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      04-07-2021, 02:17 PM   #1
spielnicht
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Cheapest, most reliable used BMW?

Long story short, my commute to work is going to be 22 miles each way when the lockdown ends hopefully later this year. My original office was only 7 miles away but it was consolidated with our larger office in DC. The main issue isn't necessarily the additional distance, but the amount of time sitting in and navigating through rush hour traffic. Simply, my commute will go from 20 mins (avg) to 1hr+ each way as I sit in traffic and drive on traffic light-infested backroads to avoid the crazy tolls of I-66.

I currently drive a 2014 550i, which is the furthest of what you'd call a good commuter car. I bought it 4 years ago knowing I'd be with my company for a long time and OK with my 20min commute in a V8. That has changed (#thxcovid), and I don't plan on leaving my company just because of the commute. I also don't want to drive my pampered 550i to DC and back everyday either, especially considering the N63tu engine. I keep it well maintained and plan to keep it for a long time because I genuinely love everything about it, especially after all of the extras I've put into it.

So, my plan is to start looking for a cheap commuter car, reserving my 550i for the weekend. My logical side is obviously telling me to look for some Japanese small car that will be reliable, but that's just never going to happen. Never.

My criteria is simple:
  • German
  • Small
  • Manual Gearbox
  • 4 or 6 Cylinders
  • Preferabbly all-wheel drive, but not necessary
  • Relatively cheap to fix (parts at least)

Beings that I already own a BMW (and always will) and my wife will always own a Mercedes, I am obviously familiar with working on both brands and have the tools to do it. An e46 seems like a good option, cheap and easy to work on, but I don't know much else about them.

Any other recommendations?
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      04-07-2021, 02:28 PM   #2
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BMW Motorcycle. You'll find one that fits all your criteria points. LOL
As a bonus, you can always lose the cops in that crazy daily DC traffic.
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      04-07-2021, 02:47 PM   #3
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honestly i'd go electric for this, like a tesla model 3

The auto pilot has alot of value in commuter traffic...the algorithm actually works better with more traffic (which provides more data).

Doesn't require any maintenance ( OTHER THAN tires/suspension/brakes)

Charging is the only thing, but with Tesla's charging network you have alot of options, and if your office has charging (or somewhere nearby) then you can leverage that.

model 3 - Dual Motor would be the best option with AWD. you can pick them up used for a decent price, and considering the fact that you have no other running costs on the car, it would be cheapest to own over the period of 5-8 yrs...

i don't use my 550i for commuting in traffic, so my DD is a 1998 toyota camry with 110k miles on it. So when that needs to be replaced, i'm def going electric (right now Tesla has the best range and Tech) but others are catching up soon. and the acceleration is unreal!

if you're going to stick with a GAS car...then i'd suggest

e92 330i (335i was turbo motor) earlier 330i's were still the old straight 6 - and you can find them with a 6 speed also you could probably find in AWD (also wagon)
e46 330i or 325i (older) but again NA Straight 6 and you can find plenty with a manual trans. e46 had an AWD version, not sure how popular they were.
e39 530i - older but you can find plenty with a manual. (e39 never came in awd) the 540i was v8 all other e39's (525/528/530i were all straight 6's)
e60 525/528i/530i - all were straight 6's that were produced for the e60 (which did get the TT straight 6 from 335i). i believe you could get these in AWD as well.

hope that helps...

Last edited by xxpanipuri; 04-07-2021 at 02:55 PM..
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      04-07-2021, 02:55 PM   #4
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look for a 2016 or newer 228/230 ix. make sure you get an M sport or sportline model so you will have the upgraded sport seats.

i daily drive (pre-Covid) 100 miles r/t on DC beltway. i love my 228ix sportline. the ONLY reason for going with a 2016 model is to avoid the N20 engine. i have 85K miles on mine and want to keep it for the long haul, so i'm about to take the plunge on the timing chain kit -- strictly preventative. otherwise it has be completely rock solid and fun to drive...my favorite of the 10 bimmers i have ever owned.

the problem with going E90 or older models is that there will constantly be wear and tear items that need to be replaced. i also have an e90 325xi and it's the car i bought for my kids. it's a great, safe car but there's always something to do on it...minor stuff like trim pieces, gaskets, seals, window regulators, fuses, etc that need replacing / fixing. it's been a good way for me to teach my kids how to properly maintain a car and learn to fix things themselves...but it would be an absolute pain to keep up if you're driving 25,000 miles per year...
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Last edited by happyjack; 04-07-2021 at 03:03 PM..
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      04-07-2021, 02:57 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spielnicht View Post

My criteria is simple:
  • German
  • Small
  • Manual Gearbox
  • 4 or 6 Cylinders
  • Preferabbly all-wheel drive, but not necessary
  • Relatively cheap to fix (parts at least)


Any other recommendations?
A used VW MK4 R32 fits all the criteria above. But it sounded like you're trying to save gas money and mpg on the R32 isn't the best...around 20 mpg.

