By on March 24, 2015

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So, let me be clear: I have a very good, brand new car. I have no real need for a second car, no place to park a second car and no desire to take on a project. But god damn it, I want this.

The car in question is a 2003 BMW 325xi Touring. It has a clean CarProof (Canadian version of a CarFax) and it’s a manual. On the other hand, it has 328,000 km (203,000 miles), and since it’s an auction, you don’t exactly have time to contemplate whether this is a good idea or not.

But, I’ve always wanted a BMW manual wagon, and I have a decent tax return on the way. What do you say, B&B?

 

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152 Comments on “Question Of The Day: Should I Blow My Tax Refund On This...”


  • avatar
    mikedt

    ” I have no real need for a second car, no place to park a second car and no desire to take on a project.”

    It also sounds like you don’t have the room to work on it when the normal parts of a car of that mileage fail. And the first time you take it to a shop it will probably cost more than you paid for it. I say run away.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Agreed. Derek has fallen for the BMW marketing hype.

      Derek, if you really want a manual wagon, why not lease a VW sportwagen?

      A 12 year old Bimmer with 328,000 kms sold at auction only works in Canada if you have your own heated garage, all the required tools, a knowledge of German engineering and the time and desire to perform much of your own work.

      Or if you can get it so cheap that you can view it as a disposable toy.

    • 0 avatar
      dswilly

      I had that exact car until someone smashed it. E46’s are pretty bullet proof, at least ours was. Ours had 120,000 on it when it got hit and was trouble free until then. Only routine maintenance and a few extra replacements. These are easy DIY cars, maybe the last truly DIY BMW’s. I did the coolant system replacement which was plug and play, oil changes are painless and mess-free. Suspension is easy to work on, brakes – simple, etc. Part cost is no more than any Honda/Toyota part. Anyone who owned one of these and complains about maintenance and complexity didn’t try very hard.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      If you aren’t going to be working on this thing yourself, then it’s a very bad idea. I could see this being a good daily driver next to your Miata when you had that, but what’s the point when you have the Mazda 3? Also as noted by Nick 2012, what has changed since you dumped the Volvo? If you want a fun weekend car, you are already familiar with what to buy.

  • avatar
    r129

    If this was going to be your primary mode of transportation, my answer would obviously be “No way!” Since you already have a decent car, the only thing that makes me hesitant is the part about having no place to park a second car. If you can figure that out, I say go for it! It’s a rare opportunity, and everyone deserves to buy an odd car for no good reason at least once in their life. Of course, you must be prepared for the possibility of dumping it at any time and potentially losing all of the money you have into it…

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Yeah.

      If you’re in the mindset of avoiding the sunk cost fallacy, and know it’s either to the crusher at the first serious failure or a money pit, go for it.

      (If you’re not willing to do that, do what Mr. Dailey said and lease the VW or something.)

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    Have things changed that made you dump the Volvo MT wagon in short order?

  • avatar
    B Buckner

    When others make a choice to own a BMW you accuse them of being superficial status seekers. What is your reason for owning one Derek?

    • 0 avatar
      mike89

      Because wagons are more practical than SUV and pickups, didn’t you know that? Oh, and it has a manual, so it will make you a pro driver…
      And who cares about the mileage or the fact that it’s sold at an auction, BMWs are bulletproof and parts are pretty cheap…

      /sarcasm

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “Because wagons are more practical than SUV and pickups, didn’t you know that? Oh, and it has a manual, so it will make you a pro driver…”

        I’m missing the sarcasm here.

    • 0 avatar
      tresmonos

      If you think this is aligned with leasing or financing the rich man’s cockroach of the road, your intelligence is beyond hope for recovery.

  • avatar
    Buford T. Justice

    Looks like a fun car! If you can buy it at wholesale, and sell it for not much of a loss if you need to, go for it. First thing to buy – the Bentley manual. You’ll need it sooner rather than later. I love the BMW’s for the excellent handling, but miss Honda reliability. Can Honda please make a classy (without all the digital techno dashboard shit) fun car like the 3 series, or can BMW please make a car with bullet proof engineering and reliability. Dumping the electric water pumps, and beefing up the window regulators and door locks would be a good start.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The water pump isn’t electric. It just has crappy plastic fins; replacement (better-made ones, at that) at not hard to come by.

      Window regulators, though… I don’t know what the deal is with German cars and window regulators. I can’t recall the last time I saw a Toyota with windows dropped into the door.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Most BMW power window issues come from the 2-doors with frameless side glass. The window drops down about half an inch every time the door is opened to facilitate sealing when it is closed. Our E36, R50, and E46 each tended to need a driver’s door window regulator every 30 to 40 thousand miles. The passenger side ones were good for about 50,000 miles. Our E30 and E38 made it to 155,000 and almost 100K miles without window issues, since they didn’t have this ‘feature.’

        At one point it seemed like all of my friends had E46s. Those cars have all been gone for years, and nobody that had one drives a BMW today. Things you never think about in a good car are maintenance parts in E46s. Who doesn’t want to replace their radiator and water pump every four years? Interior trim that doesn’t fall off is for plebes! What’s cooler than being able to say you learned how to weld in rear subframe mounts? Colin Chapman would be proud of front control arms that are exactly strong enough to cover the warranty distance on a smooth road. It was actually nice of BMW to start making cars that are as ugly on the outside as the marginal components that they’re made out of. At least now there’s no excuse for buying one.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          “Who doesn’t want to replace their radiator and water pump every four years? Interior trim that doesn’t fall off is for plebes! What’s cooler than being able to say you learned how to weld in rear subframe mounts? Colin Chapman would be proud of front control arms that are exactly strong enough to cover the warranty distance on a smooth road.”

          You have me laughing so hard.

        • 0 avatar
          burgersandbeer

          As an E46 owner, I did laugh at this. There is not much you can say to defend that car. Let’s not forget the engine leaking oil like a colander and playing whack-a-mole with ignition coils and spark plugs. I also disagree on your assessment of window regulators; I’ve babysat for three four-door BMWs, and I think I’ve done that repair at least four times now.

          Oh…it isn’t the control arms themselves – just the bushings! The car does seem cheaply made. The threat of the rear suspension carrier and rear shock mounts tearing the body up like a PBR can is ridiculous. It makes me miss my E39, and that was a maintenance headache in its own right.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            When I was dealing with these cars, the bushings that perished first were the ones that were sold as part of the lower control arm assembly. The bushings that were then sold individually, which locate the rear of the front control arms, tended to only need replacement with every other set of control arms.

            I guess I got lucky with my sedan window experiences. Maybe the windows weren’t rolled down that often, something unavoidable in the frameless-window coupes.

