Buying a used BMW

I an looking to buy a 98 528i is there anything I should look out for or have a heads up on.

Make sure it has a complete maintenance record, that it has been maintained ‘by the book’, and that it has no history of accidents or unusual mechanical problems. There are enough out there to be picky. Great car - I’ve often thought of getting one…are you looking for a manual transmission or an automatic? The automatics will be much easier to find.

When you are buying a used BMW from an original owner, you should spend as much time interviewing the owner as inspecting the car. If you read the above and other posts, a used BMW is a very risky purchase. In all cases have a reputable mechanic thoroughly inspect the car.

The combination of very long oil drain intervals by the factory, the driving syyle of the owners, and the general disdain for something as boring as maintenance by many BMW owners combined with the innate high maintenance costs make a used BMW a risky buy. If the car is coming off a lease, and the previous driver can’t be found, walk away from it!

I’ve known BMW drivers for over 30 years and there is only one I would buy a car from; he is a mechanical engineer working for an engineering design company. He traded his immaculate 5 Series for a Lexus the last time around. His reason was the very high cost of ongoiing maintenance of the BMW.

I teach a course in marketing and consumer behavior. The typical BMW driver fits into the “disinterested self-indulgent” type. The other type of BMW driver is a very busy and well paid lawyer, doctor, dentist, etc. who have no car knowledge and very little time to take care of it.

If this judgement sounds very harsh, it is to warn you that:

  1. BMWs are very expensive to maintain and repair.

  2. The average BMW is either purchased to be driven hard and enjoyed or to show off to colleagues.

  3. Most BMW drivers know very little about the inner working of their cars and don’t really want to learn. They are also convinced they are better drivers than they really are.

  4. The basic personality of many BMW drivers does not exude Tender Loving Care.

  5. BMW cars have improved in reliability, and are better than Mercedes, but are substantially below Acura, Lexus and Infiniti, all Japanese makes.

If you really want a BMW, buy from a private induvidual, who has not abused the car, and can show you complete maintenance records. Ask for written proof of everything; don’t go by what the owner says!

Hope this provides you with some tools to shop.

BMW of this vintage have average reliability which is pretty good. Whatever is posted about substantially below Japanese makes in reliability simply is not true, slight is a better word for this particular model.

The main issue is cooling system issues, so ask if a private owner to see if already addressed. Lastly pay a BMW or euro specific mechanic for a prepurchase checkover. Use an independent mechanic for service not the dealer.

You won’t be sorry as this is not a Japanese appliance but a great drivers car.

Agreed - if Rose is wanting one for the driving experience, it’s a great choice. If that’s not a top priority to her, there are Lexus/etc. cars she should also test drive, to see if the difference is important.

Doc, I’d be interested in other “driver profiles”…got any others to share? What about a Porsche driver? Or say, a Dodge Challenger (the new one).

Agree, both Acura and Infiniti are great driver’s cars, and worth trying out.

Before launching a car companies have to arrive at a target audience. If such an audience is large enough, it warrants developing a product for it. Porsche has to do this on a worldwide basis, since they sell a very unique and expensive kind of vehicle. Porsche buyers are either very knowledgeable and well to do, or, like BMW buyers, buy the car as a status symbol. It’s interesting you see more Porsches on the road in California than in Germany. The affordability index is much higher in California, since the taxes and gas prices in Germany put it out of reach of most buyers.

The Dodge Challenger is a retro sports car like the Mustang and the new Camaro. It appeals to the nostalgia of those who might have wanted one when they were young but could not afford one. I have some colleagues who are retired, empty nesters and have some money to spend on toys. This car, with the Camaro, has nostalgia appeal.

Brute muscle has an appeal to certain buyers, but with the recent gas crisis sales will no doubt be a lot less than originally planned. However, it’s difficult to “unlaunch” a car. With today’s production flexibility, these cars can be snuck in with regular production. The Dodge Challenger may also have some appeal to the Middle East playboy set, since gas prices ar irrelavant there.

One other thing - stay away from ones with over 150k miles (120k or less would be even better), even if it has a good record. They get expensive when things start to wear out.

Thanks Doc. This “car psychology” type stuff is interesting to me.

Check for rattling cats,sunroff function,Interior AC/heater fan,power steering hoses,drivers electric seat function,get history codes read Is it comming up for Inspection 2 (the big one)Check all window functions(regulator problems common)Battery.You could find codes for ABS sensors Or thermostat that have been ignored.These are great cars.

Have the brake pads checked to be sure that they aren’t worn out. Since BMW drivers seem to spend most of their time tailgating drivers who are already driving at or above the speed limit, the brakes on those Beemers get a major workout on a daily basis.

I have two '97 BMWs for my daughters - one has 230k miles and the other has 140k miles. My wife drives a 2004 with 60k miles on it.

They are great, reliable cars, but if I did not do nearly all the repair and maintenance myself, I would not be able to keep a garage full of BMWs. Repairs are expensive, particularly if you go to a dealer. Any day that you drive away from the dealer for less than $1000 is a good day at the dealer.

I would be very cautious about suggesting a 10-year-old BMW to you unless you are prepared to buy a manual and order your parts over the internet and do your own maintenance in the garage.

All that being said, if you have your heart set on on a BMW and your budget is limited, a nicely kept '98 through 2001 528 is probably the best possible choice. 3 series are good cars, but most of them get abused, and don’t even consider a 7 series.

There’s also a thread somewhere about the profiles of those car owners least likely to perform regular mainteance, but I can’t recall the title. Owners of US made econoboxes are in general, unlikely to perfrom all the required maintenance. Old style Volvo owners were very likely to do care and maintenance as required.

  1. BMW cars have improved in reliability, and are better than Mercedes, but are substantially below Acura, Lexus and Infiniti, all Japanese makes.

Technically, yes, but they’re more American than Japanese. There is no Acura in Japan, only Honda, Lexus is a high end Toyota and Infinity is Nissan last I knew.