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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 03-03-2013, 09:52 PM   #1
CGiroux
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Would you say the E46 is a good first time car?

Hey, I'm a 20 year old living in the Chicago area. I hope to buy my first car sometime this summer. I have about $8,000 to spend on a used car. I'm not even sure if that's enough to buy an E46 in good shape, but that's just partially why I'm here.

First of all, do you think the E46 is a good first time car? Is it reliable? I have the suspicion that it isn't going to be as reliable as a typical Honda Civic.

Also, I am willing to admit that I am not very mechanically savvy. I can change oil filters, rotate tires, but that's about it. I am willing to learn how to DIY as much as I can as long as I can afford it.

I love BMW, and I really like the E46 generation - especially the Ci models. Looking at Cars.com, I couldn't find a E46 for less than $8K, and most of them have at least 70K to 100,000 miles on it.

Would I regret buying a 2005 325 Ci if it already has 95,000 miles on it?
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Old 03-03-2013, 10:12 PM   #2
2003 325i
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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.
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Old 03-03-2013, 10:15 PM   #3
CGiroux
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$40K a year?...
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Old 03-03-2013, 10:24 PM   #4
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Without being mechanical savvy, I'd say look for Honda or Nissan. Bmw will cost you a lot more if you can't DIY repairs. You would need tools, time, and a place to do the work.... I don't think that's you.
If you can afford $1000 every time you take it into BMW for repairs, then you could buy it. I'm sure it won't be $1000 each and every time, but I'm being conservative. These cars are dependable when you do preventative maintenance.. But, you really need to be able to learn your car and take care of it.

To be honest, I am 38 have a family of 4 ,my wife is a stay at home mom, and I was unsure of my first BMW. I do all my own repairs, have my own shop (workshop), and own my home.

Last edited by dirty vert; 03-03-2013 at 10:28 PM.
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Old 03-03-2013, 10:25 PM   #5
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To answer you question bluntly; yes, if you are smart about what you buy.

I got my first car they day I got my drivers licence (15 1/2), it was a E46 2000 328Ci (manual).

I loved the eff out of that car. I bought it needing some work, and it ended up being incredibly easy and robust to work on. Besides the issues I bought it with it never missed a beat.

If it is worth anything, the reason why i do not have it anymore (I have a C230 instead, looking to buy a mint E46 again) is because its mileage was clocked. I bought it thinking it had 128,000 kms on it and in reality it had 420,000 kms on it. The thing is though, regardless of that high mileage, it was bulletproof.

I have two tips for you if buying a used car, especially a Euro car:
1) Get a Pre-Purchase Inspection done (PPI) - take it to a trusted mechanic not affiliated with the seller. Will let you know if the car is about to blow up or not.
2) Service history, service history, service history - if a car is properly maintained it can and most likely will run to the ends of the earth. If you are buying a car WITHOUT this be sure to get a steep discount off asking price as you will/should be doing some maintenance once you buy the car to make sure it is up to snuff. Usually a PPI will inform you of whether or not most wear/tear items will be needing replacement soon.

Besides that, manual > automatic.

Even if you have problems, you have come across one of the most helpful and well-informed BMW forums on the net If you have a problem chances are there are people here who have experienced the same thing and will be more than happy to lend their wisdom to you!

Best of luck on your E46 buying adventures!
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2006 E46 330Ci or R171 SLK <---- MUST ACQUIRE

Last edited by Akonion; 03-03-2013 at 10:35 PM. Reason: Grammar
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Old 03-03-2013, 10:32 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2003 325i View Post
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.
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2003 325ii View Post
if you're not taking home 40K+/yr I would get an econobox.
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2003 325i View Post
get an econobox.
No, just no.
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2007 W203 C230 Kompressor <---- SOON TO BE RID OF

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Last edited by Akonion; 03-03-2013 at 10:35 PM. Reason: Quotes :3
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Old 03-03-2013, 10:42 PM   #7
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I got my 02 330xi when I was 19 now I'm 22. I'm a DYI person so I saved a lot of money on mine, the most I spend was 1000 for a new vanos unit. In my opinion a BMW is a great first car. If you take care of it, it would take care of you.
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Old 03-03-2013, 10:42 PM   #8
wbean
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no

it's not a good first car.

you need to be weary of maintenance and for a first car you porbbaly can't tell the difference between a sway bar end link clunk and a worn rear strut mount knocking sound.

it'd be very expensive for you if it's a first car!
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Old 03-03-2013, 11:00 PM   #9
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It's a great first car to buy if you can maintain the maint.

