By on March 12, 2012

Wherever the hollow tubes of the InterWeb may reach, there you will find the argument that “it’s always a better idea to buy a CPO used car than a new one.” The mean transaction price of a new car in the United States is about $29,000. That kind of money will get you a loaded-up Camcord, a discounted LaCrosse, or any number of other mass-market sedans… but can it get you the BMW of your dreams? A friend and former co-worker of mine decided to find out, using his own time and money.

(Dramatic voice) This… is his story.

My search is over; now the love affair can officially begin. I had decided on the 535xi because it falls into an unbelievable sweet spot for me. It has the twin-turbo inline six (that eliminated the 2007 5-series and the 2008/9 528xi). It could be found for around $30,000 with the CPO warranty (that eliminated the 550). It has the room to seat four adults comfortably (that eliminated the 335xi). It has the AWD (which eliminated older 650′s, M3s, and M5′s). And it has looks, tech, and power.

So then came the comparison stage, how to compare nearly one hundred 2008′s and 2009′s? After flailing about for a few days and repeatedly confusing cars, I settled on a grid analysis which would score each car on the criteria I considered important; price, miles, exterior color, interior color, premium pkg, cold-weather pkg, sport pkg, heated rear sets, navigation, carfax, CPO warranty end date, etc. Then I weighted each of these criteria based on their necessity. That process gave me a score for each car.

Not knowing what I would say or how the conversation would go, I nervously dialed the dealer that had my top-scoring Bimmer. After I made every mistake that a novice buyer can make in the first five minutes (including naming my price), the salesman told me the car was still on the lot but appeared to have been sold the previous Saturday. WHAT?! Impossible. I was certain he was blowing me off because I had asked for a pre-purchase inspection (PPI). I had a friend with a cell phone in a different area code call and ask about the car. Sold. Damn.

I got a little desperate, calling three dealerships, naming my price, confirming that the options listed in the ad were correct. I focused on cars that had been on the lot for a while, thinking maybe I could negotiate thousands off the price as the dealer would be glad to be rid of it. Not so. A particularly fetching Monaco Blue Metallic w/Natural Brown leather was firm at $32,000 even though it had been available for more than four months. It can’t go any lower, I was told, that’s what we have in the car. What a shame. Oh well, on to the next one.

After another near miss where I ended up perhaps being a bit too eager to buy what was, in retrospect, the wrong car, I cooled it on the phone calls for a few days. All incoming calls from the circling sharks were put off with lame excuses, just enough to get them off the phone. I’m sure I was labeled “luke-warm” on Post-It notes in New Jersey, Michigan, North Carolina, and New York. I deleted my initial grid analysis and started over.

I scrutinized my weightings; asking questions like, do I really care more about the cold-weather package than the CPO warranty end date, and do I care about Nav at all? Also, in this interval I dug into the 535, learning about the HPFP problems, the gremlins in the electronics, warrantied items, and perhaps more important, those items that are not warrantied; like the batteries (foreshadowing). I investigated independent BMW shops, locally and near dealerships I might call. I began reading articles on the psychology employed by salesmen. I learned the techniques that supposedly counter these tactics (silence is big). I compared Fair Market Value (FMV) on KBB’s and NADA’s websites to the Dealer trade-in price. I decided I would be myself; honest and direct. This may seem idiotic, but I have always been uncomfortable when I stray from the truth (though I still sometimes do). I simply refused to believe that I had to lie to succeed.

Now I was ready, renewed, and excited to start again. Maybe I was just a little wiser…maybe. At the top of the list were two; one a 2008, the other a 2009, both blue, both with brown leather, both with sport, cold-weather, and premium packages. The differences were small and/or inconsequential; the 2009 had fewer miles and a longer CPO warranty, and the 2008 had the 18″ wheels. The asking prices were just $200 apart. What swayed me toward the 2008 initially was BMW Financial’s incentives; first two payments and 1.9% APR for 48 months. The 2009 had a respectable offer of 2.9% APR for 48 months. At this point it was February 21st.

I called on the 2008. In my confusion, I had forgotten it was one I had already called on. The price had come down $900 to $32,000 and Bob, the salesman, was emphatic that they needed to get that out of the car just to break even. I was skeptical, and I was armed with some pretty good (as it turned out) estimates of what they paid, and what they put into the car to recondition it for CPO status. I knew how long the car had been on the lot. Finally, I knew that there were other cars. This last bit of knowledge proved to be the most crucial.

I was working against a clock, as well. Due to the impending expiration of the incentives and the 400-mile distance between me and the dealership, the upcoming Saturday, February 29, was the only day I could buy this car.

I explained to Bob that I would not buy the car without a PPI. He responded with details about the CPO program, and the singular excellence of this car. His sales manager was more direct: no PPI, period. I called on the other car, and was told that a PPI would be no problem. The next day, Wednesday, Bob called back. The CFO is involved, he said, and a PPI can be done if I’ll put down a deposit. Refundable? Yes. Done. Paperwork was faxed, signed, and returned. Interestingly, the paperwork I was asked to sign included the $32,000 price tag. I suppose they wanted me to think I had agreed to the price by signing. I was also asked to apply for the BMW financing. I guess they wanted to know if they would be able to sell me a car. (I think asking for the financing worked against them as you’ll see later on.) The inspection was scheduled for Friday morning, February 24th.

Thanks to a busy morning at work, I didn’t see the results of the inspection until 11:30 AM. Codes pulled from the computer showed 11 separate items. Uh oh. “Not to worry,” said the inspector, “I think it is all due to a dying battery. Ask them to replace it.”

Now I’ve got a problem. Maybe all of those codes are battery-related, but what if they aren’t? The timeframe is too short to replace the battery, recalibrate the ECU, and pull the codes again. I decided to ask for battery replacement and $1000 off the car. I was convinced the price was too high, and now I had a solid reason. Bob, who had repeatedly told me that he stood to make nothing off this car, stated that they wouldn’t give that much. Maybe the battery, but a grand on top was too much. “I will buy the car if you’ll do it,” I stated. The answer: No deal. End of the adventure.

I didn’t bother to call on the 2009. That could wait until the following week. The pressure that had built all week evaporated in an instant. I was disappointed, but I felt confident I had done the right thing. I’m pretty sure they were banking on using my desire for the car and my commitment to the process against me. I’m still not sorry I expressed how much I wanted the car. A month of research had tempered my enthusiasm. They just didn’t know that. Then the phone rang. I felt the anger start to build the moment I saw the number of the dealership come up on the caller ID. Didn’t they know that this was over, at least as far as I was concerned? Three rings went by, and I almost let it go to voice mail. Almost.

“It’s Bob. You’re not going to believe this (correct, I won’t), but the CFO and the sales manager are arguing over your offer.”

“I don’t have an offer. You turned it down. I have no interest in playing games.”

“No games. We’ll do 31k and the new battery if the offer is still valid.” You’d think I would have been happy to hear this, but I wasn’t. I said almost nothing. I didn’t trust myself to speak.

“Let me get back to you Bob. I’m not pleased.” This is where my friends and my wife were crucial. It took a while for me to calm down. Honestly, I’m not completely sure why I was so angry, but I finally realized that I was getting what I wanted. I accepted. The breakneck pace then accelerated. I raced home, making calls the whole way to address the logistics of driving to St. Louis on short notice (which I had canceled when my initial offer was refused). Then to the airport to pick up the rental car. Back to the house to pick up the wife and an overnight bag, and we were off.

As if to drive home the logic of buying German, the Malibu LTZ we rented would not let us take the key out of the ignition once inserted. Calls to the rental car company and a Chevy dealership service department were not helpful. Of course, this problem is probably an isolated incident. I have no idea if this is a common problem (Google didn’t think so), but it made me feel better about my decision.

When I finally arrived at the dealership, the car was right out front. I looked right past it because I thought it couldn’t look that good. Then I drove it. Wow! How could this car have sat for five months? I hope there is not an unhappy answer to that question somewhere in my future. The car is now mine. I own a 2008 BMW 535xi. Still can’t believe it!

Did my friend make the right decision, or was he blinded by the allure of the Roundel? You could get out your slide rule and make the argument either way, but let’s face it: new cars aren’t dishwashers. Emotion plays a role. No matter what happens in the years to come, my friend will walk out to the driveway knowing that he has the car he wants. That’s worth a little bit of money, hassle, and time, if you ask me.

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129 Comments on “Half-Price Bimmer: The Story Of A Man And His Search For The Perfect E60...”


  • avatar
    Tosh

    How is it perfect? It is neither diesel, nor wagon, nor a stick shift….

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      LOL! Actually, I don’t think he said if it was an automatic or not. Though I can’t remember if you could get a stick in a 535Xi in ’08.

      It is so much easier to buy new. Decide what you want to order, then let the dealers fight to sell it to you. Just like a dishwasher, really. In my case that was a wagon with a stick shift, and without AWD. :-) And European Delivery was the icing on a delicious cake.

      • 0 avatar
        Synchromesh

        It all depends on what you’re buying. When I was buying my ’12 WRX there were only 600 allotted for the entire New England so it was hard to find a dealer that would have one to test drive, much less to sell. That was for the standard car. If you wanted a Limited or Premium with more options the average wait was 6 weeks.

