In late 2013 and early 2014, we noticed the market for Mercedes-Benz cars going off like a rocket. Every auction for the next couple years was packed with more or less every Mercedes sellers could muster. After 2018, many of those cars started to experience a market value correction. The result? Several traditionally collectible cars are now on a downward trend, while new models are emerging as the hot Benzes of tomorrow. Here are six vintage Mercedes to buy, sell, or hold.
For the 1963 model year, the venerable 300SL and 190SL were finally replaced. Mercedes introduced the fresh W113 chassis, and the 230SL arrived as a more direct replacement for the underperforming 190SL. The M180-derived six-cylinder engine added a much-needed horsepower and torque increase to Mercedes’ sport roadster line, and new to the line was an automatic transmission which was sold in large quantities to the U.S.
The R107 Mercedes SL was introduced in 1971, just as the W113 was being retired, taking many of its predecessor’s popular styling cues and tweaking them. 1972 brought the introduction of a 4.5-liter V-8, and the 450SL name came out the following year. The 190-hp V-8 was nothing to write home about in terms of power, so a larger engine later arrived for the non-American market. These more potent versions, coupled with the sleeker bumpers, are preferred imports by American collectors.
450SL values have been shrinking since their peak in 2015. In our most recent pricing update in September, they dipped again. While values appear to be weak, #1-condition (Concours) and #2-condition (Excellent) cars are sitting just above their late 2014 prices, and that could well be the bottom end of the depreciation curve. With all that in mind, now is the time to get into a 450SL. If this car is on your list, it could be very well be the best opportunity to pull the trigger.
After the early Mercedes market peaked in 2018, the 230SL cooled off, just like its earlier siblings. Following a short freefall, values have stabilized, and outlook seems to be improving. Now may be a good time to pick one up while things have bottomed out.
The 450SLC is a virtually identical car to the 450SL aside from the non-removable top. Nevertheless, their place in the market is not the same. The 450SLC has recently experienced a sharp rise in value, but there is beginning to be an overlap with 450SL prices, and roadsters generally carry a stronger following. Owners waiting for the market to peak may consider watching closely; it doesn’t seem likely that values are going to keep climbing while 450SL prices are on the way down. It may be a good time to sell if the market shows signs of slowing.
Along with the introduction of the sporty (and very expensive) 300SL in 1954, Mercedes introduced the scaled-down, more affordable 190SL. The small tourer was nearly half the price of the 300SL and was competitively priced against other European sports cars. Despite lackluster performance from the 120-hp four-cylinder engine, the 190SL sold well and was popular among celebrities, notably the actress Grace Kelly.
It wasn’t that long ago that the 190SL was one of the hottest cars on the market. And just like in the 1950s, the 300SL’s staggering prices drove Benz buyers to seek an alternative—the 190SL. Since peaking in 2015, 190SL prices have been on the way down, and while prices have not reached the same level as pre run-up, the downward trend doesn’t appear to be over. This is by no means a reason to panic, but the takeaway here is that it appears that the 190SL market is still on the move. If you’ve been thinking of selling your 190SL, now may be a better time than later.
Mercedes completely redesigned the SL for 1989, introducing the R129 platform. This generation of SL was initially offered with six and eight-cylinder configurations, but the 12-cylinder SL600 made its North American debut in 1994. The 389-hp M120 engine was capable of propelling the car from 0-60 mph in around 6 seconds. By today’s standards, that is not great for a sports car, in the 1990s it was respectably quick. More importantly, it was smooth as butter. With any V-12 car, the performance upsides come with a few downsides. For one, parts are pricey, so fixing deferred maintenance can add up quickly. It is wise to buy the best-sorted car you can possibly find, even if that means spending a little more up front than you expected to. It’ll save you in the long run.
Perhaps fear of V-12 ownership costs have kept the SL600 affordable. It was not long ago that $25,000 would get you the best example in the world. Nowadays, well-sorted cars have been shooting up in value while more worn-in cars are holding steady. We expect that gap to continue to widen. As values continue to increase and interest in 1990s cars in general booms, hang on to your SL600 if you have a prime example. They aren’t losing steam anytime soon.
You cannot talk about the superb engineering and reliability of a Mercedes without talking about the W140 S-Class. It is a technological wonder of its time, pioneering features that are now safety standards today as well as convenience options that remain desirable. (Rain sensing wipers, HID headlights, electronic stability control, side curtain airbags and more.)
Until recently, the W140—especially the S600—has been dirt cheap when you think about the quality of car you’re buying. In our most recent pricing update in September, we observed a noticeable spike in average value. There is evidence that these cars are starting to garner their due attention. After all, the W140 is a car that helped fortify Mercedes’ reputation for reliability and innovation. If you have a solid example, it would be wise to see where this trend goes.