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Was Letting A 19 Year Old Buy BMW A Bad Idea


My youngest boy, William totaled his !968 Ford Galaxie (not his fault, according to CHP- first rain, slippery road- he was going the speed limit). Anyways… after MUCH negotiation as to which car he should buy, we finally allowed him to purchase a 2002 BMW 3-series- excellent condition & well cared for. Did we make a mistake? Will this car cost us an arm and a leg? Or will it go 200,000 miles (as did the Beemer belonging to one of my buddies) with regular maintenance? It should be noted that he WANTED a full size truck; his mechanically savvy older brother helped him pick a vehicle; the requirement we gave them: under 100,000 miles, gets 25 mpg, and is reliable. Were we insane to say “yes” to this purchase? Are we terrible parents? Or will this all turn out to be an “educational experience”?

The one thing you’ll find out about BMW’s is the parts aren’t cheap when they need repair.

If you find it hard/expensive to locate parts, this web site will probaly be the best source for replacement parts.


Well, it’s a done deal, there are worse cars. This one needs to be kept up on maintenance, is it up to date?

I’m assuming he’s a responsible young man who doesn’t drive recklessly or fantasize about being a street racer. I see nothing wrong with this choice, except for the ‘more expensive than average’ repair and maintenance costs of European autos.

Well, since you asked I do not think it was wise but that does not make you a bad parent. What teenager needs a BMW? Typically, but I do not mean this applies to your family, a teenager with a car such as this is has a priority of chest thumping/look at me and looking cool. Cool comes from within and cool can be cool sitting a less expensive or more reliable car. Keep in mind I am not automatically condemning your son for this.

BMW parts are expensive and who is paying for those and also the insurance?

You will be buying them cars the rest of your life…

A 2002 BMW is certainly safer than a 1968 Ford Galaxie. The Ford Galaxie probably had drum brakes, no air bags, and certainly wasn’t designed to crumple in an accident as the BMW is designed to do.

The steering, braking and overall handling should make the BMW a much safer car than the 1968 Ford Galaxie.

Not if it is driven the way most BMWs are.

who paid for it, you or him? If it was his own money, let it go, if it was yours, lets hope you don’t plan on paying for the maintenance and repairs. Either way, it’ll be an education for all involved.

You got a 330, not an M3, so you did just fine. That is easily a quarter-million mile engine with routine care. My wife loves her 330, and it has 80k miles with only one real breakdown (fuel pump died in the grocery store parking lot).

My two daughters got old Volvos to drive to high school when they were 17. In their second year of college, once they had proven that they could drive responsibly and take care of maintenance, they both got '97 328 BMWs (my wife’s and my old cars). The girls love them, and the cars have been reliable and economical. The girls are now out of college and the cars have passed 200k miles. Still look and drive great. Only one ticket between them (wish my wife was so ticket-free).

If your son is reasonably mechanically inclined, get him a Bentley manual and a Peake scanning tool for Christmas. Parts are reasonably priced on line from places like Autohaus, Bimmerparts, Groton, etc. there are many good vendors on line. We have four 3-series BMWs and 95% of the service they need, I do in my garage with common tools.

He should join a couple of forums where owners share their common problems and the solutions. Pelican, DTM, United Bimmer Community, Roadfly are popular.

That car has a few common problems that can be repaired by anyone reasonably handy. Window regulators fail (weak plastic part, fix with zip ties), sunroof guides fail (sun shines though glass and cooks them), leak in water temperature sensor (O-ring hardens), tail lights fail (ground connection in plug corrodes). I have fixed all these problems for just a few dollars.

I do not care about the BMW and its reliability part as much. I am more worried about his safety. I sense a bit of denial about his driving. Even though CHP says he was within speed limit, the accident is proof that he was driving faster than he should have for the road conditions. That might happen again. The BMW is a much safer car, but also very capable. I will make sure he takes a defensive driving course and also learn stuff about how cars work. That makes him appreciate the parts and their potential failure much better.

Valid concerns. Reviewers commonly comment that a 330 is quicker than its weight/horsepower/torque would suggest. A young man and a fast car are a volatile mix. The precise handling, stability control and ABS can create a false sense that the car will always do exactly what you want, under any conditions or speed. Hopefully he learned from the last car that this is not necessarily true. In any event, he is a LOT safer now than he was in the Galaxie.

