HELP me pick a used car! 1998 BMW 528i vs. 2002 Ford Mustang


I just moved from NYC to LA, and I’m purchasing a used car on a limited budget (<$5000). It’s going to be a daily driver, and I need it to be fairly reliable, although I don’t drive all THAT much. I’ve narrowed it down to a few options:

  1. 1998 BMW 528i with 177k miles. Normally I wouldn’t consider such an old/high miles car, but it looks like and drives like it’s been spectacularly maintained. The guy who owns it is a “car guy”, has about 5 cars (one vintage, 2 motorcycles), seems honest, and said he’ll introduce me to the mechanic that works on all his cars for him. Drove nicely, AC and all electrical parts work. Here’s some info and pictures:

  2. 2002 Ford Mustang convertible (V6, not GT) with 117k miles. It’s owned by a girl who seems like she took fairly good care of it and didn’t drive it too hard, although she seemed like she ddin’t take as exceptional care of it as the other guy. AC works, radio works, electrical top works. It’s red…I wish it were another color, but that’s not the end of the world. Here are some pictures, etc.:

Both cars are clean titles, both cars are 2nd owner. The guy with BMW is getting rid of it because he has 5 cars. The girl with the Mustang is getting rid of hers because she’s moving overseas for her job (journalism)…don’t think either one is purposely selling junk.

The BMW is a MUCH nicer car. The issue here is really the maintenance. I know neither will be as reliable as a Japanese car, but I feel like the Bimmer will be way more expensive to fix is something does screw up. Anyone have any advice? I want to nail this down soon so I can get rid of this rental.

Thanks in advance for the help!

P.S. I know if I were smart I’d buy a Honda Civic, but…man, just no sexiness.

You do seem to know what you are getting into with these two cars. Are there really no other choices?

Color is as important as the car for someone who values car style. I would pass on red that you don’t like even though I would prefer the Mustang in general. If you are on a limited less then 5k budget, can you afford to repair an older BMW ? Just maybe, you need to put your "wants"on the back burner and bring your "needs"up front…keep on looking.
$5k is needs territory not wants.

I’m purchasing a used car on a limited budget (< $5000).
It’s going to be a daily driver, and I need it to be fairly reliable,

How much money do you have for repairs and maintenance? You don’t want to find yourself in a position where the ongoing expenses keep you from being able to afford driving the vehicle. The BMW raises big red flags in this area - a bit less so for the Mustang.

Whatever car you purchase, make sure you take it to good independent mechanic to thoroughly look over.

Yea, I definitely hear what you guys are saying about the “needs” factor, but I think both these cars should sufficiently cover my needs. There are other options, but these seem to be two of the more appealing ones. Driving a Saturn with 140k doesn’t seem to be a reliable ride either.

At 4k or 5k, a 2005 Acura with 80k miles just isn’t going to pop up…so I have to recognize there will be risk with whatever I happen to get. Even something like a Honda Civic, we’re talking about something a 2000 or 2001 with 150k+ miles on it.

I’m just trying to minimize the risk involved. Consumer reports and whatnot actually seem pretty favorable for both these cars. Does anyone have any specific or expert advice on either car? Or can anyone provide a viable alternative?

Old 528i = HIGH RISK, no matter what.

Yea…my heart wants the BMW cuz it’s soooo sexy looking. But my brain tells me STAY AWAY. Truthfully, I was hoping you guys would all tell me the BMW isn’t as bad to maintain as I’d think lol

IF you hadn’t used the term “fairly reliable”, then you’d be in with a shot, but alas, you had to throw that in there…sorry. :slight_smile:

Yes, Beamers are sexy cars, but only if you can keep them running. With <5K to get one, you’ll need a reliable budget plan to keep it going.

If it’s down to one of those 2 my vote is for the Mustang although I think it’s a bit overpriced. There’s a billion of those out there and being much more low tech will be much cheaper to maintain.

I would advise that you be a bit wary of any stories related to why someone is selling a car. Some of those stories are true and some are not.

