Which certified pre-owned sedan would you prefer - 2008 Mercedes C300 or
February 20, 2013 12:36 PM   Subscribe

I'm in the market for a pre-owned sedan with a budget of about 20k and the 2 options that I have come down to are a 2008 Mercedes C300 and a 2007 BMW 335i. Being a total newbie about cars, I have very little idea which one should I go for. They are both certified pre-owned hence I am hoping there should not be a major problem with either one's condition. Please advise as to which one would you prefer and what are some things I should watch out for while buying them?
posted by libbrichus to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total)
I think this is going to come down to personal preference. Have you driven both? Every time I've bought a car in the past ten years, I've test driven both Mercedes and BMW (though I've mostly focused on the E Class/5-series and S Class/7-Series), and I've always ended up preferring the BMW. But it's mostly subjective stuff I prefer.

Also, not all "certified pre owned" cars are made equal. How many miles do they have? What options do they have? Etc.

Finally, as someone who has owned a number of German luxury cars, if you can only afford to spend $20k, are you sure this is the direction you want to go? I don't really believe the meme that the maintenance is horrible on them; I have had many over a long period of time, keeping one for twelve years, and it's generally been great. But it is certainly true that oil changes and parts cost more than a Honda, for example, and there's a decent chance it will need more maintenance. Can you afford that? Are you ok with it?
posted by primethyme at 12:42 PM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you're going to buy a Mercedes, why not scale your budget back and keep $5000 in reserve for parts, maintenance and repairs over the lifetime of the vehicle?
posted by KokuRyu at 12:57 PM on February 20, 2013

Just a heads up, the back seat of the Mercedes c300 SUUUCKS for carseats, if that is among your concerns. The angle to get kids in and out is brutal on your back.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 1:00 PM on February 20, 2013

, I have very little idea which one should I go for.

This is unanswerable without additional information about what you are looking for. I can tell you that a BMW 335i will feel significantly faster than a Mercedes C300. You should also consider an Infiniti G37 and Acura TSX.
posted by deanc at 1:04 PM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd buy the BMW but it's just because I don't like the C-class. The 3-series is the perpetual winner in this category and the C-class always seems like an also-ran in comparison. But really, consider maintenance carefully, as soon as something breaks, and given that you're looking at 5-year-old cars with probably 60k-ish miles on them, it will eventually, it can be *really* expensive to fix things on these cars. I have an Audi Allroad that's in the shop right now getting the front shocks replaced for ... $3400, because they're not normal shocks, they're fancy adjustable air shocks that are cool but also failure prone. German luxury cars tend to be full of cool features like this that eventually break and cost *a lot* to fix.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 1:06 PM on February 20, 2013

I am another anti-C-class person. I think you're paying extra for the Mercedes brand and getting an underpowered car where there's been appreciable skimping on the usual Mercedes finish quality.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:18 PM on February 20, 2013

With so many factors into choosing a vehicle, how did you arrive at these two? The 335i feels much faster. Depending on how many miles you plan on driving the car, how long you plan on keeping it and how much you've budgeted for repairs and upkeep, I'd second deanc's sentiments. Definitely look into the G37 and Acura TSX.
posted by Giggilituffin at 1:39 PM on February 20, 2013

If I had to pick between the two, I'd definitely go with the BMW. However, what everyone has said about cost of maintenance and repair is right. Either of those will make you and your wallet weep uncontrollably should something need to be done.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:58 PM on February 20, 2013

I got a screaming deal on a 550 bmw (for about what the money you are looking at) and ended up trading it in on a much smaller, more dependable car about a year later after dealing with just routine maintenance costs. These are not cheap cars and while they are amazing they are not worth the extra cost and that everyone will just assume you are a pretentious dbag cause you drive a BMW or Mercedes.

The G37 is a great car, and the lexus IS line is also pretty good. With all that being said, I have a soft spot for BMW still as the only manufacturer still making straight six engines. Nissan (the manufacturer of the g37 as an infiniti) and Mazda seems to be the only asian company still making interesting, innovative cars and something that will have some character and not just an appliance.
posted by bartonlong at 2:10 PM on February 20, 2013

Certified Pre-Owned is a certified crock of shit. Sorry, but it's just another way for car dealers to make you pay a premium for a used car with a pretty meh warranty. These are five year old luxury cars. Something's going to break, it's going to cost you, and it probably won't be covered. Certified pre-owned is still a used car, you know?

