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General E46 Forum
This is the place to get answers, opinions and everything you need related to your E46 (sedan, coupe, convertible and wagon) BMW!

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Old 03-04-2013, 09:23 AM   #21
mach460
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My both sons bought bmw's when they got jobs in collage one was a 99 323i with 89 000 on it only thing we replaced was cooling system tank and pump he traded it 2 years ago when he got out and got a good job it had 166000 on it then ,he bought a 07 328xi.
son #2 bought a 2000 323 and to this day still drives it 140,000 on that and runs like new.
now here is the best part me dad was all ways a ford man we'll I just bought a 05 325 xi and could not be happy er don't know what I was missing all them years,and they are not any harder to work on then any other car out there,been turning wrenches close to 35 years and these car to me are more reliable and hold up and still look like new well into the hundred thousand miles.
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Old 03-04-2013, 09:33 AM   #22
Adionik
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Owning a BMW is more dependent on the size of your wallet.
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Old 03-04-2013, 10:44 AM   #23
sunsetcoast
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Hmm, a well-sorted e46 will ruin you for your second, third, and fourth cars...at least from the perspective of the driving experience.

You want to find the best-maintained copy you can. All the above about previous service history and care by the former owner(s) is true. But there is no question, an e46 (any BMW) requires much more attention than similar vintage Toyota or Honda that has had similar care.

Neither of our cars required anything but regular maintenance in the first two years of ownership. But we were willing to pay a premium for vehicles that were properly maintained and wait until we found what we wanted. It could be difficult to find that at the price point you mention.

So, it is a good idea to have at least $1000 in the "car" account to take care of the things that are going to pop up in the first year or so. Parts for a cooling system overhaul alone can run $400 (a very common requirement), never mind other known weaknesses like front control arms and bushings, rear trailing arms, window regulators ($200 EACH + installation), the likelihood that other suspension parts likely need to be refreshed, etc. You're in Chicago, so springs could be rusty, too. You will want to pay for a competent third-party pre-purchase inspection of any potential candidate vehicle to understand what you may be buying.

Understand the implications of this fact: while there are vehicles that are much worse, an e46 is more expensive to maintain (sometimes breath-takingly so) than those that top the Consumer Reports list of reliable vehicles. And check the insurance rates, too.

Keep in mind that the average e46 is far more than 7 years old: that is the age of the "newest" e46. If you have only one vehicle, and that vehicle must be available daily, then this may not be the best choice for a first vehicle, given what you have described so far.

OTOH, if you..
  • want to learn about DIY
  • have a place to work on the car
  • have someone who will coach you through the learning process
  • have the financial wherewithall to deal with things that will need to be addressed
  • will not be inconvenienced if the car can't be driven for a couple of days
  • don't mind the hassle of finding the right parts..or even proper fluids
  • really appreciate and enjoy the driving experience that an e46 provides
then this could be the car for you. But if those items don't apply, seriously consider an alternative. If you want one just for the "cachet" of the blue and white propeller, then it may not be a good choice. For your budget, you could get a well-maintained, low miles Camry or Accord (or, similar-sized Corolla or Civic or Mazda3)...and take a week's vacation.
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Old 03-04-2013, 11:06 AM   #24
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If you're willing to learn to drive a manual and don't mind shelling out money and time for repairs, I would say it's a rewarding car to drive and probably worth it if you like the "BMW feel."

If you're deadset on an auto, I'd get a Honda or Toyota.
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Old 03-04-2013, 11:26 AM   #25
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Yes. If you have the funding to keep it on the road.

My E46 325CI is the first car I've ever owned and I'm loving it. Its also a DIY learning experience. So far I've owned my car about 3 months and I've already saved at least 1K in labor.

Cliffs of thread: yes, if you can turn a wrench or have good funding
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The e46 M3 is by far the most boring and worst M3 that BMW has made to date.
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Old 03-04-2013, 02:27 PM   #26
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it doesn't seem like an E46 is for me then if I am honest with myself, haha. just one of those late-night ideas I guess. I think it would be better if I just went with a TDI.

Last edited by CGiroux; 03-04-2013 at 02:29 PM.
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Old 03-04-2013, 02:51 PM   #27
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originally, I just wanted to get a 08+ Volkswagen TDI
I've got an '03 Passat and an '04 BMW. Get the BMW over the VW. They both require about the same amount of maintenance, but the BMW is far more mechanic friendly. The first instruction for almost any task on the VW is "Remove front bumper." They even sell "slides" that you can install that let you slide the bumper out enough to get to the engine without actually taking the bumper off and setting it aside.
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Old 03-04-2013, 03:08 PM   #28
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OP, E46 is good or bad for college student's first car is no absolute good answer, everyone has different ideas, preference and experience due to ages, financial situations and circumstances, so you just have to think carefully yourself before making final decision.

