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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 10-06-2011, 01:04 PM
metallisch metallisch is offline
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Would you please help an idiot pick a car?

Hey all.

I'm facing the immediate urgency of a Canadian winter. I've spent my entire life driving early-model Volvos (mostly 240s) equipped with roughly 0 luxury. They're absolutely horrific in the winter (or fun, depending on your point of view...) but I've managed. Heck, as a motorcycle mechanic by trade, I've even taken the scoot out in the snow. What I'm trying to get at, is that a rwd car with an appreciable HP gain over the 5hp gokart engine that my volvo doesn't really bother me.

I digress, I'm ready for something with a little more class, power and luxury.

I have been pretty infatuated with the 540i, which is why I posted it in this forum as opposed to any other; hoping that this would be the best place to be talked into or out of the 540. Namely, a 2002 with roughly 140,000 miles.

The other two cars I've been looking into are a 2001 330xi and a Lexus LS400. Basically, I'm looking for something with good power and plenty of luxury options. My price range tops off at roughly 10k. I prefer manual, but I'm not above driving an automatic.

You know, I'm not even sure exactly what I'm hoping to get from this post to be honest, other than first-hand experiences and opinions. I can take a test drive in any of them, but that doesn't tell me much about reliability and other longer-term issues.

I know, from lurking these forums, that 540s can be a bit of a money-pit maintenance wise, but I can't seem to tell whether the 540 is particularly expensive, or if I'll be sucking up big service bills for any Euro-luxury car I get my hands on. I'm traditionally a DIY kind of guy, I have tackled almost every problem I've had with my cars and bikes.

Sorry for being so long-winded. I'm out of my element here, and appreciate any advice given to me.

Thanks!
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  #2  
Old 10-06-2011, 01:10 PM
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energizedmortal energizedmortal is offline
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If i had 10 k right now, i'd get a 530i 2001 off ebay for no more than $4500, put $2500 into the cooling, suspension (arms, rods, struts) and mechanical (belts pullies , sensors , valves) overhauls- it will drive like it did when it was worth $65,000. Then you'll have $3000 for vacation. In ebay search "e39 bmw 540" and on the right click completed listings, you'll see how much people are paying. Recently, I saw e39's being bought from $4000 to $10000. Let us know what you find.

as far as 540's being expensive to maintain, it depends on service records and luck. Some jobs are way cheaper some not. For example, doing the oil pan gasket on a 540i is 30 minutes just unscrew the pan, on a 530i you can do Cn90's cheat and cut the gasket but if you pay someone to do it they will want to lift the engine and charge a days long of work...with any car new or used dice are rolled

Last edited by energizedmortal; 10-06-2011 at 01:18 PM.
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  #3  
Old 10-06-2011, 01:42 PM
metallisch metallisch is offline
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I haven't really looked into the 530i. What makes you mention that one in particular? I looked locally, and only one is available at significantly more (9000$) than the most inexpensive (5000$) 98 540i in my local area. Would it be worthwhile to put that extra money into preventative maintenance for the 540?

You're absolutely right about the rolled dice. My current Volvo has 450,000km on it and going..."strong" (read: it still starts and runs. that's about it.)
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  #4  
Old 10-06-2011, 01:52 PM
air_cooled air_cooled is offline
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There is a '98 540i 3 pedal not to far from you in Sherwood Park. It looks like it could do with a cleaning but it appears in good shape. It may be worth a look.
Found on k i j i j i Ad ID 299436774


edit: as a mechanic you are more than capable of owning a E39. They are not all that difficult to work on.

Last edited by air_cooled; 10-06-2011 at 01:55 PM.
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  #5  
Old 10-06-2011, 02:01 PM
granlund granlund is offline
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A piece of advice from someone who looked at both the 528/530 and a 540 a year ago; I came to the conclusion that even though a 540 would have been a significant step-up in power and acceleration, a 530 was by no means a slouch and was 'enough' of a car to have as a reliable long-distance family driver, especially when considering initial purchase price, maintenance history and possibility of expensive future repairs. I'm a DIY and for me the 540 had enough possible more expensive and time-consuming pitfalls over a 530 that it was not worth the risk.

