If I were to describe to you a car that was reliable, inexpensive to repair and super cheap to purchase, what would immediately come to mind? If you’re like me, you are probably thinking Honda, Toyota or any other basic Japanese eco-box. Add in high performance and German and most would think you're crazy. If you caught my latest video, you might have a different outlook on all this, or you think I’m completely insane for calling any Mercedes AMG car cheap and reliable. In any case, here is my list of the top five most reliable, cheapest to buy and fix Mercedes AMG models.
2005-2006 C55 AMG. 362 Horsepower, 376 lb-ft of torque. Average price $9,000.
Shocker, I know. If you watched the video, you know all about the king of the hill in this top five list. If you don’t watch videos and are here to read, I’ll wrap it up for you. The C55 AMG is part of the 203 chassis C-Class that ran from 2001-2007. Since the C55 wasn’t released until 2005 most of the electrical gremlins and rust issues that plagued early models were fixed. The C55 also comes with one of the most bulletproof engine and transmission combos in the M113 V8 engine and the 722.6 5 speed transmission. Both were used in many different Mercedes with high-performance versions reserved for the AMG cars. Aside from a few oil leaks and a bad sensor here or there, the engine and transmission are very robust. If you watch my channel, you may remember the 400,000 miles 2003 E55 I reviewed and tested on a dyno. That uses basically the same engine and transmission and is a true testament to the unreal reliability of this combo. You will notice most of the cars in this list use this same powertrain. The C55 also uses a simple and effective steel coil and normal shock and strut setup. No fancy air or hydraulic suspension to fail on you here. Although this car uses larger AMG brakes, they don’t cost all the much to replace as I priced out factory Mercedes Pads and Rotors, front and rear, for only $550. The C55 was a very rare car with only about 2,000 units sold in the United States, and that’s why there are four more cars on my list. You may not find a C55 near you so don’t worry; this was a close race for the number one spot.
2003-2006 CLK55 AMG. 362 Horsepower, 276 lb-ft of torque. Average price $11,000.
The number 2 spot goes to a car that is basically a two-door version of the C55. Everything I covered in the video applies here except they went with larger brakes in 2005 so they are a tad bit more expensive. This car was basically tied for number one except they are a bit more expensive and they have windows that automatically lower when you open the door and raise when the door is shut. These were a little problematic and because it's a two-door with a small back seat the car is less practical. My goal in the video was also to show you a car you could daily drive, and although the CLK55 rides just as nice, it’s not as easy to bring others with you. But really this is all very minor stuff, and the car is rock solid just like the C55. Expect to pay a little over $10,000 for clean example and a couple of grand more for a convertible version.
1999-2002 E55 AMG. 349 Horsepower, 391 lb-ft of torque. Average price $6,000.
I mention this car in the video because it truly is a classic and in my opinion cemented AMG as a very real contender with just about anyone. I still remember reading magazines in high school where they put this big four-door car against a Corvette, a Dodge Viper, and various other high-performance sports cars. The E55 held its own and really put AMG on the map. The car again shares the same basic drivetrain with the C55 and CLK55 so no worries there, and it doesn’t use a complicated suspension either. The interior is very basic although the window regulators tend to fail often, which is weird. Like I mentioned in the video this car was prone to rust depending on where you live. This is something I consider a reliability issue because if you are driving an AMG car, you want it to look good. Unlike a beater with a heater, you aren’t just going to live with it so you will need to factor this into the cost of ownership. Now if you buy one with no rust and you live in a hot climate with no snow or salt, you are good to go. This car will last you forever and not break the bank especially if you do your own repairs.
202 Chassis C36, 276 Horsepower, 284 lb-ft of torque. C43 AMG, 302 Horsepower, 302 lb-ft of torque. The average price is under $10,000 but can vary drastically as these are becoming collectibles.
I bundled these two together as sort of a bonus. The C36 was released in 1995 and was the first car released by Mercedes after officially partnering up with AMG which was a separate tuning company before this car. The C36 was fitted with an inline six-cylinder that made more horsepower than the same year M3. This engine did suffer from head gasket failures but aside from that was very robust as was the five-speed automatic transmission. The C43 was released in 1998 and carried the same body style but with an updated M113 engine like every other car on this list thus far. These C-Class AMG cars of this 202 generation were very reliable, but they did suffer from rust issues like the E55, and that also included front coil spring perches that would weaken over time causing the car’s suspension to sag. There were also issues with engine wiring harness, especially with the C36. If you want to see the most pristine example of a 202 chassis C43 AMG make sure to browse my channel. I own quite the gem.
2000-2003 ML55 AMG. 342 Horsepower, 376 lb-ft of torque. Average price $5,000.
Up until now my list has been cars but there was a reliable AMG SUV from back in the day as well. The ML55 once again used the same engine combo as the C55, E55, CLK55 and the C43 but his time it was paired with all-wheel drive. At one point this was the fastest SUV on the planet and most don’t realize that they can be very inexpensive to repair and maintain. Sure this truck would go through brakes, ball joints and rear coil springs like no one’s business, and they did have a fuel pump that would go bad from time to time, but what old car doesn’t need this kind of stuff? Like I said, the race for the number 1 spot was close and ML55 could have been much higher if it wasn’t for the fact that it also has all-wheel drive which is more complicated than rear-wheel drive. The all-wheel-drive worked very well and didn’t have any inherent defects, but as these cars age, it could become a concern.
Now to be fair all of these cars are going to cost more to fix and purchase than a normal car like a Camry or a Malibu of the same vintage. Well, maybe not the Malibu but you get my drift. I don’t want anyone to think that these would be a good pick for a poor college student that doesn’t know how to change a light bulb let alone a set of brake pads. This video and list was intended for enthusiasts and fans of AMG cars. All of these cars can be bought in good condition for $10,000 or much less, and if you buy the right one, you’ll feel like you’re getting away with something. I’ve only had my C55 a week or so and even though it’s not nearly as fast as a C63 I also only paid $7,000 for it, and I don’t have a worry in the world beating the crap out of her all day long. I wonder how much it would cost me to make my C55 as fast as the next generation C63? Hmm, I might have to find out. I may have forgotten a few but the general theme here is to find an AMG car with the M113 engine and 722.6 transmission. It may not be the fastest anymore but they can’t be beat for the price and there is still great aftermarket support for performance modifications. Good luck on your search!