Grandma’s Benz: 1997 Mercedes C280

If you’re in the market for a used Benz, the you need to know that the best ones seem to always be owned by little old ladies. At least ones with money and good eyesight. This particular car appears to have been in the care of someone with the means to maintain it and enough depth perception to avoid backing it into anything. It’s hard to believe that this car is 20 years old! Especially, when you see how nice it really is. It’s located in Atlanta, Georgia and is listed here on craigslist for $9k. That may seem optimistic for a 20 year old used car, but it might just be worth it.

The odometer is showing over 100k, but that’s nothing for one of these. As with any used German car though, you’ll want to ask about maintenance history. Everything looks like new in here, but it could benefit from a good carpet shampoo. After letting it dry thoroughly, I’d stick some rubber mats in there and put this thing into daily driver duty. This isn’t exactly an exciting car, but it should provide years of comfortable and reliable service. The C-Class was the smallest sedan in the range and that makes it the perfect city commuter and occasional long distance tripper.

These cars came with many safety features so you can feel good knowing you’re not giving up too much by driving a used car. Luckily, this one was built recently enough that it avoided the whole biodegradable wiring that plagued earlier Benzes. You will have plenty of passing power because the 280 was actually the most powerful C you could get without moving up into AMG territory. With almost 200 ponies on tap, you shouldn’t have any problem keeping up with traffic and you may even have a little fun when the road finally opens up a bit.

Fast Finds


  1. gene

    The odometer is showing over 100k, but that’s nothing for one of these cars.
    That is a pretty funny statement . I was a tech at M.B. and these cars were crap.
    The reason this car is nice is because it wasn’t driven much. Why? It spend half of it’s life at the dealership getting fixed.

    • Anthony

      Gene. As a former MB tech are there any older models you think would be a good buy

      • gene

        w123 with non chrysler climate control system.
        w124 cars that are 1990 and older.
        all w126 cars.

  2. Coventrycat

    Nice car, but for a minute I thought I was on the Bring A Trailer site, they seem to have a Benz fetish. But I only go there there for the articles.

    • Jesse Staff

      Hey now, watch your mouth! :)

  3. Rocko

    P.O.S. ~ Towing Companies Worldwide love the computer on these .

  4. David

    It’s just a used car and a common one at that.

  5. francisco

    My dad had one of these. It was anything but reliable. It spent a lot of time in the repair garage.

  6. Jerry

    Could the stain on the carpet on the passenger side of the console be from a flood?

  7. John

    Mine was total junk. By the time it got to 350k, the clock had quit and it needed tires again. Figured I wouldn’t get much for it so I gave it to my sister. She’s worn it out completely. It had to have an alternator. And now at about 430k it makes a clunking noise when you put on the brakes. I replaced it with a 2008 C300 in 2008. It only has 143k on it so it’s kinda ha d to tell how it’s going to hold up. I am concerned, though because it has had BOTH front headlight ballasts replaced (pricey though) and it’s had two sets of tires already.

    Mercedes cars require maintenance, but if it’s done religiously, the cars will last a very long time. My late father’s last 200D is still running. It was 19 years old and had over 500k on it. He drove it to Alaska with 390K on it.

    I would not be the least bit afraid of the subject car.

    • Glen

      I’m a little confused, you say total junk, but it has 430,000 miles?! It’s making a clunking noise at ,I repeat, 430,000 miles! It needed an alternator, after how many miles? Maybe there’s more to it, but it sounds like it has lasted quite well to me.

      • John

        Just my stupid way of saying that the MB cars my family has owned have been excellent and reliable to the point of boredom. I’ve heard lots of horror stories, but I’ve experienced none of them. I do all of my own simple maintenance (e.g., oiled changes, spark plugs, brakes, autrans fluid changes, etc). My 2008 had one minor issue when it was brand new. It wouldn’t restart after I refueled it in western Kansas on the way to Colorado. A quick call to MB and they told me to release the gas cap, re-tighten it, and to never put more gas into the car after the auto-shutoff clicked on the gas pump. I followed their instruction to the letter and the issue has never recurred. That was the only time that either my wife or I can recall ever having one of our Mercedes cars not start. My current car takes 8 quarts of oil and that was a bit un-nerving when I stuck my 6 quart drain pan under it for its first oil change. I will say that Mercedes dealers run the gamut from superb to despicable, and many of their charges are just deplorable. But their cars are excellent. Sorry for my awkward attempt at sarcasm.

      • Francisco

        John was being facetious.

      • Mike H. Mike H

        I usually have trouble detecting sarcasm, but John’s tongue-in-cheek nature was pretty clear to me here.

        I especially liked the “clock had quit and it needed tires again” line.

  8. Mike Neff

    I drive one of these and it’s a very comfortable car that performs well. But there is nothing special about it. This might be a $3,000 car to the right buyer on a good day.

  9. Dennis Greenwood

    My wife and I have owned four Mercedes, all purchased new. The 1970, 220D was with us for about 25 yrs and 200,000 plus miles. The friend we sold it to still drives it daily. A 1978 model 220D was kept until 1996 and with a little over 200,000 miles was sold to a friend who uses it as a daily driver. 1979 I bought a 450SLC that I still own and currently has about 150k. As long as I am agile enough to climb in and out I am saving it for when my 3 year old granddaughter turns 16. In late 1996 my wife purchased a 1997, 320E. Still a great car and our daily driver. We have our cars detailed every six months and never take them to the dealer, a lesson learned the hard way.

  10. TonyM

    I had a 1998 e320 4matic wagon with 150,000 miles. I was driving on the expressway at 55mph and the tranfr case exploded. I had to junk it, was not happy.

  11. Dennis Greenwood

    We have never had any major problems with any of our four Mercedes. Recently the 450SLC had a number of hoses replaced. I am unlike most of the people on this site. I know virtually nothing about cars. I love cars for their beauty and innovation. I admire people who work on and preserve cars. You seem to be a dying breed and that is truly a shame.

  12. chris lawrence

    I owned one of these and it was a horrendous car. Always broken down on the side of the road and I kept the car in tip top shape with maintenance. Left a bad taste in my mouth for all Benz.

  13. David Miraglia

    good daily driver better than the previous TE wagon.

  14. francisco

    My ML 350 cured me of any desire to own a Mercedes ever again

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