Almost exactly a year ago I did end up getting a 530 manual/sport/premium/cold in not perfect cosmetical and mechanical condition with a lot of highway miles for $5000. After 12 months and a new clutch, brakes, struts and cooling system overhaul ($2k, which was budgeted in the purchase), I have a family highway luxo-cruiser that is good for 100k/10 years. (I'm not selling the car btw.) Even though time will tell, I do belive I will look back at the 100k/10 years and say to myself that I made the right choice.
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  #6  
Old 10-06-2011, 02:04 PM
metallisch metallisch is offline
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That was actually one of the first ads I noticed, but all the aftermarket parts kind of worried me. I am always wary of motorcycles with a whole boatload of A/M parts installed, and seeing as how I am unfamiliar with the parts listed in the ad I wasn't so sure. Either way, I definitely think it is worth a look! Thanks!
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  #7  
Old 10-06-2011, 02:24 PM
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doru doru is offline
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More choices down South of the border. paperwork is not difficult. I grabbed mine when she was young from Chicago. More $$$ back then.
Here check this out for 530 and here for 540 manual
I can point you in the right direction
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  #8  
Old 10-06-2011, 02:47 PM
metallisch metallisch is offline
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Wow, the difference in price, availability, and even quality of advertisements between canadian and us are simply staggering. I'm practically living in '30s communist Russia compared to all those listings.

Would I be operating on the assumption that I'd be having the vehicle shipped to me? That seems like it would be prohibitively expensive.
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  #9  
Old 10-06-2011, 03:20 PM
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energizedmortal energizedmortal is offline
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take a flight, fix her cooling down there then drive it up ? i don't think that having a reputable company ship it for you will be as expensive as you think

http://www.a1autotransport.com/ can get a quote here for shipping or google other car shipping/transportation sites

Last edited by energizedmortal; 10-06-2011 at 03:24 PM.
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  #10  
Old 10-06-2011, 06:02 PM
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doru doru is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by metallisch View Post
Wow, the difference in price, availability, and even quality of advertisements between canadian and us are simply staggering. I'm practically living in '30s communist Russia compared to all those listings.
Quote:
Originally Posted by metallisch View Post

Would I be operating on the assumption that I'd be having the vehicle shipped to me? That seems like it would be prohibitively expensive.

To ship the vehicle will be no less than 1000 to 1500 bux.
If you go, you can pick a "last minute" air ticket for under 100 bux. Then you need some cash for meals, hotels/motels and gas. You will need to announce border 72 hours prior to crossing (fax the documents as soon as you buy it to Sweetgrass). Get a temp insurance - you need the person you deal with to send you (e-mail) vin #, detailed description (pics are good) and an "attempt" of bill of sale to get the 1 month insurance. Temp lic plates can be obtained from dealer (if you go dealer route), if not you have to buy them - and it's about 150 bux (local party). Drive it home at your leisure (you cannot enter for 3 days), pay duty & GST (total = 10% of the bill of sale), then the tax to the Gvt (about 75 bux - it's the RIV) to be able to get it licensed. Here, read this
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  #11  
Old 10-06-2011, 08:38 PM
Turbo_525 Turbo_525 is offline
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Sounds like you're ready to make a fun switch. You'll be staying RWD which you are familiar with, but all e39's have performance tires and wider rims (both of which the 240's never could even dream of) so it might be worth pricing Blizzaks or even studded tires as these will be a lot MORE of a handful in the snow. i definately reccomment manual, much nicer in snow and not nearly as prone to trouble down the road.

Though you seem to like the V8's I would even encourage you to consider the 525 and 530 models - even my 5-speed 525 is a mid 7-second 0-60 car, the last time I drove a 240 DL wagon (4-speed + OD) it was 0-60, on occasion, somewhere around the 20 second range. But hey, that's probably lots of the reason they would last so long.

