Hooniverse Couldawouldashoulda Weekend – For the Price of a Kia Rio You Could Have This Mercedes Benz!

Welcome to another Hooniverse Couldawouldashoulda Weekend post, with your insane host, UDMan. You all know that Hyundai and Kia have been on a roll lately, producing cars that are starting to get people to actually want them, backed up by a kickass warranty that is second to none. But you are a struggling student, or a minimum wage earner, or someone who blows their cash at the casinos (or hookers…. whatever) and you only have about $12,500 to spend. You could get an entry level Kia Rio 1.6 Manual, or you could get a bitchin’ 1980 Mercedes Benz 450 SEL with only 53,000 Miles on her. So what would you choose?

The Kia Rio is currently on its last legs here in the US, with its replacement (along with its sister brand mate, the Hyundai Accent) due momentarily. With the $12,500, you get a 110 HP 16-valve four cylinder, a 5-speed manual transmission, an AM FM CD Sirius MP3 Audio System, and very little else. It’s pretty boring to drive as well, with all the handling characteristics of whipped butter.

On the other hand, for the same money you could lay claim to a German Panzer Tank in the form of a 1980 Mercedes Benz 450 SEL. This is the long wheelbase version of the “S” class sedan, with a 4.5L V-8 pumping torque through the Automatic Transmission to the rear wheels. Inside is true craftsmanship from the Fatherland, with firm and supportive seats, a steering wheel as big as a lorry, and doors that put bank vaults to shame. According to the listing:

1980 Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL, this long wheelbase luxury sedan has only 53,000 miles, rare sunroof, handsome Thistle Green paint, perfect Parchment leather interior, 4.5 liter V8, automatic, power steering, power disc brakes, cold A/C, power windows, cruise control, AM/FM/Cassette, power antenna, driving lights, and Alloy wheels, this car is fast, and runs and drives like new!

So, what will it be? The Kia Rio that has about as much excitement as warmed over Cream of Wheat, or the German Über Sedan that will make you look and feel like a Baller, even if you are not one? See the Mercedes Listing here.

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  1. Van Sarockin Avatar
    Van Sarockin

    Nice straightup sedan comparo. Unfortunately, if you can just afford the payments on the Kia, then you can't also afford the maintenance on the M-B. Doesn't matter how many hookers fit comfortably in that capacious trunk. I feel a quiet satisfaction every time I remember the time I didn't buy that 450 SL.

    1. Joe Dunlap Avatar
      Joe Dunlap

      That makes two of us. I made a good living keeping those 450s running when they were new. Cant imagine what a timing chain kit and installation must cost now, let alone heater cores, vacuum door locks, cams and rockers, 6 v-belts, blah, blah, blah. Oh, and HOW many quarts of oil? Hmmmmm?

    2. Jennings R. Scroggs, Jr. Avatar
      Jennings R. Scroggs, Jr.

      I missed (or did I dodge) a R107 300 SL myself. My heart regrets it, and my head (and checkbook) breathes a sigh of relief.

    3. Jim-Bob Avatar

      I have to agree with you on that one. A 30 year old gas Merc will be a real pain in the wallet to keep running and fueled these days while the Kia is pretty much a no-brainer. If it were a diesel I might be persuaded to go the other way but with the gas engine I have to pass and go with the automotive equivalent of burnt toast.

  2. lilwillie Avatar

    I just, what? This is the coolest new story idea for Hooniverse. Talk about making a guy realize what he is spending money on.

  3. Bret Avatar

    Clean Benz all the way! A set of tools and a well documented car trumps a warrantee in my world. I love this feature! Keep it up Jim!

