Audi vs BMW vs Mercedes-Benz – Reliability

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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.

Audi, BMW and Mercedes Benz are commonly referred to as the big 3. These are 3 German luxury vehicle brands which 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 as unreasonably expensive, unreliable cars.

Customer Surveys

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 which 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

(136 PP100)

8

(123 PP100)

 

22

(152 PP100)

What Car? 2019 reliability survey 20

(92.9%)

21

(92.1%)

 

24

(90.6%)

 

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.

Audi vs BMW vs Mercedes-Benz

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 just slightly below average and Mercedes-Benz 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 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 Consumer Report’s list of top 10. The best placed Audi is 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 in onto 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 reliability of these 3 brands is the age of the vehicle. 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 – Benz Compare In Reliability According To Reliability With Age?

Audi, BMW Vs Mercedes -Benz Reliability: Reliability with Age Table

Age Cost of maintenance / reliability
Least expensive Most expensive
0-6 years Mercedes-Benz Audi
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 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 repair of steering and suspension components, BMW is the most expensive.

Reliability Index

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 breakdown 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?

Audi, BMW Vs Mercedes -Benz Reliability: Reliability Index Table

Reliability Index Average cost of repair
Ranking Reliability index Ranking Average cost
Audi 34/40 195 36/40 £563
BMW 31/40 177 34/40 £539
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.

Audi vs BMW vs Mercedes-Benz

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 overall running of the vehicle. On the overall these German brands do have superior engineering compared to other well ranked names.

Conclusion

Audi vs BMW vs Mercedes-Benz

Audi, BMW and Mercedes – Benz, commonly referred to as the big 3 are German luxury brands which 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.

FAQs

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 cost of spare parts as well as cost of labor. For some brands like BMW, high cost of parts drives the overall cost of repair up.

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Cyborg
Steven Reilly is a qualified mechanic and his passion for cars goes beyond just the technical aspects. He is also an amateur racer and all round car enthusiast. When he is not driving them, he can often be found in his garage under the hood of a rare model. Steven Reilly has lost track of the number of hours he has spent setting up his fine collection of rebuilt models. He believes that cars can provide a constructive and fun opportunity to teach the youth important life skills. In line with this, he is developing a community outreach program, potentially dubbed ‘Cars for change'.
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