        As for the guy in the article – I feel sorry for him. Not because of the purchase price or the emotions but because buying a used BMW, particularly one with awd, turbo and tons of gizmos is just asking for trouble. He now has to dump it right before the warranty ends or prepare to cry every time something breaks (and break it will). BMW isn’t known for their turbos and awd so staying away from those would be a smart thing to do.

    • 0 avatar
      Mark MacInnis

      Don’t be jejeune. BMW’s are “5 Series Touring”…not mere pedestrian “wagons”….

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    The used 535ix has been on the Consumer Reports worst list for used cars, having much higher than average problems than industry standards. It shares the distinction with vehicles like the 2003 Pontiac Grand Prix all flavors of Kia minivans, and the VW Beetle convertible.

    With that said, I consider Consumer Reports only a single point of data, and their methodology flawed (but not completely imperfect).

    I went against the Consumer Reports list on a used car – ONCE. Will never make that mistake again, YMMV. Good luck.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I wouldn’t go against CR, either — they really have the only comprehensive, trustworthy data available.

      With that said, the big problem with those cars was the fuel pump, which affected nearly every car eventually but which was rectified by BMW in this particular vehicle after the sale.

      • 0 avatar
        SherbornSean

        FU MK?

      • 0 avatar
        grantman321

        I’m not sure I agree with part of that. Yes, CR has the most data by far. However, they cannot account for brand loyalty and because of their methodology they’ve got a monster of a self-fulfilling prophesy problem. Ie: consumer buys a camry based on CR expecting to have zero problems, and when problems occur, they are not reported due to belief that their problems must be outliers since the car is so highly rated as reliable by CR vs another consumer that buys a jaguar and reports every single problem because the buyer is ticked that such an expensive car should have so many problems and because they view their problems as typical based on previous CR ratings of jaguars. Similarly, buyers of some brands that have few to no problems are less likely to report their issues to CR in general. People that are ticked off by problems are more likely to report than people that are happy and have no problems. It would help their data significantly to show the percentage of reports/vehicles sold.

        CR is extremely useful for things like appliances… but for cars when a lot more money and emotion is involved, the data is plagued with statistical errors (primarily the above-mentioned self-fulfilling prophesy error).

        That’s all to say that I’ve been on both sides of the equation – I had a Jaguar once that had one sensor fail in 100,000 miles, completely busting its CR ratings. I’ve also had an Audi that had ridiculous problems over 80,000 miles that was even less reliable than its already-bad CR ratings.

        I suppose the bottom line is that while CR has a ton of data, it isn’t particularly useful on an individual car-by-car basis. For used cars, service history data on that particular car is infinitely more important.

      • 0 avatar
        DannyZRC

        Et tu, TL SH-AWD?

        I’ve sampled the BMW kool-aid(e90 328xi 6MT, e60 550i m-sport smg) and thought it tasted numb and heavy, but a man after a midsize sporty AWD car is a man after my own heart.

        Clearly he spent a ton of time on making his decision, so I’m sure he’s feeling very pleased about it. I once spent a long time making a decision, also on a BMW product (R1200GS), and I felt very pleased about it… for a time.

        Life is good, the mistakes can be almost as much fun as any other part of it, and it’s still more fun than a new camcord, even if he goes broke keeping it running.

      • 0 avatar
        tekdemon

        I was under the impression that the replacement fuel pumps also have a tendency to fail since some owners report going through several, did BMW finally fix the design?

        That said, even without the HPFP a twin turbo, AWD, German luxury vehicle is never going to be the right answer if your budget is something you actually care about. Just so very many ticking time bombs for one car.

  • avatar
    jmo2

    “Did my friend make the right decision, or was he blinded by the allure of the Roundel?”

    Considering that the BMW would be lucky to last 12 years and 180k miles from new – this car has used up 25% of its useful live. That said, I’d rather opt for a new 3 series that I can keep for a while, vs. a 5 series that’s already 1/4 used up.

    On the other hand, if he wants to keep if for a 3-5 years and sell it – it might make sense.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      Interestingly, I came to the conclusion that a leased 328i is one of the best values out there. Keep it no longer than the warranty and free maintenance and you get a great car for Chevy money. Of course, you have to accept that you’ll be driving a very common car which is the price of a great lease deal. We decided against it when we found out how much more the 328i wagon leased for (about $125/month). We really wanted a wagon..

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Why do you say that it will have such a short life? The car will last as long as one is willing to replace worn out parts. While that is not cheap, it is still cheaper than car payments. My lowly poverty-spec 328i wagon is $650/mo at 1.9% interest. That is a new transmission or new engine every 10 months or so once it is paid for. These cars are not cheap to maintain, but they are not Ferraris either. And they don’t rust. So you have to put $3K a year into maintenance and repairs (I HUGELY doubt it will be that much on average) – that is still <1/2 the payment cost of a new one.

      I simply don't understand the mindset that is OK with paying $7-8K a year in payments, but freaks out at a $2500 bill on a paid for car. I plan to keep my car a long time, especially if BMW keeps refusing to bring us the 5ver wagon. RWD with stickshift please.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo2

        “Why do you say that it will have such a short life?”

        It is likely that a 12 year old BMW with 180k* miles will be so clapped out and unreliable that it just wont make sense to keep pouring good money after bad.

        * IIRC the median car is sent to the crusher with 140k miles.

      • 0 avatar

        i’m with you on repairing rather than borrowing as i just bought a new trans for a 9 year old volvo awd. i hope we’re right.

      • 0 avatar
        chuckrs

        I have two of the maligned and reviled A4 1.8T cars. I agree with krhodes1 – not cheap to maintain but cheaper than several car payments. I’m driving the older one home after typing this – 156kmiles and only a set of CV joints, rear wheel bearings and a radiator as unanticipated items in that whole mileage history. I’m guesstimating all those at around 6 payments or so (hey those payments were from 13 years ago, so it’s not like today’s payments). I hope it makes 180kmiles…..

      • 0 avatar
        Bruceincary

        +1 on the F11 wagon.
        I’m busy looking at the MB wagon but really want a 5′er!

      • 0 avatar
        theoneandonlychristian

        I couldn’t agree more.

      • 0 avatar
        phlipski

        “I simply don’t understand the mindset that is OK with paying $7-8K a year in payments, but freaks out at a $2500 bill on a paid for car.”

        Tell me about it!

        My father: “Son my ’93 e320 has a leaking head gasket – will cost $1200 to fix.”

        Me: “So? It’s got 120k + miles, and it’s 6 years old, and nothing else is wrong with it”

        My father: “I’m going to buy a new car.”

        Me: WTF?

      • 0 avatar
        noxioux

        There’s a reason you can get one of these things for less than half of what they sold for originally. And it has nothing to do with ‘value’.

        I would never trust a used Bimmer, as most of the folks I know driving them have no idea how to check their oil, let alone change it. Just the sort who believes in things like “lifetime transmission fluid” and “fairy dust”. As far as relying on the dealership for maintenance. . . well let’s just say that the last time I trusted a dealership for anything beyond slick huckster lip service was in the 80′s.

        IMHO, twin-turbos and AWD in a performance sedan is a recipe for disaster, regardless of how well it’s been maintained. That being said, it would probably end up being a very interesting car, if you like turning a wrench. Hopefully those ‘low battery’ codes won’t re-materialize. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

      • 0 avatar

        Depends.
        03 330i, 278k. second fuel pump, second power steering pump, third battery and alternator, too many brakes to count, third set of shocks (yea bilsteins), second set of bushings and links, third windshield, second set of speakers (Bav Soundworks), Mediabridge. Second set of radiator hoses, third set of belts.

        Looks almost new. Drives new. The new ones have better gadgets, but that is not worth 50k, and the mediabridge is a great real built in bluetooth and MP3 player solution…even streams bluetooth music.

        Change the oil every 5k, change tranny/diff every 50-60k, keep it clean. Check the forums for “they all do that” before going to a $tealer.

        It is worth keeping up a good car. Most cars that go to the crusher for minor items weren’t great to begin with. The e46, at least, is/was quite well assembled, designed to be serviced. I just did front brakes and pads for $199 with OE supplier parts, same bits at dealer were $478.00 without tax.

        BMW can be maintained for “normal” prices, there is a great aftermarket, and most BMW OE parts can be bought from the OE supplier for 1/2 price. I got a set of end links once, and the only difference was someone had ground down the “bmw” logo on the “non” BMW part. Clearly came off the same press.

      • 0 avatar
        spinjack

        My 2001 330Ci has been costing me well north of $3000/yr to keep operating. It has 150k on the odo and it is in the process of being replaced with a one or two year old IS250 or G37 (G25 doesn’t have Nav). Once past about 110k, it became a serious money pit.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      The 3-series is too small for their needs.

    • 0 avatar
      npbheights

      Paying 50% for 75% of something sounds like a good deal to me, especially when it comes with a
      better warranty.

      • 0 avatar
        Freerider

        I think he got a good deal, you can’t argue with the fact that it is effectively 50% off and even if it has problems, better than spending 60K for it.

        I’m currently lusting after an 05 E500 4-matic. I really want an e55 but need something that I can drive year round. I currently drive an 05 Lexus GX which has been a paragon of reliability.

        Am I CRAZY? My wife’s 08 A4 2.0 is at the dealer getting new pistons & rings – at 35K!!!! Is this “Truth in Engineering”!?

