Do I have a lemon?

My car: 1997 BMW 318 4 cyl Two Wheel Drive Automatic 157500 miles

Hello: I have had my car since I bought it brand new. I have kept all service receipts. The total of all service receipts to date is $16,092. This is everything excluding gas, insurance and license tabs. So this includes all oil changes, scheduled maintenance, brakes, tires, everything.

I have had numerous problems with the car including air conditioner, heater, starter, fuel pump, window, electrical in general, transmission. These are problems that required non scheduled service because they happened randomly and I was unable to use the car until fixed.

My question is did I get a lemon? I have had the car 147 months to be exact. 12 years and 3 months. $16,092 seems to be alot for even a 12 year old car.

My only other car experience was a Honda Accord which I drove over 200K miles and my total service charges were probably under 5K during the life of the car. The Honda did not have any “random” problems that I recall. I just had scheduled maintenance and replaced the tires and brakes, etc.

I have always gone to non dealership shops for service so as to get a reasonable price.

Did I get a lemon? Or have I just learned a very valuable lesson regarding cars (Honda v. BMW)?

Thank you very much for any comments you can give me.

I find it difficult to call a car this old with this many miles on it a “lemon.” These costs sound about right for a German luxury car. Yes, you have learned an expensive lesson.

Not to say the BMW expenses weren’t worth it. Only you can make that determination. You can call that extra money spent on the BMW the cost of keeping up with the BMW-driving Jonses.

Thank you for your reply. I also realize that the Accord was unusually reliable, I understand that I was really lucky that nothing went wrong with that car. Thus, anything after my Accord experience was bound to be disappointing in re the costs issue with any other car.

Did You Get A Lemon Or Does A BMW Cost More To Operate Than Another Make?

BMW:I have had numerous problems with the car including air conditioner, heater, starter, fuel pump, window, electrical in general, transmission. These are problems that required non scheduled service because they happened randomly and I was unable to use the car until fixed.

Honda (or many other makes):"I just had scheduled maintenance and replaced the tires and brakes, etc."

Twelve or thirteen years of numerous problems and extra expenses and now you ask if you’ve got a lemon or whether or not the vehicle is more expensive to operate than most typical cars? What do you think and what difference does it make at this point?

Agree; the expenses are not unusual for a German luxury car. If you had bought an Acura instead, the expense would have been a little more than that for a Honda, about $7000-$8000, or about half of the German figure.

After reading and hearing about German Cars, I conclude that Mercedes, Audi, BMW, high end Volkswagens all have very high upkeep. So budget about twice what a Lexus, Infiniti, or Acura would cost, which tend a to be 30-50% more than their more mundane counterparts, Honda, Toyota, and Nissan.

A friend of mine has a 12 cylinder Jaguar; it has cost him an arm and a leg over the years. But he also has an Acura which he drives when his “toy” is being serviced.

As the previous poster said, some people have to go through the BMW experience to be cured of it.

Trust me, I’m cured! Thanks for your comments.

huskyduck; the Japanese do not believe in luck when it comes to building cars!! Almost all Hondas are reliable, as are Toyotas, Mazdas and a few others.

Your Honda performance was entirely predictable based on the built-in quality control and long life design. My brother has a 1987 Accord, and so far has only spent $6000 on it with over 250,000 miles on the clock.

If nothing unusual had happened to your BMW, we would have said that you were extremely lucky.

For what it’s worth, my total upkeep costs on a loaded Caprice V8 over the same time and mileage came to $8938, and included a water pump, starter, 3 batteries, alternator, fan motor, radiator, rear axle seals, rear end bearings, 4 brake jobs and a lot of other routine stuff. This car had an Average reliability, according to Consumer Reports.

When shopping for your next car you don’t really need us, just buy the Consumner Reports Buying Guide and pick the best car for your needs.

BMW = Bring Money With 'ya!

You likely ended up paying more than needed if you had the work done at the dealer. If they did not do a transmission fluid change before 60,000 miles, that may have been the reason for the transmission cost.

I would not say you got a lemon. Maybe a little bad luck, but that happens.