  4. John M Avatar
    John M

    Just about 18 months ago I was having lunch in a local family restaurant and I could not help but hear the man speaking very loudly in the booth behind me. "My wife inherited this &$#!* car, I already spent $800 on it, and it still won't run. I should sell the &^%$# thing just to get my money back". That was the day I bought my 1989 MB 300E. It did not run more than a minute or two at a time. It needed tires. None of the windows worked, nor did any of the seats. Half of the lights did not come on and a number of different critters had already raised families under the hood. But, a Mercedes for $800 was more than I could resist.
    It is now almost a year and a half later. I had added another $1500 in parts, including tires, to the original $800. I have set aside the last $200 for a dashboard cover and a driver's seat cover. I then will have a $2500 car that is 23 years old, with 180,000 miles on it, that gets 22mpg around town and an honest 27mpg on the highway. I have put just over 25,000 miles on it since I got it and it is not showing any signs at all that it intends to begin to slow down any time soon. In fact, I got rid of a much newer Mazda van and this is now my only car. I love it.
    Sometimes the price of being snooty is really high. But, sometimes you get lucky …
    John M

  5. Deartháir Avatar

    Yes, you will pay more on maintenance for the MBZ, but there's another point to consider: In five years, or even seven years, that little Kia is going to be gone. Done. Finished. I have four of them on the lot right now, and we've given up trying to sell them. If you're trading in a Kia, it's going to the wholesaler. So in five years, you're going to be shelling out money for a new car. That Kia will have no residual value, so you'll have to sell it for a pittance; 5-year-old Rios are being listed for about $2500-3000 up here, with a trade in value of "Negligible". So in 5 years, you have to buy another car. Let's say your financial situation has improved, and you think you hit on a good formula with that first Kia, so you do the same thing again. Meanwhile Freidrich Hoonsmeister is still rocking his awesome Mercedes, and not even thinking of selling it, because it is awesome.

    1. Deartháir Avatar

      Ahem. Continued:
      And five years after that, you decide you need to get yet another Kia, because some asshole in a huge Mercedes drove over your old one. So in, say, 12 years, you've shelled out $37-40k plus maintenance for your three Kias. Freidrich has shelled out $12k for his Mercedes. If something breaks, sure it will be more expensive than the Kia, but you have as much as $28k to shell out on that car before it's going to be losing ground to the Kia.

      1. brazilreporter Avatar

        That's why my daily drive is a car build in 1974, it does not has any depreciation, also in Brazil you pay a higher tax rate for newer cars and in our state cars older than 20 years don't pay tax at all.

      2. straight6 Avatar

        Couldn´t agree more.
        11 years ago my girlfriend needed a car. She could afford the equivalent of a new Renault Twingo. Or a MB w123 Coupé. Easy choice.
        Sure we spent the same amount of money she bought it for in repairs and parts, but the car is worth twice as much now, too. Can´t say that for a Twingo. Or Kia.

    2. tonyola Avatar

      You are assuming that the Kia will no longer be useful after five years. That might have been true up until very recently, but it looks like Hyundai/Kia have been making great strides in quality in the past few years. There are lots of 15-year old Civics and Corollas on the road that simply refuse to die and just keep plugging along with minimal maintenance. Who can say how long a 2011 Rio might last? I don't know and neither do you. If it lasts 15 years, then just keep driving it till it drops and screw the depreciation.

      1. Deartháir Avatar

        Had to cut that line out to get it to fit, and failed to put it back in when I gave up and split into two comments. Here's what I cut out:
        "Yes, I know, Kia and Hyundai have come a long way in quality, but they're still not standing toe-to-toe with Mercedes, and from personal experience, they're still not standing toe-to-toe with 1980s Mercedes. They've improved a lot, but they're not there yet, and I'm not willing to give them so much credit as to say that they're that dramatically different from two or three years ago. Basically, the longer the time-span you look at, the more it favours the Benz."

        1. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

          Beyond that, old Benzes still have a dedicated owner base. Base-model Korean cars do when new, but having never achieved the same level of budget fun that could be had with an older hopped-up Civic or Sentra, they won't after 15-20 years. Meanwhile, the Benz will have expensive replacement parts available for decades to come, and with those parts replaced will continue to stubbornly soldier on until the Earth runs dry of crude oil.

