240D vs 300SD for a beater/commuter car?

So I'm a total Mercedes-Benz noob, in spite of some lurking and searching through this newsgroup.
I'm looking for a CHEAP, small commuter car to save my truck some
miles and wear and tear. I'd like a diesel (having fallen in love with the Cummins in my truck), and my picks were either a VW Caddy in diesel or one of the older Mercedes. Since I can't find a Caddy anywhere in the local market (those things are pretty rare!), I'll go for the sturdier Mercedes, which I have found.
I'm looking for really cheap, though I'm willing to put some cash into the car to get it running.
In my area, there are four that fit these categories:
1. A 1982 Mercedes-Benz 240D for $1000, 200k miles, auto trans. The catch: No driver-side windows in the front or back.
2. A 1984 Mercedes-Benz 300SD for $800, 200k miles, auto trans. The catch: someone ran it without oil, and they *say* it needs a new engine.
Both are claimed to be in otherwise really good condition. What would replacing the windows in #1 cost? How about a new or rebuilt engine for #2?
Compare with the slightly more expensive cars available:
3. 1980 Mercedes-Benz 240D for $1200, 250k miles, manual trans.
4. 1982 Mercedes-Benz 240D for $2500, 160k miles, manual trans.
Both of these are said to be clean and in good repair.
I have no point of reference to even begin to assess the relative value of these 4 vehicles. How about expected fuel economy?
I'm in Utah, will be commuting a 300-mile round trip once a week. Elevations varrying from 4000-to-6000 feet along the way, a few steep hills.
Conventional wisdom tells me that the manual tranny will be better for higher miles per gallon. But I've read in this group that the 240s are a little sluggish, as compared to the 300s. I don't need speed -- I stick the cruise control on 65 and and touch the gas or the brake for 100 miles at a stretch.
To my untrained eye, #3 seems to be the least hassle. Any recommendations would be appreciated.
Thanks. F.T.
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Seems to me a no brainer. The 300SD. It is 4 times the car. If it runs run it until the engine breaks and replace the engine. At those altitudes you really will want the turbo and greater displacement.
Howard
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My choice would be either of the 240Ds with a little leaning toward the '82 if the mileage is correct. You have a better chance of getting reliable service rather than the other two choices. The '82 240D with AT will drive you crazy trying to get away from lights. The standard trans is much better at this although you won't have to visit your chiropractor because of whiplash. I have an '81 240D with standard trans and it actually surprises people at lights, but certainly doesn't give anyone trying to beat me to the next light any competition. I simply drive it like you would a "beater" but it gets more respect than a Yugo. Diesel is also cheaper in my area than gasoline and the 240Ds are a snap to work on. Good luck.

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have a compresson test done on the 300 if it is ok i think your better off.
a 240 on a grade stick or auto is the truck lane only with the 4 ways on or you maycook the motor.
have had them both
the case, minus a few cans!
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I've owned a '80 300SD since new and have also driven a 240D automatic for some miles.
The use you describe suggests the '82 240D manual as the best drive off car. The others have too many miles, IMHO. The 240D engine makes only 67 HP and the altitude will reduce that somewhat. These are nice city cars but their limited power is a drag, especially at higher speeds. They will go 65 mph running about 3,200 rpm.
As a project the '84 300SD and a salvage yard engine for another $800 or so is the best value if, but only if, you can find a '84 turbo engine. The other (near) years will work but there may be the odd hose and wire that just remains hanging somewhere lacking a mate. The turbodiesel makes 120 HP. These run at 2,800 rpm at 65 mph.
The useful life of M-B diesel engines is 250K to 300K miles given regular maintenance. Some of these are already there.
It gets cold in Utah and a worn diesel will start only with difficulty during the winter; I suspect that's why some of these cars are being sold now. A compression test is the best diagnostic for any diesel.
The freeway fuel use will be about 28-29 mpg for the 240D and 26 mpg for the 300SD. 10% to 15% less in local driving.
All these engines should have their lube oil & filter changed every 5K miles, valves adjusted 15K miles, filters & transmission fluid replaced at 30K miles.
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I drive the freeways between San Diego and LA weekly and am usually in the fast lane at 75 to 85 mph with my 240D stick. Granted that's pretty much the upper limit although I've pegged it at 85 (max on the speedo) and kept on gaining speed but doubt I ever clocked 90. It's simply a matter of what you intend to do with the car and whether or not it starts easily with only 10 to 20 seconds on the heat side before cranking. I'd really check to see how quickly each car starts. Fortunately the '82 has the individually wired glow plugs. Regardless I'd keep the battery in good shape and change the oil at 2,500 rather than 5,000. It's cheap insurance and, if you buy oil filters on line and use the 15/40 Chevron (or equivalent) I've found it will always crank easier and start quicker. Good luck!

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This is really a tough call........Maintenance even with diesel in out of the way places is an issue unless you are able to do the work yourself and can afford the down time for internet order parts. In my less affluent times I opted for the cheap throw away cars you can get for a few hundred bucks, drive them untill they stop running, walk away and get another one. There is nothing cheap with a Mercedes. My two cents
Peter
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My '79 240D (auto) is on it's 2nd motor and trans, and is clocking almost 1.6 million miles. Fuel economy is pretty good since I use used cooking oil. I would love the extra punch of a 300TD or just a plain 300D, but for my money my 240D gets the job done nicely. BTW I am almost never in a rush and rarely drive over 60 MPH.
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Everyone here is right... Seems like #3 is the best deal... however, it is best to have the compression checked. Test drive a 240D and see if you like it... if not, that wiped out the rest of 240D you are considering.
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