Should you buy a BMW E46? We’re quick to say no but thats not one hundred percent fair. Before making these kinds of choices we normally need more information off the person asking the question. If you’re after a cheap reliable, economic, run around car then we advise people to look at Japanese made front wheel drives. However, if you’re after something with a little bit of class, something that adds to the driving experience rather than just getting from point A to point B, don’t want to spend stupid money on a high end European car but still want some of the luxury and image that goes with those European cars, the BMW is for you.
A second hand BMW does carry a few risks with it but before we look at them we should look at some of the positives of the E46. In my whole career I have never seen one with rust in it. BMW have somehow made a car that is immune to rust. Likewise with the paint, very few suffer from poor paint condition or paint deterioration. Safety wise even for their age, they are amazing and come with most of the features modern Eurpean cars come with. Granted it can’t park itself or heat the steering wheel up for you on a winters day but if you take into consideration that these cars are pushing 12 years old now, the features are somewhat advanced for its time.
For the issues: like with most European made cars and the entire BMW range, the greatest issue facing them is the amounts of plastic used in the engine and in particularly the cooling system. Over time, as those plastic components are exposed to fluctuating heats and pressure, the result is the plastic deteriorates. All of the cooling system components are of the same age and condition, so failure of one cooling system component is often closely followed by the rest of the cooling system giving up the ghost. Be warned, if you see the black plastic going a brown colour or if a BMW your looking at has a coolant leaking issue, your in for a few months of chasing various leaks.
Other things to consider, the BMW is known for suspension bush problems which are relatively cheap to replace but are frequently required and the E46 seems to go through brakes quicker than other BMWs. This brake wear problem does depend on the driver and the driving style but on average we are seeing them go through brakes quicker than most.
Other things to be mindful of with these older BMWs are the oil leaks that often come from the oil filter housing, engine mounts are rather common for failure and require replacement and the power window regulators are a rather common fault we see on the E46.
Overall they are not a bad car if you’re looking for something a bit classy. If you can find one with reasonable KMs on it then they can be a very rewarding car to own. However we advise you to take into account the cost of maintenance for these cars. The E46 is what we would call above average when it comes to the required funds to keep them going. In the event that you do not have your heart set on one of these than we say have a look at the Honda Civic or the Toyota Carolla those cars are somewhat boring compared to the BMW but they are cheaper to keep on the road. If your heart is set on the E46, our advice is buy it, they are not horrendous.