For me, I wouldn't and I hadn't bought any Eropean car as the first car for my kids, instead, I bought them good used Janpanease cars to be used during their 4 yrs. college term so now you know what my preference and advise to you would be.
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Old 03-04-2013, 03:44 PM   #29
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not a good first car. at your age you want to save money, if you're not taking home 40K+/yr I would get an econobox.
Agreed with this. I would not recommend a kid just starting get one of these unless training to be an auto mechanic.
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Old 03-04-2013, 03:49 PM   #30
Alex323Ci
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Sorry NO. The E46 is not a good used car to buy if you are a car novice or don't have much extra in money or time to devote plenty to.
I love the E46 but if a friend told me he wanted a car for his kid to go away to college and just put gas and oil in. The E46 would be far down the end of that list.
Put it this way, if there was a test or "Carmagedon" and people couldn't work on their car and had to drive til it died(with unlimited gas/oil/water)...E46s drivers would be some of the earliest on foot.
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Old 03-04-2013, 03:52 PM   #31
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Sorry NO. The E46 is not a good used car to buy if you are a car novice or don't have much extra in money or time to devote plenty to.
I love the E46 but if a friend told me he wanted a car for his kid to go away to college and just put gas and oil in. The E46 would be far down the end of that list.
Put it this way, if there was a test or "Carmagedon" and people couldn't work on their car and had to drive til it died(with unlimited gas/oil/water)...E46s drivers would be some of the earliest on foot.
well said lol. great cars but tempermental.
it really just was the point where cars started getting complex. right around 99. so there were bound to be some intricacies
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Old 03-04-2013, 03:56 PM   #32
Adionik
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well said lol. great cars but tempermental.
it really just was the point where cars started getting complex. right around 99. so there were bound to be some intricacies
Car manufacturers have nailed water pump, coolant expansion tanks and window regular technologies for some time...
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Old 03-04-2013, 04:27 PM   #33
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I think it would be better if I just went with a TDI.
Volkswagen? Good luck with that.
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Old 03-04-2013, 05:31 PM   #34
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Toyota Corolla is the ultimate college kid's car. Cheap and dependable.
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Old 03-04-2013, 05:34 PM   #35
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I've got a 97 Honda Civic that my last college student uses when she's home. The a/c is locked up, both front CV axels need replacing, but the oil is good. When she graduates, I'm going to ship it to mercforhire.
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I just don't know what I'd do with 560 hp that doesn't involve getting arrested.
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Old 03-04-2013, 05:53 PM   #36
Alex323Ci
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Quote:
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I've got a 97 Honda Civic that my last college student uses when she's home. The a/c is locked up, both front CV axels need replacing, but the oil is good. When she graduates, I'm going to ship it to mercforhire.
please do, and please Please PLEASE be sure to have a Trunk Monkey in the back
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Old 03-04-2013, 08:21 PM   #37
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My first car was a 1979 ford ltd landau...that had sat up for a few years with gas in the tank. I had a lot of problems, but learned a lot and since then have had many vehicles. I used to buy cars, replace engines, drive them for about a year then flip them when I had another project. I don't plan on doing that with this car, I enjoy driving it, but I also know how to work on it and have the abilities. Whatever you buy, it can and will have problems to some extent.... they could be minimal, or they could eat you. You need to spend some time doing research. BMW was my third choice of a car to have after my motorcycle. I looked at Corvette's, then a Porsche boxster (actually not even defined as such through an enthusiast eyes). I found pros and cons to both... the Porsche being the worst.
Take your time... you are young.
Hell, I've bought cars and wondered wth I was thinking..... but it all works out somehow in the end. Research research research. ..I can't say it enough. Oh and have a PPI done no matter what you are wanting to buy (sometimes you buy people's problems).
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Old 03-04-2013, 09:39 PM   #38
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I'm going to say yes! My E46 is my second car (beige camry ). It's actually a nice reliable platform as long as you stay on top of it. Although things do fall apart, they are well documented and parts are always abundant. The E46 is pretty easy to work on in addition. It's a good choice if you don't mind getting your hands dirty and want to learn a thing or two about wrenching on your car. Don't waste money getting work done at a dealership or even an indy. Take it into your own hands! Don't let these guys scare you too much with the costs... I would budget around $1000 a year realistically for the first year and likely less every year as you keep your systems up do date and do everything yourself. Unless your name is Mango, in which case spend $3000 right away and replace everything!!
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Old 03-04-2013, 10:49 PM   #39
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My first and 2nd car was/is an e46. They're reliable as long as you treat them how you're supposed to. Most things that happen can be solved by a cheap solution or with a simple DIY. But do know, that you will have to put money into the car at one point or another.
BUT, it will be rewarding in the long run. It's a love-hate relationship with these cars..
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Old 03-05-2013, 12:33 AM   #40
Sweetness
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20 years old and I've spent almost $16,000 altogether on this car. I've made about $25,000 altogether in my life, so that goes to stand for something. If you're in college and can't have a car, then sell it. Having it sit for 3 months and then trying to start it when you come back for a Jolly Christmas is gonna make you very not Jolly. These cars must be driven at least 1-2 times a week. God bless me since I'm a commuter. It's a good first car to a certain extent with certain parameters. To most, it is a bad car for 1st. It's like having a high maintenance girlfriend 24/7.
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