So maybe a VW Mk4 Golf / Jetta TDI would work - just no AWD for those model.
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      04-07-2021, 03:11 PM   #6
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I bought my 08 128 to be a 1+hr commuter thinking after a couple years I'd swap it out. Never gonna happen. Perfect daily. Small, manual, good mpg, cheap available parts, motor can rev out before jail time. It's fine in the snow (except uphill starts) for being RWD. That's my biased opinion. Logically though I'd say, an x drive 2 series with the turbo 4 checks all your boxes.
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      04-07-2021, 03:19 PM   #7
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My 2003 530i is an excellent beater. Very reliable once I brought all the overdue maintenance up to date.
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      04-07-2021, 03:48 PM   #8
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I too think something besides what you're looking for. But in your criteria, a 128i could be interesting. Although finding a decent one with a stick will be difficult. But they do come up on occasion. There's a 4+ page thread dedicated to it around here recently.
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      04-07-2021, 04:24 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by happyjack View Post
look for a 2016 or newer 228/230 ix. make sure you get an M sport or sportline model so you will have the upgraded sport seats.

i daily drive (pre-Covid) 100 miles r/t on DC beltway. i love my 228ix sportline. the ONLY reason for going with a 2016 model is to avoid the N20 engine. i have 85K miles on mine and want to keep it for the long haul, so i'm about to take the plunge on the timing chain kit -- strictly preventative. otherwise it has be completely rock solid and fun to drive...my favorite of the 10 bimmers i have ever owned.

the problem with going E90 or older models is that there will constantly be wear and tear items that need to be replaced. i also have an e90 325xi and it's the car i bought for my kids. it's a great, safe car but there's always something to do on it...minor stuff like trim pieces, gaskets, seals, window regulators, fuses, etc that need replacing / fixing. it's been a good way for me to teach my kids how to properly maintain a car and learn to fix things themselves...but it would be an absolute pain to keep up if you're driving 25,000 miles per year...
For reliability, I would absolutely avoid anything with the N20.
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      04-07-2021, 04:28 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wren57 View Post
My 2003 530i is an excellent beater. Very reliable once I brought all the overdue maintenance up to date.
Same with the contemporary e46 330/325. Pretty bulletproof cars that would be cheaper than a 128i and are better (IMHO) to be in.
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      04-07-2021, 04:56 PM   #11
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It really depends on budget...
Anything with an N52 in it would be pretty bulletproof, early 128 have an N52?

Cheap to fix... Well, it is a BMW right...
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      04-07-2021, 08:05 PM   #12
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Used i3 is a cheap possibility. You don't want a stick for your commute, anyway, and a recent REX version would have ample range. They are so cheap when they get to be three-years-old (about 1/3 of original MSRP) and you can get them CPO. Batteries come with an 8-year warranty. Simply throw it away when done.
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      04-07-2021, 08:26 PM   #13
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e90 330, e9x 328 with 330 engine mods.

cars go 250k+ mi with regular maint, very durable.
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      04-07-2021, 10:05 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BMWCCA1 View Post
Used i3 is a cheap possibility. You don't want a stick for your commute, anyway, and a recent REX version would have ample range. They are so cheap when they get to be three-years-old (about 1/3 of original MSRP) and you can get them CPO. Batteries come with an 8-year warranty. Simply throw it away when done.
wow those are way cheaper than i expected
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      04-07-2021, 10:25 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spielnicht View Post
Long story short, my commute to work is going to be 22 miles each way when the lockdown ends hopefully later this year. My original office was only 7 miles away but it was consolidated with our larger office in DC. The main issue isn't necessarily the additional distance, but the amount of time sitting in and navigating through rush hour traffic. Simply, my commute will go from 20 mins (avg) to 1hr+ each way as I sit in traffic and drive on traffic light-infested backroads to avoid the crazy tolls of I-66.

I currently drive a 2014 550i, which is the furthest of what you'd call a good commuter car. I bought it 4 years ago knowing I'd be with my company for a long time and OK with my 20min commute in a V8. That has changed (#thxcovid), and I don't plan on leaving my company just because of the commute. I also don't want to drive my pampered 550i to DC and back everyday either, especially considering the N63tu engine. I keep it well maintained and plan to keep it for a long time because I genuinely love everything about it, especially after all of the extras I've put into it.

