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Mercedes-Benz S-Class (1979 - 1993)

Last updated 6 October 2013


Buying Guide


  • Good looking, carved from solid Mercedes from the same box as the W123.
  • Big cars 16' long (SEL 17' long) by 6' wide and weighing 1,520kg to 1,810kg.
  • Engines range from 185 bhp twin cam 12-valve 280 six, through 188bhp 300SE (from 1986), 204bhp-225bhp 380SE V8, 218bhp-231bhp 420SE(from 1986) and 231bhp-245bhp 500SE to 300 bhp 560 V8 (from 1986). You can still get a good one with 10 years useful life left in it. SEL means long wheelbase with more rear legroom. Electric reclining rear seats were a £9,000 option in the 560SEL.
  • Extremely Low 1 out of 9 point death rate from crashes in this model.


  • 280SE and 300SE not significantly more economical than the smaller V8s.
  • All these cars like petrol.


  • When checking a V8, take off the top of the air filter plenum chamber and look for oil. If there's oil in there, the car needs a £12,000 new engine.
  • Listen for timing chain rattle, signifying infrequent oil changes.
  • Don't want to hear any coarseness from the engine, transmission, diff or rumbles from the wheel bearings.
  • Look for uneven tyre wear - could signify suspension wear.
  • Small dinks and donks in the bodywork cost an arm and a leg to fix properly.
  • Remember, these cars only go on forever if frequently and expensively maintained.
  • Cut back on the maintenance and they will break, leaving you with bills for more than the value of the car.
  • Could have been clocked - especially if on its 6th or 7th owner.
  • On all models, especially coupes, open the boot and look for rust in the rain channel at the base of the rear screen. Saloons rust at base of rear screen, visible from within the boot looking up to its roof under the screen.
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