Earlier today, I saw a 1999 BMW Z3 2.3i Roadster sell on Cars and Bids for $6,700. It was a really clean example, with good mileage, in a great color, and looks very well sorted for its age and mileage. And I think that’s a great price for such a car. Which made me look into Z3s again, which I do from time to time, and I’ve come to the realization that the Z3 is the best budget Bimmer for enthusiasts.
As car enthusiasts, we all want to own sports cars, right? But not everyone has the means to own a sports car, especially if it would need to be a second or third car. Which is why budget sports cars are so important, because they allow a larger demographic of people to have that sporty dream car. And of the BMWs you can find for under $10,000, I think the Z3 is the best overall combination of fun factor, ease of maintenance, and looks.
OK, so the Z3 was never BMW’s prettiest car. However, in today’s hyper-styled automotive world, the Z3’s simple looks have aged well and are charming. It’s a funny little car with a ton of character and it will make its owner smile when they look at it in the morning. And while the little Z3 Roadster isn’t as interesting as the Z3 M Coupe “Clown Shoe” that’s so beloved, it’s arguably better looking. Plus, it has a classic-cool, driver-focused interior that’s only going to get better looking with age.
Under the hood are a variety of different engines, ranging from four-cylinder to six-cylinder options. Obviously, the smaller, less powerful engines will be cheaper but they’re still great fun, as long as you get a Z3 with a manual transmission. Obviously, you want the larger six-cylinder engine models, though, as there’s something incredibly special about driving a straight-six-powered, rear-wheel drive convertible with a five-speed manual and a short wheelbase. The Z3 is the classic roadster recipe and it’s one that will never get old.
Great example Z3s can be had for under $10,000, with even good ones being sold for under $5,000. If you’re willing to live with some cosmetic issues and buy one that’s a bit rough around the edges, you can probably buy a mechanically decent one for $3,000 or less. Either way, even if you have to fix some things, Z3s can be had for cheap and are fantastic options for anyone that’s craving a sports car experience on a budget. And, with the prices of M3s, even E36s, rising dramatically, the selection of affordable fun BMWs is dwindling. So the BMW Z3 is probably your best bet.