Is Mercedes-Benz reliable? An impartial look at the luxury brand’s reliability

We give an honest assessment on how reliable Mercedes vehicles are...

  • Is Mercedes reliable?
  • Why is Mercedes unreliable?
  • How reliable is the Mercedes A-Class?
  • Is the Mercedes C-Class reliable?
  • How reliable is the Mercedes E-Class
  • Should I buy, lease or hire a Mercedes?

Are you thinking about buying a Mercedes? If you’re looking to buy one, rather than leasing, you need to take into account something other than how powerful, luxurious and fast a Mercedes is – you also have to take a look at its reliability.

We know, it’s not the most exciting topic, but it’s important that you do some research into reliability when you’re thinking about buying a new car. Cars that aren’t reliable cause their owners no end of frustration, and they can cost a lot of money.

Historically, German cars have been dogged by question marks over their reliability, but what about Mercedes? Are its cars reliable? Or are you going to find that your brand new C-Class is going to be spending far more time off the road than on it? In this article, we’re going to investigate claims of reliability and how they affect the Mercedes brand.

Is Mercedes reliable?

When you begin your search into the reliability of any product, including that brand new car you’ve got your eye on, consumer reports are a really good starting point.

Two of the most reliable sources of information for dependability are Which? and ReliabilityIndex.

Every year, Which? conduct a reliability survey, contacting 1,000s of consumers, requesting information about their vehicles. The reports provide an interesting picture of the reliability of multiple manufacturers, their reliability and the problems many experienced when driving them.

In the 2019 Which? Reliability Survey, newer Mercedes (aged 3 years and under) were awarded 3-stars in the site’s 5-star ranking. This is not hugely impressive for newer vehicles, as it means they were found to be just average.

Owners of older vehicles that were aged between 3 and 8 years experienced no specific issues, however, the manufacturer still only earned an average rating of 3-stars.

In the 2019 ReliabilityIndex report – one which takes into account the number of problems owners experienced over the 12 months prior to the report – Mercedes placed 30 out of 40 manufacturers in the listings. They were also awarded a score of 173. While this is not as low as the 774 that Maserati was given in the same study, 173 is still considered rather average, with manufacturers and vehicles scoring over 100 found to be less reliable. According to ReliabilityIndex, Mercedes has the same level of dependability as Jeep.

Why is Mercedes unreliable?

So, we’ve established that Mercedes isn’t considered one of the more reliable manufacturers. But why is this the case?

It is interesting to note that a large number of the more unreliable vehicles come from the premium automakers. For many years Alfa Romeo was at the top of the ReliabilityIndex as the most unreliable manufacturer. However, in recent years this has changed, with Maserati and Bentley taking its place.

One of the main reasons that Mercedes and other premium brands have been awarded poor reliability scores is down to the fact that they include a great deal of new technology, which means that there is a lot more that can go wrong. One of the most common issues experienced by owners of Mercedes’ vehicles is with non-engine electrics.

Mercedes vehicles are packed with new technology and earlier this year the new MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) system including a top-of-the-range infotainment system was introduced in the latest A-Class models. This system was later introduced in other models from the German manufacturer.

Mercedes is quick to adopt new technology, however, as with anything, the more that is added to it, the more there is to go wrong.

Mercedes actually produce fantastic engines. As long as you maintain your vehicle, get it serviced and change the oil exactly when you are meant to, your car should hold up – in theory. The problem is that the more technical bits might go wrong.

How reliable is the Mercedes A-Class?

As with any brand, some Mercedes models are more dependable than others.

The A-Class doesn’t quite make it onto the ReliabilityIndex list of the top 100 reliable vehicles for 2019. The model has earned a score of 132, placing it behind the Mercedes CLC, the E-Class, and the C-Class.

With an average repair cost of £463.70 and just over 3 hours off the road when repairs are needed. According to ReliabilityIndex, the most common issue experienced by owners of the A-Class was with the electrical system. Over 38% of owners who reported an issue were experiencing problems with their electrics. On the positive side, however, no one who participated in reliability studies reported having any trouble with the braking system, which is encouraging.

Mercedes A-Class Saloon

In the 2019 Which? Reliability Survey, the A-Class earned 3-stars. This is an average score, so on par with the scores earned by the E-Class, and higher than Mercedes’ poorer scoring (2-star) GLC model. According to the data gathered from survey participants, the A-Class, owners of the petrol version experienced more problems than those who drove diesel. The most commonly reported issue was related to airbags at 20%. Another problem that was regularly reported by owners was connected to getting the petrol model started.

Owners of older models (3 years and over) also experienced issues with safety equipment, with 14% (6% less than in newer models) reporting they had problems with their airbags.

Overall, looking at the results from both Which? and ReliabilityIndex, the Mercedes A-Class is average when it comes to being a dependable vehicle. But it had an upgrade earlier this year (after data was collected for 2019), so we are waiting for reliability reviews on the newer model, complete with new, more advanced, technology to see how it performs in comparison with its predecessors.

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How reliable is the Mercedes E-Class

When we look at our figures, the Mercedes E-Class is the most popular range of vehicles that Mercedes produces. The E-Class scores better than the A-Class and S-Class, but the C-Class appears above it on the ReliabilityIndex top 100 cars list.

With a score of 80 in the 2019 ReliabilityIndex report, when it needs repairs, the E-Class spends an average of 2 hours and 20 minutes off the road and will cost its owner around £380.04 when it suffers any mechanical issues.

According to ReliabilityIndex, owners who have an E-Class are more likely to report issues with their electrical systems, with 29.41% of owners who participated in the annual survey, disclosing that they had needed to take their vehicle in to get it repaired.

