By on January 2, 2012

Rodrigo writes:

Hello Sajeev,

I’m being offered a 2005 BMW 545i with 78,000 miles on the clock. Well-equipped with the sport package and manual transmission, it’s being offered at $18,000 (negotiable) by a co-worker’s family member who “wants to get rid of it quick so he can replace it with a new truck.” I’m told it’s been babied, but I’ll definitely be asking for service records and a chance to have it inspected by a German car indy mechanic that’s 3 blocks from my apartment.

The prospect of replacing my homely ’09 Rio with a Fünfer is appealing; I can stomach my skyrocketing insurance premiums and plummeting mileage records for at least a season or two. The manual transmission, the sublime acceleration of the Bimmer V8 – worth it.

But the question remains: this being a German car well on the brink of its 80s, should I be running, not walking, away from this deal? The repair histories on TrueDelta for this model at this mileage are unsettling, to say the least: $2,500 brake booster failure at 66k; $1,700 wiring harness replacement at 68k; transmission replacement under warranty at 69k (note – these are not all the same car). I don’t care enough about projecting my higher education and job market success at the young age of 23 to go deep into credit card debt courtesy of maintenance bills for my 6-year-old “new” ostentation machine. Is this car worth the plunge? Or should I remain in fully-paid-off Korean budget-car purgatory for another year or two and keep on saving?

Thanks in advance for any advice you can offer!

Sajeev answers:

You sound like you value your money for stuff other than a nice car. And honestly, any awesome E60 just makes me lust for an E39. But that’s not important…let’s focus on what you actually value.

Do the right thing and run the hell away from this vehicle. A six-year-old BMW? Not a chance in hell! If you really want one, get a CPO 5-series with a factory warranty. Or see if this car can be CPO’d at your local dealer. You don’t want this car, I am 99% sure of this.

Rodrigo answers:

Hello Sajeev,

There will come a day when I want to own a beautiful German (a picture of an E92 M3 adorns my cubicle), but at this stage in my life any excuse to stay out of debt is a good one. Especially for a car that is neither affordable to own nor the stuff my dreams are made of.

In any case, thanks for taking the time to read my letter, thank you for the advice and take care!

Sajeev concludes:

All the best, and you are making the right move! E60 BMWs weren’t exactly a value conscious Rio when new, and TrueDelta (shameless plug) shows just how much you’re gonna shell out now that the warranty is history. More importantly, why even consider a car with such financial risk when ya don’t really want it in the first place?

Judging by your wit, your sentence structure and your personal level of interaction with me via email, your resume at the ripe young age of 23 must be as good as you say. So stop being modest! Actually no, remain modest, and get something you’d really love when you can afford it.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

68 Comments on “Piston Slap: Modesty, Korean Purgatory and The E60...”


  • avatar
    Zarba

    Right on the money. There’s a reason you see so many old BMW’s at sketchy car lots: Stupid people want to impress their friends with a Bimmer.

    As soon as the first $1,500 repair bill comes, they end up repossessed and rolled over to a new sucker.

    Oh, wait. Not “repossessed”, but as I’ve been told by countless would-be borrowers, they “let it go back”.

  • avatar
    korvetkeith

    I was in a similar quandary. I consulted my friend that works for a BMW dealership, and he’s a huge fanboy, but he still couldn’t recommend one of these to me. Thus, in old cheap and paid for car purgatory do I remain.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    Someone who probably went out of their way to get a manual transmission 545i likely has not babied the car, that’s for damn sure. Stay far away, my friend.

    Reminds me of a guy I knew who bought a 06 760Li recently. You can only imagine how bad of an idea that was.

  • avatar
    carguy

    I can understand that running away from an old Kia Rio is a priority. However, I would against the E60 – it is not a car that is easily serviceable by an indi mechanic. If you’re after some Bavarian driving fun in the mid teens then a E46 3 series coupe is a better idea. These have been reliable and can reach 150K miles with some TLC from a good independent mechanic.

    • 0 avatar
      ckb

      There are a few on various forums with 250k already. There’s no reason they can’t get to 300k or even 500k with proper maintenance and repair. Thing is, that is true for most every car. Its just easier to do with a camry because parts are so much cheaper. To me, its worth it to pay the premium.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      E46s are great. I’ve had very few issues with mine, but I DIY some things and take it to an independent mechanic who only works on BMWs for stuff I can’t handle.

