adventures in used car buying, part 2
January 10, 2012 1:47 PM   Subscribe

Interested in BMW 3-series station wagon. Torn between new ($46,000) vs used ($26,000, 2006, 90,000 km). Which is better value in the long term? I intend to drive it for 10+ years, if not into the ground.

Both prices include a 4-year full warranty (Easycare for the used car). I test drove the used car and it is in very good condition, being resold by a reputable boutique dealer with the price already adjusted downward 6% after some negotation.

The 2006 model is a 325xi (2.5L engine), new would be a 328xi (3L engine). Not that I care.

I am new to buying a car for myself, as my parents bought my last car (2003 Golf), so I am not so financially literate for major expenditures.

This is in Vancouver, Canada, hence prices are in CAD, distances in km.
posted by wutangclan to Work & Money (18 answers total)
Buy a used car, but make sure that you're getting a good car. Prices of cars drop sharply in the first four years.
posted by bbxx at 1:52 PM on January 10, 2012

Hm. I'm sure Canadian prices are different because of taxes and other things, but that sounds awfully expensive for a 2006. If you're going to buy used at that price, find something newer. If your plan is to drive it into the ground, and you have the money, find something from 2008-2010.

posted by deanc at 1:54 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Dean, price for the used car without 3rd party, bumper to bumper warranty is $22,500.

All prices are before tax.
posted by wutangclan at 1:57 PM on January 10, 2012

I would at least wait until the F30 body comes out this February. The previous gen should drop a bit in price and there should be more used models to consider.

2006 is getting into the early years which I would try to avoid.
posted by wongcorgi at 2:01 PM on January 10, 2012

You are almost always better off financially buying a gently used car than a new one. There's a huge hit in depreciation the moment you drive a new car off the lot. If you buy a certified used car that's a year or two old, somebody other than you has already taken that hit.
posted by killdevil at 2:01 PM on January 10, 2012

Response by poster: You are almost always better off financially buying a gently used car than a new one. There's a huge hit in depreciation the moment you drive a new car off the lot.

That's the common wisdom, but not reflected in the real-world listings that I see. Especially for station wagons which are very rare compared to SUVs or normal sedans. 2009's are going for at least $35K, often closer to $40K. 2008's are hovering above or below $30K, depending on mileage.
posted by wutangclan at 2:10 PM on January 10, 2012

I agree that used is better (although I shoot for 3-4 years old, rather than 6). One other consideration -- which may not apply to Canada -- is that yearly registration and insurance costs are often MUCH higher for a new car than a used one.

I regret to say that I didn't take this into account when I bought a brand new motorcycle, and my registration fee went from $60 per year to well over $300.
posted by coolguymichael at 2:12 PM on January 10, 2012

Response by poster: I would at least wait until the F30 body comes out this February.

Problem is that the F30 wagon is not due to hit US/Canada shores until late 2013 (2014 model year), if at all. There are rumours on The Nets that BMW might discontinue 3-series wagons altogether in US/Canada, just as it has for the 5-series.

So the effect on the prices of wagons might be just the opposite.
posted by wutangclan at 2:16 PM on January 10, 2012

The big problem with buying a 6 year old car, is that's when many major problems start to happen. Looking at the consumer reports, the '06 was a redesign year and it rates the "worst possible" in engine cooling, minor engine repairs, electrical system and only average in major engine repairs.

Also, did you know it's a rear wheel drive car? Do you have any experience w/ rear wheel drive or do you live in an area w/ icy winters? Could be a pain. Just something to think about.
posted by no bueno at 2:44 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

So the effect on the prices of wagons might be just the opposite.

Don't count on that, actually. If they aren't selling well enough for BMW to continue to import them, demand isn't going to shoot up once they're gone.

Being a wagon afficionado, too, let me tell you that we're few and far between.
posted by hwyengr at 2:49 PM on January 10, 2012

Response by poster: Also, did you know it's a rear wheel drive car? Do you have any experience w/ rear wheel drive or do you live in an area w/ icy winters? Could be a pain.

