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E36 Vs. E46...

Discussion in 'E36 M3 (1995-1999)' started by JDiazAmador, Nov 25, 2009.

    • Member

    JDiazAmador

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    Hey Guys...

    I posted a while ago about being in the hunt for an E36 M3. My financial picture has improved a bit since then with the prospect of a new job in January (CA), and some projects I'm working on now. Unfortunately I won't see most of the money until towards the end of December.

    Right now I have about $5K which is not enough... so I keep working and keep looking. But I HAVE to buy a car within about two months (current car is "totaled") and I will not be able to renew registration... plus the move from Miami to LA in January.

    Up to now I have not been willing to consider financing. However, the prospect of steady income (for the first time, as I have been self-employed for 10 years), might make me willing to consider that.

    I've noticed that decent used E36 M3's are not as easy to find as I had hoped. Especially 5 speed coupes. I might consider a sedan if it's a good deal and in great condition, but not an automatic or convertible.

    So... to the heart of my question: Would I be better off to consider an E46, either scraping together enough cash to get a decent 2001 M3 or 330ci, or potentially financing a newer model (but not over $20K).

    In terms of reliability, cost of maintenance and cost of repair, how would the following three choices compare:

    E36 M3 5Spd
    E46 M3 6Spd
    E46 330ci 6Spd

    I assumed the E46 M3 would be costlier to maintain, but Bimmer magazine claimed "...you'll spend more per mile to keep an E36 on the road than you would an E30 or E46."
    • Member

    az3579

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    If that's the case, then only the E36 M3 or the 330i (go for ZHP if you go this route) would fit the bill. Heck, nice ZHP's are still a touch over $20k, and about 90% of the E46 M3's I've seen are above $20k as well. The only M3's you'll find for less than 20 are the higher mileage ones, such as over 100k.


    I seriously doubt the E36 would cost more to maintain. It is a simpler car, and parts for it cost less as well. I can't imagine what they're on about.
    • Member

    tiFreak

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    never had a problem with mine :cool:

    are there any car auctions where you live? my dad got a 97 M3 sedan autotragic w/ 130k for 5k ;)
    • Member

    az3579

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    With an autotragic, that's about all it's worth...
    Besides, he wants a manual, which he'll most likely find with an enthusiast, and they really know how to jack up the price of a car.
    • Member

    JDiazAmador

    Post Count: 91
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    Yes there are auctions here, but I'm put off by not being able to properly inspect the car or talk to the previous owner, and no chance of service records.

    NADA average trade in for 1997 M3 sedan is $5025.- 130k miles would have brought a premium of about $500, so the price is about 10% lower than Avg. trade-in. I think the same car would have sold by a private seller for about the same price.

    There is a reason why I'm looking in the BMWCCA classifieds.
    • Member

    330indy1

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    RE an e46 330i of some variety-----
    1. zhp cars have had issues so inquire deeply if you find one.
    2. an e46 sport package car is also a great way to go. seek a 2002 or later for the tighter steering.
    (as a prior owner of an e36 I agree... mileage and maintenance will be huge factors. nits and nats will drive you crazy.)

    bimmerdreamer guest

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    well i am an owner of a 1999 M3 drop top auto, and i love that car mor then most people, i want a manual though so definitly go with that, but the e36 is an amazing thing!!!! im 19 and can affiord to maintain it, if i can do it, anyone with a job can do it... if you go with a 330ci get the zpg please... and for the e46 M3...well you can find some good ones, for maybe less hen 20k but it wont be a local buy.... have u thought about e39 M5s?
    • Member

    eam3

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    I think if long term maintenance costs are a concern then E39 M5s are out of the question.
    • Member

    JDiazAmador

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    Bimmerdreamer, you are an evil tempter :D Of course I have thought about the E39 M5 and have seen some beautiful examples at surprisingly reasonable prices.

    But I can't imagine that an M series V8 won't be much more costly to maintain. There's just so much lovely M complexity in it. I work on German cameras and I know the German engineering motto "Why make it simple, when you can make it complicated".

    An E39 540i seems a possibility. They seem to be relatively abundant, but rarely in 6 speed form.
    • Member

    bcweir

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    If you're considering getting an E46...

    BMW got most of the bugs worked out by the 2004 model year.

