Is the 1998 BMW 740i a safe car?


My nanny is buying a car which would be used to transport my 3 children. She has chosen a 1998 BMW 740i with 100K miles, and I’m unable to find any safety ratings on Edmunds or ConsumerReports for this make/model/year. Can anyone comment on whether or not this is a safe car in general? My husband and I typically have gone for the models that are rated well on consumer reports, and I’m a bit nervous having the kids riding in a car I know very little about.

  • Heather

JMHO, but this car is just as safe as anything out there and CR is opinions, nothing more.
This is assuming the discussion is limited to crash-worthiness and not an unsafe vehicle due to bad brakes, severe rust, bad suspension component or tires, etc, etc.

Far more important than the type of car being used is the attitude and driving habits of the person behind the wheel.

Don’t worry about the car Heather…Worry about the driving ability of your nanny. That’s FAR more important than the car she is driving…BMW 7 series cars are a nice ride and can be had for little money. They are as safe as any car of that era…With small kids, the design and installation of the car-seats ( will the Bimmer allow 3 in the back?) is more important than how many air-bags a car has…

While I agree with both ok4450 and Caddyman, I want to add my response to the issue of whether or not this model is a safe car–and that response is…“as compared to what”?

If you are comparing this 13 year old car to other vehicles of its era, then–yes it is a very safe car. However, if you are comparing it to a full-size sedan of virtually any make manufactured in the past…let’s say…5 years or so, then, it pales by comparison. The advances that have been made in passenger protection over the past decade–and particularly in the past 5 years–have been dramatic, and as a result, any car that is 13 years old will be less safe in a collision than even a low-priced sedan made in the last few years.

All of that being said, as long as this woman refrains from using her cell phone while driving, and is a good, safe driver overall, your kids will be reasonably safe with her in that car. Have you actually ridden with her, in order to assess her driving skills? I ask because I have observed over the last few years that women in their 20s and 30s tend to be the most aggressive drivers on the road nowadays. I am not a slow driver, but on the occasions when I am being tailgated by someone, it is invariably a woman in her 20s & 30s.

My theory on this is twofold:

Primarily, I think that these young women lack the technical knowledge to understand how much distance is needed to stop a car traveling at highway speeds. Yes, I know that the written driver’s test does ask questions about stopping distances and how many car lengths you should use as a following distance, but I think that after memorizing this information, most people promptly forget it.

Also–young women in the business world today seem to be…driven…and seem to be perpetually in a rush. This “always in a rush” syndrome extends to their driving behavior also.

Truthfully, this tailgating behavior is even prevalent among older women, in my experience. As but one example, my friend, Carol, invariably tailgates other cars on the narrow, deer-infested, two lane country roads in our area.

When I politely tell her that she needs to back off a bit from the car in front of her, she insists that she is not tailgating, despite the reality that she is usually traveling about 1.5 car lengths in back of the car in front of her. Rather than continue to argue the point with her on every white-knuckle ride in her car, I have simply made it a policy that we always ride in my car. She is happy to save the gas, and I am happy to be in a car that is driven safely.

Make sure that you monitor this young woman’s driving style!

Sure it’s probably safe, but is your nanny (very) wealthy? A 14-year old BMW 740i is the living definition of “MONEY PIT”. She does not want to buy this car, unless frequent high repair bills are OK with her. This is the reason it’s cheap to buy.

What did nanny use to transport your kids prior to her decision to buy the BMW?

You must pay your nanny very well. Otherwise she has delusions of grandeur.

A 740i is a very expensive car to own and drive, and the expenses will really start piling up after 100K miles. I’d estimate it will cost between $1.00 and $1.50 per mile to drive this car, maybe a bit more. Every day, every mile. Do the math.

Insurance? Ha, ha, ha. I hope she calls her agent before she buys the car.

Seriously, this car will bankrupt anyone who doesn’t have very deep pockets. Maintenance and repairs are outrageously expensive, and it will drink premium gas as if it were water. Tap water, not the expensive bottled kind.

Be that as it may, before we can discuss the relative safety of a given vehicle we’d have to agree on a definition of “safe,” and I think that varies quite a bit from person to person.

A 1998 BMW 740i is at least as safe as, and probably safer than, most cars built in 1998. How it compares with a car from, say, 2008, however, is another matter. But, again, it depends on how you define “safe.”

The 740i was the top of the BMW line, I believe, in 1998, so it is loaded with everything the BMW engineers could think of in terms of comfort, safety, performance, and convenience. And the BMW engineers are pretty good.

The 740i is also a large, heavy car, so if you’re in the “bigger is safer” camp the 740i will fill the bill. I had the pleasure of driving on of these cars briefly a few years ago, and I can honestly say it was one of the most impressive cars I’ve ever been in. I loved it.

