Audi, BMW, and Mercedes – Benz are the 3 big automobile brands from Germany. These don’t come cheap and are the envy of many but are they as reliable as claimed? In this Audi vs BMW vs Mercedes – Benz reliability comparison, we consider what manufacturers and the public say and try to make sense of it all.
Latest News on BMW, Audi or Mercedes Issues
The Hybrid Battery Issue – This is a BIG ONE!
Mercedes have a number of models now fitted with hybrid batteries. These cars offer a superb range with around-town driving without the use of any fuel for around 20 miles or more. Great news when you are just doing school runs and shopping each day where you can keep your fuel bills to a minimum.
It has now come to light that the Mercedes Hybrid Battery can be a VERY expensive problem for all Mercedes Benz Hybrid owners when it goes wrong. And apparently, once you have run out of warranty you take this problem into your own hands.
With a replacement price for a new battery at around $10,000 to $15,000, this is not a cheap repair, and in many cases, this could be the end of your car. When the hybrid battery fails the car does not start. Not really what you want to hear.
Audi, BMW, and Mercedes Benz are commonly referred to as the big 3. These are 3 German luxury vehicle brands that have made a name for themselves in practically every part of the world. Mercedes – Benz manages to outshine the other 2 despite very small differences in rankings.
It is no secret, none of the big 3 are considered particularly reliable. Many automobile reviews mock these German brands for their claims of excellence in engineering when owners are constantly complaining about frequent repair needs and high repair costs.
We have all heard the many mocking acronyms assigned to BMW by frustrated owners such as ‘Broke My Wallet, Big Money Waster, and Big Mistake Whenever.’ Although there are no acronyms for Audi and Mercedes-Benz, they have not escaped the reputation of being unreasonably expensive, unreliable cars.
These are findings from customer surveys conducted by 3 trusted companies. Owners of these brands are asked to provide detailed information about their experiences with their cars. Details of repair issues that have arisen and other problems are analyzed to come up with these rankings.
How do Audi, BMW and Mercedes – Benz compare in Reliability according to Customer Surveys?
Audi, BMW Vs Mercedes -Benz Reliability: Brand Comparison Table
|Audi||BMW||Mercedes – Benz|
|Consumer Reports Survey 2020||14||17||21|
|J.D Power vehicle dependability study 2020||15|
|What Car? 2019 reliability survey||20|
According to Consumer Reports Audi is the 14th most reliable car for 2020. The other two are ranked behind Audi with BMW taking position 17 and Mercedes-Benz being placed in position 21.
J.D Power ranks the brands and indicates the average number of repair problems reported per 100 cars. Here BMW performs best and is placed in position 8 with 123 problems per 100 cars.
Next is Audi which is ranked as the 15th most reliable car with 136 problems per 100 cars. Mercedes – Benz is at the bottom of this list, placed at position 22 with 152 problems per 100 cars.
It is worth noting that the industry average for J.D Power here is 134 problems per 100 cars. This means Audi and Mercedes-Benz perform below average. Audi is just slightly below average and Mercedes-Benz is well below average. Only BMW performs better than average.
WhatCar? a UK-based survey magazine puts Audi in the lead, ranked as the 20th most reliable car. It scores 92.9%. BMW follows closely at position 21 and has a score of 92.1%. Mercedes-Benz is last in position 24 with a score of 90.6%.
All these rankings and scores confirm that none of the big 3 from Germany are highly ranked compared to other common brands in the market.
None of them appear in the Consumer Report’s list of top 10. The best-placed Audi is in 14th place. As far as WhatCar? goes, all our German brands are in position 20 and below.
Not particularly impressive if you have reliability as a top priority. Only in J.D Power’s ranking does BMW feature in the top 10. Audi makes it into the top 20 and Mercedes – Benz in the top 30. Again not a glowing report for buyers looking for the most reliable cars to buy.
Reliability with Age
One interesting factor to note when analyzing the reliability of these 3 brands is the age of the vehicle. The cost of maintenance, which directly impacts a car’s reliability tends to change as the car gets older.
Here we look at the cheapest and most expensive cars to maintain using 3 time periods. In the first 6 years of the car’s life, between 7 and 12 years, and after that.
How Do Audi, BMW, And Mercedes Compare In Reliability According To Reliability With Age?
|Age||Cost of maintenance/reliability|
|Least expensive||Most expensive|
|7- 12 years||Mercedes-Benz||Audi|
|13 years and more||Audi||Mercedes – Benz|
According to a study conducted by AM-Online, a leading motor trade website in the UK, costs for the different brands vary depending on the age of the car.
When the cars are less than 6 years old, they are all quite similar in terms of reliability and costs of repairs. At this point, they have less than 100,000 miles on them so there are almost no repairs worth talking about.
At this point, Mercedes-Benz is still the cheapest to maintain, and Audi is the one with the most problems and most expensive repairs. BMW sits in between the two.
After 6 years, the car has accumulated more miles and has probably had a few owners. More serious problems come up. Even then, Mercedes –Benz manages to keep its place as the least expensive car with fewer problems than the other two.