      One key with BMWs is preventative maintenance. Replace stuff that is known to fail like the cooling system before it does fail. If someone isn’t down with that, then the Lexus IS is a perfectly legitimate option.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Two of my coworkers bought used 3 series convertibles; a 2003 and a 2005. Both manuals, the latter with a package that gives many of the M goodies w/o the engine. I drove both hard and they were a pleasure to say the least. The 05 came with a removable hardtop as well. Both are under 80K miles. And each has had its share of problems: Expansion tank rupture, water pump, water in trunk due to plugging drains, numerous brake light/abs lights, A/C speed control module, wheel sensors, and a few others that I don’t recall. These guys have had the cars for a little over a year. At Bimmerfest, they admit to these issues and are very helpful, but they are unapologetic fanbois like I have never seen. My friends fix this stuff themselves so the costs have not been out of control. But I can’t help but ask this: Why such poor reliability on the secondary parts? If this was a GM car the “garbage motors” comments would be coming out of the woodwork. That aside, why would BMW allow for such poor quality parts? And the funny thing is, nobody seems to care! BMW gets a free ride on this stuff. Ask anybody who does not own one and they would be shocked and probably think you are making it up. The ones who don’t get the free ride are those who’s vehicles resale plummet as they age. Sorry, there is no excuse for this kind of stuff today. If you have to charge $1K to use better parts (not to mention a better painting process – the definition of orange peel is BMW) do so! The extra cost would easily be made up in better resale.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    “BMW gets a free ride on this stuff.”

    They sure do, and it’s all because of marketing. I mean who doesn’t drive have the ultimate driving machine? :) Nothing says you’ve made it when you live in an apartment with an ultimate driving machine like a 328i with leatherette, 17″ alloys, halogen headlights, and a lackluster interior.

    • 0 avatar

      it’s all because of marketing

      That’s the Apple success excuse.

      Looks dumb.

      • 0 avatar
        Spartan

        Nothing says you’ve made it than having said BMW 328i and an iPhone :) Looks dumb, but it’s true.

        Marketing FTW here. Ask Bose how they have so many people fooled.

      • 0 avatar
        chuckrs

        Marketing FTW here. Ask Bose how they have so many people fooled.

        Bose may not have great speakers or electronics, but they do spend a lot of time and effort on the sound properties and mechanical strength and resonances of their enclosures.

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        The old joke goes like this:

        One day, Amar Bose is walking down the avenue when he spots Paul Klipsch coming toward him on the other side of the street. Deciding to have a bit of fun deriding Klipsch’s love of horn designs, he cupss his hands around his mouth and shouts “How are you Paul?”. Klipsch responds by turning around to face away from Bose and shouts “I’m doing fine Amar!”.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        Nice! I’m not a fan of either, and that sums up why.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Bose shouldn’t be spoken in the same breath as Klipsch. To do so is Heresy. All joking aside, given a choice, it would never be Bose: No Highs, no Lows, Bose Blows.

    • 0 avatar
      GS650G

      @Bunkie
      That’s a true story and it happened in a dealer’s store.

    • 0 avatar
      JKC

      It’s not just BMW: the same is true of VW, and I suspect Mercedes-Benz as well. I used to read the forums on VW Vortex and the B% forums when I owned my Passat, and the rationalization of excessive maintenance and repair costs as the price of “European safety and driving dynamics” was, in retrospect, pathetic.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    Well this sucks. Expensive BMW’s getting the thumbs down because you will need to maintain it. Geeze.

    I am not convinced that a manual transmission means mistreated; I have a manual trans german car that i baby.

    The repairs might be expensive, but what do you expect? A 6 yr old Rio would be falling apart at the seams, with little capability for repair under any circumstances.

    The reason why Rodrigo should not buy this car is cause he is too young to take on such a responsibility. If he is happy with the Rio, the BMW will just piss him off with its constant whining, no pun intended. The care and feeding of aging germainca is not for the faint of heart; however, i rewards with broad smiles on back roads. It can be sublime. And sublime rarely comes cheap.

    You must have it gone over by a anal obsessive dedicated mechanic who you know on a first name basis. You must have a small pile of cash at the ready. YOu must be crazy, but good crazy.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      …..A 6 yr old Rio would be falling apart at the seams, with little capability for repair under any circumstances….

