By on September 27, 2016

2012_BMW_328i_sedan_--_2012_DC_1

Doug writes:

Hi Sanjeev,

(OH FFS)

I am coming up to a time that many of us must face. My son is about to turn 16 and will need to have his own ride. Currently, we own a 2012 Toyota Highlander that my wife drives, and a 2013 Honda CR-V that I drive. I am currently scheming to dedicate the CR-V to my son and then my daughter as they begin driving, then buy something for me to enjoy driving for a while. My sights are set on a used 2008-2012 BMW 328 that is in the 70,000 mile range.  I have always wanted something like this, but would not be able to afford a new one.

So here is my quandary: my wife likes that the CR-V is well rated on safety and that it is not too powerful of a car. But, she and others think the car is too new.

Me, I think it is a car I know is well maintained and should be able to get to 200,000 miles or more while repairing the dents and dings of teenagers. My main concern about a BMW is if a car that old will bleed me dry on repairs and maintenance. While I can perform basic repairs like brakes and fluids, I do not venture into cracking the engine open. I am also considering just buying another Honda like the new Civic hatch where I get a turbo and manual and hope that it is somewhat fun to drive.

So what should I do? Pass on the boring safe car and buy something that is hopefully fun for me, or just buy a beater for the kid like others are telling me?

Any advice will be helpful!

Sanjeev was too busy to answer this question, so he e-mailed it over to me, because everybody knows that I have nothing better to do. Actually, that’s a complete lie. I’m freaking swamped. I’ve been in Miami so much lately that I’m learning Spanish through osmosis. So let’s quit screwing around here and answer the question, okay? Wait, was that our old friend, Doug Demuro, who just walked by? No, it was Dave Barry. Okay, moving on.

Let me tell you a story about my very first car. It was a brand new, 1994 Mk III Jetta GL that my father leased for me. It cost him $199 a month plus tax, which was no small amount to spend on a car for a kid in 1993. His friends said he was nuts for doing it. And it was such a great idea that I’ll be doing exactly the same thing with my kids.

Why, you may ask? Because having a shiny, new car was an amazing incentive for me to take care of my car. I washed that thing by hand three times a week. I made sure that none of my friends ever drank or ate it it. I parked it far away from potential door dings. Once, I accidentally backed it into a neighbor’s car and scratched the bumper. I literally cried.

I completely agree with your assessment of the CR-V. It’s a reliable, safe car that should last both of your kids until they go to college. Plus, kids are different nowadays. His friends will probably think that the CR-V is a cool ride. You might even be helping him get a better-looking date for the prom.

Besides, giving your kid a beater is a great excuse for him to treat it like, well, a beater. Don’t be surprised when he forgets to change the oil, allows 12 friends to pile in the back seat, lights it on fire, or crashes it into a river. Maybe you should ask him to do some chores or get a paper route to pay the insurance or something to help him have some ownership of the car, too.

But let’s get to your real question, which is should you get yourself a Bimmer? Of course you should! Listen, it’s not like you’re asking for permission to buy a 997 GT3 or something. You’re asking to buy a used, entry-level, low-horsepower sedan. The E90 328i should be just as reliable as the corresponding Camry or Accord of that era. I’d be a little more worried if you had said 335i, but the 328i should be fine. Here’s a one-owner, off-lease certified example with low miles…and just a little damage. You can probably find a similar car in your neck of the woods.

Make yourself happy, make your kids happy — and buy your wife some flowers.

Bark M. is a super friendly dude who loves everybody. He even loves you! Send him e-mails. Follow him on social media. But he won’t accept your Facebook requests. He’s not that friendly. 

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99 Comments on “Ask Bark: Beater For The Kid, Bimmer For Me...”


  • avatar
    86er

    This satire is getting very sophisticated.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    “Why, you may ask? Because having a shiny, new car was an amazing incentive for me to take care of my car. I washed that thing by hand three times a week. I made sure that none of my friends ever drank or ate it it. I parked it far away from potential door dings. Once, I accidentally backed it into a neighbor’s car and scratched the bumper. I literally cried.”

    this isn’t universally true. You’re a car guy, so you saw inherent value in the car. my experience in high school with the Grosse Pointe brats whose parents bought them nice cars is that they treated the cars like crap because hey, they didn’t pay for it and mom and dad would just buy them another one anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Yep, this. My high school “friends” with brand-new Explorers and Grand Cherokees (hey, this was the ’90s) treated them like crap. I treated my used Taurus much better, because I liked cars.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Agreed, Bark’s whole premise is highly flawed IMO. I’ve seen my fiance’s sister turn her gifted Camry Hybrid XLE into a dinged up pigsty. Conversely, the rusty ’90 Civic Wagon that I drove in highschool was washed and vacuumed regularly, I learned to do oil changes and brakes jobs, ultimately helped my brother change a few control arms and the CV axles on it. I also learned the basics of cheap body work as I sanded/grinded off rust from the rear quarter panels every spring and added more and more bondo and paint. Pride of ownership is not imparted from the car onto the driver, but the other way around.

        I say go the ‘beater’ route. I just picked up a nice driving/looking 20 year old Lexus for $1600 that has most of the creature comforts that matter, with none that distract (infotainment). Because it’s based on a Camry, it is both stupendously long lived and durable, and parts are pretty darn cheap when you do need to replace wear items. With about $1500 invested on top of the purchase price (including labor), I will have it rolling on fresh tires, fresh brakes, fresh t-belt and filters/fluids and a few other small issues addressed. So for about $3000 you have a perfectly reliable, comfortable, practical vehicle that should last another 5 years easily.

        • 0 avatar
          Synchromesh

          My first car was an ’87 Buick Skyhawk wagon and I loved it very much. Fixed a lot of things on it before it got totaled. I guess it all depends on whether the son in question likes cars and what kind of person he is. But generally it’s a good idea to buy something old and slow as the first car. It’ll most likely get banged up and totaled anyway.

