By on February 7, 2013

Steve and Sajeev,

I have a 98 540 6-speed closing in on 184k miles, and I think it’s time to make some decisions on it. My commute is about 85 miles per day, 3-5 days per week. The things I replaced when I bought the car 60k miles ago are starting to wear out again (lower control arms). It has other issues as well. Some are imminent, others just looming.

I would like to spend less on cars. While repairing what you have (even an E39) is cheaper in the short term than financing  (C-segment, for example), I need to break this repair cycle at some point, right?

Here are my options as I see it, and why I don’t like any of these options:

Keep fixing it. Seems to be the cheapest short term fix, but at this point the repairs aren’t going to stop. I don’t see this as a “spend a grand on it and be good for the next 40k” situation. While I still like the car, I don’t think love it anymore.  Anything mechanical can be fixed, but creaks and rattles drive me nuts and are very difficult to silence. Besides, it still has the rust issue that can’t be fixed for any sane amount of money.

  • Find a used car. Used car prices are beyond outrageous. For what my car is worth, I’m not going to be able to get something very nice. I don’t think I can improve on my car for even double what my car is worth. Seems all I can really do is buy someone else’s problems that will hopefully be cheaper to repair. I also think selling my car might be a PITA.
  • Buy new. Focus, Dart, or Cruze all look worth a test drive. I’m anxious to see the new Fusion as well. Unfortunately, even something like a Focus SE hatch would run close to $20k. Take an optimistic trade in value of $4k and a favorable interest rate of 2.9% on a probable 60 month loan, and I think that’s about $275 per month. Almost $3,300/year in payments alone. I can repair a lot for that, even paying someone else. And this doesn’t even touch on my insurance doubling or depreciation. New cars are horrifically expensive.
If I change cars, a manual transmission is mandatory. I would like something quiet and comfortable for absorbing pot holes and long-distance highway commuting, but also reasonably well planted.
Rear seats should be tolerable for adults for up to an hour. Unfortunately, this description sounds a lot like an E39. Sigh.
So….

Steve Says:

Stop being such a nickelshitter and fix the damn car.

Think about it for a sec. You own a legendary machine. One that if made new today, would put all the other new vehicles you already mentioned to shame. Investing in older cars is a hard thing to do. I realize that. But the outcome is infinitely better nine times out of ten.

So let’s look at this from a human perspective and examine another type of modern day legend. A true cinematic legend. A man who was the Gene Kelly of his generation  A dude that dropped out of my hometown high school way back in the day.

John Travolta… did he pack his shit up and move to Fresno after a few shitty movies in the early-80′s? Hell no! He did a little middle-of-the-road time. Pretended to talk to babies, and finally found a director the would finally fulfill his talents. Before you know it, the guy rediscovered his groove and made the comeback of comebacks.

Your BMW 540i is of the same caliber.

You need to do one of two things. Ante up with top quality parts for the few inevitable bumps on the road that come with this type of machine. Or buy the $20,000+ piece of modern day compromise that would likely bring you back into the same fix, with more debt and less to show for it.

I vote for the Travolta of BMW’s. Of course, like Travolta, you may find a few other unique surprises with the 540i along the way.  But at least you will have developed the healthy habits that allow you to enjoy other great automobiles to the fullest of extent.

As Samuel L Jackson would say, “Pay the bitch!”

Sajeev Says:

Reading your letter was brutal, because you are too picky.  That’s fine, I am the same way: hence the brutality.

I left, kicking and screaming, the world of daily driving my Mark VIII to get something new and unquestionably reliable. The point: the Mark VIII and the E39 are quite possibly the high watermarks for styling/driving pleasure for their respective brands. Your next ride won’t give you any of the stuff you really want, TRUST ME. Abandon hope: fixing the E39 isn’t a super smart idea, if you worry about the likelihood of breakdowns on your 85 mile commute. It’s time to buy something you won’t love…at least not at first.

So, as the story goes, I bought a 5-speed DOHC Ford Ranger.  I love it, even if most people think I’m out of my frickin’ mind.  Perhaps I am, and perhaps that’s what I needed: the Ranger is kinda like a Mark VIII…isn’t it?