        I just can’t believe that I can actually afford what was once a ~70K car and have wanted a Merc since I was probably 10 years old. Anyone have any experience with the W211 E class (not the 03 which I know was terrible)….

      • 0 avatar
        Ubermensch

        If you can’t afford to buy a MB new, you probably can’t afford to own one out of warranty used.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        ubermensch, have you ever actually owned a BMW or Benz, out of warranty or not?

        To say you need to be able to afford a new BMW or Benz to consider one out of warranty is ridiculous.

      • 0 avatar
        Ubermensch

        I don’t need to have owned one of these Teutonic ticking time bombs to know that I couldn’t afford it. The repair costs my co-worker has had to pay on his E39 would have drained me financially. Was it a bit of hyperbole on my part? Maybe a little, but I’m not too far off the mark.

      • 0 avatar
        hurls

        @freerider: had that done to my wife’s A4 2.0T Avant… good news is that 8k miles later, hasn’t burned a drop of oil. As opposed to a quart every 4k, then 3k , then 2k , then 1k for the first 29k miles of ownership.

        Germaine to the original discussion, I can only add that the autotragic/slushbox in my CPO e46 detonated the reverse drum about 1 month after CPO warranty expired. No help from BMW on the repair. Serves me right for not digging around for a manual, but manual wagon is a hard combo to find.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    Great story. I went through a similar process a few months back when we got our CTS wagon. Car buying is not for the faint of heart. There’s a part of me that wanted to buy my own dealership just to prove that it can be done better than many of the bozo operations I encountered.

    And +1 for the acknowledgement of emotion as a big part of the process. We *love* cars, otherwise we’d all be driving beige Camrys (not to say that one can’t love a Camry, of course!)

  • avatar
    Speed Spaniel

    I have leased CPO vehicles in the past (an ’04 TT 3.2 DSG roadster and an ’07 S4), so I’m curious, why would your friend insist on a PPI inspection? Wouldn’t that have already been done by the acquiring dealership in order to get the CPO warranty on the car?

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Apparently the CPO didn’t require the replacement of a bad battery that wasn’t to be covered by the warranty. Then there are the eleven revealed and present fault codes. CPO is far from a silver bullet.

      • 0 avatar
        Speed Spaniel

        Any car that’s been sitting in a dealer’s lot for months is going to have a weak battery and throw fault codes. I’m sure driving the car regularly would have restored the battery. Besides for the sake of argument had their been an inherit defect in the battery, it probably would have manifested itself very early on and any reputable dealer would make good on a new battery CPO warranty or not.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Remember that these cars are known for marginal battery life. And taking a strap-on for a dealer mandated battery is another cherished joy at the hands of BMW dealers. Maybe that key issue was a warning…though I must say driving a BMW can be intoxicating…

    • 0 avatar
      parabellum2000

      I don’t know much about BMW’s CPO program, but many are just insurance policies that the dealer builds into the sale. I had a certified pre-owned Acura that had a bad transmission develop within a few weeks of the purchase.

      I also had a certified pre-owned Mazda that when my mechanic put it on a lift could see that it had been in an accident. The Mazda certification process doesn’t guarantee that the car is free from accident damage, and I’d bet BMW doesn’t either.

      The inspection on the vehicle is only a good as the dealer that does it. I certainly wouldn’t trust any dealer 400 miles away to be honest about anything.

      I won’t buy another used car without an inspection. For $130 its well worth it.

    • 0 avatar
      seabrin

      There were two reasons for PPI. First, the car was 400 miles away and I wouldn’t see the car until the decision to purchase. I wanted the piece of mind that the car was at least worth the drive. I figured that piece of mind was worth 100 bucks. Second, I wanted another experienced set of eyes to inspect the car. Perhaps my imaginings are flawed, but I see an independent BMW mechanic as risking more than a dealership mechanic when performing a routing inspection. Reputations and future business are potentially at stake. And even if I’m wrong about that, two is better than one. There’s less chance that something gets missed.

      • 0 avatar
        Hildy Johnson

        Makes perfect sense to me. PPI doesn’t guarantee anything, but if the dealer refuses the PPI, it’s a clear red light. You have to insist on it to find out.

        And good luck!

  • avatar
    retrogrouch

    An autotragic turbo E60 out of warranty is automotive Russian roulette.

    • 0 avatar
      Tosh

      And with AWD, you just loaded another bullet.

      • 0 avatar
        seabrin

        It’s in-warranty until 06/14 or 100k. And in all of my research (probably 60 hours on the web and talking to independent BMW mechanics), I did not find anything other than anecdotal X-drive issues. I appreciate the perspective, but there seems to be more than a bit of schadenfreude in your comments.

      • 0 avatar
        Ubermensch

        seabrin,
        You talked to BMW mechanics and they didn’t alert you to issues? Of they didn’t. They want another potential customer to help pay for that second home in the Keys.

      • 0 avatar
        retrogrouch

        Seabrin, did I miss it or is the mileage on the car missing above?

        Anyway, my opinion is based on my experience owning and fixing my various (about 15) BMWs built between 1973 and 2001 as well as working on friends’ BMWs. My parents and co-workers have gone through a bunch as well. I buy them with 100k to 250k miles on them. The one exception is an E46 that I purchased new. My E46 has failed to start or left me stuck 5 times in a decade which is more than all my other BMWs combined despite driving about 4 times the mileage in those cars. The E46s, E60s, and E90s I know seem to fail to start or leave their owners stranded fairly often as well.

        The only faint glimmer of hope is that more than half the roadside strandings I know about are cooling system related. Replace EVERYTHING in the cooling system in any BMW (thermostat, rad, expansion tank, hoses, electric fan) every 3 years or 50k miles (whichever comes first) and you will greatly reduce the chances of being stranded due to overheating or coolant loss.

      • 0 avatar
        Ubermensch

        “Replace EVERYTHING in the cooling system in any BMW (thermostat, rad, expansion tank, hoses, electric fan) every 3 years or 50k miles (whichever comes first) and you will greatly reduce the chances of being stranded due to overheating or coolant loss.”

        Is it just me that sees how ludicrous statements like this are? Have you priced out what all those components will cost to buy and install? I could excuse these expenses in a VW because they are relatively cheap to buy (both the car and the parts). But when you are already paying over $50k for these cars new, a reasonable person would expect basic cooling components to last longer than 3 years or 50k miles. I too lusted for the roundel but the horror stories of my co-workers E46 help to keep me grounded.

      • 0 avatar
        retrogrouch

        Yes, it is ridiculous. So is replacing the engine in your $60,000 luxury car because the plastic coolant expansion tank puked all your coolant out at 42,000 miles. The V8 and V12 cars are even more ridiculous. The Behr (OE) radiator in my father’s 540i blew out 37,000 miles after it was installed to replace the factory radiator that failed the same way.

        This is why I no longer recommend BMWs to anyone. The enthusiast who wants to drive a newer one like a BMW is supposed to be driven will not be swayed by the reality of maintaining one out of warranty until they start writing checks. If they have the cash, they will dump it as it approaches the end of warranty and buy/lease a newer one, forever renting their cars.

        I will soon have to face the fact that driving one daily will be an expensive and futile exercise (unless I find a rust free E30/E34 here in the northeast US). With luck and lots of cash, my E46 will serve well as I pass the 300k mile mark. After that, I will resort to cam/cord appliances unless Ford impresses my with Focus/Fiesta reliability.

        The good news is that I will always have one as a track/LeMons car.

      • 0 avatar
        retrogrouch

        For the record, I would give 2.7 kidneys and a bushel of blood for an E60 535i with a manual trans to use as a daily beater. I just don’t want to deal with it when it breaks.

    • 0 avatar
      rgil627il

      indeed

  • avatar
    F_Porsche

    Considering the research he put in and this is the car he wanted for the price he was willing to pay, I think he bought well. He will always find naysayers on German cars, just like the majority of the Germans are laughing over American build quality. But enough on the clichés.
    What I am wondering is: Did he ever drive an E60 535xi before he started all of his research? It’s hard for me to process putting all that work into buying a car that only exists in my dreams. But maybe that’s just me.

    • 0 avatar
      seabrin

      I did an extended test drive of a 2009 535xi after my first round of grid analysis. It was early enough that I wasn’t close to buying, but was 90% sure about the 535. It did not have the sport package, but with the X-drive the only real changes are the sport buckets and steering wheel.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    “As if to drive home the logic of buying German, the Malibu LTZ we rented would not let us take the key out of the ignition once inserted”

    A similar thing happened to my friend’s pristine 1992 Camry, one of the most reliable and durable cars ever built. The key was stuck because of the position of the wheel – sometimes if the wheel is upside down it won’t come out.

    After some fumbling and cursing, she straightened the wheels and the key came right out. Same thing happened to an Accord I once owned. Not sure if that’s exactly what happened with the Malibu.

  • avatar
    ajla

    A CPO E60?

    E31 or nothing.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Great story..For what its worth,I think your friend did okay.

    The BMW wouldn’t be my choice,but the guy got what he wanted,for the price he wanted to pay.

  • avatar
    M. Ellis

    Every time I see a comment about ‘wanting to buy X business to prove that it can be done better’ I actually want to see that person try it.

    Heck, they might even be right, and revolutionize the business model in question.

