Is Mercedes a Good First Car? (A, B, C, E-Class + Best Merc)

Mercedes-Benz vehicles are less reliable than most others and expensive – crucial first car indicators.

But they have luxury and refinement on their side.

Plus, Mercs are a symbol of status, success, and elegance.

is mercedes a good first car

Generally: Are Mercedes Good First Cars?

Mercs are legendary for their high-dollar, premium sedans, coupes, convertibles, and SUVs that deliver driving pleasure in a meticulously-crafted interior.

Despite the marque recent efforts to produce more-affordable premium vehicles, most Mercedes cars are too expensive for new drivers to buy and maintain and, thus, are unsuitable as first cars.

These seven reasons are why Mercs don’t make good first cars, bar some:

  1. Mercedes are luxury vehicles with high price tags – the least expensive A-Class retails for $34,000 brand-new. For context, the latest Honda Civic costs $23,000.
  2. Costly maintenance – Mercs are luxury cars with top-notch engineering that are relatively more complex to repair. CarEdge rated Mercedes the fifth most expensive to maintain, behind only Jaguar, BMW, Porsche, and Land Rover.
  3. Mediocre fuel economy – luxury vehicles engineered for performance do not consider fuel efficiency a top priority.
  4. Most Mercs (if not all) require premium unleaded fuel – regardless of the current fuel prices, Mercs will always cost more to fill up at the pump than regular-gas cars.
  5. Mercedes-Benz produces some of the most unreliable vehicles – Consumer Reports ranked Mercedes #23 out of 28 automakers in their 2021 reliability survey; Audi and BMW fared better.
  6. Moderately to excessively powerful for first cars – the marque’s sedans and coupes typically produce horsepower in the 200 to 500 horsepower range. Too much power can breed bad driving habits, especially in young drivers.
  7. High insurance premium for teenagers – expensive cars and high horsepower are typically a combination that pushes insurance premiums upwards.

For a clearer picture of the Merc’s insurance cost: the compact Mercedes C300 costs an average of $8,817 per year for an 18-year-old’s full coverage, according to ValuePenguin.

On the other hand, full coverage of the compact Honda CR-V for an 18-year-old is $7,010 annually.

Buying a new Merc can be prohibitively expensive for teenagers, but buying used or considerably older Mercs might become a cost nightmare with failed parts out of warranty.

Parts aren’t necessarily much more expensive for a Mercedes, but the higher labor rate and extra hours are factors that drive up the overall maintenance costs.

Plus, Merc’s design philosophy emphasizes luxury and performance over cheap-to-own.

First cars should be simple vehicles with minimal upkeep cost, and Mercedes cars don’t fit that description.

Ideally, first cars are thrifty on fuel consumption and cheap to buy so that an expensive repair won’t turn into a financial crisis.

It isn’t all doom and gloom as some Mercedes have qualities that qualify them as decent vehicles for teenagers.

See the specific models below to find the better Mercedes for a first car.

Specific Mercedes Models:

#1 Is a Mercedes A-Class a Good First Car?

The relatively new A-Class (introduced in 2019) is the least expensive car in Mercedes-Benz’s lineup.

Given the abundance of available options on the market, 

The Mercedes A-Class is a reasonably good first car with mixed credentials and given the abundance of compelling options in the compact car segment – luxury or otherwise:

  • Adequately powerful for a first car – 188 horsepower falls within a good first car range.
  • Diminutive size – an excellent and easy car to maneuver and park for new drivers.
  • Front-wheel-drive – most Mers are RWD or AWD cars, so the FWD drivetrain is great news for teen drivers.
  • An abundance of driver aids – enhances safety, especially for inexperienced drivers.
  • Excellent ride quality and quiet cabin – comfortable for short and long drives.
  • Average visibility – the low seating position makes it hard to see out, particularly for shorter drivers.
  • Decent gas mileage – 29 mpg combined for the FWD and a couple of mpg less for the AWD.
  • Premium fuel required – an added cost each time you visit the pump.
  • Expensive first car – it’s a Merc, and it’s still relatively new, so any used A-Class won’t be old enough to drive prices down.

The A-Class has many qualities of a modest first car, but the premium price makes some compact cars from the mainstream brands more appealing.