        • 0 avatar
          Erikstrawn

          I just picked up a 2002 Mustang V6 for one of my kids. Except for the lack of cylinders, it’s exactly the car he wanted. We paid $1500 for the car, about $200 for miscellaneous parts (rear wheel bearings, stereo, missing trim pieces from the U-Pull-It yard), and a lot of sweat equity and now he’s excited to start driving it – if he passes his driving test today. It has some minor body damage and bad tires, and now he’s looking for a job so he can fix the rest. I believe the secret is to find a car your kid WANTS that’s in the price range. Good, repairable beaters FTW!

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Erikstrawn,
            You got ripped off. With the going rate for kids these days, you should have gotten at least a new Mustang GT for one of them, especially if she’s adorable.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Good on ya Erik, I think that’s the way to do it for sure. The “sweat equity” part of things is priceless, and imparts value to the vehicle in a way that “ooh this is nice and new” never can IMO.

            Some basic knowledge of vehicle maintenance is priceless later on in life when it comes time to deal with repairs done at shops, or just knowing what to look for/listen for to prevent potentially dangerous situations (loose suspension components, bald tires, etc). I think your son is a very lucky kid to have a dad like you. I plan to take a very similar route with my own future kids, regardless of whether I’ll be in a position to potentially get something fancy and new for them.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah My friends in high school all had 10 year old trucks (mine an 88 Ramchanger)They were babied like no tomorrow. One friend had a new f-350 then a new ram 2500. He crashed notably more often then the rest of us.

      • 0 avatar
        cdotson

        My high school ride was an 88 Ramcharger too. My parents bought it for me in 1995 because they were afraid if they made me spend my own money on a car I’d be driving a beater Barracuda or AMX that wasn’t safe and/or barely roadworthy – and they were right.

        The only guy from high school I remember crashing with any frequency drove a beater 1978 LTD II. The time he slid through a T-intersection on a backroad and knocked down a utility pole by snapping the guide wire it actually dinged his bumper. He did manage to give his hood “hail damage” by dancing with his GF on the hood while wearing cowboy boots.

        • 0 avatar

          The kid who kept crashing was later in the news as an adult for a crash involving a vehicle his families company owned, which resulted in some insurance fraud charges. Back then He flipped one truck smashed another into a side of a minivan and multiple other small fender benders that resulted in him having to go to driver retraining and having his license pulled twice before he was 20. There were a few other kids (one got a 3000 GT vr4 as a grad present) with newer rides as well but most were around 10 years old. High school cars depend on where you live. In my working class town they are still mostly 10-15 year old cars mostly hand me downs. I went with a coworker one day to his sons private school, holly crap the student parking lot had CTS V’s, Panameras, Cayenne’s, and Beemers galore. Mind you I think tuition runs over 30 k a year.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            Bear in mind that above a certain income level, it’s a matter of principle to give your kid a luxury car to remind the other kids’ parents how much money you have

  • avatar
    LS1Fan

    A 70,000 mile BMW made after the mid 00’s drives better then a ticking bomb, but it’ll wreck your wallet just as badly when it blows.

    You don’t get something for nothing. There’s a reason high mileage BMWs sell for pennies on the dollar.

    Cue butthurt BMW fanboy rants in five…four…three… two..one…..

    • 0 avatar

      I have to agree here. My Aunt has a 2009 335I (nice car) when the lease was out she decided to buy it, and asked my father and I if she should get a 5 year extended warranty they offered (I want to say around 2,500 bucks) She mentioned a couple years ago that the warranty actually saved her about a 1k in repairs over the 2,500 do to some trouble with the transmission and injectors. Luckily she hasn’t had any troubles since but she only drives a few thousand miles a year now that she retired and spends most of her time traveling (she lives 3 miles form the airport)

      • 0 avatar
        zamoti

        As the owner of a “simple” 2004 545i, I would recommend that you do not buy the BMW you are describing. When I bought mine, it was of similar vintage and miles. Countless expensive things have gone wrong that I would never expect. BMW fans speak of “maintenance” and insist that when you perform it, all is well. However, they fail to state that they have a very strange definition of maintenance. Replace coolant reservior at 85,000–maintenance. Rims are out of true, maintenance. Entire car-puter/iDrive dead, maintenance. So yes, with enough maintenance, you too can enjoy a BMW. Here are a few more fun things you’d never thought you might need to fix. Front/rear window gaskets will dry out and leak, both must be removed to install new gaskets. You probably have rain-sensing wipers, so that complicates the removal of the windshield. If the angel-eye headlights are not LEDs the burn out and it costs about $40 each for the bulbs which can only be removed by taking the headlamp assembly out of the car. It will leak oil, that’s to be expected. Overcomplicated systems (Dynamic Drive/Active Steering) will have odd gremlins and/or fail in new and exciting ways. Nobody in town will have parts unless you live in a major metro and sometimes that doesn’t even help. One my front suspension springs sheared off (WTF, even my Yugo didn’t do that) and it took nine days of my car sitting in the shop waiting for the replacements as no aftermarket were available.
        If you buy a BMW, you need to buy it with a nice healthy warranty that includes a loaner else, just stay away. I’m selling mine in the coming weeks (once the CCC/iDrive is repaired and mailed back) and I’m considering a nice used Accord or a Mazdaspeed3.

        • 0 avatar
          tedward

          Avoid the speed3 if what you are looking for is reliability. It’s an early di turbo that shares basically the same supplier parts with its period peers.

          No brand possesses magic reliability fairy dust. Of the 545 issues you listed the computer failure is the only thing I’d lay at bmw’s door. Any feature rich car has expensive fail points and the potential for labor intensive repair protocols, and that definitely includes lexus LS and ES models.

        • 0 avatar
          baconator

          The E90 3-series that the OP is looking to buy was *much* more simple and reliable than your 5-series. I had one. It should be just fine if he gets one with a good service history.

          • 0 avatar
            delow48

            That is one of the main things I have been looking at online. I certainly want one that has been maintained at the BMW dealer. I am just surprised that many of them even in the low mileages look like they were not taken to the dealership. Guess those are the ones to avoid.

