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Amazing drive in TN with the 69 2002, Drove Honda Home ;-( + What is the best budget BMW for highway?


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i evacuated the hurricane so I drove the Honda ;-( to Tennessee to take the cover off the 69 2002 for a trip into the Mountains and to Galtinburg for some whiskey ;-). The drive up I was passed very quickly by nice German cars and now I want to replace the Civic SI I have.  I'm on the beach, so the Honda is on it's way out, needs radiator, etc.  I see a lot of quality BMWs for sale and want to make a good choice on a car I can actually maintain.  Seems German cars, especially the flagship models are Uber Expensive to maintain.  I'm looking for a 2000+ Bmw that is relialable and can be maintained without a lot of techy crap that weighs a ton anyway.  I like the XI AWD series and wonder if anyone has experience with the x3 x5 series.  I also like the 6 speed manuals they put in the touring cars like the 525i and some of the 325i models, and manual is probably better than Automatic for transmission replacement costs.   My 69 2002 still runs like a top and wonder what engine / chassis is known for 200k+ miles with normal mainence / wear.  I like the x3 x5 SUV models but they seem expensive to maintain, but might be nice for trips if the AWD works good.  I'm a good mechanic, but some of these modern cars can get an air shock out of whack they shut down the whole car.... I'm in FL, so there is a good used market down here and wonder what your thoughts are for a good, stable, fast BMW that a normal person can maintain and drive on the highway at Autobahn speed safely.  Thanks!

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Thanks.  Any models that I should steer clear of?  I know this is a 2002 forum, but it I respect opinions of people that actually work on their cars and have experience with the brand.  Lots of parts on ebay and in junk yards so I can usaully find parts.  Just wondering what models are 'bulletproof' and last a long time with lots of miles.  Also, what models are impossible to work on and too expensive or complex to maintain.  325i is a nice package, but the ix AWD models look nice.  The 5 series with a longer wheel base are probably nice on the highway at speed.  Any recommendations?

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The E28 & E30 were the last of the bulletproof cars.  E34 535i, with the M30, was decent.  E34 & E36 is when BMW started to cut costs on interior materials - door panels & headliner problems.  E46 got complicated with engine mgmt & ancillaries, but there's a large following & decent forums for them.  Same with 6-cyl E39 5ers.  I have no X experience, but have heard/read of X5 nightmares, especially the larger V8 engines.

Too bad you're in FL - I have an E46 2002 325xi (built on 02/02/2002!) that I'm selling.

Edited by John_in_VA

John in VA

'74 tii "Juanita"  '85 535i "Goldie"  '86 535i "M-POSSTR"  

'03 530i "Titan"  '06 330ci "ZHPY"


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I've just sold my 2007 530xi wagon today at ~87K miles.  Fairly reliable car.  A blast to drive around town and on the freeway.  No problems whatsoever with the engine nor the transmission.  Never noticed the AWD as we lived in TX.  The few times the roads iced up, I drove my wife's Volvo.  Only one weird thing that I spent quite a bit of money on and then discovered the real problem!  Early in its life, the AWD failure light came on and stayed on.  Replaced a bunch of high dollars stuff.  Warning light went away and came back.  The real problem was low battery voltage.  I replaced the defective battery with a new one.  The AWD failure warning disappeared permanently.

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Why not buy something that was bullet proof from the 90's and then work it over mechanically?


New shocks, bushes, brakes. Injectors and a few other things would restore that new car feeling. Cars don't rust these days so you could be starting your next classic car relationship for the coming 30 years. Use the money you save to buy the parts. 

rtheriaque wrote:

Carbs: They're necessary and barely controlled fuel leaks that sometimes match the air passing through them.

My build blog:http://www.bmw2002faq.com/blog/163-simeons-blog/

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When my wife decided she was no longer a Minivan Mom I found her a 2001 525 Touring. It's no rocket with the m54 2.5 but it's just fine on the highway and gets 27-30 mpg. She appreciates it's BMW sporty feel except when she can't find it in a parking lot due to it's relative height compared to all the high riding SUV's etc . We find this car is great on trips, allows us to bring our dogs with the folding rear seats lowered and has leather heated seats, great HVAC, and Xenon lights. We've had good results with the E39 although an occasional electrical issue results in my using the Bimmerforum or Bentley manual to remedy. It doesn't hurt when my wife is approached in parking lots by individuals admiring her wagon.

