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Buying a Used 3-Series



  • There's no way to know and no way to guarantee even 100 more miles on a car of this age and mileage.

    Roadburner's advice is, however, a GREAT way to improve your odds.

    So a lot depends entirely on how well it was cared for in the first place (not in your control) AND how well YOU care for it in the future (totally in your control).

    Let's be real here---a car with this mileage is like a man who is 75 years old. Could live to a hundred, could drop on the tennis court tomorrow.

    Statistically, (and statistics are often misleading) the average car in America lasts 10-11 years. If we assume 15,000 miles a year, then there you go.

    But that includes mishaps like accidents, theft, etc.---also not in your control half the time.

    (I read somewhere that even if our bodies could be made disease-free and we couldn't die, that within 200 or 300 years we'd get blown up or something anyway). :P

    Speaking only with anecdotal evidence, which proves nothing, in my appraisal work I rarely see an older car of any type at 300K, but I do see them at 225K or so fairly frequently. And the rare ones at 300K have certainly had an investment of maintenance and/or repair.

    So it may turn out that your budget will determine the car's ultimate longevity. BMWs are tough cars but they don't like neglect. This isn't a '65 Chevy.

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  • 0435004350 Posts: 26
    I had a 89 325 conv until a few years ago. The car handled poorly on snowy
    roads. I can remember doing a 720 (turned a circle twice) when it slid and fortunately there was almost no traffic on the suburban road where I was at
    because it was about 6:50 AM.

    There are a few sites where you can buy many used parts for these BMWs
    on the internet. I can remember the dealer quoted us $ 1,600 for a new
    air conditioner compressor in 2006. Someone else fixed the ac for us without
    replacing the comp for about $ 200. The dealer also missed recommending
    a repair that was actually needed and was unable to re-set the dashboard
    light for the brakes which the buyer from us told me that he was able to do.

    Remember that parts fail not only due to high miles but also just
    age and rust.
  • 0435004350 Posts: 26
    Oops. I meant a "720" not a "760."
  • with an older BMW you pretty much stay away from dealers for repairs, if you can. They don't even like to work on older BMWs and will probably punish you for bringing one in.

    Indy shops, wrecking yards, BMW club, internet--this is the way to go I think. I kept my 735 alive for pretty cheap--the previous owner spent a fortune. The AC was the biggest challenge to make truly efficient, and also the usual electrical glitches you get with old German cars.
  • Oh yeah, the AC doesnt work either, but I think I'm gonna buy it unless I hear a strong disapproval from people more experienced with BMW's than I. Thanks.
  • well think of it as a learning experience for you. If the car doesn't work out, you can always sell it for that money and get something better. My only advice is don't put TOO MUCH MONEY in it.

    If you want a really "nice" BMW, save up your money and buy one already done.

    This one should be for transportation, tinkering and learning IMO.

    If something really BAD happens to the car (engine failure, transmission failure) just junk it and start over. But a clutch, well you can deal with that yourself and shop for a cheap clutch pack on the internet.

    Also learn to love eBay.

    My Old Used Car With a Gazillion Miles on It Rules of Thumb:

    1. Check under the hood A LOT. Look for leaks, problems, looseness

    2. If the temp needle goes in the red, STOP RIGHT THERE.

    3. If the oil light comes on, STOP RIGHT THERE

    4. Change your own oil and filter

    5. Never listen to advice about a BMW from someone who has never owned one.

    6. Never listen to advice in an Auto Parts Store

    7. Shop around for everything. You'd be amazed at how much money you can save.

    8. Do not abuse an old car. Be easy on it. It is like an old dog, don't throw the stick too far.

    9. Fix things as they come up. Don't defer until you have a list of 15 defects.

    10. Your tachometer is your best friend. Pay attention to it as you shift.
  • Alright, thanks.
    I have basically no budget and I need a car that runs (preferably manual, easier to work with in my opinion). Your advice has helped quite a bit and now I am armed with knowledge on what will most likely go wrong with this car. Thanks for your help.
  • srs_49srs_49 Posts: 1,394
    I've had my '87 325 since 1999, when I bought it for $2500 with 125,000 mile on it. In the 9.5 years I've owned it, I've spent around $5400 on repairs, maintenance, and wear-and-tear items (tires, windshield wipers, oil changes, etc), doing much of the work myself. Car now has ~188,000 miles on it (can't tell exactly because odometer has not been working for past 2 years or so). I drive it half time - alternating with a '92 Sentra SE-R.