   Dealers are no better (or worse) than independent mechanics for almost anything you might need done on your car.  They will almost always charge more per hour and often more for parts and supplies.  They also tend to look at repairs a little different than the independent. 

A dealer may well recommend work that strictly may not be needed, but could be connected to the problem or maybe replace a part when a little repair would fix it ALMOST as good a new.  

There is no need to bring your car to the dealer for any service other than service that is going to be paid for by a recall or original warrantee.  During the warranty period be sure to have all required (as listed in the owner's manual) maintenance done and to document all maintenance work.

I suggest that most people would be better off finding a good independent (Not working for a chain) mechanic. 

Note: Never ever use a quick oil change place. They are fast cheap and very very bad.

I own two high mileage 1997 3-series BMWs, and you have had more problems than I have had with mine, but far from what I would call a lemon. The 318 is a bit more problematic than my 328s, but the problems you list are not related to the engine, so it should be similar.

I drove Toyotas when Toyota made rear wheel drive cars, and they were more reliable and economical than my current fleet of 3 BMWs, but not nearly as much fun to own.

If you are handy at all and you have a garage, you can dramatically reduce your cost of ownership of any car if you buy parts off the internet and install them yourself. Not only are the parts cheaper and the labor free, but you replace only what is broken, and you tend to be a lot more careful than a mechanic who is watching the clock as he works.

For example, when your air conditioning failed, I’ll bet that the problem was the climate control computer, right? The lights and buttons started acting crazy and would not control the heat and A/C? Both my '97s failed that way. A new climate control computer from the dealer is over $500. All it needs is a new capacitor, the instructions are on the internet. I fixed both mine for about $1.50 each.

BMW owners work on their own cars? That can’t be normal. I don’t believe the average BMW owner is used to getting his or her hands that dirty.

It is a bit steeper than average ($800-$1000/year) but nothing extraordinary.

$5k was over how many years for that Honda. Seems very low for the same time period or was that 10 years before the BMW and inflation came to fruitition or less years?

But most of them are used to tailgating other vehicles, even when the other vehicle is already being driven well over the speed limit!

The worst are the women driving 3-series Beemers. Naturally, they are all holding a cell phone to their ear while driving about 2 feet behind my rear bumper while we navigate narrow, twisting two lane country roads infested with deer. These women are either totally oblivious to what is going on around them, or they think that their brakes will allow them to stop in a distance of about 10 feet, or–more likely–they think that they are invincible because they are driving a Beemer.

Yes, I know that this is somewhat off-topic, but the Beemer drivers–at least the ones in my area of the country–are just totally obnoxious, and I just felt like venting. Thank you for indulging me in that rant.

Agree; there is no car in my experience that requires so much knowhow to operate it reliably that has so many drivers totally ignorant of what the beast needs. A BMW coming off lease in California must rate as the all time worst buy.

Ou Contraire
Many of us work on our own BMWs.
That is the only way we can afford to have them.

Of course, we only do so while wearing a white lab coat with a BMW logo.
It helps to look as much as possible like David Niven (at least the mustache).

I have put a few of my BMW repair jobs on my web page to show others how.

I have the pics for many more jobs, just waiting for me to get around to writing them up and posting them.

Manolito; happy to meet the first BMW owner who actually gets his hands dirty and knows how everything works!

I had that Honda for about 7 years. I am an avid road tripper, been to all 50 states. Like VDCdriver above, I think I just needed to vent. I was fresh off my 3rd tow in the last 18 months this last weekend (#1 tow-fuel pump; #2-battery; #3-starter).

I thought all cars were like Hondas and just wanted something a little cooler. But I don’t think I will ever buy German again.

I’ve also heard “Break My Wallet”.

The 318 BMW doesn’t qualify as being a BMW luxury car. Simply being made by BMW is not enough. More buyer remorse over the e-36 4cyl than any other BMW. You have truly yet to experience “The Ultimate Driving Machine”. How could you stand this car for so long?, didn’t you wonder what everyone was raving over?

And a automatic to boot, a real slug.