CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Should I keep by BMW or trade it in before I retire?

I bought a 2004 series 3 BMW 325i in 2009. It had 63,000 miles at the time and now is at 85,000. I paid extra for an aftermarket warranty which will expire in July, this year. Of course I love this car. It is a joy to drive. It has needed new bushings and control arm brackets, the drivers side door hinge replaced, and it whistles sometimes (don’t know why, mechanics at the dealer don’t know why, lots of bimmers apparently have unexplained whines and whistles intermittently as mine does and the dealer mechanics say there seems to be no problem). Last time I was in for a regular oil change they said I should have the brakes done (for $650) but on the advice of friends I am putting that off until I either experience brake slush incidents or the brake light comes on since the mechanic said it was a precaution, not absolutely necessary yet.

My question is whether I should keep this car or trade it in on a newer non-BMW in order to avoid extreme maintenance repair costs in the years to come as my mileage increases into the 100,000’s. unfortunately I don’t have mechanical skills nor do I have a boyfriend with such attributes. I will be retiring in a couple of years so my income will become fixed, a bit less money than I currently bring in, but still comfortable.

What do you think? Love to hear some opinions.

JeannieC in Oregon

If you like the car enough to offset the repair cost, then keep it. You can afford more if you find a good mechanic that understands BMWs besides the dealer. Ask your Bimmer friends who they use.

A BMW is not a good car to “grow old with”. If you are well to do and have a good mechanic you car trust, at least it will be bearable.

I would personally move on and buy something more down to earth.

+1 for Docnick.

Thanks, JT, Doc and Missleman. I am not well to do ( got a splendid deal when I bought the bimmer) and its been a great experience so far, but it seems the advice is the same: either money or time (with skills I lack) are recommended. I fear I may need to part with this fine vehicle before too long …

Although you could get lucky, it’s more likely that you’ll continue to have some expensive repairs with this car. If you still want some level of sport and luxury with a lower cost of ownership, take a look at a late-model Acura.

Around 10 years is a good time to sell many cars, especially European ones. You should check on one of the sites for the BMW’s trade in value, then decide how much extra you can spend to get your budget. Let us know what it is, and we’ll have some ideas for a good replacement. I also recommend getting the Consumer Reports car issue (should be out shortly) and/or their caru buyers guide (wait for the new one) and get a lot of good ideas on cars.

As long as it has some value, now and is the time to sell or trade. As we age, we need the most reliable transportation for the most reasonable amount we can find. I would never love a car that does not love you back. This is especially true when you retire on a fixed income.

I told my son when he got his BMW that he had my blessing as long as he got rid of it when the warranty expires. As far as the brakes go though, I think you got bad advice. You want to replace brake pads before they wear completely down for safety and to avoid ruining more parts. There will be no brake light and there may be no change at all in braking until you hear metal on metal.

I own four 3-series BMWs ranging from 110k to 290k, and I am about your age. My Bimmers are not going anywhere in the foreseeable future, BUT the big difference is that I buy my parts on line and I do all my own work on weekends.

I suggest that you replace this car with a nice clean sensible late model or new car. There is no guarantee that you won’t see big repair bills, but I can pretty much promise you that you will see several large repair bills (larger than brakes) in the next few years if you keep this car. Your cooling system could go out any day as the plastic parts in your cooling system become old and brittle. When that happens, it is best to go completely through the cooling system. I have replaced the cooling systems in both my 2004 BMWs already. That is $700 in parts alone…

Others may point out that mathematically, there is almost never a justification to replace an old car. Two or three $1000 repair bills a year is much less money than a $500 a month payment, but it is hard to put a value on being left stranded on the side of the road late at night with steam rolling out from under the hood.

You can wait for a warning light to do the brakes. There are brake pad wear sensors on this car. If you drive too long after the light illuminates, that will be dangerous, but it won’t damage any brake parts because at 85k miles, your original brake rotors are shot anyway.

The whistle is probably the intake manifold gasket. If I am correct, it will continue to get worse until the idle gets rough and the idle RPM starts to drift up and down. This is a routine repair and not too expensive. If you decide to keep the car, and if it does need a new intake manifold gasket, be sure to have them clean the PCV system and perhaps replace the PCV valve. The PCV is MUCH easier to work on while the manifold is off.

Also, if you keep it and need a new cooling system, have them replace the gasket beneath the oil filter housing while they have the radiator out. Again, MUCH easier to get at while other pieces are out.

I would let the BMW go soon. Some expensive repairs are not far off in your future if you keep it. If you want a car with few repairs and you can handle monthly payments, I’d buy a brand new Honda Accord and plan to keep it for 15 years. The new Accord gets very good mpg, is roomy for long trips, and will likely last a long time with few repairs.