Perhaps you are a German car expert and know what you're getting into - it doesn't sound like it, but I could be wrong - but unless you're getting a sweet warranty and maintence deal, I'd buy a car from a private party for less money and set aside five grand for repairs.

The BMW 3 series is consistently good, so I'd go with that in general. I don't know much about the Mercedes C-Class, but it looks like the other answers have got you covered.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 2:18 PM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

This question is impossible to answer without knowing the mileage on these cars.
posted by murfed13 at 4:45 PM on February 20, 2013

Let me nth the G37. Do yourself a favor and test drive one. I bought a late-model, sub 20k miles used G three years ago and have had literally zero mechanical or performance issues. Changed the oil regularly, changed tires once, changed the battery once. Never drove a better feeling car in handling, power-weight ratio, etc.

I am sure some car-istas will jump on me for saying this, but when I see someone rolling around in a C-class or 3-series my first thought is "here's someone without the sense to buy a G." Note that these remarks do not extend to the G25 which I suspect will fail to satisfy a desire for sporty, with a smaller engine hauling around a similar mass.
posted by MattD at 6:14 PM on February 20, 2013

5 year old cars? As others have noted, your first consideration should be mileage. Lower is *usually* better. After that, it really comes down to what kind of driver you are and what you are looking for in a car (performance vs. prestige). My experience driving the 3-series and C-class sedans from both these companies regularly (albeit well over a decade ago) was that BMW is much more of a driver's car than Mercedes, whose cars I LOVED riding in but didn't compare favorably to in terms of driving satisfaction.

All that said, I'm going to nth the advice that a 5 year old German luxury car REALLY isn't the bargain that it sounds like due to high maintenance and repair costs. There's a reason why the old cliche "There's nothing more expensive than a cheap luxury/sports car" exists. If you want a reliable car that connotes "status" at an affordable price, you really should be looking at that used G37 MattD & bartonlong both recommended.

Me? If I had $20K to spend on a car right now, I'd buy myself an unsold 2012 or 2013 Hyundai Sonata GLS PZEV that a dealer wants to get off the lot before the '14s come out. You could probably walk away with a couple grand still in your pocket AND have a car that has the look and performance of a premium luxury car twice its price.
posted by KingEdRa at 6:48 PM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Seconding KingEdRa but instead of Hyundai, pick Infiniti or Lexus. The amount of money people sink into German cars for maintenance is astonishing, and I would unload either of your choices for the 20k you're talking about and put that into a 3 year old IS250 or G37.

The German cars feel good, but that's because your spinal alignment comes from sitting on a very thin wallet.
posted by jet_silver at 8:17 PM on February 20, 2013

As an owner of a now 13 year-old 3-series that I've had for many years, I can't recommend the BMW 3-series line enough. In my experience, the limited amount of work I've needed done has cost only slightly more than it does on my much newer, American made SUV or the Japanese made car I owned before that. But the repairs have been much less frequent and it's just so enjoyable to drive. I've recently been test driving newer BMWs and the 3.0L twin turbo of the 335i is just a blast to drive.

I would absolutely recommend the BMW in this case. Or in any case where you're looking for that level of automobile. The Infiniti G-series is nice and Lexus makes an OK car, but there's really no replacement for a BMW in my experience.
posted by Vonnegut27 at 8:53 AM on February 21, 2013

s an owner of a now 13 year-old 3-series that I've had for many years,

BMW really changed their cars in this 13 year period (as did everyone else). They have much, much more electronics now and are much more complicated. In addition they have changed their market from a high end drivers car to a luxury sport brand. I wouldn't hesitate to buy a well maintained late 90's/early 00's BMW. One of my dream cars is a BMW M Coupe from this period. Any car from about 2004 is very expensive to repair and those repairs often require propriety machinery. Unfortunately their really isn't a replacement for the excellent drivers cars from BMW from the 90's/OO's. Modern car electronics are truly amazing and deliver breath taking performance while also delivering exceptional fuel mileage but they do this at a cost, and maintainability is one of those costs. Just look at the deprecation curves on modern German luxury cars...
posted by bartonlong at 4:56 PM on February 21, 2013

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