    • 0 avatar
      dividebytube

      My ’04 BMW 325i, that I bought used with only 98k miles on it was about the most stripped down basic version of that car. It was reliable, except for a niggling check engine light that popped up after six months of ownership – lean engine code that pointed to a vacuum leak. I did a bunch of online searching to find out the most obvious causes.

      did the following:
      Replaced upper intake… nope
      Replaced lower intake (this was a pain)… nope
      Replaced MAF (expensive)… nope
      After much frustration – replaced the DISA valve – got the wrong one since there was a switch to a different 2.5L engine that year.
      Got another DISA valve, this time for the correct engine.

      – and that was the fix. The flapper to switch between the long and short runner intake wasn’t working, leaving it always in the closed position. This would make the engine code pop – seemingly randomly. I was happy but frustrated at the long “throw parts at it” DIY fix.

      Three months later, after a bad winter storm, the windshield wipers stopped working. The nut that hold that contraption together loosened to the point that it no longer could keep the wiper arms together. It took my wife’s tiny hands to get behind the firewall with a small ratchet.

      And then the next day – near zero temps – the CCV system went and the car was spewing smoke out the exhaust like the old Spyhunter video game. I threw in the towel after that.

      But I sure loved that straight-6 engine, and the way that car handled. Snow tires, however, were mandatory during the winter months of Michigan.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Wiper contraption behind the firewall? Sounds like good ol’German engineering to me!

        • 0 avatar
          Click REPLY to reload page

          Just wait until we get “German Engineering” in Volkswagen pickup trucks. The old reliable Fords, Chevys and Rams will look like heaven compared to tracking down a CHECK ENGINE code on an overcomplicated Teutonic mishmash of overdesigned gizmos and gadgets.
          Simplicity can not be overrated.

    • 0 avatar
      CarnotCycle

      “A 70,000 mile BMW made after the mid 00’s drives better then a ticking bomb, but it’ll wreck your wallet just as badly when it blows.”

      I’ve got an 08′ M5 6MT, and it has (strangely) been a tank for going on a year of ownership now. 100k miles will roll on odometer probably by next week. Waiting for it to blow up on reputation alone, and the example I have has every option; yet everything, down to the most innocuous little gadgets – from the throttle actuators to the HUD to the auto-close door-latch thingies – has worked perfectly. Only actual part I’ve changed is the battery.

      And it drives very much better than ticking bomb, it is actually quite zippy ;)

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    In 1993 at the ripe old age of 16, my father handed me the keys to a 1982 Chevy Celebrity (120,000 miles at handover) he had owned since 1985. He also handed me a AAA Gold Membership card and said: “Call them, don’t call me.”

    His next sentence was: “If you keep your ‘Good Student Discount’ I’ll pay your car insurance. If you loose it – everything falls on you.”

    “Oh, and one more thing, Son. In the event of an emergency, try to hit something cheap.”

    I still consider it to have been an excellent character building exercise. (My wife wonders where I get my personality from.)

    • 0 avatar
      statikboy

      Your dad was only 16 when he handed you the keys to his car? ;) Started early, did he?

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      My parents refused to help me buy a car. We looked at a 1988 Tempo GLS coupe in great shape. I wasn’t thrilled that it was an automatic, but I liked it otherwise. They kept putting it off until it sold to someone else.

      I found a 1992 Tempo GLS coupe manual (V-6). They wouldn’t even go look at it. I drove a XR4Ti 5 speed with leather and a sunroof at a Cadillac dealer, they didn’t want to look at it either (they didn’t know it was a Turbo, I told them it was just a sporty European Ford hatchback). I brought home a 1988 Mercury Topaz which I had even let a mechanic examine. My mom liked it but would,t go talk to the guy.

      They talked about a new(ish) car, so I looked at a Ford Aspire, Ford Taurus G, and a Mazda B4000 LE 4×4 5 speed (I preferred the styling to the Ranger). They never looked.

      They just were not serious about getting me a car. My best friend got a 1992 Ranger XLT ex-cab 4.0L 4wd in mint condition. My other two friends got 1970s Chevy 4x4s.

      So, I went through a string of terrible beaters or drove mom’s nearly new at the time 1997 Mercury Sable, which I beat the crap out of, but it held up well.

      Lol after high school, they helped me get a 1994 Tempo GL auto, which I payed them back for and when I bought my LX V-6 out west years later, I sold the 1994 but they kept the $1,400 I sold it for because it was still in their name. Yeah, pisses me off a little when I think of it. Oh and they let my idiot brother drive it and he ramped it off a ditch and ripped the CV axle out of the trans.

  • avatar
    RetroGrouch

    If you cannot afford a new BMW with a warranty, you cannot afford a used BMW without a warranty.

    “The E90 328i should be just as reliable as the corresponding Camry or Accord of that era.” That is some first rate trollng.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Agreed. BMWs (especially smaller ones) can definitely be reliable, but you have to do all of the preventive maintenance to get that result. Used BMW ownership will cost you more and take more time and mental effort than ownership of a new or used Honda.

      And if you are OK with driving an EPS BMW in a volume configuration, the maker offers some pretty spectacular lease deals that make TC”O” of a new BMW very manageable.

    • 0 avatar
      statikboy

      Agreed. If you buy a BMW out of warranty, you are essentially buying yourself the beater.

    • 0 avatar
      slance66

      My 2007 328xi was utterly problem free. Get one with no iDrive and there really isn’t much to go wrong. That 3.0 straight six, I miss that engine. Make sure it is a 2009 or later (or maybe it was 2008, I forget), the first few years of the E90 the suspensions are just rock hard. It’s the reason I sold mine.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    First World Problems.

    Have you cross-shopped Land Rover and Lexus?

  • avatar
    tylermattikow

    I have a 2001 Mercedes E320 with 45k. I got because it was taken from a friend’s MIL because she was too old drive. I’m fixing a few things then selling it on. Something like it would be a perfect car for a kid, cheap and safe and it doesn’t encourage hooning. I would look for a cheap grand mother type car and let the kid get at least the first few months of driving on such a thing.