73 2002 Tii Sold

71 2002 Ti Vintage racecar

84 BMW 325 E-Prod racecar Sold

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I have a 2001 325xi wagon 5 speed with just over 100k miles, mostly for my wife to drive. I love how it drives, how it looks and how much stuff you can haul around. It is great in snow and rain slicked streets. But man, it is a different animal to maintain compared to my 02, or my 94 Nissan pickup or previous 90s Honda Civics. I've put over $5k into it in the past year, some wrenching myself, some outsourced to my great independent mechanic. Cooling system, intake rubber/plastic bits, alternator, brakes, CV joints, fuel pump, window regulators, leaking door gaskets, electronic glitches. Now the oil level light is flickering, so I have to investigate that, and it has a slight vibration at highway speeds that none of us can diagnose. It has left my wife stranded twice (alternator and fuel pump).


e46 fanatics is helpful, and scrolling through the posts will give you a sense of the level of work these cars need. Fixing my 02 is fun and rewarding, the E46 is so much more complex and in my opinion not that well engineered (for durability at least) and I have grown to hate working on it. I'm thinking of selling mine.I would go for an E30 next time around--gets you a modern driving experience, with much less plastic shit and over-complexity.

Edited by plape
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I think any BMW after the E36 is going to be expensive to maintain unless you're a decant backyard mechanic who can take the time to cruise the forums. I am a big fan of the E39 series, especially the 540i, GREAT touring car. Prices around here are way down, don't know about where you are. Find one that's been well maintained and be aware of the big issues, cooling system and A-arm bushings (the famous 50 mph shake). The forums know every little niggle on these cars, they even have a list of common problems and fixes. Prices are actually fairly reasonable, BMW and Pelican parts, if you do the work yourself. I loved my 540, a cow to work on but what a car.


X-drive adds unnecessary complexity where you're from, just added stuff to go wrong. I've heard nothing but horror stories about the X3/5, more time at the dealership than driving.

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I now have an e85 Z4 and they are a blast to drive and are pretty reliable.  They are pretty easy to work on and there is a large group on the bimmerfest forum with many DIY threads. It's also the last of the BMWs that don't require battery registration via dealer/Indy shop. 

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I daily a e36 325is, stock-ish, LSD, chipped... with 260,000 miles. It has been pretty dang reliable. It is not a tank and isn't a china doll. Parts are pretty cheap and easy to find. The forums (bimmerforum.com) have really saved me thousands in mechanic costs. I'd opt for anything in that era. 


How about an e34 5 series? beautiful design, tough, easy to work on (IIRC), and I think their engine bay is good enough to put an LS in there....



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The closest thing you'll find to the feel and fun of an '02 is gonna be an E30--either a 325is or (lighter and more tossable) a 318is.  The 318's are getting harder to find in nice shape, so if you don't mind a 4 door, the 318i sedan has the same engine/tranny as the is, just without the stiffer suspension and sports seats.  Still fun to drive, and easy--or at least easier and cheaper than the later models.  And as was previously stated, the last of the really bulletproof 3ers.


When new, BMW advertised the 318is as "the 2002 for the 90s" and they weren't far off.



'69 Nevada sunroof-Wolfgang-bought new
'73 Sahara sunroof-Ludwig-since '78
'91 Brillantrot 318is sunroof-Georg Friederich 
Fiat Topolini (Benito & Luigi), Renault 4CVs (Anatole, Lucky Pierre, Brigette) & Kermit, the Bugeye Sprite

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We have 2 E36's and an E46 xi.


I would suggest, if you want BMW, that the E46 is pretty good.  You have to accept going in that there are maintenance costs, and you really should be able to do them yourself-

otherwise, it just doesn't make financial sense.

If you live in the souf, there is no reason for an x 3-series.  It's heavier, handles worse, and gets worse gas mileage. 

A 2wd 330ci (that's a 2- door, not a convertible.  Stupid BMW letters.  And now you've got me started on WHY the hell is a 4- series a 2- door and a 3-series a 4 door???? stupid BMW letters.  Oops, digression...)


Ummm... yeah, a nice 100k 330ci for 4k will need another thou or so in parts, a bit of software and a scanner, and you'll want to learn about things like coil pack failure, sticky thermostats, vanos seals, etc, but they

are pretty reliable for being as plastic as they are, they go pretty well, stop pretty well (330 got bigger brakes) and as a 'modern' car, aren't too bad to work on.  DO get a manual-

the autos don't last, and cost more than the car is worth to replace.  May be hard to find a manual in Floridada, but do it.


The X boxes are alright, but they're complex.  In 3L guise, you CAN find a manual, and do it, because again, the autoboxes have pretty finite lives.


What I think.


But then, I'd buy an S2000 with a hardtop.




"I learn best through painful, expensive experience, so I feel like I've gotten my money's worth." MattL

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