    But I keep seeing this sort of comment, particularly about two things: car dealerships, and publishing houses. Every time it’s made, I’m reminded of, I believe Jim MacDonald, who said about publishing companies: their business practices aren’t built so much on what makes them the most money as in what doesn’t kill them off.

    I don’t like car shopping. Most car salesmen give me the creeps and the whole ‘I have to go back to my manager for X’ (with its corresponding fifteen minute to hour delay) is annoying as hell, but I also assume that there’s a reason for most of that behavior, and that somewhere that sort of thing became standard because doing it any other sort of way tends to lead to the dealer going out of business.

    It wouldn’t surprise me to find out it works not because the dealership doesn’t want to give good customer service, but because giving good customer service is hard, and with the kind of people you get who sell cars for a living, the ‘traditional’ model works with the least amount of effort for the most return.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      I left out the “then I came to my senses” part. Look, as a former small business owner, I know how hard things are. But having said that, the most common thing I experienced was a lackadaisical attitude from the sales staff. I drive up in a late-model, nicely-kept luxury car and start looking at vehicles with high sticker prices. At one BMW dealership, they were having some sort of hipster party for the Mini side of the shop. No one even bothered to come over talk to me. A Cadillac dealer we went to look at a specific car told us “that car is out on loan.” The salesman then walked away. No, “is there anything else I can interest you in” or “have you driven this?”. At another dealership, we made an opening offer. The response was no. After a minute of post-no silence, my wife said, okay, do you have a counter-offer? The response was “I can’t accept that offer”. No counter was ever received. Come on, where’s the interplay? When I was in sales, I worked hard to engage customers and make them feel like I valued their time and genuinely wanted to help them (I did, actually).

      Yes, running a dealership is hard. But, come on, what’s the point of having sales staff who don’t seem to give a damn?

      • 0 avatar
        stryker1

        When I was car shopping, the majority of the sales staff admitted to me that it was their first day/week on the job at that dealership. It sounds like car salespeople have fairly high turnover rates. Is it surprising that most seem to have no clue what they’re doing?

        M. Ellis: I actually welcome the break I get when the sales dude has to go “talk to his manager”. It allows me to sanity check myself, and go over the reasons to walk away again.

      • 0 avatar
        M. Ellis

        I wonder that too. The last time I walked into a dealership (a local Scion place while my Prius was in for some work), I walked around the floor for ten minutes while the four (visible) employees talked to themselves.

        When they finally did notice me, they were nice enough, but in no way did they make me want to come back to talk to them again.

        With service like that, I really do wonder if most car dealership practices are designed more around the quality of their employees and not the convenience of their customers. It also makes me wonder if even a great salesman can make enough selling automobiles to keep them doing it, as opposed to going off to selling higher profit items, which leads us back into the quality of employees you can expect running a car dealership.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        I refuse to waste time dealing with the random salesman that happens to be “up” when I walk in. Instead, I pick up the phone and call the dealership, assume my deepest, most authoritative voice, and say “This is (full name) at (employer name). May I speak to your fleet sales manager.” This misleading statement bypasses the worthless front-line sales staff. The fleet sales manager seems to know both what cars are for sale and, more importantly, what cars are on order that will soon be for sale. When I locate the car I want, I schedule an appointment in the final hours of the sales day. The dealership always tries to keep you there all day to wear you down, so why show up early.

    • 0 avatar
      azmtbkr81

      The traditional, independent dealership model is antiquated and inefficient. It would be amazing if auto companies could open factory stores with consistent pricing, inventory, policies and service.

      It is insane to have to travel across half the country to find a specific car. In an ideal world the salesperson would use a centralized database to find the exact car and have it shipped. No negotiation between dealers, no roadblocks to try to get you to buy something on the lot…it would be as easy as having Best Buy order a TV that is out of stock.

    • 0 avatar
      nrcote

      > and the whole ‘I have to go back to my manager
      > for X’ (with its corresponding fifteen minute
      > to hour delay) is annoying as hell

      They want to make you sweat. Just do the same thing. When the sales rep leaves, start talking to another sales rep or go have a look at the new/used cars if you’re shopping for a used/new car. In other words, just disappear. I usually go outside to look at the cars on the lot. When you see your sales rep approaching you, just say: Ah! There you are! I found out that this helps to lower the number of visits to the manager.

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    Epic story. This guy does it my way – research the hell out of big ticket items before you buy. Search around for exactly what you want. I get the impression that many, many people these days buy a car based on it’s monthly payment, does it look tiiite/cute and “can I plug my iPod in”.

  • avatar
    tylanner

    Very nice article.

    I have been salivating over two 2006-2008 M5′s (not CPO)in my area. I love to gamble but I figure any M5 that is not CPO will have issues or is completely uninspected. I’m really just trying to get the most for my money…

    I love how he focused his search to one particular car/model/build/features. I am lost still and I’m a good 4 months into my car search…CPO is something I have overlooked until now.

  • avatar
    Loser

    I enjoyed reading this. He sounds extremely happy with his car and that’s the only thing that matters. So yes he made the right decision.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Of course, a car is an emotional purchase. If it weren’t emotional, someone would buy something much less expensive, that got the job done at the lowest cost . . . which certainly leaves out BMWs.

    As the owner of a CPO Z3, I don’t have anything negative to say about what your fried did. What he did pretty much echoed what I did, other than the PPI, which seemed kinda silly in my case, since I had 3 years of comprehensive warranty left and two years of maintenance. I knew I wanted to buy a roadster; I knew how much I was willing to pay. First, before driving anything, I did my homework on the web . . . to see what my budget would buy me. That eliminated the Boxster from my list, because it appeared the my budget would only get me into Boxsters with significant amounts of mileage and no warranty (and, in light of the IMS failure problem, it appears that, by doing so, I dodged an expensive bullet). Next, I drove each of the cars in question. That immediately eliminated the Miata (not big enough for my 6’4″ frame with the top up) and pretty much eliminated the S2000 (same size issue, plus, the car is bog slow unless you rev the piss out of it, attracting unwanted attention to yourself by so doing). Which left the Z3. By a hair, the car was big enough for me inside. I saw a very nice 2.8 liter, which, to me felt adequately powered. Then I spotted the car I ultimately bought. Unlike the 2.8, it was not “arrest-me red,” was a little newer and had fewer miles, was a CPO and, of course, was a little quicker (although I had no plans to challenge Corvettes at stoplights).

    Thanks to Carfax’s “unlimited number of searches in a fixed amount of time” deal (no longer available, sadly), I knew that the car had been sitting on the dealer’s lot since fall. It was now February . . . President’s day weekend to be exact.

    There was the usual drama at the dealership, but, happily for me, snow started falling . . . and I asked the salesguy how many convertibles he thought he was going to sell this weekend. (It turned out to be a record snowfall, something like 18″). So, we got to within a few thousand of the red 2.8, and well under Blue Book and we had a deal. I drove the car home, and it sat for the next week, waiting for 18″ of snow to melt.

    A lot of scorn has been dumped on the Z3 as being a “parts bin car” etc., but all I can say is that the driving experience was a better version of what I remembered from my brief drives of an Austin-Healy 3000 in the early 1970s. Some autojourno’s (upon whom, no doubt, JB would heap scorn, characterized the car’s trailing arm rear suspension as making for “amusing” handling; but I have managed to keep the back end of the car behind me at all times in the 8 years I have owned the car. And, given what I’ve read about older Boxsters’ engine failures, no matter how superior the driving experience that car might have offered, had I gone for the older, more used Boxster and been faced with an engine rebuild, it would have ruined the whole experience.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      The Z3 may be a parts bin vehicle, but it is one heck of a bin! They were developed back when BMW still made quality components. I havent heard any bad things about Z3 longevity.

  • avatar
    ccd1

    Looking to go down this rabbit hole myself and one of the cars I am looking at is a Bimmer, the 335d. You can get a low mileage 2011 335d well optioned for $35,00-$40,000. Finding the cars is relatively easy, just use BMW’s used car search function at its website.

    There is, of course, a reason why a $50,000 car is so plentiful in this price range one year out: it’s a diesel. There is little doubt that whatever deal I got on the front end will be returned when I tried to trade in this car. Diesels get little love in the USA and while the gas mileage of the 335d is good, it is by no means exceptional, especially given the higher cost of diesel fuel. So far, I have not seriously ventured into purschasing waters. I cannot convince myself that I would not be taking a problem child off the dealer’s lot and making it my own.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      A BMW tech told me the 335d has a serious mechanical issue that would be newsworthy if they sold in greater numbers. The reason they’re all on used car lots so soon could be due to lack of faith by former owners after early engine replacements or due to them having been bought back under lemon laws.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m looking at this too. I drove a 320d in Germany this last summer, and was very impressed. I tried a 335d at a dealer here in the us, and it too was amazing.

        I’d only buy one CPO, at which point I’d know if it was citrus or not. The lower resale is because in the US diesel is very niche, and the cars don’t have X drive. The go fast guys want the 335i.

  • avatar
    Ubermensch

    There is no way I would buy a car with BMWs iDrive. I spend enough time at my job in IT dealing with crappy software, I don’t need to deal with it in my car as well. Throw in terrible reliability and a worse driving car that the last generation and you have a real winner there. I’m glad he got what he wanted but as the saying goes, “Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.”