No matter which one you decide on I’d try to negotiate the prices down a bit. Whenever I go car shopping I carry cash in 20s and 100s; a healthy wad of it.
I stuff the cash in a checkbook with the ends of the bills sticking out and place the checkbook in a shirt pocket.
That flash of green gets someone’s attention right off the bat even if they don’t say anything and can increase the seller’s motivation a bit… :slight_smile:

NiceGuy; HEARTS cannot pay the repair and maintenance bills. If the Mustang checks out well by a good mechanic, at least it’s affordable to own!

If you really want a nice affordable car, try the sportier versions of the Honda Civic, Camry Solara, or Hyundai Tiburon.

Back in 1962, I was with my dad at our local dealer who at one time had held the DeSoto/Plymouth franchise but had become the dealer for Studebakers and MG, Morris, and Austin cars. While my dad’s car was being serviced, he was talking to the owner of the agency and I was out looking at the cars on the lot. One of the cars was a Porsche that had come in on a trade. The owner of the agency saw me looking at the car, came over to me and said, “You don’t want a car like that. It will take all the pay you get on your graduate assistantship and then some to maintain”. I really had no intention of buying the Porsche, but it was really good advice. I equate the BMW with the Porsche. They are great driving cars for those who can afford the maintenance. However, if you have limited resources, stay away from cars like the BMW, the Porsche and the Jaguar.

What do you guys think about a 2001 Saab 9-3 convertible? I know nothing about Saabs, but it’s in the price range at 100k miles, and supposedly they get around 30MPG…but again, don’t know how reliable they are.

thanks for the great replies so far by the way

Saab is just about out of business, and those era Saabs were no great shakes. The only two cars I know from personal experience that were ‘lemon lawed’ and repurchased by the dealer were both 9-3 convertibles…

With the Saab you have gone from bad to worse.

On my bike ride today I did see for sale a mint (from 10 feet) 325 convertible from the mid 1980’s for sale. Same as the car in “Pretty in Pink” and “PCU”. Sweet

^^ haha don’t tease me. That BMW is still calling my name :\

The SAAB is also a more high end and high tech car than the Mustang so higher costs will be involved in taking care of that one too.

Personally, I like SAABs, have owned 2 of them, and I’m also an ex-SAAB dealer mechanic but you’re also talking about a roughly 10 year old SAAB that may, or may not, have been subjected to “aggressive driving”, which is rougher on a car.
Certain types of vehicles bring out the Jekyll and Hyde in people and a SAAB can be one of those types of vehicles. That statement applies to me so I’m not taking a free pass here.

Driving my Lincoln I’m laid back and in no hurry; behind the wheel of my turbocharged, 5 speed manual SAAB and the personality does a 180. In a nutshell, I like to shift gears and feel the pull of the turbo. That does translate into more wear and tear on average.

Ford commonality is going to be cheaper to maintain but if stylin’ is important keep in mind that stylin’ will cost more.

NiceGuyBeatscom–I think the car for you is a Mazda Miata. You have sporty looks, reliability, economical to operate, etc.

I’ve been a BMW guy for over 30 years. Started with a 3.0 CSi (the prettiest coupe BMW ever made) to a 535, 540 Sport and now a 328i sedan. The 3-Series is the best car BMW has made over the past 15 years. Find a nice one and pay at least $15k. If you only have $5k, than a BMW is not for you (it will only be a down-payment). Stick to Asian cars for basic transportation (or a Lincoln Town Car).

Saab is a dead brand walking.

The responses I’ve seen on Saabs are so hit or miss on Saab…it’s weird. Some people swear by them, some hate them.

@Triedaq The Mazda Miata is a cute little car, but I’m a 6’2" male…I really don’t mind small cars, I’ve driven a Honda Fit (my parents) and am currently renting a Fiat 500 (cheapest available rental) and am comfortable in both. But a Miata is a little too tiny for me I think…also would like SOME kind of back seats, even if they’re not spacious ones.