Currently reading: Bargain BMWs from £5000 - used car buying guide
Small hatch, sporty coupé, refined GT, exec all-rounder or luxury car: there’s a BMW for you and your budget
Autocar
News
3 mins read
26 January 2016

BMW's have a reputation for mixing luxury with performance, and the modern line-up caters for almost every taste. The used car market can offer up a decent bargain, too. Here are five of our favourites.

1 - BMW 3 Series (1998-2005)

Some consider this generation of the 3 Series (E46) as the best looking to date. The two-door coupé version was — and still is — a very popular car and it retains a sleek and smart appearance.

BMW has always ensured that the 3 Series drives well, and the E46 is no exception. In 320Ci guise, it will get you from standstill to 60mph in 8.3sec and return 31.7mpg. Ride quality is top notch and the car is spacious and has a top-quality finish inside.

There are few reports of major problems with the 3 Series, because it is well engineered. Servicing costs are reasonable, too.

We found a 2.2-litre 320Ci Sport showing 49,000 miles for £4950.

2 - BMW 6 Series (2003-2010)

After an absence of 14 years, the 6 Series was reintroduced to the BMW line-up in 2003 with equal amounts of hype, anticipation and bewilderment. Based on the excellent E60 5 Series, the E63 6 Series Coupé became the headline act of the controversial styling era under design chief Chris Bangle.

The styling divided opinion, and that has pushed used prices lower than one might expect, even though the car looks less controversial today. It’s great to drive, covers long distances in proper GT style and has a high-quality interior. Servicing costs are reasonable, although spares and tyres can be costly. 

We found a 10-year-old, 60,000-mile 645Ci automatic for £7795.

3 - BMW 1 Series (2004-2011)

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BMW’s first attempt at a family hatchback was a popular buy among middle classes taking their first steps into a premium brand car.

Often criticised for its small boot and a shortage of rear leg room, the 1 Series delivers an excellent driving experience, with fine balance and good steering. Only a poor ride on rough roads lets it down.

The 3.0-litre petrol version is a riot, sprinting to 60mph in just 6.1sec and on to a top speed of 140mph.

Look out for wear on the front tyres as well as the driven rears, and beware of faulty manual gearbox and clutches.

Our research found that a 56-plate 130i M Sport with 57,000 miles on the clock can be yours for £6650.

4 - BMW 7 Series (2002-2008)

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The 7 Series was possibly Chris Bangle’s biggest blunder. The design was awkward but, as with the 6 Series, the divisive styling means that used car buyers get a bargain today. What’s more, a mid-life facelift softened some of the original’s harsh edges and restored a modicum of elegance.

As you’d expect, the 7 Series is huge, inside and out. The large cabin is lavishly equipped and you’ll be whisked between meetings in imperious comfort.

There are faults relating to electrical issues, with the iDrive infotainment interface suffering the most. The air-con and boot release can also be glitchy.

You can put a 58,000-mile 730d Sport on your driveway for £10,000.

5 - BMW 5 Series (2004-2010)

Whether you want to carry five people in comfort, style and luxury, or knit together a series of corners on a challenging country route, the E605 Series does it all with ease.

It delivers a sporty driving experience, yet its ride quality remains compliant and composed. The cabin looks stylish, feels upmarket and is well bolted together, too.

Running costs are low, with economical engines, and reliability is good.

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Issues that arise are likely to be related to axles and electrics. You should also listen out for clonks, bumps or strange noises from the suspension during a test drive.

A 525d M Sport typifies this all-rounder’s ability, and a 2006 model with less than 60,000 miles is about £7500.

Matthew Griffiths

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ersatz 26 January 2016

Used to own an E39 diesel.

Used to own an E39 diesel. Lovely car, although electronics gave nightmares after 53K - dealer could never get to the bottom of it. Extremely well built otherwise. Never owned an E60 but drove a few for work and just not as well put together imo. Also, just very ugly Banglesque.
Personally think the F10 looks as modern as ever.
stratts 27 January 2016

Not trolling...

Just stating facts of personal experience and the money I made fixing other peoples. There are always good and bad stories on any car.

The story of a one-owner 200k car is almost an exception that proves the rule. This guide is about buying second-hand and saying you'll get a great car. Yes you will, but without any form of knowledge of the cars history they can be (and generally are) expensive cars to maintain. I forgot about the swirl flaps that were mentioned, another case in point - over-engineered and will go wrong.

centenary 26 January 2016

What a load of pap some

What a load of pap some people write. Cant autocar do something about the trolls!?

I had a 2002 E46 320d Sport bought new. The car was regularly serviced by BMW until about 125,000 when it was done by an indie but they were so poor, I went back to BMW.

Its original front Michelin Pilots did nearly 120,000 miles before an MOT saw them off. When I sold it on recently, it had done over 217,000 miles on its original engine, clutch, exhaust and gearbox. I had the turbo refurbed at 160,000 miles.

I had the swirl flaps removed at just over 100,000 miles. It had the discs replaced 3 times.

I hardly every had to replace bulbs. It did develop the annoying airbag light coming on if you moved the driver's seat roughly but a £14 resetter corrected that.

Do all those people with so called horror stories ever have their car serviced?

AddyT 26 January 2016

centenary wrote: What a load

centenary wrote:

What a load of pap some people write. Cant autocar do something about the trolls!?

I had a 2002 E46 320d Sport bought new. The car was regularly serviced by BMW until about 125,000 when it was done by an indie but they were so poor, I went back to BMW.

Its original front Michelin Pilots did nearly 120,000 miles before an MOT saw them off. When I sold it on recently, it had done over 217,000 miles on its original engine, clutch, exhaust and gearbox. I had the turbo refurbed at 160,000 miles.

I had the swirl flaps removed at just over 100,000 miles. It had the discs replaced 3 times.

I hardly every had to replace bulbs. It did develop the annoying airbag light coming on if you moved the driver's seat roughly but a £14 resetter corrected that.

Do all those people with so called horror stories ever have their car serviced?

120k miles on one set of front tyres? I know it's RWD but that sounds borderline seriously dangerous to me...tyres aren't supposed to clock up that sort of mileage however careful you drive! As for BMW's, I've had good and bad...had a head gasket go on the 1.8 twin cam engine but had a faultless 2.8 straight six engine. Having said that, the 1.8 twin cam issues would make me nervous about a similar purchase in the future...

stagata1 26 January 2016

E46

My E46 2.2L smooth 6cyl 53,000 mile 320Ci SE bought new is now 10 years old and has been very reliable. Apart from regular servicing it's had new front disks and abs valve replacement. Despite never being garaged paint is still excellent, interior unmarked. Always an enjoyable drive and local dealership are very efficient. Probably best value car I have ever owned.