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Old 07-30-2012, 08:28 PM   #1
repoman0
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Default Looking at early 2000s BMW 330i/330xi

Hey guys -

I'm starting work at my new job next week and am looking into buying a car. I've always liked BMW 3-series and after considering a whole bunch of other options, I keep coming back to E46 330s. Price range is 10-15k, preferably under 12k.

First, does anyone have any experience with 330i vs 330xi? I live in Boston so I guess the AWD would be nice, but I'm not sure I need it. Winters really haven't been too bad here lately.

Anything I should look out for? I drove a decent 02 330xi with 78k miles today, it was very nice aside from a few small cosmetic problems which I'd make sure they fix as part of the deal. It was 12k, which seems a little high, I think it should be closer to $10.5k. I'd really rather find a 330i rather than xi though.

Thanks!
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Old 07-30-2012, 10:20 PM   #2
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Found a good summary of these cars here - http://www.bimmerfest.com/wiki/index.php/BMW_E46

Looks like a lot of problems to look out for. The one I drove earlier today definitely had the failing window regulators, at least on the driver's side, and that page says $700 per door to fix. Definitely would have to make the dealer fix that if I bought that one. Although, I'm thinking I want the 330i rather than 330xi and just deal with the RWD in the snow and put snow tires on during the winter.

I'm probably going to check out a nice black 03 330i tomorrow with 102k miles on it - a little high for my tastes but it's only $9.5k, which hopefully I can bring down even further, and supposedly the mileage isn't a big deal for a well maintained car.
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Old 07-30-2012, 11:33 PM   #3
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The regulator thing is fairly common. You could find someone to do it for 450-500 if you shop places against each other.

Great cars. If you want a drivers experience get the i.
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Old 07-30-2012, 11:43 PM   #4
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Since you are looking at 70k+ miles anyways, I'd be more concerned with if the cooling system has been replaced and if Inspection 2 was done (and Inspection 1 again at 90k, if I remember correctly).

Also, there were subframe issues in the early 2000s models. I'd make sure you check that out
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Old 07-31-2012, 12:06 AM   #5
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For e46, go with the lowest mileage car you can find, so that you can get to know the car early. Once you approach 80-100K, there will be $1000s worth of repairs. IMHO, its better to spend that money on lower mileage car. That bimmerfest wiki link above is very handy, expect to do at least half of those repair at some point. If you have garage and can DIY basic/common things, you can save good $$$ (see e46fanatics.com forums for tutorials/guides/etc). Also see if you can find a good independent shop in your area for pre-purchase inspection and future repairs.

<== drives 2003 330i for the last 3 years
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Old 07-31-2012, 07:14 AM   #6
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Unless you're going to work on the car yourself, make sure you have a good Indy nearby.

http://www.bimmershops.com/

And any E46 you intend to buy, make sure you get a proper PPI from a reputable BMW Independent specialist or the dealer. Only costs a few 100 (varies by location) - but well worth it.
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Old 07-31-2012, 08:47 AM   #7
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Window regulators tend to fail more commonly in darker colored cars since the doors heat up more. I had a silver e46 with over 130k miles before I sold it and I never had problems with the window regulators. Cooling system is weak and should be replaced if there is no history as others have stated. Rear subframe is weak and is a known problem and a very expensive fix. Make sure this is checked prior to buying. You can buy reinforcement kits and have them welded in for peace of mind (I think these run around a grand or so installed). They are solid cars and will last as long as you take care of preventative maintenance.

I drove mine around Boston for the past 4 winters, rear wheel drive only. If you have a set of good winter tires you won't need an xi. You can probably get by with all seasons on an xi but it should be cheaper to pick up a set of wheels with winter tires.

e46fanatics.com will have answers to any questions you can ask. If you need a good indy shop west of Boston let me know.
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Old 07-31-2012, 08:54 AM   #8
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I had a 2002 BMW 330ci. Not sure if you have this model Stateside but it is a 33oi coupe with about 230bhp. They are sometimes effected by Vanos issues. It touches on this in the link in the second post but it can manifest itself as a sort of flat spot in higher revs (over 4500) and then sort of feels like it clears itself at about 5k....it is very expensive to replace and is most common in cars that have not been serviced by people with diagnostic equipment (more common than you think as they wouldn't see any potential issues.

Sometimes similar issues are caused by seals going in the head...all pretty pricey to remedy. I was quote 1700 UKP to fix...and I sold the car cheaply and got the a 330D.

Unless you are interested in drag racing..the 330D is about as quick (short of racing from a dig) and is a very good car. The models with 204bhp onwards are the ones to go for, the earlier 184bhp models had issues.
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Old 07-31-2012, 09:31 AM   #9
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A properly maintained e46 does very well with age. My mom has a 2001 e46 330i with 210k miles. She has had a few expensive repairs, but nothing that was outrageous. It is still running really well. Granted it has been babied, all the inspections have been done at the proper mileage (waste of money imo). It apparently has paid off since the car is still going strong.
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Old 07-31-2012, 11:21 AM   #10
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I'm thinking about moving up in price range a little to avoid repair costs as the car approaches 100k-120k miles. In particular there is a 2008 335xi with 27k miles I found for a little under $19k - Autotrader link. It's cheap because it was involved in an accident apparently, the carfax with details can be seen in the link. With a proper clean PPI as suggested, would something like this be advisable? $19k is a bit steep for me, think I could bring this down further to maybe $16-17?

Also, apparently the AWD on E90 BMWs shifts power dynamically between front and rear wheels (xdrive). Anyone have any experience with this and is it comparable to a RWD vehicle in decent driving conditions?