I didn't know ONE THING before buying my E46 except how to change a tire, now with the help of THIS community I've learned how to do an unbelievable amount of stuff that I can do all in my own garage to keep my car running as well as it can.

I only have one $30 140pc (Harbor Freight) tool kit that covers most of the tools you'll need with a BMW, (You'll need random tools additionally, but not many more)

A $15 OBD2 Bluetooth Sensor paired up with your Android device w/Torque App and you can read/clear codes (Check Engine Light) as well as monitor things going on plus a lot of other goodies.

Just be wary, for the repairs you cannot perform yourself...it is pricey, we own german cars, not a jiffy lube type vehicle.

I'd say it's a great car, with a GREAT starting point to learn to work on cars and as well we'll be here for whatever you may need. Just use the search bar before posting a thread!
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Old 03-03-2013, 11:04 PM   #10
CGiroux
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Like I said, I'm not mechanically savvy, but I'm sure my dad could help me out a bit and I know he and my grandfather have an arsenal of tools. On a side note, I desperately need a hobby and I'm willing to learn as much DIY as I can.

I came across the E46 BimmerWiki. I realize obviously they're more expensive/less reliable than your typical Honda Accord or Toyota Corolla, but I'd really hate to drive a car that everyone and their neighbor has even though Japanese are as reliable as they are.

The average E46 is about 7 years old now. Like I said, I did a quick search on Cars.com, and within my price range (~$8K) they all have on average 90,000 miles on it already and that kind of worries me even though that's appropriate based on 12K miles/year.

I really like the 330i.

I'd probably end up with an automatic trans. I understand how to drive a manual transmission on paper, but I've never actually done before in a car. I have on a motorcycle, and I know they aren't quite the same. It's all about getting a feel for it really rather than understanding how.

I have read that the automatic transmission is relatively suspect, particularly in earlier models (which ones, I don't know).

It doesn't seem like the most reliable car in the world compared to your usual *** or even American car. So I am worried about buying one within my budget, because it'll have already 70-100K+ miles on it despite being a 2000-2007 model.

It would also be a daily driver. Primarily going to the gym, my school, and workplace.

Last edited by CGiroux; 03-03-2013 at 11:08 PM.
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Old 03-03-2013, 11:04 PM   #11
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Depends on your priorities. If your #1 priority is reliability and you don't want to have to spend money on the car then no, it's not for you.

Yes, they are fairly reliable, but they take maintenance. It's not a Honda where the most you'll have to do is change the oil and put gas in it.
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Old 03-03-2013, 11:05 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wbean View Post
no

it's not a good first car.

you need to be weary of maintenance and for a first car you porbbaly can't tell the difference between a sway bar end link clunk and a worn rear strut mount knocking sound.

it'd be very expensive for you if it's a first car!
Agreed. My daughter want me to buy her a BMW ( any bmw ,E36. E46) She is in college and doesn't make much money. When I asked her who was gonna take care of it, or maintain it, she was like "you daddy" ah,hell no.. sorry but as other people have said, these cars need more attention than your 18 year old girlfriend.. If i did not do ALL of the work and maintenance on my car, I would be in the poor house by now. If you do decide to buy an E46 , please make sure the PO has an extensive maintenance history and get a PPI ..
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Old 03-03-2013, 11:10 PM   #13
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PM'd you OP.
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Old 03-03-2013, 11:15 PM   #14
Akonion
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CGiroux View Post
Like I said, I'm not mechanically savvy, but I'm sure my dad could help me out a bit and I know he and my grandfather have an arsenal of tools. On a side note, I desperately need a hobby and I'm willing to learn as much DIY as I can.