      Actually, it wouldn’t be falling apart at the seams and that is precisely the point. Virtually all cars of the past 10 to 15 years – with some exceptions – can run for 150K or more without all these problems. And you can’t just put it on complexity; Lexus has loads of electronics and they are not garage queens. In fact, even basic cars today are loaded up with electronics. BMW certainly deserves the accolades for the dynamics of their product, but there is nothing inherent in them that should compromise reliability. As with other makes, look to the beancounters. You can be sure the engineers knew that the plastic used underhood would not hold up, but no doubt they were ignored, just as GM management ignored its engineers…

  • avatar
    detlump

    I have a theory about German (or European cars in general). I think that because most do not drive the mileage we do, these expensive repairs are spaced out over more years, so customers do not complain. I recall talking with my co-workers at a major German auto supplier, and they were aghast at the mileage that I drove yearly, or even considering driving say, from Detroit to Tampa. So if the average owner over there who can afford such a car drives 3-7K km a year, then these repairs are years away, maybe at the point where the car is traded before it is needed.

    Regarding the question of getting this car or not, I would also run away, clutching my wallet. If I ever decide to get a German car, it will be a lease only. The number of do-dads and gizmos in the new cars is frightening to say the least. More stuff to break.

    If you think drivers of German cars look cool going down the road, it is really just the pain in their backside that gives them that constipated look, after dropping a couple grand on this or that repair.

    It might just be cheaper to own an airplane! (Maybe).

    • 0 avatar
      swedishiron

      Traveling Salesmen would lease the Volvo 240 in its day and put 40-50K a year on them and write off the mileage on their taxes. They were very reliable and comfortable highway cars in their day. I rack up usually 20K or more every year on my Volvo and I currently drive a 2005 Volvo S60R and it has been VERY VERY reliable. Volvo has of course had it’s issues in its “modern era” (1999-2001 Electronic throttles hurt its reliability) and the notorious GM automatics used in the 2003-2005 XC90 T6 and too a lesser extent the first generation six cylinders S80s) but generally are reliable and currently rank as the most reliable Euro make sold in the U.S. After owning a 1985 Audi 5000 I stay away from German junk though a nice used Mercedes SL does tempt me.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      A couple of other cultural reasons why Europeans don’t do the same amount of driving as we do. Excellent public transportation for one. When I was in Germany, we really didn’t drive that much, as in the city, the bus or S-bahn allowed us to go most anywhere we needed to go. If we needed to go city-to-city, often we could get a train or even a flight occasionally. Now, if we wanted to go into the mountains, the car was the best way to get there.

      At least in Germany, the safety inspections are pretty harsh. It’s almost like they’re looking for the slightest infraction to take the car off of the road; and the list is long and detailed. Here in the States, most often we can drive anything on public roads that we can get to start and run.

      Due to these inspections, there’s a lot more turnover of cars. I can remember seeing the quarantine lot behind the local VW dealer, the cars that were back there looked completely driveable, but they had failed the inspections and were taken off the roads. Like someone else said, the repairs are stretched out over a longer period of time/mileage than what we’re used to here in the US.

      As someone who p*ssed away a lot of money on cars when I was 23, remember the anticipation is far better than the reality. You’ve already noted your fears about the car and discussing your dilemma shows you’re not ready to pull the trigger on this idea.

      • 0 avatar
        Robbie

        Another important reason why European brands are not that interested in bulletproof reliability: most luxury vehicles in Europe are leased. That means all maintenance issues will get fixed by the dealer during the lease, and consequently, they can sell lots of cars to individuals who do not care at all about bulletproof long-run reliability.

  • avatar
    daviel

    Have you seen the 2012 Rios?

  • avatar
    johnhowington

    i owned a 2000 540i manual for about 6 months. i got rid of it because i cannot trust myself with a fast car and almost killed myself a few times.

    a coworker of mine owns a 2005 545i, and he has had a bit of trouble with it. if you want to talk about overengineering, this car is the defintion. his battery died recently and bought a new one at midas. it was the wrong size. it worked OK for about a month, and then the car randomly turned on the car alarm at 5 in the morning 3 days in a row, and obviously wouldnt start with christmas tree lights. not only do you need to replace it with the correct size battery, but you must reset the computer so it properly “conditions” the new battery, otherwise it will kill the battery early like that also. in other words, fuck you bmw.

  • avatar
    mitchw

    a. You would be a young man, driving an old man’s car. Not a good look.
    b. You would learn at an early age a lesson about expensive repairs that others must wait longer to acquire.

    Don’t walk.

