Older petrol BMW's

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  • Older petrol BMW's
  • looking at a 3.0 liter six How murderous are the running costs in general, assuming no major faults and maybe 2k miles a year tops?


    2k miles a year? 2000 miles? Rent a car, surely??

    Having said that, my 325i Estate has been just fine – no running costs other than petrol and a litre of oil so far.


    Premier Icon rone

    I had 535. 1990. Wasn’t a complete disaster.

    Premier Icon prawny

    My mate is still running his Moms 328i coupe she had new in 1997.

    Does a fair few miles in it, it’s not cheap to run, but cant be horrific or he’d havce something else.

    No major issues in just under 20 years, not bad at all.

    Wouldn’t fancy paying for the tyres though, the rear wheels are enormous!


    What year, what body – actually it doesn’t really matter if it does 20mpg it’ll still only cost you £50 a month in fuel.

    Renting isn’t an option we will use the car daily but only travel far once or twice a week its a second car, we have a city car (that does 65mpg) and bikes for local stuff. This car will do things like Wales trips, runs out to go hiking and weekly biking duties so I’d say 2-3 k max based on what our current wagon does. (Was 4k this year but we drove to Provence)
    I want a big (3 dogs, two sons and us) comfortable, effortless, quiet, slightly older car that wont crucify me if I look after it and a six pot tourer or x3 looks like the ticket. Am I mad? I’m looking at 55/6 plates with around 80k miles FSH and so on.

    Just watched the Top Gear Arfica special, the BMW 528i with 151k miles did alright.


    Took a 55 plate 330i to 98,000 miles and the only non routine thing was auto box sump, circa 500 quid. Petrol was horrendous, 25mpg combined, but overall it was a good reliable car and I miss it. Especially the sound of the n/a engine and the way it delivered power. Also hydraulic steering, definitely a bygone erase now.

    Had a 63 plate 135i after that and was glad to see it go in the end. BMW don’t make em like they used to

    Premier Icon bikebouy

    Get one, get a straight six manual. Don’t bother with the sport models, just get a service history and make sure the current condition will take you through the next MoT.

    Or, get a 330i sport touring ..


    As it happens, I’ll probably sell my 325i SE Touring in the spring – can you wait??


    b r

    I ran a 1998 535i, the v8.

    Lovely car except the auto box went on to get you home” at 120k. £900 just to look at it, car was only worth £1k. Sold as seen on eBay for £300.

    Premier Icon martymac

    My dad had an older 3 series, it never needed any more than routine/fair wear and tear items in the 130k miles he had it.
    I don’t remember him complaining about the price of parts (trust me, he would have if they were expensive)
    When he sold it, he had more than 30 phone calls about it, that model 3 series was becoming rare by then.
    Overall, due to how long it lasted, it ended up being cheap to run.

    Ha sorry Rach no! 3 series is just a little too small it’s an X3 or a 5 series really you can’t imagine how much we load the car up with for going to wales and stuff..

    Premier Icon Kryton57

    I had a 330i straight 6 for ages. Averaged 29 mpg, superb car. I rather regret selling it tbh. Really good cars.

    Premier Icon martymac

    Kryton, auto or manual? ‘Just wondering ‘

    Premier Icon Kryton57

    Mine was auto steptronic. Lovely leather smell, beautiful rumbling noise, awesome lazy power on the motoway.

    Premier Icon martymac

    Considering my options for the next car

    Took a 55 plate 330i to 98,000 miles …

    Had a 63 plate 135i after that

    How odd – I went in the other direction. 14 plate m135i which was a lovely thing, loved every minute of owning (well, leasing) that. Then moved to an ’07 e91 touring 325i to try and save some money. It’s a nice car to drive but it’s not the grin-inducing marvel that was the m135i. If anything, the 325 is more balanced that the 1er, possibly because its chassis is not overwhelmed by power, but that’s by the by.

    Anyway, the 325i is very nice. It’s got a very linear power delivery so speed only comes from higher revs but the manual box is nice enough and it makes a lovely noise flicking through the gears at 5000+ rpm. Like you, I don’t do many miles (about 5000 this year including an 1800 mile European road trip). I’ve never had more than 30mpg from a tank, but I only really do short trips and I rev it out when I get the chance. On the road trip I had bikes on the back so not a great measure but again sub 30mpg. YMMV*.

