Need advice on older BMW vs Mercedes vs Jag vs Benz

I’ve been driving a piece of crap, beat up Ford truck (I needed it for deliveries at an older job), feel like driving something nice for a change, and a $10K note won’t really force me to make any sacrifices. Would prefer to go with an older luxury car vs. a newer Taurus or something, especially since I’ve heard of some very durable BMWs and Benzes.

Jag 2003 X-Type

fewest miles of the lot by a good margin, but I’ve read of more reliability issue with Jags than the rest.

2002 Mercedes C320

2001 BMW 540i

2003 Audi A6

The Audi seems to have the best reviews, but it’s my least favorite aesthetically. The BMW and Benz are my favorite on first impression. Of course I’ll test drive each and form my own opinion, but I’d like opinions from more knowledgeable folks on reliability of those models and which seems to be the best deal so I don’t get bamboozled.

Of the four, I’d go for the BMW only because it’s the 540. The 5 series is the most reliable of the Beemer bunch. All the others are just as unreliable imho but the BMW engine is the better one.

The Audi isn’t doing it for me in the looks department either. I am a BMW man myself so know that going in. I don’t have one now but I have owned several. The BMW is the most fun to drive out of all of those and it is near the top in prestige so I would get the BMW no other questions needed if that is what you are looking for.

Here comes the warning though. The stereotype about BMW repair costs is true. They are very expensive cars to fix. It isn’t that they are unreliable. It is just that they require specialty mechanics and parts for almost everything including oil changes. Normal mechanics won’t touch them and shouldn’t because they don’t own the proprietary code readers and have access to the same things that BMW mechanics do. Don’t even concern yourself with the $10,000 price. That is just the start of the cost of ownership. You generally can’t get out of a BMW shop for less than $1000 no matter how minor the problem is and you could be looking at many thousands if you have major engine or transmission problems. You need that in cash in the bank before you buy one.

That is somewhat true of the other cars as well but especially so with BMW’s. They say, if you buy a Jaguar, get two of them that look the same so you will have something familiar to drive every time the other is in the shop. I don’t know how true that is anymore but Jaguars have a bad legacy reputation for general reliability.

Yeah, I’ve pretty much eliminated the Jag based on some quality issues I’m reading, but the Benz and Audi? I’ve heard good things.

Mercedes cars aren’t nearly as fun to drive as a BMW. They have prestige in the U.S. but I am not exactly sure why. They aren’t looked at the same way in their native Europe. Audi’s are a similar idea to a BMW and I wouldn’t mind having some of them but a BMW still beats an Audi in my mind for most things unless you are looking for something specific.

The BMW repair costs are starting to scare me a bit, and the Mercedes comes with a free warranty (though I’m having trouble figuring out what exactly it covers).

What confuses me is that everything I’m reading about how the BMW dealerships bend you over, but looking up repair shops in the area, tons are listed as dealing with BMW, including one that I have had good experiences with in the past. More competition should lower the price to a more reasonable level, right? Or are they full of shit when they say they repair BMW and are limited to, say, taking a dent out of a BMW or changing the tires.

You will have to ask them about their experience with fixing BMW’s. You DON’T want to rely on a dealership for a used BMW. You might as well give them your house now. There are good independent BMW mechanics in many places but they are specially trained and have BMW specific tools. The only ones I have had good luck with took some time to find and they make it obvious that they were fully qualified BMW mechanics. I am confident that the good ones didn’t screw me but they weren’t cheap either. After-market BMW parts really are that expensive. I don’t mean to scare you that much but BMW repair costs are about 2 - 4 times the cost of say a Toyota or Ford of a similar year and model. There are mechanics that will force some regular parts in one for you but that never worked out worth a damn for me. I would do it again but you have to know what you are getting into so don’t say you weren’t warned.

Are you dead-set on one of the German “luxury” cars? If not, you might consider a SAAB. I think they are just as classy as BMWs with the added benefit that nobody will think you’re one of “those BMW assholes” for driving one. I have a 2002 9-3 hatchback and I am very happy with it. I have found it to be very reliable and comfortable and it also has a huge amount of cargo space.

Hub is a ASE Certified Master Technician and is specializing in European cars. He works for an independent shop and is completely tooled up to diagnose whatever comes in the door. He personally favors the BMW by far over the other choices given. We even own a BMW 750 IL. They are expensive to fix; however, no more expensive than the Audi. None of them are “cheap” to fix.

I purchased a used 1994 BMW 740i a little over a year ago, and have enjoyed the hell out of it. It was damn cheap to buy, and so some of the fixes I have had to make I have just rolled into what I would have paid had I bought a new or newer car. If you want to check out what kind of pricing you can get (never buy from the dealer), you should check out You can plug in your year and make of car and it will show you their prices for the items. I had to buy 2 catalytic converters for my 740i, which was quoted at over $3000 by the dealer. I bought the cats from that link for a total of about $700 and paid a specialty shop in the area $300 to put them in. Painful, yes, but not as bad as it could have been. Go for the BMW.

Check out Acura too. They don’t depreciate like the German competition, but their reliability is much better. There’s a reason 10 year old German luxury cars can be had for so cheap. With Acura, you get Accord reliability with a good touch of luxury at a reasonable price.

I’d recommend an '04 TSX if you can find one in your area, they can be had for 10 grand but probably not large quantities at that price.

You can also check out this generation of TL, but you have to watch out for transmission issues on these:

I currently drive a BMW, and have owned both S4 and A6 Audis.