  • avatar
    ExPatBrit

    If you fancy a German Sedan, a 545 is not the best place to get your feet wet.

    Go with a 3 series or Z3/Z4, learn to wrench it yourself somewhat (oil changes, brakes etc).

    Join one of the many on-line forums. Oddly enough forum support is probably the best for German cars because of their quirks.Parts are not that expensive but you will buy more of them. Remember deferred maintenance will kill any European car.

    An Audi A4 is also a possibility.

  • avatar
    peteinsonj

    FWIW — you couldn’t CPO the car from BMW in question — too many miles & too old.

  • avatar
    JJ

    I would have said NO to this deal simply because particularly the prefacelift E60 has quite a baron interior with harsh plastics etc. Plus with an 05 you’re looking at an old, slow iDrive system. The E60 has some cool things about it, like the somehat quirky design that just might make it a cool classic/youngtimer in a few decades, but the E39 and the new F10 are probably the beter 5-series to have right now (at the cheaper and more expensive end of the spectrum respectively).

    Can’t comment oo much about the price since I’m from Europe, so I don’t know anything about the used car market in the US, other than that used car prices in the US generally seem oddly high to me considering the lowly low prices you guys can get new cars for.

    • 0 avatar
      ExPatBrit

      These cars do not resell well.

      The guy selling wants a new truck but apparently can’t or won’t trade in the 545.

      That’s a tell right there, most dealers don’t want these in trade.

      I have a relative who has being trying to offload a low mile 745 for nearly two years.

      • 0 avatar
        JJ

        I know, but that’s all the more reason why the price strikes me as high. New cars are very cheap in the US, but (from the few rimes I checked) I’ve noticed used cars are relatively expensive in comparison.

        Right now in Germany you can buy several 545i from about the same vintage with the same or lower mileage for say 11-16K, while the car would have been several K more expensive to buy new in Germany (disregard the exchange rate cause it distorts the real purchasing power picture). In the US cars seem to hold their value better for some reason (despite the fact that depreciation on these big engined luxobarges is still pretty steep in the US too obviously).

  • avatar
    jmo

    It’s a fine idea, if you know what you’re getting into and are OK with that. It’s not like you will be spending 18k on a new Civic and can expect no issues for 8 years and 100k miles. You will pay 18k and should probably put at least $200/month in the repair/maintenance/rental car fund, as you might expect to pay that much on average over the next 5 years.

    Also, as someone alluded to, a lot of this would depend on how many miles a year you drive. If you’re driving 20k a year then this is a bad idea – if you’re driving 5k a year it might work.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    “Wants to get rid of it quick” is not something that would make me feel good about a deal. What’s wrong with it? Why not just dealer trade it if he wants to get rid of it so badly?

    If you want to buy a German car, buy one that’s two or three years old and has some factory warranty left, and get that extended, or buy CPO. Be aware of what the CPO warranty doesn’t cover though. If you can’t afford an ’08 or ’09 BMW 5 series, don’t buy one at all.

    If you want a bit of luxury and a bit of German driving experience that’s reliable, the Infiniti G35/37 has your name all over it.

  • avatar
    acuraandy

    Mark Zuckerberg drives (at least did) a new body-style Acura TSX (thats EDM/JDM Honda Accord for you int’l guys).

    Not ostentatious, but still upscale, mechanically bulletproof, cheap to maintain and most importantly, in most cases, cheap to repair!

    Also can be had in a 6spd manual.

    A bit biased, but that’s probably going to be my next car, and I work on them for a living; so it that tells you anything…

    Quickie on German cars (disclaimer: I like German cars, but hate fixing them), every five to six year old Benz or BMW that gets traded into our Acura dealership has electrical issues. And i’m talking SERIOUS ones; like the ones our Used Car mechanic needs a week to fix. The clientele can afford pretty much whatever they want, and they end up trading “down” to Acura and/or Lexus because…well…they are reliable.

    P.S. When I was 23 I bought an brand new ’07 Accord Coupe. Awesome car, paid $20k for it, ended up having to trade it in due to impending child on a 08 Malibu that has been an absolute lemon…

    • 0 avatar
      Brian E

      Careful, you’ve got quite a bit of selection bias there. It could be that the BMW owners who don’t have major electrical issues get another BMW, and you’re only getting the ones who did have issues.

      That said, the TSX may not be the “ultimate driving machine”, but it is marriageable. My first-gen is coming up on six years old and I feel like I could keep it for another ten.

