Buy a used Mercedes Benz instead of a Swift?

You can buy a used Mercedes Benz for the price of a Maruti Swift or Hyundai i20 – but should you?

If you look up the Internet or the Auto-classifieds in the papers these days you will see some very tempting deals. There are used Mercedes Benz cars going for as low as Rs. 3 lakh for a 15-year-old car. But if you want something a little newer, how does Rs. 5 lakh for a 2002 model C 200 CDI sound? If you want something bigger, you could get a 1998-model E 220 for the same price too.

used mercedes benz c 200 cdi photo

These kind of second-hand car prices for a car that cost over Rs. 25 lakh about 10 years ago sound very exciting indeed. Why would you want a Maruti Swift at Rs. 5 lakh when you can buy a Mercedes C-Class and go one up on your neighbor? After all a Mercedes Benz is a status symbol that can get you more admirers than if you were driving a “common” Swift.

Just to give you a better perspective on whether to pick up a second-hand Mercedes (and the cars we looked at were in good condition with only about 60,000 km on the odometer) or a brand new Maruti Swift ZXi for about the same price here’s a list of the pros and cons of buying a used Mercedes.

Pros

  • A 2002 Mercedes C-200 CDI that has done only about 60,000 km is still in the prime of its youth. This is a 2-litre diesel engine that puts out about 114 bhp of power and 250 Nm of torque, which is about as good as most of the Rs. 10 lakh diesel sedans of today. This engine has the capability of doing over 2,00,000 km without needing any major work, and gives a mileage of over 13 kmpl on diesel, making it quite fuel-efficient too.
  • The C-200 CDI also comes with a five-speed automatic transmission, making it very convenient to drive in city traffic.
  • The Mercedes Benz C-200 CDI is loaded with creature comforts, which include automatic climate control, leather upholstery and a good sound system. The quality and space on the interiors is much more than most of the Rs. 10 lakh sedans you get in the Indian market today.
  • The car is loaded with safety features, which include airbags and ABS, as well as a solid steel body. “Built-like-a-tank” is a term often used to describe Mercedes cars.
  • The car does not have complicated electronics like most modern day cars and hence there is less of a chance of anything going wrong with it. The W124 E220 model in particular is still very popular in the second-hand market because it was solidly built. The engine from that car is what powers the Force One SUV today.
  • The biggest advantage is the “status” that you get with a Mercedes Benz. Across India, the three-pointer star is one of the most easily recognized symbols of opulence. Driving a Mercedes Benz gets you plenty of admirers and a certain perceived standing in society.

While the list of pros is tempting enough for you to buy a second-hand Mercedes Benz, do give it a rethink. If you plan to keep the car for a while and also do some extensive driving, be prepared for some expensive maintenance.

Cons

  • Mercedes Benz cars are frightfully expensive to maintain. Mercedes Benz recommends a service interval of 10,000 to 15,000 km on the car depending on the variant. But when it is time to service the car, and you do it at an authorized Mercedes Benz service center, expect your bill to be upward of Rs. 25,000 for each service!
  • The spare parts for the car are very expensive as well. A single headlight costs Rs. 33,000. A genuine alloy wheel costs Rs. 55,000!
  • Replacement parts for older cars are hard to come by. There may be times when the car may need to be just parked at the workshop because of the non-availability of parts. Some parts may need to be ordered from abroad and shipped to India, adding to the costs.
  • If you drive the car a lot, expect to spend Rs. 1 lakh a year on maintenance alone. This high service cost can negate the savings on fuel or diesel.
  • Urban India is now a lot more image savvy. While buying a 10-year-old Mercedes Benz will give you a few admirers, the swish-set in cities will see it as an “old model” and not in keeping with the times.

When it comes to peace-of-mind and practicality, you may be better off buying a hatchback like the Swift and enjoy trouble-free and relatively inexpensive motoring. The Swift’s maintenance costs on service alone won’t be more than Rs. 15,000 a year. The car can be repaired anywhere as Maruti has a large service network and you won’t be left stranded. But the Swift has next-to-no snob value.

Buying a used Mercedes makes sense if you are willing to spend the time and effort in maintaining it. Or you could opt for non-standard parts, but risk the long-term reliability of the car. For example, you could use aftermarket alloy wheels that cost only about Rs. 6000 a piece instead of a genuine Mercedes alloy. Or you could source parts like headlamps and engine parts from the scrap-car market.

The question is how much are you willing to spend on image value alone? Do let us know your thoughts on buying a second-hand Mercedes Benz for Rs. 5 lakh.