BMW’s are just expensive to repair. However reliability is average to above average. Hopefully you or your older brother know of a good decent independent mechanic to maintain fix it.

A 2002 car is not that fast or crazy compared to many 2010 models including a plebian Toyota Camry V6. It just handles a bit better but is likely worn down and not what it was when new.

I would let him enjoy. time will tell good or bad.

The jury is still out on your question “Are we terrible parents?” That answer will come in how your son handles the car and if he is a responsible owner, driver, and on the road citizen.

Is a BMW a practical car for a teen? I’d say not. But that is water over the damn now. It will be a more expensive car to maintain. Who is paying for gas, repairs, maintenance, and insurance?

No matter what the CHP says he didn’t do well with the old Galaxy. Granted it was an old car, but he was driving too fast for conditions. The speed limit doesn’t mean you can always go that fast safely. In that old Galaxy with the tires on it and the rain, he made a mistake. He needs to realize that this accident was avoidable. If you and he just say it wasn’t his fault there is no learning and what keeps him from making the same mistake.

Do you have a contract with him? For instance, if you see him driving the BMW at excessive speed, or recklessly is there a consequence? Such as he gives up the keys and the car stays in the driveway for a few days or a week? If you put up the money for the car, you get to set the rules; and you need to do just that.

This comment tells me that you probably have the proper attitude. From your original post, I figured the CHP was being nice to the kid because it was probably inexperience rather than something stupid like drag racing or being drunk that caused the wreck. But you’re right - if you run off the road for any reason other than being hit or having a medical event, you’re driving too fast.

Hopefully he’s learned that. In addition to defensive driving, you might want to have him take some autocross classes if they’re available. They really do teach you what the car feels like when it’s at the limits of control, which lets you slow down a bit before you go over that line.

But the bottom line is that he’s a kid, and kid drivers through a volatile mix of inexperience, machoism, and just plain dumb-kiddedness, tend to have more incidents than older drivers. That being the case, the BMW is a pretty good car to have a crash in, all things considered.

No, you are not terrible parents. Experienced driving instructors would call you anywhere from “experimental” to “irresponsible”.

Whether this is a good idea depends on the following:

  1. Is you son a thoroughly experienced driver who can handle a nose heavy, high powered car on icy surfaces?

  2. Are you rich enough to handle $3000/year or so upkeep costs that a 2002 BMW with 100,000+ miles in the hands of a 19 year old commands?

  3. Are you flexible enough to tolerate calls at midnight from your son that the car has conked out? A BMW that old with that many miles can thoroughly disrupt your otherwise tranquil family life.

The previous owner is wisely disposing of this car just when all the expensive repairs commence.

As others point out, this is not really a good car for a 19 year old, unless he has attended and PASSED a performance driving school and can handle a car in an emergency.

Since you have already bought the car, may I suggest:

  1. Have your son attend a performance and defensive driving school.

  2. If you live in a cold part of the country, have him take a winter driving school as well. All my family have done that.

  3. Put $250 per month in a “BMW care program” budget, and prepare yourself for thsoe midnight calls from your son.

If you do not carry out items (1) and (2) you may blame yourself for the rest of your life when your son wipes out on an icy road.

BMW builds cars at most every level. This includes 4 cyl models for the salesman to ultra high performance models. I would much rather see the man in the BMW than in the 68 FORD for reasons too numerous to list.

I will add that not all e-46’s are “high powered” (in fact most are not) and handling of most if not all e-46’s could be labled as superb. Lastly dirving on ice will make the best of us look foolish, anyone can get into trouble. The e-46 is the car that all in its weight class are judged against, you could not have picked a better car.

BIG MISTAKE! Give it to me. I’ll take proper car of it!

At 19, its time you let Willy make his own decisions and mistakes. Provide advice yes, but its not your decision anymore. And yeah they are not the most reliable or cheap, but better than a 68 Ford.

Hate to derail a thread with nit-picking, but I just have to take exception to at least one of Docnick’s points - In a world full of front-heavy front-wheel-drive cars, a 330 is one of the few vehicles that is not front-heavy. BMW has always designed 3-series cars to be 50/50 weight distribution (give or take a percent) until you put people in the back seat or something in the trunk, which then makes it rear-heavy.

And we have been driving 3-series vehicles for over a decade and well over a half-million combined miles, and my phone has rung only once with a breakdown (wifes fuel pump). That’s why we now have four of them.