My car is dead. What Now?
November 29, 2011 4:38 PM   Subscribe

My 1987 Mercedes 300SDL abruptly and unexpectedly died recently, and the verdict finally came in from the shop today that short of replacing the engine (not going to happen), it's a lost cause. So, what now?

I've never had a car go ass up on me before, and I'm not sure what I should do with it. I'd love to get the most value I can for it to apply to a new car, and I don't know how to go about it. I've seen "push, pull, drag" trade-in offers at dealerships, but not recently. I suppose I could scrap it (it is a big car, after all), but I'm not sure that would really be the best value. I looked on craigslist, and it seems that most sellers who are parting out their cars are actually doing it piece-by-piece, which is not something I have the know-how or time to do.

I don't really have anywhere to keep it for any extended time. I'm in Milwaukee with street parking only, the car is 25 miles away in my parent's town. They might be able to keep it in the driveway short term, but I'd rather have this whole mess behind me ASAP.
posted by hafehd to Grab Bag (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Donate it to a charity. They'll come and tow it away and give you a receipt that you can deduct from your income taxes. Many charities will do this now.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:39 PM on November 29, 2011

The charity thing only works if you itemize your deductions. My mom recently sold her old Taurus with 225k miles on it to a scrapyard for about $300. They would've given her more if she could've driven it in but it had to be towed. I'd call some scrapyards and see what they offer you for it.
posted by jabes at 4:41 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Or, if your mechanic is a Mercedes guy, see if he wants to buy it off you. I think mechanics do this fairly often.
posted by jabes at 4:42 PM on November 29, 2011

So that you know "push/pull/drag" offers are just gimmicks - they're just putting a discount on the car they're selling you. Jabes' suggestion is a good one.
posted by randomkeystrike at 4:44 PM on November 29, 2011

RKS is right; the push/pull/drag thing is a gimmick to get you in the door. They'll only give you a big discount if you agree to a very high pre-discount price; you could negotiate the same price without the junk trade-in.
posted by jon1270 at 4:59 PM on November 29, 2011

The mechanic is not a Mercedes guy...just a random do-anything type shop that wanted some extra business. I was planning on asking if they wanted it, but I have my doubts.

I am able to tow it, however.

Thanks for the tips on push/pull/drag!
posted by hafehd at 5:00 PM on November 29, 2011

Yellow pages > mercedes specialists > telephone "hey do you want to buy my otherwise in good shape dead car or know who would?"
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:45 PM on November 29, 2011

Post it on Craigslist with the damage described. You can probably get $500-1000 very easily. Or just list it at $5000 and see what people offer you. You should be able to sell it fairly quickly. The only risk with Craigslist is that there are a LOT of flakes, and it will suck if you have to drive 25 miles to meet people only to have them not show up. Maybe have your parents take care of the meeting/sale in exchange for a cut?
posted by Slinga at 5:50 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Be careful. Did they tell you what was wrong with it? Get a second opinion. Find out exactly. These cars are bulletproof. They're the ones still running in the Middle East war zones. I have owned four similar vehicles. I still have a mint 1982 300D that should go a million kilometers if I look after it. It could be something as simple as a broken fuel line or vacuum hose, and they'll tell you you need a new engine. You didn't run out of fuel by any chance? You can't just fill it up with diesel and start it like a gasoline engine. You have to pump the air out of the lines. I used to find Google Groups useful, but you'll have to sift through some spam now. Post a question and give the exact circumstances of when and how the car stopped.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 6:34 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

The SDLs have an aluminum head that went through many revisions before MB got it right. Without the correct coolant and if it still has a trap oxidizer, will hasten the head's death. I seem to remember the SDLs have weak rods, but I think that may have been the 350SDL.
posted by narcoleptic at 6:40 PM on November 29, 2011

I'd definitely put it on Craigslist. If you were in my local area I'd probably offer up to $1000 for it. It would be a shame for it to go to scrap because I think this is one of the MB models that can be easily converted to bio-diesel. It would be a great project for a college kid even if the engine does need a rebuild. (As a former diesel mechanic, I kind of doubt that the engine is actually done/finished. I wish I could check it out myself.)
posted by snsranch at 7:14 PM on November 29, 2011

re: second opinion. I haven't had a look at it myself yet, but the shop says that the oil pan (tank? Whatever.) is actually cracked open, so I don't think I have much wriggle room for any other diagnoses.
posted by hafehd at 7:20 PM on November 29, 2011

Hence the engine overheated. Gotta watch the gauges. No idiot lights in these cars.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:26 PM on November 29, 2011

You can go to and probably get a low offer. But try Craigslist; ytour car is probably worth a fair amount still.
posted by theora55 at 8:31 PM on November 29, 2011

Don't give up on the beast! If it's otherwise in good shape, you can probably find an engine for it. I see a couple on a quick google search. These are great machines; be a shame to consign it to salvage.
posted by drhydro at 8:55 PM on November 29, 2011

Definitely try Craigslist over scrapping it -- there are tons of people who love these cars who will replace the engine.

And do take a closer look/get a second opinion. We thought our 87 350SDL was headed for the end, only to find that a blasted vacuum hose was twisted. Since it's been untwisted, the car runs like a dream.
posted by linettasky at 10:33 PM on November 29, 2011

Ugh, 300 SDL, brain!
posted by linettasky at 10:34 PM on November 29, 2011

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