    • 0 avatar
      Trauto

      Own an 08 e60 from new, 50k miles now, not a single issue, amazing to drive, iDrive a snap.

    • 0 avatar
      seabrin

      I’m sorry your experience with the iDrive wasn’t enjoyable. I read a lot of reviews panning it, but I can’t say I agree. I like it. HPFP problems aside (my e60 has the recall part) I didn’t see a money pit. And since I’m upgrading from a ’99 Honda Accord EX, the driving bit is an improvement by any metric. Perhaps I am blinded by the roundel. All I know is I smile every time I open the door to the garage.

    • 0 avatar

      Why the IDrive hate ? When we rented two cars in Germany this summer, both were BMW with I drive. I got, in five minutes, the idrive to speak english, convert the mpg to imperial units, got the ipods properly hooked up, and in a week of driving, had no issues. The beauty of idrive is when you are actually driving, you can do most things by feel without looking at anything other than the road.

      The alternative is my Acura, with a thousand buttons on the dash. I overall preferred the Idrive.

  • avatar
    stryker1

    In my experience, walking away from a deal you’re not 100% certain of is always always always the correct decision.
    You will never regret taking more time to ensure that large sums of money are well spent.

    • 0 avatar
      deliverator

      I have always put in a lot of thought into car purchases, and have generally done well. Except for the El Camino incident…

      Anyway this last time around I spent about 6 weeks researching which new car I’d want. It would have been the first time. Finally narrowed it down to a VW Golf Wagon (Canada), tdi, manual transmission. Then started looking at how to pay for it. This research led me to a site for people who need to get out of leases. At around the same time I discovered that the Golf is due for a major overhaul for the 2013 MY (mqb design). On that leasing site I found a good deal on a 2008 Civic Si. 11 months left on lease, $318/month. Residual $11500. Only 46000 km on the odometer. So I threw caution to the wind and took over the lease. I realized I can drive it for the year and buy it out, then be able to sell it and comfortably get most of or all of, my money back for the year (because of the low mileage). I did do a carfax check, which turned up nothing.

      A few days after I got it I went to the dealer to get touch up paint and find out if it had any outstanding recalls. The service guy said no recalls, but holy crap this thing had a new clutch put in 3 weeks ago! At 45000 km! If I’d known that before, I probably wouldn’t have done the deal. I texted the guy I got the car from and he said his belief was it was a manufacturing defect. Uh-huh, yeah.

      I think he bagged it because he knew he was getting rid of it.

      Still a fun car to drive, and I like it.

  • avatar
    Dukeboy01

    Is he happy with the deal? If so, then he did just fine. You can take any car buying situation, particularly when you’re talking about a used car, and come up with ways to convince yourself that you got screwed in the deal. Someone, somewhere, will have found a car with the exact same options for less money.

    Seems to me he identified what he wanted, did his research to get an idea of what a fair price was, and then did his due diligence with the inspection on the specific model he ended up buying. If he was able to purchase the car within the financial window he was trying to hit, then what’s not to like.

    Buying a car over the Internet and over a long distance can be an emotionally draining experience. I’ve done it twice now in the last two years. The first time was for a cream puff 2002 Camaro SS at huge, modern dealership just north of Chicago. The most recent time was last month when I drove 300 miles to a little dealership in the ass end of nowhere Indiana to trade in my 1995 GMC pickup for a 2001 Silverado with 33K on the odometer. Both times I spent the trip north psyching myself up for the deal to be queered for one reason or another, convinced that I’d be coming home without a new car.

    Both times I got there and the deal went as smooth as silk. The cars were in the condition that they were advertised. I did have to do one round of “Let me go talk to my manager” on the truck, but I quickly convinced them that I really was crazy enough to turn around and drive 4 hours back to KY in my old truck and we got the deal hammered out pretty quickly after that. I’m happy with both my rides, content with the prices I paid, and that’s what matters.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    Sounds like he did his homework and got what he wanted, so I say good decision. BMW’s CPO warranty is pretty comprehensive, so he should be pretty safe as long as he still has warranty.

    The grid analysis stood out to me a bit. I remember the conclusion of an old comparison test (either edmunds or car and driver, I forget) awarding a BMW yet another 1st place finish, stating that if you are the kind of person that shops by spreadsheet, you will never consider a BMW. They went on to name the BMW the winner on subjective reasons, but I think they had a fair point about the spreadsheet bit. Put the specs down on paper and you almost always get less for your money with a BMW. And here we have a spreadsheet shopper using said spreadsheet to evaluate a bimmer.

    • 0 avatar
      seabrin

      For the sake of clarity, I had already decided on a BMW when I got around to the grid analysis. If I had still been considering the Ford Taurus and others, you’re correct that the BMW would probably have lost (depending on how much I weighted price).

  • avatar
    stickshift

    I had a similar experience buying my X3 — with a stick shift. It was on the lot, discounted to a good price, probably because it was an MT. And probably they smelled blood because I was eager and X3 MT’s are quite rare. It was a CPO, but I still did a PPI and I don’t regret it. Absolutely no problem having the dealer agree to it. Got a clean report from my indie mechanic. We had a few “go the manager” rounds and I probably spent 5 hours in the dealership getting my deal and financing lined up. Hated that, but it’s once every 10 years for me so I can live with that.

    The car was advertised with a leather interior. I questioned that but the salesman insisted it was leather and I didn’t know enough about BMW upholstery to be sure. A week after I purchased the car I realized it was really their “Sensatec” vinyl. Not a problem for me, I have no particular desire for leather, but I thought I’d overpaid. Went back to the dealer and renegotiated the price! I thought that showed integrity on their part.

    The OEM warranty + CPO was well worth it, as I estimate I’ve had about $7,000 of work on the car and paid only a $50 deductible. All the problems seem to have been ironed out now, and I’m hoping to keep it a long time, especially as the new X3 no longer is offered with MT in the USA. Overall very happy with this car.

    Once while I was waiting to have it serviced I was wandering the showroom floor. Got talking to a salesman who offered to let me drive an M3. He said it was a little slow and he wasn’t go to pressure me to buy. Drove it, great fun, he was true to his word, no sales pitch at all. May be years from now, but if I ever buy new I’ll be buying from him!

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      There’s a guy who knows how to sell a car! You’ll remember that little test drive, even if you’re never interested in an M3. But, if you’re interested in another BMW, you’ll see that guy.

      The guy who sold me my BMW was a total asshole — but didn’t know enough not to get into an asshole contest with a lawyer. Nobody out-assholes a lawyer! It’s a matter of professional pride. ;-)

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      If I ever had to have $7000 worth of work done on a car warranty or not I would dump it as soon as that warranty was close to being up. All the problems ironed out? LOL

      • 0 avatar
        highrpm

        It is sad that the norm for a used BMW purchase today is the $7000 worth of repairs to get things ironed out.

        Imagine when this car is a bit older and out of warranty. I have to agree with internet wisdom that these are cars you do not want to own out of warranty.

  • avatar
    jeffzekas

    “blinded by the allure of the Roundel?”– Yes. I mean, the comment before mine says it all: “I’ve had about $7,000 of work on the car”… so, unless you sell before the warranty runs out, you will be in deep doo doo… of course, our family has only owned four BMW’s, so I MIGHT be wrong… reminds me of the sound you hear, right before a train hits a car stuck on the tracks…

    • 0 avatar
      stickshift

      I’m the one with the $7,000 worth of work, and I mentioned it to attest to value of the OEM + CPO warranty. Most of the work was not critical, the car always checked out fine, and if I had to pay out of pocket I would probably have done only about $500 of the work.

      The biggest item was a known problem with the BMW N52 engine, a loud engine ticking. Consensus is that it’s annoying but not destructive. Had the valve lifters replaced, and when the noise recurred after a year the cylinder head was replaced by a redesigned head. I’m fine with all that, and I’m glad for the warranty. I think the car had it’s shakedown and I’m expecting a long life from it. Hope I’m right!

      • 0 avatar
        highrpm

        @stickshift, I see that you are happy with your X3 and I’m happy for you.

        But imagine this scenario. I tell you that I bought a used Honda Civic and I love that car, especially now that I’ve had $7000 worth of warranty work done on it to iron things out. Some of which included major engine work. Would you agree with me that it was a wise purchase?

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        The whole point of a warranty is to fix things that break before they should, or that turn out to have issues in service. If Toyotas and Hondas were perfect, they would not need a warranty at all, yet they come with one too. BMW had a ticking issue with those N52 sixes. They determined that it was not detrimental to the engine, but many owners found it annoying. BMW stood behind their product at GREAT expense, and replaced the heads with a redesigned part. I find this rather impressive, myself.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        @highrpm

        The “major engine work” addressed is a non-issue. It sounds like the same thing I have in my 540, where once warm the engine ticks quite a bit at idle. As I understand it, it’s just noisy lifters and has no impact on the performance or durability of the engine. BMW would have been well within their rights to tell customers to eff off on that non-issue, so I agree that it’s impressive that they were willing to do something about it.

      • 0 avatar
        stickshift

        I was not a BMW fanboy, had Japanese cars for years and was shopping for another. But what I was looking for didn’t exist: 6 cylinder, manual transmission, decent handling, good carrying capacity. My first choice, Mazda 6, no longer offered MT. Infiniti didn’t offer MT in the E or F series and G was too small for my needs. Unexpectedly I backed into BMW.

