively clean reputation. With that, here are ten used cars from Mercedes-Benz you should probably avoid like it is the plague.
10 W211 E350
The W211 generation of Mercedes-Benz E-Class was among the best of the whole range. It was spacious, luxurious, comfortable, and smooth – everything one desires in a mid-size German executive sedan. Unfortunately, there were a few niggles.
The V6-powered mid-spec trim suffered from fuel supply issues which forced owners to replace almost all the pipes and pumps used to supply the engine with fuel. Luckily, this problem only affected the 2006 model year cars and Mercedes quickly rectified the issue, leaving the later W211 E-Class trims to become some of the best premium cars.
9 W221 S550
The W221 S-Class was a complete turn-around from the W220 preceding it. It was better styled, had more intuitive technology, and was more reliable in the long – and short – run. Unfortunately, the 2007 S550 model suffered from a curious software issue that made it randomly switch into Limp Mode.
Drivers reported the car drove brilliantly without any issues, before suddenly breaking down. Mercedes’ answer was to replace the ECU – at great cost to the owner – which mostly solved the issue. Owners also reported premature wear on the engine balancing shaft, which led to the timing chain becoming loose and breaking the valves.
8 W205 C300
More recently, the 2015 C300 had a host of issues not pertaining to the drivetrain, but rather the fit and finish of the interior and exterior parts. Some owners reported that their sunroofs flew off the car at highway speeds, leading to damage. Mercedes-Benz blamed a weak application of adhesive sealant and quickly rectified the issue.
Other issues included the airbag inflators randomly exploding and steering locknut failure, both leading to unnecessary accidents. The C300 also suffered from a lack of pace as the 4-cylinder turbo had a difficult time hauling the nearly 3,700 lb coupe around. It was definitely one of the less reliable Mercedes-Benz models in recent years.
7 W220 S-Class
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class is the leader in technology and luxury in the more affordable executive sedan market – below the likes of the Bentley Flying Spur and Rolls-Royce Phantom. The W220 S-Class introduced keyless entry and start, air suspension with multiple modes, radar-assisted adaptive cruise control, and ventilated seats.
As with most luxury cars, the W220 was heavily criticized for its options, which easily added tens of thousands of dollars to the price of the car. As an example, all-wheel-drive was a $2200 option that didn’t really provide any extra driving feel. The biggest problem with the W220 is the fact that repairs and maintenance on the model are extremely expensive and much of the electronics are prone to breaking – making the W220 one of the worst used options on the market.
6 W168 A-Class
The W168 A-Class was Mercedes-Benz’s way of entering the hatchback market to steal some sales away from the Ford Focus and Renault Megane. The W168 was another heavily criticized Mercedes model and was described as the ‘cheapening’ of the Mercedes brand.
The W168 failed the infamous ‘elk test’ where a car swerves to dodge an imaginary elk or moose. The A-Class flipped on its side and Mercedes-Benz denied the issue. Curiously, they halted production of the A-Class for three months and recalled all the sold ones to fit ESC and retune the suspension, which fixed the problem.
5 W163 ML-Class
The Mercedes-Benz ML-Class was the first proper go at building a more luxurious SUV – initially designed to replace the aging G-Class. The ML was a collaboration between Mercedes and Mitsubishi and as a way of getting extra publicity, Mercedes put the ML in the second installment of the dinosaur movie franchise, Jurassic Park.
The W163 ML was a relatively solid vehicle, achieving what it set out to do – except replace the G-Class. Unfortunately, it was quite an expensive vehicle to maintain, and in multiple surveys conducted in the UK, it was named the least user-friendly to live with every day.
4 Mercedes Vaneo
The Mercedes-Benz Vaneo is what happens when a first-generation A-Class hatchback and a Vito minivan are blended together. It is officially called an MPV – even with the ‘van’ in its name – and received surprisingly good reviews.
The Vaneo only had 4-cylinder engines to choose from – all of them underpowered, and it really wasn’t the best-looking of Mercedes models to come out of Stuttgart. Still, the Vaneo is a practical vehicle for families and even has the option of a slide-out trunk floor for easy access. As a driver’s car, we’d probably skip it.
3 X164 GL-Class
The GL-Class was a larger version of the ML-Class, but it also featured a more upmarket and luxurious demeanor. Unfortunately, this was slightly lost during the actual design. First, the X164 GL was way too big for the time and driving them anywhere, but American cities had proved quite an annoyance – as James May proved when he drove one through London during rush hour.
The GL was a bit of a letdown in the luxury department. While it was fitted as standard with leather seats, air suspension, and automatic climate control, it was still quite a way off the vehicles it was trying to outshine. The succeeding GL and GLS models did – and are still doing – a much better job, but still do not quite compete with the best in terms of build quality and exclusivity.
2 W210 E-Class
The W210 E-Class was the first Mercedes-Benz model to be accused of ‘cheapening’. It was the first model where the accountants were in charge of the build, rather than the engineers, leading to some cost-cutting here and there.
The W210 had a whole host of problems thanks to this ‘cheapening’, including the failure of the harmonic balancer pulley, a faulty blow motor regulator, the front sway bar drop links failing, the window regulators malfunctioning, the head gasket leaking and the differential bushing prematurely wearing. The model also had massive problems with corrosion as the paint used was water-based and cheaper.
The Mercedes-Benz X-Class is one of the least successful models in the company’s history. The German giant wanted to get in on the European pickup truck market to steal sales away from the Toyota Hilux, Ford Ranger, and VW Amarok. Unfortunately, instead of designing and building a vehicle from the ground up or modifying one of their own models, they turned to Nissan.
They used the popular Navara’s platform and changed the body and interior to reflect the premium look of the brand. The end result was an overpriced truck with worse ergonomics than the Nissan it was based on. Mercedes did add their own V6 turbo diesel into the vehicle, but it was too little too late. The X-Class was only in production between 2017 and 2020 when it was discontinued. The competition is still a better option anyway.