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It’s Cheaper to Buy a Used BMW or Mercedes-Benz Hybrid Than a Toyota Prius

On the march toward electrification, BMW and Mercedes-Benz dabbled in light-duty gasoline-electric hybrids a few years ago. Their initial efforts were curiously expensive, especially given modest fuel-economy gains. For instance, the EPA rated the 2014 Mercedes-Benz E400 hybrid at 26 miles per gallon in combined driving, compared to 24 mpg combined for the gas-only E350.

Making the cars an even tougher sell, Mercedes in 2014 asked about $57,000 for the E400 compared to $53,000 for the E350. E-Class buyers half a decade ago who wanted miserly luxury were probably more interested in the $52,500 E250 turbodiesel, which was rated as high as 32 mpg combined. However, the E400 built on the E350’s 302-horsepower V6 with a 27-hp electric motor paired with a lithium-ion battery for a little more grunt and the ability to turn itself off to save fuel while at a stoplight.

Now, however, the tables have turned, at least in terms of numbers. A used E400 hybrid with reasonable miles can be had for less than $20,000, while a similar E350 can cost as much as $5,000 more.

For comparison, an E400 can be had for about the same money as a similar Toyota Prius. Sure, the E400 will use about 50% more fuel, but it’s still fairly thrifty, right? And it retains the luxurious appointments and Autobahn-grade ride and handling of the standard E-Class.

BMW active Hybrid 3

It’s the same story for hybrid versions of the BMW 3-Series, the BMW 7-Series and, if you look hard enough, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. BMW branded its cars ActiveHybrid, and it even offered the 3-Series version in M Sport guise. Right now, there’s a one-owner, clean Carfax example with just 43,000 miles available for less than $19,000 in California, where many of these cars were sold. Some versions may still be eligible for HOV lane access exemption in certain states, though the desirable California HOV stickers don’t apply to these cars.

None delivered Prius-rivaling fuel economy, but their EPA fuel-economy ratings bested their gas-only counterparts and they’re an interesting stepping stone on the road to full electrification.  Find a BMW Hybrid for sale or Find a Mercedes-Benz Hybrid for sale

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  1. The big problem with the E-Class hybrid was that it wasn’t available in 4Matic. If you want a fuel economy improvement over the E350 get a 2015-2016 E400, it gets the turbo 3.0L instead of 3.5L NA engine and also a very healthy torque boost. Plus AWD and the combined MPG is still 1-2 better than the 350.

  2. The one thing to be aware of on the first generation Mercedes hybrid powertrain is the known common failure point of the Power Electronics Module. It’s like a $12k repair from the dealer. That’s why the E400 and S400 values are very depressed compared to the 550 counterparts.

  3. What tanks the value-proposition on this is that all Mercedes-Benz and BMW models use high-compression engines and therefore have to be filled with premium gas. So not only is the MPG half of the Prius, but the cost per gallon at the pump is vastly higher as well. Add in the fact that you’d have an aging German car with high maintenance costs and, well…

    So while I can’t disagree on the thesis in the title, it’s still not a smart choice.

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Andrew Ganz
Andrew Ganz
Andrew Ganz is an author specializing in helping in-market consumers get the most bang for their buck -- and the best car, while they're at it. When not virtually shopping for new and used cars, Andrew can probably be found under the hood of a vintage classic that's rapidly losing fluids.

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