By on October 20, 2010

This vehicle was worth over $80,000 back in the good old days of Bush the Elder. Now? Not so much. The Bimmer pictured here has no check engine light.. The transmission shifts perfectly. It has 104k original miles with no accident history, and a raft of parts have recently been put into this vehicle by the prior owner. Someone loved this car and sold their first born in the process to keep it up.

However, it will still need about $500 to $700 for the suspension system to be perfected. The airbag light is on. The driver’s seat has some wear (see pictures), and the gas consumption of an old V12 is somewhere between a Countach and a Valdez. Today’s question for the Best and Brightest… which one of the four options would maximize my return? A cash deal? Finance? Rental? Wholesale?

I can sell it for cash on Autotrader, Craigslist, Ebay, the local paper, and at least a dozen other sites for car buyers. Even an enthusiast site may be worth the while given the near immaculate condition of the exterior. If I did this I would be looking to have an asking price around the $4,000 range. But if I put it on Ebay, it will go for no reserve. I’ve found that reserves tend to depress final bid prices by about 10% to 20%. The October/mid-November period tends to be a very slow period in the car businesses. No taxes. No ‘spending’ holidays. No bonuses. So my selling price would likely end up in the low to mid 3’s.

Then there’s the finance route. People pay big money for the big names. Lexus, Mercedes & BMW are as prestigious as they get and folks often pay big money to drive a car with one of those name. This particular one being a low mileage BMW flagship… it could be worth a pretty penny.

We have a very low mileage 1992 SC400 financed at over eight grand at the moment and a 1993 Lexus firmly in the sixes, a $5,000 to $6,000 finance deal is definitely attainable.

If I go in this direction, I have to figure out whether I want to make it a finance or a ‘rent to own’ deal. The later requires no down payment, but a traditionally riskier customer. The finance route would potentially yield $1000 down and $60 a week for 24 months. Would this BMW be a low maintenance ride for my paycheck to paycheck customers? If not, would I be willing to put the repair bills at the back of the loan at no interest? The return is likely exceptional. But I have to make sure that the revenues outweigh the expenses and risk.

I bought this one on the cheap. $1,000 from a new car dealership in town. The auction tacked on a $120  buy fee and I had it transported to the lot for $50. If I ‘wholesale’ it, I would want at least two grand and my net profit would probably be around $600. Not a lot of money. But you can make a surprisingly good living by finding four to five ‘flips’ a week. You also have no stress and no collateral issues. Once it’s sold… it’s gone. I can just as easily make this one a flip and move on to the next deal.

So which one should I do? Sell for cash, finance it, rent to own, or wholesale?

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70 Comments on “Hammer Time: Sell, Lease, Rent, or Kill? – 1989 BMW 750il...”

  • avatar

    Sell it…
    …to me.

  • avatar

    Screw selling it – keep it yourself. That thing is awesome. Hell, the console looks like it might even pointed at the driver – imagine that!

  • avatar

    750il requires 75 barrels of Oil to operate…
    Sell it…

  • avatar

    Since getting your money back is the goal, wholesale it for the $600.  But if you were to keep it then definitely try to kill it, just try, it wont be easy.  I had a ’82 733i I tried to kill and it left for the west coast with 300k+ on the clock, last word it was still on the road.  These things are tough.

    • 0 avatar

      But also tought to afford if (and by if I mean when) things go tits-up, which, let’s be honest, these particular cars are bound to do. And when they do… well, let’s hope your line of credit has substantial room on it.

  • avatar

    I thought BMW v12s were tempermental.
    Keep it to teach yourself a lesson about older German performance sedans and the true cost of maintenance

  • avatar

    I would wash my hands of it before you get any personal attachment.   
    If you decided to carry the finance for a low rent customer they would think you sold them a lemon the first time it was repaired.   There are no cheap 750 repairs.

    80’s Euro cars are cheap for a reason. 

    No reserve eBay all the way!

    Case in point, my 84 Audi 5000 wagon with only 31,000 miles.
    I thought… I love the styling & handling, why not make it the family vehicle.  It should be dependable and easy to keep up with the low miles.   This thing will be renamed a Gremlin!  It keeps a spanner in my hand when I am at home and wifey has it at the repair shop when I am in China.   
    I always say, give it one more chance.   (Actually doing that right now) 
    It’s just like a bad stock, I should have sold it before!

  • avatar

    flip it, the money’s made in the buyin’….

