Would like to buy a 1996 Mercedes 200C. What can I expect to start going wrong after 175,000 km on the clock?
You’re kind of in luck, George, because the W202 series of Mercedes-Benz cars is viewed by the trade as the last of the well-built Benzes. Still built in Germany, the W202 was replaced by the W203 at the turn of the century with production of Australian sedans shifting to South Africa (the wagons were still made in Germany). Quality suffered with the switch from W202 to W203 despite the latter being the newer design.
But the less wonderful news is that the W202 is still a pretty old car these days and is likely to have covered plenty of kilometres (the 175,000km you’ve nominated is actually quite low). So, there are no hard and fast rules; take every car on its individual merits and be sure to examine each example with a forensic level of detail.
Interiors can start to look pretty tired after a couple of decades in the Aussie UV and know that if the vacuum-operated central-locking or heating and ventilation controls ever play up, it can mean a dashboard-out job that can easily cost more than the car is worth. Paint – especially metallic colours – can fade and peel and, again, a respray is likely to cost more than the value of the car itself.
Mechanically, these are relatively simple machines but spares can cost plenty and the chances of a previous owner scrimping on maintenance costs at some point in the last 25 years is pretty high. At least there’s a decent aftermarket industry for sourcing bits and pieces. But seriously, these are now old enough to be of interest mainly to the real enthusiasts out there. Buying a Benz that old for the sake of its three-pointed star badge could be asking for trouble.