      • 0 avatar
        immortalsix

        N54s and N55s definitely have electric water pumps.

        M54s and older don’t.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        On the water pump, the lack of durability wasn’t from lack of trying by BMW. They went through several part numbers, first changing the crappy plastic fins to metal (which resulted in bearing failure), then giving up and going back to plastic. They apparently had no idea how to make one last on the E46.

        The electric ones in the N-series engines are much more reliable, though also more expensive if you do have to replace them.

        • 0 avatar
          MBella

          This can be the most amusing thing. You look at a particular part, and all it’s supersessions. The greatest is when they give up and go back to the original because every attempt afterwards was worse.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      The electric water pump is brilliant. Allows better control of engine temp, and warmup in the winter is amazingly fast. In the later cars they are lasting well over 100K miles. In a world where many cars get a new water pump with every timing belt service, I can’t get excited about this.

      But this car does not have one. At 200K it is likely on at least its second if not third mechanical pump.

      • 0 avatar
        HerrKaLeun

        Prius prooved electric pumps are reliable. BMW proofed cheap seals and plastic impellers are not.

        can’t judge a technology just because it failed in a German car.

  • avatar
    mike89

    If you sometimes enjoy throwing money down the toilet, then yeah, that’s the car for you.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    “I want this”

    Why?

    This is probably one of those things where the perception of how good it would be won’t nearly match the reality.

    • 0 avatar
      fvfvsix

      Yeah, this. I’ve only been driven around in one of these when I got a wild hair to fly out and buy a used Z4 coupe in Cleveland a while back. The dealership owned this car and wasn’t very kind to it. Basically, the ride was unnecessarily harsh, the interior was falling apart, and it was cramped as heck. If I recall correctly, it had about 50K miles. Want or no, I’d probably let this one pass.

  • avatar
    DeeDub

    At first I just laughed at the thought of buying a 200K mile BMW. But then I thought – wait a minute, how did a BMW reach 200K miles?!

    • 0 avatar
      Vojta Dobeš

      Look at http://www.Mobile.de (German used car advertisement web) and you’ll see lots of BMWs with 300K. A six-cylinder E46 should be quite durable.

    • 0 avatar
      kmoney

      It’s not that surprising. The meat and potatoes of these cars seem to be fairly well built. What tends to kill them though is little niggling issues breaking the owner’s will. That said, at 320K, even if the core of the engine still has life, lots of other semi-major components are likely dead or near dead: suspension bushings, wheel bearings, diff bearings, center bearing (drive shaft), trans is probably getting near the end. If it’s over $3500 CAD, I’d walk. With no maintenance history, that would drop even more.

      • 0 avatar
        cgjeep

        Suspension bushings should be fine. They only last 40k miles. So just divide miles by 40 to see if need new ones.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        Bearings and bushings are wear items and just not that expensive.

        (Says the guy who had the suspension rebuilt on a ’76 W115.

        Man, was that $1000 ever worth it, in terms of improved ride quality.)

        Transmission, of course, is another matter.

      • 0 avatar
        immortalsix

        Exactly. I have an old E83, and while it starts and runs every time, and the parts that get you to work every day function every time, here’s a list of stuff that’s currently broken on it:
        transfer case actuator – car fails to 100% RWD when this is broken
        ABS – related to t-case actuator failure
        DSC – related to t-case actuator failure
        reverse lights
        A/C compressor (ugh, it’s starting to get hot)
        moonroof shade
        DMTL pump (don’t ask, it’s ridiculous)
        leaks oil like the Exxon-Valdez

        Paying a shop to fix everything, would be several thousand dollars. But it still runs and drives great.

        So, most people who couldn’t abide driving without anti-lock brakes, stability control, all wheel drive, reverse lights, and air-conditioning would have abandoned this shitheap a long time ago, declaring it was a piece of shit and vowing to never buy another BMW.

        But some of us see past such petty details and in to the part where the driveline is pretty reliable and pretty great.

        Older BMWs are only for people in the latter group.

    • 0 avatar
      dswilly

      I have had several with over 200K A 1982 735i with 300k and a 1991 325ix with 200K which is still on the road in Colorado today. Many cars are capable of going over the 200k mark. The difrence is a civic with 200k you want to catch on fire so your rid of it, a 3 series is still enjoyable to drive.

    • 0 avatar
      S1L1SC

      I have a 1994 740il with 245k miles sitting in the driveway – leaks oil like crazy and the hydraulic rear suspension is shot – other then that it still runs and drives fine.
      (Rear suspension parts are roughly $1k per side – that not getting fixed unless I find some cheap junkyard parts).

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I did almost exactly this–mine’s a sedan and not a wagon and not AWD–and am in a similar situation vis a vis parking and time.

    The car itself isn’t hard to work on at all (except the starter, that was a bugger) but if you lack space to keep it, it’s another issue altogether. Without a garage, you’re humping tools and parts up and down stairs, and annoying your neighbours and possibly interesting the local bylaw-enforcement officers. You can’t just leave the car on jackstands all day, and anything big requires you to book some time in advance to work on it, which you may not have.

    But it’s rewarding as all-hell when it’s done and running. I have a Frankenstein’ed 325i that I built from parts and donor cars and, well, it’s mine in a way any car I’ve owned previously wasn’t. If you can spare the time looking for parts and doing your own work, this isn’t too expensive and is very rewarding.

    If I were you, I’d take a look at the car in advance.

    Some notes from my misadventures:
    * E46s few big-money issues, but the hardest of those is a propensity to rust. Pull the rocker covers off, inspect the fenders, especially at the rear. That trunk lid isn’t a big deal, but rust on the rear rocker panels or subframe will be a bugger to fix.
    * Check to see if the battery leaked and rusted out the battery bay.
    * Check the trunk for cracks due to subframe failure. Plan to replace the subframe bushings and, since you’re in the salt belt, plan for rustproofing the body perhaps even power-coating the subframe.
    * Check the water pump. Replace it and the coolant expansion tank anyway.
    * See if you can find out about excessive oil consumption.
    * Check the windows. Get a couple of regulators in advance.
    * Get a cheap ODB2 scanner and read any codes it throws. Most of what I’ve done has been with the help of a $5 adapter and Torque Pro for Android. You could, if you wanted, spend the money on a Peak reader.
    * Inspect the headlamp clips to see if they’ve broken. Telltale of an accident and they’re finicky to replace.
    * Check the heater/AC. The final stage resistor will go, if it hasn’t already.
    * Find a copy of the Bentley manual.
    * Trawl Kijiji for tools. A good metric socket set, a light-duty low-profile jack and some jackstands should be all you’ll really need. Kneepads and a creeper are nice, too.
    * Make friends with the dude on Kijiji who owns Bimmer Heaven (a junkyard out in Milton).
    * If you can find one, a place that will rent you time on a hoist is so, so nice.

