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Long Term Reliability: Pre-Owned BMW 328i vs. Pre-Owned Audi A4

I currently have a 1999 Volkswagen Passat with 210,000 miles (purchased at 30,000 miles). While I guess I can’t complain at getting 180k miles out of the car, there have been lots of repairs, glitches, and electronic issues along the way (I’ve heard that was synonymous with VW products of that era).

I’ve really been looking at 2006/07 model BMW 3s and Audi A4s (usually with 30-50k on the clock). After owning the Passat, I swore I’d never own another VW/Audi product, but the A4s are classy little cars. I’ve heard mixed thoughts on the reliablity improvements of current VW/Audi products, but I’m still a little skeptical.

So my question is, in terms of long term reliablity, upkeep costs, and build quality, which is the better buy, the 3-Series BMW or the Audi A4? Keep in mind that I’m THAT guy who drives the heck out of cars (200k miles or more) and buy them for the long haul.

Any unbiased thoughts or suggestions would be very much appreciated.

Neither will cheap to own or maintain, but if I had to choose between them for the long haul, I’d take the BMW.

All depends on how well they were maintained. If they can’t show proof of maintenance, or a local brand(BMW or Audi) dealership can’t verify records, pass on it.

I’ve owned both an A4 and my current 328i sedan so here’s my take. My 1998 328 sedan is one of the most reliable cars I’ve owned. Five years (and 100k miles) of just oil changes, tires and brakes. The A4 needed lower control arms and a timing belt (BMWs have chains) at 60k miles. Audi AWD adds to the cost and complexity of the car. I prefer the RWD handing of my BMW. Both are good (but expensive) cars to own and maintain. Budget $1,000 per year for maintenance and you will be OK. Buy which ever fits you best.


Tossup between those two. IF both have been maintained ‘by the book’, I’d choose the 328i, but that’s me. If you really want something like these with high reliability, an Acura or Infiniti would be better.

Edmunds claims that the BMW will be more expensive to repair and maintain - 30% more expensive over 5 years. That’s about $1300 for repairs and $1300 for maintenance each year for the Audi, while the BMW cost is about $1700 for repairs and maintenance (each) every year. When you look at it on a yearly basis, the extra $800 doesn’t seem like much.

I suggest that you consider a 2007 Infiniti G35. At $8000 total for both maintenance and repairs, it’ll cost you about half of the BMW and about 60% of the A4. It’s a nice car, too. With all the money you save, you could afford a 2008 G35 or G37. Or use it for other things.

Going from a VW that you found expensive to maintain to a BMW or Audi is going from the frying pan into the fire. All the VW costs will at least DOUBLE if you go ahead with this.

Neither car has to long term reliability of a basic Honda Accord or Toyota Camry.

If you want affordable luxury go for a used Infinity, Acura or Lexus. At least they will last a long time and repairs, although not cheap, will be less frequent and less costly than the BMW.

Sza Sza Gabor and her sister Eva were very classy women, but they only married rich men to support their expensive taste.

I’m curious as to why the BMW is more expensive than an Infiniti, Acura, or even a VW? If it’s because the parts and labor to fix a 3-Series BMW is more expensive, then I can live with that (owning a German car comes with the territory). But if it’s because a BMW isn’t built as well as those cars (i.e. I will be facing frequent little repairs, such as electrical system issues, plastic pieces on the car breaking and needing replaced, and etc.), then that’s something else entirely. In addition to legendary performance, driving feel, and safety, one of the reasons I’ve always been attracted to German cars is because of their solid build quality. Though I don’t mind paying a premium for service and repairs, what I did get tired of was the frequency of which little things like window regulators, electric mirrors, electic seat adjusters, and little plastic pieces under the hood became brittle and broken.

There is no ‘build quality’ or ‘safety’ advantage of BMW over Infiniti or Acura. It will likely require slightly more repair work than either of those, and is no safer. That said, it’s not a major issue. Just don’t assume there’s any advantage to BMW on those items. And yes, the problems you had with the VW are similar to problems you’ll have with an Audi or BMW. But the 3 series has been more reliable than the Audi, just not as good as the Infiniti G/M or Acura TL/TSX.

Interesting. I’ve also considered the Infiniti G (or M if I could find one in the right price range) in passing, but never test driven one. The only thing that concerns me with those cars is that they’re very tech heavy. Any idea what the long term expectations are for those vehicles and how well they’ll hold up?

The G is ‘better than average’ and the M is ‘much better than average’ for all years on Consumer Reports, while the 3 alternates between ‘average’ and ‘better than average’, so not much of difference with the G. Yes, lots of tech, hard to tell how it’ll hold up years from now. And you’ll have to see if the G’s driving/handling meets your needs compared to the 3.

Have you experienced BMW’s I-Drive? You will be bewildered by the advanced technology.

Yeah, at least with a 328i some models came without the I-Drive.

Also, I have a follow up question. I’ve also considered a pre-owned (2008 or 09) Volvo S40. How would the reliability (short term and long term) stack up to the Audi, BMW, and Infiniti?

Probably as bad as both (Audi and BMW), and since Volvo is changing hands (bought by a Chinese company, Geely), you have no idea what the future holds with respect to parts supply. I’d pass on Volvo; too many expensive unknowns!

If you want class at a reasonable price, buy a NEW Hyundai Azera, and you will be pleasantly surprised how much “class” your money buys . Your wife will be equally impressed, since women don’t buy the BMW hype and the “European Master Craftsman” myth.

The S40 will cost you about the same as the Audi for repairs and maintenance. If it is a couple of years newer, it will cost less initially, the catch up as the car ages. A 2008 and certainly a 2009 S4 could still be under full warranty. That is not the case with a 2006/2007 A4 or 328i.

If you find the S40 appealing, try out the Mazdaspeed 3 - they’re based on pretty similar chassis (from when Ford was involved), and the Mazda would be way more fun…

The Speed 3, as far as I know anyways, is only available with a stick shift. The standard 3 won’t be as quick, but it’ll still be more fun to drive than a Volvo.
As for Docnick’s comment on the Azera, it IS a very nice car. I test drove one a couple years ago and found it to be quite a nice vehicle, just couldn’t quite afford it at the time.

I have a 2006 Infiniti M35x with 108,000 miles purchased new in Mar 2005. Live in the midwest and daily drive terrible pothole infested roads. This has been the best car I have ever owned. Being a picky engineer I am religous about regularly servicing the vehicle and have replaced the brake discs (I believe they are undersized due to the weight of the car and they warp prematurely)Before this I drove two Mercedes M-class sedans, a Lexus and a Saab 900. Prior to those vehicles I drove and rebuilt '65 Mustangs for 12 years when living in a warmer climate and routinely put on 20K miles a year. All the newer vehicles required repairs as opposed to just maintenance especially the Mercedes. I will buy another M next year and hope to get the same quality and performance.

I am inelegible to comment as I am biased. Check out oil usage issues for the Audi,some have a 1 quart per 1000 mile consumption rate and Audi is fine with it,doesn’t say much about Audi.

Really, find out what Audis are the oil users,it is important (unless you happen to like putting oil in).

We have some posts here about some real odd Audi stories and power steering groan that cannot be fixed and no buy back offered, just check things out good,the BMW is a known stellar performer,OH I guess I just blew it.

Do not dismiss a CPO car from BMW as being a scam.