BMW has made a name for itself when it comes to performance and driving pleasure. On the other hand, it’s a brand that is also notorious for its expensive repair costs and constant breakdowns. Fortunately, there are BMW models that fit between these two stereotypes and not only deliver great performance and an enjoyable driving experience, but are also reliable.
The most reliable BMW models include the E36 from the 1990s and E46 from 1997-2006, whose materials and bulletproof engines last longer than that of many new vehicles today. The F30 is one of the more reliable newer models.
What are the most reliable BMW models?
Overall, the most reliable and best-selling BMWs have been BMW 3 Series throughout the years. It sells well due to its reliability and wide engine options. Here are some of the specific reliable models BMW has released.
BMW E36 (1990 – 2000)
The E36 from 1990 to 2000 featured very few electronics that could malfunction and owners, surprisingly, rarely reported coolant problems compared to other BMW models.
The BMW 3 Series cars manufactured during this time period have been labeled as having bulletproof engines since some of the cars have been driven for more than 400,000 miles and are still running today. Of course, these were and are still properly maintained with care.
Not only is this older model pretty much the most reliable BMW, but it is also cheap and a good car to start your BMW adventure with. Having a good feel of what a real BMW really is, before investing in a newer model is a good idea. This old-school beauty can do that for you, and more.
BMW E46 (1997 – 2006)
This older BMW 3 Series model is considered one of the most reliable BMW cars ever made. Many of these 3 Series (E46) were produced, so it’s not too hard to find a well-maintained second-hand one.
The body of this model, much like the E36, almost never develops any squeaks or rust and remains solid. It’s handling never falters and the engine delivers a smooth and powerful performance even after having reached its mile limits.
BMW F30 (2011 – 2019)
Not a lot of time has passed since these were released, but so far, they have proven themselves to be reliable and good all-around BMWs and a good successor to the E46 and E36.
2011 BMW F30 models are reviewed as very reliable cars that rarely break down. However, just because the F30 has good reliability reviews, doesn’t mean you should expect less servicing and fewer repair costs. These performance beasts are no Toyota or Honda, and will still cost you a lot to maintain and drive.
You should also keep in mind that the reliability comparison has been made in comparison to other BMW models and not to other car brands. Most BMW models, aside from the 1990-2006 E36 and E46 3 Series models, are not very reliable and much more costly to own compared to other luxury sedans.
BMW E90 (2006 – 2011)
The BMW E90 has minor high-pressure fuel system issues and a twin turbocharger failure, but aside from that, it does not pose any serious issues or drivetrain problems. This puts it in on the last place on the list, but it still makes it on the list.
It’s way more reliable than most other unmentioned models like the newer X3 or the 2010 – 2017 BMW 5 Series or some M4 models that experience crank hub failures with engines out of sync.
Why are most BMWs unreliable?
If a BMW is mainly driven outside of city traffic and is properly maintained and serviced, it can drive even beyond 200,000 miles. However, when it needs repairs, all BMW parts are expensive and labor costs tend to go up each year.
Newer BMW models are filled with luxury electronics that malfunction easily and boost repair costs to the sky.
In addition, minor mechanical issues might cost a lot to repair since parts and labor are very expensive. Coolant system failure is something else BMW owners consistently report of. BMWs, fortunately, rarely experience drivetrain issues.
If BMW drivers skip the maintenance schedule or service their cars half-way, they may actually suffer from much higher ownership costs. Unlike a Honda or a Toyota, a BMW requires very punctual servicing timing.
Change your BMW’s oil right away when the time comes and don’t postpone it. Avoiding issues with make them compound over time, ending up costing you a lot more than you were trying to save by avoiding service in the first place.
Fortunately, there are some models that do not break as often as others and require less expert maintenance.
How to spot a reliable second-hand BMW
Contrary to popular belief, purchasing a used BMW might be a good idea. If you are looking to experience the pleasure of driving the brand and are looking to do it at a discount, BMWs tend to lose a lot of their initial price right after purchase.
Make sure to follow these tips when looking for a good used BMW.
- Make sure to pick a reliable BMW model before looking for a second-hand one.
- Pre-pay a certified mechanic to look at the car with you and inspect it closely for aggressive driving and possible issues that might arise in the future.
- Avoid purchasing from car dealerships.
- Ask the owner why they are selling. How often have they serviced the car? Has it broken down before? If you catch them in a lie, regardless of what it is, chances are they’ve lied about other things too.
- Hop in for a test-drive before purchasing. Run away from unnatural engine sounds and oil leaks.
FAQs about maintaining a BMW
How long do BMW cars last?
Most BMWs are driven until they reach 120,000 miles, although some models like the E36 and E46 have been driven all the way past 300,000 and even 400,000 miles. Of course, that requires quite a high level of maintenance as well as frequent mechanical inspections.
When do most BMW models start having problems?
If a BMW is maintained properly, most BMWs can be driven for around 80,000 miles before you experience a serious issue. That would most often be a failed coolant system. It consists of several parts and each tends to break on different occasions.
How expensive are BMWs to maintain?
Compared to other car brands, BMWs are the most expensive to maintain, along with a few other luxury sedans. It is estimated that the ownership of a BMW, aside from the purchasing price, amounts to about $18,000 for 10 years.
How to Choose the Most Reliable BMW Model
A simple rule can ensure that your car is reliable. Avoid complex mechanisms. Are turbo engines and active suspensions better? These features should be avoided. Advanced SMG transmission? No!
Complex mechanisms and advanced technologies are more likely to fail faster than their simpler counterparts. Complex and sophisticated parts break easily, and they are expensive to repair or maintain. This applies to all cars, not just BMW models.
For the best reliability, stick with the base models. You will save money on maintenance, repairs will not be costly, parts will be readily available, and your vehicle will have a high resale price.
New BMW vs. Old BMW reliability
BMW has been evolving over the years, just like every other car brand. The brand has changed so much that some people mistakenly consider the newer model BMWs to be a different car brand. The E36 and E46 models were much more reliable and cost-effective than the newer model. They were also designed to be more driver-friendly. Even though it has been a complaint that BMW uses plastic parts in its coolant system (including the older 3 Series), this is not a new problem.