  • avatar

    It’s beautiful (but missing a hood emblem).  Four more cylinders and four more spark plugs than a 740…  I’m betting on it being a maintenance/repair headache.

    • 0 avatar

      “Four more cylinders and four more spark plugs…”
      Before I got to the ‘than’, I thought you were advocating the addition of four more cylinders and spark plugs. Which, I have to ask – has anyone ever actually made a V14? I guess vibration would probably be a problem, but it’d be awesome just for the sheer oddness.

  • avatar

    Sell it for cash.  Anyone who wants to spend a mere $4,000-$,6000 on a top-line BMW probably can’t afford to keep a V12 running.  If it turns out to be a typical V12, the owner could eventually run out of money for payments, which is a good thing only if it’s one of those deals where you can get more money/business out of the buyer for being late.

    Probably not a vehicle you’d want to repo, given that under these circumstances (theoretically, anyway), it would need an expensive repair.

    I wish I could say otherwise… they’re such magnificent cars, but fundamentally fragile. If it were a 735iL, I’d probably vote to keep it as a rental. Heck, I might even try to buy it myself…

  • avatar

    Sell it, now, before some typically bank-busting repair hits you out of the blue.  Put it on eBay with no reserve, good photos, and full disclosure… and hope the high bidder isn’t a total flake.

    I like driving BMWs… when they are either new and under warranty or belong to someone else.  But they are vastly overated in terms of reliability.  I’ve owned three after saying “give them another chance… they are great to drive” each time and I’ve now vowed to never go back.  Expensive repairs, horrible dealer service, and too much time off the road for fixes.  I even had a BMW motorcycle once that I had to have bought back under lemon law… it was great when it ran, but that was only for 2 months out of the first 6 I owned it!  As fantastic as they were new, I wouldn’t go near a 12-cylinder BMW that’s out of warranty.

  • avatar

    If it was a 735 or 740, I’d say go for it. However, I would stay away from the 750. The throttle or DK motors will go eventually and will cost a fortune to replace. There are some people that have had success rebuilding them, but I don’t know the cost. If it was an 850, I’d put up with the risk, but not a 750. I’d recommend going wholesale.

  • avatar

    Definitely sell it off the lot. That way you’ll practically guarantee generating another amazing tale of woe for TTAC readers and commentors!

    Personally, I can’t wait!

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    A 21-year old German car with legendarily expensive repair parts, assuming you can even get them?
    Do you have to even think about this?  Take the money and run.  Don’t lease, don’t finance; don’t rent-to-own.  The first 4-digit repair job your customer encounters, he’ll stop paying you and you will be “in the hole.”
    Until I sold it in 1987, I had an Audi 5000 that was more or less kept running by an independent shop that also fixed BMWs.  (In fact, a BMW-owning friend recommended the shop to me.)  I recall a conversation with the owner specifically about the 750 with the V-12: he described it as a “horribly complex” machine.  He should know; the conversation was prompted by my seeing one in the shop to be repaired.
    This is truly one of those cars for which the purchase price is only the beginning of what the buyer pays for it.  The kinds of folks you describe as your regular customers should run away from this car as fast as they can, and not be seduced by its clean appearance.
    I had a friend who owned a grey-market BMW 745 in the mid-1980s.  (745s were never legally imported into the US)  It was a very nice car; I drove it.  It had a turbocharged version of BMW’s big 3.2 or 3.4 liter six with a turbo- producing about 250 hp.  The automatic transmission failed, and my friend said it cost him $7,000 to replace it — in 1987!

  • avatar

    If its anything like the truly wonderful 1996 750iL my Dad once owned, burn it. Immediately!
    That way it can’t tease anyone with its clean styling and awesome performance, while murdering their wallet…ever again.

  • avatar

    Any Bimmer owner clubs in your neck of the woods, Steven? Seems like that kind of network could yield the kind of cash-flush, fault-blind (or at least fault-accepting) buyer that would maximize your return with a minimum of effort.
    This car definitely looks like it deserves better than going home with a desperate Get-Me-Done.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    The Steve Miller Band is your friend here: take the money and run.

    Read, and despair:

    • 0 avatar

      Interesting site. One thing he does not disclose though is how much he paid when he bought the seven-year-old car. And that a 13-year-old car with about 120k miles isn’t worth anything is hardly unusual.

