5 most reliable Mercedes-Benz models

Evaldas Zabitis

Evaldas Zabitis

Reliability is one of the main concerns when buying a used car, as various issues can significantly empty your pocket. Moreover, you must leave your broken car at the repair shop for days or weeks, which may cause a lot of inconveniences in your daily life.

Mercedes-Benz is a well-known German car manufacturer, making desirable premium cars for over a century. Most of their vehicles are expensive to maintain but that doesn't mean every Mercedes breaks down regularly.

Here are the 5 most reliable Mercedes-Benz models for those who want a 3-point star on their car without spending a fortune on repairs.

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Mercedes-Benz is one of the least reliable car brands

The modern automotive industry is incredibly complex and not all manufacturers can keep up with the latest technology. Mercedes-Benz produced the most reliable luxury cars during the 70s and the 80s, but since the company currently mostly focuses on bringing the latest innovations to life, reliability has suffered.

Mercedes-Benz shines in making durable engines and transmissions but these also depend on electrical sensors and control modules that makes Mercedes-Benz one of the least reliable manufacturers worldwide.

How we made this list

A vehicle's reliability mainly depends on its maintenance: a regular oil change, proper damage repair, and other essential tasks. Since these problems affect the car's longevity, you should always take the car for an inspection and perform a VIN lookup before buying it.

Our list is based on data from consumer surveys, repair shop statistics, and car history reports from J.D. Power, RepairPal, WhatCar?, and ourselves.

5 most reliable Mercedes-Benz models

5. CLS-Class 2006-2010

Bordeaux Meredes CLS on the move
Source: Derral Chen / Flickr

The all-new Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class came out with a revolutionary body type – a four-door coupe. This car is based on the E-Class, so both models have many technical similarities.

Pre-2006 models were prone to premature timing system failure and sensotronic brake control (SBC) malfunctions. Many issues were fixed in the 2006 model, but the electrical windows and Airmatic suspensions remain the weakest links.

Mercedes-Benz maintenance costs are high, so be careful when looking for a used CLS. 53.6% of Mercedes-Benz CLS history reports on carVertical have damage records, meaning that you're more likely to buy a damaged car.

The CLS is stylish and quite reliable. This model features frameless doors and engines ranging from the 3.0-liter V6 diesel to the supercharged 5.4-liter V8. However, the CLS is not the best option for families because of its small trunk, four seats, and tight headroom in the back.

4. GLK-Class 2013-2015

Silver Mercedes GLK parked on the side of the road
Source: RL GNZLZ / Flickr

Mercedes-Benz introduced the new GLK-Class in 2008 with a few ongoing common problems from that era. The manufacturer fixed most of them in 2013 models, leaving the GLK-Class with only the occasional electronic tailgate malfunction and panoramic sunroof leaks.

The GLK is one of the most reliable modern Mercedes-Benz SUVs and one of the best cars in the luxury compact crossover class, beating the Audi Q5 and the BMW X3 in comfort and styling. It's also very economical – the four-cylinder diesel version averages 27 mpg, while V6 petrol versions boast 22 mpg.

3. E-Class 2007-2009

Black Mercedes Benz E Class W211 on the side of the road
Source: Christian Flores / Flickr

The third-generation E-Class was introduced in 2002. It developed many electrical issues that were fixed in the 2007 facelift model. While the 2009 model received a 5 out of 5 reliability rating from J.D. Power, the car still has a few weak points, including faulty sensors and fiber-optic cables, as well as premature Airmatic compressor wear.

This E-Class was revolutionary compared to its predecessor, as the exterior and interior design holds well even today. You can choose from over 20 powertrain variations and some of them come with the all-wheel drive 4Matic system. The E-Class is a big and heavy car, but the 33 mpg-averaging E200 Kompressor version won't disappoint those seeking economy.

2. C-Class 2008-2014

Silver Mercedes C Class W204 in the parking lot
Source: Nakhon100 / Flickr

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class is a smaller version of the S-Class, and while it's comfortable and smooth, the third generation C-Class has also proven its dependability.

Pre-2010 models tend to suffer from power steering fluid and oil leaks, especially the diesel versions, but later models are generally more reliable and refined. J.D. Power rated the 2014 C-Class reliability 4.5 out of 5.

Unlike larger Mercedes-Benz models, the C-Class holds its value well because of great balance between quality and cost. It’s lightweight and has durable engines, ensuring good acceleration times and low fuel consumption – the C220 CDI version averages 45 mpg. This C-Class received a 5 out of 5 stars ANCAP safety rating.

1. GLA 2014-2020

Dark brown Mercedes GLA
Source: Alan Farrow / Flickr

The subcompact crossover market is booming and the Mercedes-Benz GLA fits in very well. WhatCar? Has listed multiple common problems for this model, including faulty airbags, oil leaks, and starter motor issues. However, most of these were resolved in the 2017 model.

The GLA is closely related to the A-Class because they share the same platform, engines, transmissions, and even styling. Tall passengers may struggle finding a comfortable position but at least the 17.2 cubic feet trunk will fit your luggage. The interior lacks premium materials and the ride quality is average at best. However, it's an entry-level Mercedes-Benz, so you shouldn’t expect more.

Should you buy a used Mercedes?

The decision to buy a Mercedes-Benz comes down to an understanding that the company's value proposition is built around luxury and premium features. Those who have money to buy a brand-new Mercedes-Benz often don't care how it holds up because they'll buy a new car a few years later. That's why luxury automakers don't focus on reliability that much.

