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Advice on 2004 Mercedes E 55 AGM


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I hope you all don't mind a Buick pre-war guy asking a question here. My young assistant is just getting his license and looking for a car. He was leaning towards some late '60s American iron, but lately has become enamored of the 2004-2005 MB E 55 AGM. Mainly due to 500 HP and that you can get them for under $14k (with over 150k miles!). Obviously I have concerns with a young driver and that much power, but besides that - MB used to be money pits when they got older. Is this still true? Can a "backyard mechanic" actually work on these or is it pretty much dealer only? I seem to recall that MB service used to require special tools, etc - is that still true?

 

Thanks in advance, Dave

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MB do not do money on saling cars this days. They are making money on service))). All shops will happy to see you and ready with big bills. But still can be done a lot by your self. I am an owner of gl450. Did took my car do dealer. After first estimate of replacement eaisuspenjion for a $5400. Replace all my self for $1200. Now you know all)))

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Well, first of all, it's AMG, and that's pretty important. It's like calling a Mustang GT a Mustang TG. If you don't know even what it is, with all due respect, I'd say stay away. The AMG cars are Mercedes' special high-performance models that are significantly upgraded over the stock machines. Cars like that are what I call easy to buy, hard to own. The buy-in is often very cheap, especially relative to the original sticker price, and they always look like a LOT of car for the money. AMG products are heroic to drive with fantastic performance and luxury that's matched by few other vehicles. They're just epic on the road and yes, you do look like a big shot when you're driving one. I understand the appeal.

 

BUT, you are not wrong in worrying that they are expensive and difficult to fix--they absolutely are. They're extremely complicated and are full of proprietary equipment--almost nothing is off-the-shelf at NAPA. The first thing that breaks will cost $5000. I don't even know what it will be, but it'll cost $5000. The second thing that breaks will cost $5000. This is why European cars like this depreciate so rapidly, particularly after they're out of warranty (even a CPO warranty only goes to 100,000 miles). I have a friend who is an Audi dealer and he won't touch cars for resale if they don't have any factory warranty on them--even a DEALER can't afford to fix them. 

 

If the car is healthy, it might stay healthy indefinitely. It might need only oil and gas for the next 5 years. But you're rolling the dice because if something does break, it will surely be expensive. There are no cheap fixes on these cars. You'll get a warning light on the dash and the ABS module has failed or the A/C compressor is seized, or the wiring harness has started to degrade (this is an actual thing with certain M-B models), and it's a $5000 bill to fix it. Many things that break will cripple the car even if nothing mechanical is broken because the electronics won't cooperate--my shop manager had an air suspension air bag go bad on his Mercedes SUV and while the compressor would fill it up and the truck would sit level and drive just fine, the system knew it was broken and limited the truck to 56 MPH until it was fixed. Ignore it and the car is now worth $0 because nobody will buy a Mercedes with a warning light or expensive broken parts because they're terrified of these bills, too.

 

I don't mean to discourage you, just go in with your eyes open. The cars are thrilling to drive and you will look and feel like a rock star when you drive it. You'll be able to slap Corvettes around with your 4-door luxury car. They're insanely fast and competent, and the quality is tangible. So either go in prepared for the worst and maybe set aside a pile of money for a rainy day or seriously consider not buying it. Yes, you can learn to fix it and there are manuals, but there's a reason why nobody will touch these cars who doesn't charge $100/hour. Special tools, special books, and expensive parts, plus complicated repairs (replacing the timing belt on my Audi every 80,000 miles, for example, required the entire front end of the car be removed, and replacing turbos was an engine-out job).

 

Be ready, because it'll really sting if you're not.

 

 

Edited by Matt Harwood (see edit history)
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13 hours ago, Matt Harwood said:

Well, first of all, it's AMG, and that's pretty important. It's like calling a Mustang GT a Mustang TG. If you don't know even what it is, with all due respect, I'd say stay away. The AMG cars are Mercedes' special high-performance models that are significantly upgraded over the stock machines. Cars like that are what I call easy to buy, hard to own. The buy-in is often very cheap, especially relative to the original sticker price, and they always look like a LOT of car for the money. AMG products are heroic to drive with fantastic performance and luxury that's matched by few other vehicles. They're just epic on the road and yes, you do look like a big shot when you're driving one. I understand the appeal.

 

BUT, you are not wrong in worrying that they are expensive and difficult to fix--they absolutely are. They're extremely complicated and are full of proprietary equipment--almost nothing is off-the-shelf at NAPA. The first thing that breaks will cost $5000. I don't even know what it will be, but it'll cost $5000. The second thing that breaks will cost $5000. This is why European cars like this depreciate so rapidly, particularly after they're out of warranty (even a CPO warranty only goes to 100,000 miles). I have a friend who is an Audi dealer and he won't touch cars for resale if they don't have any factory warranty on them--even a DEALER can't afford to fix them. 

 

If the car is healthy, it might stay healthy indefinitely. It might need only oil and gas for the next 5 years. But you're rolling the dice because if something does break, it will surely be expensive. There are no cheap fixes on these cars. You'll get a warning light on the dash and the ABS module has failed or the A/C compressor is seized, or the wiring harness has started to degrade (this is an actual thing with certain M-B models), and it's a $5000 bill to fix it. Many things that break will cripple the car even if nothing mechanical is broken because the electronics won't cooperate--my shop manager had an air suspension air bag go bad on his Mercedes SUV and while the compressor would fill it up and the truck would sit level and drive just fine, the system knew it was broken and limited the truck to 56 MPH until it was fixed. Ignore it and the car is now worth $0 because nobody will buy a Mercedes with a warning light or expensive broken parts because they're terrified of these bills, too.