    Finally, you could also bank your refund for a bit and look for a rear-drive 325iT. AWD adds some extra complexity you may not want to bother with.

    The mileage gives me pause, though. That’s a lot of distance, and unless someone already did it all already, you are looking at some serious suspension work, which is not a fun prospect if you’re working in a shared parking situation. This thing had better be super-duper cheap.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I should add to this: unless you are willing to take on the time, the car will just rot and you’ll loathe it, looking at it every minute it’s there. That is what happened to me over winter when the cold and the slush prevented me from getting anything done.

      Only do this if you’re going to spend time getting it roadworthy. Even if it makes no financial sense and you’re going to do it out of sheer bloody-mindedness, but don’t do it if it’s just going to set there.

      • 0 avatar
        tedward

        wow, that post is exactly accurate and more comprehensive than what I would have put down. I own a roughly 200k mile e30 and a buddy has a similar mileage e46. Suspension and bushings are an immediate job at this mileage, but not difficult to DIY. My sense is the expensive Germans got really tricky to do the simple stuff on more towards the 2000’s.

        • 0 avatar
          cgjeep

          Suspension bushings on the XI wagon are a PIA as there is a subframe that has to be moved. But the bushings on the XIs are a bit stouter then the normal one. So states the mechanic that charges me $1,500 evey time I bring my E46 XI wagon in for an oil change.

        • 0 avatar
          burgersandbeer

          Not difficult DIY? Not sure about the E30, but the E46 rear trailing arm bushings require specialty tools that cost something like $500. Maybe you can find a set on ebay, maybe you can find someone in the local BMWCCA chapter to loan them to you. Might be a moot point, I haven’t read anything that makes me thing Derek plans to work on this car.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Perfectly said. No car with 200K on it is the right car for an apartment dweller who can’t work on it himself. So despite being a manual-transmission BMW wagon owner myself, I have to vote no on this one. And you really want an “i” anyway, not an iX. That X takes a lot of the fun out of the proceedings, and more expensive things to break.

      Plus, other than being better to drive (when it is right), what does this do that the Mazda3 won’t do? If you want a second car get another Miata! Or a Jeep or something else that is not pretty much the same general thing as what you already have. Despite my multiple car owning tendencies, that is one lesson I have learned over the years – it makes no sense to have multiple cars that are almost the same.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        I strongly agree with this. A second car should offer something your primary car does not. Typically a toy car or a pickup truck. Different tools for different jobs and all that. I doubt an E46 wagon offers much more space than a Mazda3 hatch. What happened to your NA Miata? Was that sold when you leased the 3?

  • avatar
    PRNDLOL

    Can you get it for $2800 loonies out-the-yard? Then do it, if not >PASS>

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      Is that $2800 Canadian? For USD, as a reference, I had to drop my ’98 540 6-speed w/196k miles down to $2400 to move it. 3-series holds value a bit better, but still…

  • avatar
    John R

    walk away

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    Don’t do it. I developed the same feelings towards an 850 R wagon a couple of years ago. Ended up putting a lot of money into it to fix deferred maintenance, quickly got sick of it because my GTI did everything better, and sold it for way less than I originally bought it for (850 prices are in freefall, possibly because more and more are becoming aware that Volvo is a Chinese company).

    The BMW won’t have the brand erosion but will be even worse because at least the Volvo was reliable. This won’t be, and it’ll suck at your bank account like a vampire bat. Unless you really need the car or it’s going to be substantially more fun than the car you have now it just ain’t worth it buddy. Once the novelty wears off you’ll wonder WTF you bought it.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Why “Chinese company” would matter for an 850 (the newest ones are almost 20 years old!) is beyond me.

      (I mean, even for new cars, they still make them in Gothenberg, with Swedes. Geely’s a *holding company*, not really a car company.

      But why “Chinese!!!” should matter for a 20 year old model that Volvo wasn’t gonna have parts for anyway, is baffling.)

      • 0 avatar
        Superdessucke

        Nothing baffling about it. The value of any car, with American muscle from the 60s being a notable exception, is dependent in large part on the panache of the brand (unless you’re Cadillac in which case you think it’s Entirely based on the brand).

        So then, being owned by a parent company associated with cheap low wage crap, coupled with a lame product line over the last decade, has hurt the value of all Volvos, past and present. They’re even starting to build them in China, and that’ll expedite the demise of these vehicles from our roads in short order, I assure you.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          That’s a shame as I had been eyeing a clean MY12-14 EUCD S80 as a possible future ride. Maybe for the 20K it would run me it would be better to spend a little more on a Lex ES/GS.

          • 0 avatar
            Superdessucke

            Well, you still can, provided you’re prepared to set it on fire when you’re ready to move on to another car. Because that’s about the only way you’re gonna be able to get rid of it, unless you offer certain, um, favours to sweeten the deal. This didn’t work for me but might for you depending on what you look like. I’d also recommend only using genuine junkyard or stolen Volvo parts.

          • 0 avatar
            don1967

            The P3 S80s are solid, reliable cars, and a bargain on the used market. The ES is a nice ride, but it’s less substantial.

          • 0 avatar
            Mr. K

            The P3 is not bad but one day a guy came by with one that overheated. I don’t recall all the details but he needed a belt and something else and it was a huge PITA and cost him ~500 bucks.

            He was very happy b/c we ‘saved’ his car – all we did was fix a problem – he was lucky he got it shut down fast before damage occurred.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Based on direct experience with both old BMWs and old FWD Volvos, the BMW will most likely be both more reliable and a lot cheaper to run.

      • 0 avatar
        Superdessucke

        Having owned both, the BMW would be cheaper from a parts cost to value ratio, while the Volvo would be way cheaper overall to run. Unless FCP and IPD start selling 850 parts for a dollar, the cost to fix them v. what the car’s worth will always be laughably out of whack.

        This said, I bet Derek drops 6 grand in the first year on parts, repairs and upgrades if he’s not wise enough to avoid this.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    Does this really offer enough variety over your other practical, fun 5-door to justify the hassle? Or, for that matter, as pro-wagon as I am, when you already have a sensible car, how badly do you want this instead of the plethora of nicer, lower mileage E46 sedans in the GTA?

    I mean, I’ve made my share of stupid mistakes, and will probably make more (hell, I was looking at W201s and W124s on Auto Trader last night, for no good reason), so if you approach this as a potential stupid mistake, have fun!

    But, the Internet would be lost without unrequited bad advice, so if you don’t already have it, take your refund to buy gear and get your M1/M2 this summer, and if it’ll stretch far enough after that, one of the many, many cheap CBR125Rs all over Kijiji. Because that’s in no way what you asked.