Mercedes A-Class Compared with Cheaper First Cars

Table Guide:

  • Fuel Economy: mpg city/highway/combined (base model).
  • Reliability: /100; higher = fewer problems; 5yr avg. (JD Power).
  • Maintenance Costs: per year avg. (RepairPal).
  • Safety (IIHS): 1 (poor) to 4 (good); IIHS tests average.
  • Safety (NHTSA): 1 (poor) to 5 (safest); NHTSA overall.
  • Visibility: excellent, good, average, poor.
 Fuel Econ.ReliabilityMaint. CostsSafety (IIHS)Safety (NHTSA)Visibility
Merc A-Class (A220)25/36/2980/100NANANAAverage
Audi A327/36/3082/100$7414/45/5Good
Honda Civic30/38/3382/100$3684/45/5Good
Toyota Corolla30/38/3383/100$3624/45/5Good
Hyundai Elantra33/43/3781/100$4524/45/5Good
Mazda Mazda 328/36/3180/100$4334/45/5Average
Mercedes-Benz A-Class comparison with cheaper first cars.

There aren’t sufficient data for the A-Class to provide an accurate maintenance cost.

However, Mercedes models cost an average annual maintenance cost of $908.

The mainstream compact cars – the Civic, Corolla, Elantra, and Mazda 3 – generally cost half of what you’d pay for the A-Class.

Plus, they are more fuel-efficient, cheaper to run, and have an affordable entry-level price.

If you fancy and can comfortably afford a luxury compact sedan, consider the Audi A3 or BMW 3 Series before deciding.

#2 Is a Mercedes B-Class a Good First Car?

The all-electric B-Class (B250e) is the first of its kind Mercedes has offered in the US.

Plus, it’s a four-door hatchback.

Although it has the practicality of a spacious five-seater and a compact size that suits city driving, its stiff ride and subpar range for an electric car make the Mercedes B-Class an average first car.

The overall underwhelming package may be one of the reasons it ended production after the 2017 model, a short four years after its debut.

If you desire an electric first car for eco-friendliness, plenty of maintstream choices offer many of the B-Class’s strengths at lower price points.

Alternatively, opt for the BMW i3 if you like an EV from one of the German luxury car brands.

#3 Is a Mercedes C-Class a Good First Car?

The C-Class is a versatile luxury compact car, available in sedan, coupe, and convertible body styles.

It offers an appealing mix of comfort, performance, and impeccable craftsmanship.

The Mercedes C-Class is a reasonably good first car, but only for those with deeper pockets:

  • Strong safety ratings – maximum overall scores in the IIHS and NHTSA crash tests.
  • Plenty of safety features and driver aids – a big help for new drivers.
  • Adequately powered – 200 horsepower or more for the base C300.
  • Exceptional handling – responsive handling provides better feedback that makes driving safer.
  • Mediocre fuel economy – mid-20s mpg combined for the base C300 model.
  • Reasonable upkeep cost for a luxury car – $739/year, according to RepairPal. It is also the average for luxury midsize cars.
  • Average visibility – the relatively small windows impact the outward view, but the slim pillars offset the flaw.

The base model in the C-Class may be more powerful than the corresponding variant in the similarly compact A-Class. Still, it isn’t excessively so, considering its higher curb weight.

Both the A and C Class are compact cars, although the latter is slightly larger.

Prospective buyers should note the rear-wheel-drive architecture of the C-Class, which is not ideal for inexperienced drivers.

An all-wheel-drive variant is available for extra traction, but it’s pricier and returns less mpg.

Mercedes C-Class Compared with Other First Cars

The C-Class offers multiple models with a broad range of engine sizes and power output throughout its decades-long history in the North American market.

The AMG C43 (385-hp) and top-of-the-line C63 (503-hp) are the more powerful C-Class models and are unsuitable as first cars.

Still, the four-cylinder engine in the base Mercedes C300 provides sufficient punch for daily city driving and is the better choice for a first car.

Considering the generous horsepower a C-Class offers, other similarly powerful but cheaper alternatives may be equally attractive for teen drivers.

