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cwh
cwh SuperDork
12/8/09 3:54 p.m.

I scan CL looking for interesting and cheap. Recently started to look for BMWs under 1500.00 and have been amazed at what is out there. 96 318ti, 950.00, 633csi, 1400.00, 96 3 series, 600.00, 91 735i, 1450.00. I could do the 318ti for under a grand. Is this common across the states? These are all rust free southern cars, too.

M030
M030 Reader
12/8/09 4:01 p.m.

I see prices like that up here in the northeast, too.

The purchase price is the cheapest thing about them, though. It's been my experience that there is no such thing as a cheap BMW.

Dr. Hess
Dr. Hess SuperDork
12/8/09 4:08 p.m.

Is this like:

What's more expensive than a cheap BMW? A free Lotus.

stuart in mn
stuart in mn SuperDork
12/8/09 4:18 p.m.

It depends on the model. e30 3 series and e28 5 series cars were built like bricks, so a cheap one is still probably going to be an okay car. An e24 6 series is mechanically the same as an e28 but interior parts wear and are expensive to replace. An e23 or early e32 7 series is also pretty durable, but HVAC and electronic repairs are expensive. An e36 3 series probably won't be as durable as an e30 but there are a lot of them out there to choose from so prices are low.

Greg Voth
Greg Voth Reader
12/8/09 5:07 p.m.

Yeah I just found a 96 328i 5-speed vert that I can get for $2000. It has an awful blue, black and purple paint job but it comes with hardtop. I keep thinking the hardtops sell for $1000-$1800 but it needs paint and the usual e36 problems (torn seats, window regulators, bushings, rear vert window etc etc etc).

This quickly turns it back into a $3,000 car even after selling the hardtop and doing a rustoleum paint job. It may still be worth is but doesn't appeal to me as much.

wbjones
wbjones Reader
12/8/09 5:13 p.m.

track toy, ftw

Strike_Zero
Strike_Zero Reader
12/8/09 5:32 p.m.

You'll find a ton of cheap BMWs, since owners sometimes neglect stuff or won't pay for the shop to do jobs a normal GRM'er would do. So they off load em for cheap!!

Timing belt on M20 = ~$500 parts and labor (mostly labor) . . . I think of it as a three beer job (not that would do another one)

The M20/M30 sixes are built like tanks. The M70 12-cylinders . . .run away from. The M50 (S50, M52, S52) is another brick like motor if the maintained as prescribed . . . The M42/M44 4-cylinder doesn't like to be over heated AT ALL . . . but other than that is brick like as well. The M60 eight cylinder is quirky

Sofa King
Sofa King Reader
12/8/09 6:01 p.m.

I just saw a 97 M3 sell at an auction last Saturday for $1500. It was rough, but could have been fun to make into a Challenge car. It was a running driving car, but it was an automatic. I didn't think that M3s came with automatics?

ddavidv
ddavidv SuperDork
12/8/09 6:13 p.m.

Most BMWs can be relatively inexpensive to own provided you only concern yourself with making them run. Bad upholstery, cracked dash pads, blinking check panel lights and so on are just annoyances. Buy, fix, drive the wheels off. Concours quality cars are for Zymol poseurs. BMWs should be used as the Big Hammer in your shop: frequently and with little regard for the outcome.

Greg Voth
Greg Voth Reader
12/8/09 6:32 p.m.

Thats is the problem. I have a 5.0 mustang waiting for the motor to be thrown into the a e36 BMW convertible for the wife.

The only problem is that the motor is the only reliable part of the BMW and she doesn't want to drive a car where the seats door panels and interior are FUBAR and the windows dont work.

njansenv
njansenv Reader
12/8/09 6:34 p.m.

:) Here we go again with the "BMW's are expensive" myth. I used to believe it too...until I bought my E30...then another, and another...then my E36 M3..... still not expensive. Still waiting. In the meantime, great fun, great sound, great interweb support. My M3 has been cheaper to run (outside of fuel economy, and even then it's close!) than my 2003 protege.

In the interest of full disclosure, I don't frequent dealerships (except to get brake hardlines for 1 E30), and do the work myself.

Greg Voth
Greg Voth Reader
12/8/09 6:47 p.m.