I think you, Mister E39 Man, are Kia Optima material.  Yes, it drives the wrong wheels with a mandatory automatic…but it’s one of the few pure sedans that emulates the E39 in spirit. And you could probably afford it.

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74 Comments on “New or Used? The Schizoid BMW Owner Edition...”


  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    The letter writer is discovering why people lease BMWs. It is always cheaper to fix up the current ride, but the aggravation and downtime for repair also have a cost which may become untenable at some point.

    Letter writer doesn’t really seem like a new-car person, so I’ll suggest a first-gen G35 or pre-2003 Maxima. Still a used car, but Nissan comes closer than anyone else to emulating the BMW feel, without the expense and frequency of repair.

    • 0 avatar
      dswilly

      People lease BMW’s because at 184k they suddenly realize the car is trouble? Your trying too hard. This has been a good car and he likes it. Now at a respectable mileage he has a hard decision to make. Invest in a car that I like and has been a pleasure to drive for nearly 200k or replace. If the car was a POS, like my Honda was at 110k this decision would be a lot easier.

    • 0 avatar
      twotone

      I had a 1998 BMW 540 sport (purchased with 90,0000 miles) for about three years. It was very reliable and only needed regular service. I don’t commute as much as you do, however. If I did, I’d keep the BMW and buy a used Miata for <$5k (add a hardtop if you live in a cold climate) as my commuter car.

      If I wanted to go the one-car route, then it would be an Infinity G35/37 sedan, or another BMW.

      • 0 avatar
        Dingleberrypiez

        Commute 85 miles a day in a sub $5k Miata?! Ouch. “quiet and comfortable for absorbing pot holes,” the miata is not.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        I considered adding something like a Miata and keeping the 540, though I think I would flip the use cases – continue driving the Bimmer daily and then hop in the Miata when the BMW is down for repair.

        Unfortunately, I think that lifestyle is for someone with a garage and a lot of tools. I can’t justify the insurance on two cars and then paying a mechanic to babysit both of them. I also have doubts that the HOA would be happy with me expanding my fleet.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    I think AAA Gold membership covers 100 miles of one way towing for around $100. Drive what you want or pick up a Beemer and enjoy the commute.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    For what it’s worth, Kia’s website still lists a six-speed as available on the base Optima (although I’d like to know how it escaped the auto-only fate of the Sonata).

    Also, to follow the Travola analogy, how long until that E39 is accused of assaulting a bunch of masseuses, and it becomes time to finally give up on it/him?

    • 0 avatar
      CoastieLenn

      That would be at the time the cat converters fail at around 200k miles (for at LEAST the second time). The replacement cost will undoubtedly come close to about 75-80%+ of the value of the car.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        Unless a previous owner already replaced them (don’t think so), I’m still on the original cats. They can be a troublespot on these cars, but I think it is generally due to poor maintenance upstream from the cats.

        My big fear was the timing chain guide rails. Paying someone else to do that, on top of the work I need now, would exceed the value of the car.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        “They can be a troublespot on these cars, but I think it is generally due to poor maintenance upstream from the cats.”

        Yeah, it’s probably similar to how idiots go to Vatozone to get their OBD code scanned, see it’s an O2 sensor, and keep buying O2 sensors instead of actually fixing the problem.

  • avatar
    Aquineas

    Unfortunately, with driving between 255-425 miles a week, averaging the two that puts him roughly 17,680 miles a year, and he’ll blow his lease mileage allowance, which is usually 12,000 if I’m not mistaken.

    This fellow(?) is in quite the predicament, I’m afraid. I’m inclined to agree with Mr. Lang, but I also understand the aversion to creaks/rattles (which I myself despise). One factor I hadn’t seen mentioned yet was the fuel mileage. Perhaps that isn’t important to this person, but he/she does appear to be concerned by cost, so I’m a little lost why they’ve not factored in the $60-75 a week they’re forking over in fuel cost (I know because the mpg figures and fuel capacity are about the same as my 5.0L Genesis). So with all that being said, I’d advise going with a new car, but instead of the Kia Optima I’m going to recommend the 2013 Ford Fusion, which handles better than the Kia. (edit) I forgot the Fusion doesn’t a have a stick. Revised recommendation to Mazda 6. Economical, handles great, you won’t see a million of them on the road, and is a stick.

