The Collectible Mercedes Mileage Conundrum
How Important is Low Mileage in a Collector Car?
The double-edged sword.
About a third of sellers include their car’s mileage in ads — usually those people with the lowest mileage. Other people either don’t know their car’s mileage or wish they didn’t. As many things in life this is a double-edged sword. We’ve all heard mechanics say we must drive our cars; use ’em or lose ’em. A study on engine wear described in the book THE SL EXPERIENCE (Delusions of Low Mileage, page 184) cautions that 12,000 miles on a city-driven car can cause as much cam shaft wear as five times that mileage on the highway.
Intended usage is the big factor in choosing or bypassing the lowest mileage cars. If you drive the car regularly, or even two seasons of the year, you will “consume” the key thing that makes low mile cars special. You might respond “All new cars come with nearly zero miles so what’s the big deal?” True enough and the strong sales of new Mercedes affirm the willingness to pay for that luxury but discovering an unmolested 25+ year old car with under 25,000 miles is something else.
Once it’s gotten that far in life without deterioration it “deserves” to be preserved, not consumed. These cars deserve to go to new custodians of like mind. If you’re one of those guys, then go for it! Pick the lowest mileage car with the most authentic options you can find. And find them you will. In every SLML issue there are dozens. To emphasize them in this issue there’s a grey-highlight behind the three or four lowest mileage cars in each category.
Low-use cars have there own set of problems.
Sure, low-use cars have there own set of problems — dried out hoses, rubber seals and gaskets, the effects of humidity and condensation, heat and cold. Just starting a dormant car can snap piston rings and suck rust and died gasoline residue into the fuel injection pump. Tires that look good blow out in 500 miles. Brakes often misbehave. Fixing these vulnerable areas on an old original is a smaller task than restoring higher use cars because with use everything wears … from instrument switches and door latches to ball joints.
You’ll also see average reported mileage in these Price Trends charts. While we don’t learn the mileage of every car, this still is an indicator of what can reasonably be expected on the better cars with each engine. Between that number and the lowest mileage cars (in shaded boxes) you’ll find some sweet cars. Never assume mileage or any other claim about a car for sale is true without verification. For mileage, the best validation is a series of service invoices showing the progressing mileage accumulating over decades. ALWAYS save major and minor service bills on your own cars. They help sell any car regardless what is revealed.
One surprise to come from the current “crunching:” V12 owners may be driving their cars more than V8 or six cylinder SL owners! As with the other data, our samplings exclude the high mileage cars but since this has occurred on all three models, the results still suggests 12 cylinder and 6 cylinder SL owners are logging more annual miles than V8 owners:
Overall average – Sixes: 6,970 miles
Overall Average – V8s: 5,340 miles
Overall Average – V12: 7,280 miles
These numbers come from averaging all years for each model to expand the sample groups.
On an unrelated subject a General Motor’s Power Train VP Tom Stephens has announced his company will begin selling “image engines” for prestige. Sounds like they’re taking a chapter out of the AMG book.
Editorial from SL Market Letter.