MB newbie would appreciate help

Colleagues,
I'm intending to buy a Merc for the first time ever. For financial reasons I'll be restricted to something no later than the mid-90s (maybe 97-98 at
the very latest, more likely earlier than that), and there seem to be plenty of superb cars around for very good prices (I'm in the UK).
My confusion is with the models. Is there a kind of summary of what models were available when, and with what engines? MB seem to have made an enormous number of engines!
I would probably need an E class, but someone told me the S-class is better and not much more expensive when buying something 10 years old. Are they right?
I've seen a couple of 500 SELs for sale at very reasonable prices. But I'm confused - is the SEL an S-class? Or something else entirely?
Finally, I've found people also talk about W124 and W126. Now I'm even more confused!
I realise this question must have been asked a million times already, so I apologise in advance. Perhaps you could just direct me to an FAQ or something?
Thanks!
Steve East Anglia, UK
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Steve,
I'll try to answer a few of your questions:

Mercedes divides its models in "classes". A class is identified by a letter, i.e. c-class, e-class, s-class etc. The class therefore indicates broadly the car segment, the type of the car if you like. Within each class, or segment, there are then various models on offer, with different engine types and sizes and with increasing degrees of luxury and equipment.
I think the following lists the current Mercedes classes:
A-class: small, compact hatchback B-class: compact, bigger than B, hatchback C-class: small saloon or estate E-class: larger saloon/estate, typical family car - very popular S-class: large saloon cars, ultimate luxury car, top range available in standard or long wheel base versions SLK: small roadster SL: larger roadster, expensive CLK: midrange coupe CL: top range coupe, coupe version of the S-class M-class: off-roader CLS: 4-door coupe SLR: sports coupe, incredibly expensive
There are also the Vaneo, a people carrier and the Viano, a large carrier/small bus type of car.
Within each class, as I said, you can select between various engine models. For example, the current e-class offers 5 petrol engines (200 Kompressor, 280, 350, 500 and 55AMG) and 3 diesels (220CDI, 280CDI and 320CDI). The engine indicators roughly indicate engine size. In other words, a 350 model has a 3498cc engine. These are only rough indicators though, a 280 e-class is currently fitted with a 2996cc engine.
On top of that, you can select the trim level. for example, the current e-class (to stay with the same as in the previous example) offers classic, elegance, avantgarde, sport and AMG trim levels, roughly in increasing order of features and luxury. Note that not all engines are offered on all trim levels. For example, the classic trim level is only available with the 200Kompressor and 280 petrol engines, as well as with the 220CDI and 280CDI diesels.
Making things even more complicated: even with higher trim levels, there remain a raft of optional extras that can be fitted, most of which are quite expensive.

better
Well, it depends on what you are looking for. an E-class is a larger family car, available in saloon or estate versions. The S-class is a top luxury limousine style of car, quite a bit more expensive than the e-class. The S-class can come in either standard length or long wheel base versions, which have obviously extra legroom in the back and are great cars to be driven in as a passenger.
What car is right for you is therefore a matter of taste and preference. I personally prefer the S-class over the E-class, with its larger body and incredible level of luxury and comfort. But obviously they are quite a bit more expensive and larger.
Each of the models above is based on a particular chassis type. The W124 is the chassis for the e-class models produced between the mid 80s to mid 90s. The current e-class uses the W211 chassis.
The W126 is the chassis for the S-class between 1981 and 1991. The w140 chassis was the biggest s-class ever, with a dominant and robust look and feel to it.

