Help me pick the right G-Wagen. Base vehicle budget: $40K-$80K

ChimpanZed

New member
Hey all, I’ve owned just about every major vehicle manufacturer with the exception of Mercedes-Benz. I’m considering rectifying that with a G-Wagen.

I’m considering 2003 G500s to 2014 G63s. I know that that is quite a spectrum, hence the reason I’m asking for your help. I figure my use case and proclivities will help you help me (and a big thanks in advance!).

I’m looking for a daily to replace my 2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon that I sold in the used car craziness of 2021. I ended up profiting $5K on a Wrangler that I had for 18 months and drove 10K+ miles. I really, truly loved that vehicle (my 2nd Wrangler). It was our family’s weekend vehicle for Colorado exploration; camping, hiking cold weather, sunny days, etc. I also used it to commute to/from the bus station I commuted to work from. On occasion, I drove it 60 miles a day to/from clients. While I don’t know what post-Covid work will look like, I think some combination of working form home, office, clients is in my future. That basically means that I don’t need a vehicle that gets great mileage. I like to modify my vehicles, and can see adding some overlanding kit to whatever G-
Wagen I get; enough to get through 5 days of tent camping far off the beaten path. Nothing crazy, but it won’t be a Miami strip crawler.

I love the brawn and utilitarian nature of the G-Wagen. Obviously, it’s changed a lot over the years, and that’s the challenge as I work through which one to buy. Here’s what I’m thinking and I’d love your thoughts on it:

2003-2006 G500 - The simplest and least expensive on the spectrum. They have the more robust 5-speed automatic transmission (though some 2006 have the 7-speed) and are essentially unchanged between years. Good ones seems available for US$40K with under 100K miles. Here’s a local one that has piqued my interest: https://glenshelly.com/sales/2003-mercedes-benz-g500

2009-2011 G55 - I prefer the G55s looks to the G500, if only slightly. They share the robust 5-speed of the earlier G500 but with the ~500hp engine. I don’t need 500hp, but I also don’t need a G-Wagen. The Designo interior feels pretty dated, arguably more than the older G500. The walnut wood looks pretty chintzy in my opinion. I seems like a good one can be had for ~US$60K. I like the idea of swapping out the head unit with a modern Apple CarPlay capable one As I understand that’s easier on these than later model. Here’s one near me that caught me eye: https://thesharpestrides.com/vehicle.cfm?vehicleID=230556314&-2011-Mercedes-Benz-G-Class

~2014 G63 - The interiors looks VASTLY better than the G55. That said, the quilted leather, screen atop the dashboard, etc. just make them look like modern vehicles. I don’t know that that matters that much to me. $80K seems to be the low end for these machines. I don’t think the head unit can be upgraded to work with CarPlay, but maybe I’m wrong. They’re also more “baller” than my 44y/o dad self might be comfortable with. But this is meant to be a somewhat utilitarian vehicle, and I’m not a professional athlete. That said, this looks hot: https://www.redsautoandtruck.com/inventory/2014-mercedes-benz-g-class-g-63-amg/424706

I’m tempted to target a clean 2011 G55 as it’s right in the sweet spot; it’s the last of the G55s, I can upgrade the interior if I want to, but am not stuck with a screen that can’t be replaced. It’s got the power boost over the G500/G550, but keeps the robust 5-speed transmission. The smaller wheels and more subtle exterior are less overt.

I also recognize that I’m ignoring 2006 (7-speed) and new G550s. I’m not sure what to focus on there. Should I be looking at newer G550s? What will $50K-$60K get me in the G550 reals?

Is my thinking right? I’d love your thoughts and recommendations. Thank in advance!
 

Metric

Member
I've owned a number of Gwagens...from MY 1986 to 2006...diesel,gas,460,461,463. They are all well-built and overly capable, and yet most common theme is previous owner neglect. These vehicles are meant to be driven regularly and serviced regularly so I'd strongly recommend buying the one that maximizes the combination of rust-free and well-maintained (i.e. records). Otherwise expect to spend at least $5k-$10k in post-purchase deferred maintenance catch-up.

Do be aware that brake caliper size varies by AMG vs non-AMG. The G55 AMG is not going to accept an OE wheel smaller than 18", and I am pretty sure the G63 is not going to accept an OE wheel smaller than 20"!!. 18 is one thing, but 20 is not something that I would want to use on a vehicle that is going to see any decent amount of off-pavement activity (assumes a constraint of tire-size fitment).
 

Yarjammer

Adventurer
Metric hit on some of this already so sorry for some of the repeats. The brake size can be an issue; I got bit on that one during my misguided attempt at making a '13 ML550 into an overlander. Smallest wheels that would fit [barely] its AMG brakes was 19"- which have only road tires, so 20" is what I was stuck with. 18" rims are fine on a G if you get larger tires (I have 34"). 16's would look cool but aren't necessary to play with it off pavement.

