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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everyone, I've been spending a lot of time researching but can I get a quick gut check and some general pointers please?


Vehicle Purpose:

  • 12-15K miles per year. 12mi / 30min daily commute (city + highway), general errands, and trips between San Francisco and Tahoe
  • Looking for something for 1.5-3 years to tide me over until there are more affordable and available electric/PHE vehicles, while not wasting a ton of money on depreciation
  • I've been gravitating towards the E83 due to the above average reliability (for BMW at least), availability of DIY repairs, style/luxury, AWD, and price point

DIY Background: I don't have a ton of experience with cars besides oil changes but am generally a big DIYer (building computers since 2001, used to own a big CRT movie theater projector that required hours of mechanical and electrical tuning, and small handyman house stuff). I also grew up around boat engines, inboard and outboard, diesel and gas and did decent amounts of basic troubleshooting, gear unit oil changes, spark plug changes, teaching kids about the engines etc. I also watched YouTube videos on common E83 repairs (e.g., valve cover gasket, transfer case) and scanned the forum, and they seem fairly straightforward, except for stuff like engine mounts.

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Is the E83 a decent option for me, or am I asking for trouble getting a used BMW? Is there anything specific I should look out for when searching, besides lower mileage and good maintenance history (e.g., frequency and whether common repairs were recently performed)? Any guidance on price points? I've seen a few 2006-2008 E83 in my area with 90-120K miles for $7000-8000, many of which have recently had common repairs like valve cover gasket and ignition coils.

Thanks!
 

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IMHO, no. Honda or Toyota instead.
 

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15k miles/year in a used older BMW? Sorry, no, would not recommend either. You will be doing a lot of maintenance of worn parts that cost more than other cars. When I was buying mine, 3 out of the 10 listings local to me had bad transfer cases mentioned. I would say that the engine is very solid, but the driveline is not.
 

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Anti-Hack
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E83 can be very reliable and easily do 15k trouble free miles a year, if (and that’s a BIG IF) you know the history of the vehicle from day one, or close to it. I bought mine off-lease and am the second owner, and about to hit 190k miles, still with original actuator gear, VANOS solenoids, cam cover, DISAs and TPMS sensors. Even so, look at my stocked maintenance parts for the E83 compared to 4 of my other vehicles; 200k mile service is going to be intensive (brown placards are centered within their respective parts collection).



However, if you’re buying a higher mileage vehicle, around the mileage you’re looking and at that price point, I’ll third the resounding NO. There’s too many unknowns. With vehicles, the slightest difference in operation or maintenance style in the first 100k determines whether the next 100k is smooth and easy, or rough and difficult, and if the third 100k is even possible.

No one likes to waste money, but if money is at all a concern, a BMW (especially one under $10k) shouldn’t be considered.

My mom’s ‘09 VW Tiguan is about to hit 105k miles, and the AC compressor froze, melting the drive belt. I was going to drop the engine to replace the belt and tensioner (EA888 engine requires lowering engine to replace tensioner) until I found the seized compressor shaft. $3500 later, new compressor, condenser, and receiver/dryer. I listed it on CL for $9400 a week later, and had the first call within hours. It sold the next day. My parents drive coastwise and cross country, and the car was becoming too needy ($2k+ per year); last year was injectors and walnut blasting the intake valves). I’m from a small town with only two dealers, and unfortunately the Mopar dealer had nothing in stock, so they went to Ford and plunked down $32k cash on an Escape they had on the lot. Nearing 70 years old, my dad wants to deal with repairs less and less… 100k mile warranty and local servicing took over.




Why mention all that? A long-winded way of me admitting that I actually really like that Escape, and I am not a Ford fan (they can be more annoying to work on that any Euro). If my E83 fell victim to one of the many BDBHs on the road, I’d strongly consider the Escape. The little I-3 feels as quick as the VW 2.0T, has averaged 27mpg in around town driving so far, and takes 87, not premium. Highway trips will be in the mid-high 30s. You may want to consider that, or its Bronco Sport (not Bronco) cousin. They got the sport package, and looks pretty sharp IMO, and has heated seats/steering wheel just like my X3. Ford offers decent discounts for military and first responders, which my parents took advantage of.