    You're looking to buy a comparable car with more mile than mine, so be prepared to cough up some bucks for maintenance or repairs.

    BTW, my AC doesn't work either, but I can live with that. Both front control arms have been replaced, as has the steering rack. Timing belt and water pump were replaced at the 144K miles mark.

    Mr. Shiftright's reference as to what thing to look for seems pretty much in agreement with my experience.
  • Would you recommend the purchase then?
  • lokkilokki Posts: 1,200
    If you NEED the car for transportation, and money is tight, you're crazy. You can get a car with less potential, but less potential expense in it for the same dollars. An old Toyota Corolla, or an old GM car will serve you much better as routine transportation.

    If you already have a second car that will get you to work pretty regularly when this one is waiting parts (or waiting for you to have the time to put them in) then - maybe.

    My wife's 98 328i is a pampered child - never parked outside day or night- has 50K miles on it since 1998 - she only drives about 6 K a year but drives it regularly to work and back. Maintained, literally, by the book. However, when I go through the "things that are gonna happen" checklist that Mr. Shiftright has provided, it's a near perfect match for the things I've done for her car. The radiator, the bushings, the window regulator, the leaky valve cover gasket, and now last weekend, the thermostat (fortunately in the open position).

    The next ones will be (according to the check list) the water pump, and then the fan clutch.

    None of these are a big deal individually as, fortunately, I can afford them, and they don't pop up very close together. Still, just for routine maintenance like this, and then adding in tires, brakes, etc, I'm probably averaging $200 a month over the course of a year. Unfortunately, that's nothing for six months and then $800 and then nothing for a few months and so on. You'll spend less dollars since you can do your own work, but you'll spend more hours, and during those hours you won't be driving.

    Final note of experience. If you don't have a garage to work in - you're parking outside - then this car won't be practical. Some jobs are going to take you two or three days at a minimum - to get the part you didn't know you needed when you started, or the tool that you have to borrow from somebody, halfway through the job.

    Me? I'd hold off and wait a little. Given economic conditions, you should be able to pick up a better old BMW for a few K more that will allow you to skip some of the maintenance anything this old will need. Better to invest the money up front for a better car, than to spend the same money later for parts.

    When I was young and thin, and poor, I owned an old Alfa Spider, so I come by these opinions honestly.

    Still, in the end the decision has to be yours.

    "The heart has its reasons that the mind knows nothing of"
  • the only thing I can add to lokki is this----"never gamble more than you can afford to lose".

    Can this car go another 75,000 miles? Sure, probably, given its good care (allegedly).

    Will those 75,000 miles be relatively trouble-free? No, that is simply not realistic thinking.

    Let's frame it this way---aside from gas and insurance, can you afford to put $100 to $150 a month into this car, averaged out over a couple of years?

    If "yes I think so", then okay, give it a shot.

    If "no, I really don't want to do that every month" then no, don't buy it.

    Get an old Corolla....turn the key, drive it, park it, abuse it, crash doesn't mind.
  • srs_49srs_49 Posts: 1,394
    Given that you have no budget, I would say no. I think you would be doing extremely well with that car if you only put $100-$150/month into it.

    Look for a used Civic or Corolla, though those tend to be a bit pricey.

    Something used from Detroit would probably be more in your price range, but I don't really have a good recommendation there. I did good with a used '94 Merc Tracer I bought for my son 8 years ago (120,000 miles on it, paid something like $2000 for it). Guy my wife worked with was moving out of the country.

