Are Mercedes-Benz Reliable? An Impartial Look at the Luxury Brand’s Reliability

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

Thinking about buying a Mercedes? If you’re looking to buy one as opposed to leasing one, 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 – boring. But here’s the thing: Cars that aren’t reliable cause us no end of frustration, and they can cost us a lot of cash.

German cars have been historically dogged by question marks over their reliability, but what about Mercedes? Are they reliable? Or is your new C-Class going to be spending more time off the road than on it? OSV investigates.

Are Mercedes reliable?

Consumer reports are a good place to start when looking at how reliable a product is, and a car is no different. Consumer Reports have been carrying out long-term reliability tests since 1972 and once placed Mercedes as number one for reliability. However, their assessment has become a little more scathing since 1999, when Mercedes launched their first ever SUV. Since then, the brand has fared averagely on their reliability charts.

 

In fact, ever since 2007, Mercedes have not scored above average by Consumer Reports in regards to reliability. In 2014, Consumer Reports reported that the Mercedes CLA was not only the most unreliable Mercedes in the Auto Reliability Survey, but 140% worse than the average car.

But anyway, that was 2014. Has much changed for 2018?

 

Mercedes CLA

Consumer Reports ran their annual Car Brands Reliability survey for 2018, and Mercedes came 14th. According to the survey, Mercedes cars are currently more unreliable than the likes of Volkswagen and Tesla, but more reliable than Porsche, Infiniti and their closest rivals BMW and Audi.

According to the same survey, the GL3 model is the least reliable model, while the E-Class model is the most reliable. Overall, Mercedes was given an average reliability score of 47, which ranks as fairly reliable.

J.D Power’s dependability study tells a similar story, with Mercedes sitting mid-table in their 2018 league table. Lexus sits at the top with 99 problems per 100 vehicles, while Mercedes has 147 problems per 100 vehicles. That’s not so bad when you consider that Chrysler is saddled with 211 problems per vehicles.

Warranty Directs findings are a bit more damning, however. According to their research in 2017, Mercedes are the fifth likeliest car to break down. They have a 25% breakdown rate, as well as a £560 average payout claim – which can be considered to be quite high.

Why are Mercedes unreliable?

Women on her phone at her laptop

We’ve established that Mercedes aren’t massively reliable … but why is this?

The interesting thing to note is that many of the most unreliable cars are from premium automakers. According to Warranty Directs’ aforementioned survey, Alfa Romeo is the most unreliable brand, while Porsche is the second most unreliable.

The reason Mercedes and many other premium brands have such a poor reliability record? It usually comes down to the fact that they use so much new technology.

Mercedes cars come packed with new technology, and it’s often the technology lets them down. As shown here, Mercedes are clearly classy cars, but tech such as a “complex infotainment system” is their achilles heel.

Consumer Reports have consistently scored Mercedes highly on their implementation of new technology. But they do rely on suppliers to implement this technology and sometimes that comes with faults.

An automotive engineer at Consumer Reports, Gabriel Shenhar, said “Mercedes are quick to adapt new technologies but rely on supplies that supply those technologies, and in a lot of cases what we see is problems with the electrical system, the entertainment system and the other interface.”

Mercedes actually produce fantastic engines. As long as you maintain your Merc and get its oil changed exactly when you should, your car should hold up – in theory. The problem is that its techy bits might go wrong.

Is Mercedes more reliable than BMW and Audi?

We get asked this question a lot.

All German premium brands are dogged by reliability issues. But which one is the most unreliable?

It’s a bit of a redundant question. J.D Power puts Mercedes and Audi higher than BMW in terms of overall dependability – but Which? Ranks BMW and Audi higher than Mercedes.

Moreover, Consumer Reports put BMW higher in their league table, at 5th place, in 2016 – but in 2018, Mercedes is ranked higher. The truth is, all three brands are as reliable – or as unreliable as each other, and their positions in the tables change each year.

Which Mercedes are the most reliable?

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

The following are based on the J.D Power predicted dependability score and achieve a ranking of above average or higher:

 

 

So a mixture of classes and years, but it’s good to know if you’re looking at a secondhand Mercedes. Also, this will give you an idea of how reliable the newer versions of these cars are.

Which Mercedes are the least reliable?

So, what about the least reliable? The following have a predicted reliability score of below average:

 

 

After all that, are Mercedes-Benz reliable? Yes and no. Their engine reliability is one of the highest in the market, but they are let down by their use of such new and advanced technology.

On one hand, we can applaud them for their use of such technology, but on the other it’s one of the reasons why they are scoring lower for reliability. They do rank highly for build quality and overall performance, though, so it depends what is more important to you as a driver and buyer.

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

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Holly Martin

Content Co-ordinator at OSV Ltd
Holly enjoys: Reading, music and spending time with friends.

