Really enjoy Piston Slap and could use some help working through this problem:
I am an expat working in Europe. I brought one car from the US with me and picked up a 1997 BMW 528i Touring (5 speed) here. I just found out that I will be transferred back to the US next year and have to make a car decision pretty soon. I really like 528iT and would like to take it back with us, but it seems that the cost to self-import the Bimmer to the US is about equal to what I paid for it (and its a little long in the tooth). I really like the combination of the Touring’s performance and carrying space and am trying to decide what to buy next. The short list is:
- Find another E39 Touring in the US (hopefully with a manual and a little newer)
- E61 Touring (but am concerned with reliability)
- 2003 745i
Speaking with some level of confidence, importing a non-classic car (i.e. younger than 25 years of age) could be difficult, as anything even remotely new may need to be federalized. That means a bumper swap, headlight swap, and who knows what else an E39 needs to get legal. Probably nothing else. Fingers crossed on that.
If you must have an E39 Touring (which I totally dig, btw) odds are bringing yours over is easier than finding one in the states with a good service history. Even if you find a nice one, who knows how many thousands of dollars in reconditioning will be needed: none of which is needed on your car? Perhaps.
And there’s the rub: your idea of automotive nirvana pleases the senses, but punishes the wallet. You probably don’t want to buy a (non 3-series) BMW out of warranty in the USA. These cars are rather expensive to fix here for a multitude of reasons. Even assuming your ExPat salary leaves you fairly well off, don’t even consider the impossible-to-CPO-warranty, Bangle butted, E65! Nobody hates their money THAT much…right?
My advice is simple: buy any BMW with a CPO warranty, or short term lease a brand spankin’ new one. This isn’t Europe, these cars turn into hard-to-diagnose, expensive-to-repair money pits far too quickly. And if you are that averse to newer Bavarian beasties, consider my bizarre wagon short list for you:
- Lexus IS Sportcross
- Acura TSX Sport Wagon
- Subie WRX Wagon (new, not abused)
- Dodge Magnum SRT-8
- Ford Flex EcoBoost (with a computer re-flash)
- Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-8
Off to you, Best and Brightest.
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