    • 0 avatar
      nic_mach

      It has a manual transmission available, 6 speeds forward, 1 back.

      http://www.cars.com/ford/fusion/2013/standard-equipment/

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      Fuel mileage is something I would like to improve, but it isn’t a top priority for me. I actually squeeze 23mpg out of the thing on my commute. That looks bad on paper, but compare the annual fuel costs to a car that averages 30mpg and you’ll see the newer car doesn’t exactly create a financial windfall.

      In addition, increased insurance on a new car easily offsets fuel savings, and may even exceed fuel savings.

  • avatar
    Power6

    You need to give up on “creaks and rattles” every car more than a few years old will have some extra noise. You have to lease a new car every couple years to have no “creaks and rattles”. I say that as a creak and rattle hater and I have a full stock of felt and squeak tape.

    • 0 avatar
      ellomdian

      Except the rattles in a 4.4 BMW M60/62 can be the chain guides, and that is bad news indeed. I feel like that’s hit primary concern, everything else on that car is garage serviceable, but that engine…

      Repairs cost a fortune, replacements (even reconditioned) cost a bunch… Just can’t win on e38/39s. The cars are arguably the best thing to roll out of BMW in decades, but they will eventually and inevitably suffer heart failure.

      OP – Have you considered shopping around for a strait-6 e39 with a manual? They are easily 90% of the 4.4 daily driving, they are wayyyy more reliable, and you can generally find very low milage examples for what you could sell the V8 for.

  • avatar
    Luke42

    This predicament calls out for a two car solution:
    A) Spend 10k on a used Prius or other highly reliable and highly efficient transportation appliance that is perfectly suited to daily grind commuting.
    B) Keep the BMW and call it a hobby. Wrench on it yourself, drive it every once in a while for fun. Hobby cars are cars that you spend more time working on than driving. An aging German car can’t help but be a hobby…

    Another advantage of this is that the BMW can stay “down” for weeks at a time if a repair is time consuming or expensive. Also, you can take the BMW to work if your AtoB car needs to be serviced.

    If you’re talking about practicality and cost, BMW isn’t the answer and never was. They’re fun to drive and have a certain image, and I can understand not wanting to give that up. So keep it, but use the right tool for the right job – use the BMW for weekend drives and those rare occasions when you want the image, and use a practical/reliable/efficient appliance for the daily grind.

    I’ve had commutes that long, and they really are a grind…..!

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      I would love to own multiple cars, but right now its hard for me to justify the cost of insuring and maintaining two cars. I also don’t have the space to store the tools or do the work. Hopefully someday.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        In that case, I’d recommend replacing the BMW with the right tool for the job. Long commutes require an efficient and reliable car, which still means small and Asian. There’s a reason Camcords, Civics, Prii, and Hyundai/Kia are popular. And this is the reason. :-)

        The FRS and Velostar suggestions might be good ones. If you don’t mind getting pwned at the pump, looking like a tool, and putting it in 4WD in conditions that barely slow down my minivan, F-150s are reliable and repairable.

  • avatar
    nic_mach

    It’s too easy for other people to tell you to preserve history. Small towns in America are full of ninnies like that. Yes, it’s a shame, but it’s not a crime against humanity to sell an E39 5 series.

    So let me put this plain to you:
    You’re driving 85 miles (!) a DAY in an old European luxury car. Even in Europe that would be unacceptable.

    By all means keep the 540, brilliant car, if you can, or find a good home with a loving family of enthusiasts that will take good care of it.