I came across the E46 BimmerWiki. I realize obviously they're more expensive/less reliable than your typical Honda Accord or Toyota Corolla, but I'd really hate to drive a car that everyone and their neighbor has even though **** are as reliable as they are.

The average E46 is about 7 years old now. Like I said, I did a quick search on Cars.com, and within my price range (~$8K) they all have on average 90,000 miles on it already and that kind of worries me even though that's appropriate based on 12K miles/year.

I really like the 330i.

I'd probably end up with an automatic trans. I understand how to drive a manual transmission on paper, but I've never actually done before in a car. I have on a motorcycle, and I know they aren't quite the same. It's all about getting a feel for it really rather than understanding how.

I have read that the automatic transmission is relatively suspect, particularly in earlier models (which ones, I don't know).

It doesn't seem like the most reliable car in the world compared to your usual *** or even American car. So I am worried about buying one within my budget, because it'll have already 70-100K+ miles on it despite being a 2000-2007 model.
I can understand the concern with reliability. The thing that most people seem to not understand about it on a used car is that it is completely subjective to the prior life of the vehicle.

For example, my elder brother bought a 99' civic thinking it was a good reliable car. He spent $4500 on the car, ended up putting $9200 of parts/labour (I installed his new alternator) into the car over 4 years of ownership. Not including petrol or tires. He now has a 07' Acura CSX.

Do the PPI, get a decent service history, run the VIN to see if it has been clocked. If all of these check out, chances are you will have a solid car.

If you do happen to find a car that passes a PPI/VIN check but does not have a service history, a member on these forums titled "E46Mango" has made a fastidious tune up guide that you should adhere to once buying the car. You should be able to leverage a good discount off the asking price if the car has an ambiguous or non-existent service history. ONLY DO THIS IF IT PASSES A PPI AND VIN CHECK.

Oh, and in regards to the DIY stuff... with the collective knowledge on these forums, you are un-stoppable!
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Old 03-03-2013, 11:15 PM   #15
CGiroux
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Thanks, looks like I got some research to do

originally, I just wanted to get a 08+ Volkswagen TDI to save some money but I can't really find one in my area for that much, thought might as well look into a 3 series

Last edited by CGiroux; 03-03-2013 at 11:17 PM.
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Old 03-03-2013, 11:23 PM   #16
Akonion
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Originally Posted by CGiroux View Post
Thanks, looks like I got some research to do

originally, I just wanted to get a 08+ Volkswagen TDI to save some money but I can't really find one in my area for that much, thought might as well look into a 3 series
Take your time, crunch some numbers, and make sure a car is legit before you buy it. The 1-2 weeks (sometimes months) of finding the perfect car may suck, but if you rush it you could end up regretting it.

Hope you end up with an E46, as they are fantastic enthusiasts cars to own. If it does not work out, that is understandable.

Hope your search fares well!
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2007 W203 C230 Kompressor <---- SOON TO BE RID OF

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Last edited by Akonion; 03-03-2013 at 11:24 PM. Reason: Grammar
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Old 03-03-2013, 11:27 PM   #17
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I think the e46 is a great car but I wouldn't recommend it as a first time car.
Don't get me wrong I love my e46 and its been great to me. In the almost 2 years I've had it I've replaced the thermostat, cvv, expansion tank, and brakes. Obviously oil (top off every few weeks). Otherwise no problems. I've done most of the repairs myself. Forgot to mention non relevant issues which I had with suspension (hit a curve) - that was quite price parts only.
The thing why I say it's not a great car as a first time is because the parts or repairs are expensive. IMO get a civic. Parts are cheap, cheap on gas, much more common. Get a manual car. They are far more reliable than auto.
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Old 03-04-2013, 12:06 AM   #18
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Yes it's a good first car. However you won't be able to find one for $8000 that's 100% ready to go.
It was my first car and its taught me a lot. Before this car id never worked on cars before or even driven stick. Now I'm pretty much able to do anything with this car.
It is very easy to work on compared to other cars. No matter what anyone says its true.