    • 0 avatar
      skotastic

      With all due respect, while I agree that an old-person car would be a good ride for a new driver (think Ford Crown Victoria) I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t buy a 15 y/o mid-range Mercedes for someone on a part-time McDonald’s salary, but that’s just me…

      • 0 avatar
        tylermattikow

        Pretty good chance it’s going to a Nephew of mine. Since it’s unlikely the kid will put more than 10k miles on it it should be fine. Remember it’s only got 45k now. I doubt he will be paying for it or it’s maintenance on McD’s salary. In this case it’s something safe and cheap that noone will be heartbroken about if he dents or wrecks.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      “and it doesn’t encourage hooning.”

      Ahhh, don’t kid yourself. If it has four wheels and an engine then it will encourage hooning.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        Exactly, Jim. I did things with a 1997 Mercury Sable that would make a NASCAR driver bow his head in shame. It needed new tires at like 22K (IIRC) miles lol.

        Btw, your comment above was a bit uncalled for. The guy wants to give the kid (the use of) a used Honda and buy a used small base BMW or a new Honda for himself. Lexus and Land Rover? C’mon. I don’t think he’s throwing that much money around.

        I know idiot parents that bought their 17 year old a damn 5 year old F-250 FX4 crew cab (to replace a 1980s CJ that ate money like a goat eats…money I guess lol). Now, that’s excessive. Another, a 2013 Maxima. Another a 2010 Mustang GT. You go to the high school parking lot and it looks like a late-model used car lot. I mean nobody drives a clapped out beater anymore. They probably consider a 5 year old Impala LS or his CRV a beater, though.

        • 0 avatar
          dividebytube

          “You go to the high school parking lot and it looks like a late-model used car lot.”

          Most of the kids at my local high school have a nicer/newer car than I do. (snobby community!)

          • 0 avatar
            delow48

            I too am surprised at the new cars. The performance cars are what surprise me too. In my excursions test driving the 3 series I have been behind the wheel of the 335i. This car was way too powerful for a high schooler…and there are at least 2-3 that leave the parking lot each day.

      • 0 avatar
        tylermattikow

        Good point…

      • 0 avatar
        threeer

        This! I hooned my 1978 Plymouth Arrow with all of, what, 100HP (it was at least rear-wheel drive and a 5-speed)? Heck, I hooned my sister’s 1983 Mazda GLC! And don’t kid yourself that with a new(er) car, kids won’t attempt to cram as many friends as possible in it, trash the interior and do all sorts of other things in it (hey, we were ALL teens once…).

        My son, now 25, got a 1997 Toyota Tercel as his first car back in 2008. Basic, cheap, easy to maintain. At 230k+ on the odometer now, he still owns the wee beastie.

        But the CR-V isn’t the worst car a kid (or kids) could drive as their first car. It fits in with the other gazillions of CUVs/SUVs out there.

        As for the Bimmer, my heart still longs for a weekend plaything like a nice E30 (1984-1992 3-series for those that despise manufacturer code-talk!), but with a newly-adopted 10 year old, weekend dog rescue runs (and now regular actual dog shows) and the occasional camping trip, I’m beginning to wonder if even the ’14 Escape I have is “right-sized.” I can only fantasize about a cool, fun ride in maybe 8-12 years!

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      A low-mile W210 is great … if it’s free.

      (Quote Jack Baruth, here, 5 years ago:
      “#9: Mercedes-Benz should formally apologize for the W220 and W210. Every customer who purchased a new S-Class or E-Class from those infamously troubled generations should receive a letter in the mail, hand-signed by Dr. Panzer Kampf-Wagen or whoever is running the show nowadays, apologizing for selling them an utter piece of junk. Hundreds of thousands of customers were basically swindled. They thought they were buying a Mercedes-Benz, not a cost-cut half-plastic embarrassment. Make it right. And throw them a little incentive towards the price of a new (and presumably better) Benz, just to make up for the abysmal resale on, say, the 2001 S430.”)

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        (Also, it’s a 220hp rear-engine sedan.

        You can hoon the living excrement out of that, at 16.)

      • 0 avatar
        tylermattikow

        They are super cheap. My w210 with 45k miles that is clean inside and out won’t make it to 4k on Ebay. S Classes are even cheaper. They are a much more practical ownership proposition than a 5 series or A6 though. There is some truth about these being Taxi’s in the rest of the world, which makes parts cheap and plentiful.. For example, I just bought new engine mounts for $50.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          I think W210s get an undeserved bum rap. The V6 engines and 5spd autos are pretty darn sturdy. The rust proofing stinks, no arguments there, and sure there will always be some niggling electrical issues. Suspensions (aside from spring perches that can rust out) are long lived compared to fragile BMW and Audi many-many aluminum control arm setups.

          The real eye opener for me was my uncle’s 500k KM ’98 E320 that he daily drove to and from the rural Siberian village he called home (factor in a 3x wear factor on that mileage basically). Interior wore like iron, the basic mechanical systems are all sound.

          Is it as cheap and easy to run and DIY as an old Accord? No. But I’d argue they’re actually better overall than an old W124 with its headgasket issues, transmission issues, wiring harness issues.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            A W210 E55 makes a pretty nice sleeper-ish ride. And the engine/transmission are a good combo. Rust isn’t an issue in this area. But just how bad are the electrical problems?

            The good ones are also a little expensive at around $12-13k.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            I think just the usual cold solder joint issues on dash circuit boards and random modules and such. The big advantage is that the W210 is arguably the last generation of Benz before the Europeans really went nuts with the modules. A W211 for example is a significantly more troubleprone car, electrical glitch-wise from what I understand. Now, even the W210 uses CANBUS wiring, but again it comes down to sheer number of things to break. Also no stupid ABC brakes to deal with.

            TL;DR:
            W210 is mechanically more reliable than a W124, and less complex than a W211. A shade tree mechanic in Siberia can afford to keep one with insane mileage as a daily driver over Africa-tier roads.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Interesting. The last thing I need right now is yet another V8 sedan, but I do love the way the W210 E55 looks. Totally incognito for the general public but just enough cues for those in the know to know what they’re looking at.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            dal I think that the E55 is an inherently less reliable option. More torque load on the transmission and related components, more weight on the front end leads to quicker suspension wear. More likely to be driven hard and put away wet at this point.

