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Maintenance on late 1990's BMW 3 Series

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I need to get a car for work. I would like a convertible and have been looking at late 1990’s BMW 3 series convertibles, manual transmission (I want to spend under 10K).

The car will be a daily driver and my commute will be about an hour long each way. Can anyone offer advice on the reliability of this model and year car? What are the major mechanical items that I should look out for?

A major question is are you in the market for a E-36 (low tech,problematic manual convertible top,amoung other issues) or the fantastic E-46 (with power convertible top,a car that all others in its size class are measured against).

Myself the only E-36 I would like is a M3 and I don’t think you will get a E-46 for 10,000,and not much of a e-36,you will get one with miles,needs work.

Just to be fair there is a rabid e-36 following.

The e-46 is what I have been looking at. There are several in my area for under 10K from the late 90’s. Since i live in CA any car that old has high mileage, question is with 100K+ miles how reliable is the car at that age.

E-46 convertible didn’t come until late 2000 or so. BMW continued making the E-36 convertible for the 1999 model year. It was the last model E-36 to be made.

In any case if you are looking at a early E-46 convertible for 10,000 and have several to chose from you are doing good.I didn’t have to do much with the power convertible top but when I was working on them they were new. The E-36 top is a “real piece of work”.

100K is nothing on the engine (this is true with many modern vehicles not just BMW.)

The cars do have issues with ball joints (entire control arm replacement required,I bet this job could easily hit 600.00.

Some other issues with window regulators,fan speed controls,some wiring chafing issues.

You really cant go wrong on a E-46. Like I said they set the standard. But it really costs to keep the car up to the new car level. A poor clutch driver could easily destroy the clutch by 100K and the flywheels are expensive but you have options. Some sunroff issues that are expensive to deal with. Door gaskets like to deteriorate. Exhaust sysrems are expensive when they go. But all in all a much better car than a E-36.