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Josh Rosenberg By Josh Rosenberg
Updated Nov. 9, 2023

Older BMWs Are Attractive In Today's High-Priced Market, But Careful Shopping Is Required

Related: How To Get The Lowest Price On A "Brand New" BMW

Due to their high build quality, there are still plenty of "older", say 10 to 20-years old, BMW models out there on the road. And, if anything, demand has increased for them as many carbuyers have been reaching back for these as a way of saving significant dollars in today's extremely high-priced market.

2013 BMW 3 Series

And while an older BMW can be expected to last 200,000 - 250,000 miles, there are many cases where they have been driven more than 300,000 miles with no serious mechanical issues beyond regular maintenance.

But, of course, reliability and durability is of prime importance with these older vehicles, and all cars require maintenance and periodic repairs are likely, raising the overall cost of ownership.

So here, we'll review the pros and cons of making such a move and then review some of the more popular older BMW models and their more common mechanical problems that should be checked before purchase.

It also needs to be noted that individual models may or may not have the issues below. Factors such as maintenance regularity and repair promptness, driving conditions, mileage, and previous owner driving habits can have a significant effect on a vehicle's mechanical status.

So ...

Things To Do When Considering An "Older" Vehicle

Locate Lower Mileage Vehicles: They are certainly out there to be found with careful and patient shopping. Be willing to drive a distance if you have to.

Vehicle History and Maintenance: Ask for the vehicle history report (CarFax or AutoCheck) as well as documented maintenance and repair records. If not provided by the Dealer or private seller, it's usually best to move on.

Pre-Purchase Inspection: Have the vehicle independently inspected before making a final decision. This usually will cost in the $150-$200 range but is well worth it given the potentially thousands in savings over the long term.

And My #1 Price Tip: Please, always get online price quotes at auto sites such as and (both, actually), whether looking for a new or used car. Competition among dealers for your business does amazing things to prices, and it's so easy. It really does make a difference.

And quickly, while we're at it, my #2 Tip is to always know the up-to-date trade-in value of your current car. You can get a quick and surprisingly accurate one at Edmund's Trade-In Quotes.

It's free and just takes a couple of minutes. I think what helps its accuracy is the inputs will include either your plate# or VIN# followed by many simple, but specific, yes/no questions. It really focuses in on the detail of the specific vehicle.

Buying An Older BMW Pros

Lower Purchase Price: Older BMWs have significantly depreciated in value, which means you can often buy them at a much lower price compared to new or newer models.

Lower Insurance Costs: Insurance premiums are typically lower for older cars since their value is lower.

Less Depreciation: New cars can lose a significant portion of their value in the first few years, while older cars have already experienced most of their depreciation, which means you won't lose as much money due to depreciation.

Classic Appeal: Some people prefer the design and character of older BMWs, so you may find a model that has a classic appeal to you.

Car Buying Tips:

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Easier to Work on: Older cars are often easier to maintain and repair because they have simpler mechanical systems that are not as reliant on advanced electronics. This can save you money on maintenance and repairs if you are a DIY enthusiast.

Buying An Older BMW Cons

Higher Maintenance Costs: As BMWs age, they can become more prone to mechanical and electrical issues. Repairs and maintenance can be costly, especially if you rely on the dealership for service. Consider the potential for higher maintenance and repair costs when budgeting for the purchase.

Reduced Fuel Efficiency: Older BMWs may have less fuel-efficient engines, which can lead to higher fuel costs over time compared to newer, more fuel-efficient models.

Outdated Technology: Older models may lack modern technology features, safety systems, and infotainment options that you might find in newer cars. This could affect your driving experience and convenience.

Uncertainty with Previous Ownership: You may not know the full history of the vehicle, including how well it was maintained or if it was involved in any accidents. It's essential to obtain a vehicle history report and have a pre-purchase inspection to mitigate this risk.

Some Of The More Popular Older BMWs

BMW 3 Series: This is BMW's top seller in the United States and is the standard bearer in the compact luxury sport segment. It's most notable qualities are its combination of abundant power coupled with its fairly amazing driving dynamics. It's also available in a host of configurations.

