Friday, June 15, 2012

The Cheap and the Luxurious - is the B in BMW short for Bargain?

When I was growing up, anything with a BMW badge on it meant two things a) incredibly expensive and b) a status symbol of rich neighbors or uncles. It was a marque of the wealthy and if you drove one way back when, you probably worked in adverting or were a doctor. (Or quite a skilled car thief)

More broom broom than zoom zoom

Fast forward to 2012 and I'm suddenly finding a whole heap of bargain BMW in my typical haunts on car sales sites, the under 5K section. But how did the car of the rich and the privileged suddenly come down to within my reach?

We investigate further..

Are cheap BMW's worth buying? I've come across a few examples in my car hunting so far and crunched a few numbers plus tracked down a few reviews to see what the experts thought:

1992 BMW 318i E36

A steal?

Price when new: $44150
Price I've found it at: $4600
That's a saving of?: 89.5%
Yes that's great, but is it any good?: According to Top Gear before The Stig was a popular phrase, yes it is. Or it was.

Good looking, aerodynamic with a decent size but oddly shaped boot and okay power for a midship model. Not the sportiest Beamer you could buy but not everyone wanted to test a BMW at high speeds around the nearest race track. The one I looked at online was actually missing its badge and up to engine number two though which would normally make me wary, considering it got to just 171K before it went bang. Considering there's quite a few other 318i's that have higher k's on their original block for sale, this probably would have a few more things ready to go at anytime too given it's mysterious engine demise...

1999 BMW 316i E36

Price when new: $42950
Price I've found it at: $5000
That's a saving of?: 88%
Yes that's great, but is it any good?: Cars Guide reviewer Graham 'Smithy' Smith (who also has an auto section in the Herald Sun) gave it a stable 70/100, quoting: Generally the 3-Series is a well built and robust vehicle that will do quite high mileages without too much trouble. As well as: Stylish and practical hatchback for the young or young at heart that comes with a BMW badge. He did stress though that service records were a must and sludge under the oil cap was a killer of engines. The 'Need to sell quick' on the one I saw online at this price seems a bit iffy to me, unless they really do need 5K asap...and while it is a more affordable 3 series, it doesn't mean the parts are cheap...

1997 BMW 323i E36 

Price when new: $69510
Price I've found it at: $5000
That's a saving of?: 92.8%!
Yes that's great, but is it any good?: Privatefleet thinks so: The BMW 323i is a lovely all round car, neither too big nor too small, but still offering plenty of zip and creature comforts. The 5K one mentioned did have a touch of the travel bug about it though, clocking up an impressive 233,409kms so far. Still, it does come with log books and genuine parts. If you knew how to look after it mechanically, you might do alright. But still, that's a big number...

1994 BMW 530i E34

Camera crew and reporter not optional

Price when new: $112060
Price I've found it at: $4900
That's a saving of?: 95.6%!!
Yes that's great, but is it any good?:Plenty of people on MSN autos suggest it is. However a common theme is that it's underpowered, difficult to modify and expensive to maintain. Still, if you want something different from a 3 series...
The one we found at this price seemed decent enough but still high ks (228,265) which puts a lot of it into the 'will need to be fixed' bracket pretty quickly.

 And finally..

1993 BMW 740IL E32

Price when new:$180,150 (Gah! You know how many 90's cars you could get for that??)
Price I've found it at: $4888

That's a saving of?: 97.2%!!!!
Yes that's great, but is it any good?: Apart from the fact that it's probably the best example of automotive depreciation ever people love it still which is good to see. Although it's a tad concerning to read about the guy who spent $35K to buy it and went on to spend $40K to maintain it...and that was on a 35K car! God only knows what you'd have to spend on a 5K 740 to keep it up to scratch! 
Still, if you're impressed by the fact that you've spent a measly 5K on something that was once priced the same as an average house back in the 90's, this would probably be the car for you.

Are cheap beamers worth it then?: If you're buying a BMW to save money, forget it as it's going to cost you a lot more in the long run. However if you're buying a Blimmer because you've always wanted one and you know your way around and engine bay (and aren't afraid of non genuine or aftermarket parts) then there are some bargains out there. Just make sure you do your homework before snapping up the first roller than comes by your way...and since a lot of them come with very high ks at this price, don't expect your dreams of BMW ownership to go too far...

1 comment:

  1. Nice ad for the Porsche Cayman R there Google, bet you can't buy that for under 5K..