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Go Back   Bimmerfest - BMW Forums > BMW Model Discussions > 5 Series > E39 (1997 - 2003)

E39 (1997 - 2003)
The BMW 5-Series (E39 chassis) was introduced in the United States as a 1997 model year car and lasted until the 2004 when the E60 chassis was released. The United States saw several variations including the 525i, 528i, 530i and 540i. -- View the E39 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 01-11-2010, 06:15 AM
iceotron iceotron is offline
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Looking to buy a 540I, and I'm a noob.

I've posted in my regional forums, but didn't get a single response. So I'm going to try here.

Hello All, I'm from Buffalo and looking to buy my first BMW by the end of May at the latest. My existing car lease is up June 1st and I've decided after a bit of research that I want a BMW. Most interested in a 540I Manual. My budget is under 10K, and I'm hoping you all may be able to help me avoid common issues to check before buying and possibly some dealers to avoid.

I've come across this dealer and car...any thought on either?

http://www.autotrader.com/fyc/vdp.js...standard=false

Thank you all for looking and/or helping.

Carl
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  #2  
Old 01-12-2010, 07:43 AM
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bump, post was held and never made it to the front page.
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  #3  
Old 01-12-2010, 07:47 AM
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question is, what are you looking for in the 540i6? depending what you are looking for, only certain years offer certain options. if options aren't in your concern, then almost any would work; just look for one that's well maintained.

mods? no mods? etc etc..
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  #4  
Old 01-12-2010, 09:21 AM
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For your first BMW, you may want to look around Buffalo, Erie, Rochester area first. That way you can see, drive, inspect the car yourself.

Search this site and a few others (bimmerforums.com) and do your homework to find out about what will need to be replaced and at what mileage. Hint: Replace the entire cooling system at that mileage!

Second, this car has had 6 owners. That send's a message to me. The dealer photos leave me with the impression that they buy all their cars thru auctions, ie they have little knowledge of the service history of the cars they have for sale. If it were me, I'd probably pass on this one.

There is a free car fax available for this car, which is how I found out about the 6 owners. It indicates ONLY five service records, three which are basically wash and detail. I'd bet the farm that the seller has no records of maintenance for this car. Two of the records indicate some sort of service work done. I would try to find out what service was done by BMW of Bayside at 95.5K miles, and Rallye Motors at 107.7K miles. Most of the "detailed" reports involve selling the car, and the transfer of the title.

Once you have decided to actually buy, and not just look, buy the carfax reports for one month. This will be a great help in narrowing down your selections.

Now that you have narrowed your choice down to just a few, based on your features/needs/desires, go and test the car. When you have decided on the one you most likely will purchase, take it to a BMW dealer for a prepurchase Inspection, or PPI for short. Any dealer/seller should let you have the car for this inspection, IF THEY DON'T - RUN!!

If the seller states that the car has passed their "inspection/safety check" politely ask that they let you take it out for the PPI. Do not let them scheme you into a false sense of security. The PPI will cost you about $100.00 or so. It's the smartest up front expense you will ever make when purchasing a used car.

The reason I go to a BMW dealer vs. an independent mechanic, is that the repair cost at the dealer will most likely be more than at the independent. This repair estimate will work to your advantage when negitiating the final sale price of the car. As an example, A seller lists the car for $10,000.00. The PPI indicates $3,000.00 worth of repairs. You offer them $7K. If they don't come down, or only come down a few hundred, be prepared to walk away from the deal. You know what needs to be done to the car. If the seller does come down $2 - 3K, then you just earned that money by investing $100.00.

Once you have made the purchase, you can do the reapirs yourself, take it to the BMW dealer, or to an independent for the work.

Be prepared to spend a few thousand dollars the first year for unseen repairs for a car with that mileage.

That being said, it may be difficult for your to do the above items since you are in Buffalo and the car is in Patterson. If you know someone you trust in NJ to do this for you, then it is all the better.

Here is a '98 540 with the sport package. It's closer to you than NJ.

http://www.autotrader.com/fyc/vdp.js...standard=false

My final thoughts, let someone in Patterson buy the car.
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  #5  
Old 01-12-2010, 09:39 AM
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Features, options, mods aren't really too much of a concern. I'm more concerned with the car holding up and not becoming a money pit. Some Mod may actually scare me off depending on how intensive they were. I did the car modding thing and seen quite a few hack jobs done by others and almost myself due to insufficient research.

