2002 Mercedes-Benz S500 with 5,100 miles – REVISIT

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A few weeks ago I looked at this 2002 Mercedes-Benz S500 with a mere 5,100 miles on it. I explained the downfalls of buying this specific car as you can pretty much predict it’s fate as soon as you start driving it. The auction started out innocent enough with a $200 opening bid but did have a reserve. Seeing as this isn’t a face lift car and you can snag up a decent W220 for very little money, I honestly expected this car to end somewhere in the $15,000 range. That is about double what a 2002 S500 goes for with around 100,000 on it, but boy, was I wrong. This car gathered 44 bids and finished at $30,600 — that didn’t even reach the reserve! Just to put that into perspective, you can grab a 2010 S550 for under $30,000 or if you want to get crazy a 2008 S63 AMG for that same price. Whoever was bidding on this car really must love the W220. Now that the car is up for auction again I can’t wait to see what it ends up this time.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2002 Mercedes-Benz S500 on eBay

The below post originally appeared on our site October 10th, 2016:

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Year: 2002
Model: S500
Engine: 5.0 liter V8
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Mileage: 5,135 mi
Price: Auction

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This immaculate 2002 S500 is a one owner garage find. Purchased by a wealthy business man that it kept in a house in La Jolla, California for the past 15 years and only drove the car 5000 miles. The car is perfect in every way. Optional and Value added equipment include the AMG lower body package with 18″ AMG rims and high performance Michelin Tires. Keyless Go, electronic trunk closer, and parktronic. Has just been checked out from top to bottom by Mercedes Benz of Escondido and given a clean bill of health. The car still has the “new car smell”. Color is Brilliant Silver (744), Ash Nappa Leather (238) and Burl Walnut Trim (731). The car is an absolute pleasure to drive and will give its new owner years of great driving. Happy Bidding and Happy Motoring.

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If you were in a position to buy a brand new W220 when they were launched, you had nothing to convince you otherwise you’d be making a poor choice. The W140 was really nice, the W126 was nearly perfect, the W116 was indestructible and so on and so on. The W220 should continue that just with more modern features and convenience. Except that didn’t happen. Whatever reasons or factors you want blame for the W220 being so damn bad is up to you and it quickly had people trading them at Lexus for a LS430 the second their warranty was up. Yeah, the face lifted version fixed some things and the W221 was a major improvement (except the 2007 S550) but the damage was done. Mercedes lost a lot of legacy S-Class buyers and ruined its reputation for being the best car in the world — at least for the money.

This 2002 S500 really gives you a glimpse at what buyers saw in the showroom and why they plunked down $85,000 for one. The interior is soft and supple with lots of gadgets and toys. The heated and vented seats aren’t torn apart yet, the suspension isn’t broken, the buttons aren’t peeled completely off to revile white buttons that sticks out like a sore thumb. The Keyless Go still works and the Parktronic sensors aren’t totally on the fritz. Under the hood, the valve cover gaskets aren’t leaking oil everywhere and the idler pulley isn’t ready to explode leaving you stranded on the side of the road.

This is truly a hindsight is 20/20 car. You know what this car will become. You can try to keep it perfect if you hide it from the elements. You can try to keep your body and hands totally clean before driving it. But once the miles start adding up, there is only so much you can do. Which begs the question, ‘is it worth it?’ The W220 isn’t a legacy car you can hand down to your children like a W116 6.9 or W126 560SEL is. It’s a disposable appliance and was built to be so. I’m curious to see where the bidding ends with this one, I just hope the buyer knows what they are in for.

– Andrew

3 thoughts on “2002 Mercedes-Benz S500 with 5,100 miles – REVISIT

  1. Only people buying used W220’s are low rent drug dealers, they aren’t paying premium prices for an investment grade automobile.

    I would rather have a broken-in S65 AMG and drive it until it explodes for the same money.

  2. Actually, the W220 is a reliable car as long as you take care of it. The problem is that too many people didn’t, and Daimler-Benz themselves were in good part to blame for this. The two examples that come to mind are as follows.