    However, the 2004 and later models will be pricier than the 1999-2003 models you may have been initially considering. Two of the most serious issues with the E46's are a problem with the rear floor pan and door seals on some models.

    I like the exterior and interior on the E46's better, but I like the simpler design of the E36's better.

    Best bet is do thorough research on both models and go with what you feel best about.

    Cheers
    • Member

    JDiazAmador

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    Thanks bcwier!

    OK, so that means that there were 1999 model year E46? I know there are 1999 E36 M3's (mostly convertibles). Was there an overlap there?

    I just found out about the E39 540i Sport. But they were only made in 2003 and the prices for the few I've seen are higher that a lot of M5's of the same generation.
    • Member

    bcweir

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    For E46's, the sedans came first in 1999.

    Coupes, Cabriolets, and Tourings (wagons) were introduced in 2000.

    Per BMW's tradition, the previous generation models were phased out as the newer E46 cars came in.

    For the M3's, the E46 M3 Coupe came in 2001, while the convertible followed in 2002.

    The E39 540i sport was actually made from 1997 - 2003. However, in September 1998, the 540i received the further upgraded M62TUB44, which was also seen in the E38 (7 Series) and in the BMW E53 (X5). This engine supported a VANOS variable valve timing system, and had electronic throttle control. It was slightly boosted to 290 hp for year 2002 and 2003 540i. You can actually get a 540i in any E39 model year. The later 540i's only seem rarer because they are much more desireable due to their refinements and upgrades. Short of getting an E39 M5, the 540i were the most desireable E39's, hence their hard to find status.

    By the way, don't be fooled by the 540i and the M5. While both are BMW sedans based on the E39 powered by a V8 engine, mechanically, this is about all they have in common. The engines are not related to one another. In addition, the S62 and the M62 engines are not related, with the S62 having very specific and specialized service needs. This is the main reason many M5 owners bailed out out of them before these cars reached their 80,000 mile Schedule II maintenance requirements.

    You can certainly pick up such an M5 quite cheaply -- it's keeping it that becomes expensive. The S62 requires specialized tools and skills to maintain its performance, and you will find such service anything but cheap. If the cost of keeping a vehicle is as important as what it costs to acquire it, do your research on the maintenance needs and requirements of the S62 before purchasing the E39 M5.
    • Member

    JDiazAmador

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    Thanks again for the great info bcweir.

    So I suppose the M62TUB44 would be available in 1999 model year and later. I've noticed that the 540i Sport that look externally just like an M5 are 2003 model year only.

    An M5 would be too much for me in my present or even near future situation. As much as I admire them. The costly maintenance would explain why many are available used at attractive prices.

    Finding a well maintained E36 M3 has proved frustrating. There are NO such cars in South Florida. The only really nice FL E36 M3 I've seen was a low mileage 98 Dinian coupe and sold very quickly for $17K

    Its seems there is a reason the E36 M3 holds its value... and if I can find one within my price range for a cash deal (which steadily increases but not as quickly as I'd like) it will still be my #1 choice.

    But I'm also considering the 5's because it's very restrictive to have only one option when looking for a used car.
    • Member

    bcweir

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    You're in an interesting predicament....

    The E36 M3's are considered to be among the most affordable M3's out there. Between the E30 M3 being considered one of the most sought after, and the E46 M3's holding their value unusually well, it certainly limits your options with regard to the M3.

    I should also point out that it's very possible to dress a non-M5 up to look like an M5 using the M-Technic body kit. In addition, if you're willing to keep your mind open, an early 540i will not only be more affordable, but its 282-hp V8 already provides a very potent base in which to build up your dream car. The M62 V8 is also a very popular engine with lots of possible mods available, variants of which appeared in nearly every BMW product above a 3-series.

    Have you considered an E36 M3 4-door sedan? These were made during the closing days of the E36's production cycle.

    I should also note that the M52-based BMW E36 328i possesses similar upgrade and appearance capabilities.

    Don't forget to check Ebay and cars.com in your car search, and don't limit your search to Florida cars. A road trip in your new purchase can be quite a Bavarian adventure in itself, and I can't think of a better way to get acquainted with your new toy.
    • Member

    eam3

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    No relation, no experience, not a paid endorsement :) but this place (in Cincinnati, OH) always has a good selection of quality M cars:

    http://www.enthusiastauto.com/

    Might be worth a look.
    • Member

    bcweir

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    Ohio might be further than he was planning on driving...