  • avatar
    ajla

    “I have no real need for a second car, no place to park a second car and no desire to take on a project.”

    Do not buy it.

  • avatar
    WheelMcCoy

    You know how in the movies, the action slows down and the hero says “Noooooooooo!” in a desperate but deep voice that seems to go on forever? And then all you hear is his heart beat as he slowly dives across the table and knocks the pen out of Derek’s hand?

    Derek: “Hey! I’m just trying to sign my rent check! I already drive a sweet manual Mazda3 Hatch which is lots of fun. And when the lease is up, I have my savings for the Miata ND.”

    It’s nice to daydream about a manual BMW wagon, but keep your sights on the ND. :)

  • avatar
    pb35

    I want Bark to buy it just so he can call it the BaruthMW.

    My tax return this year is $700. Wonder what I can get for that?

  • avatar
    The Heisenberg Cartel

    Owner of a 1999 BMW 323i here. Bought with 268,000 miles, sitting at 289,000 a year and a half later. It has had minor problems, but it’s easy to work on, and forums and YouTube make both diagnosing and step-by-step instructions easy to come by. If you don’t want to DIY I do not recommend as mechanics are usually idiots.

    Full disclosure: I have no mechanical background nor had I ever worked on my own car before buying this. Although I had recently switched careers and become an aircraft hydraulic mechanic. A bimmer is way more simple than a C17.

    R2 the following so far: Water pump, CCV hoses, spark plugs, wires, MAF sensor, one window regulator

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Reminds me of me.

      One of my justifications for buying an (at the time) over 20 year old Mercedes was “to learn to work on cars”.

      It worked.

      And now I let other people work on cars for me, because I have better things to do with my time and scraped knuckles…

  • avatar
    kosmo

    I owned this car in RWD stick shift mode, and still miss it, but 200k miles is too far gone. Plus, the AWD system is kind of goofy in that one of the front shafts passes THROUGH the crankcase (or something along those lines).

  • avatar

    No, you should restate your deductions so that you negate a “refund”. Giving a free loan to the Government is wasteful of your earnings. I am channeling my inner Dad, nothing to see here. Move along.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      First thing I thought of as well. That, and buying a BMW without a warranty is the first sign of sadomasochism.

      I drive a CPO’d 07 328i wagon w/manual. Out of warranty. It’s quite exhilirating.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      +1. Your refund is not extra money. It is money that was always yours and the government is returning to you. I don’t know why people feel flush with cash during tax season.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      “Giving a free loan to the Government is wasteful of your earnings”

      I’ve heard this before from an accountant relative, but we’re talking about a $3000 refund here, accumulated bit by bit over 12 months. You’re not missing out on much in the way of earnings.

      Anyhow, if you’re feeling disciplined, just plan on putting your refund straight into your retirement account rather than spending it as extra money.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        “we’re talking about a $3000 refund here, accumulated bit by bit over 12 months.”

        If you multiply it by the number of individuals paying taxes, it becomes a respectable chunk of change.

        But I suppose it is better to grant the government an interest-free loan as opposed to the Al Sharpton School of Business which advocates starting a lot of businesses but not paying any taxes at all on any of them.

  • avatar
    bucksnort

    Don’t buy it until you search through back issues of Bimmer. I think this was the model the panned for a problematic awd system from some undesirable supplier.

  • avatar
    Vojta Dobeš

    Don’t do it. Not because it’s a 200k-mile BMW – that’s totally fine, I’ve seen those run to 300k.

    But because it’s a 4×4. If you want a fun 4×4, buy a Subaru. For a BMW 3, the 4×4 is an afterthought (maybe except the latest F30). You’ll get weird, raised, soggy suspension, more weight, worse steering, no RWD fun, worse balance. It’s a good idea if you really need a 4wd, but for a “toy”, you definitely want a rwd.

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Jaeger

      I agree. I’d be happy to keep a high mileage E46 running, but it wouldn’t be this one. A manual transmission RWD 330 coupe or wagon – sure.

      I’d also insist on it being rust free. For us Canadians that means you pretty well have to import a car from the southern states if you’re serious about driving and maintaining an older car like this.

      My son drives a Mercedes that is older and higher mileage than this wagon. It’s no big burden if you’re not allergic to getting your hands dirty.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Are you paying dealer’s prices or public prices? Consumers generally get a case of the stupid when it comes to auctions (they get the fever and overpay).

    If you have a friend with a dealer’s license who can help you to pay a sub-wholesale price at a real auction, then you might drive it for a few months for your amusement, then dump it for something close to breakeven after you’ve gotten the bug out of your system. Otherwise, I’d be inclined to vote nay.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I think you’ve got a 50/50 chance on buying something awesome and flushing thousands of dollars away and ending up with nothing. I echo Vojta, if you’re buying an as-is high mile’d car of any kind, go with the simplest drivetrain/layout available.

    My other thought is if you purchase it and you need to dump it for whatever reason, whose buying it? I bought a Volvo 240 as a Sunday car, if I ever need to sell it, I can for roughly what I have in it because those are cult cars. One may argue the high mile E46 5spd wagon is an easy sell, or is not (I’m leaning toward not).

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      ADDITIONAL: After further reviewing the limited pictures/carfax, I theorize this is at least a two or three owner car. The initial owner in Oakville probably garaged it, but I believe the second owner in Brampton did not. I base this on the eroding of the roundel on the rear door and the rust bubble on the passenger side of said door. This means the car likely sat outside from 2007 onward. Check the glovebox for receipts but also for any rustproofing, otherwise the car may be rotting underneath. I also notice the possible third owner seemed to only have the car for a year. The last registration entry is “Ontario, Canada” on 10/30/14 but the previous owner registered like clockwork from “BRAMPTON, Ontario, Canada”. If I am right about a third owner its possible it was a gentlemen much like yourself who bought it and had to dump it via trade because it has some serious issue. If I am wrong on the third owner it was the Brampton owner trading it in for something new.

      The condition of the interior looks supple and clean, but before the car runs the block get out to it and test: power windows, locks, turn signals, headlights, radio, the roof if present, start it up and listen for a leaky exhaust. While inside check the armrest and interior headliner for wear/cleanliness, if either is heavily worn/damaged, this indicates a higher level of use/abuse (sagging headliner does not count for this but does point to cheaper assembly). Check the tires and bumpers for wear. If they allow you, pop the hood and check all fluids (inc power steering). I’ve bought and sold the E46 years back I seem to recall the tires being expensive for us to replace. The other thing that comes to mind is a friend had an MY00 335/5spd which he bought as-is the way you might for too much in 2010 (I think 10K). The car kept having a sudden loss of power which he had checked out by a BMW tech friend and apparently there was some kind of known compression issue these could experience and it would be a 4K repair. He quickly dumped it to some stupid kid coming out of the military. When I dealt with these they were much newer with 1/4 of the miles of this wagon so I’m drawing a blank on known issues to watch out for other than the potential undercarriage rot I mentioned. Run it though post-sale to ensure there is no structural damage.

