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RE: BMW M3 (E46): You Know You Want To

RE: BMW M3 (E46): You Know You Want To

Thursday 15th June

BMW M3 (E46): You Know You Want To

As E46s continue to appreciate, is now the time to nab a cheap one?



You should always avoid buying the cheapest example of any particular type of car that's for sale. So the conventional wisdom goes, anyway. Of course, conventional wisdom is not always wise - and neither are we, which is probably why our head has been turned by an E46 BMW M3 at a temptingly low price.

Oooh look, 18-inch wheels as well
Oooh look, 18-inch wheels as well
£6,999, to be exact. And if you're reasonably well-versed on M3 prices, you're probably thinking that for that sort of figure, it has to be an SMG-equipped car, or a convertible. Well, you're wrong, because it's neither. This is the cheapest manual M3 coupe for sale at the moment. And no, it doesn't have the sort of gopping interior or exterior colour scheme you might expect.

What it does have is a full service history, according to the seller - something almost non-existent at this price point with all of the above boxes ticked. This, then, sounds like a bit of a bargain.

There is, of course, a catch, and it's the mileage. Mind you, this M3's 150,000 miles are not preposterous - indeed, were you to apply the old 10,000-mile-a-year rule, it'd be below average.

Of course, the same would apply to pretty much every M3 out there, so let's not kid ourselves: this is a bit of a leggy M3. There's more, too: the advert wording isn't exactly of the sort that inspires confidence in the fastidiousness of the owner.

But perhaps you're prepared to give the benefit of the doubt. After all, of course, sloppy spelling and photography do not a lemon make. That being the case, the only bugbear is the mileage - and of what concern is that? BMWs of this era are known for their ability to rack up big miles, and while the S54 engine is more highly strung than most, there's no reason why that shouldn't still apply.

Only bit we need to see inside anyway!
Only bit we need to see inside anyway!
And with what looks like a big wodge of history featured in one of the photos, there's all the more reason to imagine it'll be fine. Especially if that history contains evidence of the sort of work these cars need with respect to VANOS and so forth. The advert already makes the point that the subframes have already been reinforced; the pictorial evidence shows a job that looks more toward the DIY end of the spectrum, but that doesn't alter the fact the work's been done. What's more, there's a brand new exhaust, freshly refurbed wheels, four new tyres and a long MoT.

In short, then, this is probably not the best E46 M3 in the world, but at this price, it's still worth taking a punt on. Chances are it won't be a keeper, but if you really want to scratch the M3 itch for a year or two and money's tight, it's not a bad shout. Let's face it: prices are only going up, which means this might be your last chance to buy a manual M3 coupe with a full history for £7,000. All of which makes this particular cheapest-of-the-cheap example look a cannier buy than most.


BMW M3 (E46)
Price:
£6,999
Why you should: It costs peanuts and ticks all the right boxes...
Why you shouldn't: ...except the one marked 'mileage'.

See the original advert here.

Author
Discussion

culpz

Original Poster:

1,739 posts

32 months

Thursday 15th June
quotequote all
There's definitely a rise of people buying these now. I was always under the assumption that you're not going to get one worth buying under 10k. That being said, mileage isn't a huge issue on these as far as i'm aware and obviously the low-mileage pristine models are quite alot more.

It's still alot of car for the money. It's just the cost of parts with added M tax on them, getting them serviced and fixing any repairs and getting them tip-top which seems to be the main drain on the old wallet. Actually physically buying these cars seems to be the easiest part of ownership.

Scottie - NW

671 posts

153 months

Thursday 15th June
quotequote all
The problem will be when you want to sell this, assuming you put another 10 or 20k or more on over a few years, it's a very small market that would want one with those miles, and with so many on sale it could take a very long time to get rid off.

BenGB

35 posts

49 months

Thursday 15th June
quotequote all
About the same price I paid for my manual coupe a couple of years ago. Don't kid yourself you can run one of these on the cheap though!

KMA880

7 posts

27 months

Thursday 15th June
quotequote all
A recent listing for a Blue E46 CS manual with less than 8000 miles on the clock went for upwards of £60K.
I called asking the POA price, expecting it to be in the mid 20's....

Not sure when this bubble will burst, but most of the good ones are already becoming harder to find!

Leins

5,936 posts

68 months

Thursday 15th June
quotequote all
The last service bill on mine (albeit a CSL) was more than the purchase price of this
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DPSFleet

165 posts

81 months

Thursday 15th June
quotequote all
Been watching these for a while now. The styling of these cars was, in my view, so right. Later ones are less muscular and the NA 6 cylinder in these was more than enough. Lots were produced so there will be some low mileage cosseted cars out there and that's what I am looking for even if it costs more. Long term it will be a wiser investment. Nice article.

shalmaneser

3,296 posts

115 months

Thursday 15th June
quotequote all
Leins said:
The last service bill on mine (albeit a CSL) was more than the purchase price of this
That's not exactly normal though is it? It's in your interest to keep the service history of your car as tip top as it can be.

If you're happy DIYing your car these can be run for a tenth of that price, yes there is an element of M-tax but it's not too bad.

SidewaysSi

3,435 posts

154 months

Thursday 15th June
quotequote all
These cars will need a full refresh if you are to have something worth driving. I reckon add at least another £5k to the price, if not more.

Type R Tom

2,006 posts

69 months

Thursday 15th June
quotequote all
Leins said:
The last service bill on mine (albeit a CSL) was more than the purchase price of this
I have to ask, what did you have done?

