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Used Mercedes vs BMW: What is Your Opinion and Main Reasons?

1. Reliability

BMW is considered one of Germany’s premier automobile manufacturers, and in recent years has competed strongly with Mercedes. BMW is a popular vehicle, and their long-lasting 3 series is a common sight on the roads. The often high resale value of a BMW indicates its long-term value and may cause higher insurance premiums. Overall, BMW is likely to be a good long-term prospect, but some models have had problems. The mid-90s 7 Series, in particular, was plagued by transmission and electrical issues. Faulty transmissions were reported in models with the V8 and V12 engines, and the problem resulted in a class action and settlement. The BMW X5 SUV has also had problems with its V8 engine, which was the only engine option, and the model was replaced in late 2006. A common problem with engines is a precursor to more serious issues, and the used buyer is recommended to steer clear of the X5 with the V8. When comparing the general maintenance costs of BMW and Mercedes-Benz vehicles, it's noted that BMWs tend to have higher maintenance costs, which can affect the overall cost of ownership. [1][2][3][4][5][6][7]

Even though buying a used automobile has become less risky, as today’s models last much longer than those of the past, some cars stand out as better prospects when buying second hand. German automobiles are well known for their engineering, and luxury imports such as the BMW or Mercedes Benz are no exception. Late model used vehicles, these automobiles are likely to be sturdily built and should all be good long-term prospects. As with any vehicle, there are common problems with particular models, but we will discuss that later on.

Luxury Car Performance and Quality

Despite the subjective opinion, it is fair to say that Mercedes-Benz has built many great cars, and one who is looking for a luxury import would do well to consider a used Mercedes.

The TMU editorial staff could not reach a consensus on whether a used Mercedes-Benz is a good choice as a used luxury/performance car. Arguments against it were that many MBs will have high mileage and be somewhat worn out, and compared to a BMW, there are more chances of costly repairs coming up. On the other hand, a well-maintained Mercedes is a top-notch luxury car, and a good model can give great value in terms of durability. High-performance AMG models, especially the Mercedes-AMG GT, are expensive and hard to find, but their power, luxury, and impressive speed and handling are nearly unmatched. The Mercedes-AMG GT, with its powerful engine, advanced technology, and specific horsepower and acceleration capabilities, stands out in the high-performance category, often compared to BMW's offerings for its speed and handling prowess.

Mercedes is well known for overengineering their cars, and this is often seen as a disadvantage when the cars get older. While it may be a stretch to say Mercedes quality has dropped off in recent years, one only needs to compare a 1980s S-Class to a late 90s S-Class to see that the older cars were a bit overbuilt. Older Mercedes-Benz models generally have good power and acceleration from their strong engines, though often at the expense of fuel efficiency.

As a W202 C43 AMG owner, I respect the simplicity and power of BMWs. The famed M3 of the 90s will always be considered a high-water mark for performance sedans, and how could we forget BMW’s uber sedan, the M5? Ultimate driving machines indeed. Few luxury sedans can beat a used BMW when it comes to getting there in a hurry and having a good time doing it. Furthermore, older BMWs have an advantage over MBs and Audis since many more cars with manual transmissions are available. BMW excels in delivering a sporty driving experience, exceptional performance, and engaging driving dynamics, setting a high standard for environmental friendliness in its class.

3. Maintenance and Reliability: Longevity and Costs

Overall, if cost is a significant concern and long-term repair costs are not appealing, then a Japanese luxury car may be a better fit than a European luxury car. High repair costs are often a turnoff for any used luxury car, but since it is not a significant concern for some, BMW and/or Mercedes may still be a viable option. Anecdotal evidence may indicate that the era of each brand's cars is as significant as the brands themselves. For instance, the used BMW E46 3 Series is still quite popular, and the E39 5 Series has been noted as being of exceptional quality and value, even as a used car today. The same can be said for the W202 C-Class Mercedes. Pre-1998 and post-2007 were highlighted as eras of exceptional quality and value for the brand's smallest sedan. In any case, a well-maintained car is a sound car and a good value, but the true measure of longevity relies on the era of the car and the maintainability. [8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16]

Be sure to check the car history and have a mechanic inspect the car for a pre-purchase inspection. A well-maintained car with records of the maintenance done will underscore the long-term potential of the car.

A used car and its long-term reliability can be somewhat of a crapshoot, but by and large, BMW and Mercedes-Benz make decent used cars, which may not be all that bad as long as some money can be invested to keep the car running. An Audi is essentially a Volkswagen with all the options. It is not quite as prestigious as a BMW or Mercedes, and those who want luxury and high status may not be satisfied being an Audi owner. However, Audi has had high marks in terms of reliability and has aged very well over time. In terms of maintenance cost, a BMW is more expensive than an Audi, and the cost of maintaining a Mercedes is higher than a non-luxury brand, but the difference between a Mercedes and a BMW is not astronomical.

In general, a BMW will be more expensive to maintain than a Mercedes. A notable difference is that the BMW 3 Series has been on Car and Driver's Ten Best List 22 times, while the Mercedes C-Class is a very average car in the Mercedes lineup. It would be a good idea to buy a newer C-Class, but going with an older model may mean more problems in the future. If you are looking to keep a car for an extended period of time and do a lot of driving, a Mercedes-Benz may be the more reliable choice.