        And I did that with my eyes open, realizing that I was trading away some reliability for the performance features I was looking for.

        My point is that after I committed to the additional expense of a less than stellar reliability record, the OEM and CPO warranties insulated me from the financial cost I was expecting, at least for a few years. As far as I’m concerned that was a great deal. In another year my CPO runs out (6 years after the car was originally sold). Then I’ll be on my own. I fully expect to keep the car, pay far more for service than I would for a Toyota, and continue to enjoy driving this car, especially since I had the benefit of a lengthy shakedown period where I got to know the car.

  • avatar
    imag

    Jeepers, Baruth – couldn’t you have helped this guy? This tale was tragic.

    The first rule of car buying with dealerships is that you have to be ready to walk out (or hang up up the phone) to get a deal. It’s not personal. It’s not something you should be offended by. It’s just the way it works. But if you aren’t just about to walk out, then they know they aren’t getting enough out of you. They will push you as far as you can go. You can either let yourself get pushed and get angry about it, or you can just make them deal with you on your terms. All you have to do is be ready to politely get in your car or, if you are on the phone, tell them that they know where to find you if they reconsider.

    The issue is that people used to bargain for things all the time. They realized it wasn’t personal. Now, in the US, almost everything has a price tag and people get tremendously stressed about car dealerships and bargaining. It’s really simple: they can’t hurt you. If anything is stressing you out, just get up and start to leave.

    Note that this friend finally got the deal because he hung up and didn’t call back. They expected him to call back, to give in. When he didn’t, they gave him the thousand bucks off – there was probably more where that came from, had he set it up correctly. There’s no need to get angry when they finally return the call. It’s not about morals or being “straight” – it’s just basic bargaining. I remember working at a dealership quibbling about $10, when we stood to make $7K on the deal. The person buying the car thought they were getting the deal of a lifetime.

    I think maybe people need to take a quick class on this, so they can be as armed as the dealerships. The internet has helped because you can just plunk an invoice down on the table on a new car, or buy direct. But the sad reality is that if everyone did that, the dealerships would be out of business.

    Please, to anyone reading this: don’t get caught up. Just be ready to leave – even if you love the car. It will still be there, or another one just like it. And yes, I did sell cars at one point in my life. There is nothing the salesperson, the manager, or the finance person can do if you just show them that you are ready and willing to bail on the deal at any time. In fact, I would go so far to say that if you didn’t have to convince them that you were ready to drop the deal, you probably didn’t get a very good deal at all.

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      I think one of the worst things to do is shop for a car when you absolutely NEED one. Waiting until that junker finally dies or needs a huge repair puts you in the worst position. I always shop for cars when my current ride is still in good working order and is still rust free. I clean it up and fix the things that are obviously wrong and get top dollar for my trade. If you have more than one car this isn’t as crucial but the wife and I only have need for one car so we don’t have a spare to lean on if it is out of commission.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    I think your friend did OK overall, even if he had to step back, regain his composure and do proper research, in the end, it sounded like he got what he wanted at a good price and that’s all that matters at the very least.

    My current car is the very first car I ever bought at a dealer and yes, it’s a used car, a 2003 Mazda Protege5 and was NOT planned as such as I was out doing reconnaissance on what’s out there used in my price range/budget (monthly payment I could swing) and this was after hearing about a car buying calculator program online which then has you plugging in how long you want the loan (I think I put down 84 months, it might’ve been 72 months instead) and $20,000 and it brought my payments to $220 a month but reality set in and I had to lower my sights considerably and didn’t have the loan sewn up as I was still awaiting approval when I spotted the Mazda.

    It was at a Honda dealer in really nice shape and I’d test driven a 2009 Kia Rio5 the day before (autobox, manual locks/windows, AC, decent stereo with Aux and USB ports) that was a hatchback, price was not bad for a car with I think 56K miles on it. It was a nice car to drive, but a little TOO noisy on the highway but with decent enough acceleration.

    When I test drove the Mazda, it just felt right, the driving dynamics, everything about it, and yes, it’s an autobox too, but it’s the sport stick version and the car just seemed like the right type of car for my needs and I liked driving it.

    The sales guy was great, he gave me the keys, got a copy of my license and Mom and I took off, test driving over several roads, even a windy, twisty drive through some woods and parallel to a creek before entering the little town of Steillacoom and it’s a great drive to take to get onto I-5 southbound to avoid the bad traffic on I-5 through Tacoma and it’s a quite a pretty drive at that.

    Anyway, I didn’t do it quite right as ideally, I should’ve had the loan already BEFORE buying anything and hadn’t even considered the Mazda yet but that car just sold me so I jumped at it, putting down $1100 and we then worked out the loan, eventually finding an institution who would finance the car at 48 months, 110,650 miles but got a price reduction from $8422 to $6400 even, $1,000 trade on my dying ’92 Ford Ranger (still running) and now finance for just over $6K, out the door at a decent enough interest rate, total payments ate $173.36.

    Mind you, I was NOT prepared to buy back in January as I’d hoped to hold off for several more months and try to have better income to handle a loan, whatever it might be, but the truck had other ideas, so had to jump on it when the opportunity arose. One thing my Mom noted, and perhaps the sales guy was I kept my cool, didn’t let my emotions get the best of me and simply went on my gut throughout the whole buying process. I say I didn’t do bad at all for a first timer buying at a dealer and the dealer could not have been any nicer to deal with to begin with.

    I think I got a good deal, the dealer got the car sold and it’s in very nice shape, no warranty or remorse buyer return etc but I love the car so far and my next plan is to replace the older aftermarket Alpine single DIN CD head unit for one with built in Bluetooth, Aux and USB ports and maybe replace the timing belt, or at least inspect it to see if done, replace the so, so Federal Super Steel 535 summer tires that are OK but in good shape but do not appear to have a very long tread life.

    It’s been nearly 2 months and so far, so good.

    • 0 avatar
      Tosh

      Did I read that right? You are actually satisfied with paying $6400 for a 10 year-old 110k miles Mazda economy car? Sad.

      • 0 avatar
        ciddyguy

        Tosh,

        Yes, you did, but you insulted not me, the car. Have you ever driven a Protege5? I doubt it as you’d not have merely dismissed it as an economy car.

        True, the P5 was the least expensive car Mazda sold at that time but it was NOT a cheap car, it was affordable back in the day.

        The P5 was the hatchback version of the sedan and had several things that did not exist on the sedans, namely much better handling and a bit firmer ride for starters.

        These cars were well equipped for the day. Mine has alloy wheels, leather, 4spd auto sport stick box, intermittent wipers, 6 speakers with factory sub, may well have had the in-dash 6 disc CD changer (only way to get the sub from what I’ve read and currently sports a single DIN Alpine CD head unit with iPod control) and has the 2.0L 4, it’s not the Speed 5 so it only has 130HP but it’s quick enough and it has power windows, door locks and keyless entry too.

        If KBB is anywhere correct, trade in for my car with what I have on it is $4548 in excellent condition and mine is close to that and yes, the AC works just fine as does everything else. The only things it doesn’t have that I’d have preferred are ABS and side airbags (they were optional) along with the sunroof and perhaps the roof rack.

        I bought it at a new car dealer and they WERE trying to sell it for $8422 but because I was financing, they were forced to reduce the price as one of the conditions in allowing me to secure a loan (no choice, had to quickly find another car as my truck developed mechanical issues and further inspections revealed it was dying) and this little Mazda just felt right.

        Also, have you looked at used car prices lately? They are astronomical, no matter where you go to look. Many sellers have an inflated sense of what their car is worth and try to sell it for much more than it’s actually worth. A case in point, someone at work tried to sell a 1982 Mercedes 280D Sedan, unrestored but in good shape for $2000, had to reduce it to I think $900 and it may have sold finally as I’m not seeing it at work of late.

        So in this case, I GOT a good deal, and the car is ONLY 9 YO.

        so it’s no econobox, that’s relegated to the A and B segment cars, ie subcompacts like the KIA RIO, the former Hyundai Accent et-al that often were not as loaded up and had smaller motors and don’t usually sport superb handling like the P5 did – and the P5 was a compact and is the predecessor to the current Mazda3.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        ciddyguy

        Just to clarify, the Protege sedan in ES trim had the same suspension as the P5.

        I had a 2003 that I bought new and sold it almost four years ago with 65k on it for about $6500. I still occasionally kick myself for selling it, as I essentially sold low right before the market crash and bought high (replaced the Protege with a ’98 540). Apparently I could have continued to drive the Protege nearly depreciation free for the last four years, nevermind the difference in repair costs. Oh well.

        The Proteges are great cars. If you are happy with it don’t worry about what others think of the purchase price. It kills me to see the listing prices on them and think of what I sold mine for. The used car market is truly insane.

      • 0 avatar
        ciddyguy

        Burgersandbeer,

        I take it yours had the upper sway bar that mounts between the 2 front struts, right? the P5′s do.

        I think the earlier Protege sedans didn’t have it as I saw a series of videos of a guy replacing the timing belt on his 1999 ES sedan and I don’t recall seeing it, even the video of him showing the car off right after buying it from I think the original owner as he opened the hood to reveal the 1.8L motor it had (the 2.0 is derived from that same block) and don’t recall seeing it then.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        No, the sedans did not have the strut tower brace. That part is a P5 exclusive. Springs, dampers, engine, and brakes were the same though.