  • avatar

    Sell!!  Those big luxury cars are a cruel joke for the second or third owner.  Expensive, expensive, lack of good service.  Going to be a lot of the high end cars, with pristine interior/exterior but blown motor / transmission going to the junk yard for salvage of use-able parts.  Getting a competent mechanic to do an engine overhaul will cost several times what the car is worth, and the car will need more fixes every couple of months.

  • avatar

    Chevy LSx engine / Tremec 6-speed transplant?
    Clean Teutonic styling + reliable American V8 power.

  • avatar

    When is BMW (and Saab too, for that matter) going to learn how to manufacture a hood emblem that withstands the test of time? Every other Saab or Bimmer I see that’s more than ten years old has a blank chrome medallion where the emblem used to be but wore off somehow.

  • avatar

    No reserve eBay Motors auction with an opening bid price equal to what you would get for it wholesale.
    Therefore, you can only do better if a few people bid it up further.
    If it does not sell, then wholesale it.

  • avatar

    My rule of thumb is “anything under $5k, cash sale” A buyer who needs to finance that amount is definitely risky (can’t get a credit card promo?). What happens when they get their first repair bill before they’ve paid you off? Movable collateral is always a gamble, and that car has some valuable parts on it.
    Go with an enthusiast who has the funds and the know-how, and don’t waste your time answering too many questions or setting up payments for people who don’t know what they’re getting into.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    When you go to bed tonight Steve, that BMW will not shut its eyes.

    No, it will stay awake, in the dark, pondering sinister, Teutonic thoughts. Scheming up ways it’ll break your heart (and your bank account) in the morning.

    Cash? Finance? Rent? Wholesale?

    My advice: Whichever is fastest. The sooner you cast evil from your midst, the better.

  • avatar

    The 7 series is notorious for poor resale value. Given the financial headaches that lay ahead with a sled like this, I would dump it now. How you might get $2000 for that car puzzles me however. A 1997 BMW 750il is in Galves wholesale for $4,300 with 93K. Your car is 8 years older (albeit with low miles). Sounds like a $1000 car at best.

  • avatar

    It’s worth more dead than alive.
    1) Sell the perfectly running engine to someone that needs a V-12 to drop in a perfect body.
    2) Repeat step 1 with the tranny.
    3) Repeat steps 1 &2 with the body for some Yankee Bimmer with body cancer.
    4) Put your kids through some GOOD schools.

  • avatar
    thats one fast cat

    Yeah, I know they aren’t exactly fuel efficient, but man can they go down the highway with alacrity.
    As much as it pains me to say (having owned two 750iLs, a 1999 and a 2000), my advice is to sell as absolutely quickly as you can.  Every day you own it the pin in the hand grenade gets a little bit closer to falling out, and when it does (whoops, sir, your transmission just failed) it is eye wateringly expensive even with used parts.
    Better to flip and make ~60% on your money than end up at worse than zero when this bad boy needs something, and believe you me, it will need something.  That something is your wallet.  All of it.
    Sell it now

  • avatar

    eBay, CL or Autotrader (whatever media you use). Go for the turn n’ burn ASAP. BHPH isn’t worth it on anything with electrical features outside of power windows, much less a beast like this.

    I’m in a similar situation with a near-cherry 1990 420 SEL with 137k bought wholesale for $1750. Gorgeous thorughout with ice-cold A/C and functional everything. I’ve been using it as my driver until the rear calipers got hung up (still getting worked on), but I would risk a BHPH on this tank because it at least seems relatively trouble-free compared to the Bimmer.

    Good luck and good selling either way!

  • avatar

    The top independent BMW specialist here in Denver has been service my cars for over 15 years. He refuses to work on 12-cylinder cars as he can’t keep them running very long. Enough said.

    • 0 avatar

      Time for a new mechanic.  My BMW specialist has been doing the maintenance on my dad’s ’90 750iL since it came off warranty back in the early 90s and the car runs like new.  Other than scheduled maintenance and an A/C compressor, the car has been pretty damn reliable.

  • avatar

    finance it to some sucker willing to pay extra for the badge snobbery and uninterested in the total end of day out of pocket, and more interested in the monthly payment.

  • avatar

    Sell $620 worth of parts off of it, install roll cage, LeMons.

  • avatar

    Hold onto it until the next round of C4C.

  • avatar
    Ian Anderson

    Sell it on a BMW forum or to a local club.

