Buy a Used BMW Car

Buying a BMW is a big decision even if it’s a used one, since these cars can be expensive. Make sure to ask a lot of questions before you buy a used BMW, so it will last you quite a while. When you’re buying a used BMW, make sure to do your research before purchasing, check the car's history, and get the best deal. This will guarantee your used BMW lasts you a long time.


Doing Your Research Before Purchasing

  1. Research the different types of BMWs. Make sure you know all the different models, so you know what you’re looking for when you get to the dealership.[1]
    • BMW 1 Series is a rear-wheel drive four-seat car. The 1 Series is best for consumers who are looking for a small, fast luxury vehicle.
    • For the best-selling BMW car, you’ll want to look for the 3 Series. This is also a small car, but it comes in rear-wheel and all-wheel drive. You can a get a sedan (E90), wagon (E91), coupe (E92), and convertible (E93). This is also a high powered vehicle, but is also known for handling well. If you're looking for something cheaper, consider the older (E46) coupe or cabriolet.
    • The BMW 5 Series is a mid-size sedan that is mostly known as a luxury vehicle. It is available in all-wheel drive. Some even have diesel engines and save costs in fuel consumption, although exhaust parts may need to be replaced more often
    • For the largest sized vehicle, you’ll want to look for the BMW 7 Series, which is a luxury sedan that comes with leather seats and often wood trim. This is a made for people who can be driven around by say a chauffeur, otherwise don't waste your cash on it
    • Based on the Series 3, the BMW X3 is a small SUV that has a lot of space for hauling whatever you wish. It works well if you have a small family and "occasionally" need to tug a giant amount of items
    • The most expensive BMW (Besides the 7 series) is the BMW X5. It’s the largest SUV and can be pricey to maintain as well as buy. Be careful of the X5s as they are greatly unreliable and costs start and go upward of $5000
  2. Be aware of potential depreciation with a used BMW. BMWs are great cars, but they lose value quickly. This can especially be a problem if you plan on reselling your used BMW later on.[2]
    • BMWs do not maintain their value for long. With each passing year, your car loses value at a larger rate than other similarly priced luxury vehicles.
    • Some BMWs don’t depreciate as quickly as others. While the 7 Series depreciates especially quickly, the 1 Series and X5 do not. Keep this in mind when choosing the model of BMW you want to purchase.[3]
    • High depreciation cars can also mean that you can find an older BMW for less. The difference between a 3- and 6-year old BMW can be rather large.
  3. Know about the costs of maintaining a used BMW. BMWs can be expensive to maintain, because of general upkeep, as well as costly repairs and issues with reliability.[2]
    • BMWs are expensive to maintain. They require higher quality gasoline, oil, and tires than many other vehicles. Additionally, the labor costs for BMWS are usually higher because of the way they’re engineered. This can be avoided by going to second or even third hand repair centres. If the BMW is made before 1999, the car can be serviced by any mechanic specialized, non-specialized or even by the owner (you).
    • Repairs for BMW can be pricey. It’s not hard to find a shop that specializes in these vehicles, but in their Vehicle Monitoring Systems. Local dealerships are usually expensive for repairs, so having a BMW-specialized repair store near you is important for keeping costs down.
    • While BMWS are (for exception of BMW X5s) generally reliable, they do occasionally need repairs. Some of their reliability issues are due to the use of plastic parts and the expensive electronics that make up the interior of the car.
  4. Read about the potential issues with each model car. Certain BMW models are known for having common problems. Make sure you know any specific problems with your model. Some of the most common problems for BMWs include:[4]
    • Electrical issues. The BMW has many complex electronics both inside and outside the vehicle. BMWs occasionally have issues with the battery, fuses, and the key control system. Additionally, some internal electronics like power windows and power steering are problematic in BMWs. As mentioned earlier most of these systems are managed and controlled by the vehicles iDrive System
    • Engine issues. Since many of the BMWs have turbocharged engines, engine problems are common with these cars. Some issues including stalling, difficulty while idling, and a rough ride. On an Second-Generation X5s, the engine replacements can cost around $50,000
    • Rattles. BMWs can have strange noises coming from inside or outside the vehicle. These may simply be annoying, but they could also indicate a problem with the vehicle.

