what is the best bang for my buck in purchasing a used mini cooper?
March 16, 2010 6:25 PM   Subscribe

phew, i get to ask my first question! yeah!!! ok, i am interested in purchasing a USED mini cooper. i am on a budget and want to make the most of my money. in short: what is the sweet spot where miles/age/dollars converge to make an awesome purchase? what should i be looking for in terms of repair records? where in their lifetime/mileage do minis typically need an expensive repair? any tips would be greatly appreciated. thank you in advance.
posted by zoesmom to Shopping (12 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I owned a very early US import '02 MINI, loved it, and really miss it (long story). That said, there was a revamp in '06 that fixed some of the, shall we say, 'quirks' of the earlier model. I'd try and look for one of those MKII cars. The first generation is going to be hitting higher mileage.

Check some of the bigger forums (mini2.com is pretty active) and you'll see what long-term owners have to say about repairs and the like.
posted by pupdog at 7:00 PM on March 16, 2010

This isn't a Mini Cooper-specific bit of advice, but I would say the secret to finding the sweet spot is that mileage and age don't actually matter as much as one might think; what matters most is how well preserved the car has been. The best deals, I think, are usually from people who really seem to have loved their cars; Mini Coopers have enough die-hard fans that you will probably find many. Look for someone who's kept meticulous repair records (down to oil changes preferably) and who is likely selling their Cooper so they can buy a new one. If you know somebody who's mechanically inclined, take them along – they'll be able to tell you if things are in great shape.

I've met cars that were at 80,000 and 90,000 miles and 7 or 8 years old that seemed almost brand-new simply because they'd been so well cared for. In my mind, that's the best deal you can find; not something with necessarily that many miles, but don't rule it out. Most people will see 60,000 miles on an ad for a car and rule it out as a great used purchase – keep in mind that that's where you'll find the great deals.
posted by koeselitz at 7:04 PM on March 16, 2010

I have also been studying mini coopers! I would like to buy a used one as well.

From what I have read, avoid the automatic trans mission for any car before 05-06. They have a 60% failure rate. Also the mini refreshed in 05-06 and that is generally considered the sweet spot.

This forum has been way helpful in my search.
posted by lakerk at 7:18 PM on March 16, 2010

Response by poster: thank you. keep 'em coming. to be more specific, i am interested in an S series, manual transmission.
posted by zoesmom at 7:33 PM on March 16, 2010

The S series seems to be a little less reliable overall than the regular cooper. I'm by no means a car guy, but I believe it has something to do with the fact that the engine is nicer but it wears down faster.

To be honest, you'll not find any more specific advice here than you will on that forum. It's loaded with pages and pages of questions on buying used mini's.
posted by lakerk at 7:45 PM on March 16, 2010

See if any BMW dealerships in your area are selling them. They have pretty awesome service plans on ones that are still under warranty.

Also, the back end will kick out (oversteer) if you are aggressive with it, which is unusual for a front-wheel-drive car. Be prepared (and have fun)!

The most fun I've had driving thus far has been in a regular old 5-speed 05' Mini.
posted by tmt at 7:59 PM on March 16, 2010

As previously mentioned, the '05-'06 were significantly more reliable than the '02-'04's. I've got an '06 S that's been very good to me on repairs. I've had it in the shop once (knock on wood, the warranty runs out this month...).

The big wear issue for the S is the supercharger. It's a non-maintenance item, and it's not uncommon for them to break once they pick up 100k miles.
posted by hwyengr at 9:08 PM on March 16, 2010

If you're going for awesome, you should go for the "S" .

You've mentioned that it's your first post, so may I gently remind you that standard punctuation and capitaliztion are appreciated on MetaFiter?
posted by Neiltupper at 11:33 PM on March 16, 2010

The first two years are when a car suffers the most depreciation. The 2007 model year brought some styling changes that not everyone liked, but also a larger interior and better engine, especially on the S. If you drive stickshift, you will enjoy a more reliable MINI experience, as the CVT in the non-S versions have been problematic. Overall, a MINI is going to be less reliable than, say, a Japanese car.

So if I were you, I'd be looking for a 2008 MINI Cooper S that still has at least three months/3,000 miles left on the powertrain warranty.
posted by davejay at 12:11 AM on March 17, 2010

Oh, and if budget matters (but not enough to avoid the MINI entirely), just get the non-S versus getting an older S to save money.
posted by davejay at 12:12 AM on March 17, 2010

The Car Talk guys have said in the past that, in general, the "sweet spot" for buying any car is to find something that's about 3-5 years old and keep it for 7-10 years. Their calculations assume that you're taking out a three year auto loan and the depreciation/maintenance costs on the car.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:59 AM on March 17, 2010

Edmunds True Cost To Own calculator is pretty useful for predicting annual maintenance costs. I think it only goes back to 2006, but it's a starting point.
posted by electroboy at 6:37 AM on March 17, 2010

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