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    Are there any ‘reliable’ Bimmers from that era worth owning?  (reliable in the sense of less than 4-digits/yr US$ to maintain, or shade-tree-wrenchable?)
    Because I <3 the styling and ergonomics pre-Bangle, particularly the E34 or E39s.  I also have a Merc 300SDL and an honest central-European meister mechanic and I’ve been OK with its maintenance costs when amortized over the 9 years I’ve owned it..
    (Not so much with the Beemer 1150GS, I’m thinking a 2011 Kawi Concours 14 in black/black with a warranty would be nice..)

    • 0 avatar

      Why not a bake your own ‘reliable’ old school Bimmer?
      Step 1 – Find a classic example with body and interior in excellent shape.
      Step 2 – Replace the ‘expensive to repair and likely to break pieces’ with mechanicals from a brand known for reliability.
      Step 3 – Drive it for another 250,000 miles.
      Step 4 – Don’t call it a Bimda or Bimyota.

  • avatar
    Amendment X

    What a beautiful design.

  • avatar

    1. Buy a new hood emblem. You can get one for $20 and they’re easy to put on. That will complete the ‘been pampered since birth’ look.

    2.  Sell SELL SELL.   Just as everyone here has said, these are notoriously expensive to repair, and they’re maintenance intensive. Have to flush the radiator and the brake system every two years.  How many times has that mandatory maintenance been skipped since 1989? Was the fluid in the transmission ever changed?

    If you finance it, something expensive is going to break and the buyer is going to gladly hand you the keys and let you worry about getting it repaired.  Worse if you rent to own.  

    I’d go the eBay route with the full disclosure routine.  There’s always a dreamer out there who will buy it, but the ones on eBay won’t be coming back to complain like the local kids.

    My full disclosure, I’ve had a string of four 3 Series and three of them I’ve gotten rid of before the 50K warranty expired. However,  my wife is still driving her (purchased new) 1998 with 61K miles on it now. She loves it and doesn’t want a new one. Although the miles are low I can’t sell it for enough to make it worthwhile getting rid of it.  It has not required any major surgery but it hasn’t been cheap to own either.  It’s been through the whole list of predicted failure points, including the plastic top on the radiator. On the 7 Series, one of the predicted failure points is the whole !$%!% 12 cylinder engine. 

    Oh, she’s pretty to look at, purrs like a tiger  and she’s great in bed, but ultimately it’s your wallet she’s after and she’s going to get it.  

  • avatar

    My dad still drives a 1990 750iL and loves it.  No, it hasn’t been cheap to maintain because of the costly parts but as far as reliability?  It has been preeeettyy, preeetty good (to quote Larry David).  He only has about 66K miles on his but it really has been a terrific car.  He and I are also painfully aware that his car is the exception, not the rule.

  • avatar

    LS-X transplant FTW!!!

  • avatar

    Just take the money & run, there is one adv here in Van CL, says the LED for the speedo, gauges is not light up. I dont know if it were just the light bulb or more involved.
    Some say the V12 use the computer to run everything, i dont think these cars would drop the window couple of cm when u touch the door latch. The Porsche does as they went to frameless window.

  • avatar

    I’d certainly enjoy having a classic luxury car… and with a V-12, no less!  We once had a nicely equipped 940 (bought used, later lost in an accident) and enjoyed having a really nice car.  I even have enough cash that I think I could make Steve Lang tolerably happy with a deal and enough vacation to go to Georgia to pick it up.

    So, I sent a link to my wife, seeking authorization for a bit of certified insanity.

    Sadly, it was a couple of hours before she checked the link and then she called me.

    “Are you crazy?  Did you read the comments?  Everybody says it’s expensive to repair.”

    Ahhhh!!  The comments… there weren’t any when I sent the link!  Of course, I know these are expensive to repair… but I didn’t plan on her finding out.

    It ain’t happenin’.  Nuts.

    Steve, if I were you, I’d consider keeping it, at least for a little while.  It looks to be in nice shape, I’m sure it’s a blast to drive and you’re not out much money if it tanks on you.  Even then, you can probably part it out to cover costs.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    eBay, no reserve, take the money and run.  Or part it out.  But seriously, ditch the Teutonic money pit.

  • avatar

    Steven, is this an IQ test? There’s a reason why you find these lovely teutonic luxo-barges being sold at the 100k mark. The first serious repair – mechanical, electronic, or just electrical – will wipe out the bank account of someone who needs to finance this.