    But you absolutely need to commute in something cheaper and more reliable. Even better, there’s never been a better time to buy history in the making: skyactiv from mazda, FR-S, hyundai veloster (maybe you like the styling?), cruze diesel, the market is full of memorable and history-making vehicles, and if you really like the full-size stylish RWD experience, there’s always a new PentaFiat sedan or used Magnum/300 (that would be my personal recommendation given your mileage and that you have probably come to expect a certain standard of vehicle over the years). No, it won’t be the same, it’s the end of a era, but your wallet won’t be the same either. It will be happier and healthier and full of Benjamins and their stately friends.

    btw, Sajeev, I had that same truck for a few years. It was my Johnny Cash phase. Also coincided with my first house. Brilliant crusty ride. And if you’re not cranking the rockabilly stylings of a certain troubadour in your pickup, you should try it.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Since this guy seems like somewhat of a keeper, but knows when to call it quits, I suggest to keep repairing the BMW until it truly no longer becomes affordable, or is unacceptably unreliable.

    If that point is now, you may need to bite the bullet and pony up for something newer with lower mileage. This doesn’t have to mean losing a chunk on a new car. You should be able to find something that meets your needs in the 5-6 year old range that has already been significantly depreciated out.

    Start shopping now for that screaming deal, bide your time while your current car is still going. When you finally find “that” next keeper for a smokin price, pull the trigger.

  • avatar
    dswilly

    On the plus side selling the 540 will probably be easier than you think being a 6 speed. You could just repeat your previous experience and buy pre-owned again at a lower mileage and take the next one back to up to 200k. I would recommend the elusive 535iT 6 speed.

    • 0 avatar
      Aquineas

      Honest question: are there any reliability issues with BMW Turbo engines?

      • 0 avatar
        dswilly

        Honest answer, I don’t know. Since I’m not really looking for one I haven’t done any real due diligence on the turbo cars reliability. I’m guessing they would have similar turbo issues as any other.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        The high pressure fuel pumps are a problem. BMW has been cooperative with owners about replacing them, extending the warranty to 100k. They may or may not have finally figured out a fix – I haven’t followed it too closely.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      The big thing I am worried about with selling it is the rust spot. It isn’t completely awful. It’s not like the car is a flintstone mobile; I’m not sure how the California market is going to take to a former northeast car with a rust spot.

  • avatar
    jmo

    “Almost $3,300/year in payments alone. ”

    Yes, but after five years the payments stop and you go another 5 (or more) years with minimal problems. With the BMW is thousands of dollars a year hours of you time and inconvenience going on forever into the future.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      Definitely true. I’m not sure I have it in me to drive a car for 10 years though.

      You can make some assumptions on new car depreciation and guess at ownership costs after five or six years from that. It does end up being cheaper than driving a high-mileage, high-maintenance BMW, but not by a huge amount. Lots of guesswork involved too. And of course, I would be driving something from the lower end of the car market for those five or six years.

  • avatar

    I agree with buying a new car, but I don’t agree with compromising on one, especially if you’re going to finance it for X amount of years. I say wait for the right car to come along before you pull the trigger; it probably isn’t going to be any of the ones you mentioned. Maybe you can pick up an early E60, or even an E90…

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      I might be done with BMW once I can’t find a clean E46 or E39. E60s and E90s aren’t hot enough for me to put up with their shit.

      Down the road,I see myself looking at G37s. I actually looked this time around out of curiosity, but Infiniti’s website couldn’t dig up a single CPO, manual transmission G37 for less than $25k.

  • avatar
    tedward

    huh? Optima? Fusion? What are you trying to do to this guy? To start with the Optima is neither the sportiest, nor the most powerful car in it’s segment, and it has real limitations in terms of suspension and steering performance relative to it’s class. Also, this brand has a seriously untested drive-train range at it’s top end. To make this even worse the class of car proposed isn’t even ballpark on a 540, of any vintage. If you really are going to downgrade to FWD and mainstream interiors the only sensible thing is to go with the top end of the “compact” class (GLI, Focus ST etc…). In this day and age that means similar back seat and storage area compared to the BMW, without the blah handling and drivetrain performance you find in all mid-sizers, no exceptions. As a 540 owner you are used to the finer things…ignore those expectations at your peril.

