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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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Old 09-28-2014, 05:26 AM
LexAtlanta LexAtlanta is offline
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Location: Atlanta, GA
Join Date: Sep 2014
Posts: 2
Mein Auto: A Van
Question Buying a used E46 & have questions

Greetings All:

This is my first post as I just joined. I am looking to purchase a used BMW 3 series and from what I am seeing here in the local Atlanta Georgia market the E46 model years seem to fit my budget the best. I have never owned a BMW and currently have no friends or neighbors that own a BMW so I have no reference source.....until now. When you have questions, go to where the experts are, so here I am.

This new to me Bimmer will be driven 10K or less yearly. Manual or automatic is not an issue and neither is 2 or 4 door. Are there better years within the E46 models? I like to perform my own periodic maintenance like oil changes, plugs, etc. Are these vehicles difficult to work on? What should I look for in a vehicle and what should I stay away from?

I would like to make this purchase before the end of the year. Thanks in advance for the information and assistance.
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Old 09-28-2014, 06:51 AM
Brucifer325 Brucifer325 is online now
Some Fat Guy
Location: Gulfport, MS
Join Date: Sep 2011
Posts: 241
Mein Auto: 2000 328Ci
Why are looking at BMW? Not to discourage you, but just curious of why BMW vs. another car. What are you driving now?

First, to keep Fast Bob happy: READ THE DAMN WIKI!!!!! http://www.bimmerfest.com/wiki/index.php?title=BMW_E46

That being said, the E46 is a great car. Some people think it's the last tactile BMW's before everything went electronic and more to the luxury side. They might be a tad bit more involved to work on, but nothing beyond today's modern cars. Most maintenance can be done with standard tools. The best part is that most work has a detailed DIY out there, all you need to do is search for it. I have bookmarks for just about everything. If you find a procedure that is clear to you, bookmark it even if you hope you never have to use it. I have my repair folder broken down into different components of the car, i.e. Brakes, Engine, Radio. ect...

There should be a decent independent repair shop near you. For a fee, most will do a Pre-Purchase Inspection (PPI) for you. The earlier model cars had issues with their rear subframes which will take a visual inspection to assess. Low mileage, receipts, over-all look of the car are you standard used car bonuses. I would suggest the 330 or 328 variant of the engine so you have more power. Manuals are where these cars shine, but if you are using it daily in Atlanta traffic, an automatic might be easier; just be aware that some 5-speed Steptronics have a no-reverse issue. This can be fixed, but it involves removing the valve body of the transmission. Other members know more about the SMG transmission and will probably chime in on it.

The cooling system is a weak spot on these cars and if you don't know the last time the parts were replaced, that job should be close to the top of your overhaul list.

These are great cars, but not everything to everyone. That's why I asked why BMW.
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Old 09-28-2014, 08:19 AM
LexAtlanta LexAtlanta is offline
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Location: Atlanta, GA
Join Date: Sep 2014
Posts: 2
Mein Auto: A Van
Originally Posted by Brucifer325 View Post
Why are looking at BMW? Not to discourage you, but just curious of why BMW vs. another car. What are you driving now?

First, to keep Fast Bob happy: READ THE DAMN WIKI!!!!! http://www.bimmerfest.com/wiki/index.php?title=BMW_E46
Why BMW? Perceived quality and safety. I have owned domestic and Japanese cars but never a German car. Currently I own a Nissan Sentra and a Nissan Quest.

Many thanks for Fast Bob on that wiki............it is detailed!!! Great job.

I don't want to buy a money pit. I like the idea of a manual trans. It won't be driven in the daily commuting traffic I sit in five days a week very often. I am not opposed to working on the vehicle but don't want it to become a weekly thing. Yes, there is a shop not far from my home that I could take a vehicle to prior to purchase for an inspection. That would be money well spent.
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Old 09-28-2014, 08:22 AM
John Davis John Davis is offline
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Location: Long Beach, California
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 536
Mein Auto: 2004 BMW 330ci
If you care about long term reliability, then unless you have a clear preference for an automatic in city driving, I recommend getting a manual. There's a sticky thread in this forum about how long automatic transmissions have lasted. I just paid to have the automatic on my girlfriend's 325xi rebuilt, and it's not cheap. Manual transmissions seem to last a lot longer.

2004 330ci w/ sport package, 6 spd manual

Modifications: 3.46 differential, Pedalbox throttle signal amplifier, Active Autowerke performance software, Bilstein HDs
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Old 09-28-2014, 11:29 AM
Registered User
Location: California
Join Date: May 2014
Posts: 21
Mein Auto: N52
1. Get a 330 if you can. Otherwise a 325. The 323/328 are earlier models and seem to have problems with weak rear subframe.
2. As for the year, I'd avoid any '99/'00 models. The last year of the E46 is 2006. For the sedan, year 2002+ will have the updated facelift. Coupe 2004+ updated facelift. You might prefer the updated facelift, so keep that in mind.
3. Maintenance on these are very easy. Only thing you need to keep your fingers cross are the starter and the CCV(crankcase vent). Oil and plugs, a ten year old can do it. What you need to know is to keep the E46 reliable, you must do PREVENTATIVE maintenance. Meaning replacing commonly fail items before they even break. It's not a question if they will fail or not, it's when they will fail. The E46 isnt like a Camry or Accord where you just do oil change regularly and not have to worry about anything else.
4. Before buying the car, get a thorough pre-purchase inspection if you can. Ask the seller about maintenance history. Try to find a car own an enthusiast that already have taken care the preventative items.
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Old 09-28-2014, 02:13 PM
Registered User
Location: Queens, NY
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 4
Mein Auto: 95 325i & 01 325ci
Or buy a M3 e36. I have both e36 and e46. Daily driving i love the e36 the way it takes the bumps, original setup 15" rims. E46 is more fun on the highway, smoother, comfier.
Since it is your first bmw, e36 is bullet proof. Exception of the coolant system which is plastic, same as e46 and rear shock mount. I was just telling my son i am going to give him my 01 e46 325ci sliver/black interior , 5 speed to my son and buy a M3 e36 convertible . Much more fun to drive.
That is just my opinion. Since you are down at Atlanta, convertible my man, always can buy a hard top.
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Old 09-28-2014, 06:14 PM
SpielMitMir SpielMitMir is offline
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Location: Volunteer State
Join Date: Jan 2014
Posts: 42
Mein Auto: 2002 BMW 325CI
As Fast Bob once said, "these cars tend to be very needy." So be sure you are well aware of what you're potentially getting into. My $0.02
2002 BMW 325CI, E46, Auto, 128XXX miles

"These cars tend to be very needy..." - Fast Bob

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Old 09-29-2014, 03:42 PM
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Edgy36-39 Edgy36-39 is offline
Constantly Learning
Location: Northern Virginia
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,253
Mein Auto: 1999 M3, 2002 M5
These cars are nothing like Japanese. They become hobbies. If that's what you're looking for, then proceed.

Alpine listed a lot of good points. Make sure you get prepurchase inspection.

Good luck!
Fern Green 99 M3, Conforti Shark Software, Conforti CAI, Dinan Exhaust. Stamped LTWs, 235x40 square, OEM Hella heads, ///M Pedal Kit, Clear Corners, OEM Rear Spoiler, CD43 stereo. MRegistry listing here.
Le Mans 2002 M5, Black/Titanium, Rogue SSK, Dinan exhaust, PSS9 coilovers, Euro rotors, iPod integration. MRegistry listing here.

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