    Most of the deals though seem to be in the M-car section. The rest of them seem to be much more recent and upmarket than what he seemed to be looking for
    • Member

    JDiazAmador

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    Thanks for the info Ed!

    BTW, since you are local... have you noticed there are no decent E36 M3's for sale in all of South Florida... almost all Florida for that matter. The only E36 M3 on Autotrader is a turbo'd and totally "pimped out" two-tone black/yellow M3 that the owner claims was in "The Fast and the Furious". I can't even bring myself to click on the Ad and see the hideous modifications :(

    Since I'm taking the car to CA major engine mods are a deal-breaker. I would have no problem with Dinan mods or the usual CAI or cat-back exhaust which I'm sure won't be a problem.

    I'm considering 5-series as an option. Either a late E34 or early E39. Very tough to find the manual transmission cars.
    • Member

    bcweir

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    I think you're going to be left with three options:

    a) Be Patient:

    While M3's in general were sold in the greatest numbers relative to other M-models, these are still low-volume production cars, relative to the numbers of garden-variety 3-series sold. The owners who truly value these cars for what they are -- the "thoroughbreds" of the 3-series, the pinnacle of the 3-series food chain -- have pampered and babied these cars. Those who truly understand these vehicles are careful and attentive to these cars, will keep absolutely dutiful maintenance records, and will understandably be able to command top dollar for them. Unfortunately, you've also got a small minority who have shortsightedly abused and modded them, tracking them and running their hardware to within an inch of their mechanical lives. If you want an M3 that HASN'T been run straight into the ground, I think you're going to have to wait for the right one to come along.

    b) Be flexible:

    You're reducing your chances of the finding the right car by searching within such a small area (Florida). Aside from hardly being the Mecca of M3's, it's just one state out of 50 that these cars were shipped to. If you absolutely, positively, cannot venture outside of Florida to acquire the car of your dreams, it may be time to invest some money into the means of bringing the car to you instead. We're talking about a professional inspection/buying service, a broker, and possibly an auto carrier shipping service. All of this will of course add to the budget on the car (hint: have the car insured by the carrier before shipping, and preferably in a covered carrier). Or at minimum, budget in some airfare and travel time. You might even have to be flexible on such things as exterior color, options, etc.

    As far as the transmission goes, I think you're fortunate here. Again, BMW built these cars to be their 3-series thoroughbred, and saddling their bread and butter M-car with an automatic is virtually unheard of.

    c) Be ready to pay up

    Finding an non-abused M-car that was treated with respect won't be easy and it won't be cheap. I think I'd be suspicious of any M-car being unloaded at an unusual low price, and make sure you check the VIN number. Without a very careful and knowledgeable inspection of the car, there are fakes out there -- unscrupulous owners that might try to pass off a garden-variety 325 as a much more valuable M3. Especially if the unscrupulous seller has access to a nearby pick and pull or a wrecked M3.

    You can go to realoem.com to verify the VIN.

    bimmerdreamer guest

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    automatic is virtually unheard of.

    ok well that might be true for the coupes, but about the convertible M3s, I know for a fact that 60% of them came in a automatic transmission. I have one. I love her, however I do wish it was a manual, but the sport mode on it is phenomenal!!!!! it has a sport, manual, and economical mode... i prefer the E mode or the S mode. you have to remember, that the M division still made the tranny,

    and btw. if you're gonna move to CA, ever think about getting a car from here? i would offer mine, but you said you're looking for a manual so...
    • Member

    bcweir

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    When you say CA, are you referring to California or Canada?

    Sorry about the confusion.

    That's a very nice convertible you have!

    Regarding your transmission, my car has an automatic with very similar capabilities. I too have a switch for S(port - locks out Overdrive and runs a more aggressive shift program on the electronic transmission), E(conomy - also known as conventional automatic mode, Overdrive gear is enabled here), and M(anual - allows each gear to be held in place manually, sort of like a clutchless 4 speed manual transmission).

    I stand corrected on the transmissions. Automatics have certainly come a long way on 3-series since my former E21. Thankfully, my E21 had a factory five speed, but I have heard horror stories about how the optional three-speed automatic on those cars did a terrible job of squandering what little horsepower and torque the 1.8L had available. The five speed was truly the way to go with that engine!

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