Checking the Car’s History

  1. Get a vehicle history report. A vehicle history report will tell you about the vehicle’s past owner, accidents, service, warranties, and potential liens. This report is usually verified by law enforcement, so it can be trusted as a good source of information.[5]
    • Find the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) of the car. If you’re looking for the VIN, it’s usually outside the windshield on the bottom right facing out or inside the driver’s side door on the jamb.[6]
    • Look online for a place to get a free vehicle history report. There are plenty of places online that offer them for free; however, these reports won’t always indicate the accident or lien history.
    • Pay for vehicle history reports that offer all of the vehicle’s history. You may have to pay money to get a report that includes a total history of the car. It is worth it, though, in case there are any red flags when looking through the vehicle history report.
  2. Pay attention to any red flags on the vehicle history report. The vehicle history report will give you a lot of information. However, there a few important things to look for that may be red flags if you’re buying a used BMW.[7]
    • Look for any tampering with the odometer. If the mileage on the vehicle history report does not match that on the car, the odometer has been tampered with and you should walk away from the car.
    • Check for failed emissions reports. If you live in an area with emissions standards (Such as California), you’ll have to get this fixed for your used car. Verify that all repairs have been done if you see evidence the vehicle has failed emissions tests in the past.
    • Beware of any major accidents. Even if the car looks fine now, it’s possible that major accidents have cracked the frame or caused other permanent damage.
    • Look for any vehicle damage, due to flooding. Flood damage to engines can be hard to find, but very expensive to fix.
    • Check for any irregularities in the vehicle history report. If anything looks unusual or fake on a vehicle history report, it may have been tampered with. Always order your own and don’t rely on individuals you may be purchasing a car from to produce one.
  3. Read the vehicle’s warranty. Many used cars will still be under some form of warranty. Make sure the warranty covers all major issues. If not, consider extending the warranty if possible.[8]
    • Many BMW warranties cover the car for six years or 100,000 miles. This will cover the car for things like defects, but not for general maintenance and upkeep.[9]
    • Look for any handling charges on the warranty. These may amount to roughly $50 per visit in the event of any repair while the car is under warranty.
    • Check for a certified pre-owned warranty. Certified pre-owned warranty are warranties for used cars that have been verified to be in excellent shape. Read all the fine print if the used BMW has one, since some of these warranties are not transferrable to new owners.[8]
  4. Bring a mechanic to look at the car. Your used BMW should be thoroughly inspected before you start negotiating to buy it. Have a third-party mechanic look at the car, since it’s better to have someone external to your purchase verify that the car is in good shape.[10]
    • Talk to a mechanic you can trust. If you have a regular mechanic that you’ve built a relationship with, this is the best person to check out your new BMW.
    • Have the mechanic look over the car for major issues. This should take about an hour, so it may cost around $100 to complete.
    • Inspectors can spot major issues that are not noticeable to the naked eye, such as poor repair work, flood damage, or frame damage. While some of this may come up in the vehicle history report, a good mechanic can verify any of these issues as well.

Getting the Best Deal

  1. Look up the true market value of the car. True market value tells you what people are currently paying for your used BMW. It is based on what dealers are actually selling the car for and is averaged from a number of dealers throughout the country.[11]
    • Go to a reputable website that verifies used car pricing. You should be able to find a number of pricing tools online easily.
    • Websites displaying true market value will also display the invoice price of the car. This is what the dealership actually paid for it, which will be lower than the value or price of the car.
    • You can also find the sticker price or the manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP). This will often be more expensive, since cars rarely go for their sticker price.
  2. Pay attention to the four prices listed under the used car's true market value. You'll find listings for trade-in, private party, dealer retail, and certified used vehicles. These listings will all be different prices, so use the appropriate listing for your purchasing situation.[12]
    • Trade-in value is what dealers are usually paying consumers when customers trade in their vehicle. If your used BMW is a recently trade-in, then this is likely about what a dealership paid for it.
    • Private party is how much the car is selling if you're buying it from someone rather than a dealership. This may be more or less than the trade-in value, depending on the year or condition of the vehicle.
    • Dealer retail is roughly what this car is selling for at dealerships. When buying at a dealership, this is about what you should expect the car to be listed at.
    • Certified used vehicle is the value if it has a certified used warranty. It has greater guarantees, so can be more expensive.
  3. Make a plan of what you’re willing to spend on your used BMW. Before going to the dealership, write down how much you're willing to spend. Stick to your number as best as you can. If the car is still too expensive, there's nothing wrong with walking away.
    • Come into the situation with a clear price in mind. Know what you can (and are willing) to pay for your used BMW.
    • Start off by offering a one step below the true market value for the car. BMWs are popular, so probably only one step is advisable.
    • Used the best negotiating tactics. Don't make any rash decisions while you're there.
  4. Be realistic about the deal you’re getting. If a deal for a used BMW is too good to be true, it may very well be.While we all love bargains, do remember that there is no such thing as "cheap BMW in excellent condition."
    • Buying the cheapest used BMW may not give you the best value for your money. Your goal should be to find a reasonably priced used BMW in good shape.
    • BMWs that are too good of a deal may have some issues. Have a reliable vehicle history report and a mechanic look over the car thoroughly if the price seems too good to be true.
    • If they are asking for less than the car is worth, you definitely need to be suspicious. It's possible the car has major liens against it or it could even be stolen.
  • Tip:If your planning to buy a Coupe or Cabriolet, buy it in the winter to get a lower price! If your planning to get a X5 or X3 get it in the summer for the cheaper price!

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