    1.) These cars tell you when they think you should change the oil. On average, that’s at about 10,000 to 11,000 miles. This is very bad advice; I do mine on average every 5,000 miles, and I’ve never gone beyond 7,500. You *must* use the recommended synthetic oil (Mobil One 0W-40, in the W220’s case, available at Walmart). My engine runs like a top. Now that the car (an S500) is 16 years old, I did the valve cover gaskets since they were just starting to show signs of leakage. Looks nice ‘n’ clean in there. No gunk. On the other hand, those who do follow MB’s advice tend to have a little bit of gunk on their valve rocker arms.

    2.) Daimler-Benz originally told people that the transmissions were “maintenance free for the life of the vehicle.” That’s nonsense. *NO* automatic transmission is “maintenance free”. But people believed MB and didn’t change their fluid and filter. The result: transmissions with 200,000 miles on ’em with the original fluid. It is remarkable that more transmissions didn’t go kablooey. I change mine every 50,000 miles with 236.10-spec fluid (236.12 and 236.14 are later specs and also MB-approved). Guess what? My transmission runs great.

    The other thing that MB needed to do was use that double-sided zinc galvanized steel, which they did start doing in 2003. They should’ve done that from the get-go, though, so cars in the “rust belt” wouldn’t start having rust problems. In places where they don’t use road salt (e. g. California), this isn’t a concern, but in the Midwest and the Northeast, it is.

    Suspension components also need replacing after about 130K miles or 15 years, but that’s true of any car. I’ve done several overhauls of W220 suspensions. The AIRmatics aren’t that hard, really. It costs about $2,500 in parts to do *everything*. But you only have to do it every 15 or so years. The ABC

  3. Actually, the W220 is a reliable car as long as you take care of it. The problem is that too many people didn’t, and Daimler-Benz themselves were in good part to blame for this. The two examples that come to mind are as follows.

    1.) These cars tell you when they think you should change the oil. On average, that’s at about 10,000 to 11,000 miles. This is very bad advice; I do mine on average every 5,000 miles, and I’ve never gone beyond 7,500. You *must* use the recommended synthetic oil (Mobil One 0W-40, in the W220’s case, available at Walmart). My engine runs like a top. Now that the car (an S500) is 16 years old, I did the valve cover gaskets since they were just starting to show signs of leakage. Looks nice ‘n’ clean in there. No gunk. On the other hand, those who do follow MB’s advice tend to have a little bit of gunk on their valve rocker arms.

    2.) Daimler-Benz originally told people that the transmissions were “maintenance free for the life of the vehicle.” That’s nonsense. *NO* automatic transmission is “maintenance free”. But people believed MB and didn’t change their fluid and filter. The result: transmissions with 200,000 miles on ’em with the original fluid. It is remarkable that more transmissions didn’t go kablooey. I change mine every 50,000 miles with 236.10-spec fluid (236.12 and 236.14 are later specs and also MB-approved). Guess what? My transmission runs great. The 5G-Tronic transmission is virtually bulletproof as long as it gets even barely-adequate care. That thing is TOUGH.

    The other thing that MB needed to do was use that double-sided zinc galvanized steel, which they did start doing in 2003. They should’ve done that from the get-go, though, so cars in the “rust belt” wouldn’t start having rust problems. In places where they don’t use road salt (e. g. California), this isn’t a concern, but in the Midwest and the Northeast, it is.

    Suspension components also need replacing after about 130K miles or 15 years, but that’s true of any car. I’ve done several overhauls of W220 suspensions. The AIRmatics aren’t that hard, really. It costs about $2,500 in parts to do *everything*. But you only have to do it every 15 or so years. The ABC hydraulic suspensions, on the other hand…the first thing I’d do with any W220 with an ABC suspension is pick up a Strutmasters coil-spring conversion kit for $1,100. ABC suspensions are just far too risky and way too high-maintenance. One owner had an accumulator blow up on an S600 and all the fluid dumped out. He was looking at about an $8,000 repair job. I put that Strutmasters kit on there with a full explanation of the pros and cons. With the coil-spring conversion on there, the car now rides like an AIRmatic on the soft setting, i. e. very, very nicely, and the car even handles pretty well. The main thing is that the major risk of instantaneous catastrophic suspension failure is now GONE on that car. The owner is very relieved about that.

    So, a used W220 can be a very sound purchase, provided you know what to look for before purchase and budget that into your bid for the car.

    – T

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