Table Guide:

  • Fuel Economy: mpg combined (base model).
  • Maintenance Costs: per year avg. (RepairPal).
  • Safety (IIHS): 1 (poor) to 4 (good); IIHS tests average.
  • Safety (NHTSA): 1 (poor) to 5 (safest); NHTSA overall.
  • Visibility: excellent, good, average, poor.
 HorsepowerFuel Econ.Maint. CostsSafety (IIHS)Safety (NHTSA)Visibility
Merc C-Class (C300)228-255 hp27$7394/45/5Average
BMW 3 Series (330i)248-255 hp30$8674/45/5Good
Audi A4188-220 hp30$7394/45/5Excellent
Subaru BRZ205-228 hp24$6723.8/4NAGood
Honda Civic Si197-205 hp30$368+4/45/5Good
Mercedes-Benz C-Class comparison with other first cars.

The Honda Civic Si may not be a luxury car, but it should make your shortlist with the higher fuel efficiency, affordable upkeep, and engaging drive.

Plus, it’s a Honda and comparably more reliable than the Mercedes.

#4 Is a Mercedes E-Class a Good First Car?

The E-Class is a popular luxury midsize car available in various body styles – sedan, coupe, convertible, wagon.

The Mercedes E-Class is a joy to drive and meticulously built with several first car qualities:

  • Extensive safety features – class-leading offerings, depending on the model year.
  • Excellent crash safety – IIHS and NHTSA awarded the E-Class full marks in their various crash tests.
  • Relatively inexpensive to maintain – approx. $780 annually; luxury full-size cars average $976 per year.
  • Superb ride quality and handling balance – qualities that make it a safe and comfortable vehicle for short and long journeys.
  • Spacious interior – the sedan variant is the most practical for daily use.

However, the high price for a new(-ish) E-Class and subpar reliability make it a poor choice for most teenagers’ first car.

You could settle for a fifteen-year-old E-Class or older for under $5,000, but the upkeep will be costly unless you can do your own service and repair.

Comparison: Best Mercedes for a First Car

mercedes for first car

The candidates for the best first car among Mercedes-Benz vehicles are limited, but which is the better one?

Table Guide:

  • Safety (IIHS): 1 (poor) to 4 (good); IIHS tests averaged.
  • Safety (NHTSA): 1 (poor) to 5 (safest); NHTSA overall.
  • Visibility: excellent, good, average, poor.
  • Fuel Economy: mpg city/highway/combined (base model).
  • Reliability: /100; higher = fewer problems; 5yr avg. (JD Power).
  • Maintenance Costs: per year avg. (RepairPal).
 Safety (IIHS)Safety (NHTSA)VisibilityFuel Econ.ReliabilityMaint. Costs
A-Class (A220)NANAAverage25/36/2980/100NA
B-Class (Elec Drive)NANAGood85 MPGeNANA
C-Class (C300)4/45/5Average23/35/2779/100$739
E-Class (E350)4/45/5Average22/31/2577/100$788
GLA suv (GLA250)NANAPoor25/34/2878/100$987
GLB suv (GLB250)NANAExcellent23/31/2676/100NA
Mercedes-Benz models comparison.

With two models in the same segment within a brand’s lineup, the smaller one typically gets the nod as the better first car for affordability.

However, if you’re considering an entry-level Mercedes SUV, the larger GLB (still a compact SUV) is the best Mercedes for your first car.

Compared to the smaller GLA, the GLB provides considerably greater outward visibility with its upright, boxy shape and a modest cabin and cargo room that enhances practicality.

If you’re a Merc loyalist and want the marque’s sedan, the A-Class (subcompact) or C-Class (compact) is the best Mercedes to buy as your first car – the former is smaller, cheaper, and more fuel-efficient.

Alternative Makes to Mercedes for a Teenager’s First Car

Apart from the luxury brands that rival the Merc, you should consider these automakers for your first car:

  1. Audi – A3, A4.
  2. BMW3 Series.
  3. Lexus – ES 350, IS 300.
  4. Acura – TLX.
  5. Volvo – S60.
  6. MazdaMazda 3.
  7. Honda – CR-V, Civic.

BMW and Audi are comparable brands in the German luxury car market, so they are logical alternatives to research.

If the Merc’s mediocre reliability worries you, but you still want an entry-level luxury vehicle for your first car, in that case, you should seriously consider getting a Lexus or an Acura.

They are significantly more reliable and will cost you less in upkeep.

Mazda may not be a luxury brand, but their cars possess sharp handling with upscale interior design and build quality – plush enough without the high price tag.

Always do your research, inspect, and test drive before buying.