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E46 (1999 - 2006)
The fourth generation 3 Series (E46 chassis) was introduced in 1999 and set the standard for engineering and performance during it's years of production including being named to Car & Driver's 10 best list every one of those years! ! -- View the E46 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 05-08-2008, 09:43 AM
OCADA OCADA is offline
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financial decision e36 v. e46

Sorry in advance for the long post.

So I have a somewhat tough choice. I can spend about $20k on a 2003-2006 330i or spend half of that on a 97-98 328i. I'm unsure because I'm stuck between two philosophies: a) Get a BMW because I deserve it and damn the consequences; b) get a cheap car since cars are never an investment, just an expense. I figured an e36 meets both these requirements

So some questions:

1)is the difference between these models enough to spend an extra $10k on?

2) I've read people saying the e46 is much more reliable and people saying the opposite. Reliability is a concern for me, but I understand these things are going to be expensive. I was thinking maybe it would be smarter to get the e36 and then I have $10k head start for repairs. I figure the e46 is going to need work anyways so over the life of the car I'd still be ahead even if I get a CPO e46. Does this make sense?

I've also read that e36 are much easier to DIY. I have almost no experience in DIY but I've read posts before of people suggesting to buy an e36 to learn on and drive and when you can afford it upgrade.

3) related to question 2, I can stash that $10k in savings and if I dont need it, I will be way ahead in that regard. $10k with 10% returns adds up . I plan on saving a lot but will the upgrade to a e46 be worth that?

3) I'm 25 now so I don't need an adult cruiser, but I do plan on driving whatever I get into the ground. When I'm 35, first, will an e36 still be running and, second, would its interior and look still appeal to me? What if I'm 40? I know only I can answer this, but for the people who have had their car for 10+ years what do you think of it?

Looking over the specs they seem like very similar cars performance wise and I've heard the e36 has more of a drivers feel to it while the e46 is more refined. I've also read that the e46s interior is much more luxurious than the e36. I currently drive an f-150 so anything would be an upgrade from those perspective . But I do want to make sure I get a car I'd love to be with for 10+ years. Once my e36 is 20 years old will I still love it?
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  #2  
Old 05-08-2008, 09:51 AM
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Fast Bob Fast Bob is offline
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Man....you ask waaaay too many fockin` questions! Buy the best car that your budget allows....every newer generation of 3-series adds weight & complexity along with creature comforts. In general, the E36 will feel a bit more "raw" than the E46, but this is a plus for some drivers. Drive `em both, and make your choice based on which better suits your (realistic) needs. Don`t worry about ten years down the road (you`ll probably be driving a mini-van with your kids in the back :-)

Regards,
Bob
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  #3  
Old 05-08-2008, 12:33 PM
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get an e46.. or if you want to go for a real driver's car an e30. i had an e36 once, didn't like it. also, don't worry about the 10yr rule so much.. it's likely you will be driving a diff car by then. I know 4 yrs is max for me for a daily driver..
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  #4  
Old 05-08-2008, 12:45 PM
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average time most people keep a car is 3-5 years. I don't think I've ever owned a car longer than 7.....

but go with what bob said...... make your choice on which one suits you better...... drive and buy what makes you jump like a toyota commercial on crack.
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  #5  
Old 05-08-2008, 01:08 PM
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tturedraider tturedraider is offline
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  #6  
Old 05-08-2008, 01:19 PM
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Seems that some of your questions are really an opinion. Just buy whichever you feel more comfortable with. I have an e46 and love it. If you are concerned about having a car for the next 10 years or so, then you will probably get the best deal on a low mileage Honda or Toyota....which I would think has a better chance of lasting that long. I also have a 2000 Civic which has had no major problems and going on 100k miles.
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  #7  
Old 05-08-2008, 03:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Fast Bob View Post
Don`t worry about ten years down the road (you`ll probably be driving a mini-van with your kids in the back :-)

Regards,
Bob
I do this today. I just pack em (all 4) in the Bimmer! They like it. My youngest son says "Daddy, can I have your beamer?" "Sure can" I reply, "it's your inheritance!"

He's too young to realize how bad he's getting ripped off!
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  #8  
Old 05-08-2008, 03:40 PM
essi1553 essi1553 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OCADA View Post
3) I'm 25 now so I don't need an adult cruiser, but I do plan on driving whatever I get into the ground. When I'm 35, first, will an e36 still be running and, second, would its interior and look still appeal to me? What if I'm 40? I know only I can answer this, but for the people who have had their car for 10+ years what do you think of it?

Looking over the specs they seem like very similar cars performance wise and I've heard the e36 has more of a drivers feel to it while the e46 is more refined. I've also read that the e46s interior is much more luxurious than the e36. I currently drive an f-150 so anything would be an upgrade from those perspective . But I do want to make sure I get a car I'd love to be with for 10+ years. Once my e36 is 20 years old will I still love it?
I will attempt this one:

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so theoretically if you love the car when you buy it you should love it when your done with it as your taste should remain the same. As my experience with BMW in general is that thier cars are easily driveable beyond 10-15 years. Although some of you may consider my to be "easily satisfied" I really wouldn't mind getting my 1987 325is back.

