What is the maintenance $ on a 3 series

katsdadkatsdad Member Posts: 1
edited March 2014 in BMW
I am new to the BMW market. I am thinking about buying a '96-'98 3 series. What I would like to know is what costs are typical for these cars for average yearly maintenance. I would appreciate any input.


  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    You might click on the tab marked "Ownership" at the top of this page, and then click on "Maintenance Guide". This feature will calculate the costs of your next service. You can compare it to other makes of cars if you wish to get a better idea for comparison purposes.

    Depending on how much you drive, a typical major service for a 3 series seems to run in the $400 range. This of course doesn't include "expendables" like tires, or unexepcted repairs either.

    Generally, I ballpark a car like this at $100/150 a month to keep everything up to a high standard.

    This presumes, of course, that you are starting out with a very well cared for used car.
  • q45manq45man Member Posts: 416
    High standards is such a variable COST term!
    Many people just want one to crank and a rare few demand it be as new in every aspect.....the differences can amount to thousands per year!

    Since it depends on where you live since the hourly labor cost can vary from $120/hr [CA/manhattan] to $50/hr [Mississippi], and labor is roughly half the equation.
    7-11 cents per mile plus any adjustment from the average $85/hr.
    The State of Texas did some calulations on its car fleet and it average 8 cents per mile and we can assume the vehicles were not kept perfect.

    There are diffferences among engine sizes 4 vs. 6 cylinder and manual vs automatic, tire sizes and driveer abuse constant and local traffic conditions [brake applications per mile].

    Tires can vary from $60 each to $150 each.

    Always budget a few thousand on any used car to make it right initially, then start the per month cost!
  • armtdmarmtdm Member Posts: 2,057
    As the old saying goes, if you can afford a high maintenance unreliable (consumer reports) car like the 3 series you should not have to ask about the maintenance cost!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    I think the two are mutually exclusive. If you perform a high standard of maintenance, your 3 Series will not be unreliable; if you try to scrape by with skipping service intervals or going to unqualified shops, in order to save money, the car may indeed bite you now and then. BMW is not all that forgiving a car, especially as it ages.

    One might say "well, why go through that trouble when I can buy a Camry and not have to spend as much to keep the car in good order", and that is a perfectly logical argument.

    If you take good care of your 3 Series it will give you good service. It's not for nothing that it is the car everyone copies.
  • q45manq45man Member Posts: 416
    The other part of the equation is to remember that factory service intervals are created to just get the car thru the warranty period with minimal cost to factory!
    Maintenance for the long haul [say 200k] is something else. Equating maintenance vs replacement......will annual fluid exchanges [besides oil]increase component life.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    I like to use my rather shopworn "bank account" analogy.

    If you own a new car, and you make "withdrawals" (use) without making "deposits" (maintenance) you will eventually be bankrupt.

    How much you deposit to keep the balance operative depends on the car itself and its requirements.

    On the one hand, labor rates are about the same for all makes of cars, but complexity might require more labor in one car than another; also, a part for a BMW is going to cost more than for a Chevrolet (usually) so that's a factor, too.

    So we have a Rolls Royce on one end of the maintenance spectrum ( the horrifying end) and maybe a Corolla or Sentra on the other end of the spectrum. A BMW is probably on the high end of middle but certainly not "up there" with Ferrari or even Benz I don't think. Maybe the V-12 would be, but not a 3 Series.

    I bet $100/150 a month is pretty close to reality over the course of a couple years.
  • kyfdxkyfdx Moderator Posts: 216,290
    If its only mechanical repair and routine maintenance, $150 might be about right. But, if you are going to add in tires and brake pads, I'm betting its going to be closer to $200/mo. Most 3-series go through $600-700 sets of tires about every 25K miles. Most people coming from a Honda or Toyota have little idea what they are in for. I'm not saying its not worth it, its just a shock for most people.


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  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    Well tires are going to be $$$ on any "performance" type car, because that's how cars like Corvette or G35 get their great handling numbers.

    If you drive aggressively you are going to eat up tires, especially on a somewhat heavy car (as opposed to a Miata) and if you drive a lot you are going to eat up brake pads.

    some taxi cab companies replace brakes every 6 weeks!
  • gordonwdgordonwd Member Posts: 337
    >If you drive aggressively you are going to eat up tires, especially on a somewhat heavy car (as opposed to a Miata) and if you drive a lot you are going to eat up brake pads.

    I don't know -- my Audi A4 has almost 50K on it and I'm on the original brake pads. I keep asking about them on every service, and they keep saying they don't need changing yet (and I'm sure they would like to replace them if they could). They did say that manual trans cars are easier on the brakes because the drivers tend to use more engine braking.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    Hmmm...certainly all drivers are different and have different ideas of what fast hard driving means and what is appropriate. I would never get 50K out of a set of brakes. On my Saab turbo I used to get about 8K on a set of front tires and maybe 15K on brakes.

    I've calmed down a bit since then.
  • armtdmarmtdm Member Posts: 2,057
    An M3 for example uses the 10W60 oil which they charge $$$$/quart. Also have to deal with the arrogance of the BMW service dept with their know it all attitude.
  • q45manq45man Member Posts: 416
    Hopefully, the factory schooled technicans learn from the factory instructors, what the factory engineers know about the car they designed.

    Arrogance? Or forcing you to do maintenance when you don't want to pay? And all they are trying to do is get the car to last FOR YOU.

    Wish performance car buyers were forced to attend a 7 day 18 hour per day intensive school before being ALLOWED to buy! That's arrogance not using a special oil.
  • fowvayfowvay Member Posts: 29
    I know that you're asking about a older model but I just want to share my personal experiences. I have a 1999 E46 323i that was put into service in november of 1998. It's coming upon 5 years old. Even though BMW offered "free" maintenance for the first 4 years I have been reluctant to return my machine back to the dealership. I simply don't trust them.

    My ownership costs over the past 5 years have amounted to practically nothing. I have done my own maintenance but even following the service intervals the costs have been miniscule. I have done two brake fluid flushes, one coolant flush, one air filter, one cabin air filter, and after several samplings of the motor oil I have settled on 5000 mile oil drain intervals with Mobil-1 10W-30.

    The only part that I've had to replace other than normal maintenance items was a plastic slider hook that holds the sunroof interior panel in its track. This part cost me $14 from my local dealership. They would have replaced it under warranty but wanted me to leave my car for 3 days which was foolish considering it was a 30 minute replacement.

    In all fairness, at the 5 year mark and the 50,000 mile mark I am ready to replace the original tires and the front brake pads and rotors. I have already priced Jurid pads and Balo rotors on the internet and my front brake replacement will cost me less than $125. The rear pads and rotors are still serviceable. I have not decided on which tires I want to buy but I'm looking at no more than $80 per tire from the tire rack.

    So in all fairness to the marque, you can own a very nice German car for not a whole lot of money. In fact, I'm averaging 25 mpg on my city driving course and have gotten as high as 34 mpg on the highway. The key is to stay on top of maintenance items before they become problems.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    I was thinking of a totally out of warranty car when I was coming up with estimates and likelihood of repairs, so we may not eactly be on the same page but both correct in our ballparks. I'm really 100% behind a totally pro-active maintenance plan for a fine car like a BMW.

    I don't turn rotors and I don't wait 10 miles past the valve adjustment period. MOre expensive? Yes and no. Yes in the beginning but now with a couple hundred thousand miles on my car I'm enjoying a "like new" car that's all paid for and runs great.
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