      • 0 avatar
        itsgotvtak

        I spent $3,000 on coilovers, sway bars, tires and pads on my 09 6mt tech and it’s just as balanced and as enjoyable to drive as anything this side of an M3. In a perfect world I would be driving a BMW or something with more panache but my wallet isn’t indefatigable and the difference in cost of ownership is a joke.

  • avatar
    thats one fast cat

    The worst deal you will ever make is on a 6 year old (or so) German vehicle. Unless, of course, you have the willingness to spend 2K+ a year on maintenance. It ain’t for nothing that these cars depreciate like a stone right after they come off of warrantee – rich people lease new and most that can afford it stay away in droves.

    This is all conventional wisdom. However….

    Driving the cheapest car won’t always make you the happiest. Sometimes you have to splurge — if that weren’t so there would be no fancy restaurants or nice houses. If you have the means, it is an overall cheaper way to get into something you like – you just have to be committed and willing to spend the money necessary to keep these cars running.

    If you really like his car, make him a lower offer — I bet he will take it and run.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    I have been driving E 28s for the last 15 yrs. I wouldn’t buy a newer one because they are so fragile. There is no excuse to build a cooling system that cant withstand the temp and pressure of normal operation. Water cooled alternators?

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Normal driving in Europe vs. here is a whole different ballgame as mentioned but speaking of cooling systems, BMWs aren’t designed for the So Cal or Saudi deserts where most end up either. You’d think they would.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Keep the KoRio as a daily driver and the Beemer for your days off or picking up your girlfriend’s parents from the airport. If no girlfiend, it could be what you’re currently driving. Just a theory.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      Does anyone seriously believe a car is the difference in whether or not you land a woman that is relationship material?

      • 0 avatar
        gslippy

        Lots of people believe that; just look at the cars they drive. Unfortunately, they land the girls who aren’t relationship material – at least not for the long run.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Not all women that we might call ‘relationship material’, but many would look at a guy’s car to get a snapshot of their ability or willingnesss to provide a desired lifestyle or nest for them and their future kids. Though not a tolal deal breaker and at 23 he’s still relatively young but a late 20s single guy driving a 3 year old Kia and or living at home throws up all kinds of red flags for some women. Possibly even ‘marriage material’ but part of it is just biology and the rest is regular materialism.

      • 0 avatar
        bikegoesbaa

        Have you considered that he’s not looking for “relationship material”, unless the duration of the relationship is the next 24-48 hours?

        Not everybody’s looking to get hitched and settle down forever.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        bikegoesbaa:

        I realize not everyone is trying to get hitched. Just saying that I’ve never really bought into the theory that cars help get women.

        If you can talk to woman, the car doesn’t matter. If you can’t talk to woman at all, the car won’t save you. I suppose if you have skills and a nice car that can help land a quickie.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      He may not be looking for a long term or marriage but most women are, whether subconsciously or not.

  • avatar
    Sam P

    Driving your Kia for a couple more years is the correct choice.

    As a BMW owner (E46 3er) just avoid any V8 BMW ever produced unless you are a very competent DIY mechanic.

    The inline 6 cars are a good deal better, and avoid the 5 series. The 3 series generally is less complex and more reliable. Oh, and don’t get an automatic. Unreliable in almost any BMW and prone to failure.

    If you have an extra parking spot, keep an Asian car around for a boring commuter and get an E30 3-series for fun. Many BMW enthusiasts swear by the things, even though the newest one is now 18 years old. Check out the forums here: http://www.r3vlimited.com/board/index.php

    • 0 avatar
      dvp cars

      …..agree with most here. Act your age (and save a ton of money). Get the Bimmer bug out of your system (or become a lifelong fan) and buy the nicest late 90′s 323/325/328iS you can find. Enjoy the experience and move on gradually. Buying a 5 Series at your age would end up with you needing a Maybach by the time you have your first mid-life crisis.

  • avatar
    WriterParty.com

    If having to go into credit card debt for repairs is a problem, stay away. I wish I knew what your income was because that would tell me more. My recommendation is to go for an older, cheaper BMW, such as E46, E36, or a Z3/Z4, so you can budget money in case of repairs. This isn’t just BMW advice, this goes for any car (I have to budget repairs for my ’06 Ford Explorer, as it’s no Toyohonda, but thus far my repairs haven’t required any debt or financial hardship). If you live in a smaller town/rural area, I’d skip that and go straight to the nearest big city to look for cheaper Bimmers. If you’re in a big city or a crowded area, then that makes the cheaper Bimmer hunt even easier.