Mercedes-Benz are among the fastest depreciating cars on the market because breakdowns are common, even for nearly new cars. While most issues are minor, they often cost a fortune to repair.

If you expect a rigid and durable vehicle that keeps going with minimal maintenance, don't buy a used Mercedes. Usually, these cars require regular attention, frequent check-ups, and deeper pockets.

Most common Mercedes-Benz problems

Black Mercedes Benz S Class W222 on the track
Source: Shadman Samee / Flickr

The early 2000s and late 2010s were the worst years for Mercedes-Benz. Their cars had big recalls and numerous issues that led to expensive repairs. While every model has its pros and cons, some problems are widespread.

Fogging headlights

Thoroughly inspect the headlights because they tend to fog up in most models from the 2010s. Even under warranty, the dealer won’t replace foggy headlights, defining this issue as "normal" because LED lights don't produce enough heat. While this is partially true, sometimes Mercedes headlights may fog up completely.

The only solution offered by the manufacturer is to place silica gel sachets inside the headlights, and this is what you’ll get at the dealership.

Premature timing chain wear

The timing chain is a crucial part of a car, as it connects all camshafts and a crankshaft to spin them at the required pace. The engine fails when it snaps and you'll probably have to look for a new one. You can recognize a worn timing chain or tensioners by the engine rattle during its start.

Many manufacturers, including Mercedes-Benz, use thinner timing chains in modern cars to save weight. You should replace the timing chain in modern Mercedes-Benz cars every 80,000-120,000 miles, so ask if a seller has ever done it when buying a used car.

Problematic air suspension

Post-2000 flagship and some mid-range Mercedes-Benz models were equipped with the comfortable yet problematic Airmatic suspension. It was still in development and full of annoying and expensive flaws.

While cars with Airmatic suspension ride wonderfully, everything from the tubing to shock absorbers and the air compressor tend to break down, costing hundreds of dollars to fix.

Mercedes-Benz still uses Airmatic suspension in their new models but it has been revised numerous times, so air suspension problems aren't no longer very common.

What are the alternatives?

Since even the most reliable Mercedes-Benz models develop issues, you may want to explore some alternatives before deciding to buy a Merc. Many popular manufacturers have expanded their model range to fulfill the increasing needs of their customers, so you may find the best car for you if you're open to new ideas.

More options from Germany

Grey Audi Q3 next to a field
Source: Frans Berkelaar / Flickr

Mercedes-Benz cars usually come with plush interiors, generous standard equipment, and a smooth driving experience. If you want a similar deal with a pinch of reliability, take a look at other German luxury car makers.

BMW, the main rival of Mercedes-Benz, offers cars of a sportier and more aggressive character. However, the new 5-Series doesn't focus on the driver as much as earlier models did, making it more gentle, quieter, and refined – similar to the Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

Most BMW models from the early 2010s had various engine-related issues like weak timing chains and overheating, but the overall reliability has improved in later models.

Audi, part of the Volkswagen group, is another great manufacturer, offering 38 models, from subcompact hatchbacks and large family SUVs to convertibles and supercars.

This manufacturer stands between Mercedes and BMW, combining sporty driving characteristics with a comfortable suspension, backed by their legendary Quattro all-wheel drive system. According to Car Sales Base, the A3, Q3, and A4 were the best-selling Audi models of 2020.

Most reliable cars are from Japan

White Lexus RX on a shore
Source: Kārlis Dambrāns / Flickr

Thanks to the luxury vehicle divisions of Toyota, Honda, and Nissan, the Japanese car market isn't as plain and boring as it used to be. These manufacturers build reliable Japanese cars valued by drivers from all over the world.

To compete with German rivals, Lexus, Acura, and Infiniti have expanded the gap between themselves and their parent companies by offering better materials and unique styling.

Every current Mercedes-Benz model has similarly-priced and more reliable rivals from Japan. For example, the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class starts at $37,000, while the Lexus NX is $38,350. Both are small SUVs and offer a luxurious experience for a reasonable price. However, the main difference is that only the NX appears among the most reliable crossovers.

If excitement is more important than comfort and practicality for you, Japanese car manufacturers also have the most reliable sports cars, like the Mazda Miata or the Toyota 86. The 2022 Miata, featuring a 2.0-liter engine and a 6-second 0-60 mph acceleration time, starts at $27,650. These inexpensive, reliable sports cars don't have premium materials or excessive features, ensuring durability and minimal maintenance.

Nowadays, the market is full of great crossovers, compact hatchbacks, and even sports cars that won't break the bank. Don't be deceived by an old-school bulletproof image of Mercedes-Benz and choose wisely. Learn more about the most reliable cars in the market and save some big bucks.

Check the history before buying a used car

Mercedes-Benz offers luxurious and comfortable cars, but that comes with a higher price of spare parts and maintenance. When buying a used car, you want to make sure it’s as trouble-free as possible to avoid additional expenses.

First, get a vehicle history report and see whether the car had accidents, mileage rollbacks, learn about title changes and other essentials. Only then should you take the car for a professional inspection to reveal ongoing mechanical and electrical issues. Remember that bad history records and current defects guarantee higher future expenses but can also serve as leverage in negotiations.

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Evaldas Zabitis

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Evaldas Zabitis

Evaldas has been writing since middle school and has had a passion for cars for as long as he can remember. Right after getting his driver’s license, he spent all of his savings on shoddy cars so he could spend time fixing, driving, and selling them. Evaldas is always interested in automotive technical innovations and is an active participant in automotive community discussions.