      Flybrian, any thoughts?

      ADDITIONAL2: I wouldn’t give up on a Sunday car but you have to be very meticulous given your situation (nowhere to put it, not being a millionaire etc). My recommendations are in order: Volvo 240 Wagon, Volvo 940 Wagon, Merc W124 Wagon.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        “Merc 124 Wagon”

        Out of the frying pan and into the fryer?

        As much as I love the way these look, I don’t think I’d touch it with a 10 foot pole unless I had a documented record of the wiring harness and head gasket replaced, along with a binder’s worth of receipts for every suspension bushing, front and rear.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          The W124 is a solid platform though despite a head gasket issue, a wide array of electrical issues, and relays to fail (ask me how I know).
          Regarding anything on the suspension, I expect parts to need replaced on a 20yo+ vehicle, which I had to do on my Volvo last year.
          I could see myself picking up a W124 as a Sunday car and just slowly working through its issues/needs (as I do with my Volvo). The key IMO is choosing a solid car which historically allows for the least amount of surprises.

          IF an avg condition one could be found (without corrosion), I think Derek could do well by it. The only thing it would be missing is the manual (unless this is offered in Canada).

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Go ahead, Derek, we all need at least one car in our lives that we can talk about as being “one of the dumbest ideas I ever had” over a couple of beers. Probably worth a few articles too

    • 0 avatar
      seth1065

      Did he not have the Volvo for that ??? I say pass there is no need you have a stick already, you have a hatch so the wagon is not needed, and you have no space, no time , now if it was a old NA miata to tie you over till you can afford a ND than maybe but a 200,000 mile BMW sold at auction– Run Forest Run.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      Too bad I have like 7 of those cars.

  • avatar
    ckb

    Consider this:

    https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/barks-bites-internet-truths-arent-true/

    Specifically this line “Every single day, I have a Boss 302 and a Fiesta ST in my garage. They make me happy every day. Do you know why? Because I love cars.”

    Those “internet truths” that are rampant in the replies so far could be applied to BMWs as well. There is a reason a SpecE46 series is starting up. There are a lot of cheap, high mileage E46s floating around and its a great reliable platform for (relatively) inexpensive racing. Granted they don’t worry about window regulators and A/C but the platform is solid. Ok so maybe you’ll dish out $500 for a water pump or whatever. How many of us can say we own a manual AWD sport wagon (an outback is not a sportwagon)? How many will even see that unicorn in the next 2 months? BMWs aren’t that hard to work on (I’m sure you “know a guy”) and when you take them away from the short term leaser’s hands and give them to an enthusiast they’re really solid cars.

    GO FOR IT!

    • 0 avatar
      Waftable Torque aka Daniel Ho

      We must have interpreted that same article differently. I no longer click on any articles written by him knowing the quality of his judgement.

      I had a similar epiphany this month when I read Sound & Vision’s review of a Lirpa Labs soundbar loudspeaker whose horrible measurements contrasted with it’s glowing review (just how does a loudspeaker that greatly alters the frequency response of the original signal a “good” speaker?). One bad review that got past the editor discredited the entire publication.

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    I wouldn’t do it. Too many miles and too much potential for significant work in the immediate or near future.

    To me, if you’re going to get a BMW don’t get the entry-level engine and don’t get AWD. The 325 only has adequate power and the AWD adds low-speed grip at the expense of a couple hundred pounds.

    Get RWD with at least the mid-grade or ///M engine. If you’re going to spend time maintaining a high-mileage BMW you might as well have something that is exciting.

  • avatar
    bomberpete

    From an irrational enthusiast perspective, I say go for it.

    As a Consumer Reports reader, I say what they sang on “Baretta” – “Don’t Do The Crime If You Can’t Do The Time”

    Don’t Do It!

  • avatar
    wmba

    Is it ever really ever going to be better than your new Mazda3? How much spare time have you got left over from running TTAC to work on it?

    Actually, when it comes to cars, I’ve found anticipation and other mental gyrations concerning blasting down country roads at max lateral g, with the wind in my hair feeling free and smelling cow poop from the farms passing by, is much better than the real thing.

    The real thing sits there stolidly, a piece of manufactured goods that may or may not match the dream. Usually the latter, even when new.

  • avatar
    tresmonos

    My ‘BMW powered’ Lincoln was my toy. It wore a 8-9k hole in my wallet. I wrenched on it in cold, Michigan driveways. I wrenched on it in warm South Carolina summers. I don’t regret it. I regret parting with it but man am I financially better off without it.

    If you can afford 2k a year in parts and love it, chase that love until it wrecks your sanity.

    • 0 avatar

      That diesel Mark VII? I always wondered how those were…

      • 0 avatar
        tresmonos

        It was bliss when it ran. I learned a lot about the car and myself during my ownership. Biggest lesson? Don’t use Molex connectors in automotive wiring. Haha

    • 0 avatar

      GREAT post! Such feeling. I’d love to write a novel around it.

      Tres, if you can hang onto that tone for 600-800 words, you need to write us a story. You’ve got soul.

      Derek,

      I’d LOVE to have a Peugeot 404 wagon, 1965 or later. At least, some part of me thinks I would. I’ve had thse thoughts since ’10 or ’11, but I haven’t acted on them, and I probably do’nt intend to. (It’s a bit easier not to, as any Peugeot 404 is very hard to find in the US.)

      Anyway, take a walk. Then, while walking, think of both the joy and the tsuris. Sleep on it. And maybe, just maybe, the right decision will come to you.

  • avatar

    My tax refund was roughly $250 this year. I suppose I could blow it on a new set of off-brand tires.

    As for the car, I say the only way you should get it is if you’re specifically looking for something to do projects on. Otherwise, it doesn’t offer anything your Mazda3 doesn’t already have (besides headaches and perhaps a bit more space).

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    I figure I can always buy one later, but I can’t UN-buy this one.

    I used to buy old cars, thinking that in my infinite skill, I could just fix them up – and they were so cheap!- but I got tired of trying to enjoy something that someone else had used up, leaving me with essentially a burned-out wreck in need of a complete rotisserie rebuild.

    It’s the same reason that I don’t date divorced women.

    Besides, where does it stop?

    After you buy this, there’ll be something else you’ve just gotta have – because there’s ALWAYS something else you’ve just gotta have.