    • 0 avatar
      rodface

      Thanks! I’d love to hear some hypothetical numbers for 90s-BMW ownership if you’ve got a minute to jot them down. My girlfriend used to own a Z3 and she has good things to say about it. If a nice E36 (and possible the M3) falls within my budget as a weekend car to the Rio’s commuter, I’ll be a happy camper.

      I live downtown in a 2-million person city. I make over 50k (but nowhere near 100k). As I mentioned in my letter to Sajeev, I live mere blocks from a reputable BMW indy, which would be nice in the event that I need help with major work. I’m mechanically savvy but I haven’t turned a wrench in anger in a few years, and that was when I was just starting to earn my stripes on a 250cc motorcycle (before the valve stems bent when I tried to start it up after letting it sit for a year and I found myself in deeper sh*t then I knew how to dig my way out of :-)

  • avatar
    jrocco001

    Speaking to European reliability: we recently purchased a used Infiniti QX56 from a local dealership that shares their property with a “sister” Mercedes dealership. The sales manager told me the Infiniti dealer outsells the MD dealer by about 3:1, yet the MD dealership has 27 service bays to the Infiniti’s 9.

  • avatar
    dvp cars

    …….I think that manager may have been using some creative math…….he is a “sales” manager after all, and a hint of larceny sometimes comes with the program. If your area is remotely similar to the rest of the country, those sales figures are reversed. Additionally, there are probably 8 or 10 times as many older Mercs on the road, simply because they’ve been around longer. You’d be surprised how many 20+ year old Benz’s still return for dealer service………part of their mystique, and they stock the parts.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Sounds like the picture in your cubicle is telling you all you need to know. If you have the means and the stash to maintain an M3, get one. I’d pass on the 545i.

    That’s good advice about the CPO warranty. Make sure you get that with any used BMW, and have the seller include it in the price. Buying one out of warranty is not only a big risk for you, but you’ll feel badly selling it on with no protection for the next buyer should you want to bail on it.

    My advice – get one off of lease trader and try it for a year. You’ll know by then if you’re wanting one on a longer term basis.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    If you really want a BMW, lease a new 3 series. Right now they have some killer deals. Make the lease last no longer than the warranty period. If you can qualify for the lease, this is actually the value proposition as it comes with full maintenance.

    I came *this* close to doing this last month. I didn’t because I really wanted a wagon (which was $100 more per month) and because my wife really didn’t want to be in a German car.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    Good move passing on the 545. The electronics are so deeply integrated with the car that it can be difficult for independent mechanics to repair them. I have an E39 540 and would not touch an E60. While the 540 is expensive to repair and I’m on the fence as to whether it has been worth it, it’s at least still mechanical enough that I don’t have to worry about fixing it with software updates. Still, I probably wouldn’t touch another e39 540 either.

    I agree with others who have said an E46 is the best way to get your feet wet with bmw to see if you think it’s worth it. An I6 E39 is doable too.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      burgers,

      The “youngest” e39 available is now a 7-8 yr old car. You’d really recommend that to a first time BMW buyer? Even with the I6, there are weird electrical gremlins. I had a ’98 528, and while it stands as my favorite car I’ve owned, by the time I had 125k on the clock, all sorts of issues popped up. Window regulators, trunk latch and the hazard button light was especially bright and couldn’t be fixed with my knowledge of the car.

      The powertrain was bulletproof and the transmission never skipped a beat… even had the original clutch. But those electrical issues were a pain to deal with.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        A friend of mine had an E39 528i 5-speed. It was his first BMW and he was completely smitten. He was starting to make serious, and I mean serious, money at the time. His first impulse was to buy a new M5 and a second home to keep his beloved 528i at so he had an excuse not to sell it. Then the problems started. It was a matter of a few months before he stopped talking about cars altogether.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        I think an I6 e39 is as good a starter BMW as any. 528s are fully depreciated and the 525/530s aren’t far behind. Window regulators and trunk latches are annoying, but relatively easy DIY jobs and not super expensive parts. Most electrical gremlins can be traced to a dying battery, ignition switch, or fsu. None of those are the end of the world.

