This is my first Benz, I bought it not long ago from old lady that passed away so truly it was the "Little old lady that drove it on Sunday" car. It had less than 68 K on it which was extremely low mileage for a 14 year old car, but unfortunately she took very poor care of the car bordering on car abuse. I have been going through it repairing what I can and getting all the service caught up, mostly by doing the work myself. The trick to owning one of these old Benz's is that you don't want to constantly pay somebody else to do the work, (no dealer) you need to be able to fix it yourself. Fortunately, the car is actually quite service friendly, though parts can be expensive.
I bought it in Nov 1997 brand new with 4 miles on it.Its now 16 years old in Nov 2013 and accumulated about 85,ooo miles.My verdict:this car is extremely reliable and economical to maintain,during the past 16 years it never turn me down,never brakes down on the road,in parking lot or at home,it starts on time,i follow the car maintenace program every 10,000 miles,the major expenses on this car is my battery last year and replace my 4 tires 3 time during the last 15-16 years and the rest are minor repair or maintenance,annual inspection for sticker thats why i never traded it to any type of car,my 98 Mercedes Benz C230 is my buddy for the last 15 years she is always with me all the time.
I bought this car with 50k miles on it and have driven it for the last 10 years and currently have 270k miles on it. I agree with most of the comments below and aside from replacing a transmission (that in all fairness, I beat on) and replacing wear items (breaks, belts, front end, tires, charcoal canister) the car has been outstanding. My goal is to put 1 million miles on it and the key is finding a good, independent mechanic that knows Mercedes and have him look it over once a year. It's good in the snow with 120 lbs of sand tubes in the trunk and good treads on the tires. I'm in New England and don't even use snow tires with the extra weight.
we have never had the car in the shop, for major problems, just o2 sensors replaced a few times and a few other maintenance parts, still drives well and has held up well 146k miles or so and you still take it on a 6 or 8 hour trip without worrying about anything bad happening to it