2007 BMW 3-Series 330i Sedan

The fifth-generation 3-Series was redesigned for the 2006 model year with still more power and new styling. New models were added as well, including a new premium compact sedan and a new wagon. Also new was BMW's optional iDrive control system.

This updated 3-Series was made 1.4 inches longer in wheelbase, 2.2 inches longer in overall length and 3 inches wider than both its sedan and wagon predecessors. This fifth generation 3-Series was produced through the 2013 model year.

The previous fourth generation was manufactured for the 1999 - 2005 model years and it also added additional space and features to its predecessor. Four-door 3-Series sedans made their debut in the 1999 323i and 328i models.

Under the hood of the 323i was a 2.5 liter engine while the 328i kept its 2.8 liter. Models from this production run can be found with either the standard 5-speed manual transmission or the optional 5-speed automatic.

More Common Older 3 Series Mechanical Problems

- High-pressure fuel pump (HPFP) failures, causing issues with starting and drivability.

- Cooling system problems, such as water pump or thermostat failures.

- Oil leaks, often from the valve cover gasket.

- Electronic issues with the iDrive system and related components.

BMW 5 Series: The 5-Series sets the standard for premium sport sedans (and in some years, wagons as well) with its precise reflexes and superior road feel. It's also loaded with technology, including (since 2004) an iDrive corrals audio, communication, navigation and climate functions using a central LCD screen and console-mounted control dial.

BMW 5-Series 530i (2004)

Prior to a sixth-generation redesign for 2011, the fifth generation was produced for the 2004 through 2010 model years. Of course, this version possessed outstanding driving qualities, but also offered one of the most spacious and accommodating cabins in its segment. And especially so for those with the optional multicontour front seats.

For 2006, both 6-cylinder engines were given a power boost via a 3.0-liter that produced 215-horsepower in the 525i and 255 in the 530i. Also in 2006, the top-line sedan, the 550i, received a 360-horsepower 4.8-liter V8, while the all-wheel-drive 5-Series wagon, the 530xi, also made its debut.

The fourth-generation BMW 5-Series was produced during the 1997 - 2003 model years. It's the opinion of many serious BMW enthusiasts that this model run represents the 5-Series' best combination of overall refinement, dynamic road performance capabilities and luxurious furnishings.

These vehicles also remain highly sought after due to their strong record for reliability. This has resulted in both good and bad news: while this generation has maintained high resale values, it has also therefore commanded higher purchase prices.

More Common Older 5 Series Mechanical Problems

- Similar cooling system issues as the 3 Series, including water pump and thermostat failures.

- Transmission problems, such as issues with the automatic transmission's mechatronics or seals.

- Suspension components wear out over time, leading to handling issues.

- Electrical issues with various modules and sensors.

BMW M3: Taking the already athletic 3 Series to another level is the M3. Available as either a coupe or convertible, the M3 has long been a favorite among sports car enthusiasts due to its precision handling and inspiring performance. Just a lot of fun to drive.

2006 BMW M3 Coupe

The fourth M3 generation was introduced for the 2008 model year and was produced through 2013. Offered in coupe, sedan (discontinued after 2011) and hardtop convertible body styles, there is just a single trim level.

Under the hood is a 4.0 liter V8 engine that pumps out an impressive 414 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. This engine is paired with a choice of the standard 6-speed manual transmission or the optional 7-speed auto/manual with paddle shifters.

The earlier M3 generation was manufactured for the 2001 - 2006 model years (there was no 2007 M3) and was available in both convertible and coupe forms, again with only one trim level. Powering these M3s was a 3.2-liter incline six-cylinder engine that produced 333 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque.

The standard transmission was a 6-speed manual, while some can be found with the optional 6-speed SMG (manual sequential gearbox) that was introduced for 2002.

More Common Older M3 Mechanical Problems

- Subframe cracking: Some M3s may experience subframe cracking, which can be a costly repair if not addressed.

- Vanos system issues: Problems with the Variable Valve Timing (Vanos) system can cause rough idling, reduced power, and can be expensive to repair.