So, my plan is to start looking for a cheap commuter car, reserving my 550i for the weekend. My logical side is obviously telling me to look for some Japanese small car that will be reliable, but that's just never going to happen. Never.

My criteria is simple:
  • German
  • Small
  • Manual Gearbox
  • 4 or 6 Cylinders
  • Preferabbly all-wheel drive, but not necessary
  • Relatively cheap to fix (parts at least)

Beings that I already own a BMW (and always will) and my wife will always own a Mercedes, I am obviously familiar with working on both brands and have the tools to do it. An e46 seems like a good option, cheap and easy to work on, but I don't know much else about them.

Any other recommendations?
718 cayman or boxster. U can have a fun and save gas. Easy to maintain and cheap insurance.
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      04-08-2021, 05:09 AM   #16
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Is your 550 Manual? Just curious...because if it is...SUPER COOL. it's like the Ultimate Dad mobile.
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      04-08-2021, 05:56 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spielnicht View Post
Long story short, my commute to work is going to be 22 miles each way when the lockdown ends hopefully later this year. My original office was only 7 miles away but it was consolidated with our larger office in DC. The main issue isn't necessarily the additional distance, but the amount of time sitting in and navigating through rush hour traffic. Simply, my commute will go from 20 mins (avg) to 1hr+ each way as I sit in traffic and drive on traffic light-infested backroads to avoid the crazy tolls of I-66.

I currently drive a 2014 550i, which is the furthest of what you'd call a good commuter car. I bought it 4 years ago knowing I'd be with my company for a long time and OK with my 20min commute in a V8. That has changed (#thxcovid), and I don't plan on leaving my company just because of the commute. I also don't want to drive my pampered 550i to DC and back everyday either, especially considering the N63tu engine. I keep it well maintained and plan to keep it for a long time because I genuinely love everything about it, especially after all of the extras I've put into it.

So, my plan is to start looking for a cheap commuter car, reserving my 550i for the weekend. My logical side is obviously telling me to look for some Japanese small car that will be reliable, but that's just never going to happen. Never.

My criteria is simple:
  • German
  • Small
  • Manual Gearbox
  • 4 or 6 Cylinders
  • Preferabbly all-wheel drive, but not necessary
  • Relatively cheap to fix (parts at least)

Beings that I already own a BMW (and always will) and my wife will always own a Mercedes, I am obviously familiar with working on both brands and have the tools to do it. An e46 seems like a good option, cheap and easy to work on, but I don't know much else about them.

Any other recommendations?
My wife works in DC. Drives a Tesla MY, best commuter/DD vehicle for his area. End of story. Not German, not manual, no cylinders and not something you can work on. But you'll make up on not paying for gas and parking is easy. I guess a Model 3 would be even better. If you are willing to think outside the box a bit...

We have the Performance model, my guess is that you'll be surprised by how much fun it is compared to the 2014 550i. I have a 2018 X5 50i which has the same engine as your 550i. Good luck.

Used 3 series are pretty good values and there are so many BMW dealers in the area that you can probably swing a really nice CPO deal.
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      04-08-2021, 06:01 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BMWCCA1 View Post
Used i3 is a cheap possibility. You don't want a stick for your commute, anyway, and a recent REX version would have ample range. They are so cheap when they get to be three-years-old (about 1/3 of original MSRP) and you can get them CPO. Batteries come with an 8-year warranty. Simply throw it away when done.
I didn't read this before my previous reply. Of course a used i3 is a perfect commuter vehicle for the area. All you need to do is upgrade the speakers (which is pretty easy) and it's a really great value. One of the most underrated cars!

Yeah, take a look at the i3! The only downside is that some don't like the looks, but I think it looks kinda cool in a dark color and you can get the windows tinted and such...
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      04-08-2021, 06:07 AM   #19
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I would get an s4 (2014-2016 model)

Fairly cheap now, manual, great AWD, reliable motors and can get fast
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      04-08-2021, 07:26 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MightyMouseTech View Post
For reliability, I would absolutely avoid anything with the N20.
aside from the timing chain -- which you can avoid by buying a later model -- what other issues are there that every other BMW engine doesnt also have, e.g. VCG, OFHG.

there is a problem with my initial post / recommendation -- i forgot that you cannot get an F22 xdrive with a manual transmission.
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Last edited by happyjack; 04-08-2021 at 07:57 AM..
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      04-08-2021, 07:51 AM   #21
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In your case, I'd go for an E9x 328i or 330i. Good mix of technology and reliability, decent fuel economy and can be had with manuals.
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      04-08-2021, 08:06 AM   #22
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