IndiansFan, great post and points....I'm going to take your advice on a closer car I can interact with better. My biggest concern is that BMW prices locally are higher then Nationally. Which could end up in paying more for a car that isn't worth it come a year or 2 down the road when National pricing starts to influence my local market more.

Again, thanks guys.


BTW, you mentioned there are certain things that should be done at certain mileage points. Is there a post or site I should reference for these?
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  #6  
Old 01-12-2010, 09:46 AM
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Not a good car to shop for uneducated. Suggest you buy private party from someone who cared for the car and has maintenance records.

Here's a recent thread that contains a .pdf of the E39 Buyers Guide from Bimmer Magazine back in 95 -- good reading:

http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=421527
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  #7  
Old 01-12-2010, 09:55 AM
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on a separate note, why you dont consider 530i instead of the 540i?
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  #8  
Old 01-12-2010, 10:13 AM
iceotron iceotron is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rashid View Post
on a separate note, why you dont consider 530i instead of the 540i?
I'd like to have the extra HP.
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  #9  
Old 01-12-2010, 01:16 PM
SoCaLE39 SoCaLE39 is offline
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Just looking at the car puts up some red flags. Here is what I noticed:

- Left front wheel different from others (M5 Wheel)
- Left rear tail light looks to be different (tinted)
- Right side mirror looks like it has paint chipping off
- Right rear quarter panel has a decent size dent by gas door
- Illuminated warning lamp on dash
- Headlight lenses extremely pitted
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  #10  
Old 01-12-2010, 02:08 PM
iceotron iceotron is offline
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damn, he's good. I will most definitely be posting any possible cars here before I buy.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SoCaLE39 View Post
Just looking at the car puts up some red flags. Here is what I noticed:

- Left front wheel different from others (M5 Wheel)
- Left rear tail light looks to be different (tinted)
- Right side mirror looks like it has paint chipping off
- Right rear quarter panel has a decent size dent by gas door
- Illuminated warning lamp on dash
- Headlight lenses extremely pitted
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  #11  
Old 01-12-2010, 06:46 PM
SoCaLE39 SoCaLE39 is offline
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Just to let you know, I helped a good friend find a 2001 540i 6-speed with 80K for only $11k. The deals are out there, just be patient and get knowledgeable with these cars before purchasing.
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  #12  
Old 01-12-2010, 07:07 PM
chevelle01969 chevelle01969 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iceotron View Post
I'd like to have the extra HP.
I wouldnt throw out the 530 so fast. I've had both and the 530 drives tons better.
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  #13  
Old 01-12-2010, 07:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IndiansFan View Post
Now that you have narrowed your choice down to just a few, based on your features/needs/desires, go and test the car. When you have decided on the one you most likely will purchase, take it to a BMW dealer for a prepurchase Inspection, or PPI for short. Any dealer/seller should let you have the car for this inspection, IF THEY DON'T - RUN!!

If the seller states that the car has passed their "inspection/safety check" politely ask that they let you take it out for the PPI. Do not let them scheme you into a false sense of security. The PPI will cost you about $100.00 or so. It's the smartest up front expense you will ever make when purchasing a used car.

The reason I go to a BMW dealer vs. an independent mechanic, is that the repair cost at the dealer will most likely be more than at the independent. This repair estimate will work to your advantage when negitiating the final sale price of the car. As an example, A seller lists the car for $10,000.00. The PPI indicates $3,000.00 worth of repairs. You offer them $7K. If they don't come down, or only come down a few hundred, be prepared to walk away from the deal. You know what needs to be done to the car. If the seller does come down $2 - 3K, then you just earned that money by investing $100.00.

Once you have made the purchase, you can do the reapirs yourself, take it to the BMW dealer, or to an independent for the work.

Be prepared to spend a few thousand dollars the first year for unseen repairs for a car with that mileage.
I agree with this so much, especially with BMWs. These are great cars, don't get me wrong, but one that has not been maintained and has years of abuse under its hood WILL BLEED YOUR WALLET DRY!!! A PPI is absolutely a must. Don't be too picky either, drive lots of them. All of them will have a slightly different feel and some will be better than others.