- Rear differential and transmission issues: Premature wear on the rear differential and manual transmission can occur in some cases.

- Cooling system problems: Like other BMWs of the era, the M3 can experience cooling system issues, such as failures of the water pump and radiator.

- Throttle actuator issues: Some models may experience problems with the throttle actuators, leading to reduced performance.

- High-pressure fuel pump (HPFP) failures: Similar to other BMWs of this era, HPFP failures can lead to starting and drivability issues.

- DCT transmission problems: The dual-clutch transmission (DCT) in some M3s may have issues, including clutch and mechatronics problems.

BMW X5: Following BMW's trademark characteristics, the X5 was built for "on-road" performance and handling ... and that's what you'll get. They knew full well that X5 buyers wouldn't be those looking for off-road rough and tumbling and instead produced an SUV with a classic BMW personality.

BMW X5 4.8i (2007)

The second-generation X5 debuted for 2007 and was produced through 2012. This X5 was 7.4 inches longer than its predecessor in order to accommodate a small (best left for children) third row seat as well as additional cargo space.

Also new were run-flat tires and a new double-wishbone front suspension which smoothed out the ride still more. Powering this production run was a choice of either a 260-horsepower incline six-cylinder engine on the X5 3.0si or a 350-horsepower 4.8-liter V8 on the 4.8i for those who wanted the extra gusto.

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The BMW X5 made a splashy debut for the 2000 model year. Under the hood was a robust 4.4 liter V8 engine that could take the X5 from a 0 to 60 mph in less than 8 seconds. The 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder was introduced for the 2001 model year and traded off some driving performance in favor of improved fuel efficiency.

Older X5 shoppers should also note that 2001 and newer models had some important structural revisions that improved safety for occupants in frontal impacts

More Common Older X5 Mechanical Problems

- Air suspension problems, especially if the vehicle is equipped with it.

- Oil leaks, particularly from the valve cover gasket and oil filter housing gasket.

- Transmission issues can also occur, leading to harsh shifting or loss of power.

- Problems with the electronic parking brake system.

BMW Z4: Whether roadster or coupe, the Z4's distinctive styling and thrilling incline 6-cylinder engine is coupled with the handling, steering and car-to-driver communication you'd expect from a BMW. The result is clearly one of the top used sports car choices available.

2007 BMW Z4 Coupe

The first Z4 generation, produced from 2003 through 2008, was a redesign of the popular BMW Z3 sports car. Equipped with the same robust engines as the Z3, the Z4's design was slightly longer and wider.

This resulted in a head-turning design, outstanding performance-biased driving capabilities and loads of available premium features. Like the Z3, it was manufactured in South Carolina and was convertible only, with no hardtop versions available during this run.

Of note, however, was the total redesign for 2009 (and produced through 2016) which combined the coupe and roadster models to offer a retractable hardtop model. The exterior lost some of its angularity in favor of more curves, while the interior was refreshened and gained some space as well.

In addition, the previous model's best engine became standard, while the top-of-the-line engine was a new twin-turbo straight-6. Some say this version sacrificed a bit of its ultimate handling for improved comfort, but few are complaining.

More Common Older Z4 Mechanical Problems

- Convertible top issues, including motor and sensor failures.

- Cooling system problems like water pump and thermostat failures.

- Oil leaks, typically from the valve cover gasket and oil filter housing gasket.

- Electrical issues can affect the entertainment and navigation systems.

Lastly, Suggestions For Getting The Lowest BMW Price

First of all, here's a Lowest Price Used Car Buying Guide that details a very effective method.

Here's another method that identifies Price-Distressed Cars Right On Dealer Lots. These are vehicles they are so desperate to unload they would welcome your wholesale offer.

In addition, you can also try the Public Car Auctions in your own geographic area. This article reviews what to expect at open-to-the-public car auctions and how to locate them.

And for those of you who might be interested in a "brand new" BMW if the price was crazy good, here's info on exactly How To Get The Best Price On A New Car. This works just phenomenally well.

And checkout our Facebook page for more tips, car news and fun.

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