            I think the one to buy is a non-4matic E320 sedan (no air suspension), and make sure you buy it from some wealthy retiree who took it to a good shop for all service.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Too boring; not worth buying for me. I’d take my chances with the E55, looking hard on the front end to try to find one that’s been well treated. That motor/transmission combo has done pretty well for itself even though it was only used in AMG cars that are likely to see abuse. It’s the same transmission that spent years behind the much torquier turbo V12 in the 65 cars.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        I’ve been working on a friend’s W210 recently. It might not be a carved from granite MERCEDES BENZ but it’s fine. Not really any worse than fixing a Park Avenue and way better than anything VW/Audi or Jag related.

        I don’t know if I’d recommend it for a 16YO, but if someone wanted one I wouldn’t tell them to run away.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          ajla, good to hear someone else has a similar opinion on these derided Mercs.

          • 0 avatar
            tylermattikow

            I just got this one since I had to save an orphan. My mother has a w211 4Matic wagon and a 2017 C Class, my father has a 2013 E350 convertible. They are nicer in many ways but lost some of that classic Mercedes feel that the w210 has. It’s super smooth and quiet. If this one was a 4matic I’d keep.

  • avatar
    skotastic

    If you need to ‘upgrade’ to a 2013 Honda CR-V to get a better looking date, you have other issues to worry about.

    In all seriousness, it depends also on the kid and family finances.

    If the kid has a decent commute, cares nothing for cars, and you can afford giving a 16y/o a $20k car, then it makes sense to keep the CR-V.

    Likewise, if you want to ensure that your son has no interest in cars as a potential hobby, a CR-V is a great way to put out any budding spark of automotive enthusiasm.

    However, you can get something perfectly decent that is safe and will work just fine for $5k all day long. Sell the CR-V and use the cash difference to pay for his entire college and/or upgrade to a nicer BMW.

    My kids are too young for this, but if one of them ends up being studious, hard-working, and starting a useful degree, I wouldn’t say no to a new lease, but my kid would have to be amazingly focused. Otherwise, spend $5k max. ($0k max. if the kid is a brat) and if the kid wants something better they can top it up.

    • 0 avatar
      delow48

      Most of the $5k cars I see around here look like they were just confiscated from a combination drug bust/mass murder scene. If the already reconditioned car still has unidentifiable stains remaining then I doubt if the remainder of car maintenance has been diligently performed. And my son is a good kid, and will likely have a job to pay his way in this, assuming there are still jobs for kids that are not already taken by all the college grads who cannot get something in their field.

  • avatar
    vtecJustKickedInYo

    I grew up in a Honda family and switching to an E90 will be a nightmare. When I used to work at a German Specialty shop one of our techs that owned an 80k E90 was working on it more frequently than I was on my 170k Audi S4, which is quite impressive.

    German sedans are great on lease, never own one without a warranty if you can’t afford 2k a year in repair costs.

  • avatar
    Tummy

    If it were me, I would lease a dealer demo/loaner 320i or 328i for $150-$169 per month and re-evaluate later. That cost includes regular maintenance. Out of warranty repairs are extememly expensive for BMW.

    http://www.atlantabmw.com/specials/used.htm

  • avatar
    gasser

    I don’t agree with the $5K max rule of car buying. This leads to older cars which invariably need $$ when you get them and more $ after a few months when you find the “deferred” maintenance. Importantly the safety equipment of more recent cars is lacking in those older cars, and newer drivers may really need it.
    My kids are in their 30s now, but I went for the Honda Accord “come on” leases with low payments and not too much down. I spent almost nothing on maintenance during the life of the lease and never got the “My car won’t start” phone call. The one caveat is that you have to buy the car at the end of the lease and sell it privately or keep it, because otherwise the bill to repair all the dents and scratches,from the student parking lots,will bankrupt you.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Up until about 2007, $5k would get you a pretty reliable car if you stuck to the unglamorous rental-car-type domestics.

      Then the used car market tightened, and has stayed tight for quite a few years now. At this point I think the threshold for a reliable used car is around $8-$9k.

      A $5k car today is likely to need $3k in work within a short enough timeframe that it’s probably better to buy the $8k car in the first place.

      • 0 avatar

        I think used cars depend on who’s buying. I still haven’t paid more then $6,500 for a car some have been fine others not. In general the only non European ones to have needed a tow or expensive repairs were Subaru’s. In short when buying cheap used don’t go European or Subaru and I think your OK. That said the market is alot tighter then it used to be and I consider 4-5k kind of the minimum for daily transport unless your handy. Honestly 6k buys alot of subcompact and compact these days, one of the few spots where used numbers seem to be reasonable.

  • avatar
    mdanda

    Instead of a Beamer, you may want to consider a late model Ford Focus ST or Fiesta ST. Very, very fun to drive, and you can get one still under warranty for under 20K.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      Excellent suggestion.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      If he passes on a na 6 cylinder (that’s what we’re talking about right?) in favor of a di turbo hot hatch from the early days of those offerings he is setting himself up for failure. I wouldn’t recommend a dI turbo bmw used either so I’m not saying this to speak up for bmw. The key is to get the latest model year of whatever technology setup he is comfortable maintaining. That includes luxury non drivetrain features. The Germans are notorious in large part because they’ve tended to make their value proposition by leaning on early adopter appeal.

    • 0 avatar
      delow48

      I am definitely not a Ford guy.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I think how well a teenager will take care of a car…depends on the teenager. You, Sajeev, probably always took pride in your cars, and I think you’d have taken care of a beater reasonably well, just like you did your new Jetta.

    Contrast that with a friend of mine who had a new-ish X3 in high school. Her parents had just finished the lease on it and were going to turn it in, but decided to buy it out for her, instead. So it was still a late model. Not only was she a terrible driver who racked up plenty of tickets and dents, her car was constantly covered in grime, full of trash and in terrible mechanical shape. I believe it eventually died of some engine-related malady or another…for which she was directly responsible.

    In my experience, the people who don’t take care of their cars…simply don’t take care of much of anything that they own. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a brand-new car that they’re still paying on…or something they picked up for $300 at a police-surplus auction.