 

I don't mean to discourage you, just go in with your eyes open. The cars are thrilling to drive and you will look and feel like a rock star when you drive it. You'll be able to slap Corvettes around with your 4-door luxury car. They're insanely fast and competent, and the quality is tangible. So either go in prepared for the worst and maybe set aside a pile of money for a rainy day or seriously consider not buying it. Yes, you can learn to fix it and there are manuals, but there's a reason why nobody will touch these cars who doesn't charge $100/hour. Special tools, special books, and expensive parts, plus complicated repairs (replacing the timing belt on my Audi every 80,000 miles, for example, required the entire front end of the car be removed, and replacing turbos was an engine-out job).

 

Be ready, because it'll really sting if you're not.

 

 

 

Matt: 

 

Yes, AMG. Brain fart and typo on my part. Wait, don't you call one of your kids Captain Pedantic lol? Anyhow, *I* am not buying this car. My 15-soon-to-be-16-year-old "assistant"/mentee is. But he is undoubtedly looking to me for help when it does break. I have been trying to tell him that working on a car like that is decidedly different and more difficult/expensive than working on pre-1970 iron. Surprisingly, his Dad seems to be ok with this car idea. If I were his father I would say "no way" since putting 500 HP in the hands of a 16 year old driver is like giving them a loaded gun.

 

But I am not surprised by what you said, it's what I expected. I will try to dissuade him, but he has stars in his eyes right now. Thanks for the info!

 

Cheers, Dave

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What Matt said.  Not to mention, what kind of parent would let their kid drive a 4.4 sec 0-60 car as their first car?  That’s just completely irresponsible.  Yes, I admit I am being judgmental.    Not to mention being able to comfortably cruise at 140.  That car is simply too easy to go too fast in.

Edited by 39BuickEight (see edit history)
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30 minutes ago, Daves1940Buick56S said:

 

Matt: 

 

Yes, AMG. Brain fart and typo on my part. Wait, don't you call one of your kids Captain Pedantic lol? Anyhow, *I* am not buying this car. My 15-soon-to-be-16-year-old "assistant"/mentee is. But he is undoubtedly looking to me for help when it does break. I have been trying to tell him that working on a car like that is decidedly different and more difficult/expensive than working on pre-1970 iron. Surprisingly, his Dad seems to be ok with this car idea. If I were his father I would say "no way" since putting 500 HP in the hands of a 16 year old driver is like giving them a loaded gun.

 

But I am not surprised by what you said, it's what I expected. I will try to dissuade him, but he has stars in his eyes right now. Thanks for the info!

 

Cheers, Dave

 

The father who allows his son to have this car should not only be responsible for all the expenses related to feeding and maintaining it (probably 8-12 MPG in the hands of a kid), but he should also be prosecuted when his son kills himself or someone else with the car. Dad probably believes a Mercedes is a "safe" car with airbags and ABS and traction control and all that. Unfortunately, the laws of physics being what they are, it's still a 550 horsepower 4400-pound projectile. Has he even called his agent for an insurance quote? I bet that car costs $500/month to insure with a 16-year-old on the policy. He'll spend more on insurance the first two years than they'll spend buying the car.

 

You are 100% correct: giving a car like this to a kid is literally like handing a child a loaded gun. I guarantee the car will not survive his ownership. If he does, it's only because he's lucky.

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I sold my AMG with 56k on the clock last week. Had good tires, everything worked, only needed two power window motors......look close, yup it’s a rag top. I took twenty five hundred for it. Fantastically  fast, reliable, and terrible to work on. I had it five years and thirty thousand miles with nothing but a washer pump repair. It started to have a running problem........and no codes set. I thought it was time for it to go......and yes, I can fix modern cars also. I just didn’t want to deal with insane replacement parts.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Mercedes offers a AMG trim package on the E series cars, so you could get a E320, E420 or E500 with the “172” trim code and it would have AMG wheels and body trim pieces , gives you the look without the power or high repair cost. The AMG cars have big brakes and different suspension from the regular cars so even regular maintenance like brake pads, suspension bushings can be very expensive.

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  • 1 month later...

Hi Dave ! Was any decision made ? In general , if someone paid you $10,000 to take his/her 2004 E55 with 150,000+ miles on it, (off warranty for how long ?), it is still basically a “you lose” deal. This is a supercharged car, and maintenance is beyond most middle class folks means. And that doesn’t factor in “brake-by-wire” concerns for this era M-Bs. No 15 year old kid should have one of these for a toy. Here is a picture of a much more civilized high performance M-B the day I scored it out of auction. This was a U.S. Marshall service asset seizure deal. Always serviced under warranty, relatively low miles. Has been perhaps the most satisfying car I have ever bought. If I were forced to chose between every car I have owned in my life, to pick but one to drive forever, this would be it. I have owned plenty ‘Benz of this general period. I am here to tell you, you MUST be EXTREMELY disciplined to shop these cars.     Enough said for now,       -    Bubba ‘Benz 

 
 

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