New or Used? The Schizoid BMW Owner Edition

Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
by Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
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new or used the schizoid bmw owner edition

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.

Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang

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  • Seth1065 Seth1065 on Feb 10, 2013

    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

  • Seth1065 Seth1065 on Feb 10, 2013

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

  • Jeff NYC does have a right to access these charges and unless you are traveling on business or a necessity you don't have to drive or live in NYC. I have been in NYC a few times and I have absolutely no desire to go back. I can say the same thing about Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Houston where I lived for 29 years. A city can get too big where it is no longer livable for many. I was raised in West Houston near the Katy Freeway which is part of I-10. The Katy Freeway when I moved from Houston was a 6 lane road--3 lanes on each side of the interstate with each side have side access roads which we called feeder roads for a total of 8 lanes. Today the Katy freeway has 26 lanes which include feeder roads. I went back to Houston in 2010 to see my father who was dying and lost any desire to go back. To expand the Katy Freeway it took thousands of businesses to be torn down. I read an article about future expansion of the Katy freeway that said the only way to expand it was to either put a deck above it or to go underground. One of the things the city was looking at was to have tolls during the peak hours of traffic. Houston is very flat and it is easier to expand the size of roads than in many eastern cities but how easy is it to expand a current road that already has 26 lanes and holds the record for the widest road in the World. It seems that adding more lanes to the Katy freeway just expanded the amount of traffic and increased the need for more lanes.
  • Art_Vandelay It's not like everyone is topping their ICE vehicles off and coasting into the gas station having used every last drop of fuel either though. Most people start looking to fill up at around a 1/4 of a tank. If you constantly run the thing out of gas your fuel pump would probably be unhappy. If you running your EV to zero daily you probably bought the wrong vehicle
  • ToolGuy Imagine how exciting the automotive landscape will be once other manufacturers catch up with Subaru's horizontally-opposed engine technology.
  • FreedMike Oh, and this..."While London likes to praise its own congestion charging for reducing traffic and increasing annual revenues, tourism has declined..."The reason London's tourism numbers are down is that the city has resumed its' "tourist tax." And why did the tourist tax get reimposed? Brexit.
  • Dukeisduke Eh, still a Nissan. Nope.