    BTW, my phone autocorrects to Sanjeev. So direct your ire at the iOS developers; they deserve it.

    To the OP: if you’re wanting an E90, 2011 was the last year for those, not 2012. 2012 was the first year of the F30, which gets you a 2.0-liter turbo I4 on the 328i, as opposed to the heralded 3.0-liter N/A I6.

  • avatar
    LeeK

    Advice from a dad who fve years ago had the same decision concerning his three teen-aged sons all coming of driving age:

    1. Your teenager will be involved in some kind of accident guaranteed, usually minor, and hopefully not major. The CR-V is a good car to handle the inevitable scrapes and safe enough to save their lives if something really bad happens
    2. The CR-V is an excellent choice to hand down to your son. It isn’t very powerful, isn’t particularly cool, and will handle the relentless insanity of teenage transportation requirements very well
    3. Kids really don’t care what car they get, just as long as they have access to one. Like GM’s slogan: it’s not just a car, it’s your freedom.
    4. I chuckle when I read about the horror stories of German car unreliability here at TTAC: it’s become a meme. A well-maintained E90 should provide many years of decent service. I should know, because I gave my 16 year-old my 1999 CR-V (which he still drives today) and bought myself a CPO 2007 328i. It was reliable in the three years I drove it, with just a door lock issue fixed under the CPO warranty. But I didn’t like the car very much for a number of picky reasons and sold it for a 2012 VW Touareg which has been flawless over the past four years of ownership.
    5. As a parent, nothing was more liberating than having my sons drive themselves to band practice, SAT prep courses, drama rehearsals, football practice, baseball games, work during the summers, and the myriad other things a teenager gets involved in. High schools aren’t very accommodating and are often located many miles from where one lives.
    6. What will kill you is the cost to add your teen to your insurance policy. This will overwhelm any potential maintenance expenses on the Bimmer. Trust me: my wallet is still screaming from the effects of this.

  • avatar
    Nostrathomas

    1) Why does a kid automatically have to “have his own ride” at 16? Why can’t they just borrow their parents car, or work towards buying one of their own?

    2) All the kids in my school who were gifted new cars were rich brats who treated them like crap because they had no skin in the game and were just used to being bought things. The kids who worked for their first car, even if it was a 15 year old beater, took much better care of them.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      With typical American development patterns, the parents are still going to have to give the kid rides everywhere if the kid doesn’t have a car. That’s a pretty powerful incentive for the parent to buy something.

      One reason we’re moving back into the city is so the kids have the option (and have it well before 16) of going everywhere by train and bus.

    • 0 avatar
      delow48

      There are plenty of reasons. First off is that bus duty really becomes a chore. And I am not looking to gift it over. My daughter would be driving it about four years later.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I don’t ‘give’ my kids their own car. They drive *my* car until they can afford one of their own.

    While they’re driving my car, I pay all the expenses. When they’re driving their car, they pay all the expenses, including their portion of the car insurance on my policy.

    Forgive me, but it’s hard to read about handing 3-year-old cars to teens as a gift, because I see that as a lost opportunity to learn self-reliance and responsibility. My kids don’t even get cell phones (their expense) until they’re driving.

    In 1980, my first car was a $125 1971 Pinto with a broken differential. My first time turning wrenches was to change the rear end on that old car, so I instantly learned the value of car maintenance (and getting a better job).

    Alternately, my first son is making payments on a 11 Sonata that he bought CPO in 2013. He’s learning a lesson in payment plans. My second son paid cash for an 07 Sonata this year; he’s learning the lessons of having an older car (which is a thousand times better than *my* first 9-year-old car!). Either way, the car itself isn’t important; it’s the life lessons which accompany it that are.

    • 0 avatar
      mason

      Agreed. My first vehicle was 15 years old and the odometer had rolled twice over by the time I got it. It needed lots of (fortunately cheap) TLC.
      I learned alot about caring for and maintaining vehicles and I sure as hell didn’t beat on that one as it would have meant I would be out of a vehicle when it broke, which it did often enough on its own.

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      Glad to see this post here, Aux formerly known as gslippy.

      I guess I’m just a grumpy 31 year old with no kids.

      We (my two brothers and I) borrowed (extremely carefully and always returned with gas) our parents vehicles while we worked our 15 and 16 year old type jobs, and we all bought our own ride pretty quick. And we lived rural, 10 kms from the city limit, so those cars were Godsends.

      I mean, I guess if you can afford to buy your kids cars, have at it, but to me, saving up for that first big purchase, then keeping it going with your own hard work, worth it.

      For the record, my older brothers first car was a an 85 Aries, mine was an 87 S-15 I rescued from the scrap heep, then sold it to buy a written off 98 Grand Am 5 spd coupe. My younger brother’s first car was an 88 Delta 88.

    • 0 avatar
      delow48

      I am not looking to gift it over, maybe the question leads to that conclusion, but he will be “using” the car. That will be after this year of driving the car while in his permit period. I will be expecting him to get a job to pay insurance, gas and maintenance..but do not expect him to have to pay a car payment yet.

  • avatar
    Paul Alexander

    ‘Wait, was that our old friend, Doug Demuro, who just walked by? No, it was Dave Barry.’

    Haha! I think Dave might be a too little edgy for Doug.

  • avatar
    windnsea00

    Having owned 11 BMW’s so far I can confirm they are no Honda or Toyota in terms of cost to maintain, unless you do a new lease/purchase which makes it rather worry free. Now for me the money being spent is worth it as I enjoy my canyon drives on the weekend and the occasional track day along with general feel of the car. I personally find the current 3-series (non-M) to be underwhelming to drive and the interior quality in terms of rattles and such is subpar. The 2-series, 228i, with a 6-spd is more true to BMW’s past. Otherwise I would go with a previous gen 3-series (E90/E92).

  • avatar
    Nick_515

    There is a big difference between a 2006 E90 with 80k miles and a 2011 E90 328i with 40k miles. I’m preparing to buy the latter soon. It does cost to drive German… but I didn’t grow up dreaming of Accords, and I can afford to maintain them, so I suppose that’ll be that.