RWD is not an option, all recent BMW wagons in Canada are sold with AWD...including the used one I'm looking at.
posted by wutangclan at 2:56 PM on January 10, 2012

Wow. Sorry. Missed out on the Canada part.
posted by no bueno at 2:58 PM on January 10, 2012

Also, have you read over the warranty for the used car and had it inspected? It may only cover original factory parts. If there are any aftermarket parts on the car already they may not be covered. And many warranties don't cover as much as it seems on first glance. Read it line by line.
posted by no bueno at 3:09 PM on January 10, 2012

As a 2006 325xi wagon owner, I can advise you on a couple of things that are possibly tangential:

1. If you get the sport model, you may be locked into a hideous world of expensive, noisy runflat tires that only last 25000 miles.
2. Last year, mine started leaking oil around the valve. According to the dealer they see that a lot.
3. My sunroof exploded. Also appears to happen more commonly than one might hope for.

I extended the service warranty and am glad that I did. Not that it covered the valve thing or sunroof thing, but there you go.

Oh, also, mine is a 3.0L engine.
posted by Kafkaesque at 4:30 PM on January 10, 2012

Only came here to say that long term costs should include a healthy budget for repairs. Not just for major mechanicals and likely/predictable issues, but others in the accessories - heater cores, electric window winders, air conditioning components etc etc. If its awd that will add complexity and cost to some otherwise simple things (eg front wheel bearings), and double the number of CV/UV points of failure, not to mention two extra diffs.

Good luck.
posted by GeeEmm at 5:22 PM on January 10, 2012

I own a 96 BMW, my second. My sister is now driving her second and my brother used to own one. In short we love them (and will most likely never buy anything else again).

Having said that, there's this: according to my Bimmer tech (who works at a world-renowned shop), after '99 (+/- a year, I can't exactly remember correctly) the menial mechanical shit is, well, shit and fails easily and quickly. This is why I've never bought anything newer than the year I have now. Also, I haven't researched your model but is it a standard? I absolutely would NEVER purchase an automatic and wouldn't buy a newer Bimmer with a standard -- from what I understand, GM manufactures the transmissions for those models and they're not worth the money. My tech travels the country buying vehicles with shot automatics, converting them back to BMW standards, and then selling them.

Are you against an older model? Didn't the body style only change in '99, so that anything before that is still going to look decidedly like a 3-series? The older models, at least in my experience, retain their resale value better. I sold my first a year and a half after I bought it for what I paid for it. Also of note, my sister loves the newer 3-series body styles like you seem to and has had FAR more problems with her two cars than I ever have with my pre-99 models.

Just some food for thought :)...
posted by youandiandaflame at 5:04 AM on January 11, 2012

I'm not keyed into the luxury car side of things but I had basically the same internal debate when I was deciding to go used or new economy hatchback to buy and drive forever/till it fell apart. Keep in mind economy hatchback != luxury wagon with regards to bang for your buck, but it might parallel your decision in some ways.

I went with a new 2007 Toyota Yaris and haven't looked back since. It's been nice to enjoy the new car and know the EXACT maintenance history and driving situations the car has been placed in.

I drive very passively and have reaped the benefits. The original tires lasted well over the recommended mileage and when they were replaced I asked the tech to look at my brake pads to see if they needed replacing. He couldn't believe how much pad I had left over compared to the mileage I had on the car. I've also done all the basic maintenance like oil changes with the same/synthetic oil and I can't help but feel *better* about the vehicle. You would have few, if any, of these assurances with the used car.

If you're truly into it for the long term then I think the devaluation you see when you drive a new car off the lot *can* be worth it. Otherwise, go used and save the dough.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:52 AM on January 11, 2012

youandiandaflame: BMW doesn't make any of the transmissions they use - most recent models use gear boxes manufactured by GM, likely including your car. There are a number of notable failures, especially GM's 5L40E, where you would lose reverse after about 150 000 miles. In the 80's BWM extensively used Getrag boxes, who are now strongly affiliated with Ford and pretty common on Porsche's and fancy Audi's. BWM also uses ZF units in some of the more expensive units (as does Hyundi).

The savings on the used one could be redirected to the repair costs, and as previously noted the 06 is a bit poorly done, I would look for a 07 or 09. Be mindfull of CV boot maintenance on these cars, and have the cooling system overhauled at 100 000 miles.
posted by zenon at 11:14 AM on February 28, 2012

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