Assuming someone else was paying for it, I would gladly drive a 1998 BMW 740i, any time, any distance (it’s a superb highway car), at any rational speed (100 mph feels like 60), and I would feel completely safe doing so.

I would also feel completely safe allowing any of my children or grandchildren to ride with me in the car, as long as they are properly restrained.

As with all other cars, the DRIVER has more to do with safety than anything else. I’d let my grandkids ride in any car if I trusted the driver.

If you trust you nanny’s driving abilities it really doesn’t matter what she drives. Her choice of used vehicle, however, makes me question LOTS of things.

I understand the appeal of a 740i. It’s a fantastic vehicle, and quite handsome, but I would never be crazy enough to try to own one. I know I can’t afford it.

Instead of the 740i, tell her to look for a Lexus LS400 - much better reliability, still will be expensive to repair, but it should need much fewer of them. Or an ES300, much less expensive to repair.

I agree with others that the skills and attitude of the driver are far more important to safety than the vehicle being driven.

As far as the vehicle itself, a few years ago I had a customer who owned one of these cars. The car itself was very impressive: quite large on the inside, comfortable, smooth as glass and powerful without being overwhelmingly so. It also felt rock solid, which makes it feel very safe. That car was eight years old the last time I worked on it, however, and it also had 100k miles on it and needed some pretty significant repairs. Brakes, tires, and suspension components were very expensive for that car, and the owner kept declining the work because he couldn’t afford it. The guy always had tools, a hardhat, and an orange vest in the backseat, which seems to indicate he was a construction worker. The 740i is a safe car for its time (maintenance and repairs will maintain this safety), but a newer vehicle with modern safety features will probably be safer, although less luxurious and less fun to drive. Almost anything, however, will be cheaper to own, maintain, and repair than this big Bimmer.

An aged BMW is kind of a strange choice of transportation for a nanny and I’m assuming the reason for the kids angle to this is because the nanny is going to ferry them back and forth to school or whatever.

I do wonder about the reason for this choice. If it’s stylin’ to impress whomever that would be the wrong reason.

McP, you can buy them cheap, there is little market for them, they cost no more to insure or operate than a Toyota (until something breaks or the CEL comes on) and then you just walk away…I guess it’s just a matter of luck how many miles you can squeeze out of one before the hammer drops…But that’s not the issue here…The issue is will three kids be safe in the back seat…

Your Nanny has not shown good judgement in car selection. It can work this way if she drives it minimally, but at greater expense then most. Let’s hope her less then ideal judgement in automobiles is not self righting when the repair bills mount and you’re forced to increase her salary.

The only way you have control of the car the nanny selects and drives is to pay for the car. Otherwise your choices are live with it, or get a different nanny. You can demand she use appropriate car seats, again it is up to you to provide the seats.

Perhaps you should let the nanny transport your kids in a car you own. That way you have control of the vehicle and its relative safety.

A '98 BMW 740 is a midsize car and was as good as any other '98 car and likely better than most. If the brakes are in good working order and the suspension and steering are tight it is a “safe” car. Since '98 the major safety improvements have been in more airbags, covering more of the inside of the passenger cabin, and lower pressure airbags.

Thanks for all of the feedback/comments. The question really is whether we keep our nanny with her new car, or look for a new nanny. I won’t go into the details of our situation, but suffice it to say, it’s sometimes hard to know what is the right thing to do. Thanks for the insight into this car, though, it was helpful to read the various perspectives. We have definitely passed along some of the advice to our nanny in an attempt to persuade her to get a car that might have lower-cost maintenance, but she is not easily convinced. We will plan to try out the car seats ourselves this week in the car, before she buys it, to make sure they can be securely installed. I do not know whether this car has the locking mechanism on the seat belts - but this is a detail that will probably be critical in determining if the car seats can be installed well. That would be a deal-breaker for us. Apart from that, I do believe my nanny is a very cautious driver, so if the car seats install well, we may just go with this.

Anyway, thanks again for the feedback.

The choice of car is hers. Maybe she or someone close to her will repair it. Rather than trust the car, can you trust her? A 740i is a big car with excellent brakes. Your children will be safe in it since you think of her as a safe driver. It has 4 wheel ABS and traction control; features no found on many less expensive cars until much later.

If the car is mechanically sound as to tires, brakes, suspension, etc. then I don’t think safety is an issue at all.

The only issue I can see is why a nanny who is probably has no mechanical inclination at all would want a 14 year old BMW.
I’m not a gambling man at all but I’d wager this car already needs a few things and BMW repairs (just like a Benz) can be pricy if one has to farm the repair out.

Even being a mechanic, I’d have to think long and hard about buying this car for myself and even then I’d go for it only if the car checked out fine and if the price was dirt cheap or slightly below.