In the Market for a Cheap BMW?

August 2, 2012

It doesn’t matter who you ask, most people love BMWs. They look good, drive good and sound good. Oh, and they make the driver look good too.

But if you ask current and previous owners of these cars, there’s a bit of a love/hate relationship going on here. People love to drive their Bimmers but hate spending a fortune on maintenance.

One of my favorite BMWs from the 80s are the E30 models. They have that classic look which looks great to this day. The engines are bullet-proof when maintained correctly and doesn’t cost a fortune to maintain.

If you’re on a limited budget and need to drive a cheap BMW then consider the E30. The last thing you want to do is rush into buying one though. There are plenty of E30s for sale these days so take your time when buying one.

Here is a list of parts that are costly and tend to wear out rather quickly. Make sure you get these components checked out before forking over your hard earned cash.

Steering Rack Leaks

Replacing the rack can cost up to $1200 at the dealer. Make sure you get this checked out before buying.

For the weekend mechanic, parts are around $300 for the rack and $100 for the tie rods. $400 and a six pack of beer sounds much better than paying over a grand at the dealer.

Just keep in mind that the car will need an alignment after the parts are swapped out.

Oil Leaks

The pan gasket tends to leak after 100K miles of usage. Most E30s are well over 100K miles these days so it’s important to get this checked out. Make sure you get records of when the pan gasket was last replaced.

Replacing the pan gasket takes some time as you have to remove the whole front suspension in order to remove the oil pan.

The average Joe would probably have a hard time doing this at home and you can expect to pay a pretty penny to get this fixed at the dealer.

As for the transmission, make sure to check the rear seal on the transmission as well as the shifter shaft seal.

Lower Control Arms and Bushings

If you’ve driven a BMW you know how crisp the steering is supposed to feel.

A typical symptom of worn bushings is sloppy steering or a lack of crispness.

Another symptom is the front end will feel a bit soft and slope down when braking.

Worn bushings can make your Bimmer feel more like a Buick.

The average cost to replace bushings is around $400.

Timing Belt and Water Pump

As with most cars, it’s important that the timing belt be replaced at recommended intervals.

While most manufacturers recommend replacing the belt every 80K to 90K miles, BMW recommends replacing the belt every 60K miles.

This may sound a bit extreme but many owners actually replace the timing belt sooner than that.

A timing belt that snaps can bend the valves causing over a thousand dollars in damage. Don’t take the chance and get a record of when it was last replaced.

Any E30 owners out there? What are your typical repairs and how much do you pay for maintenance?

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