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 as much of my own maintenance as possible.
Because approximately half the cost of fixing a car is labor,
this saves money.
- My 325ci is not the most expensive model: it's sort of
like a V-6 Ford Mustang versus a Ford GT. Mine could
be thought of as the base model I-6 E46 sMeries BMW. y
325ci is less expensive to own than the
M3, the all-out performance model.
- I buy almost all my parts from ECSTuning, FCPEuro or other high
quality aftermarket. BMW parts are superior, but
they're also expensive (but most dealerships are like this).
- "Isn't car insurance expensive?" Depends on the insurance company and the driver. I have received only one speeding ticket and caused only one accident in my whole life, so my insurance is cheap.
- Some people have heard that BMWs take exotic oils and
fluids. This isn't completely correct. First, BMWs
come with many long life fluids from the factory (meaning you
might not need to replace some until 100,000 miles). BMW
claims my automatic transmission (325ZF, 5HP-19) has lifetime
fluid. That's scientifically impossible. Valvoline
MaxLife (LT71141 spec) is a valid replacement fluid that isn't
insanely expensive. Also, BMW recommends Castrol, right
on my oil fill cap. The owner's manual recommends using
fluids without additives. I use Royal Purple 5W-30/40 as
recommended by the owner's manual (because it should last
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.
BMW I-6 engines are very powerful for their size. You
will usually get decent gas mileage with them (roughly 20 in
town, 30 on the highway). Most of this is a result of
the completely variable camshafts (VANOS). These engines
require high octane due to compression ratio, and the VANOS
needs to be rebuilt from time to time. But no naturally
aspirated 2.4L I-4 is going to make as much power, except the
various Honda Si engines, which are rare. BMW I-6s love
to be pushed to their limits, and respond with smooth
power. My diminutive 2.5L can easily wade into rush hour
traffic with confidence. These engines were built to be
punished, and are mostly bullet proof, so long as you change
the oil regularly.
- Working on a BMW is usually 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 are easy to
reach. (I've heard people complain about having to take
their intake off to reach their spark plugs) 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.
But not everything is easy. 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, if not better than, a Corvette.
- One of the main ways to troubleshoot a BMW is to have the
codes read from the onboard computer, but you can buy a pretty
cheap scan tool and do it yourself.
- You must drive it like a sports car. 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. 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. You must think and drive differently.
But my Honda Fit "Sport" also
sits low, too. If you want to be able to drive without
thinking, you want an SUV or truck.
- BMWs are mostly made of plastic to save weight, but so are
most cars made after 2001. 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. The seats are the most comfortable
I've ever sat in. The car is very responsive. 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
but usually very smooth, and there's no drive-train or road
vibration. The automatic transmission is very obedient,
so be careful what you ask it to do. It will downshift
to first at 15 mph if you tell it to, so pay attention.
The engine is super smooth (what I-6s are known for) and
obedient: in sport mode it will let you go past the red
line. I can have only two car lengths with which to
merge at morning traffic (between 35-45 mph) and merge
seamlessly from a stop sign. 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. The full size spare is mounted on the
same wheel (i.e. not a cheap wheel). 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.
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 usually heard 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 is expensive, 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. Almost every car I've owned, and most
cars per the experience of several ASE certified technicians I
know, is going to need serious work at the 100,000 mile mark,
which is part of the reason why people sell their cars when
they reach 100,000 miles, and part of why most factory
warranties don't go past 100,000 miles. It's just life:
parts don't last forever. Around 100,000, you're going
to need to replace some of the following: brakes, shocks,
struts, suspension components, rear differential fluid,
automatic or manual transmission fluid, engine air filter,
coolant, cabin air filter, spark plugs, radiators,
thermostats, hoses, etc. But if you do these yourself or
at a qualified car shop, you won't spend too much money.
- "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 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. You get what you pay