New parts aren’t necessarily good, just shiny.
 

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where da clutch at ?
2020 BMW 230i
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BMW all the way, especially from your DIY background
 
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where da clutch at ?
2020 BMW 230i
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only bit of advice, 3rd party Fuq'd up my windscreen repair water leak killed my comfort access
other than that all good
 

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where da clutch at ?
2020 BMW 230i
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BMW X3 Reliability

The majority of the common problems on the X3 are common for a lot of other BMW's. Overall, the X3's are pretty reliable vehicles. But, you as you get upwards of 100k miles on these vehicles oil and coolant leaks, and timing chain guide problems become a lot more frequent in nature. Preventative maintenance, such as frequent oil changes, spark plug and ignition coil replacement, and gasket replacement become crucial to maintaining long-term reliability.

The drivetrain and transmission on these cars are extremely reliable and very rarely have any issues. Transfer case problems could become an issue above the 150k mile mark, but otherwise these components are pretty bulletproof. Furthermore, the brakes, steering, suspension, and electronics components of these vehicles are also very reliable.
 

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^ Sweet copy/paste. If you’re going to plagiarize, include the source:


The E83 has it’s share of common problems, but I promise that timing chain/guide issues are neither on the short nor the long lists.


New parts aren’t necessarily good, just shiny.
 

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Not a problem if you buy an E83 at 100K miles or so, then...

1. Read forum for FAQs and common things you should do for any cars at 100K...
Cooling overhaul, brake hoses.

2. Then slowly learn through forum what to fix.

Mechanically, the E83 is good, not less reliable than other Toyota, Honda.
It has some peculiar issues you need to be aware of: things that only fail in E83:
  • CCV: easy fix with BavarianE39 mod.
  • Oil Pan Gasket leak...if it ever leaks, it is a drop here and there, and if you do the BavarianE39 mod, the leak is minimal.
Overall a great car, just dive deep into repair and you will like the car.

I'd drive this E83 over any Honda or Toyota SUVs...
 

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I own a 2008 M-Sport model. I have redone the suspension, new brake pads, new coolant overflow container and hoses. New coolant, new transmission and differential fluids. Changed the overdrive gear (which is sacrificial and stops working around 90Kish miles, sometimes earlier.

I actually bought a donor car and installed a new 40kish miles engine on it and also transferred the new M-Sport interior to my liking.

Did I spend more than I need to have it as a daily driver? Yes. More than I would a used Accord/Civic? Surely.

Do I enjoy it a lot more, yes. And I'm NOT considering buying a new car in the near future.
 

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BeeemerBro
5,4,6 BMW X3 All...196K +
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OP a great deal has been offered here addressing your request, of course it's all a matter of opinion.
When i bought my 1st, first generation X3 (i have 3) i took it to the dealership to have it looked over.
The service rep took one look at the car and scoffed...saying:
"These cars are like tanks, especially if you take care of it, it will take care of you."
He then turned and walked away.
I say this...
Bottom line...
-you want the car-, *get the car.

But be prepared to give it time and a money.

The amount depends on your choosing the right X3 at the very start.

Here's just one of my "starts"....

You like...
wrenching...buy it.
Studying...buy it.
Solving mechanical, electric problems...buy it.
Having a secondary car...buy it.
You like stockpiling parts for a rainy day so you don't have to wait on UPS (or the likes) or even searching for a part uniquely designed just for the X3...buy it.

These things are built like tanks!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thanks all, this has been very helpful perspective. My main hesitation against something like a Toyota/Honda is I fairly strongly dislike their exterior and interior aesthetics (except for current generation), and they are anemic / not fun to drive. I don't want to actively dislike something I'll spend $8-10K on and use daily. At the same time, finding a new or lightly used crossover that's stylish and has some pep just feels like a lot of money relative to the $30-40K purchase price, and risk that market softens somewhat back to normal levels and depreciation is significantly higher than typical rates.