If you plan to work on it yourself, do it. It won't be too expensive if you find a good one.
If you plan to pay someone to service it just find another car like a Honda or ford.

Sometimes a bmw with 120k miles on it is better than one with 80k miles. Why? Things typically start to go bad around 100k miles. If the car is over that, chances are a lot of things have been replaces and you're set for another 100k.
If you're just under 100k and things haven't been replaced, you're in for a wild ride. Which brings me to my next point.
Study this forum and understand what goes bad, what needs replaced, and when.
Some people on here are a little to eager to replace things. So don't always believe what you hear. But understand the basics. A car with service records is a must if you care about reliability.
A car with service records allows you to see how well the car has been cared for as well as what has been replaced and what needs to be replaced.
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Old 03-04-2013, 12:30 AM   #19
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Yes it's a good first car. However you won't be able to find one for $8000 that's 100% ready to go.
It was my first car and its taught me a lot. Before this car id never worked on cars before or even driven stick. Now I'm pretty much able to do anything with this car.
It is very easy to work on compared to other cars. No matter what anyone says its true.

If you plan to work on it yourself, do it. It won't be too expensive if you find a good one.
If you plan to pay someone to service it just find another car like a Honda or ford.

Sometimes a bmw with 120k miles on it is better than one with 80k miles. Why? Things typically start to go bad around 100k miles. If the car is over that, chances are a lot of things have been replaces and you're set for another 100k.
If you're just under 100k and things haven't been replaced, you're in for a wild ride. Which brings me to my next point.
Study this forum and understand what goes bad, what needs replaced, and when.
Some people on here are a little to eager to replace things. So don't always believe what you hear. But understand the basics. A car with service records is a must if you care about reliability.
A car with service records allows you to see how well the car has been cared for as well as what has been replaced and what needs to be replaced.
^This^ Service History > Raw Mileage.
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Old 03-04-2013, 08:01 AM   #20
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Sexy but...

You have correctly chosen the right car, so good that Caddy and others use it to benchmark "what a car should be". Even the F30 feels like an e46 with a bit of novocain.

Now, the problem is that a German car of this sort expects regular maintenance. I bought my 2003 330i new, and have kept it up. This, however, is the usual issue. Things wear out, but as the car slips from first to second to third owner, maintenance is deferred. If you go to a dealer, you may expect repair prices designed to scare you back into the showroom to sign a new lease. (I've seen this happen to a lot of non enthusiast BMW drivers). If you go to a regular mechanic, they have no idea how to fix it. It's not too tough, but it is particular. Line up a good BMW specialist in your area, and listen to him when he suggests things.

If you DIY, and use on line sources while avoiding Chinese parts, you can run the car for the same price as a normal car..this means you can do everything short of a top end rebuild or troubleshooting the electronics....

Example. Window regulator. $199 dollars mail order. two hours (first one) in driveway....45 minutes (second one) in driveway. At dealer, expect a bit over $600. After $1200 to fix two windows most folks wonder why BMW ???

The only thing you really need a stealer for is to align the car. They have a special machine and protocol.

The car is actually pretty easy to work on. If you aren't sure which end of the socket wrench to hold and you don't DIY, run away or wait till you make enough $ to lease it. You are getting a mistress. She's really pretty, a lot of fun where it counts, but expects nice dinners, weekends away and jewelery.

My 10 year old example runs well, passes smog, etc, with close to 300k on the clock. I need a clutch, and my driver's rear spring is busted, but it is still worth fixing...it's not my DD anymore, but I know everything is up to date.

If you do go this way, day one, replace the sway bar bushings and end links. It's not a tough job, and you will feel a difference. If you are brave, do the FCAB as well while you are there. Don't go urethane, no matter what the racers here tell you...stay with OE rubber or Mahle HD.

BMW ownership as an enthusiast is an interactive hobby, not appliance ownership.
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Last edited by speedlaw; 03-04-2013 at 08:06 AM.
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