  • avatar
    cirats

    Interesting question as I am making/nearing a similar decision. Current ride is a low-miles 2008 G35S. I am thinking about holding on to it for a couple more years and letting my son (now 13.5) have it when he starts driving and getting a newer car for myself then. But I’m also thinking about going ahead and getting something newer and had my eyes on a 2013 or so BMW 335i or (preferably) 335is. I really enjoy a car that is fun to drive and have always owned manuals since I was 16 except for a period of several years when I drove a Chevy Tahoe.

    Question for anyone willing to answer – what might I enjoy as much as the 335is that would be perhaps less dangerous financially? I have owned an out of warranty E36 M3 and am not afraid of a repair now and again, but do worry about the electronic and mechanical complexity of more recent BMWs. I hate to be a prude but don’t think Mustang or Focus/Fiesta ST is the answer for me. I admit to perhaps irrationally leaning toward something with a bit more European/Japanese luxury/style. Other prior cars over the past 28 years include Honda Prelude si, Acura Legend (4-dr 5MT!), said Tahoe, and said M3. I tend to buy used and keep them 5 to 7 years.

    • 0 avatar
      windnsea00

      The turbo engines tend to come with more potential problems but if setting aside $2-3k a year or so in maintenance is something you are ok with then I would buy whatever suits your fancy. The E90/E92 M3’s are coming down in price and are proving to be quite solid, something to consider. I owned a used 997 Carrera S (2005) for a bit, solid built Porsche and reasonable cost of ownership. I would take one for a drive, they really provide a special sense of occasion and you can find nice ones in the $30k range now. Would love to own a 997.2 GT3 at some point.

      I have come to the conclusion I live in a different world (LA) than many of the commenters here, where buying German is very common and leads to us to having a ton of great indie shops and access to an abundance of great 2nd hand vehicles. May be worthwhile looking at what’s for sale in this market if you aren’t too far away.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      Here’s a few you might consider:

      – you like Bimmers, so how about a 128i. The n/a straight six, while not as powerful is playful and should be more reliable.

      – a Boxster/Cayman would most likely be my choice. The IMS is a thing, an overblown thing, but a thing none the less. Purchasing a post 2009 car avoids the issue entirely. IMO, these cars provide more of a sense of occasion than any BMW.

      – try a Lexus 350 F Sport. Nice car, performance that rivals what you’re looking at and it should just run with a minimum of fuss.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Skip on buying any old Bimmers, find a decent used Honda Accord for the kid just to start out with. Let him work his way into a Bimmer after you’ve had the Honda for a bit.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      He owns one already, but it’s not a particularly fun or nice one (very competent and a wise purchase yes). Give the kid the crv and get an accord v6 manual used for himself if staying in brand is a priority. Better yet, get a smaller, by default more fun to drive car and make the kid do the family hauling with the potapotty on wheels.

      Kids should not have cars that their parents wish they had. I think that’s where he’d end up if he kept the crv to himself.

  • avatar
    slance66

    I’m going to have this same problem in 3 years when my daughter turns 16, and my 2016 CX-5 is four years old. Honestly, I’m inclined to get her something cheaper, especially since mine is a loaded GT version. I’ll see what it is worth and what an alternative car would cost. The CX-5 would likely take her well into college.

    I have a friend who bought a Crosstrek with this same process in mind, but was willing to drive a more stripped version in the interim, while I was not.

  • avatar
    e30gator

    I will say this: My first car cost $500 in 1995 (’72 Buick Skylark Coupe). I did things in that car that I would’ve never tried if I knew payments were involved. I blew the transmission within months. My next car, an ’86 Mercury Cougar (paid $350 off a friend), I actually took off-road and was the official parking lot donut champion of the Publix stock crew at 17 years old.

    Kids will be kids.

    I would give them the CR-V with the understanding that it will be promptly taken away at the first sign of vehicular hijinks and replaced with a bus pass. If they know you’re serious, they probably won’t want to screw it up.

    Regarding the bimmer, I’ve owned a few and found them to be pretty reliable and not as expensive to fix as you’d think. This is particularly true if you stay away from 5,6, and 7 series cars and can source the parts yourself. Just stick with the most popular models (3 Series) and check for maintenance records and you should be fine. Mine was still running like a champ at 212k miles when I sold it, and my Z3 weekend car has yet to have a single issue. As a “car guy” I would gladly replace the odd sensor or wiper motor fuse for the privilege of NOT owning a CR-V.

  • avatar
    tedward

    Since reliability and ownership cost are being factored heavily why assume the civic hatch will have those things? I mean, it will be fun to drive, can’t wait to try it myself, but early days man on that drivetrain. It’s also priced at the top of its segment, an increasingly crowded one, and the established kings are rebate heavy at the moment. I like Hondas, but I’ve definitely seen reliability issues and high parts cost with even their more mainstream products, just like with any brand. The new turbo engine does not have a reliability pedigree yet. Consistency breeds reliability no?

    I would think a manual naturally aspirated motor on a chassis you enjoy would be the ticket. Also, lowish miles. There is no such thing as a high mileage guarantee of like new performance from any product. Every car I’ve been in with high miles and an owner bragging about no dollars spent had egregious faults that they’ve chosen to ignore, usually in the suspension or interior feature set.

  • avatar
    mchan1

    That 16 yr old to be just got his permit then his license, right?

    The best thing any parent can do is NOT spoil their kids as there’s enough Spoiled Brat Millenials out their with an Entitlement Syndrome attitude!

    Make the kid Appreciate the car:
    1. Have him work and save up to buy a used car and pay for his own auto expenses
    2. Buy him a Used car and have him pay for his own auto expenses afterwards

    A 16 yr old does NOT “NEED” a car and shouldn’t turn into a spoiled brat as s/he will not take proper car of it.

    Also, BMWs, like other German cars, have a bad reputation for expensive repairs as it ages. If you can afford one, then that’s your choice. Otherwise, there are Better and more affordable cars out there.

    Do you really want to spend money on a used BMW when college costs will be coming soon??