I've owned quite a few bmw's
1. 73 2002tii
2. 87 325is
3. 95 M3
4. 01 330ci (current)
and I'd drive any one of them still to this day, except for the 2002 when it's cold or really hot out, your going to have to rip me out of my car with heated seats.

Any car is hard to keep for 20 years of normal driving, you'd eventually want to change it and the likely hood where you wouldn't get a new car for 20 year is kinda slim, at times it may just be worthwhile to change cars. So, in my opinion, if you really want to buy a car for the long term buy a beater cheap ass car for about 5 years. Then use the money you shrewdly invested in the (Insert lucrative investment opportunity here) and buy either a hybrid or electric BMW at that time, and really save you some money and enjoy something brand new.

Otherwise: Choose a e36 and stop over analyzing things.
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  #9  
Old 05-09-2008, 01:28 AM
fcruz3r fcruz3r is offline
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as with all purchases of a car ...age and model is just one factor to consider ...other things to look at
1. milage
2. accessories
3. general condition
4. service history
5. resale value in x years

then the more important stuff
1. can i find wheels that will look good on the car?
2. what sound system can i invest
3. will an aftermarket exhaust look pimp
4. what suspension mods can i do ?
5. how much for a custom paint job?
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  #10  
Old 05-09-2008, 06:21 AM
BMW318i_E36 BMW318i_E36 is offline
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It depends, both are wonderful cars but it depends if you have an income because for maintence and other repairs so having some money on the side doesn't hurt and the E36 is a wonderful car. If you think you can afford a E46 go for it, because those are amazing cars with no major problems. I would get a 2000 BMW 328i with sports and premium pkg. The 328i is very peppy and has more torque than the 325i or if you have more cash go for a 330i. It really depends on your budget but the 3 series just keeps on getting better and better each year. Try not to buy a off-lease car because those are usually treated bad, and also try to avoid buying from an wholesale dealer.
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  #11  
Old 05-09-2008, 06:45 AM
tdd tdd is offline
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I've owned a '92 325i (E36), '98 328i (E46), and now an '02 330CI (E46) convert. The E46 was for me a major leap over the E36 in handling and the 330CI was a major leap over all of them in performance...the difference in hp and torque is substantial. Get the 330i.
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  #12  
Old 05-09-2008, 06:55 AM
wolrah wolrah is offline
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Let me start by saying Fast Bob is right. Drive a few examples of both and most of your questions will be answered.

Quote:
Originally Posted by OCADA View Post
1)is the difference between these models enough to spend an extra $10k on?
Since it seems you're looking for an inexpensive but classy car rather than a gadget-ridden luxmobile, I'd say they're both very similar. The E46 can be found with more nifty toys factory installed, especially in the later models, but at the lower end they're quite close.

This is too subjective for any of us to give you useful information, drive them and decide.

That said, I did the same and ended up choosing the $16k E46 over the $6k E36, though I'm a geek who loves the electronic bits and I'm looking for an E36 as a track bitch.

Quote:
2) I've read people saying the e46 is much more reliable and people saying the opposite. Reliability is a concern for me, but I understand these things are going to be expensive. I was thinking maybe it would be smarter to get the e36 and then I have $10k head start for repairs. I figure the e46 is going to need work anyways so over the life of the car I'd still be ahead even if I get a CPO e46. Does this make sense?

I've also read that e36 are much easier to DIY. I have almost no experience in DIY but I've read posts before of people suggesting to buy an e36 to learn on and drive and when you can afford it upgrade.
If you were planning in buying the car straight out, then yea, you'd have a $10k head start. If you're financing, your real world head start is just whatever the difference in payments is. Granted, looking at my own vehicles where my second car is in the same price range as an older E36, that's still a $300/mo difference, which certainly helps.

DIY seems pretty decent on both, if you want to modify things the older pre-OBD2 E36s will be cheaper and easier when you get in to anything that needs electronic changes. The E46 has a more pervasive I-Bus, so tapping in to the in-car electronics is easier if you're in to that sort of thing.

Quote:
3) related to question 2, I can stash that $10k in savings and if I dont need it, I will be way ahead in that regard. $10k with 10% returns adds up . I plan on saving a lot but will the upgrade to a e46 be worth that?
Again, very subjective, but if you really have the $10k to stash and earn interest on, it seems like a pretty clear cut decision to me.

Quote:
3) I'm 25 now so I don't need an adult cruiser, but I do plan on driving whatever I get into the ground. When I'm 35, first, will an e36 still be running and, second, would its interior and look still appeal to me? What if I'm 40? I know only I can answer this, but for the people who have had their car for 10+ years what do you think of it?
Personally I look at E36s and still think they look modern and could have probably been sold right up to this day with minor facelifts on the exterior, maybe a bit more work on the interior to bring it closer to what the E46 has. Still, as with most of your questions, this is subjective. I'm 21 now, if I find myself still driving an E46 in a decade I don't think I'd have a problem with that (though I hope I'll have upgraded from a 325i to a ZHP 330i). Same with the E36. They just seem like timeless designs.

