Despite producing one of the best luxury performance vehicles, BMW has a reputation for unreliability. However, depending on how well a BMW was serviced and whether it was properly maintained, it can last all the way up to 300,000 miles. Some cars from the models like the E36 and E46 have even passed the 400,000-mile mark.
BMW reliability and mileage
Some models are more reliable than others, tending to last longer on the road and breaking down much less frequently. Picking a BMW from one of these ranges below might give you a clue on how long to expect them to last.
Some of the newer models from 2020 and 2021 have not yet been reviewed on how long they last on the road since they’ve recently been released.
BMWs from 1996 – 2006
Models ranging from 1996 to 2006 are extremely reliable and can last quite a while if properly serviced. They average a lifespan of around 250,000 miles, but many cars have surpassed the 300,000-mile mark. Some of these vehicles are still on the roads and their exteriors seem solid and intact, just like the reliable and powerful engine below the hood.
BMWs from 2006 – 2014
Most BMW cars from between 2006 and 2014 are less reliable than earlier models. They last between 120,000 and 200,000 miles. The newer electronics installed in the cars often tend to break and are less reliable than their old-school ancestors, the 1996 – 2004 BMW 3 Series, which are known as the most bulletproof BMWs of all time.
BMWs from 2014 – 2020
New models from between 2014 and 2020 are known to last around 100,000 to 150,000 miles. Newer electronics and BMW’s novel innovations tend to sometimes malfunction and leave you on the road.
Of course, some models are more reliable than others and despite the more recent release stigma around BMW reliability, some of the newest models are quite good. The BMW X3, and 1 Series, as well as the 2014 BMW 4-series and the BMW 2014 X5, are all great and can last a long time on the road if properly maintained.
Another read for you: What is the worst BMW to buy used
How can you make your BMW last longer?
How long cars last in general mainly depends on maintenance, servicing, and driving habits. Most importantly, schedule maintenance at least once every 12-month period or per 8,000 – 10,000 miles, depending on whether you drive in town or on the highway.
If you are driving more in city traffic, schedule maintenance inspections more often since using your vehicle more to start and stop in traffic is rougher on your car than driving on the highway. Avoid aggressive driving and keep all fluids in proper amounts. Most BMWs either have issues with the electronics or with some part of the coolant system. Drivetrain problems are very rare unless your vehicle has passed the warranty mileage mark.
Change the oil filter every 3,000 miles or even more frequently than recommended. Don’t forget to monitor fluids such as power steering juice and brake fluids. Always check with your manufacturer what previous oil and oil filters were used and need to be placed on your vehicle.
Deal with car problems immediately
Eliminate minor problems right away, as they can evolve and become costly in a few months. If you notice any oil or fuel spills or excessive fumes inspect your BMW right away, as it might mean there is an issue with your engine forming. Problems do not go away on their own and the sooner they’re fixed, the better.
Use genuine BMW OEM parts
When replacing broken and faulty parts of your engine or safety systems, make sure you use certified BMW parts. The mechanic you use should have a BMW OEM (original equipment manufacturer) certification. Try to inspect your vehicle at least once each month. You can do that by yourself or visit a mechanic for a quick inspection.
If you haven’t driven your vehicle for quite a long time, visiting a mechanic before going back on the road is a must.
Take care of your car’s exterior and interior
In terms of the exterior of your BMW, washing and waxing it can help to remove dust particles and prevent rust, chipping, and salt damage. Moreover, cleaning the interior could help slow down the wear and tear on the mats and upholstery.
Check on your tires
Maintaining your tires should be a must. If you drive with low-pressure or high-pressure tires, you might end up wearing them out in no time and endangering yourself, your passengers, your vehicle, and others on the road. Not only proper pressure, but also tire balance and suspension geometry are important.
Don’t override the clutch
An issue most manual transmission cars encounter at least once per their lifetime is a broken clutch. If you ride the clutch for too long, holding it at the biting point, that might wear it down in time. If needed, rather use the handbrake, in order to tackle a steep hill. Using the clutch, although shows some skills, might actually damage your car more than it helps.
Avoid running out of fuel
If you run out of fuel quite often, dust and particles can get into the tank and damage the bottom. Moreover, rust can pile up and be sucked by the fuel pump, further damaging the engine of your car.
Don’t make engine modifications
Avoid pumping up and modifying your BMW’s engine without taking the fueling and ignition timings into consideration as this might offset your engine and make it function below optimal levels.
Is it a good idea to buy a used BMW?
On a general note, no. Buying a used BMW and landing a good purchase might be challenging. BMWs lose their value quickly for a reason. If you are trying to purchase a good BMW second-hand, make sure it’s a reliable model. Also, avoid purchasing from car dealerships and pre-pay a mechanic to inspect the vehicle before you test-ride it.
Which are the best old second-hand BMWs to buy?
Depending on your style, preferences, and reason for purchasing the vehicle, you might consider the 2003 E39 M5 for sport or the 1993 to 2000 E36 3 Series for everyday use. The 2003 and 2004 BMW E46s are also good for everyday use, as well as the more recent 2016 BMW M2 model.
All of these are extremely reliable BMWs that can be driven for hundreds of thousands of miles if maintained well.
Why do older BMWs break down less and are more reliable?
The old-school BMWs were designed for the driver to be able to maintain them himself with a toolset. They are less complex and lack complicated electronics that often malfunction and break in newer models. The lack of computers and the abundance of mechanical parts made it easier to determine the issue yourself.