How long do BMWs last? Danger of buying used?

Went for a ride in a BMW coupe the other day "E46" with sport package. Wow, what a car. 325 Ci.
Anyway...
1. Does sport package mean teh suspension is "sportier" or is it just
bigger rims? 1b. What do bigger rims alone do for you?
2. Is there a danger in buying a used BMW which is "non-certified"? ie are there parts that go bad but are hard to spot for the layman?
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BMW's don't have parts that go bad. Just kidding ;-) They are very reliable cars and last a long long time. But they have to be properly maintained. I wouldn't worry about getting one non-certified, but you have to check the maintenance record.
And no, it's not just bigger rims, and bigger rims don't do anything for you except grey ypur hai when you are parrallel parking <eg> The sports package has a suspension upgrade, at least on the E46 Ci. It's a more stiffer ride. Not on the xi, which has no suspension modifications, just the wheels and the steering wheel. but that's not what you are looking at.
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kpb wrote:

Lowered suspension, somewhat stiffer as well. Bigger wheels. Sport seats. Maybe a different front air-dam.
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kpb wrote:

I bought an E46 4-door (2000) with 117,000, the maintenance was performed by the dealer and when the older owner brought the car in for the trade in the dealer fixed the expansion tank, fan belts and one suspension arm (I don't have all the records right here). This is the first foreign / BMW I have ever owned, my regret, not doing it earlier.
As long as it has been maintained and a mechanic has looked it over with a thumbs up I believe you will be okay. Right now I have put over 9k miles on it and all it has required is tires.
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In '94, I bought a '91 E30 318i with 45k miles on it. Sure, things have broken and can be expensive to fix but it's a darn nice car. Now that it has 177k miles on it, it needs some expensive stuff (the usual - brakes, struts/shocks, tires) but the engine is still strong and doesn't burn oil. I'm going to keep getting it fixed for at least a few more years.
Ron
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There's not much special attention that a BMW needs over any other car. As with most cars, oil changes are the most important thing. I bought a certified car from BMW but there were still things wrong with it. Looking back, I'd had rather paid less for a non-certified car and used the money for fixing things if necessary.

into an angry and bitter person having to deal with the monkeys at the dealerships.
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"kpb" wrote

As much danger as with any other used car. You have to realize things may occasionally go bad and you will have to replace them. The only difference is labor costs. Dealer aside, even a reputable indy shop will charge you more for their time than for a comparable domestic (US). If you're a DIY type of person, then this is a non-issue.
If you're worried, you can buy an extended warranty. But seeing how expensive those warranties are and that when push comes to shove it turns out that half the stuff isn't covered anyway, I ended up not getting one myself. With that said, during my first 9 months of ownership (2002 e39), I spent around $4k on it. However, a lot of it was preventative maintenance. The extended warranty may have saved me $1k, but the price of warranty itself would have been around $2k. I think replacement of the thrust arms and bushings and final stage unit were the only things that really needed to be taken care of. Other stuff like like faulty passenger occupancy sensor or broken passenger seat controls (electrics) or even the dead pixels in the MID could have waited. I am just very anal about little things.
Pete
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My first BMW was an E28 '88 M5 purchased new, sold 2 years ago w. 150k miles, good residual value and still a great car.
I picked up a 'certified' E46 '03 325XI from a neighbor that I ran through a local dealer to get an extended 'cerified' warrantee. It cost around 1200 $ and has saved me around $3k with another 1 year left on the warrantee.
Yes, dealer maintenance without the warantee can be expensive. There are many competant, reputable local non-dealer shops around that provide better maintenance and better value than the dealer. Do some research and ask around.
I've been more than pleased with both of my cars
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My E46 is getting near four years old. The important parts of the car, i.e., those that make it a fun car to drive, seem to be lasting fine.
What is starting to concern me about the car, though, are the little things that go wrong.
- For example, the audio controls on the steering wheel are now intermittent in their function, and lately have been not working about 90% of the time.
- For example, when the sun beats down on the car, the foam sound insulation used in the trunk makes the trunk and the rear seat of the car smell like melting crayons. To the point where the rear seat passengers have loudly complained.
It's the little things that are making me wonder if my next car will be another BMW. So far as driving goes, it is a joy. The car goes where you point it, and quickly. Brakes are awesome as well. But for the money paid, I just expect better reliability.
It is not going to be an easy decision for me.
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There are definitely parts that go bad on E46's that have nothing to do with maintenance. Classic examples are the power window mechanisms and the sun-roof and the rear strut mounts. A friend has a 2002 330ix and had three window winder mechanisms go bad. And none were the driver window.
Other things, like the water pumps are under-designed and should be considered junk at 60,000 miles.
If you buy one, get a subscription to Roundel, the BMW car club magazine. There is excellent information in it on keeping your Bimmer running. They are not apologists for BMW, as some owners are, and they tell you the bad with the good.
Finally, you are only REALLY a BMW owner when you lose the parachute of the warranty. That's when you find out how much you really love your car...after it has presented you with big expenses a time or two.
- GRL

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I've owned BMWs, Saabs, Nissans and Chevys, and my wife has owned Toyotas. I would say that the BMWs are about average for "things going wrong" but I'll also say that different cars from the same manufacturer can be wildly different in terms of maintenance. of course the history of the vehicle will be a major factor - i.e. how it was driven and maintained previously.
My first BMW was a '96 328i that I bought in 2004 with 80K miles on it. I put 45K miles on it and replaced the oil filter housing, door lock servo, brakes, control arm bushings along the way. Pretty minor stuff, really. But before I bought the car, the previous owner had already dealt with the water pump failing and taking out the radiator with it. So when I got the car, that stuff was already fixed.
So, stuff does go wrong with these cars, but they are no worse that most cars IMO. The worst one I've owned was a '99 Saab (had probably been mistreated before we got it) and the '97 Pathfinder.
I've also had dealers maintain my cars (particularly the Saabs) and it's a mixed bag. Some dealers are honest and yet of course they are typically more expensive than indies. Others are unscrupulous and over charge you for everything. Right now, I use an independent mechanic, Wittler Auto, to do work on my BMWs. They are very reliable, honest and fairly priced.
Karl Winkler http://www.sandiastrings.com
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