Quote:
Looking over the specs they seem like very similar cars performance wise and I've heard the e36 has more of a drivers feel to it while the e46 is more refined. I've also read that the e46s interior is much more luxurious than the e36. I currently drive an f-150 so anything would be an upgrade from those perspective . But I do want to make sure I get a car I'd love to be with for 10+ years. Once my e36 is 20 years old will I still love it?
I'll agree that the E36 is probably a sportier car overall and that either will be a significant upgrade from your F-150 (before this, I drove nothing but Fords starting with my parents' '03 Ranger and '01 F150 before moving to my own '93 Crown Vic, '95 T-Bird, back to the '93 Crown Vic, and finally a '97 Probe GT that blew its engine within a month). Of all those vehicles, only the T-Bird and the E46 have given me the feeling that I'd be glad to be driving it 10 years down the road. Unfortunately the T-Bird got T-boned (and it was practically mint with the '95 only color changing paint), so my only drivable "keeper" car is the E46.
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Old 05-09-2008, 11:01 AM
OCADA OCADA is offline
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Hey everyone thanks for the input. I know a lot of these questions are subjective, but I was trying to make a better e36 v. e46 thread with more pointed questions. Its going to be a tough choice when I come to it.

Whichever I buy I'm going to use cash to do it out of savings which I wasn't going to touch for 4-5 years anyways. I would then make payments back into that fund, kind of like a car payment. The difference is I would be making payments to myself and gaining interest instead of the dealer collecting the interest .

Right now I'm liking the suggestion I received elsewhere about finding a e46 for around $13-15k. Might not be a 330i, but I'd probably be happy with a 325 coming from an F-150
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Old 05-09-2008, 11:44 AM
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Originally Posted by OCADA View Post
Right now I'm liking the suggestion I received elsewhere about finding a e46 for around $13-15k. Might not be a 330i, but I'd probably be happy with a 325 coming from an F-150
I've seen some nice 2001-2002 330s for that price.
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Old 05-09-2008, 10:04 PM
shermyeung shermyeung is offline
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Don't be panzy ...Get an awesome car. You are only young onces ..Plus, ten years down the road you will probably be making a lot of money by then. You'll be driving the brand new 2018 BMW ... E46 .... awesome car, won't regret it ... I love mine to death.


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Old 05-09-2008, 10:17 PM
OCADA OCADA is offline
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I've seen some nice 2001-2002 330s for that price.
Yeah me too with tons of miles on them though
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  #17  
Old 05-09-2008, 11:40 PM
E46 Driver E46 Driver is offline
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Listen to your peers lol. Test them both. I drove my buddies 98 M3 (E36) and wanted one ever since. When I test drove my E46 I fell in love. Its way more updated and all around a different feel. For the better. Good luck
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  #18  
Old 05-21-2008, 08:31 PM
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henry_desmond henry_desmond is offline
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[QUOTE= In general, the E36 will feel a bit more "raw" than the E46 /QUOTE]

I've owned both an E36(94 325i) and I currently own a E46(00 323i). The E36 does feel more raw than the E46. The E46 feels like a luxury car. I liked my E36 when I had it but the quality of the interior trim was crappy. No matter what kind of BMW you get DIY are going to be difficult. That's just coming from me because I've never worked on my own cars, I always take them to the shop or I may just sell it if it's starting to have to many problems. But anyway I would say go with the E46, you will have a smile on your face every time you drive it. And make sure you get the steptronic transmission if you decide to get an automatic sense some of the regular transmissions in the 99 and 00 e46's are problematic. Also I noticed that you said you have 10k to spend. You should be able to find a e46 with under 100k miles for 10k. I bought my 00 323i with 104k miles, premium and sport package for $7700 from a wholesale car salesman, and its in excellent shape.
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Old 05-21-2008, 08:34 PM
garputo2 garputo2 is offline
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E46 all the way! The Headlights the Speed and The LOOKS!
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  #20  
Old 05-22-2008, 04:17 AM
flightmek flightmek is offline
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Split the difference and get an E46 328. In two years, you'll be bored by it's performance and wish you'd have sprung for the 330. You'll spend the money you saved on forced induction and a limited slip diff. When you've finally spent your full $20k, you'll realize that you could've bought an E46 M3 (now that it's 2010), and you're still not near it's performance. OR.....I know where you can get a snail-slow but great handling, slightly abused, Jet Black E46 323ci for around $9k.
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  #21  
Old 05-22-2008, 05:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OCADA View Post
Yeah me too with tons of miles on them though
I suppose it depends on what you think is a ton of miles. I've seen plenty in the 50k-60k range.
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Old 05-22-2008, 05:28 PM
kmoy2002 kmoy2002 is offline
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Drive them both. It's the only way that you will be able to truely decide. IF you're also into looks, I'd suggest looking at getting a M3 bumper for the e36 and getting a M-Tech II for e46. I'd drive both but currently own a e46. Both cars you're looking at the same basic issues. With the e36 maybe more electrical issues.
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