CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

BMWs...used?

I have a budget of about $20K-$25K and am thinking about a used 3 or 5 series. BMW’s warranty on certified cars is great at 6 yrs/100K (pretty much bumper to bumper). Question is, what’s the catch? What happens after the 6 years? How’s the BMW reliability? Any cons? Are there any other cars I should look at? I was also looking at the Volvo C30. I’m basically looking for some “fun” and slightly luxurious transportation. All feedback would be more than helpful!

No ‘catch’, you pay once the warranty’s out. BMWs are OK, repairs are expensive but the cars (especially the simpler 3 series) are fairly reliable. If I had a fixed amount, say $25k, I’d buy a newer 328i or 330i rather than a 5 series, and I’d avoid the iDrive. I wouldn’t get the 335i, turbo complexity/stress and all. The 3 is more fun to drive, too, so if it fits your needs it’s better all around than the 5 for someone with your kind of budget.

If you are looking to buy a “CPO” BMW then the integrity of the dealership is paramount.

You will get a document listing all that was done to make the car qualify to be a “CPO” car.

I worked for a very good BMW Dealer with a very good Sales Manager,almost every car I CPO’ed got a complete brake job (nothing was ever listed as “good enough”) I was very critical of tire condition (sold a lot of tires) and everything on that very extensive list was done. This was possible because of my pride in my work,my desire to give the customer the best for his money,and the Manager going along with my requirements. Many Managers would not have allowed so much money to be put into a CPO car

People drive BMW’s hard, this sends the maintiance up and it is expensive.

Your price range puts you into a E-46 (not the latest 3-series) when the E-46 came out they were the standard all other cars in it’s class were judged by,“How does it compare to a E-46 was always asked” great car,they have problems like all cars though.

Let me understand. You are looking at the possibility of buying a used car and worried about what will happen at the end of the 6-year warranty?

Since the prospect of buying a used car is worrying you (despite the fact that millions of us do it all the time), I’m going to guess here that you typically buy new cars, every 2-3 years. Yes? If so, do you actually plan on keeping this car for 6 years?

I would presume that you understand that any car more than 6 years old would have the possibility of needing new struts/shocks, an engine tuneup, a new exhaust system and so on. Yes?

Just trying to understand why you ask the question, since it seems like a question that might be obvious to most people (but not to everyone obviously). Or, do I misunderstand?

Make sure it’s factory certified by the dealer. If the factory stands behind it, you are more likely to get need warranty work than if an independent outfit does it.

I own two BMWs. One is 5 years ld and one is 22 years old. The latter shows you: They hold up pretty well. Engines and transmissions are bullets. Usually what’s spotty are some of the electronics.

In general I believe that BMW reliablity is above average but not stellar. If I were you I would invest some money into a subscription to www.consumerreports.org where they have a year by year analysis of the reliability of any used car on the market.

Even without a subscription if you go here (http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/cars/used-cars/cr-recommended/best-used-vehicles-under-20000-406/overview/index.htm) you’ll see a couple of “best bets”:

BMW 3 Series Coupe & Conv. (RWD) '03; 325i Sedan (AWD) '04; 325i Sedan (RWD) 05; 330i Sedan (AWD) '03; Z3 '02

I own a 2003 525i and it is rated above average reliability. If you wnat a used 5 you should get the 2002 or 2003 model year and avoid the 540i V8 engine. All other 2002 and 2003 5-series have Toyota-like reliability. The new model (2004) has been more spotty but also not horrible.