Best of luck with your hunt.
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Old 01-12-2010, 07:44 PM
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Here's a link with common problems accompanying ownership of an E39: http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=425300
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  #15  
Old 01-12-2010, 08:10 PM
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http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=424772
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  #16  
Old 01-12-2010, 08:17 PM
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http://forums.bimmerforums.com/forum....php?t=1353724


nice
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  #17  
Old 01-13-2010, 07:00 AM
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Mein Auto: 2001 540i/6: Dead
I bought my 540i/6 from a dealer in NJ for $10,500 cash. The car had 83K on it, and a few little things I needed to do... Here is the short list:

-Cupholders
-Pixels are out in the gauge cluster
-Need a spare wheel
-Need a Jack
-Replace tires
-Headlight adjusters
-two small dents
-Remove the greasy dressing from the interior

If I had to do it all over again, I would have passed on the car. I spent over $1500 on the first year. Now, it is not that the car is bad, but THIS ONE was. I would look for a well maintained version, with records.

Get what you want out of the car. I wanted fold down seats, sun shades and parking distance control... and got none of them.

I love my 540i, but I would have gone with another if I had the choice.

Also, I replaced the alternator ($550 watercooled btw) and power steering pump, spark plugs, coolant and various other bits already. Cooling system is next, and then on to performance options...

Be careful with the 540i... It can sneak up on you.
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Old 01-13-2010, 07:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kaputsport View Post

Be careful with the 540i... It can sneak up on you.
In more ways than one.
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Old 01-13-2010, 08:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iceotron View Post
Features, options, mods aren't really too much of a concern. I'm more concerned with the car holding up and not becoming a money pit.

My biggest concern is that BMW prices locally are higher then Nationally. Which could end up in paying more for a car that isn't worth it come a year or 2 down the road when National pricing starts to influence my local market more.
By options, I mean how the car was delevered from the factory. There are three primary option packages; Sport, Premium and Cold Weather. If you research a little more, you may find out that you would want a car with these three features. The sport package lends itself to the 6 speed. If the trim around the windows is "blacked out" (shadowline), the steering wheel is a three spoke-not four , and 17" wheels, then the car most likely has the Sport Package. There are other features of the sport package, but these three are the most visual.

The Cold Weather is a bonus in snow country; heated seats and headlight washers. I think almost every E39 comes to the states with the Premium package.

As someone else mentioned, go out and drive several. I drove three 530's during my search. Each one had a minor difference if the feel. I passed on the first one after finding out that the transmission would soon fail, hence the reason for it being on the market.

I would rather pay more money up front for a car that has been cared for, has records and I'm comfortable with as opposed to one that is a great deal!! (read cheap and mismatched wheels, non matching taillamps, etc, etc.) SoCaLE39 saw these. After time, you will know what to look for.

I can't stress enough to be patient. Do your homework and know what to look for. I looked for about 7 months before I bought my 528iT. I wanted a 5 speed with the sport and cold package. I bought one without the cold weather package primarily because I knew the mechanic who had serviced the car for the 6 previous years.

I bought the 530 after looking for two weeks. This was easier to find, because it's an automatic, and is my wife's daily driver. It still has the sport package which is what I wanted. I spent $1.5K more that my budget, but the car just had the 60,000 mile service work done and the previous owner supplied most of the service records. I still had the PPI done, and found out that between the 60K service and when I bought it, a leak was found in the brake line. The dealer came down $400.00. I spent $100.00 and I "saved" $300.00. I fixed the line the following weekend.

Looking locally for your first BMW, is probably a wise and good decision. Get to know a service advisor at a local BMW dealer. Let them know what you are looking for. They may know of a potential E39 trade coming in. Many dealers now wholesale E39's that come in for trade. They only want E60's on the used car side. Once you have found a car that you are interested in, call the service advisor and give them the Serial No. They can usually "un officially" give you information on any dealer performed service work.

Good luck with your search.
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2001 530iA STEEL BLUE/Sand - Sport/Premium/Cold Package
1999 528iA JET BLACK/Black - Sport/Premium/Heated Seats
1999 528iT CASHMERE BEIGE/Sand - Sport/Premium Package - 5 speed
1982 Fiat 2000 Spider - BLUE METALLIC/Blue
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  #20  
Old 01-14-2010, 04:13 AM
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chivas chivas is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IndiansFan View Post
By options, I mean how the car was delevered from the factory. There are three primary option packages; Sport, Premium and Cold Weather. If you research a little more, you may find out that you would want a car with these three features. The sport package lends itself to the 6 speed. If the trim around the windows is "blacked out" (shadowline), the steering wheel is a three spoke-not four , and 17" wheels, then the car most likely has the Sport Package. There are other features of the sport package, but these three are the most visual.