I don't doubt that they are pretty reliable mechanical wise the interiors of all five E36 verts Ive looked at buying were trashed and every single one had at least one window not working and none of the power tops was working. Granted they were all prices $3500 and under but it shows a trend.

My older brothers 2000 E46 interior was falling apart in 2006 with 100k miles on the car. Still ran great but if you want to keep them perfect it aint cheap. I bought and replaced the window switch, door lock combo and window regulator and put them in myself to the tune of $500 ish dollars. The seats were spliting, the headliner was falling down and the "headlight out" light would not turn off. Their interior quality leaves something to be desired. Hell the 98 Buick Park Ave with 220k miles at the same time had almost no issues compartively.

Strike_Zero
Strike_Zero Reader
12/8/09 7:03 p.m.
ddavidv wrote: Most BMWs can be relatively inexpensive to own provided you only concern yourself with making them run. Bad upholstery, cracked dash pads, blinking check panel lights and so on are just annoyances. Buy, fix, drive the wheels off. Concours quality cars are for Zymol poseurs. BMWs should be used as the Big Hammer in your shop: frequently and with little regard for the outcome.

I agree 106% with David.

My second E30 I bought have 102K miles on it. . . Timing belt and valve adjustments on time . . . I sold it with 290K of HARD track days, autox, drag race, and back road miles on it. . . The guy that bought it from me did the same thing . . . I believe it is still out there somewhere getting really close to 350K

Now according to many sources (Roundel and other BMW rags) the quality of the material used in the E36 were sub par at best. The E30 I had had no interior or switchgear abnormalities (except of the battery on the SI board). The E36 interior does rate on high side of suckage . . . I think it's type of adhesive and foam backing on interior panels that could be the culprit.

JohnW
JohnW Reader
12/8/09 7:57 p.m.

Actually my e30 has been very inexpensive to own. It does have some minor annoyances (door locks don't work, antenna is busted, glove box is broken), but what 19 year old car doesn't?

I used to own a 97 318ti, which had a lot more annoyances and just felt "cheaper." It didn't have any serious mechanical problems, but the e30 is definitely more to my liking -- especially as a daily driver.

And then there's the 2002s I've owened. They're great; just don't try to restore one or make it too nice. That's when you get into $$

nderwater
nderwater Reader
12/8/09 8:21 p.m.

Make no mistake - BMW's cost a lot of owners a lot of money. Initial owners lose their shirt on depreciation, second owners blow their wad chasing electical gremlins and big services as the cars come out of warranty. Third owners skip maintenance because dealer and BMW shop labor rates and parts prices are so high. By the time they become affordable for most of us GRM readers, they're often behind on maintenance, have tired suspensions, and have been maintained with Pep Boys parts... and they're still more fun to drive than 90% of other used cars out there.

Buy a well maintained BMW when it's fallen down the depreciation curve, buy your parts online and maintain the car yourself, and they are surprisingly affordable. But if you buy car with an unknown history and pay someone else to work on the car, you better have the vaseline handy.

Having owned five BMW's, I've done it every way. I lost my shirt on my second E30, paying as much for repairs and maintenance as I did for the car ($1,800 head replacement, $1,000 in oil plans, etc.). Later I bought a clean E39 which has cost relatively little to maintain, but cost me a bundle in depreciation. My M3 is a little ratty and has a salvage title, but runs great, was cheap to buy and I don't intend to invest in fixing it up.

M2Pilot
M2Pilot New Reader
12/8/09 9:15 p.m.

I've been driving BMWs since '71. The only one that I've had to spend outlandish money on is the '76 2002 with s14 engine. Just wait til you have to have that engine rebuilt & the "while we're in there" bug bites. But worth it on many levels.

granth
granth New Reader
12/9/09 12:11 a.m.
JohnW wrote: And then there's the 2002s I've owened. They're great; just don't try to restore one or make it too nice. That's when you get into $$

What is it that is soo $$, it must be the $20 rotors or the the $40 water pump on the 2002? Stuff is so cheap for these cars and so easy to work on. Yeah for race cars some really built M10's can add up, but what race motor does not?

BTW the S14 is an M3 motor not stock lets talk apples to apples not apples to M3...

