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Im thinking about buying a used car. A BMW 325i 2003, but the airbag sensor light is on. Should I still buy the car?

  1. Inspect the vehicle’s maintenance records in order to verify that it has been properly maintained. No records? Walk away.

  2. Do not put any faith in a Car Fax report on this or any other used car. These reports frequently omit as much important information as they include.

  3. Inform the seller that you will purchase the vehicle if he repairs the inoperative airbag and if it passes an inspection by your own mechanic. If the seller balks at an inspection by your mechanic, walk away. Note: If the seller is an auto dealer, it is not legal for him to sell a car with inoperative/defective/missing safety equipment.

  4. Have your mechanic check the vehicle for signs of collision damage and flood damage, as well as the mechanical issues that he normally looks for.

No. Either the system is inoperative or the bag has triggered and the insurance would not cover the total amount of repairs including bag replacement…and totalled the car, which the current owner may have then bought from them as a totalled vehicle, perfectly legal in many states. I know one place that buys totalled, unsafe vehicles, does cosmetic repairs, and resells them. Laws only keep honest people honest.

Never buy a vehicle with an unresolved safety issue. An airbag warning light is such an issue.

Discuss why the sensor is on with the owner. If the explanation sounds like a crock, it probably is. If you like the car and the price, you might pay a mechanic to look at the car. Make sure he finds out what the problem with the air bag system is.

My boss has the same car, which he bought at my recommendation. I have three 3-Series BMWs. The boss’s car has had several problems, more than I think is normal, but they were pretty much all resolved on warrantee and he loves the car.

The airbag light could indicate a problem, but my best guess is that it is probably not a concern. This is an e46 model which is not so prone to airbag system glitches, but the previous model, the e36, would set the airbag light for no reason at all. All it took was someone unfamiliar with the seat belt buckle to jam the tab into the buckle at an odd angle, and the light would light up and set a code “Seat Belt Buckle Failure”. You plug in the scanner tool, reset the code, and drive another year with no problem until another stranger gets into the car, or there is a voltage spike while doing mechanical repairs, or the stars align just right, who knows? and the seatbelt light is illuminated again. In one car, I had the driver side seat belt buckle replaced three times on warrantee until I realized that there was really nothing wrong with the seat belt buckles. Again, my experience with this problem is with the e36. Both my e36s do this, but my 2004 e46 has never done it, yet.

The service should have been done up until a year ago because it would have been free from BMW for the first four years, so unless the PO didn’t care at all, service should have been done.

Look for evidence of abuse and collision. Look particularly beneath the car. These cars are very low, and driving over obstacles can do quite a bit of damage that you can’t see until the car is on a hoist. Look for bent rims. Rims can generally be straightened, but bent rims suggest abuse or collision.

Lots of good advice here. I’ll add just one more wrinkle: The car may not pass inspection in your State. Factor that into your calculations.

One way to handle that is to insist that the seller provide a valid inspection, including documentation that it passes, before buying the car. It might be worth the asking price then.

I have done some repairs on E-46 side air-bags. I have done wiring repairs on this model caused by wire chafing.All done under warranty. Have the exact cause of the light identified.

Reconsider your choice of make. Be ready to spend alot on maintenance and repairs.

Buy the car only after someone fixes the airbag sensor.