    Id say fix the car or find another one, with slightly lower miles. Treat it like a down payment, buy all bushings, control arms etc.. in one shot and go for a refresh. It’ll cost less than a responsible down payment and so long as your engine is strong I really don’t see what the concern is as far as commuting goes. If you want improve your odds further trade for a lower miles inline 6 BMW, also stick. Either way you won’t be buying yourself a mediocre car experience in a vehicle class that punishes manual transmission buyers and enthusiasts.

    • 0 avatar
      Aquineas

      Take a good look at the handling performance of the 2013 Fusion vs. the e39 (540i version). I think you’ll be surprised at the slalom speeds of the two. Of course new, the 4.4L V8 will cream the 2.0L ecoboost in straight line performance, but 188K miles is a tired engine. In any case, the Focus ST is a buzzy little thing that won’t feel anywhere close to the 540 in terms of refinement. I admit you’re probably closer to the mark with the GLI (which I honestly hadn’t even thought of).

      In any case, “mediocre” cars in this era are imho equivalent if not superior to “premium” cars from 15 years ago.

  • avatar
    E46M3_333

    How about upgrading to a low mileage 2003 E39?

    I just bought a loaded 2007 X5 4.8i with 49K miles on it for $30K. Sticker on it was $76K at the time.

    My 2003 M3 convertible had 38K miles when I bought it in 2010. I paid $24K for a car that listed for $54K.

    Buying used is the way to go, particularly for the higher end models. Just look for something clean and have it inspected by a shop before purchasing.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      I was looking for a 530 5-speed sport package, but didn’t find a decent one. They are tough to find in general, and I was being picky about colors.

      That transmission also has a habit of getting sloppy and resting under 5th gear. Affordable parts, but the transmission needs to come down to fix it. Three of the four I considered had this to varying degrees. It was enough to make me consider an automatic.

      Owners of clean 530s wanted a ridiculous ransom for them, or were located out of state and shipping cost would have made the price too high for me.

  • avatar
    mitchw

    You have another choice. Move close to work or move work close to you. Then buy a bike.

    Hope this helps

    • 0 avatar
      dswilly

      This is a great idea, although I recommend the 40 mile each way bike commute it would be time consuming unless your lifestyle will allow it. I have a 23 mile each way its an excellent way to stay strong on the bike for race season. I don’t save much money though because I eat the difference in gas savings.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      If he owns a house this is the dumbest suggestion I’ve heard in a long time. Even if I do agree with the principle.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      I would love to do this. I don’t have the mortgage excuse for not doing it either.

      Problem is my gf works in the opposite direction, and its pretty hard to split the distance between our two jobs. As far as changing jobs, the overwhelming majority of my opportunity in the area is even further away. I’m also happy in my current job for now and wouldn’t want to mess with it.

      Unless she picks up a position closer to where I work, I have to make the commuting work.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Not sure I understand the Optima suggestion. Nothing I’ve read suggests it is sporty in any way other than sheet metal. A fine family sedan, to be sure, and one of the best looking, but I’m guessing a Focus would feel far more like a BMW from behind the wheel than an Optima.

    Assuming of course, he wants something that feels like his BMW. He actually doesn’t mention that, he seems more concerned with the cost aspect. In which case, CPO 2010 Sonata!

  • avatar
    tresmonos

    Buy a new or used commuter and keep the E39. Is parting with it worth $4k? In my opinion: hell no.

    I have a daily driver that is a pure beater and sink money into a car that I thoroughly enjoy. If parking space is limited, rent a damned storage unit and drive you nice ride when it’s nice out.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    I get the impression that you bought a well-used BMW because you couldn’t quite afford a new or lightly used one. And now, you are starting to see firsthand why they can depreciate as much as they do.

    If that impression is correct, then dump the car and move on. What your spidey sense is telling you is that you can’t really afford it, and you’re probably right. The fact that you’re falling out of love is a sign that it’s time to move on; all of the cash and compromise required to keep owning it free of regret requires a degree of infatuation that you don’t seem to have.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      I knew exactly what I was getting into when I bought the 540, and it has had no surprises. It’s more a matter of not seeing the value in continuing to repair near 200k mile car, rather than not being able to afford the repairs. The two big reasons for this are:
      * The rust. Repairing it right is a pain. I don’t think it is as simple as sanding it down and slapping some POR15 on it, as I’ve heard some suggest.
      * The threat of repairing timing chain guide rails. This is something like 22 hrs of labor. Still cheaper than buying another car, but I don’t think many people put that kind of money into an aging car.