        I’ve never considered strut tower braces part of the suspension.

  • avatar

    According to CR, the most satisfied car owners tend to be those with cars that pack a lot of fun, regardless of frequency of repair (Corvettes have in recent past years had “much worse than average” frequency of repair and “much better than average” satisfaction), and those with high mpg cars (my brother, who has always thought of cars as appliances, loves his Prius, much to my amusement and that of his Boxster owning best friend).

    Given Jack’s friends desires in a car, he probably made a pretty good choice.

  • avatar
    beefmalone

    After checking what these cars are bringing at auction, I hope you bought this car LAST year. Yikes.

    03/01/12 PA Regular $27,800 17,550 Above BLUE 6G P Yes
    03/01/12 PA Regular $29,750 21,154 Above ALPWHITE 6G P Yes
    02/22/12 SEATTLE Lease $25,200 23,629 Avg PLATINUM 6G A Yes
    02/29/12 ATLANTA Lease $23,800 24,819 Avg WHITE 6G A Yes
    02/15/12 NY Regular $24,200 30,769 Avg GRAY 6G P Yes
    02/14/12 NASHVILL Regular $24,200 33,793 Avg Silver 6CY A Yes
    02/16/12 PA Regular $23,750 35,873 Avg BLUE 6G P Yes
    03/09/12 NEVADA Regular $26,500 36,103 Above GRAY 6G A Yes
    02/29/12 NY Regular $25,400 37,355 Avg BLUE 6G P Yes
    02/29/12 NY Regular $24,500 37,420 Avg BLKSHAPP 6G A Yes
    02/16/12 PA Lease $25,250 38,126 Avg TITANIUM 6G P Yes
    03/08/12 ATLANTA Factory $18,800 38,948 Below BLKSAPH 6G A No
    03/06/12 OHIO Lease $26,750 43,599 Above MONACO 6G A Yes
    03/01/12 PA Regular $24,000 46,469 Avg WHITE 6G A Yes
    02/28/12 ORLANDO Regular $25,000 46,890 Avg SILVER 6GT A Yes
    02/16/12 PA Lease $25,250 47,554 Avg ALPWHITE 6GT P Yes
    02/29/12 MILWAUKE Regular $24,750 47,679 Avg Black 6CY A Yes

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Those numbers support the purchase experience he reported.

      Let’s say the car is worth $26K at auction as an “above average” car. The BMW CPO process costs about three grand, which brings you to $29K. The battery and a bit of reconditioning is worth $500, which brings you to $29,500.

      A sale price of $31K is perfectly reasonable for an item that the dealership has $29,500 plus floorplan expenses in.

  • avatar
    doggydave

    Other than the fuel pump and a rear window that randomly popped open for months on end, my 2008 535xi wagon has been a lot of fun, especially for what it cost (lease return 2010 – almost 50% off sticker). Still, as my odometer works it’s way to 100k, when my warranty expires (and when I will have definitely sold it), I’m getting all choked up and weepy about it. I’ve been lucky so far, but I just don’t feel that lucky.

  • avatar
    highrpm

    @seabrin,

    Would you mind doing a follow up with us on your car purchase. Give us your opinions on the car after 12-18 months of ownership. How did it hold up? Would you own it out of warranty? Etc.

    I’m curious to see how the car holds up, and how that will affect your enthusiasm for the Roundel.

    • 0 avatar
      seabrin

      Will do.

    • 0 avatar
      seabrin

      @highrpm,

      It hasn’t been quite a year yet, but I thought I’d report back on my experience with the car. I have logged 13,000 miles and the only maintenance was one oil change. That’s it. I did have an isolated incident about six months ago where the iDrive informed me I was running on reduced power. I pulled over, shut the car off, started it, and the issue has not occurred since.

      Some other thoughts: the 18″ wheels are impractical. The front and rear wheels are different widths and there is no room for a spare so I am stuck with run-flat tires. They are expensive and not always the smoothest ride, but they do inspire confidence. Being 6’5″ I find the sport seats to be the most comfortable I’ve ever experienced. Finally, the previous owner appears to have nearly depleted the battery on one fob. It randomly works and is getting worse. Still love my car. Still smile when I open the garage door.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    On the low-battery issues and worrying about recurring battery issues: all the electronics integrated through idrive result in a significant battery drain, even while the car is off. If you don’t have a decent commute, the alternator won’t be able to sufficiently charge the battery. If your commute is less than 10 miles or so each way, consider a battery tender.

  • avatar
    plunk10

    The dealer knew they’d have to sell your car at auction if you didn’t buy it. THAT is why they came down to your offer, after it sat so long. I’m not impressed, nor surprised that they seemingly lied to you saying they had $32K into the car. Even if it were $30K, their saying $32K would have been a bold faced lie, something dealers do all the time.

    I bought a nearly-new, but used Miata that way. It sat for 6 months, and was sold to me at about $500 over auction value, after a month of hard negotiating. Due to unexpected circumstances, I had to sell the car 4 months later to CarMax, and made a $1,000 profit (before taxes), breaking almost perfectly even after paying taxes/fees.

  • avatar
    bodegabob

    How much new car could he have purchased for $31K?

    Quite a bit, actually.

    He could have gotten a $29K car and spent the remaining $2K on an extended factory warranty and service agreement, thus making his car expenses a line-item for 5-6 years.

    But he wanted a BMW, which means that he needs to take the difference between what he would have paid for something like a nice Camcord or Fusion and the extra he’ll end up paying for the BMW and charge the result against his entertainment budget, or wherever else he charges expenses involved in impressing people he doesn’t like, or trying to fit in with people who hate him, or otherwise filling a gaping hole in his self-worth.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Or it could be he is completely happy and secure with his life, and just likes the way the BMW drives, and is willing to pay the cost that goes with that. I certainly am. I drive brand-new CamSonAltimas all the time, as I rent cars about 30 weeks a year for work. When I come home and get into my car, the difference is absolutely worth it to me. If it is not worth it to you, great, that is why choices exist. I would rather walk than own a Camry.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Entertainment budget? Sure. Everybody agrees that a 535xi is a more entertaining drive than a Camry.

      As far as the rest goes… for this particular fellow, I doubt any of it applies. He’s about 6 foot five, very popular with women, and he makes enough money to buy a new 535xi if buying new mattered to him. I don’t think the usual compensation arguments apply. You guys can save that for the day I buy an Aston Vantage.

    • 0 avatar
      stickshift

      I buy 2 year old cars and keep them for at least 10 years. By buying a 2 year old BMW with CPO, I got 4 years of warranty including 2 years of OEM warranty (good for shakedown of every component). Someone else ate the first two years depreciation cost. Say that’s $13K in my case. That savings will pay for a lot of repairs after my warranty expires plus a lot of routine maintenance even at BMW prices. Plus I have a car I love to drive and can keep a long time. I think that’s a winner. Admittedly not everyone likes to keep their cars that long, or is willing to give up the personal choice element by buying used, but it works for me.

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        Smart man.

      • 0 avatar
        vww12

        «or is willing to give up the personal choice element by buying used»

        Heh. Two of our current cars were used purchases. One was 2 yrs-old, the other 4 yrs. Thru a bit of research, we got the exact options we wanted (namely all possible options) in the exact colors we wanted. One car was CPOd for 3.5 years after we got it, and have it still under extended warranty.

        Unless the original owners got lucky, did not care, or were willing to wait, it is unlikely that their cars fit them as well as these two fit us.

    • 0 avatar
      seabrin

      I wanted a car that moves me, mind and body. If that speaks to a hole in my self-worth then so be it.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        +100000000000

        Life is too short to drive boring beige-mobiles. I have to for work all the time, I won’t do it when I am at home.

        Every time I drive my e91, it brightens my day. Worth the price of entry and maintenance just for that. I hope you enjoy your e60 for a long, long time.

  • avatar
    MinPVD

    nice story. I hope your friend is happy with his purchase.

    He paid less then I did for my 08 335xi, although I did buy mine in ’10.

    I had an 01 325 before that. Purchased in 06 with 100,000 miles on it.

    I had to go out to pasture in 2010 after another 60,000 miles.

    I had 15,000 in the car when I bought it. The dealership offered 5k as a trade in and it needed 5k of engine work.

    Grabbed a “used” car with 900 miles on it for a little less the 32k after trade in.

    4 year warranty was still in effect. Expired this year. Other then the 4k I spent to renew the warranty for another 4 years and the run-flat tire insurance…I haven’t spent another dime on this car.

    BTW tell your friend to get the run-flat insurance or change the tires/rims immediately.

    Honestly, to the people saying you can get plenty of new car for around 30k..that’s definitely true.

    If you weren’t committed to buying a bmw in the first place there’s plenty of options.

    There’s a difference between going shopping and wondering how much car I can get with my money and how much bmw I can get with my money.

    • 0 avatar
      seabrin

      +1, I wasn’t interested in a people mover. What isn’t related in the article is my love of BMWs since I caught sight of an M5 in the mid-80′s. That love was put on a shelf until I realized I could comfortably afford an e60. By the way, the Bentley manual and diagnostic tool by Bavarian Technic are my next purchases. I plan to have her a long time. I hope she agrees.