02Pilot
02Pilot Reader
12/9/09 7:32 a.m.

02s get expensive when you try to do things like restore the interior to 100% new condition or repair even limited amounts of rust or repaint them. The mechanicals are cheap and easy, but a lot of the cosmetics are quite pricey and labor-intensive.

dj06482
dj06482 GRM+ Memberand Reader
12/9/09 8:07 a.m.
02Pilot wrote: The mechanicals are cheap and easy, but a lot of the cosmetics are quite pricey and labor-intensive.

This is 100% what I've found to be the case. A lot of the cosmetics are dealer-only and you'll pay through the nose for. Mechanical parts have been surprisingly cheap, and there's tremendous competition from vendors on bimmerforums.com, which keeps the prices very low.

BMWs would be expensive if the car had to be perfect. If you're willing to let some things go cosmetically, they're great cars. Or another option as another poster mentioned is to buy one from someone who paid to keep it perfect.

mad_machine
mad_machine GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
12/9/09 9:26 a.m.

I find that Ebay and SL are great ways to keep your BMW looking good. Even Bimmerforums sales area can be a good place to score used but good parts for a lot cheaper than the dealer.

Honestly, compared to my saab.. the Bimmer is cheaper to run and repair

Soma007
Soma007 New Reader
12/9/09 11:00 a.m.
Greg Voth wrote: My older brothers 2000 E46 interior was falling apart in 2006 with 100k miles on the car. Still ran great but if you want to keep them perfect it aint cheap. I bought and replaced the window switch, door lock combo and window regulator and put them in myself to the tune of $500 ish dollars. The seats were spliting, the headliner was falling down and the "headlight out" light would not turn off. Their interior quality leaves something to be desired. Hell the 98 Buick Park Ave with 220k miles at the same time had almost no issues compartively.

Sorry, but your brother must have beat the hell out of that car. My '99 E46 interior with 140k looks damn good for its age IMO. The seats look almost perfect, the same for the headlinder, door panels & carpet. Every, and I mean every GM car we had in our family (quite a few) had a sagging headliner within 5 years.

Yes, I've had to replace the window regulators but those are a known issue. I'm not sure I'd count them as part of the interior anyways.

If I ever bring it to a CFR event you're welcome to look at it (I'm usually in a Miata).

Jason S.

Soma007
Soma007 New Reader
12/9/09 11:03 a.m.

Also I'll second, (or third) what David said. They'll run forever but if you're concerned with making them perfect then you'll be spending lots of money. Doubly so if you're paying someone else for the labor.

That said when they're right they drive soooo nice.

M2Pilot
M2Pilot New Reader
12/9/09 12:32 p.m.
granth wrote: < BTW the S14 is an M3 motor not stock lets

Good point,figgered most folks here knew that.

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
12/9/09 12:52 p.m.

I'd have to agree with most posts here in saying that BMWs are not very expensive to maintain mechanically, but cosmetically can be a bit of a pain. Both my E30 and E36 cars have had minor trim issues (E30 sport seat failure, E36 headliner / door panel unglued) but mechanically both were solid and a ton of fun. They both throw a CEL occasionally, but it is usually the sensor, and not the component that has failed.

If I was buying a cheap BMW (sub $3k) I'd be looking at E30s. They are simpler, and abundant for not a lot of $$$. An E36 in this price range will probably have a bunch of interior issues to deal with, along with the usual electronic niggles.

Either way, if you aren't opposed to getting your hands dirty, parts can be found reasonably inexpensively, and the cars are well built and easy to work on.

It is awfully hard to beat the money outlay vs. driving pleasure of a nice BMW.

Keith
Keith GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
12/9/09 1:01 p.m.
M2Pilot wrote:
granth wrote: < BTW the S14 is an M3 motor not stock lets
Good point,figgered most folks here knew that.

As a general rule, most people don't know engine codes. Hell, I couldn't tell you what the secret BMW code for the engine in my M5 is. Then there are all those Hondas, Mitsubishis, Mazdas, Toyotas, Chevies etc with weirdo codes.

So instead of figuring people will know engine nomenclature on an "all cool cars" forum like GRM, it's safer to assume they won't.

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