Contrary to popular belief, some second or third-hand BMWs are more reliable than you would expect. These, of course, are certain models that were perfectly maintained by their previous owners. On a general note, avoid purchasing pre-owned BMWs since they might end up costing you more than a brand new one due to costly repairs and common breakdowns.
Why aren’t used BMWs reliable?
There is a certain reputation around used BMWs that repels most buyers. BMW is a brand that offers driving pleasure before anything else and that undoubtedly attracts a certain kind of driver behind the wheel.
Aggressive drivers and inexperienced previous owners
Most BMW owners drive aggressively and push their cars to the limits. This often reflects on the overall wellbeing of the vehicles. Aggressive steering, acceleration, braking, and transmission can not only damage the engine, but also the suspension and handling of your vehicle.
Most inexperienced car enthusiasts rush into purchasing a BMW right away. The reason for that is the much easier handling of BMWs compared to other luxury sport vehicles. Not only do BMWs cost less than let’s say a Porsche, but they deliver the same feeling behind the wheel and do not require you to be an experienced driver to have fun.
This attracts new drivers. New drivers as a previous owner of your car mean that your second-hand BMW would most like have received close to zero servicing and maintenance.
BMWs require high-quality gasoline and servicing
If you are looking to buy a second-hand BMW, you are most likely not willing to pay the full amount for a new one. Old BMWs, just like new ones, require proper servicing and usage of high-quality fuel. Whether you are driving a 1990s or a 2020 model, repairs are costly. BMW labor averages $120 an hour and may reach all the way up to $200.
Most BMW models have some plastic parts under the hood which tend to crack with the years and life on the road. These parts are mostly designed to last while the car is in warranty.
Despite the awesome opportunity to purchase a high-performance sports car for under $8,000 to $10,000, you might actually end up paying more than that in the course of a year and a half, due to insurance premiums, gas, maintenance, and repairs.
BMWs last around 80,000 to 120,000 miles, depending on servicing
If you want to buy a second-hand BMW, make sure you buy one with fewer than 80,000 miles on it. If the car owner does not live near the ocean or in a much colder climate, most BMWs can last even up to 200,000 miles, depending on how often they were serviced.
When taking all this into account, consider whether the car was driven on the highway or in traffic. Cars that were driven more in city conditions have problems much more quickly than vehicles that were used outside of town, due to the stopping and starting all the time in low revs.
Only a few BMW models are worth purchasing second hand
Despite all the reasons not to purchase an old BMW, there is still a very strong argument for why to purchase one. BMWs bring driving pleasure like no other vehicle for the price.
There are some BMW models that are exceptional and do not break as easily as most, even when on the road for 150,000 miles plus. So, if you want to buy a second-hand BMW, try finding one of these models.
The 2006 – 2011 BMW 3 Series
One of the best-selling BMW 3 series, the 2006 – 2011 model received 4 and 5 stars in crash tests and had an overall average reliability rating. This is exceptional compared to most models.
The older models of the series have a lower reliability rating compared to the newer ones and often experience electrical, minor engine, and cooling system issues. Other than that, everything else seems great and these are models you can go for when purchasing second-hand.
2008 – 2011 BMW 1 Series E82 and E88
The E82 and E88 are rear-wheel four-seat cars that were a good best-seller in the US when released. They are available with both automatic and manual transmissions and are very reliable.
On the downside, however, they have a not-so-optimal mileage of 17 mpg in town and 25 mpg on the highway. Moreover, the average costs of five-year ownership, in addition to the purchase price, is about $15,000, which is above the average for a BMW. But if you are planning to have fun for less than a year and sell it off again, this is a good purchase.
2004 – 2010 BMW 5 Series
The models featured in the 2004 – 2010 5 series are all reliable and a good mixture of performance and luxury. The 2004 E60 BMW 5 series is one of the most sold BMWs in the US, second only to the 3 series of the same year. A very reliable vehicle overall, even for its 2nd and 3rd owners.
FAQs about buying a used BMW
Why are older second-hand BMWs so cheap?
The market is oversaturated with old BMWs and supply and demand laws kick in. The more BMWs are there for sale, the more the price decreases. Additionally, BMWs quickly depreciate so most people know it is not a good idea to purchase a pre-owned BMW.
Past what mileages you shouldn’t purchase an old BMW?
100,000 miles is considered a benchmark for a very used BMW. If you are planning to drive the car every day, avoid purchasing BMWs that were driven more than that. Many models like E36 and E46 can go well beyond 300,000 miles with proper servicing, but most other models don’t.
Which are the most reliable BMW models?
The BMW 325i and 328i (1996-2004) were two of the most reliable vehicles produced by BMW overall. The engines are quite powerful and have been labeled bulletproof by many reviewers and past owners. The bodies of these vehicles rarely rust and remain solid for more than 20 years of usage. If properly maintained, they can last more than 250,000 miles on average.