    Save your money for a better car. Or a bigger house with more garage space.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    Remember that girl in high school? Yeah you know the one. She was HOT… I mean SMOKIN HOT. She only dated jocks and boys with rich parents. You knew you never had a chance but you always wished she was THE ONE. You emptied many a bottle of lotion with her on your mind during those formative years.

    Yeah her.

    Remember her at your 20 year class reunion? She still looks good! MILF good. In fact having some kids has given that booty just that perfect roundness. You talk to her, something you were scared to do in high school. She tells you she’s got 4 kids and been divorced 3 times. But she thinks you’re cute in a nerdy way (which she never noticed before) and wants to know if you’ll go out for drinks tomorrow night, since her 4th husband is out of town on business.

    This car is that girl. R. U. N.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    Answer these questions:

    Is your current car completely paid for?

    Do you currently have 3 months of living expenses in a liquid emergency account?

    Have you been setting aside at least 7-8% of your income into a retirement fund?

    If you answer no to any of them, you have a much better use for your refund. Toys are a lot of fun, and life should be lived today, but not at the expense of your future.

    Addendum to first question: or are you carrying any other significant debt that won’t be paid off at the end of the month?

    • 0 avatar
      OneAlpha

      “Toys are a lot of fun, and life should be lived today, but not at the expense of your future.”

      Well said.

    • 0 avatar

      Now that you mention retirement funds, I would say put the entire refund into the retirement fund. It will have ~40 years to grow huge. Whatever it is, it’s many times more effective to put it in the retirement fund now than even in 10 years. The growth is exponential, after all.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Woah there Mr. Ramsey, get outta here with that financial advice stuff. Everyone here has a net worth of over 1M.

    • 0 avatar
      fvfvsix

      @ClutchCarGo – Where were you when I started my career? I’ve been doing lots of financial math lately, and my “stupid car purchases” column has had an opportunity cost of about $120K. Honestly, I’d probably only do about half of ’em differently. I’m sick, I know…

    • 0 avatar
      S1L1SC

      7-8% isn’t enough. For the vast majority of people that number needs to be closer to 10-15% if not 15-20% of income…

  • avatar
    JEFFSHADOW

    This is EASY!!!
    Take it, Get it, Buy it, ENJOY it….
    But of course I’m talking about the REAL car behind the “Break My Wallet”, the OLDSMOBILE AURORA!!

  • avatar
    DIYer

    The manual gearbox eliminates transmission issues and makes this vehicle desirable.

    I don’t know what kind of tax refund you get, but if you can pick this up for around $3K and do some of the repair/maintenance work yourself, you would be doing OK. You’re probably going to have to put some money into it.

    If it doesn’t work out, it’s only $3K, and what’s $3K to a man like you? You can always put a sign on it and sell it to someone else.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      The manual gearbox does not eliminate issues. The 5th gear detent bushing wears out leading to incredibly sloppy shifting. Transmission needs to come down to fix. And the clutch is always a wildcard.

      This car didn’t find its way to auction because everything worked perfectly.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    If you thought your Volvo V70 wagon was trouble then you’ll have a whole new world of pain with that BMW.

    Whenever I see used Bimmers like this one, they’re either in a garage for days on end or on a tow truck.

    If you really want this wagon make sure you get it cheap, the cheaper you get it the more extra money you’ll have for repairs and maintenance, I’m sure it won’t go for much at auction.

  • avatar
    cgjeep

    Okay finally a subject I am an expert on. Oh besides ruining a perfectly good WJ. So last summer I was looking for a commuter for around 250 a month as 13mpg in the Jeep was getting old. Was literally cheaper for me to get a second car just for the gas savings. I had just sold my 91 Integra and was thinking about getting a Focus as I rented 2 of them for trips and really liked the ride handling combination. Back seat was a bit tight for two 5 year olds, but was soon going to be switching to booster seats and was only commuting.

    Then my boss calls me and tells me she is at the Audi Dealer trading in her 04 E46XI wagon and that she’ll sell it to me for what they are giving her. Only had 71k miles, one owner garage kept, literally little old lady driven. I’ve know the car since it was new and I’ve always directed her on how to maintain it so it already had the whole cooling system replaced. Original window sticker, every service record, even the DVD that come with it; was immaculate. $6,700 and it was mine. Only bummer was it was an auto. Couldn’t wait to drive it home as E46s are legendary for driving experience.

    Immediately regretted buying it. The Focus was more engaging to drive. Between the Auto and the XI all the fun is taken out of it. Its nice and composed but it is not a hooning car and it’s on the slow side. Also drinks premium fuel at the rate of 20MPG so not a lot of fuel savings over Jeep. 10k miles and 8 months later I like it more but I’m not in love with it. Is comfortable for commuting and nice trip car as it is very refined for such a small thing. As the wagon models had the rear seat moved back there is plenty of room compared to the sedan, kids fit great. Was much better in snow then I thought but I have a Jeep with a lift and snow tires so not a feature I need. Is easy to work on. I tore a CV boot driving across a field on 4th July so that’s the only repair I’ve had to make, won’t count it against it as it was dumb self inflicted. Oh and got a flat, being AWD had to buy 4 new ones. I’ll keep it 2 more years to 100k and sell for what I paid for it (hopefully). I figure it will coast me about $1,500 a year for maintenance. Would sell it for a profit now but wife really liked having another 4wd car and she drove it for last two months during winter. She feels very safe in and she states that it makes her 13 Sonata feel like the shell the BMW came in. So now she understands the concept of a luxury car and the next car we get her will cost me a lot more money and that makes this purchase the worst car decision ever.

    Oh and fun fact besides rear set being moved back. It has the same AWD system as the X3 and X5 (32%/68% constant split) including the hill decent button that mimics 4 low going down hills.

  • avatar
    TW5

    An old BMW doesn’t cost (1) tax return. It costs (1) tax return every year you own it.

    The nice thing about impulse purchases is that they ebb and flow. Impulse wants are always changing. As long as your mind is more powerful than your endocrine system, you will never regret passing on an impulse purchase. You’ll find something else to want. Somethings else you could never have if you bought this Bimmer.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      “An old BMW doesn’t cost (1) tax return. It costs (1) tax return every year you own it”

      I should have read your comment before posting, because I had the same thought.

  • avatar
    RS

    “I have no real need for a second car, no place to park a second car and no desire to take on a project.”

    Same here…except I’m looking at Mustang GT’s.

  • avatar
    Tinn-Can

    No and go change your W4. Interest free loans to the government are silly.

