Monday, November 24, 2014

20k: R230% Depreciation: 2004 Mercedes-Benz SL600

This next car came to us from DT regular Andy L, it is a 2004 Mercedes-Benz SL600 offered for $23,250 buy-it-now located in St. Louis, MO here on eBay with 2 days to go. Andy included a nice writeup with the tip -- here it is in its entirety:

You roll in the throttle as you see a straight away open up in front of you through the mountain pass and the full 621 turbocharged, V12 horses are brought to full song. Your car rustles the leaves behind you, just as a 300SL of the same lineage may have done some 60 years ago in this very place.  You are a part of a part of elite automotive history as a driver of the flagship of the Mercedes Benz fleet: The SL600 AMG V12 Bi-turbo.  Best of all, you shrewd devil, you finagled your way into this enviable position for just a shade over $20K.  You must be one astute businessman, to boot.   So why aren't you clicking the Buy-it-Now button? 

All the blocks are checked: Low miles at only 48K, 3 owners, auto-check score is above range at 90 (whatever that means), and a clean title. Sure, there are a couple of nittanoid, superficial flaws, but nothing you can't fix over a couple of cold ones.  A new base model Mustang is more expensive than this car, so you know you can swing the deal.

But you balk.  You don't just balk, you don't want anything to do with this Benz. Why?  Well, this isn't your first day searching car ads.  You have seen myriad cars similar to this. Mercedes, BMWs, Lexi, Jaguars.  All gorgeous, seemingly well maintained cars with fantastic engineering and performance.  The problem?  Their warranties ran out and, like Cinderella's coach, they became virtually worthless at midnight on the day they turned 10 years old.  

Pop the hood.  See that plastic cover?  Bad stuff lurks beneath it.  What was promptly adjusted and brought back to life by dealer technicians just yesterday while you were tooling around in a courtesy car is now a collection of hundreds of unknowns just waiting to wreck you financially.  All that watch-like precision and computer-engineered marvelousness is not your friend anymore. There is a timing chain longer than your small intestine in there, probably on the firewall side of the engine.  There is a labyrinth of oil passages that would fascinate Rube Goldberg.  Hundreds of feet of wire control everything from the trunk release to the crash sensors. One thing goes wrong, and it will, and you are on the hook for thousands.

You look at the ad and start to imagine possible floggings by the previous owners.  Was it broken-in properly?  Someone probably stomped on it when the engine was ice cold.  It was driven through road salt that was sprayed into every nook and cranny of the car.  89 octane ethanol was no doubt pumped into the tank for months on end.  And those little nittanoid flaws?  Why wouldn't the current owner just go ahead and take care of them?  Grammar and spelling in the ad and the surroundings of the car in the photos become omens of misfortune ahead.

Oh, and depreciation.  This was at least a $100K car new.  Surely it has reached the bottom of it's depreciation curve.  Not by a damn sight.  The march to scrap metal value will continue, in case you are thinking of cutting bait after the first expensive repair.  By now, you have no taste for this car.  If you have done any car shopping, you went through this entire thought process in about five seconds and without even opening the ad.     

Big thanks to Andy for the tip and words -- got your own story to tell?  send it here:


  1. A twin turbo V12...and no pics w/ the hood open?

  2. I have traveled down this road before...just remember that the maintenance and repair parts for a $100K+ new car are still the same (or higher) when that lofty coach of the gods is a shiny $20K siren...just waiting to lure you onto the rocks of financial misery.

    One rule I have painfully learned is that you always buy these highly depreciated (but fun) time bombs from the original owner, only when they have full and up-to-date service histories, and NEVER keep them past 60K or so (when the big $$$ repairs typically begin). Buy smart, enjoy for a year or two, and sell gratefully....with some buying skill (and luck), you'll break even or possibly lose just your T-shirt in the end.


  3. I can't even afford the Toupee I would need to drive this.

  4. These were very pretty cars, from a whole generation of very pretty Benzes.

    And it's undoubtedly faster than most of its drivers could handle. I'd guess, given the nature of the typical US SL owner, most of these things have never touched 120mph, effectively making it a very expensive VW Eos TDI.

    1. Could be it's just an expensive VW, but the babes don't see it that way. Where's my toupee?

    2. Yeah, but which is cheaper? The Benz SL or 'accidentally' spilling wads of Franklins out of your wallet?

    3. Seems you are well versed in the art of seduction.

  5. Bought an 03 for less than 15k. I taught myself every inch of the car so I avoid the 2k repair bills. Now I own a true super car for peanuts. It is a true rocket ship. Will outrun almost anything on the road. Took it to local dragstrip for a test and tune. Everyone laughed until the 12.14 lit up the results board.


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