When most people think of BMWs, they think of premium sports and luxury cars. They think of opulence, quality and even a hint of snobbery. What they typically don’t think of is dirt, mud and gravel. But they should, because BMWs are often some of the most fun cars you can possibly drive in those mucky conditions. In fact, the BMW 3 Series is one of the best cheap rally cars you can buy. In this new video from Team O’Neil Rally School, they give a bit of a lesson on which cheap 3 Series you should buy if you want to go rallying.

If you want to rally a 3 Series, there really are only three good generations to choose from — the E30, E36 and E46. This video goes through the pros and cons of each generation and why you might want to buy each. It also gives a bit of a history lesson on which generations came with what engines/transmissions/differentials and which years you should look into. It’s a very informative video and, if you’re looking for a fun but cheap BMW to beat around in, it’s also very helpful.


Of all three 3 Series generations, the one I’d choose to go rallying in is definitely the E30. The E30-gen BMW 3 Series is one of the all-time most versatile project cars, thanks to its low-cost, durability and easy wrenchability. You can work on an E30 pretty easily and there aren’t many fancy sensors or electronics. It’s uncomplicated and, for the most part, pretty reliable. There are some rust issues with the E30 but, if you’re going to rally it, that shouldn’t be of significance, as rust is the least damaging thing that will happen to it. Otherwise, it’s a pretty sturdy car.

The E36 3 Series, as close as it is to my heart, is not a car I’d go rallying with unless I didn’t plan on doing it for long and I was able to buy it on the cheap. Very cheap. It’s not that it’s unreliable but there are a few electronic gremlins that can be very annoying and it has notorious coolant issues, which can be an absolute pain in the ass. Aside from that, it’s a fantastic car and would be a ton of fun to rally, just don’t expert it to do it for very long.

As for the E46, it’d be a pass for me, personally. I love the E46 3 Series and I’d daily drive one in a heartbeat but I wouldn’t want to take it in the dirt. It’s too heavy, too expensive and too electronic. It’s actually more reliable of a car than the E36, from my experience, but it’s more of a road-going sports car.

If you plan on going rallying, a BMW 3 Series is a car that you should seriously consider. Its rear-wheel drive nature might make it a bit slower than front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive competitors, so you might not win a ton, but you’ll have a blast in one. And this video could help you choose which 3er you want.