  • avatar
    Sjalabais

    My first car was a ’77 Volvo 242 in 2003. It was the car that shows up when you look for “beater” in the dictionary. Big rubber bumpers, rust in several uncanny spots, and the ability to jump and slide well on gravel roads all combined to a careless attitude.

    Which is very hard to shed.

    My wife was very irritated when I showed up with my newly-purchased, only 12 year old Honda van a couple of years ago, with new scratches on the rear bumper. I have since added several in all four corners, as I still like running fast on gravel roads.

    Which is not the problem, really. The problem is the moron who decided to PAINT bumpers. What were they thinking?

  • avatar
    turf3

    For the new 16 year old driver, I would suggest some choices:

    Volvo 240.

    mid 70s thru mid 80s full size Chevy, Olds, Buick sedan or station wagon, preferably with 6 cylinder engine.

    pre-96 Ford F150, preferably with long bed and short cab

    K-car

    Pre-2000 Honda Accord 4 door or Camry

    Giving a 3 year old car to a 16 year old is just a waste. You can get at least 10 years more out of it for yourself.

    If you want a toy car BMW, think instead of a 2002. Added bonus is you avoid the sorority-sister image.

  • avatar
    427Cobra

    Finally… some validation. I always shook my head in disbelief at some of the guys I work with, when they would lease brand new cars for their newly-licensed teens. It seems the kids drive newer/nicer cars than the parents these days. “oh… it HAS to be safe… and reliable…” and I suppose from a given perspective, it does make more financial sense- if the parents are footing the bill for everything.

    I suppose I’m a bit jaded because I was not raised that way. I was lucky enough to drive my great grandmother’s 1970 dodge dart… which didn’t have a straight panel on it, due to a number of collisions (hers, not mine). I only got to drive it because I had a job. I worked 40 hours a week my senior year of high school. All insurance/maintenance/repairs was on my nickel. I think I was late 20s before I ever had a brand new set of tires… (always bought used tires at $10 each) and 32 before I bought my first brand new car… tho the payment was still less than my student loans. My sister gave me some perspective… she said she liked giving her daughter things that she never had. My niece left for college with a brand new v8 4Runner… and a flat screen tv in the back for her dorm room. My sister paid for her education as well. I was so “jelly”. I always drove beaters… and babied them, as I needed to keep repair costs to a minimum. I wish I’d been one of the “haves”… but… c’est la vie.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Well, I raised 3 girls, so maybe my experience doesn’t apply; and we lived in the city of Washington, DC a 5-minute walk from the subway and two different bus lines. So, none of my kids had cars when they were in high school. College was a different matter. My oldest, who did her final year of high school in a boarding school and who started school young, didn’t even get a driver’s license until 1 year after graduating high school. After a “gap year” in NYC, she went to college in Los Angeles, so a car became just about mandatory. We got her a nice, used Nissan Altima (late 90s), which she totaled on the Pasadena freeway, thankfully injuring no one. The rest of her cars she bought herself: variously a BMW 5-series (also totaled without injury or damage to anyone) a Saab 900, a Hyundai and, now an RX-300. It has taken her to her mid-30s to become a moderately competent driver. The next younger daughter inherited our Previa after her freshman year at U of Virginia, which she drove for the remaining 3 years of her college career without incident. When she went to work in LA, we bought her a lightly used RAV4, which was totaled by a drunk while it was parked. With the insurance proceeds, she bought a second RAV4, which she sold when she got a job in NYC. Thereafter, subsequent cars she has bought herself (RX300, used; and, now a leased VW Golf). My youngest inherited our Saab station wagon after her freshman year at Wisconsin (Madison), mostly to come back and forth between home and school. She banged it up a bit in parking; and we sold it when she joined the Peace Corps 2.5 years ago. Now, she’s studying in London and, obviously, has no use for a car.

    We made a deliberate choice to move out of the suburbs and into DC when my oldest started 7th grade and DC was going to hell in a hand basket. In fact, the Washington Post, while doing a story about people moving out of DC, dug our name up from the transaction records and interviewed me for their article. One of the reasons for our move was to avoid the “teenagers in cars” issue. About a year before we moved, 3 high school age girls had a nasty wreck in a nice new 3-series driven at high speed by one of them who was drunk. If I recall correctly, one of them was killed; the other two were permanently maimed. We had to allow for the fact that alcohol use among high schoolers is far more prevalent now than it was when my wife and I were high schoolers in the mid and late 1960s. None of the comments, or Bark’s original article seem to be cognizant of that.

    As far as what the guy wants to buy for himself, my own experience with an ’02 Z3 3.0 was very positive. I did, however, prophylactically replace everything associated with the cooling system (hoses, radiator, expansion tank, water pump, thermostat) at a little over 40K miles. That cost me about $1,000 in parts. Other failures were the “DISA” valve, a camshaft position sensor and a section of the tubing between the MAF and the intake system that cracked. These were cheap and easy to fix. I also replaced brake discs and pads all around, but I consider that maintenance. Like others here, I’m a big fan of the normally aspirated 3 liter BMW 6 and a 128i might not be a bad choice, assuming you don’t want a real back seat. Beyond that, one gets into the endless discussion of manual vs. automatic and so on.

    For me, who learned on and grew up driving manuals, part of “driving for fun” is a good manual (and not every manual is good, by a long shot). If that’s one of the criteria for the requester, it narrows the scope of the search quite a bit.

    Likewise, my taste for a “fun drive” is either RWD or a “hot hatch” FWD car that is small, light and nimble, as a Mini Cooper or a GTI or maybe an Abarth (which I’ve never driven). Paying the big bucks for face-flattening acceleration is not really necessary to have fun on public roads; but if that’s your thing, cheap thrills are available from the Mustang GT.

    • 0 avatar
      delow48

      Good comment DC. One of my concerns in this situation is that our county in NC happens to be the one with the highest teenage fatalities. That is where the safety concerns come from.

      As far as the 3 series, it is almost impossible to find a manual. Especially in good condition around here. I work at home so with no commute a manual is my first choice. I still have about 10 months so I have time to wait on the right car if that is the direction I go.

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