My Experience with BMW
I moved most of my BMW "fan boy" information
to this page. If you were trying to reach the page about
my 2001 BMW 325ci, please click that
Frequently Asked Questions / Heard Myths
Here are some questions I frequently get,
and/or myths I hear about BMW.
- "How can you afford one?"
- I bought mine used. All cars depreciate with
time. In my experience, since the longest warranty
I've seen on any car is 100,000 miles and/or 10 years,
usually around the 10 year mark, people start selling off
their cars when they start needing work. All cars need
work around this time. My 325ci
cost me $8,500 and had only 65,000 miles on it.
- I do all my own maintenance. The main cost with BMWs
is labor at either the dealership or a car garage. If
you do this yourself, (see Forbes on how much your time is
worth to you), you will save money.
- The specific model I have is not expensive: it's sort of
like a V-6 Ford Mustang versus a Ford GT. Mine was
basically the base model I-6 E46 series BMW.
Therefore, my 325ci is less expensive to own than the M3,
which is the all-out performance model.
- I buy almost all my parts from ECSTuning or other high
quality aftermarket. No doubt, BMW brand parts are
superior, but they're also usually twice as expensive (but
almost all dealership parts are like this). Websites
like ECSTuning where parts get a star rating based on
customer experience are a benefit to me.
- "Isn't car insurance expensive?" Depends on the
insurance company and the driver. Because I have only
had one speeding ticket in my life and one accident that was
my fault, my insurance (Geico) is very low.
General Info About BMW
Often, people ask me questions like how I
can afford one, or say things that they heard, etc. Here are
(in no particular order) some answers:
- BMW is known for their inline "slant" 6 (I-6) engines.
I have the lowly 2.5L M54B25 engine, and I get (stock) 189
horsepower: the 330 has the 3.0L and makes 230
horsepower. The M3's S54 engine makes 315
horsepower. BMW I-6 engines are very powerful for their
size. This also means that you will usually get decent
gas mileage with them. Most of this is a result of the
VANOS system, a completely variable camshaft pair (intake and
exhaust). It comes at a price, such as using high octane
gas and doing slightly more maintenance to the engine (such as
VANOS rebuilds). But almost no one with a 2.4L I-4 is
going to make as much power as even the 2001 M54B25, except
the various Honda Si engines, which are rare. The
driving experience versus an I-4 2.4L is also telling: the BMW
I-6s love to be pushed to their limits, and respond calmly yet
powerfully. Even with my diminutive 2.5L, I can easily
wade right into rush hour traffic with confidence, not even
having to switch into "sport" mode on the automatic
transmission. These engines were built to be punished,
and are mostly bullet proof, so long as you change the oil
- Working on a BMW is surprisingly easy. The oil filter
is in a capsule on the front of the engine. The cabin
air filter is under the hood. The spark plugs (except
for the #6, very close to the firewall) are easy to
reach. (I've had friends complain that to change the
spark plugs in their Chevy/Ford/Dodge they have to take their
intake off!) The cooling system hoses clip/snap into
place. Almost all wiring connectors clip/snap into
place. This car is, in many ways, easier to work on than
my old 1984 Oldsmobile Delta 88. The fuse box under the
hood is easy to reach. Now, that being said, no engine
is perfect. For instance, the starter is under my
intake. It's said one can reach the starter from below
the car, but I've never tried.
- If you still think owning a BMW is expensive, read above for
the initial cost, then factor in roughly $375 a year in
parts. What you get in exchange is a car that drives as
good as (some would argue better) than a corvette.
- Most people point to BMWs needing their computers scanned to
"read the codes" to know what's wrong. I would point out
that you can buy a scanner for cheaper than the dealership is
going to charge you to read the codes. And since all
modern cars are now mostly computerized, this is a moot point.
- You must drive it like a sports car. For instance, you
can't avoid things on the road by driving over them with this
car. I once hit a dead possum lying prone, thinking my
car was high enough to drive over it. The result was
pieces of dead possum that I'm still finding in random places
on my car's suspension. You cannot run over curbs: the
curb will hit your front lower spoiler. You cannot park
without paying attention: these cars sit low. BMWs have
a splash guard and a skid plate underneath them, so you
probably won't break anything important, assuming these are
installed. (I've heard some people remove their splash
guard and/or skid plate to "save money", and some auto shops
might forget to put it back on.) You must think and
drive differently. But my Honda
Fit "Sport" also sits low, too. If you want to be
able to drive recklessly and/or without thinking about this
type of stuff, you want to buy a cheap SUV or truck.
- BMWs are mostly made of plastic to save weight, but most
cars made after 2001 also have this problem. BMW just
took it to insane levels: even making some thermostats out of
plastic. You will end up replacing plastic parts when
they start to chip. That's just life. But if you
stay ahead of the game by planning for and replacing plastic
parts early (i.e. entire cooling system every 75,000 miles),
you should see fewer failures.
