Top 10: The best used BMWs
Looking for a premium used car? The BMW range is a very good place to start. There’s a wide variety of models in all categories, and they’re all reliable. What’s more, if you look around, you can find some great deals.
Here’s our round-up of the top 10 used BMWs:
1. BMW 3 Series
The BMW 3 Series is the brand’s best-selling model, and with good reason. It offers strong performance, excellent fuel economy, and fine handling. It also has a luxurious and spacious cabin. All this and it’s reliable, too.
We’d recommend going for the 320d as a new buy, but used car buyers shouldn’t overlook the petrol versions. Thanks to their steeper depreciation, they can be bargains. For example, a three-year-old 320i with about 30,000 miles on the clock is around $3000 cheaper to buy than the equivalent 320d. Fuel costs for the petrol will be higher – about $1040 for 10,000 miles compared with $820 for the diesel – but other running costs are similar and in any case, that difference is outweighed by the lower purchase price. You could save yourself some big money.
If you must go for a diesel, choose the 320d and search for high-spec cars. Why the 320d over the 318d? The performance is better, fuel economy is almost the same and there isn’t much difference in their prices. We’d look for higher-spec cars because, for an extra $1000, you can get a lot more kit, including the Professional Media package, leather seats and other niceties.
Whatever you choose, go for an automatic – it offers a much better driving experience.
What to look out for: A lot of BMW 3 Series models will have started life as fleet cars, so the one you’re looking at could have had a hard life. Check that it’s got a full-service history, and that the interior trim is in good condition.
2. BMW 1 Series
The 1 Series is one of the best small family cars you can buy. It’s good to drive, surprisingly cheap to run and a very desirable, premium option. It isn’t as spacious as some rivals but it makes up for that with decent handling and a comfortable ride. With a combination of strong performance, decent fuel economy and low emissions, this rear-wheel-drive hatchback is worth considering.
As with its 3 Series rival, the best deals are to be had on petrol 1 Series models. There’s a decent number of 118i models on the used market. They sell for a couple of grand less than the equivalent diesel, and that saving compensates for the extra fuel cost. Fuel for the petrol model will cost you just $200 a year more than for the diesel (based on 10,000 miles a year), so you’d have to be covering a huge mileage in the diesel to counter the petrol car’s lower selling price.
If you want to buy a diesel model, there’s loads of choice on the used market. As a new buy the 116d is best, but it is worth also looking for 118d and 120d models because the difference in their prices is a lot less than when buying new, while their running costs aren’t much more.
What to look out for: Some of the BMW 1 Series’ dashboard plastics feel low rent and there have been reports of electrical gremlins. Check everything works as it should on a test drive.
3. BMW 5 Series
The BMW 5 Series is one of the best executive cars on the market. It’s classy, spacious, refined and surprisingly cheap to run.
With the 5 Series saloon we’d recommend choosing a diesel engine. The 530d depreciates the most heavily, so is good value as a used car. However, we’d still opt for the 520d. SE trim with the optional automatic gearbox is our pick. It’s worth looking out for higher-spec models, too, because these often don’t command much of a premium but come with even more kit.
What to look out for: BMW 5 Series owners are generally a happy bunch. As most examples will have been fleet cars, check for signs of wear and tear to the interior.
4. BMW 5 Series Touring
Like the saloon it’s based on, the BMW 5 Series Touring shows BMW at the top of its game. It’s great to drive, very spacious and beautifully built.
We’d recommend sticking with the 520d, but look around the used market for high-spec models and more powerful diesel engines; you might be able to bag a bargain.
As an alternative, it could be worth considering the 5 Series GT. If you can see beyond the looks and want something with more rear leg room, the 5 Series GT offers almost as much practicality as the 5 Series Touring, and can be found for about the same money.
What to look out for: Check the air-conditioning and infotainment systems, the cause of most complaints on the 5 Series Touring.
5. BMW 3 Series Touring
Why does the BMW 3 Series saloon get the number one spot when the 3 Series Touring appears halfway down the list? The 3 Series Touring is still good to drive, has the same practical cabin and decent engines with impressive fuel economy. However, it isn’t as spacious as some rivals and there aren’t as many good examples on the used market.
If you choose the right version and add the right options, the BMW 3 Series Touring is as good as it gets for compact executive estate car buyers.
As with the saloon, it’s worth looking out for petrol models if you don’t do a massive mileage. However, there aren’t nearly as many on the used market as there are diesel versions. Stick with the 320d SE Touring with the automatic gearbox and you’ll get a great estate car at a decent price.
What to look out for: Problems with the stop/start system have plagued some BMW 3 Series Tourings.
6. BMW 4 Series Coupe
The BMW 4 Series Coupé hasn’t been on the market for long, but there are already some decent examples on the used market. It’s a great car to drive, with lots of standard equipment, and it’s also surprisingly practical with a spacious boot and room for four adults.
Our pick of the range as a new buy is the 435i. It’s fast and great to drive, and the good news for used buyers is that it has depreciated quite heavily, so there are some bargains to be had.
If you’re ruled by your head rather than your heart, we’d suggest looking for a 420d. There are loads of good examples to choose from at prices that won’t break the bank. Bear in mind, though, that the diesel engine is a bit gruff.
What to look out for: Few problems have been reported so we’d recommend looking out for the usual wear and tear.
7. BMW X3
The BMW X3 is a favorite with What Car? and its readers. It’s one of the best cars in its class. Buyers get a classy, practical, well equipped SUV that’s good to drive, and fuel-efficient to boot.
Thanks to all these strengths, the X3 holds onto its value well, meaning it’s not the best bargain on the used market. However, it’s such a capable car that it’s still worth recommending.
The xDrive20d SE is our pick of the range, and there are some great examples available.
If you’re looking for a better value SUV with a BMW badge, it’s worth considering the BMW X1. The X3 is a more practical and more premium option, but the X1 is available for a lot less money. If you can look beyond the slightly less classy interior, you could bag yourself a bargain.
What to look out for: We’ve received complaints from readers about corrosion to the roof rails; make sure to check these.
8. BMW X5
The BMW X5 is surprisingly agile for a large SUV and most of its engines offer strong performance and good fuel economy. Rear space is better than in many rivals, too.
There’s no getting away from the fact that the X5 is an expensive car, but it’s also very capable.
We’d recommend going for the xDrive30d model. It’s the most popular on the used car market and there are plenty to choose from.
What to look out for: JD Power respondents report a higher number of faults with the X5 than other BMW models. Take a lengthy test drive to make sure everything works as it should.
9. BMW Z4
The BMW Z4 looks amazing and is fun to drive, too. It comes with a premium cabin, strong engines and a decent amount of kit. The metal folding roof works well and is reliable.
Our pick of the range is the sDrive20i. It’s powerful enough and there are lots to choose from.
What to look out for: The biggest source of complaints is dashboard rattles. Listen out for these on a test drive.
10. BMW 3 GT
The BMW 3 GT is a hatchback version of the 3 Series saloon. It’s almost as practical as the 3 Series Touring and is worth considering if you need a practical car but don’t like the idea of owning a traditional estate car.
Like the 3 Series Saloon and 3 Series Touring, the 320d GT is one of our favorite models in the range. It’s the engine we’d choose.
What to look out for: Check for standard wear and tear.