When Which? conducted their annual reliability survey for 2019, the newer E-Class models were awarded 3-stars out of 5. When asked about their experiences over the 12-months running up to the survey, 33% of owners reported that it had been necessary for them to take their vehicles in for a service. 10% stated that they had problems with the exterior trim, while 10% reported problems with their fuel systems.

The E-Class has experienced a few large issues over the last decade, having had problems with the fuel injection system and the airbags which made it necessary for Mercedes to conduct a mass recall in order to repair them. However, 2019 has been a good year when it comes to recalls, with no widely-reported issues requiring urgent repair.

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How reliable is the Mercedes C-Class?

The C-Class is one of the more popular models that Mercedes produces. Whether it’s the estate, saloon or coupe, reliability standards are similar across the board.

The C-Class came in at 86th on the ReliabilityIndex 100 most reliable car list for 2019 with a score of 71, which is almost 50% lower than the score earned by the A-Class range.

Though it appears to be a more reliable car, the cost of repairs is still relatively high in comparison with other manufacturers. The average repair cost for C-Class models comes in at just under £430. If something does go wrong though, luckily you will spend less time off the road than you would if something went wrong with your A-Class or B-Class, at an estimated 2 hours and 10 minutes. When it comes to the things that people reported having the most issues with, the electrical system came out on top. 33.07% of owners had problems with their electrics. The area that fewest had difficulty with was the transmission, with only 0.39% stating that they had needed to get theirs repaired.

In the 2019 Which? reliability survey, the newer C-Class models, those aged between 0 and 3 years, performed quite well, earning 4-stars out of 5. According to the considerable number of owners who participated, petrol models performed better than diesel, with 16% of petrol owners reporting issues, while 37% of diesel owners had problems.

Mercedes C-Class Coupe

For diesel owners, the biggest issue they reported was with their engine management system, with 6% stating that this is why their vehicles had needed repair.

When it came to the older models, aged between 3 and 8 years, the reliability, according to Which?, drops down to 3-stars. Car faults grow increasingly worse the older the model gets, model reliability decreases by a further 10%. The most common issues that the older cars are reported for include problems with the airbags and issues with the exhaust/emissions system.

When looking at both sets of results, from ReliabilityIndex and Which?, the newer C-Class models have scored well when it comes to dependability, experiencing fewer problems than other Mercedes models. Petrol is also the recommended choice with those models performing better than the diesel models in the same range.

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Should I buy, lease or hire a Mercedes?

Mercedes have the reputation of making high-quality, luxury vehicles that are a pleasure to drive and give off an aura of professionalism and elegance. So, it’s understandable that they are one of the top vehicles of choice when it comes to business cars.

If you love the look of a Mercedes and have often dreamed of parking one on your driveway or driving one to the office, then what’s stopping you?

If you’ve been thinking about getting a brand-new Mercedes – whether it’s the A-Class, B-Class or even the giant G-Wagon; you like the look of them, have long-admired the reputation of the brand and find their stylish exterior and luxurious interior perfectly fit your needs, then a lease might be the perfect route for you to take. And, even better, if you decide to go with a fully-maintained lease you will have peace of mind that any of the issues that may occur with your Mercedes are covered. So you can have all of the comfort and luxury associated with the excitement of one of these German classics minus the anxiety.

On one hand, we can applaud them for the fact that they adopt new technology into their models quickly, but on the other, electrics are a core issue they are reported for when it comes to common problem areas and, therefore, a reason why they often have a low reliability score.

However, they do have an impressive score for build quality and overall performance. So it depends on what is more important to you as a driver and buyer.

Ultimately, Mercedes-Benz still makes great cars that are worth the money, but we can’t ignore that the new technology could lead to problems later down the line.

Data included in this article was correct at time of publication, October 2019.

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Rachel Richardson
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66 Comments

  • Jeffrey| 2nd August 2020 at 2:30 am Reply

    2013 W204 C350 Repairs: Rear ride control shocks replaced at about 65K $1,650. Radiator replaced same time small pinhole leak $800. Front AMG rims replaced from pothole damage, I may have been running pressures too low $3,250. Current odometer 96k Love this car, best I ever owned. PS I do replace the tires annually at $800.

  • William| 6th July 2020 at 12:55 am Reply

    Have always had mercs since 1974 and my present one is a 2006 220 cdi avantgarde with 172000 on the click and it goes like a bullet. Just service it when required.

  • Rob| 28th April 2020 at 7:34 pm Reply

    I had a 2016 W205 C250 (petrol). I guess I’m the unlucky guy, since I had a lot of issues with it. Sure they were not major, but still annoying. The worst part for me was the build quality, lots of rattles…not at all what you would expect from that price range. I finally gave up and sold it couple of months ago. The good thing is that it sells very well…I sold it at a reasonable price within one week.

  • Thabiso| 22nd April 2020 at 8:24 pm Reply

    Hie I,ve a C180 classic 1997 model with 250000km I love it I do service it myself here in South Africa and it just perform like it’s new just buy Google I can change anything on that car

    • Rachel Richardson| 24th April 2020 at 12:53 pm Reply

      Hi Thabiso,

      Thank you for your comments on your experiences with your classic Mercedes. Many of the older models were designed so that self-maintenance was much easier.

  • S. Weiner| 21st April 2020 at 1:11 pm Reply

    My 2015 E350 4matic has been extremely reliable in it 37K miles and certainly the best car I’ve owned, to date.

    • Rachel Richardson| 21st April 2020 at 4:30 pm Reply

      Hi Steve,

      Thank you for sharing your experience driving Mercedes with us.

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