Advice for buyers
What should I look for in a used BMW 5 Series saloon?
The BMW 5 Series is quite heavy on its suspension and brakes, so listen out for any clonks or rattles, and if you can see them through the wheels, check that the brake discs look to be in good condition with plenty of life left.
If the car you’re driving has Variable Damper Control, check this is working satisfactorily. You should notice a difference in the firmness of the ride when switching from Comfort to Sport mode.
To date, there have been five recalls affecting this shape of 5 Series. The most serious of these included the replacement of four engine bolts, which could loosen and cause oil to leak into a sensitive area, resulting in an engine management light coming on, affecting cars built before November 2011, and replacement of a defective engine oil pump which could cause low oil pressure and subsequent engine damage, affecting M5 models built between July 2012 and September 2012. Before buying, it's worth checking that any recalls your car may need have been carried out using the DVSA website.
What are the most common problems with a used BMW 5 Series saloon?
Early diesel versions (until late 2014) can suffer with premature timing chain wear, with the timing chain stretching before eventually snapping. The most obvious symptom is a repetitive rattling or tapping noise from the engine. It’s an expensive problem to fix because the timing chain is located at the back of the engine, and if it snaps it can cause significant engine damage.
One other known fault is with the air conditioning condenser, in which welds can fail and the air conditioning coolant can spill out. If this happens, the system won’t blow out cold air any more.
Is a used BMW 5 Series saloon reliable?
It doesn’t have a great reputation. Electrical niggles and engine problems seem to be the biggest source of problems with the 5 Series, and BMW itself has a poor reputation, having finished low down in the JD Power Vehicle Dependability Study in recent years.