      When your mechanic says “the car has lived,” it’s time to consider other options. I would rather spend the money on a less worn car that isn’t threatening a 22 hr repair.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    I’m the schizoid BMW owner. The timing of Steve and Sajeev posting this is hilarious, as I’m actually changing cars this weekend!

    Since I wrote the letter in early July, I added another 10k miles to the 540, meanwhile I started seriously looking at other cars around late September. I wanted to justify keeping the 540, but it needs a decent amount of work now, and there are some frighteningly expensive repairs that can happen at higher mileage (timing chain guide rails). At this point in its life, it needs an owner who can do all of their own wrenching.

    The car I’m replacing it with is a 100k mile E46 330i with a 6-speed. I’m buying this weekend from the original owner. He kept all the records and took excellent care of it. It’s a sweet color combination too. Hopefully I haven’t jinxed the deal by saying too much before the car actually changes hands.

    • 0 avatar
      dswilly

      Good choice. Our E46 has been absolutely bombproof and a joy to drive, now with 115k it has not had anything but regular maintenance plus a few wear items (Starter, Alt, Fuel Pump). Better yet it’s still a solid car and worth keeping. Enjoy.

    • 0 avatar
      vaujot

      Sounds like a decent choice. I had an E46 once and liked it.

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Jaeger

      Sounds like an excellent choice. I tried to live with a new econobox for a while and decided I couldn’t do it. Turns out I don’t think I even saved any money once I counted the depreciation and insurance on a new car.

      I’m driving an older Benz now. With a first gen Miata as a spare – perfect combo, IMHO.

    • 0 avatar
      mypoint02

      Good choice. The M54 is a durable mill. I’m coming up on 200k on mine and it still runs great. Just like the 540, the main issue at 100k is to make sure the cooling system is up to snuff. There were some subframe issues with the E46 as well, but that’s about it. You should be very happy with it.

    • 0 avatar
      seabrook

      Congrats! Three things to be aware of:

      1) There’s a recall issued for the E46 last year for BMW to perform a free fix to the ground connections in the tailights. Know for years by owners BMW has finally owned up to it.

      2) The window regulators on the E46 fail over time. Luckily brand new aftermarket replacements can be cheaply bought on Ebay. Check E46 forums for DYI instructions for installing. Especially if you have a 4-door sedan it’s repair knowledge well worth acquiring.

      3) There’s a software update that will resolve false oxygen sensor errors which throw ‘engine check’ lights. The update is not free so that’s will be your call but at least you now know about it.

      Start reading the E46 BMW forums; they’re rich in DYI with photos and commentary.

      Of course, once your E46 wears out and you need to find a newer BMW you may never be satisfied with its successors due the litany of ‘improvements’ that some find objectionable (e.g., run flat tires to name a big one).

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      Nice choice! I spent a long time looking for a 330I ZHP before I got my GTI, I still think the E46 is the last good BMW. It was insanely hard to find a ZHP manual in Florida, especially in the color and options I wanted. I expect to find a lot of regular autos, but I figured most of the ZHP buyers would have gotten a stick.

      So what color did you get? I wanted Imola red with the black alcantara seats and steering wheel.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        It’s orient blue/natural brown.

        I looked for ZHPs as well, and even went as far as a pre-purchase inspection on one before being outbid. The manuals are tough to find and will sell immediately if they are priced reasonably. I was targeting an orient blue/natural brown ZHP, though it sold right before I called. Talked with the seller a bit about how rare the color combo was. I think it was the first time I had seen it. Next day another one shows up on craigslist, albeit a regular sport, not a ZHP. I figured for the savings I could deal with that.