- BMW is an entry-level Luxury Sports car. They only use
leather inside the car, for example. For 2001, the BMW
E46 was loaded with some very nice technology and beautiful
features. Is it better than Chevy and Ford?
Absolutely. Will it age better? Probably. It
feels and drives better than Ford and Chevy, compared to the
same year. The car glides down the road when cruising,
but is super accurate and predictable when turning. If I
have to slam on the brakes, the car doesn't nose dive like
most cheaper cars, meaning I retain control of the car
better. The seats are the most comfortable I've ever sat
in. The car is very responsive, almost psychic.
This car sounds fantastic. The brakes are the best I've
ever had. The steering wheel is very responsive and
comfortable. The arm rests are the best I've
experienced. The car is very obedient, shifts are quick
and a bit on the firm side, but there's zero drive-train
vibration, and almost no road vibration. Be warned: in
Sport Manual mode, the A/T will obey you, so be careful what
you ask it to do. I once accidentally shifted down to
first gear at 15 mph! It will obey you if it can, so be
warned: pay attention. BMW's main goal is a superior
driving performance, and no one can dispute that they achieved
their goal. But if you pay attention and know what
you're doing, the engine and transmission in Sport or Sport
Manual will fluidly shift when you ask, and downshifts are
almost always very soft. The engine is almost always
super smooth (what I-6s are known for) and obedient: if you're
not paying attention, you can easily redline it because you
can hardly feel the difference. I can have only two car
lengths in 35 mph morning traffic and merge seamlessly from a
stop. It's very easy to see how this beautiful
performance is very addictive.
- BMWs have plenty of convenience items and features on
them. There's a miniature flashlight in the glove
compartment that doesn't take batteries: recharged by the car
and always ready. There's a full size spare tire in the
back (on the same rim you have, too) so you actually have 5
tires you can rotate, which increases tread life.
There's a miniature tool kit in the trunk lid (which even came
with white cotton gloves so you wouldn't get blood, I mean,
mud on your hands). Both driver and passenger sun shades
have mirrors. The only complaint I have is there are
only two cup holders in the entire car. The Honda Fit "Sport" I own has eight
- BMWs are safe. They're made in a safety
cage construction concept. They have been since
the 90s. It's common to hear of people walking away from
accidents in BMWs.
- Some people have heard that BMWs take exotic oils and
fluids. Yes and no. BMWs come with many "lifetime"
or long life fluids from the factory. The automatic
transmission (A/T, per the way it is abbreviated in the scan
tool) that came with my car, the 325ZF (5HP-19) is common to
this car and to Porsche, and uses a more expensive pure
synthetic fluid. Notice that BMW recommends
Castrol. How often fluids need changing and components
break depends upon how you drive it. If you drive it
like you stole it, replace all fluids twice as often.
Use fluids without additives (recommended by the owner's
manual). I use Valvoline ATF fluid (LT71141 spec) for
the A/T and power steering (the power steering on this car
uses ATF fluid).
The Lies People Tell About BMW
Now, with the BMW comes an elite group of
owners. Or so they'd like to imagine themselves. I
have mostly no problem with them, but there are a few things
that a BMW newbie might need to prepare for. Basically,
lies that a few BMW owners and those who hate BMW like to
spread. I'm going to list them in no particular order.
- "If you can't afford ___ then buy a Honda." This is probably the most common, and the worst, especially (usually) coming from BMW owners. These are some of the true-blue BMW zealots who have all their maintenance done at the dealership, own all the BMW accessories and shirts and cups, etc. They're illogical, so I won't bother talking about them.
- "BMWs aren't cheap." They aren't as cheap as a Honda,
maybe, and the BMW dealership does charge more for maintenance
on average, but if you do your own work and use quality
aftermarket parts, this is mostly untrue. Regarding used
BMWs, this rumor probably comes from the condition most BMWs
are in at the time of sale: usually needing work and
thoroughly beat up (because they're very fun to drive).
If you patiently fix what's wrong with them, they aren't super
expensive. But any car at roughly the 10 year 100,000
mile mark is going to begin to need serious work done to it,
so this is true of all cars, for the most part.
- "The Honda Type R is better." This comes from Honda fanboys, mostly. First, there's almost no Honda that drives like a BMW. Second, Honda is best known for cheap and dependable, not fast and exotic. The Type R is a nice car, for sure, but as usual, people don't do their research. Recently Honda fanboys were bragging the 2017 Honda Type R beat a BMW M3 around the Nurnburg track. What actually happened is that the 2017 Type R recently tied with (not beat) a 2001 BMW M3's Nurnburg lap times. Remind the Type R zealots that it took Honda 16 years to catch up to BMW.
- "New BMWs are expensive." Yes they are. As of
2017, the base model Honda Fit starts at $16,190, whereas the
base BMW 230i costs $34,800. But the difference between
the two cars in handling, acceleration, appearance, and
comfort is also light years apart.