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When to sell an old car

I drive a MB 1999 E320 4WD wagon with 110,000 miles. I was just told it needs $5600 worth of repairs by my (pretty trustworthy) dealer. I could probably trade in the car for about 6K (don’t have time to sell it on open market) but even adding what I’d spend in repairs, will I be able to buy anything comparable? This is a great car, but getting expensive to keep. What do you think? Also, just put new tires on it. Thanks for your advice. I’m stumped.

What repairs are included in the $5600 quote?

That’s really hard to answer. Generally, if the repair is less than the payments on a new car, it’s better financially to keep the car. But you have to think about what you can afford and what you want to pay.

For example, if you wanted to pay $26000, with a $6000 down payment, finance the rest, you have a $525 payment. That might get you a 2007 E320. Then, your repairs are equal to one year of payments. How much do you love your 1999, and would that $5600 make it last more than a year?

I’d sell it and buy a new car, because that repair is so expensive. But I wouldn’t have a Mercedes in the first place…

Your '99 car is now 12 years old. You can expect more repairs in the 2nd 10 years of a cars life than the 1st 10 years. This means you’ll have to budget more money for repairs. $5,600 sounds like a lot, but if you haven’t had a lot of repairs up to now then it could be very reasonable.

You are not saying what the repairs are, but I’d expect CV joints (of which there are about 8 on an AWD car), a transfer case, differentials, ball joints, tie rod ends, struts, assorted bushings, motor mounts, transmission mounts, exhaust systems, steering rack, AC compressor, radiator, assorted hoses, assorted belts, spark plugs, etc. could all need replacing and still mean the car has a lot of good miles in it.

I’d start looking around for a good MB independant mechanic. Taking it back to a MB dealer is going to cost you about an extra 50% more $$$ to keep the car on the road. You should figure to spend about $3,000 to $5,000 a year on the car over the next 10 years. If that is too much for you, then trade it for a new car.

Compare the payment for a new MB a $300 a month budget for repairs to this car. Then make up your mind.

I can guarantee you that you DON’T NEED $5600 worth of repairs right now. I drive a 1989 Mercedes 190E and I’ve saved many thousands of dollars by never going to the dealer. Find a trustworthy independant mechanic that knows how to fix Mercedes. The dealer will always find stuff to recommend fixing and it’s ALWAYS EXPENSIVE. Don’t fool yourself about the trustworthy dealer, the dealer exists to maximize a profit.

If it’s not giving you a problem, don’t mess with it. If it’s showing evidence of a problem, have your indy mechanic fix it. Follow this simple advice and your 99 MB will be fine for another 10 years. I’ve owned my MB for 14 years and have averaged $508 per year in repairs and maintenance. Mercedes don’t have to be expensive to own, the problem is trusting the dealer.

The repairs include new spark plugs and wires; new drive belt, pulley and water pump; fix leaking valve covers; rear brakes; fix transfer case leak; transmission flush; replace brake fluid, power steering, and fuel filter; regular B service and replace award-winning mono wiper blade. This car has been generally problem free and I perform regular service. This is the most I’ve ever had to spend on it. I’ve comparison shopped local mechanics, and believe it or not, they’re not that much cheaper than the dealer.

Replace brake fluid and power steering fluid? Really, why? I wouldn’t flush the transmission either, just fix the leak and refill it. The rest are all things that need to be done occasionally, but iI wonder if you need them all now. It seems like a lot all at once. Are you sure the dealer isn’t overselling the estimate a wee bit?

I drive a '98 Crown Vic with 170,000 miles. It does not leak a drop of anything. I paid $2700 for it five years ago when it had 98,000 miles…I have spent $850 on repairs total over those five years…If cost per mile to own and operate matters, Mercedes has a LONG way to go…

My numbers include oil changes, brakes, tires, etc… Your number appears to just be “repairs.” Your $$'s are probably still cheaper, but compare apples to apples.

My Honda Odyssey has required $0 in repairs in 8 1/2 years.

Most of these items are maintenance and not really repairs. If the bill is too big, you can split up these services doing the most critical now and deferring others for later.

The water pump maybe critical, if it is leaking or the bearing is loose. Valve cover leaks and transfer case leak repairs depend on the severity of the leak. An old car can expect some seepage and a little dirt clinging to the area around the seepage. Some shops play this up as a big deal, but if the leak is very small you can live with it for awhile.

Go over the list of items the dealer is recommending and just do what is critical for now. New spark plugs and wires are a good thing going into winter. They help the car start and run properly. The transmission service is good if it hasn’t been done in 30K to 50K miles.

A little leaking oil is no big deal, not worth spending a lot of money on a $6000 car. Just fix things that really need fixing. Every time I’ve gotten a “free inspection” from a Mercedes dealer they come up with thousands of dollars worth of suggested repairs. I ignore them and keep driving. Stay away from the dealer or just ignore 90% of what they recommend.

I doubt you’ll get $6000 trade in value on a car that needs over $5000 in repairs. The dealer will deduct however much his costs for repairs will be from the trade in offer.

He can always go to a different dealer and keep his mouth shut about the repairs.

Any competent dealership will give the car a decent once over before they make an offer. They aren’t just going to take the OP’s word.

True, but the OP has a lot of questionable “repairs” in his list up there. And dealerships may not assess trade-ins in the same way they address sheep with fat wallets who come in for repair.

(I got nearly full value trade in on a Saturn Vue with the rotten CVT because the dealer’s used car manager drove it around the parking lot but did not take it on the highway, which would have caused the trans to slip and set a trouble light.)