After the 12-year mark, things change. Problems arise every so often. At this point, roles are reversed especially when it comes to MOT testing and servicing. Audi becomes the cheapest to maintain while Mercedes – Benz costs the most. BMW maintains a constant position in the middle.
Some exceptions arise in costs for electrical work and batteries in which BMW is the cheapest followed by Audi and Mercedes – Benz. When it comes to repairing of steering and suspension components, BMW is the most expensive.
Reliability indexes are ratings assigned to overall brands as well as certain models as an indication of how dependable the vehicle is.
This rating is determined based on the frequency of breakdowns likely to be experienced as well as the average cost of repairs. Some vehicles break down frequently but don’t cost much to repair. Others rarely break down but cost a lot to repair when they do.
Unlike rankings, reliability indexes are such that the lower the figure, the more reliable the car is. The higher the figure, the less reliable it is.
How Do Audi, BMW And Mercedes – Benz Compare In Reliability According To Reliability Index?
|Reliability Index||The average cost of repair|
|Ranking||Reliability index||Ranking||Average cost|
|Mercedes – Benz||30/40||173||29/40||£431|
The average industry reliability index is 100. Vehicles with indexes below 100 are considered more reliable than average and those with indexes higher than 100 are considered to be below average in reliability.
When we compare the 3 brands, Mercedes-Benz carries the day, ranked at position 30. BMW comes closely behind and is rated the 31st most reliable car. Audi is ranked 34 out of 40. The same trend is seen in the actual reliability indexes, Mercedes-Benz has an index of 173, BMW is rated at 177, and Audi at 195.
Overall costs of repair do affect the reliability of a car. In terms of costs, Mercedes-Benz is the cheapest to maintain (£563) at position 29 out of 40. BMW is at position 34 out of 40 and will cost you about £539 in repairs. Audi is at position 36 and costs an average of £563 in repairs.
They Are All Poorly Ranked
With these details, Mercedes-Benz is a clear winner. However, it is clear that all 3 are quite close to the bottom of overall industry ratings.
Considering the industry average for reliability indexes is 100, all 3 brands are way below average. Taking positions 30, 31, and 34 out of 40 makes it clear these are not the industry’s best options for reliability.
Looking at cost of repair rankings, positions 29, 34, and 36 out of 40 are also not particularly impressive. Considering the cheapest car to maintain in our source listing costs about £152 and the most expensive costs an average of 1152, our big 3 brands fall roughly in the middle.
Exploring the Contradictions
Despite not-so-glowing reliability ratings, it is a fact that these 3 brands have somewhat cultic clusters of die-hard fans.
Many BMW owners swear by the name, saying they would never drive anything else. The same goes for Mercedes-Benz. Why do some people feel so strongly about these cars despite so many others complaining endlessly?
Here are some reasons why
Standard Maintenance discipline
First, it must be made clear that German cars require higher than average standard maintenance and that includes a lot of maintenance discipline. Your BMW, Merc, or Audi needs to be treated like a baby. Give it exactly what it needs when it needs it. Failure to do so will no doubt cause problems.
Americans (the majority of voices who claim these cars are unreliable) generally fail to adhere to standard maintenance practices. This in turn causes their vehicles to develop more problems than usual which cost more than expected.
Germans on the other hand are generally more disciplined in terms of vehicle maintenance. They are known to adhere to standard maintenance schedules, therefore, ensuring minimal breakdowns and therefore lower overall costs of maintenance.
The message here is if you choose one of these brands, be sure to take your car for service when it falls due rather than when a problem develops.
Secondly, replace replaceable parts when they have done the recommended mileage rather than wait for them to fall apart. By the time they fall apart other mechanical problems may have developed as a result of the delay.
Use of New Technology
Another reason the big 3 have received poor reliability ratings has to do with the manufacturer’s decision to include new technologies. These are often incorporated in non-engine electrics.
Although this is a plus when marketing the vehicles, it also comes with high chances of failures here and there. The more technology you have, the more things that could go wrong… and they often do. These failures, such as with infotainment system efficiencies are considered in reliability indexes, therefore, bringing reliability ratings down.
While such failures do cause inconveniences, they do not affect engine function or what could be considered essential to the overall running of the vehicle. Overall these German brands do have superior engineering compared to other well-ranked names.
Questions & Answers
Are Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz all made by the same German firm?
No, all are made by independent companies. Audi is made by Volkswagen Auto Group. BMW is made by a company called BMW Automotive Group and Mercedes – Benz is a product of Daimler Automotive Group.
What is considered in computing average costs of repair?
These averages take into consideration the cost of spare parts as well as the cost of labor. For some brands like BMW, the high cost of parts drives the overall cost of repair up.
Audi, BMW, and Mercedes – Benz, commonly referred to as the big 3 are German luxury brands that have scored quite poorly in terms of reliability. They are also among the most expensive cars to maintain because breakdowns are more frequent and spare parts are more expensive than average.
That said they still enjoy an undeniable following of repeat buyers who choose to ignore all the negative publicity. From our analysis Mercedes – Benz outshines the other 2 brands. It is the most reliable car in the first 12 years of life and reliability indexes place it above the other 2.
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