  • avatar
    newprocessmaker

    Derek:

    I did the same thing two years ago; I purchased a 2001 BMW 325xi wagon with a manual transmission and 181,000 miles. It’s been a very good purchase for us to date. I bought it as a 3rd car but my wife likes it so much that she now uses it as her primary car and pouts when I want to drive it. It has 206,000 miles on it now. It is a very good highway car–very smooth, comfortable, and quiet. The power is marginal. Fuel economy is mediocre–about 20-25 mpg gallon depending on whether it is around town or on the highway. Reliability has been very good; it’s only needed a battery, rear brakes, and a couple of window regulators, and the regulators (a well known trouble spot for all E46s) are a very easy DIY and aftermarket ones are available for under $30. It’s a little soft and has lots of understeer at low speeds, but the driving experience is nevertheless extremely pleasant. It’s wonderful in medium snow. I recommend you do it.

  • avatar
    facelvega

    A good semi-classic beater that’s fun to drive and wrench on keeps your soul alive, a good investment of a couple of grand a year that you would have just spent on small-batch bourbon and hot wings, or your kids’ college funds– neither of which is going to keep your soul alive. (The bourbon that can do that costs a lot more, and I’m betting your kids would rather have a parent who is still alive than a slightly more affluent zombie.) Anyone commenting here who nixes ANY beater on that ground should stop browsing car websites.

    As for an E46 wagon with a manual, that’s a damned good car and the people who bother keeping old cars running generally agree that it’s an easy candidate for that treatment, check any BMW board. Would a newer GTI or a Mazda3 be just as nice to drive and way more practical? Not really, because depreciation math is a bugger– they’ll just break down less often, but they won’t do as good a job of keeping your soul alive, and as you say you have a perfectly good new car. The AWD, miles, and hatch rust on the auction car are minor letdowns, but a little internet diligence should turn up a candidate that dodges those bullets.

    So, get an E46 wagon, just maybe not this one. Don’t listen to the zombies or you’ll end up in a Camry or a CR-V, careening off the interstate as you nod off thinking about your 401k.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      Hmm…small batch bourbon versus a car that is going to bloody my knuckles? I was going to say buy it, but I am leaning towards the bourbon now.

      Anyway, I wouldn’t buy a 200k vehicle unless I have the means to pull the motor. My Landcruiser 1FZ with the transmission attached broke my engine hoist and my will to ever replace said hoist so I’d skip it, but thats just me, and I really like bourbon.

  • avatar
    redav

    If you have a large enough tax return to pay for a car, you need to adjust your withholdings.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      But then you won’t get as big of a check later on that makes you feel like you got free money.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Depends entirely on the situation. I would assume (you know how that goes), that Derek is like myself in that his income is somewhat variable. In my case I sometimes have side consulting income in addition to my job, assume he has variable writing income. Since I don’t want to bother with either making estimated payments or having to pay at tax time, I shoot high on my regular job withholding and often get a bigger refund. The refund still a small percentage of my total income, so the small loss of interest/investing income is more than made up for by the convenience factor of not having to think about it.

      And yes, I usually use the $2500-3K refund for something fun. This year it is paying for my month in Europe this summer, and probably some toys for the M235i.

      My retirement is more than fully funded, should I be lucky to live so long.

      Cars are WAY more fun than bank statements.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      You can’t always do this. Not every HR department allows it, and some years your deductions can be a pleasant surprise.

  • avatar
    Dyl911

    I have a 2003 325Xit with a sport package, nav, and Harmon Kardon. 127k miles. Wonderful car. Great ride, lots of nice perks, beautiful looks, smooth straight six.

    Can’t wait to sell it.

    It was not well cared for by its former owner, and I am paying for that neglect. Little things are constantly going wrong, and I know in my bones that this pattern will not stop.

    If you can get one with full receipts AND you are good at fixing things yourself, go for it. If not, admire it for what it is and move on.

    We all have to face the fact that there are some cars we love and could have afforded, but we will never end up owning.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Not sure I could think of a worse way to buy a BMW wagon. Mileage is bad juju too.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    As a habitual craigslist browser and purveyor of “that’s too good of a deal to NOT buy!” I highly recommend against this! I’m fortunate enough to have a garage of my own and a half-decent set of hand tools (no pneumatics unfortunately) and a good hydraulic jack. If you’re “not looking for a project” I’d advise against buying ANYTHING more than 10 years old off craigslist, point blank.

    I don’t mind doing my own work for most jobs that can be done in an afternoon, and I have a very affordable if inconvenient source of quality repairs if need-be (my brother in PA).

    • 0 avatar
      facelvega

      Why not buy an old car off of Craigslist? In my experience, it is the only place to buy an old car at a reasonable price directly from a responsible owner. Naturally you have to sift through bunch of junk to find the good ones, including test driving some junkers. As an added bonus, most CL shoppers avoid cars that go into detail about all the parts they have replaced, and prefer listings that say nothing ever broke, without realizing that that means nothing has been done and everything is ready to break. For me, a CL ad with a photo from underneath the car and a laundry list of new parts is the definition of a car worth buying.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        I guess I overstated things, I agree I much prefer buying from a private owner than shady used car lots, by a mile. But generally speaking, cheap used cars in the price range Derek is looking at (particularly European ones) will need atleast $1500 in wear items, repairs, and catching up on maintenance. And that’s just mostly in parts.

        I agree, the ads that go into detail with a list of repairs, and high res photos are the ones I filter for. Likewise when I’m the seller, I make a detailed ad, showing cosmetic defects and listing parts and mileages at which they were replaced.

        I’m currently trolling the CL waters for a clean old 5spd Tercel or Corolla. I absolutely do not need another car, I need my head checked.

        • 0 avatar
          mkirk

          I really want a malaise Corolla. 76ish. 5 speed is a must, wagon preferred. Most have returned to mother Earth unfortunately.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            My family had a ’78 Coupe in the mid 90s, basically gifted to my father by a work friend. California car that spent one too many winters in NY, it was a rusty, mustard-yellow mess. My dad bought a can of rustoleum in bright yellow and touched up all the rust spots, the car looked truly comical. Despite that, we all loved it. 4spd manual, manual steering, manual everything. Actually it had power brakes as I recall, and that was the only issue we ever had, a leaky master cylinder.

            We’d load ladders right on the roof and tied them down with rope, it was that kind of car and I loved it. A few years later it failed inspection when it started to bend in half on the lift. Solid it to our mechanic for a dollar, who in turn sold it to some farmer for $50 for use as a field car.

  • avatar
    CapVandal

    As far as the withholding tax, $3500 X 6 months interest in a CD =$3545. Unless you have a good use for the money now, don’t think about it for more than 5 minutes.

    The car? You already KNOW it is a bad idea. Do what you want — it’s only $3k, no? It won’t be the worst decision you mke in your life. And everyone knows with certainty that it is not remotely likely it will be your best idea.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    No.

