Do-It-Yourself information for the modifications I've completed

Do-It-Yourself information for essential wear and tear items

Articles covering all the ways to maintain your car

All about the BMW 330ci

Various links that I've found valuable

A few pictures of my car and some others

Buying A Used BMW

By: Paul 11/01/09

Buying a used BMW e46 can be a tiring but very exciting process. Finding the right car can take time and a lot of patients. I personally looked for a car with few visual flaws in good mechanical condition. This guide will help you out in locating and finding the right car for you.

1. Finding that right car.

Locating a good car to go and take a look at can be a process in itself. If you want a stock car I'd start out with the online auto classified sites and also craigslist. If you're looking for one with some minor modifications or one that may be a little bit different I'd check out all the different online forums that are out there like e46Fanatics or Bimmerforums.

Take a look at the pictures and see if there is any visible damage or issues. Always remember that pictures don't tell the entire story and many minor blemishes will be masked. If it looks good in the pictures, it can still be in rough shape. Good pictures are a good start.

Next look at all the information going with the car. Over roughly 75k miles there are a lot more items on the car that are going to need replacing so these are going to need a little bit more of a look over. Check to see what items have been replaced recently (brakes, suspension, tires, etc.). Once you are satisfied with the ad take it's time to give a call or go take a look.

Also take a mintue to look up the CarFax for the vehicle based on its VIN number. This can give you a lot of insight into it's previous owners driving history. If something looks bad (accident etc.) it may be time to keep looking unless it seems minor. Sometimes accidents happen and the car is just fine, but really it comes down to your comfort level.

2. Looking and/or talking about the car.

First start off by giving their person or dealership a call. I'd make sure to get a detailed description of the maintenance history and if they have paperwork to support it. Having the proof of maintenance is key and in my opinion is worth paying for especially if the car has higher miles. Also make sure to get ask if there are any other issues. If you are talking to a dealership they may or may not have any history of the car unless its a BMW dealership. However you usually can take the VIN for a car to any BMW dealership and get some of the maintenance history of the car.

Next the important step is taking a look at the car. I'd check at least the following before having a mechanic take a good once over on it. Unless you're buying from a trusted dealership, ALWAYS have a trusted mechanic take a look at the car and get his blessing before buying. If you don't, you may end up with a lot of issues that will cost you a lot of time, money, and headache. I'd check out the following:

  • Take a look at the exterior body. If there are a lot of bumper scrapes or dents, this indicates that the owner didn't care that much about the car. This can relate to how the rest of the car was taken car of, or just that he lived in a place where people like to do bumper parking. Check out for curb rash on the rims. This occurs when the person parking grinds the alloy rims against the curb "rashing" them. This is usually on the passengers side of the car and is once again shows how they cared about their car. This curb rash can be fixed fairly inexpensively so it definitely isn't a show stopper.
  • Check out the tires and brakes. It's best to bring a penny along with you for this. Take the penny and put it in the tire tread. If the tread is less than Abe's head with his head down then these tires are going to need replacing, which can be quite pricey. Take note of that for negotiation. Next take a look at the brake rotors and pads. If the rotors are old they will have a lip around the external diameter from the brake pads wearing them out. The pads should be fairly thick (1/2" at least). Take a look if you can and if not, stick a finger down there and have a feel (Only if the car hasn't been driven and the brakes are cool, otherwise you're going to have some issues).
  • Check out under the hood. Check the different fluids to make sure they are full and have been changed recently. Especially take a look at the engine oil. Make sure their aren't any other issues like mushroomed strut towers (the strut towers are about the front wheels and have the three strut bolts in them). They should be nice and level without any bulges.
  • Check out the interior. Make sure there aren't any tears in the leather or huge stains. Check out the smell to see if the previous owner was a smoker (the headliner will most likely by the biggest culprit for this). Check to see that the radio, windows, sunshade, etc. all work properly.
  • Turn on the car (take note for the onboard computer above the steering wheel to see the last time that the oil was changed). Make sure that the check engine light isn't on, which can indicate pending issues. If it is, either have them read the code or take it to an autozone etc. who will read the codes for free.
  • Take the car for a test drive. Take special notice for any odd noises and the general response for the car. If something seems wrong, then take note and let the mechanic doing the inspection take a closer look.

3. Take the car to a mechanic for a thorough once over.

There are many different things that just taking a look you'll never find. Having a mechanic put the car on a lift and check everything out is a must to find out if there are any issues. Ask specifically about the following which are problem areas or just good things to know about.

  • Body - Has the car been in an accident? Is the rear sub frame cracking? Are the control arms or trailing arms bent?
  • Tires - How long do I have left on the tires?
  • Brakes - How long do the brakes have left?
  • Engine - Everything sound and look fine?
  • Cooling System - How's the cooling system?
  • Onboard Computer - Are there any codes stored in the OBC?
  • Test Drive - Any bearings or bushings going bad? How's the suspension?
  • Future Maintenance - Am I going to have to replace anything soon? What needs to be done?

With the mechanics blessing you've got a car that's ready for negotiation.

4. Negotiation and Purchasing.

This is an important step because you need to get a good deal on this good vehicle. Work with the person and dealership until you get a good price. Remember that a car with maintenance history, minor blemishes, and runs great is worth a bit more. To get comparison prices, check out all the ads and that you reviews. Also check out KBB or other pricing sites to get a good price. Always remember that a car is only worth what someone will pay for it. Once you've worked it out, enjoy you're new car!



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