    My neighbour has a newer 325i (think it’s 09) eith the later 3L detuned engine (mine is 2.5L). He reckons he gets 40mpg from his.

    As you have identified, the 3 series is kinda small even in touring form so if you have a lot of family / canine baggage then I’m sure the 5er is a better bet.

    *Literally the first time I have used this phrase literally.


    3L petrol 6 is probably one of BMW’s least problematic engines. It’s an absolute peach to drive, plenty of power in smaller cars to be decently quick, in a 5 it’s still powerful enough but is super smooth too.

    530i touring should be pretty cheap to buy. Fuel economy will be in the region of 24-27mpg depending how you drive (expect a bit more in the lighter 3 series) and the choice of gearbox. Other running costs will be higher than typical Mundano style euro boxes, but not by as much as most people think. Find a good independent garage that you can trust and you’ll do ok. At least you won’t have a DPF to worry about!

    Steer clear of X5. Not just cos of the image, but precisely because of the image they demand more money than 5’s do, they’re generally driven by school run mum’s (or wannabe gangsters, neither of which I’d be looking to buy a car from), and due to weight and the complexity of 4×4 etc they’re a lot more expensive to run too… 5 series is usefully bigger inside too!


    e46 330i ex owner here. Lovely engine but a notchy, recalcitrant manual shift that only worked well when driving hard. Difficult to drive smoothly when pootling round town. Get an auto. 30mpg average with an appetite for rear suspension bushes.

    For 5 series touring watch out for suspension wear generally – lots of links and joints and rear suspension self levelling bags/air pump. Older cars rust. I’d get manual transmission if possible.


    Had 540s, 740s and an M5. Got between 30 and 16mpg, but very few annual miles (<4,000). Would recommend. 7 series was an auto, the 5s had the same manual 6 speed. Never a fan of the six pots but I did drive a 520 for a bit that was quite capable.

    I loved my 1998 328i sport, smooth and comfortable enough for longer journeys but higher up the rev range it had a bit of poke for some fun on b roads.
    I got around 28 mpg on long runs, but could make it drop into the teens on b roads and urban stop start stuff. I did about 30k in mine taking it up to 135 ish with nothing major going wrong, other than stuff that was the direct result of it sitting on my mates drive for 5 years before I bought it from him.
    If you’re lookng at the older (1990’s and maybe early 2000’s) models be sure to read up on the nikasil issue.
    Buy some winter tyres for the rear at least, helped mine a lot in the snow.


    Have an 09 325i (3.0) manual Touring. 20k miles per year on A&B roads. Love it!

    Pretty cheap to run, average 30-32mpg. My local independent BMW garage reckon the 3.0 E91 is pretty “bombproof”.

    Might look at a Mosselman de-restriction kit later on in ’17; takes it back to 330i spec.


    Don’t forget Vehicle Excise Duty.

    An 05 BMW 330i Touring or X5 would cost £295/year according to the Parkers guide


    Thanks for all the advice looks like its worth going for the 5 then I have seen a nice X3 too so I’ll compare them.

    a nice X3

    Does not compute.


    325i returns about 26-27mpg average, if you’re easy with your foot. 2k miles a year suggests short journeys(?) so you may see a lot less than that. On a run you should see over 30 with an auto box. Around town you’ll be looking at low 20s easily, especially when you factor in that the onboard computer overstates it a bit. 330i is supposedly not a lot thirstier. Pretty much same engine.

    Nice cars. Coolant system is made of cheese and prone to leaks. Make sure expansion tank is replaced, as that can fail badly.

    Rust is an issue.

    Premier Icon iainc

    I have a 5 tourer (company car) which is due replacement next month. Looked at X3’s but way to small inside for lugging our family stuff.

    Premier Icon woodster

    I’ve got a 528i which I picked up for a 3 figure sum and it’s brilliant. Super smooth and quiet with tons of kit that all works. It goes very nicely and I can average 30mpg or 40 on a run.

    It gets complimented by everyone who travels in it and generally does everything you could ask. I’ll probably sell up for an estate or a hatch soon though as I miss being able to put bikes inside the car.