    No.

    No.

    It’s a high-mileage tiny-engined BMW with an unknown repair and maintenance record that will likely cost you your future tax refunds to repair. If you’re going to put your sanity on the line at least get a fast one.

    Is that hole under the headlight where the wiper arm is supposed to be attached? RUN AWAY!

  • avatar
    210delray

    What refund? I always pay the IRS come April 15.

  • avatar
    FordMan_48126

    Derek;

    In the words of the immortal poet/philosopher George Micheal:

    “Relax, don’t do it….”

  • avatar
    mkirk

    I think this is the sort of vehicle one does not buy on impulse. I got a Miata on impulse. That was fine, they are cheap and easy. I also got my Land Cruiser on impulse. It was a complex beast full of expensive parts. As I dug through internet forums for fixes I realized that I should have ran from my particular specimen.

    Bottom line, if you want this car, fine. Do your homework and make the educated decision. Then search and find the right one. The BMW will fall closer to the Land Cruiser end of the spectrum than the Miata end in terms of parts cost and the frequency of purchasing said parts. Second cars are fun, but buying the wrong car is a nightmare and impulse buys are generally bad purchases.

  • avatar
    NMGOM

    As an owner of two BMW’s (although admittedly not a wagon), one of which is shown in the avatar, I can give you a semi-informed answer. 203,000 miles? ANS = NO.

    ===================

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    If the car had 100K or 150K kms less, I’d probably say “go for it”

    With 300K+ kms, I go with the local wisdom: DON’T

  • avatar
    RHD

    If you decide to get it, make them an offer you can’t refuse.

    I’m just wondering what a BMW wagon converted into a one-off El Camino might look like, done right!

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Thought I read that the evil folk at the //M Haus had Sawzalled a 1st-generation M3 in a similar style as a parts hauler.

      Out-of-warranty BMW = Boat: (noun)
      A hole in the water/asphalt into which one pours money.

  • avatar
    Beemernator

    As the owner of a RWD ’01 325i sedan, I feel compelled to add my voice to the naysayers. Don’t do it, it will be a money pit.

  • avatar
    Mr. K

    As the owner of a 01 330xi I say this;

    That car has loads of miles but likely major systems are ok.
    BMW’s (at least mine, for me) have loads of stupid issues but they put a smile on your face every time you drive.

    The problems will be related to some degree to how and where you drive it. Hit speed bumps and pot holes at speed and it’s gonna cost ya!

    Everyone seems to like the Mazda3 example. Take the cost to buy your >$20K (US or Cdn) and then take the 2000 to 2500 US that thing is worth.

    Buy this
    https://www.fcpeuro.com/products/bmw-10-piece-control-arm-kit-e46-325xi-330xi-e46xi10piececakit-l

    16-1700 US installed and you can do better on price – and might not need all this stuff. This is worst case.

    If you need tie rods they are 120 a side plus an hour to put em in.

    Rear bushings?
    https://www.fcpeuro.com/products/bmw-suspension-bushing-kit-rear-e46-e46rearbush-l

    if there is rust or the bolts are stuck this can run into 7 or 8 hrs so 1100 or so.

    The power steering hoses will leak – Do them while you do the CCV. About 300 bucks with the CCV.

    The crankcase vent valve and hoses likely need replaced – 5-600 bucks. While they are doing that get the oil filter stand gasket done for like 4 bucks parts and 1/2 extra labor.

    About a grandish there.

    The valve cover gasket is likely leaking like a sieve and the oil has deteriorated the lower radiator hose.

    250 or so with new antifreeze.

    That’s all worst case. is it exhaustive? No. Likely? Yes, unless the car has received good maintenance and been driven with care.

    Thats 4500 bucks, and then you have a good driving car with a million miles.

    You make the call, and to make a good call pay 150 to have a BMW guy check it out.

    4500+2000 does buy most of a low miles documented service history E46:
    http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthread.php?t=1070839

    Perhaps not exactly what you want, but what someone wants to sell for.
    FWIW FCP Euro is fine I neither endorse or advise against them. They have the typical kits that made this an easier exercise for me.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I like your post because you speak from experience, but any 200K car is going to have additional age/wear related components to sort out (plus fluid changes).

      • 0 avatar
        Mr. K

        Exactly so.

        FWIW BMW techs make from 20 to 30 a flat rate hour.
        Most techs can do 175-200% efficiency – e.g. they turn 2 flat rate hours per clock hour.

        If you make a friend of a BMW tech I bet they will work for 40-50 bucks an hour…

        Sometimes to get that they need to buy the parts from where they work, other times not. Usually techs buy parts for less then you cn and if they are earning money from you anyway…

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      “16-1700 US installed and you can do better on price – and might not need all this stuff. This is worst case.”

      This is probably the hardest part, excepting the body, to do. You have the car up for a while. Book a weekend to do this yourself, or pay someone.

      “Rear bushings”
      “if there is rust or the bolts are stuck this can run into 7 or 8 hrs so 1100 or so.”

      Again, another weekend’s job, but a lot cheaper.

      “The power steering hoses will leak – Do them while you do the CCV. About 300 bucks with the CCV.”

      Often it’s just the reservoir o-ring and the god-awful crimp clamps BMW puts on the hoses—the hoses (except the high-pressure line on the underside) are usually good. Fouls the alternator something fierce, but not hard to do.

      “The valve cover gasket is likely leaking like a sieve and the oil has deteriorated the lower radiator hose.

      250 or so with new antifreeze.”

      Do the water pump while you’re there.

      It’s worth doing all the fluids, including the diff (does the xi have a centre diff to change as well?) at the time, so it’ll be a little more.

      “Thats 4500 bucks, and then you have a good driving car with a million miles.”

      I’d agree with this. The problem Derek will face is if there’s rust on the body, or if the engine is consuming oil. Those two will be expensive, and he hasn’t the will/time to work on it, and he won’t be able to test-drive it first as it’s an auction.

      I’d wait for a non-xi 325i wagon to come up in the $3-4K range, with maintenance receipts.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    I haven’t read all the comments, but after a quick glance, I’d say wait for one with lower miles, better ownership history, and no AWD. That sort of mileage in RWD and with good ownership history wouldn’t be a deal breaker because e46s can run forever when you take care of them (which you don’t know if this one has been) and avoid extra stuff (like, say, a front drive system). This looks like a parts car more than anything to me, which is sad. Part of why I was glad to sell my e46 private party instead of trading it in, even though I didn’t really make more $ on it. I wanted to see it go to an enthusiastic owner instead of an auction.

  • avatar
    Emro

    I’ll sell you my 2010 E91 AWD 6MT Derek, only 27,500 and only 62,000kms :D

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