Advice for buyers
What should I look for in a used BMW 3 Series saloon?
One issue that plagued this generation of 3 Series all through its life was the rather firm ride on its run-flat tyres. It’s an issue that caused many owners to switch to conventional tyres, but that’s not a good plan, because there’s no space for a spare and you therefore have to deactivate the tyre pressure monitor. A better option is to swap for later-specification Bridgestone or Dunlop run-flat tyres, which had a more compliant sidewall.
Electrical issues are fairly common (hardly surprisingly as the 3 Series was becoming more complex at this time), so check that the slot-in key for the ignition goes in and out cleanly. Some owners would just yank the key out without pushing to release it first, damaging the ignition system.
What are the most common problems with a used BMW 3 Series saloon?
The big problem is with the car’s 2.0-litre diesel engine. Introduced in 2007, this four-cylinder unit featured a supposedly maintenance-free timing chain, mounted in an inaccessible spot at the back of the engine.
In practice, this proved foolish because the chains were prone to falling out of adjustment or snapping completely, causing serious engine damage. There’s little warning of the issue approaching, although apparently it was sorted from early 2011 cars onwards.
Is a used BMW 3 Series saloon reliable?
While the BMW 3 Series is generally very well built, there are a few issues to watch out for. Turbochargers on the diesel engines can blow their seals, while small items such as the windscreen wiper motor and the door handles can be troublesome.
Slow-moving iDrive infotainment systems are also something to be wary of, while the anti-roll bar bushes wear out eventually on all cars. The 3 Series is also quite heavy on its brake discs.
Data from CAP Derwent, a scheme which pools repair information from some of the UK’s biggest vehicle leasing firms, shows that the 3 Series is lighter than average on brake pads, light bulbs, fuel filters and wiper blades, but comparatively hard on pollen filters and brake fluid.