    Mine’s a Nikasil car and it’s not been an issue as it isn’t for almost all of the cars which are still around. The early cars have a more robust cooling system which is a common failure on later cars.


    2k miles a year? I’d be getting a 4.4 v8 5 series touring with a manual box if I could find one.

    Premier Icon geoffj

    I had an E46 330i Sport Touring with an auto box.
    Bloody lovely car which cost me peanuts to buy and run except for the fuel.
    Road trip says I got an average of 27mpg which is OK IMHO,
    Do it!


    I’ve had a 125i coupe for the last year. Its the N52 3.0 litre as found in most 3.0 litre BMWs from about 2005 – 2008 and is less problematic than the N53 which replaces it from about 2008. I’ve had mine remapped back to full fat 3.0 power (its detuned as standard) so about 260ish BHP.

    Its an absolute peach of an engine, smooth, torquey and loves being revved. I can get 40 mpg on a run but tend to average closer to 30. Seemingly the only weak point is the electric water pump which according to internet research tends to fail at about 70’000 mile and costs about £500.

    The car has so far proved faultless, just need to get rid of the run-flat tyres as the ride’s a bit unforgiving.

    Premier Icon Daffy

    I’ve had either a 330ci or 330i Sport Auto Touring since 2005, have done over 120k miles in the pair of them, my average over that has been 27mpg. On a run, in normal conditions expect 33-35mpg. The best I’ve seen is 41mpg over. 440mile round trip.

    In 11 years of ownership and after 120k, I’ve only replaced bushings (twice @£70), a rear control module (£65) and a variable air inlet (£120). Other than that and normal consumables such as brakes and tyres, nothing.

    As preventative maintenance, I’ve replaced the Rad and water pump and use waterless coolant and have done a power flush of the automatic gearbox.

    I’m going to do a complete suspension refresh on the Touring in march which will cost £1200, but it’s more choice than need.

    Newer E90 series cars (57 and later) have the more brittle,but more economical N53 engine so you can expect very high 30s from normal driving and low to mid 40s on a run.

    Premier Icon Duc

    Anything after e39 goes can us so expect electrical gremlins that are impossible to fix all over the place as they age. I’ve got a 528i e39 touring that has just turned 140k (nikasil) it gets 30+ on a run easily but is dreadful the moment you’re in town but so is every other car. All BMWs are very sensitive to oil. Use the right oil for the right year so longliffe 98 in a 98 car etc.


    2002 330Ci here. Do about 2000 miles a year now, previously 10-12. My specialist recommends dropping the oil every other year in addition to normal servicing (which I get done at MOT time, unless a service is due anyway) for a usage that light.

    Cooling system will need major attention every 60000 miles or so, so try to pick up one that’s had it done relatively recently and you’ll be all gold.

    Manual gearboxes are tough. Autos are “sealed for life”, and enthusiast forums are split between people who say it’ll explode if you don’t get the fluid changed at 100000 miles, and people who say it’ll explode if you do

    Diffs can leak.

    Rear subframe mountings can tear, this is more common on earlier cars
    and will require remedial welding.

    Handbrake is rubbish even when everything is new.

    they’re quite picky on tyres. Fit a good named brand otherwise you’ll end up in tramlining hell.

    If I think of anything else i’ll come back!

    I’ve had it 6 years, done 40k miles in it, and during that time it’s coughed me two £400 bills outside normal servicing. Not bad really for a car that’s quick, comfortable and actually quite practical – two bikes in the back of a coupe with care


    I have a 04 330ci auto. Averages mid 20s. Has done well over 100k as for a couple of years I was doing 40k/annum in it. I don’t want to get rid of it though, it’s so easy to maintain and even though it sometimes sits on the drive for a couple of months without moving I know I can just pump up the tyres and use it. 120d’s will keep up with it though, but won’t sound nice in the process.

    – Rubber in the engine bay is crap, but very easy and cheap to replace: air pipes after the MAF, head gasket seal, coolant pipes & tank.
    – Front bushes wear quickly – don’t scrimp on these.
    – Rear arches rust, luckily there is a 12 year warranty on this. Mine has been done twice in 6 years of ownership, the second time round they replaced the panels (and made me sign a form so I couldn’t use the warranty again 😆 )

    They did a very nice job though:

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