  • avatar
    readallover

    You want a near $20,000, near BMW experience with a 6-speed and proven reliability? It is called the 2014 Mazda 6.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      I’m very interested in the Mazda6, though I’m not sure you can say something with a new engine has proven reliability. Mazda simply took too long with the launch. It will be summer before I can drive a Touring trim with the manual, and that’s assuming dealers stock them and it isn’t special order only.

      The great thing about buying 100k+ mile cars is the depreciation curve has flattened quite a bit. If after a couple of years the E46 isn’t working out and Mazda6 turns out to be all that, I can reconsider new vs used.

  • avatar
    WaftableTorque

    I had the same dilemma 10 years ago when my 14 year old Mitsubishi Galant was forced into a 120km daily commute. Things I had replaced once were being replaced again, and the rice rocket modifications I had made to the car made it a chore to drive. I eventually removed the performance exhaust, Ralliart windshield banner, and 6″ Bosch driving lamps, but the pounding I took from the performance tires was too much.

    I eventually decided to get rid of it, and in hindsight it was a great decision. While it would have been a cheaper to keep it fixed and doing a car rental during the down days, I had so much resentment in my car that I swore that I would never modify a vehicle again.

    BTW, my 11 year old Lexus LS430 is approaching the same mileage, and has had zero drivetrain and suspension issues for all it’s complexity. It does eat batteries every 2 or 3 years, and my laser cruise control had to be replaced at $3500 a pop, but that’s about it. When I get the urge to trade in, I just wash and wax it and the love comes back.

  • avatar
    chaparral

    Sajeev, Steve,

    Please, please stop recommending grandpa-mobiles. We have too many on the road as it is. If a Kia Optima is what you recommend to an enthusiast, what chance does anyone else have to get something fun?

    Seriously, it’s never been easier to buy something hot and cheap to run.

    A 412-horse 5.0 liter Mustang will be a GREAT replacement for your 540i if a 2+2 will do. You’ll be wondering why you ever put up with Eurotrash.

    A six-speed Infiniti G37 is as close to an E39 as you can buy, lousy steering feel and all. Similar power, lighter, slicker, about the same size inside.

    A Subaru Impreza STi will provide a very different, very interesting driving experience in a slightly smaller car.

    A Mazda3 Skyactiv, or a Mazda2, will save a huge amount of fuel and be a lot of fun to drive.

    • 0 avatar
      WaftableTorque

      > Please, please stop recommending grandpa-mobiles.

      Chapparal, your selection of commuter cars is, um, interesting. I look forward to reading about your cross country trip in a Caterham Seven.

    • 0 avatar
      Ciriya.com

      A 540i to a Mazda2? Really, bro?

      • 0 avatar
        chaparral

        540i to a Mazda2 – I’m going “best to best” here. He’s going from the best midsize RWD car with a roaring v8 to the best little subcompact with the sub-2250-lb curb weight.

        If he wants to replicate the driving experience he has now, he should get the G35.

        If he wants relaxing, economical driving on the highway and fun on the back roads, he should get the Mazda3.

        If he wants something different, that’ll be great fun both on and off the highway, he should get the STi or Mustang.

        I haven’t driven a Caterham Seven, but I have ridden 500 miles in a day on a sportbike – does that count? It was a lot of fun, but I drank two gallons of water, which wasn’t enough.

  • avatar
    suspekt

    I would seriously look at salvage title vehicles as Steve alluded to in one of his previous articles.

    - you could probably have sold the 540 for $5k
    - you could probably get your hands on a 2007 Salvage Title Corolla for about $7k (or less) and super low mileage… and yes, I LOVE the 4 speed automatic they put in the Corolla and the Matrix….
    –> drive the Corolla for a few years, double the mileage on it, and you will find that you can still sell it for decent coin because the fact is, in the real world, it saves people cash-flow and that’s all that really matters…

    Many affluent people up here in Van, BC drive Corolla’s, Civics, Camry’s, etc…. the car you drive says nothing of your financial status…. it all comes down to ego…

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I can’t speak for Canada, but here in PA I was always taught to be wary of buying R-title and Salvage title cars, not only for problems related to damage, but for reasons of resale. If you plan is to drive a car into the ground than I suppose that strategy could work well.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      Are you baiting me with this? I guess it worked because I can’t stop myself from responding.