The next thing to consider is reliability. Japanese cars have a reputation for being reliable, mainly because the auto industry there only uses trial and error to make a car right, compared to the European method of using people as guinea pigs. A European car is usually more structurally sound and safe compared to many Japanese cars, but that does not mean that it will not have any problems. The older the BMW, the more the cost of maintaining the car will increase, and repairs may end up costing more than the car's value.

The first thing to note is that repair costs are higher for European luxury cars. So, if a low maintenance vehicle is what you are looking for, then BMW may not be the best option. One thing to keep in mind is that as a BMW or Mercedes-Benz owner, you are more likely to perform repairs and maintenance at a specialty shop or a dealer. This will cost much more than a car payment compared to a Japanese car, where repairs and maintenance may be done at a regular auto repair shop.

Since a used car has been driven by at least one previous owner, there are more unknowns. And with higher mileage, there may be more things that could go wrong. Both BMW and Mercedes are European cars and have more additional creature comforts. So, there may end up being more repair work done on a European car compared to a Japanese car.

4. Interior Quality and Technology

Audi has long set the standard for interior quality, but it’s an area that’s more hotly contested in recent times. Even 10-year-old A4s and A6s have cabins that have aged well and still feel better screwed together than many rivals. Material and build quality is still a strength, and Audi has kept pace with modern technology by introducing many high-end options to its older models. MMI is Audi’s interface for controlling all the multimedia functions in the car; over the years, it has been refined and modernized to keep pace with rival systems from BMW and Benz. MMI was standard on some models but optional on others; this is a common theme with the optional extras where specification can vary greatly for the same age of car. From 2005 A6 and allroad models onwards, it was possible to get an upgraded MMI system with a control dial and screen that raises from the dash. This was a precursor to the system we know today; early systems and optional TV were expensive options when new and as such are rarely found on the used market. Other notable tech options in older Audis were the acclaimed Bose surround sound systems, parking sensors, and multi-zone climate control. [17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26]

After climbing inside a Mercedes, you tend to forget that you’re actually looking at a used car. Quality is excellent with everything well screwed together from high-grade materials and a general air of class. It’s the attention to detail that impresses; whether it’s the action of switchgear, the damping of the glovebox lid, or the lining of the door pockets, it all feels very well considered. The then outgoing C-Class never had the ultimate in cabin ambience for the compact executive sector, its best was generally class competitive. The outgoing E-Class, however, has a quite regal ambience, and the S-Class defines automotive luxury. The latter had so much technology that Mercedes briefly sold a DVD for used car buyers to explain how all the gadgets work. This model and the CL built in a period from late 2007 to 2013 had an optional upgraded COMAND system, an interface for the many vehicle systems that’s much easier to use than the standard fit alternative. Mercedes-Benz exemplifies the essence of a luxury vehicle, with its interiors boasting premium upholstery, fine wood, and super soft leather fabrics, alongside advanced technology, all contributing to its prestigious status.

The interior architecture of a BMW classically feels right. The surrounds are driver focused, the transmission tunnel is angled towards the driver’s seat, and the dash is layered. Quality is first rate, and the ambience is generally top end. BMW has now launched a series of high-tech options to enhance the cabin environment. Used buyers need to carefully check the cabin spec because some of these options were standard fit on some models but optional on others. Specification affects used values, the more gadgets the better. The iDrive system split opinion, but those who persevere tend to like it - it is very logical. Other models were specified with a simplified Media System that still integrates most functions via a controller on the transmission tunnel. Some 7 Series and 5 Series models were available with night vision, a logical route guidance system, and a Bang and Olufsen stereo which does a good job of making MP3s sound like they weren’t recorded in a garden shed.

5. Resale Value and Reliability

Mercedes-Benz and BMW aim to solidify their positions as top contenders among luxury brands in the JD Power Initial Quality Study. This study serves as a measuring stick for new car quality by gauging problems experienced by owners in the first 90 days of ownership. Though it is specific to new cars, the IQS is a good indicator of build quality and reliability because it measures defects and malfunctions, which are factors that contribute to the resale value of a used vehicle. Over the years, BMW and Mercedes-Benz have averaged an almost identical number of problems per 100 vehicles, usually with BMW taking a slight edge. According to Automotive News, “the real insight is Mercedes and BMW have made enormous strides in reducing the number of problems on their vehicles, but they still usually rank 1-2 in the rate of problems.”

“Audi cars have good resale value and are considered high-end vehicles. Audi cars have good build quality that has achieved a reputation for dependability, making them desirable and supporting the demand for a high resale value. Used Audis will command a strong resale value in the premium and luxury segment, sometimes only coming in second to their other German counterpart, BMW. The key to a high resale value is taking an initial depreciation hit the second the car is driven off the lot, and Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz are all known for building cars that will hold their value and not depreciate as much as other cars in their respective segments. In some cases, it may be a better investment to purchase a used model off a 1-2 year lease than a new model because of the steep depreciation that occurs in the first few years. Mercedes-Benz and BMW, as leading luxury car brands, are renowned for their quality and reliability, making them a preferred choice in the used car market for their high resale value and dependability.

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