I'm
The model indicator scheme for the S-class was changed around 1994. Up to then, the S-class saloon was known as the SE, the long wheel base version as SEL. So, a 500SEL is the equivalent of a S500 LWB. The top range 2-door coupe based in the s-class was known until then as the SEC.
If you buy a W140 with the SEL indicator, it is therefore one of the first generation W140 cars.
The w140 s-class has gone through a few changes and upgrades, and I certainly would recommend getting one of the later models. At the moment, I have a S500 from 1996 (model 97). It's the most wonderful driving experience you can have!
When buying a second hand car, especially if you're going to spend more than a few thousands on it, my advice is to get an independent vehicle inspection before you buy, so you know exactly what condition the car is in. Also make sure you get a full service history. If you take the time, you can buy an excellent car that will last you for a long time.
Hope some of this was helpful.
Guido
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

letter,
types
models.
model
order
280CDI
quite
they
family
is
90s.
as
I
experience
than
inspection
make
Thanks very much for this. I wasn't the original poster, but have just started looking for a Mercedes. I tow a caravan and need a bigger car. I'm in the UK. I've been looking for a car for some time, but very recently have seen some E class Mercs at what I thought were very good prices.
It seems possible to get a E Class, say a 240 at 99/00 V registration for 6000. This seems very good to me.
Does anyone have experience of towing with a Merc and how would I expect to fare for maintenance costs?
Also any reasons why they are suddenly so cheap? I know their reputation has taken a bit of a knock, but they suddenly seem to have come within my budget for the first time I can recall!
TIA
Neb
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Superb answers from one and all!
Thank you very much for all the advice - it's really appreciated.
Steve
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Steve, You might want to sign up here.
http://mbclub.co.uk/forums /
If looking for a mid-late 90's E-class, it might be just as well to do a search for RUST and E-Class.
I own a '98 E-class (W-210) and although it is a lovely car to drive and has had hardly any mechanical problems, it has had surface rust on trunk(boot) lid, doors under rubber seals and front subframe crossmember (hidden above plastic spray shield). MB fixed these at no cost to me and also attended to potential problems with spring perches, floor pan seams and "front longitudinal beams" under recalls.
To their credit, MB have fixed the corrosion problems which seem to be due to poor paint systems Surface rusts rather than inside-out rust). Not sure if the same problems occur with other MB cars from same era - 1996-2001. A slightly older W124 or even one of the last W126's may be of interest.
Good Luck!

reasons
plenty
models
better
I'm
more
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Just an FYI. MB's can be expensive to repair and maintain.
Davehd

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
"Dave HD" wrote

Dave is of course correct if major work is needed or if services are done at a dealership.
But, the lowest cost car I have ever owned is a MB. It is an '85 W123 diesel and cost of driving per mile has been about 1/2 of that for some other cars I have owned. Normal maintenance costs same as most cars, probably lower than Japanese cars. Parts are readily available even for older cars. The older cars (up to about 1995) are relatively simple and are suitable for DIY owners.
Depreciation on say a 94 W124 diesel from here on, would likely be quite low. Our W123 was bought 15 years ago for C$13,500 and would hopefully sell for over C$5000 today (It is in very good shape).
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Best advise is to find a friend or mechanic who knows so much about Mercedes mechanically... help you look over the car before you buy... this way it saves you from money pits.
E class is the most popular in term of price and size. I'd probably pick 1994 or 1995 model years as it is the last two years of W124 style... meaning they already worked out the kinks for 8 years... whereas 1996 is the new body style W210 first year. Chances are that all the kinks are fixed by the time you buy it... only problem is taking over somebody else's neglect.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Tiger wrote:

Aren't the 94/95 models the ones with the self destructing wiring harness problems?
Ximinez
--
Our three weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency...
and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope....
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
As far as I know... supposedly... my car has original wires... no problem.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
IMHO, the E Class is an efficient package and the better all around car than the heavy, complicated (and expensive) S Class limousine. I own a '97 E320 (3.2L six) which has been a fine car; it has plenty of power and just glides down the freeway. Its fuel consumption in Calif. is up to 27 mpg on 60 - 70 mph extended freeway trips.
"Better" is very subjective as it's based on the speaker's goals and values. The S cars' motors and transmissions etc. are not of a "better" mechanical quality than say, an E class car but the S gives the owner more things - to possibly go wrong.
Old cars don't enjoy a "senior discount" on their repairs so buy the best quality car you can for your purpose and remember, one can always trade up.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Motorsforum.com is a website by car enthusiasts for car enthusiasts. It is not affiliated with any of the car or spare part manufacturers or car dealers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.