Need help picking a bmw m3


I want to buy an older (90s model) M3. Im not really a big gear head though so I don`t know how to pick a year. Does anyone have any recommendations? Explain your answer please. thanks

I would get a Consumer Reports used car guide and compare the reliability with that of other cars of the same year.

Any BMW will cost you 2-3 times per year to keep on the road than a normal Japanese or US car would cost. Budget $3000+ per year or more if you do a lot of driving.

Unless you are a mechanic, the cars are an unending headache and financial burden for those who are not “gear heads”.

Years ago my daughter had a boyfriend just like you. He tried to nurse an older BMW along but finally gave up and ran out of money.

Other posters may add more technical details, but you are digging yourself a deep moneypit by buying an older BMW.

I hope I have sufficiently “explained my answer” to dissuade you from going a head with this.

You’ll want to find a BMW forum ( is the largest, I think), it’ll have lots of M3 fanatics who can answer this in detail.

Oh, make sure whatever one you buy has a full, complete, documented maintenance record. Lots of stuff needs periodic replacement on these.

Participate in a few of the BMW web sites ( and learn more before you purchase a car. Buy one from a BMW enthusiast. It’s better to have someone else do the expensive stuff before you buy it. Have it checked out by an independent BMW specialist for a pre-purchase inspection. Remember, the purchase price will be just your first payment.


PS: Since you are not a “gear head” stay away from M3’s and go for a 328, 330 etc. My 1998 328i sedan is the most reliable and fun cars I’ve ever owned. About to turn 100k miles and still looks and drives like new.

Excellent reply, Doc. I sometimes toy with the idea of buying an old BMW one day because I love the sophisticated look and they have a reputation for being wonderful to drive. Then I read posts like this one and come back to earth.

M3’s are cars that are built for gearheads by gearheads. They are somewhat more temperamental than most BMWs. Parts and servicng costs will be high. IMHO it would behove you do some research on this car. This car is not an appliance like a Camary or Accord. With that said, I’m partial to the E46 models. The CSL models are particularly desirable.

What I will add is it sounds like an e-36 M3 is what you are looking for. Now these are cars with higher performance but in the e-36 the performance enhancements are very sanely applied. This is not a car that runs both the ragged edge in performance and the ragged edge in reliability. I have had customers not even know they were driving M-cars (OK they knew they had a sticker on the back but that’s all).

They still have the same issues with body systems that all e-36’s have but there is a huge loyal following for e-36 both standard and M variants. Really a very tempered step up. Getting a e-46 M3 means your “older 90’s” parameter would be broken, I think it took at least one years run of the standard e-46 for a “M” car to come out.

Many people view the e-36 as the last car from BMW that excessive electronics did not have a grip on, mind you I said “excessive”.

The issue here is not that the car would be a “M” car but that it would be a e-36 as the engine and suspension enhancements will not cause you any more grief (but will be more expensive for certain parts) than a standard car (unless the car was raced on weekends, then all bets are off)

One more thing - have you driven one? As good as they are, a good number of more modern cars will have more hp. Don’t expect a fire-breathing performance machine.

Now if the OP picked the curent M5 he would have an engine that has its roots solidly in F1 and is a fire breathing performance machine.

It is in stopping power that eary M3’s shine, and things just started getting better from then on.

I had to do some under the dash work on a late 80’s M5, you could not have given me that car.

I still feel pity over the mechanic in one of the stories I read on here that had to pretty much strip a high end BMW to bare frame and rebuild it, only to have the manager tell him they gave the owner a new car replacement