    Any retirement communities near you? Lots of times you can find some really good deals there from someone giving up their license and vehicle.
  • adagadag Posts: 5
    Test drove the two (among others) and am leaning towards the BMW.

    BMW '07 328i (20K Miles & @$21.5K) vs Acura '06 TL (19K Miles @$21.5K). There are factory warranty's available- 4yr/50K miles.. essentially 2 years on the BMW vs a year on the Acura. What other factor should I consider prior to purchasing? Moving to SF Bay area- and possibly drive 120 miles/day.

    This is the first time I am going to this car segment after driving a reliable Honda Civic. Appreciate advise and cautions

  • Don't know how it's equipped, but the deal on the BMW looks a lot better...

    One other thing to factor in... No charge for service on the BMW until the warranty expires...

    600 miles per week? Shewwwwww.. get a new

    Moderator - Prices Paid, Lease Questions, SUVs

  • srs_49srs_49 Posts: 1,394
    They're both fine vehicles.

    IMO (I have an '87 BMW and my son has a TL type S), the BMW is sportier and more fun to drive, while, over the long run, the Acura will be cheaper for maintenance and repairs.

    If it were me, I would go for the BMW, particularly given that they're the same price and the BMW is a year newer.

    How are they equiped?
  • adagadag Posts: 5
    Acura TL: Pwr Seat, Pwr Sunroof, Pwr Windows, Pwr Locks, A/C, Cruise, CD, Leather, Heated Seats, Security System, Alloys, Traction Control, Xenon Lights.

    BMW: Pwr Seat, Pwr Sunroof, Pwr Windows, Pwr Locks, A/C, Cruise, CD, Leather, Heated Seats, Security System, Alloys, Traction Control

    Should I be taking an extended warranty? I am buying the car in minneapolis and moving to SF Bay Area in another month or so. Alternatively, I can buy the car in SF, but the location difference makes up the difference in price for similar cars in the two cities.
  • srs_49srs_49 Posts: 1,394
    In general, I'm not a fan of extended warranties.

    For one, anything that makes a lot money for the company has to be a bad deal for the consumer.

    Second, the extended warranties I've looked at tend to have lots of caveats and exceptions, such as:
    1. Vehicle must be serviced by the dealer (pricey).
    2. Normal wear-and-tear items (brakes) are excluded".
    3. There's usually a deductible (per visit?, or per incident?).

    That said, there are people who have made out with such a policy. Friend of mine saved several thousand dollars when the tranny in his GMC Yukon had to be replaced at the 60,000 mile mark. But, that's a GMC Yukon - not an Acura.

    IMO, just put the money you would spend on the extended warranty aside (maybe buy some GM stock with it ;)), ready for use should the need arise.
  • extended warranties can be tricky. Sometimes, rather than list all the "exclusions", they'll only mention things that ARE covered, leaving you to deduce by elimination those items which are not covered.
  • backybacky Twin CitiesPosts: 18,618
    So you don't remember the Acura tranny problems and recall of a few years back, do you?

    Look at it this way... some folks here have said they budget $100-150 a month for repairs. Over, say, eight years that's $10-14,000. An extended warranty for that period costs how much? I just got one on a used Jetta for $1900 (8 years bumper-to-bumper). On a BMW it would likely be more. Added a few bucks to my monthly payment. I'd rather have predictable costs for repairs over the lifetime of a car than unpredictable and possible very large costs. Not for everyone, but it works for me.
  • srs_49srs_49 Posts: 1,394
    No, I don't (remember the Acura tranny problems). Not owning one myself, I probably didn't pay any attention to it.

    On my '87 BMW that I bought used back in 1999, I've spent $~5,400 in repairs and maintenance (tires included). That's $45/month, with me doing a lot of the work myself.

    I look at insurance (which is what an extended warranty is) to protect me against a catastrophic financial loss - house burning down, I total someone's big Mercedes; loss of life, that sort of thing. I don't need it to cover replacing wiper blades or brake pads on my vehicle. Even a clutch or tranny repair I can cover, if it comes up.

    But, like you said, what works for some doesn't for others.
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