The Cold Weather is a bonus in snow country; heated seats and headlight washers. I think almost every E39 comes to the states with the Premium package.

As someone else mentioned, go out and drive several. I drove three 530's during my search. Each one had a minor difference if the feel. I passed on the first one after finding out that the transmission would soon fail, hence the reason for it being on the market.

I would rather pay more money up front for a car that has been cared for, has records and I'm comfortable with as opposed to one that is a great deal!! (read cheap and mismatched wheels, non matching taillamps, etc, etc.) SoCaLE39 saw these. After time, you will know what to look for.

I can't stress enough to be patient. Do your homework and know what to look for. I looked for about 7 months before I bought my 528iT. I wanted a 5 speed with the sport and cold package. I bought one without the cold weather package primarily because I knew the mechanic who had serviced the car for the 6 previous years.

I bought the 530 after looking for two weeks. This was easier to find, because it's an automatic, and is my wife's daily driver. It still has the sport package which is what I wanted. I spent $1.5K more that my budget, but the car just had the 60,000 mile service work done and the previous owner supplied most of the service records. I still had the PPI done, and found out that between the 60K service and when I bought it, a leak was found in the brake line. The dealer came down $400.00. I spent $100.00 and I "saved" $300.00. I fixed the line the following weekend.

Looking locally for your first BMW, is probably a wise and good decision. Get to know a service advisor at a local BMW dealer. Let them know what you are looking for. They may know of a potential E39 trade coming in. Many dealers now wholesale E39's that come in for trade. They only want E60's on the used car side. Once you have found a car that you are interested in, call the service advisor and give them the Serial No. They can usually "un officially" give you information on any dealer performed service work.

Good luck with your search.

not all sports have the 3 spoke steering; 97-98 540 sport has the 4 spoke and with the winter package, they are heated 4 spoke which with the recent artic blast has been a god-send to have; not all winter package has the headlight washers either.. at least for the older models. also, for the 540, the 97's did not come with shadowline trim for some odd reason. not sure why. also, the 97 540's navigation had some DUDE's voice... creepy if you ask me but it does come with TV which is now useless since the signals all went digital. the 98+ nav does not have TV but the upgrade is a simple plug and play.

but it is true that if you buy cheap, you'll buy twice on these cars. what may seem like a deal at first can be nothing more than a money pit down the line and you'd end up spending probably more to fix it up than enjoying it. this kind of reminds me of when i picked up my e30 M3; there's the $15,000 rule on the e30 M3's. you can pick one up for $10,000 but end up spending $5K fixing it up or pick up a $15,000 that needs nothing. 6 or half a dozen, you'll end up spending $15K for the E30 m3.
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  #21  
Old 01-14-2010, 05:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iceotron View Post
I'd like to have the extra HP.

With extra horsepower come extra expense. The 540 is an awesome machine but unless it's under a warranty, I'd pass on buying one.
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  #22  
Old 01-14-2010, 06:05 AM
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Originally Posted by AnotherGeezer View Post
With extra horsepower come extra expense.
like what? gas? spark plugs?
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Old 01-14-2010, 06:09 AM
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AnotherGeezer AnotherGeezer is offline
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like what? gas? spark plugs?

If you have to ask...
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  #24  
Old 01-14-2010, 06:22 AM
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chivas chivas is offline
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Originally Posted by AnotherGeezer View Post
If you have to ask...
i do because i've worked on both and i can't see this "extra expense" located. gas.. ok, i'll give you that but the power > gas *day of the week. spark plugs.. $20 (at most) more which i can see it could be a deal breaker for some. tires... ok, you can definitely eat though more tires with the V8 having loads more fun. but everything else.. oh, that's right, oil. about 1.5 quarts more?

if it's about this nickle and dime thing then a BMW isn't a car he should be looking into.
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Old 01-14-2010, 06:54 AM
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Where do I begin?

Insurance.
Fuel.
More maintenance due to more parts (two heads versus one, etc)
Tires.
Tickets.
General wear and tear of a higher horsepower engine on hard parts (tranny, third member, etc)

I'm not dissing the 540. I'm merely stating the obvious.
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