Curbside Classic: 1993 Mercedes-Benz 300 SE – This Is What $100 Looks Like

Fact: A car is a depreciating asset. Except for a few rare occasions of ultra-low production supercars, for all intents and purposes, from the moment a vehicle is titled and drives off the dealer lot is begins losing value. Many factors then come into play from here, resulting in some cars losing value faster than others, but ultimately there comes a point when a car is old enough that it’s worth little more than scrap metal. Enter this 25-year old Mercedes-Benz 300 SE.

Retailing for some $70,000 when new, this once flagship of the prestigious Mercedes-Benz lineup now has close to 200,000 miles on it, numerous signs of wear and tear, surface rust, a chip of wood holding one of its double-pane rear windows in place, who only knows what kind of mechanical/electrical maladies, AND was traded in for all of $100. Now that’s depreciation.

Most of you are probably already thinking that the customer was cheated by the dealer, but here’s the Kelly Blue Book trade-in value on that car. On the low end, but it’s right in line.

Naturally, trade-in value is always lower than retail value, as now the dealer has to take care of any minor reconditioning, trucking it to auction, listing it in auction, etc. Private party sale for a car like this but in excellent condition could fetch a couple of thousand maybe, but you get the picture. The depreciation curve for cars like this is quite steep.

Still, it’s difficult to fathom that the current dollar value of this once very expensive and highly prestigious automobile, costing a cool $123,000 in 2018 USD, is now a mere $100 or about the price of a decent 1/18 scale model of it.

Of course, being a car, its whole is worth far less than its individual parts. This is why cars like this, particularly ones running poorly, are often sold as part-outs by their owners, as they can fetch sometimes thousands more than what the car is worth as a whole.

Such a pity to picture someone ripping apart this once-proud status symbol for items such as suspension components, window regulators, or parking “guide rods”, Mercedes’ precursor to sonar-based Parktronic.

Make no mistake, this S-Class stands every bit proud and majestic as it was when new in 1993. Replacing the highly venerable and long-running W126 S-Class, the W140 was released in mid-1991 as a 1992 model, debuting the latest evolution of Mercedes styling that soon made its way to the lesser C-Class and facelifted E-Class.

In lieu of its praise for numerous advancements in safety, luxury features, and overall technology, the W140 faced sharp criticism for its “over-engineering”, which caused numerous production delays, development costs upwards of $1 Billion for Mercedes, increases in retail prices over its W126 predecessor by some 25%, and the general feeling that it was simply “too much car” in both physical size and sheer amount of technology.

Regardless, I’ve always admired the W140 as the ultimate early-1990s flagship sedan, fit for heads of state, royalty, CEOs, and little old ladies who just happened to have a lot of cash reserves. It is indeed a very large and heavy car, and looks it. Yet with its styling, it manages to do it in a less bloated way than many other cars. More so, the W140 is the last S-Class that I’d say exudes “classic” Mercedes styling. With its crisp body lines, prominent radiator grille, and ribbed taillights, the W140 was the last in line before the more organically-shaped W220 and its successors.

It’s still hard to believe that this once $70,000 flagship Mercedes-Benz is now only worth $100 as a trade-in, or even just a few thousand dollars if sold private party. At least that’s good news for any W140 S-Class admirers who found a brand new one just a bit too steep 25 years ago. Liebst du nicht ein schnäppchen?

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