We filled the tank of our 2004 Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG for the first time on July 1, 2020. The odometer read 45,389 miles.

We had purchased it from a collector in the Los Angeles area for $22,500.

SCM Contributor Philip Richter had urged — no, commanded — me to buy the car. He said the SL55, with its near-500 horsepower, represents the absolute best buy in the used modern supercar world.

We filled up for the last time on July 25, 2023, and the odometer read 55,407. In three years, we had covered just over 10,000 miles.

Shiny-toy syndrome

It’s been a great car. So why sell it?

Part of the itch I am always scratching is to have new adventures with cars. Like most things, the first time you experience something is the most wondrous and memorable.

When Bradley and I drove the AMG from Portland to Yellowstone National Park, it was a breathtaking 800-mile trip. A supercharged V8 engine and modern chassis dynamics led to frequent triple-digit speeds.

“If you’d been going five miles per hour faster, this car would be on a flatbed and we’d all be going to jail,” was how the officer explained my velocity on a deserted stretch of the Oregon High Desert.

On a trip a few months later to White Sulphur Springs, MT, the SL was equally competent, but less captivating. We were now in the “been there, done that” phase of ownership.

At nearly 4,500 pounds, this is no nimble sports car. Despite its excellent brakes and active-body-control suspension, this is not a car you push through the twisties.

Yet the car continued to show its brilliance on the 1,000-mile SCM 1000 AMG Invitational last year. But there were no new eye-popping experiences, just more of the same now-expected excellence.

This summer came the realization that I had extracted 98% of what the SL had to teach me. I was ready to move on.

Easy come, easy go

To sell the car, we listed it on The MB Market, an online auction site that specializes in Mercedes models. We chose the site for its deep reach among Benz enthusiasts, its reasonable fees, and to thank co-founder Blakley Leonard for his support of the SCM 1000 AMG Invitational.

The prep was simple. We took the car to our service provider, Burback Motors. The car was inspected and both batteries were replaced, along with all four tire-pressure sensors (about $1,000). A PPI revealed no apparent other needs. The next oil change wasn’t due for 3,000 miles.

We had a Cars & Coffee-level detailing of the car, in and out. Our SCM 1000 photographer James Parker shot the car, both with his camera and a drone.

I decided on a reserve of $18,000. While these are amazing cars, they are not highly coveted, nor do they have much swagger. They simply look too much like the mundane SL500/550 (“the car of a retired banker’s wife”) and are unlikely to appreciate. Ever.

Also, when I decide it’s time for a car to go, I want it to be a one-way trip.

When the listing went live, bidding was sporadic and stalled around $15,000. That seemed to be what dealers were willing to pay, so I assume that is the wholesale, Manheim-level auction price for the car. 

If I had to take a loss, I was at peace with that, as I had gotten so much “value in use” out of the car.

However, during the last few minutes some new bidders jumped in, and the car would up selling at $22,500. The high bidder turned out to be a longtime SCMer who is also a Sunbeam Tiger expert and authenticator — he owns three — and we had spoken before.

Almost free

The SL55 AMG sold for exactly what I had paid for it three years earlier. My inner self was shouting, “FREE SUPERCAR!”

And that was almost the case. We had spent an additional $6,736, almost half of which was for a well-worth-it upgrade to an audio system with Apple CarPlay. Another $2,000 was for shipping the car to Portland when we bought it.

Discounting those expenditures, that left us at $1,736 out-of-pocket for 10,000 miles of pleasure. Unlike with any other of my cars, not one of these expenses involved a flatbed. So the final tally shows that the car cost just 17 cents per mile.

Part of what made this equation work was that this Mercedes was a fairly new one and in excellent condition. A ratty car can set you back tens of thousands of dollars in a heartbeat, starting with the expensive-to-repair top hydraulics. So do your research. 

I want to close by thanking Philip for his incessant demand that I buy “the world’s best-deal used supercar.” It was good advice. ♥

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