Like others have noted a Zionsville cooling system is a great investment, mine will be installed early next year and I'm keeping my fingers crossed till them. Look for records, CLEAR titles (many Salvage units out there) and consistant maitaince. I also prefer them stock, so i agree avoid one with mods that you don't install yourself. Travel to find the right car - well worth it! Welcome!
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  #12  
Old 10-06-2011, 08:53 PM
kiwiland kiwiland is offline
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The E39 530 is the perfect blend of BMW design and power giving both performance and reasonable economy to run
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  #13  
Old 10-06-2011, 10:43 PM
brc5 brc5 is offline
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Nah, get a V8. They just sound cooler and have more meat in the engine when you need it.

In reality, my advice is find the best car (lowest miles, best records, best condition) and accept the engine and color and transmission that comes with that.

If you're a mechanic you'll be on top of things. Just budget for the replacement items and don't be surprised when they arrive.
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  #14  
Old 10-07-2011, 01:10 AM
BMW 3-SERIES BMW 3-SERIES is offline
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Ask yourself. Do you need xDrive AWD on the 330Xi? LS400 looks ugly inside and out. So I am going with 540i. I own one and wouldn't own anything else
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  #15  
Old 10-07-2011, 04:30 AM
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Fudman Fudman is offline
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+1 on four snow tires! The choice of models is purely a personal choice. The V8 has more power but the gas mielage is lower as is the life expectancy of the cooling system. I have the I6 and it is more than adequate and provides a great blend of power and economy (23-25 local, 29-30 highway). Coming from an older Volvo 240, either car will shock you at how quick they are and the quality of the overall driving experience. You may want to wear a diaper before driving the 540!
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  #16  
Old 10-07-2011, 07:28 PM
metallisch metallisch is offline
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Oh you are all the best. I came here to be talked out of a 540, but it looks like I've just been talked into one. Secretly, that was my plan all along. I'm going to compromise though and keep the purchase value nominal, and spend the extras on some preventative maintenance and...did someone say vacation earlier in the thread? Yup, that sounds good too. I guess the next pressing issue is where the best place to drive my new 540 stateside happens to be? Obviously, I'll be suffering a miserable Canadian winter at the same time that I'm ready to stretch out the legs on my very first real luxury car.

Fudman - I actually test drove a 540 a couple days before registering here, and in retrospect I wish I had gotten the diaper advice earlier! Ha. What a riot it was to drive. The 6-speed, too.

You know what I've learned through all of this? Even among all the talk of high maintenance bills and whatnot, I just kept coming back to the 540 no matter what vehicle I looked at. Sometimes, you just have to make the fun choice.
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  #17  
Old 10-08-2011, 07:52 AM
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IndiansFan IndiansFan is offline
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Whether your choice is a 530 or 540, I recommend that it have three pedals and the sport package. If you choose the 540 6 speed, all the better.

Decide which car you want, what options you want, and then don't settle for anything less. Eventually what you want will come up on the market somewhere. Patience is very important.

In the meantime, your patience will afford you the opportunity to drive quite a few E39's. Look at automatics while you are searching, just so that you get a feeling for how that set up handles.

If you intend to drive it in the winter, then you will want the snow tires. I'd look at mounting 4 Nokian Hakkapeliitta tires on 17 wheels.
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2004 X3 2.5 TITANIUM SILVER/Grey - Sport/Premium Package
2001 530iA STEEL BLUE/Sand - Sport/Premium/Cold Package
1999 528iA JET BLACK/Black - Sport/Premium/Heated Seats
1982 Fiat 2000 Spider - BLUE METALLIC/Blue
1999 528iT CASHMERE BEIGE/Sand - Sport/Premium Package - 5 speed SOLD
1989 535i SALMON SILVER/Black SOLD
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  #18  
Old 09-04-2019, 08:02 AM
mathews_barenes mathews_barenes is offline
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take a flight, fix her cooling down there then drive it up? i don't think that having a reputable company ship it for you will be as expensive as you think

https://www.allstatetostateautotransport.com/ can get a quote here for shipping or google other car shipping/transportation sites
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  #19  
Old 09-04-2019, 11:34 AM
528iAut 528iAut is offline
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Why are you bumbing an 8 year old thread?
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