      There is no way I am moving from a 540 6-speed to a salvaged, automatic Corolla. I realize my letter gives the impression of a “nickleshitter,” but what you are suggesting is a steep drop in driving enjoyment. And by that I mean sheer cliff. From a very high altitude.

      In addition, a salvaged Corolla is not a good deal in my area. You get all the risk that comes with a salvage title, without much of a discount. People think Corollas and Civics are chiseled from gold, and a salvage title is barely a factor in what sellers will let those things go for. I wouldn’t touch a salvage anything.

      A car with lower running costs will be nice, but I plan to drive something enjoyable for all the miles I am going to spend in the thing. Cashflow is not all that matters.

      • 0 avatar
        chaparral

        Burgersandbeer,

        There are many flavors of fun car.

        Please ignore the grandpamobile recommendations, no matter how many you get.

        You’ll have to decide on whether you want a similar, or different, driving experience from your 540i. If you want the same thing, then a G35/37 or a CTS will be close. If you want something different, then choose something different!

        Do you want something nimble? The Mazda2 and Mazda3 are the best little compacts right now.

        Do you want something that’s a bit of a predator? An STi will hold up better than an Evo.

        Do you want easy, very high-speed cruising with 30 mpg on the highway? Any Corvette since 1992 will deliver that. If you need a back seat, try a Mustang or a GTO.

        Want a hotshot FWD car? Every backstreet hotrod shop knows Integras and double-wishbone Civics cold. 180 horsepower in a 2100 lb car is a LOT of fun.

        There is a lot of neat stuff out there that won’t cost as much as a 540i/6 to run and will spend more time in service. It’s up to you to find one that won’t make you wish you had it back.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Salvaged titled cars recently repaired make great driver’s cars when looking at upscale models. I picked up a one year old cars for almost half price. It doesn’t get parked in front at the valet for a sports car and the other a convertible makes great fun for half price or less you cannot beat the fun quotient. I’m done selling as I’ve been known to repurchase the same car 5 years later, albeit drastically reduced price over that time.

    • 0 avatar
      Ciriya.com

      So not only do you recommend moving from a 540i to a Corolla, you manage to get in a thinly veiled reference to your personal bias that BMW owners want it for status? Why are you even on a car site?

  • avatar
    vaujot

    It occured to me that the Best used car deal today (Chevy Impala, see two articles futher up) might have been a good suggestion for this question.

  • avatar
    Ciriya.com

    I was going to suggest an E90 as a coworker of mine just picked up a 2006 325i with 38k miles for $16k until I saw you had this one in the bag already. Good choice, though, as the E46 is an excellent car.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    Used cars are not expensive. Very new, low mileage used cars are expensive, cars that are finance bait are expensive, and cpo cars are expensive. If you are on a budget you need to shop older, much older cars, or newer but high mileage cars. I see tons on great used cars for under $10k. Older than 2004ish, even from the 90s, but well kept and low mileage is a great way to get a deal. I vote Mustang.

  • avatar
    oldyak

    I have found that older BMW`s are a day by day thing….
    My 1997 740iL is a complete joy to drive but looking ahead to my to-do list it would probably be cheaper to buy a newer car.
    The problem with BMW is that their cars are such a joy to drive every day that I cant imagine ANY substitute…..
    Even with my meager finances I would rather drive it than …..
    They are like a BAD drug!!!!

  • avatar
    seth1065

    Here is my take your car has given you good service sell it for what you can and buy a used Saab 9-5 stay with me here, 9-5 Areo is not your car but is cheap in the used market, about the. Size of your car, good comfy seat, be around forever so parts are cheap, your Indie can work on it I assume and they are stout if taken care of, they are about 75% of your 5 at 40% price, plenty of info at Saabnet. And your set, good luck and let us know what you end up with

  • avatar
    seth1065

    Good luck with new to you bimmer , if you ended up with it.


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