Us car journalists can actually do some damage. When we write articles such as “Is the E30 the best cheap BMW track car you can buy?”, that causes every enthusiast reading to jump on classified ads and search for cheap E30s. After several articles like that, prices of E30s are driven up and then they’re no longer the affordable car we had previously claimed them to be. That seems to be what’s happened with the E30 3 Series.

The BMW E30-gen 3 Series is now considered a classic and is highly desirable, making it quite expensive now. Not only is the car itself expensive but maintenance, parts and repairs are all far more expensive. Which is a bit upsetting, considering how incredible the E30 was as a budget build.

However, it seems that a new 3 Series has become that budget build car — the E46 BMW 3 Series.

The E46-gen 3 Series is probably the best generation of 3er, thanks to its near-perfect combination of style, handling and comfort. So it sold in absurd numbers, meaning there’s an abundance of them on the second-hand market, as well as parts for repairs.

It’s also most likely the most dynamic 3 Series of all time, so it could end up being the better budget build BMW. Sure, the E30 is the purer, more communicative car but the E46 isn’t far behind. Its steering is superb, and should be the benchmark for all other sport sedans moving forward, and its chassis is brilliant. All while being more comfortable, more high-tech (relatively) and better looking than the E30.

So if you’re looking for a budget build BMW, the E46 3 Series could be the car for you. Good examples can be found for under $5,000 with some diligent searching. So whatever sort of inexpensive BMW you’re looking to create, whether it be track car or weekend toy, the E46 BMW 3 Series could be that car for you.

[Source: Road & Track]