      • 0 avatar
        Andy D

        A well sorted E 28 M5 would run you about 15- 25K$ depending on condition and history. Project M5s can be found ranging down toward 5K. For a run of the mill E28 there is the 2K rule. That is what it will cost to cherry out one that “needs nothing”

  • avatar
    timmruss

    I have a 2009 535i that I’ve bought with 9K miles on it from a BMW dealer and it was 11 months old (jahres wagen) at the time of purchase. Had an extended warranty on it at the time of purchase which transfers with the vehicle.

    Today it has ~60K miles on odo, paid $0 out of pocket, except a new set of Michelins. Yea it needed “precision fuel pump”, but was fixed at BMW USA’s dime and guess what the new one installed comes with lifetime warranty as well.

    This car replaced a 2003 BMW 325i in our garrage, beautiful vehicle, no major issues whatsoever during its 6 year run.

    This, unfortunately contrasts significantly with the Audi – VW family I had in my garrage: 2001 Passat V6 -> nothing but sad memories, major repairs, finally total engine failure at 23K miles due to coolant leak, VW of US shunned away from warranty citing “oil changes done outside dealer”. Yes it was free oil changes at dealer but I used Mobil 1 once at quick lube ctr before a trip.

    Audi A4 (B5) 2.8 quattro 2001 model purchased at 2004 with less than 20K on odo, sold at 50K in 2007, many many dealer visits for expensive minor stuff, interior did not hold well too.

    Finally 2008 A4 3.2 quattro bought with 8K miles on odo in 2010. Improved over previous models but not problem free. Dealers, big headache, never helpful. Never a product from VW family again, I am sick of VW AG and their non-existent customer support at this stage.

    Hope they won’t be able to purchase Porsche, 911 is the car I have been dreaming about all my life.

    Evil VW, just let Porsche go…

  • avatar
    da truth

    We are only here for a short time. Why make payments on a car you don’t even like to drive? This guy did his homework and got the car he wanted. Even if it breaks and he has to spend a little money, it’ll be temporary. Don’t compromise. I too wanted a 535, instead I let people talk me into getting a more boring VW automobile. I work on all of my cars, yet I compromised (the wife). How stupid is that? As long as I am not replacing an engine, tranny or digging into the engine every 50K miles, I can hang. Well, I should add replacing a timing belt and water pump on a B5.5 AWD V6 VW Passat to that list. Then, there was the ABS module. Don’t let me forget the leaking sunroof. That was the only car that made me want to pull my hair out over repairs. If it’s fun to drive and isn’t made of some exotic material, repairs shouldn’t be hard. There are too many appliances on the road because people are scared to get a little dirty. Kudos for bringing a proper driver’s car back on the road.

    P.S. Keep giving BMW cars a bad rap. In a year I’ll be able to get my dream e46 M3 for cheap.

  • avatar
    mbaruth

    Good story. I’m always happy to see somebody find their dream car.

    That being said…I’m thinking of a similiar car, same model year, more features, much bigger engine, more horsepower, roughly same size, RWD, that can be had for $21-23K, depending on mileage. Any guesses?

  • avatar
    Enrique

    Buying used is the best bet,the task of locating one at a reasoable price and condition is a mission in itself….always let someone else take the hit on buying it new and depreciating….I got my 08′E90 M3 at a great price!

  • avatar
    Therollingwreck

    I just spent 30 minutes of my life reading this that I will never get back. That said, I just have to know what kind of car Ubermensch drives.

  • avatar

    my BMW Nuttyness has cracked! Owned several BMW’s over the yrs till ’98 last great 1 one!M-5 & MY Diesel 535dx was good but everything changed with technology yes technology ruinned a great car. Sat in an 2009 & took me 1/2 an hour before I could launch? Subaru is my next car pick, great car that’s not lost in video game technology! to bad BMW was wonderful driver at one time!

  • avatar

    I’m not sure I agree with part of that. Yes, CR has the most data by far. However, they cannot account for brand loyalty and because of their methodology they’ve got a monster of a self-fulfilling prophesy problem. Ie: consumer buys a camry based on CR expecting to have zero problems, and when problems occur, they are not reported due to belief that their problems must be outliers since the car is so highly rated as reliable by CR vs another consumer that buys a jaguar and reports every single problem because the buyer is ticked that such an expensive car should have so many problems and because they view their problems as typical based on previous CR ratings of jaguars.

  • avatar
    Crosley

    Whenever I see discussions about how superior German cars are from owners that have spent 5 figures on repairs in two years, it reminds me of an episode of Married with Children with Jefferson telling Al Bundy how much better his European car is.

    A Googled transcript:

    Jefferson: Well, for my money, you can’t beat a European sports car. Marcy and I are nuts about ours. Rack and pinion steering, four wheel independent suspension, and 310 of the sexiest Euro ponies that ever hurtled a Yankee from 0 to 60 in under 5 seconds. Oh man, what a car.

    Al Bundy: Where is it?

    Jefferson: It’s in the shop.

    Al Bundy: Still? Jefferson, you’ve had the car five months, it hasn’t been off the racks yet. What’s wrong with it?

    Jefferson: They don’t know. It’s something very sophisticated. Very expensive and very, very Euro. But I’m telling you I am on top of the world with that car. You can ask anybody on the bus how happy I am.

  • avatar
    Svoboda123

    Firstly, GREAT site.

    I went through a VERY similar buying path so I have to comment. I think many here are too unwilling to admit that a CPO car can be a great way to go and that this 535xi did represent a good deal. Assume you keep it 3-5 years (as many enthusiasts do) and factor in the minimal depreciation likely to be experienced, and the total ownership costs on this vehicle relative to safety and performance is quite modest- like new Camcord level. I know which I’d choose.

    As to the question of 335 vs 535: the increased rear passenger room is largely a myth. Consumer Reports measures dimensions consistently and it give the 5-series 1 more inch width, 0.5 inches leg and 1.5 inches head in back. I’m 6-1 and 190 lbs and sat in all positions in both to test before I chose. Either is fine in back for my size for a couple hours, 5 slightly better, including ingress/egress. Neither is great for long road trips with 6-footers plus in back. No shocker there. Maybe if you drive clients around in the back regularly or have kids over 6-feet it could make a difference. For how 96% likely use their cars, no appreciable functionality difference, IMHO.

    In my case I found an orphan 335i in Kentucky through the CPO search and got it for $28.5k with 0.5% financing. 28k miles, loaded, sport, manual. 3.75 years of warranty. That’s about $20k below new sticker. Previous car was an S4 Avant (2.7T, manual, sport interior) I bought in New Jersey through CPO.

    I also note there is a ton of complaining about reliability problems. Maybe I have been lucky with my 7 German and one Swedish vehicle. Then again, I always buy vehicles that are built (final assembly) in the home country for the brand. I do believe you get a makes A-game when the car is built local, for them.

    I went for RWD on the 335 in spite of local climate (Colorado) for a couple of reasons, mostly because I had never owned one, but also the sport suspension is just better in the RWD version (I was surprised at the difference). The need for AWD is another myth. Unless you have a seriously sloped driveway you refuse to clear or for some reason must park nose-downhill on icy inclines, I see no need. I run snow tires and get around just great. Obviously AWD does nothing to improve braking or emergency handling on snow/ice. I will admit that canyon hauling in slippery conditions is much better with AWD, but is also a really bad idea on public roads.

    Lastly, I , Like many here, really want the manual wagon version of this car. I have been lucky to own a ton of sweet manual wagons (Passat VR6, Passat 1.8T, A4 1.8T, S4, Volvo V70 R-wife’s current) and it drives me INSANE that what few models were available are largely gone now. Stupid, overweight Americans who insist on having a hulking SUV. How is it that the Brits, with a tiny fraction of the market size vs. the U.S., have almost the entire car universe at their purchasing whim, while we see a tiny fraction of those models. Regulation as protectionism? Why the heck can’t we just adopt E.U. standards in one fell swoop? Detroit blocking it through influence in Washington?

    Again, great site and community.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      A couple thoughts for you:

      There is no difference in the suspension between sport pkg and non sport pkg e9x AWD BMWs, so no surprise you felt a big difference. Personally, I think the sport suspension is too stiff for the atrocious roads in New England, but I sure would have liked the seats.

      As a manual wagon guy owning a 328i Touring (rwd, 6spd), I love the car. I can see why someone in CO would want the turbo though, makes a big difference at altitude.

      Completely agree with all the rest, I would have LOVED to have bought a CPO version of my car, other than I also did Euro Delivery for it. Still, could have rented one for three weeks over there instead. Oh well, I plan to keep it long enough that the purchase price will not matter a bit.

      • 0 avatar
        Svoboda123

        Seriously considered a 3-series wagon but, yes, I really wanted a turbo at 5k feet and drives to skiing much higher. Even the 1.8T Passat wagon (after a chip) could rip up high passes. On the suspension, dumping the stock runflats completely cured the initial travel harshness in the stock sport suspension on the 335. In fact, I find it a touch softer than the stock S4.

        Yeah, I realize there is no sport suspension in the 335xi- just wrote it wrong.

        I hope to do Euro delivery one day- sounds like great fun.

  • avatar
    Svoboda123

    Dump the run-flats. Simply awful. Get a slime/mini inflator kit instead- fits anywhere. The fob takes a standard cheapo watch battery from the drugstore (or mine does anyway). FYI.


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