I also found an 06 330xi for $17k with 61k miles - I'm definitely a lot more comfortable in that mileage range and lower than 100k. Still gonna go look at a 2003 330i with 102k miles today though for $9500 as I mentioned earlier, looks pretty clean and well maintained and is pretty cheap, but if repair costs are really gonna be in the thousands in this mileage range I might as well just spend more from the start.
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Old 07-31-2012, 05:34 PM   #11
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Loved driving mine, when it didn't need anything.

Engine/Tranny are fine

its the electronics, the window motors, the bushings, the subframe, and the leather that didn't hold up to the time

you can find them cheap and if you can get parts available for them cheap go for it.
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Old 07-31-2012, 09:56 PM   #12
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I really liked the 03 with 102k miles I drove today. It seemed to be pretty much flawless. My dad is coming down tomorrow and we're gonna take another look at it, go for a longer drive, and if a full inspection at a BMW dealer is clean and they say correct maintenance has been done, I might go for it. Plus, can't beat under $10k, and maybe I can get it to under $9k. Can't really afford the extra 7-8 grand for a newer / lower mileage car right now.

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Old 08-01-2012, 06:49 AM   #13
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repoman0, have you hit up the classifieds in the online forums (bimmerforums, bimmerfest, e46fanatics, etc)? Nothing beats finding a well cared for (even if slightly high miles), full service history, car.

Plus, you can look up threads created by the seller to see what kind of questions/issues he/she has raised in the past. To get a feel of how well it's been maintained.
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Old 08-01-2012, 07:34 AM   #14
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^Checked out all those forums and there doesn't seem to be much right now. Oh well, I'll keep checking back though.

Also how likely is it that I'll be able to learn to do repairs myself without ever really working on a car before? I'm pretty technically minded, good with my hands when it comes to other stuff, working as an electrical engineer, etc. And I'd like to learn how to do this stuff and save money too.
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Old 08-01-2012, 08:20 AM   #15
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Take your time, read up on how to do each repair, and what each system does, you'll be fine. Fixing your car can take some patience and sometimes a little nuance, but there's nothing fundamentally difficult about it.

Besides, on this forum you've got access to many car-guys' brains to pick regarding virtually every automotive topic. Not to mention all of the BMW-specific forums.
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Old 08-01-2012, 08:41 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JCH13 View Post
Take your time, read up on how to do each repair, and what each system does, you'll be fine. Fixing your car can take some patience and sometimes a little nuance, but there's nothing fundamentally difficult about it.

Besides, on this forum you've got access to many car-guys' brains to pick regarding virtually every automotive topic. Not to mention all of the BMW-specific forums.
This.

In addition, BavAuto has a bunch of videos and write ups for basic maintenance, as well as repairs for known issues.
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Old 08-01-2012, 01:37 PM   #17
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Cool. Well, my dad went with me to look at the 03 330i again and everything looked great. So, pending full inspection at a nearby BMW dealer it's mine - paying 9 grand even



More pics to come hopefully!
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Old 08-01-2012, 03:01 PM   #18
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An in-law has one of those (the AWD xi version). I think his mechanic is going to retire on that car. Good luck to you!
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Old 08-14-2012, 05:03 PM   #19
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I did end up buying the car and it's been running great since I bought it. Front left turn signal went out so I'm replacing both of them, and I'm also gonna replace the entire cooling system including pulleys, radiator, belts, etc., all kinds of oils, fluids and filters, fuel filter / spark plugs.. just bought everything for about $1100. I'm basically replacing every point of failure and maintenance item I can think of and every common failure item in the E46 and hoping I can run pretty trouble free with only basic maintenance until 150-180k miles.

Total cost, including all the crap I just bought and MA title/reg/sales tax fees - $11050. Not bad for Boston prices on these cars and hopefully pristine ride!
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Old 08-15-2012, 09:28 PM   #20
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Another thing to look out for that was fairly common I saw:

If it ever hesitates on starting (like..it will go from not starting or making a sound to fully starting) it could also be the fuel pump or the key itself
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Old 10-31-2012, 02:48 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by repoman0 View Post
Also how likely is it that I'll be able to learn to do repairs myself without ever really working on a car before? I'm pretty technically minded, good with my hands when it comes to other stuff, working as an electrical engineer, etc. And I'd like to learn how to do this stuff and save money too.
Since this post on August 01, I've changed the oil, replaced the power steering pump, fluid reservoir, and PS hoses/clamps (grrr, didn't expect to have to do that for a while), replaced leaky windshield fluid pump/seal, replaced the two tensioner pulleys, idler pulley, both belts, water pump and pulley, thermostat, upper and lower water hoses, radiator, expansion tank and obviously changed coolant and bled the system, switched out turn signals and side indicators for clear ones, and purchased at least a few hundred bucks in tools, jacks, jack stands, ramps, etc, covered my dad's garage floor in used motor oil, ATF from the power steering work, and a whole lot of antifreeze because I couldn't fit a bucket underneath to catch the drainage from the engine block. And I still haven't done the spark plugs or fuel filter that I bought and have a long list of maintenance that needs to be done.

If I wasn't doing this work myself, I'd be broke, and if I didn't enjoy doing it all, I'd be pissed off. Luckily, I absolutely love driving the car - that combined with learning a hell of a lot about how cars work and giving me a bunch of fun projects makes it worth it!

I even have big plans within the next few years to take a few days off of work and do a 6-speed manual swap with my dad. He just doesn't know he's involved yet

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Old 10-31-2012, 03:25 PM   #22
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My brother put like 70K on his 325 coupe, no issues what so ever. I put like 25K on my e46 m3 with the same result. Fantastically built cars, aside from the subframe issue.

My view has always been to get something older/higher miles and use the money saved to bring it up to date. That way you'll end up with a car that has newer parts than what'd you get with a new/lower milage car.
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Old 11-01-2012, 09:27 AM   #23
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We have 318 sedan which has now 122k and still going strong
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