        No BMW is going to be as cheap to own as an 09 Rio. I think an e46 or e39 is the way to go if you want to give BMW ownership a whirl. A budget of $18k leaves a lot of margin with those cars, and you don’t get hit as hard with depreciation if you decide the running costs aren’t worth it. For $18k, you might be able to find an E90 in the last year of a CPO warranty. Other than that:

        E36s are getting really old at this point. In addition to eating suspension and cooling parts like all BMWs, the interior falls apart and the chassis tears apart like a beer can at the rear suspension carrier and shock mounts. E30s are ancient and not nearly so easy to find in decent shape as forums would have you believe.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Trade the 2009 Rio for a 2012 Rio; they’re much nicer.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    If you really think the BMW is a wise purchase, then test the theory by doing the following as an experiment:

    1) Locate a charcoal barbecue grill.
    2) Go to your bank and withdraw about $5000 in cash.
    3) Take the cash and spread it on the grill.
    4) Apply charcoal starter fluid.
    5) Light a match.

    If you recoil at the thought of this, then pass on the 545. In a few years, when you’re REALLY able to afford a BMW, lease a new one.

  • avatar
    SupaMan

    I tell people this all the time.

    When buying used BMWs (or ANY pre-owned German car for that matter) ensure there’s a warranty attached to the purchase price or suffer the consequences of expensive repairs. Hell, I tell them to just lease them brand new instead of purchasing them outright if they don’t plan of keeping them long term.

    I too dream of owning a BMW M5 (E60 6 speed manual) one day……one day when I can afford such extravagance.

    For now, my Mazda gives me enough laughs.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    In today’s market, the “friend” who is “anxious to get rid of” his car to you at a special price is a little suspect. If you are anxious to get rid of a car, Carmax will buy it from you for cash on the spot, and through autotrader, you can get a number of trade-in offers, assuming, of course, that you’re honest in describing the car’s condition.
    Now, if a “friend” came to me and showed me a copy of a bonafide Carmax offer and said, “I’d rather sell it to you for this price than to them,” I’d pay attention.

    I own an ’01 Z3 with 65k miles, most of them my own (it was a CPO I bought in ’03). Other than self-inflicted problems (i.e. leaving the window down by mistake in a rainstorm which wet the interior floorplan and ruined the DSC sensor, the car has had one mechanical failure — a $200 vacuum-operated intake manifold diverter valve which I replaced in about 5 minutes and troubleshot (?) with the help of a code reader and the Internet, probably saving myself $300. Next weekend, I will replace all of the plastic cooling system parts before they fail — radiator, thermostat, water pump, expansion tank — plus all of the hoses (which look good but are original to the car) and the serpentine belt (also original to the car).

    Now, here’s a little story: for a while I was considering trading this on a new(er) car that had 4 seats. Different dealers offered me between $8500 to $10,000 for my car, which cosmetically is very good outside and, except for one split seam in the driver’s seat, is perfect inside.

    On a moderately warm (55 degree) day, the vacuum leak in the diverter valve does not lean out the engine enough to illuminate the CEL or make the engine run rough, once warmed up . . . and the engine will reach full operating temperature despite a partly stuck open thermostat.

    So, that car was rolling around with $2500 in repairs needed (a top indy BMW mechanic quoted me $2,000 for the cooling system overhaul, and I’m estimating a “retail” price of $500 to troubleshoot and replace the leaking diverter valve, what with the mechanic’s time and his markup on the cost of the part).

    If you’re going to buy a car like this (and my Z3 has a much better repair record and is simpler than the 545i), that’s what you need to anticipate having on hand for repairs.

  • avatar
    blowfish

    his battery died recently
    a mechanic has a 05 530, the battery was discharging at a rate of 5 amp /hr

    if u google the batt drain seems to be far too common.
    some say is due to the heater fan regulator, somehow it shorted out.

  • avatar
    NeinNeinNein

    Solution is —get an Audi. According to CR they’re way way up in reliability in the B7 and B8 versions (A4 anyways.) Mine has been great for about 40K with just a few small issues–a light bulb, an ignition coil, a TPMS sensor. Small fish when I take into account the AWD in the snowy mtns we enjoy during winter and the overall driving experience and dynamics. It doesnt hurt that I got some tools and learned how to redo the timing belt and typical maintenance / repair issues–brakes, fluids, filters etc etc.
    I wholeheartedly would suggest one to someone wanting to breakout of the econo-box boring existance of a Toyota/Honda/Hyundai-mobile.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • Tycho de Feyter, China
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India