I also think it would be enjoyable to replace parts on a preventative basis on a weekend here and there, especially for jobs that are ~4 hours or less (i.e., just an afternoon). My main fear is a $2500+ repair in the first year (part cost or non-DIYable) or having something unlucky like 3+ non-drivable issues in a short period of time -- which is of course a risk but I think relatively small(er) with preventative maintenance.

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I am admittedly talking myself into it a bit (I love the E83), but will still think on it. Most of what I'm looking at are closer to the 90-100K mileage range and have had decent repair history (e.g., recent valve cover gasket) -- I think $7.5-8.5K is decent based on what I'm seeing? I was also planning to have a solid euro mechanic do a pre-purchase inspection. One dealer has a $3200 3-year warranty but probably not worth it if I plan to DIY, and I imagine it's quite a process to get reimbursed on an aftermarket used car warranty?

I've been browsing the stickied posts and doing general research on common repairs etc., but if there are any other good threads or learning sources you can think of off the top of your head (e.g., parts best to have on hand) that'd be appreciated! Thanks again everyone.
 

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where da clutch at ?
2020 BMW 230i
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I would only get BMW w'tee, if that is available from some BMW's offered for sale at a dealer, otherwise yes 3rd party would be a pain for most things, having to prove if something is faulty then the 3rd party confirming if they were or wanted to pay out. 3200 is good about the same I bought but BMW extended w'tee only

I am admittedly talking myself into it a bit (I love the E83), but will still think on it. Most of what I'm looking at are closer to the 90-100K mileage range and have had decent repair history (e.g., recent valve cover gasket) -- I think $7.5-8.5K is decent based on what I'm seeing? I was also planning to have a solid euro mechanic do a pre-purchase inspection. One dealer has a $3200 3-year warranty but probably not worth it if I plan to DIY, and I imagine it's quite a process to get reimbursed on an aftermarket used car warranty?
 

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My advice before buying any used cars...

1. Get a paper/pencil and write down common problems, FAQs, and use a Word document to save important URLs (cooling overhaul DIY).

2. Two items that normally kill a used car (this is how used cars end up in junk yards):
  • Engine
  • Trans
So, look into M54 vs later engine (N52). Do your own research.
Trans: in general reliable. But again get one with 100K or so.
Avoid cars with 200K.
Some in this forum would tell you "my cars run to 220K without issues" etc. etc. The truth is: between 100K-200K, there are things that can go south and they are expensive: cooling system, alternator, wheel bearings, steering rack, PS pump, AC compressors etc.

I usually buy cars at 90K-100K and drive to 200K. I think this is the sweet spot for DIYers with minimum damage to your pocket and maximum ROI (Return of Investment).

3. Get your hands dirty, learn how to wrench. It is not difficult.
When in doubt, go to junk yards with your tools and play around with nuts/bolts.
Learn how not to cross-thread, learn how to apply proper torque etc.
Basic car repair skills.

4. Practice safety: learn how to jack the car and use jack stands properly.
Always think what could go wrong (jack stand collapse or slipping off the jacking locations).
This is why I always use 2 jack stands on each side (one regular 4-leg jack stand and one "screw" type). Photos in forum.

Fixing cars is not hard. If you went to school to become a mechanic, they teach you similar stuff anyway.
Most of us DIYers learn from trial/error/mistakes etc.
Go to local junk yards and learn how to fix stuff...
 

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The E83 is straight 6, fairly easy to maintain and the transfer case issues mainly revolve around the TC actuator that has a failing nylon gear inside. I repaired the TC actuator with a rebuild kit fairly easy to do. The driveshafts are fairly easy to access underneath, easy to change diff fluids, ATF and oil. They are great vehicles but yes more maintenance than a Toyota or Nissan. If you want luxury with Toyota reliability I'd recommend a used Lexus RX350, Toyota with all the luxury but it's still not a BMW. The 2007 E83 and up has a lot of power for a straight 6 N/A motor. We went from a Volvo XC90 6 cylinder with twin turbos and the 2007 BMW E83 has almost the same amount of HP but is naturally aspirated.
 
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