    If you’ve sufficient interest and time, poll the enthusiast boards to see if parting out this is worth it. If you don’t, then just unload it. Given the wonderful shape it’s in, I would give it a month to try a retail sale. But no financing. After a month – less if there are no nibbles – wholesale it.

  • avatar

    Take the money and run, before a four-figure repair bill ends up falling in your lap.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    A quick synopsis…
    Financing this vehicle would be like giving a twenty-four pack of Coke to an 88 year old man with diabetes. You know it’s gonna be ugly. So I’m going to avoid that outcome.
    If this were tax season (February thru April) I would be very tempted to run it through an auction that has a stong demand for under $5k vehicles. Running it under a new car dealer’s name would be the way to go.
    The best alternative is to Ebay it… with a PSS (public service synopsis). The pictures will tell a great story. But you have to fill between the lines and disclose everything possible about this car. An inspection from a friend of mine who services Maseratis and Porsches will aid the buyer and give me a clear conscience.
    CL and Autotrader can be used during the Ebay period. A simple disclosure that states that the seller can pull the vehicle at any time is common and that’s what I would use here as well.
    Thanks for a lot of great responses!

  • avatar

    Sell, Sell,Sell!
    Nobody who wants to finance a 1989 750 can afford to keep it running.
    2 months, tops, and they’ll default because they can’t afford to replace some obscure part that costs $1K to replace.

  • avatar

    You could always donate it to charity and take a $4-5k tax write-off…

  • avatar

    If I recall correctly from reading ‘BMW Car’ magazine from UK, this car has not one, but two electronic throttles at an eye watering £1,000 a piece! So, if you have time and space, park it and part it out. You will make a lot more money this way, over financing. That I know as I was with a friend at the junk yard when he had E34 525i. Hood $200, brake caliper $50, power window motor $75 and so on.

  • avatar

    This sort of thing can only really go to someone who knows.  You can’t fob this off on someone who will get heart failure at the first discussion with a BMW service manager-it’s not a car for the working stiff who thinks he’s getting cheap bling. You can’t finance. It will end up back in your lot with a note on the window.
    Sell-you don’t ever want this back, but sell to a guy who knows-list in Roundel.
    I once sold an A2 GTi.  It needed some work and the 16v engine was all VW only parts, so they were full price-it was not a cheap VW for parts….  Two people wanted the car.  The guy who came with a G-lader Corraddo got it…his casual conversation about keeping the g-lader going showed me that he wasn’t going to cry about other issues.  The local musician was going to spit when the car got cranky….

    I’ve kept a lot of cars going after 100k. Of course, I usually owned them from new, so I knew all work was done. A car like this can be good if you have a full service record and the buyer is marque savvy

  • avatar

    Ditto many of the comments – I’d definitely avoid selling the car to anyone who did not have enough to buy it outright, and I’d try to make sure a buyer understands what it will cost to keep it running. I’d also look to BMW clubs. Maybe you can drive it out to a local meet and see what someone offers.

    You could always see if it’s feasible to sell (or even donate for the tax write off) to a joint vocational school program in auto mechanics. It’s a very complex car but comparatively free of computer controls, which may interest them (or not).

  • avatar

    I agree with many of the suggestions here: do NOT finance it! Payment might arrive steadily UNTIL something broke. Then good luck getting any payment: not only the buyer’s mad as hell from what it will cost him/her to repair it, if they can afford it at all, they’re not likely to have the means and willingness to do both if they’re looking for this kind of car in the first place.

  • avatar

    Wholesale it for a quick, if modest, profit and acquire something less risky; you know, like a 16 year old bimbo mistress with a meth habit.

  • avatar

    Cash only, $2,000.  Then do your best cartoon villain laugh as you scamper to the bank.

  • avatar

    While the 750 is known to be a handful, I am always surprised at the general negative comments on owning older BMWs in general. Here in Germany, they don’t have a bad reputation as old cars as far as cost of ownership is concerned (the crowd who drives BMWs in the age-range 10 to 20 years over here is a different story). May have a lot to do with the cost of parts and the availability of competent mechanics stateside.

  • avatar
    Dan R

    The fact you even asked the question means that you want her.
    I read the 750 “horror” story. Not that bad really for a near 10 year old luxury car. But then I have a Jaguar. Seriously, a lot of the expensive repairs could be done yourself. You are in the trade and know what to do. A lot of the repairs in the horror story were short interval repeats. Not sure about the competence of the dealer.
    If it gives up the ghost then part it out.
    This car is exciting, treat yourself.

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