Within a week of Holly starting work at OSV she became an indispensable part of the marketing team. She's very intuitive and gets on with the whole office effortlessly.
Holly Martin

39 Comments

  • Joel| 22nd June 2019 at 5:19 pm Reply

    I was thinking of getting a new Mercedes….c63 amg….not sure if I want one now……

    • Rachel Richardson| 25th June 2019 at 11:32 am Reply

      Hi Joel,
      If you’re interested in finding out more about specific models in the range, we have a detailed review of the 2019 Mercedes C-Class Saloons on our YouTube channel, the review is incredibly comprehensive, talking about specifics. It can be found here: https://youtu.be/4lNJBJws54Q
      If you would like to speak with someone about your next car, please get in touch with Amanda on 01903 223391 and she will be able to help you.

  • John Marx| 18th June 2019 at 8:13 pm Reply

    Most of the complaints actually come from people who buy those cars second hand and treat them as if they are pickup trucks. To make things even worse, when something happens to those cars they take them to inexperienced mechanics that have absolutely no clue how to deal with such cars. The mechanics will complain and of course no mechanic will ever say that he doesn’t know how to fix a car so they improvise and ruin other stuff in the car or they will just suggest replacing so many things hoping that one of those many part will be the right one which will cost the customer thousands. For instance, I’ve seen so many incompetent mechanics that go and replace the entire set of struts in an airmatic system because they actually don’t know how to properly diagnose the system, which in the end turned out to be a simple leak in a valve or a hose. As the article mentioned those cars are loaded with technologies and need special care and some well-informed mechanic to work on them.

    • Rachel Richardson| 19th June 2019 at 9:31 am Reply

      Hi John,
      Thank you for your comment. We use a variety of sources for the data we use in these articles, including warranty companies, manufacturers and product review sites such as Which? in order to ensure that the content we produce is balanced and unbiased. While it is true a lot of people will have complained about their vehicles, the data takes into account the amount of time vehicles are off the road, how much they cost to repair and various other factors.

  • Arild Aarbakk| 9th June 2019 at 10:39 pm Reply

    I’ve owned a 200 c class 1998 model, the worst ever car I have ever owned. It ran only 290000 km before all sensors failed. The transmission failed to shilft, so usually had to run on it’s 1st gear. Oil consumption were high, 1l of oil every tank filled and at the end it caught fire. I managed to distinguish the fire, but problems kept coming, Oil consumption was high and always been, Gearbox was bad from whenever I bought the car, electronics was worse than I would ever i imagine, but it was mercedes, and everyone told me that if I was treatening it right it would last for ages. The car is the worst car I have ever owned, and one of the cars I have owned is a 1984 Ford sierra 2.0l, This was running twice the distance with no other issues than at the end leaking a lot of water trough the chassis, but rather that, than with my mercedes which required constantly maintenance and always the worry if it would start in the morning, and if it did would it run the distance required without breaking down. This is my experienc with merceds cars and that is why I never will buy anither one again!

    • Rachel Richardson| 10th June 2019 at 9:22 am Reply

      Hi Arild,
      It sounds as though you have not had the best of luck with your C200, I hope that you are able to find a car which better suits your requirements and causes you less issues than you are currently experiencing.

  • Anne| 10th May 2019 at 2:54 pm Reply

    I am looking to buy a 2006 Mercedes C230 with 85,000 miles on it. Yes, No, Huge Mistake, Run??

    • Lynn| 14th June 2019 at 1:07 pm Reply

      2006 Glk Mercedes Suv with 150,000 miles … would this be a good used vehicle to buy for 6,000

      • Rachel Richardson| 17th June 2019 at 8:43 am Reply

        Hi Lynn,
        Mercedes are good cars. However, as we are unaware of this particular car’s history, we would be unable to comment confidently on whether this 13 year old model would be good value for you at $6,000.

    • Rachel Richardson| 13th May 2019 at 9:18 am Reply

      Hi Anne,

      Mercedes are good cars, however as we don’t know much about this car’s history, such as regular services etc, we are unable to comment further on whether this is a car you should purchase.

  • Dan| 7th May 2019 at 11:51 am Reply

    I have owned an ML 350 Bluetec for about 6 Months. Love the way the car drives and handles, very quiet and comfortable. But it is very expensive to maintain and service. I have already spent $2000+ USD due to faulty sensors in the emissions system. Plan to keep it a while unless the expense becomes unbearable.

    • Rachel Richardson| 7th May 2019 at 12:34 pm Reply

      Hi Dan,
      It sounds as though you’ve had a bit of bad luck with your ML 350. I hope that you have managed to get the issues resolved. I have no doubt that our US readers will find this information regarding cost for repair for the issue that you have experienced.

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