As an owner of a 2008, I curious why 2007-2008 didn't make the list... If the seven speed scares you then I would think any of the twin-turbo models would having you fainting. Do you plan on using it like your Rubicon? Factor in replacing the factory exhaust and suspension (not exactly as cheap to do as on a Wrangler) if going the AMG route. Theres a lot more to changing out the interiors on these than you'd think. Modifying a newer AMG for off-roading seems like a fools errand to me, you're paying a premium for parts you're going to remove or ruin to get some badging clout and a little more horsepower you don't really need (any of the MBUSA G's are going to feel more powerful than your Rubi). If you plan on towing at any point while owning it, know that after 2008 the towing capacity dropped to 3500lbs for a few years from 7000lbs due to a regulatory skid plate for the fuel tank. Mercedes didn't adopt CarPlay until 2017 in any model. There are numerous ways to add bluetooth audio to the earlier ones before it was an OEM feature (2011?).

My thoughts on your search given your budget- buy one with zero issues present and as few owners as possible (many of these change hands nearly annually among the business and Kardashian wannabe set). Don't buy someone else's neglect case nightmare because its a good deal. Weight your search on condition over mileage (for trucks under 150k miles). Finding a decent G mechanic for troubleshooting may involve shipping your vehicle depending on where you live but there is a helpful community if you are mechanically inclined, have someplace to do the work yourself, and the right tools. Most dealers can help you with common problems that don't require troubleshooting as well as basic maintenance, but that is where their support ends IF you keep it somewhat stock. I looked at everything from 2002-2013 when I was searching for mine. Most of the early ones (<'05) looked, felt, and some even smelled their age inside regardless of how well the owner(s) cared for it. The 2013 was great but almost too nice to ruin with dust and mud. I'm also not a fan of the screen on 2013-2018 that look like a design afterthought.
 

paachi

Member
I would recommend looking at 2003-2006 models. The base V8 is plenty powerful but they allow for 16” wheels which greatly improve off-road wheel sidewall. The engine and drivetrain is pretty bullet proof. The other electronics are minimal. You can get an aftermarket stereo for CarPlay and other modern conveniences. In these years a 2005 (or was it 2006) Grand Edition G500 would be perfect IMHO.

The main nuisance with MBUSA 2002+ Gs is the ESP which cuts in while aggressive cornering. You can look for a pre MBUSA Europa version which has the V8 and is much simpler but it’s $$$

As a G Wagen owner a few other call outs I can offer are

- it isn’t a rock crawler like the Rubicon Jeep. It can do it but stiff sway bars mean less wheel articulation. It’s an amazing off-road long distance tourer.
- Parts aren’t cheap and after market support is no where near a 4Runner, Land Cruiser or Jeep but there are specialists who can outfit it. The good part is it need very little in the way of mods to be expedition ready
- Being a brick that it is the gas consumption is high and ergo tank range is poor
- It is super durable and feels solid. As long as you are reasonably handy it’s easily serviceable

Good luck!
 

Ovis

New member
Thanks for starting this thread, @ChimpanZed — I am kicking off this journey too (also in CO) and had many of the same questions.

I‘ve closely eyed that 2003 from Glen Shelly since it listed, but reading the CarFax turned me off…lots of electrical and lighting fixes over the years…there’s a gremlin in there somewhere as far as I can tell. But that guy can write up an auto listing, that’s for sure. I wish everyone was that detailed!

Sounds like you’re closer to pulling the trigger than I am, so please update this thread or message me when you find something — would love to learn from your journey and see any build progress.

Good luck!
 

Yarjammer

Adventurer
Be aware early pre-2004/5ish G's had some electrical issues (component based). Unless they have unnaturally low miles, it may be more "maintenance" rather than a canary in the coal mine unless you see they sold the truck shortly after. I try to look for patterns in the carfax or vehicle history.
 

CanyonLX

Member
The best thing about chronicled and well documented issues with the early 500's, even the 2002s, is that after almost 20 years, everything has been (should have been) remedied by past owners. I'd look for whatever clean 500 you find with a decent service history. Labored electrical documentation to me seems like they would have isolated and fixed the problems.
 

Speedkills

Member
I just went through this decision myself. I like the robust 5 speed trans, and prefer the drivability of superchargers (although turbos do handle the altitude changes better) so I was pretty set on a 2005-2011
G55 and ended up finding a nice low miles 2011 G55.

You'll need to swap the shocks and springs immediately. I did that and also removed the sway bar and now get plenty of flex, although you feel the weight more in the corners once you go that route. When wheeling I had to hit my rear locker a ton with the sway bar, once I removed it I almost never have to lock the rear axle.
 

Speedkills

Member
If you upgrade your wheels watch the backspacing to make sure the tire can get right up behind your fender flare (which is a little wider on the AMG models). I know someone above mentioned modifying an AMG for off-road is a fools-errand but I have found the whole process quite enjoyable.

 
Top