The BMW is a blast to drive, and I think I prefer it over the A4 I had. It handles like a dream, and just loves going through the twisties up on the lonely mountain roads. I absolutely love this car, and I’ll drive it until the wheels fall off.

I’ve never had a problem finding a place to change the oil, and I never take it to the dealership anymore now that I’ve found a competent mechanic.

The cost to repair things (even routine maintenance) is more expensive, whether you take it to the dealership or your own mechanic. For example, I just had the brakes done and it cost me about $300. The dealer quoted me $890.

Had a window regulator replaced at the dealership because I didn’t trust anyone else to do it right. That little trip cost me $488, but I didn’t even try to price it out anywhere else because I wasn’t sure who to call to do the repair other than the dealer.

When I took my car in for the brake job, I mentioned to my mechanic that I think my valve covers need to be tightened, or the gaskets may need to be changed. He said something like, “Yeah, BMWs are known to sling oil.”

One of the running jokes about BMW is that it stands for “Brought My Wallet.”

I wouldn’t drive a luxury car as my primary vehicle past 10 years old for love or money. I have a 2003 3 series and I loathe it. It constantly has series of little problems; its reliability is good for a BWM and below average on Consumer Reports. Repairs are costly. Luxury cars simply aren’t meant to be driven that long. 10k may be what you pay but it’s like an iphone: the initial cost isn’t great, but you pay for it through the ass over the life of the plan. The “plan” of an older luxury car is maintenance, both cost and time.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a ballin’ car to drive. It’s absurd how fast and nimble it is, there’s no better handling at the price point. But I would never dream of buying a more than 3 year old used BMW/Audi. Family hasn’t owned Mercedes since the diesels.

Now, if this is your backup car or not your primary car, go for it. But your main means of transit? You’re gonna fuck yourself. 1k out of the shop is right about what Shagnasty said.

Just saying you want something nicer than a Taurus tells me you don’t have the cash on hand or the mental fortitude for the repairs. Be smart and get yourself a used Civic or, if you must have a “classy” car, a Saab.

Yours too? Mine was a few months ago. I don’t even go through drive thru windows or anything. Urgh.

Along the lines of what steronz is saying, how about an Infiniti? There don’t seem to be any with a good price/mileage combo in your area, but if you look further away you should find plenty like this G35, 90K miles for $9K:

Yep. I’ve had all but the driver’s side rear go bad. I guess there’s a piece of plastic in there that’s prone to breaking. Don’t know why in hell they couldn’t have made it out of metal. It sucks because if it breaks while the window is down, you’re pretty much hosed.

And you’re literally hosed if you’re on the highway and it’s raining.

Not that I speak from experience or anything…

A little off-topic, but one thing you need to be prepared for when moving from a “regular” vehicle to a luxury model is that everything becomes way more expensive. The specialized training the mechanics require means that their hourly rates are much higher than for the guy who used to work on your Ford.

I used to be able to buy four new tires for my Honda Accord for about $140 on sale. That is about half of what I pay for one new tire on my Lexus. The same goes for everything else - floor mats, headlights, oil filters, everything. They gouge you on everything, and bank on the fact that you won’t complain, because, you know, you drive a luxury car.

I have over 100,000 miles on my car, and have not had a single mechanical issue in that time, but those new tires and the $500 routine maintenance bills still bother me.

In the Merc vs BMW debate, Mercs don’t get a lot of supporters, generally. But of all the cars I’ve owned, the Merc was my favorite. Then again, I’m not the typical male “driver” who cares about cornering, torque, etc etc. I just want to enjoy myself and be comfortable while getting to a place I need to be. That’s it. I found the Merc to have comfortable seats, have a quiet interior and low maintenance.

A lot of us have crapped on BMW’s enough that I think I need to explain why any sane person would want one. They really are that fun to drive. When I got my first one, I just took it out and drove for 1 - 3 hours a night on top of my commute just because I couldn’t imagine anything else being more worthy of my time. They are driver’s dream and the handling is insanely agile like an extension of your body. That is the reason that BMW drivers seem like such assholes. BMW’s just handle a lot better on the road than most cars so it seems like they are being really aggressive when it doesn’t seem that way when you are driving one.

I didn’t even know I had to have one until I test drove it after a long series of other candidates. It was like a lightbulb going off in my brain (maybe a flickering one but still). She was going to be mine. There was no doubt about that.

There is nothing wrong with a Mercedes but the handling isn’t in the same league as a BMW as a general rule. People have different needs and wants though it depends on the person buying it. A Lincoln Town Car is the best luxury car for certain lifestyles after all. I like a good Benz and think they are pretty but I never enjoyed driving them that much. A BMW is a good middle ground between Mercedes class and the Porsche performance dickheads.

I paid $600 at Costco for quality Michelin all seasons, and that’s during their “buy 3, get one free” sale. So literally it’s $200 a tire. And I have a 3 series, which the OP isn’t even considering. I could tell tales of 4 burned out taillights in 5 years, of the heating gone wonky, of the “check engine” light illuminating for fun (and its own profit), but we’ve all experienced them. I have an excellent mechanic too; runs an Autozone, is a Master mechanic and has worked on BMW’s and Mercs his whole life. He charges 20% less than your average German car mechanic. I have 86k miles and plan to run it to 100k. But I probably will never own one again because I consider the wasted time due to it inexcusable.