  6. clunkerlove Avatar

    This was the last year of that chassis Mercedes, the next year marked the debut of the w126. Back in 2003 I bought a 1981 300sd for $1200. Same beautiful green as this one with palomino MB-tex seats. It was filthy inside but nothing was broken or missing. It ran half-assed but the transmission felt strong, so it was perfect. I pulled the interior out, all of it including the door panels and scrubbed it with Simple Green, and soaked the carpet in a tub of Purple Power for a couple days then pressure washed it. The seats thanks to the bullet-proof vinyl Mercedes uses cleaned up and looked perfect. When I put it back together it looked new inside. The engine needed the injectors pulled and rebuilt at minimal cost and anyone can remove/replace them. Changed the oil, replaced some broken and dangling vacuum lines and it ran like a new car. Replaced all the fluids with synthetic and the transmission worked better than new. I installed the euro headlights and bought progressive Tokico lowering springs which made the car much more responsive and didn't compromise the comfort at all. Put later model 15" 8-hole rims shod with Michelin Destiny tires and rolled the fender lips a bit to compensate for the lowering and wider rubber. All in all I had less than $2500 in that car and everyone who saw the 'before' iteration was shocked at what the 'after' looked like. I can't say enough good things about buying old Mercedes – the parts are cheap, the diesels are easy to work on, there's a lot of manuals and forums for everything from diagnosing vacuum leak problems to fuel injection pump timing problems but most issues can be fixed with common sense. Things to watch out for: blow-by from a worn out diesel engine, replacing the expensive climate control module, cleaning the contacts on the cruise control module or just resoldering contact points on the module board, cracked fuel lines, broken air cleaner mounts, worn out front suspension bushings that do odd things at speed and leaky sun roofs. The blow-by is a deal breaker for me but all the others are pretty easy. Now go get one!

  7. tonyola Avatar

    It all boils down to this: if your budget is such that you are forced to consider a $12,500 car as your sole means of transportation and you're not an expert mechanic, then the Rio is for you. Of course, a good used car would be a better choice. If this is a second car or otherwise an optional purchase, then go for the Benz. But I'd personally rather have the sleeker W126.

  8. facelvega Avatar

    I think that these "for the price of" comparisons would be a lot more interesting if we insisted that the old car has to cost precisely half as much as the new or newer one– it makes up for the maintenance difference, and is a lot closer to what I for one rationalize when buying cars. A good $10k runner with $10k set aside to keep it in good nick is almost always a better investment than a new $20k blandmobile. In the same way, a solid $5k runner is a better investment than a 5 year-old $10k blandmobile.

  9. JayP Avatar

    My dad had a '76 W116 with the I6. At the time, it was about 10 years old and needed about as much attention any old German cars do. Luckily, Rudy (came over from Germany with VW's surge in the 60's) had his own shop and always did our MBs and Audis right.
    It was a tank, the engine was smooth and strong. Good luck finding that with a late-model econobox.

  10. muthalovin Avatar

    Benz if you have tools and a carhole. If not, then the shitty Rio. I think anyone looking for a car, and is considering a Rio would never even consider anything else. They are in the market for cheap, reliable transportation, with good fuel econ, no more, no less.
    There is a house around my block that I pass by pretty regularly. The residents have a Benz (haven't stopped to check it out, sorry), but it looks like one of these. Anyway, I was passing by one afternoon, and saw the Geek Squad VW parked in front of the house next to the Benz. The Geek was under the hood, and an elderly lady was standing around. When I came back, I passed by, and he had closed the hood and was shaking hands with the lady, and her husband was standing by on a walker. I thought that was so awesome that this Geek was helping out this older couple to get the Benz fixed. Sure, it could have been their son or grandson, but I like to think that he was just there to fix their 56k modem, and was asked if he knew anything about Mercedes.

  11. facelvega Avatar

    What human being would possibly consider both of these cars? Anyone who could even fathom buying an old car would get something used and decent over a new Rio. And I doubt many vintage S-Class owners are eyeing up would think of this trade either.

  12. Mr. Smee Avatar
    Mr. Smee

    Then there's the best of both worlds option, an older Lexus. I bought a year 2000 GS a year ago and couldn't be happier. Toyota build quality, materials and reliability at its peak, luxury features, Nakmichi sound and a V8 for the price of a new Kia.

    1. Cretony38 Avatar

      Pbttt Toyota! This is about a Merc & a Kia. BTW an '81 merc has documented over a million miles. So as a Toyota lover whats your excuse as to why nobody ever sees any real old toyotas still being used on the road? I mean they've been making cars for the last 74 years?!? Where did all the old ones go? I see more old Yugos, Fiats, Gremlins, Pacers, Pintos on the road than ANY 'yotas older than 20+ years. 'splain please?