In a recent article about the new BMW X5 taking down the even newer Volvo XC90 and Range Rover Sport, many BMW fans who frequent this site felt a sense of pride for their favorite Bavarian automaker. It’s nice when we see others appreciate the qualities in BMWs that we do. As BMW fans, most of us who frequent here either currently own a BMW, whether new or old, or have owned one in the past. So we can understand and appreciate what makes BMW one of the best automakers in the world. But the folks who haven’t owned a BMW, I kind of feel bad for.
It’s not that we, as BMW owners, are better than everyone else, but we’ve experienced something great that others haven’t, and they should at least once. Just driving a BMW isn’t enough. It takes actually owning one for an extended period of time to truly appreciate what makes them great. Especially if you own a different car to compare and contrast. I currently own a 2012 Volkswagen Passat, a fine car in its own right, but it pales in comparison to the joy that my almost 20 year old E36 BMW can bring. They just drive differently, BMWs.
The problem with BMWs is that they’re expensive, but so is anything special, I guess. BMWs are expensive to buy, expensive to maintain and expensive to repair. So it’s not easy to own one. However, they’re entirely worth it. There are some Bimmers that can be had for little money, but admittedly, those cars are quite rough around the edges. But just to get a taste of what BMW life is like, there are several, much older, cars that can be had on the cheap.
So what’s the best BMW to get started with?
I’d probably say the E30 BMW 3 Series is the easiest. Being probably the most famous BMW, thanks to the almighty M3, the E30 best represents BMW as a brand. Also, it’s so old that even decent models can be had for just a couple thousand dollars. Granted, BMWs that cheap are likely to have some issues, but that’s okay for an E30 3 Series as they’re incredibly easy to work on. Probably the last truly simple BMW, the E30 is one of the easiest cars to work on I’ve ever encountered. Every part is relatively easy to get to and the parts are cheap nowadays. So getting a beat up E30 and fixing it up would cost less than that Tag Heuer you were saving up for and will provide far more joy.
A case can also be made for the E36 3 Series or E34 5 Series. Being far less popular than the E30 3 Series or E39 5 Series, respectively, these two models can be had for very cheap. The E36 is just as much fun as the E30, only it’s faster. However, it’s also much more complicated and more difficult to work on, trust me. It also has one of the buggiest cooling systems of all BMWs and the parts aren’t nearly as cheap as the E30’s. So the E36 is hit or miss. The E34 is also a pretty good car, but it’s not as fun to drive or as pure as the other models mentioned, though it can be had for very little money.
If I were to suggest an old BMW for an aspiring BMW fan to buy to test the brand out, those are the models I’d pick, with the E30 3 Series being my top choice. So what would you suggest? And if you have any stories of fixing up an old Bimmer or suggestions on what to do to one, feel free to comment and let us know.