Hoofy

64,991 posts

202 months

Thursday 15th June
quotequote all
culpz said:
It's still alot of car for the money. It's just the cost of parts with added M tax on them, getting them serviced and fixing any repairs and getting them tip-top which seems to be the main drain on the old wallet. Actually physically buying these cars seems to be the easiest part of ownership.
I suppose the issue is that people who would have got a warm hatch with its associated low running costs, buy an M3 because it's cheaper then find they're skimping on parts, servicing etc in order to afford the M running costs.

I remember reading in Car or Evo a couple of decades ago, something that said along the lines of, If you can't afford to buy a £40k BMW, you can't afford a £25k Ferrari (referring to the running costs). I guess the same is now true of VW Golf 2.0 vs BMW M3.

Front bottom

4,961 posts

110 months

Thursday 15th June
quotequote all
Interesting.

Mine is a 2003 manual coupe. Carbon Schwartz with red leather, and has done 145k, with a full service history.

I was weighing up values recently in an 'if I had to sell it' kind of way, and £7k was the figure i arrived at.

The subframe hasn't been strengthened though, but it does pass every inspection. No problems found.

H20DJY

145 posts

13 months

Thursday 15th June
quotequote all
I don't think there is a better performance bargain at the moment, I think its my favourite car I have owned. So adaptable to the owners needs. Standard or lightly played with its a great daily or weekend car, practical and so much fun to drive hard or tour in.

I used mine like this for a while, then took it for a track day, which led to me selling my Clio 172 and modifying the M3 to be a track car I didn't have to trailer, like the Clio. I can't believe how well it does this, its quite raw with the rear striped out, but not so much its off putting to take out for a blast, or to pop to the shops in.

I have owned it just over a year, spent the purchase price again on modifications, but very little has actually gone wrong, couple of bits of trim, headlight ballast and the alternator has just gone. I have covered over 10k miles, its now on 110k. Several trackdays and 2 trips to the Ring, including laps and time on the GP circuit, A trip to SPA for the F1 and Le Mans for the 24hr. I've stayed on top of servicing and changed the oil often.

If you happy with the running costs its the best thing you can buy for the money imho, just don't buy one if you don't have a bit more than the purchase price in the bank!

Nicholls22

48 posts

82 months

Thursday 15th June
quotequote all
SidewaysSi said:
These cars will need a full refresh if you are to have something worth driving. I reckon add at least another £5k to the price, if not more.
This.

Tired bushes, suspension and other steering components will make most M3's feels sloppy now. They also like to rust from the inside out, especially on the arches. I'd only personally have the Vanos overhauled, not just for piece of mind, but I think they feel better for it too.

Parts are a mixture of good and bad. Genuine OE Discs and pads can be had for £550 which isn't bad, given the car. Decent tyres aren't far out either.

If i was to buy another one, i'd hold off and find an enthusiast who has done all the big jobs. These don't appear very that often, but when they do they usually sell, quickly.

Edited by Nicholls22 on Thursday 15th June 14:30

culpz

Original Poster:

1,739 posts

32 months

Thursday 15th June
quotequote all
Hoofy said:
culpz said:
It's still alot of car for the money. It's just the cost of parts with added M tax on them, getting them serviced and fixing any repairs and getting them tip-top which seems to be the main drain on the old wallet. Actually physically buying these cars seems to be the easiest part of ownership.
I suppose the issue is that people who would have got a warm hatch with its associated low running costs, buy an M3 because it's cheaper then find they're skimping on parts, servicing etc in order to afford the M running costs.

I remember reading in Car or Evo a couple of decades ago, something that said along the lines of, If you can't afford to buy a £40k BMW, you can't afford a £25k Ferrari (referring to the running costs). I guess the same is now true of VW Golf 2.0 vs BMW M3.
Yupp, definitely. Just running a non-M BMW can be expensive. Obviously, the price of parts are more than would be on something like a Ford but that's to be expected really.

I can, in no way, afford an M3. A 330ci has been considered multiple times but it's just keeping them in decent working condition.
At the end of the day, the M3 is a 40k car with running costs to match. Just because they can be had much cheaper than that now doesn't affect the maintenance and running costs.

T1berious

1,013 posts

75 months

Thursday 15th June
quotequote all
Type R Tom said:
I have to ask, what did you have done?
+1

The most expensive service I've had is an Inspection II at around £970 (BMW Main Dealer)

What could work out at 7k?


Rob.043

41 posts

101 months

Thursday 15th June
quotequote all
From the pictures here it looks like a better advert could be written. The rear shocks look new, and the rear trailing arms look like they have been re painted when the 'sub frame' work was done, so there may be many new bushes in there too. It could well be a very good car at that price if the cosmetic side is alright.

I'm rebuilding the Vanos on mine just now, slowly, and missing driving it hugely!

aaron_2000

217 posts

3 months

Thursday 15th June
quotequote all
I imagine if you were to add another 10-20k to that mileage you could then break it for parts and earn most of that if not all of it back.

Scottie - NW

671 posts

153 months

Thursday 15th June
quotequote all
culpz said:
At the end of the day, the M3 is a 40k car with running costs to match. Just because they can be had much cheaper than that now doesn't affect the maintenance and running costs.
This is one of those lines you see a lot on PH, and it's just wrong.

When a car is a 40k new M3 then at the point in it's life cycle when it is worth that much you have to use dealers at dealer service rates and prices and end up paying high parts prices to keep the warranty and so on.

As cars get older, more and more non OE parts become available for them, especially the most common ones, to fix known issues. The cost of the parts themselves also tend to reduce over time, as more and more manufacturers make them and push the price lower.

Specialists are then able to take care of them at lower labour rates, and sometimes work out better ways to do the jobs more cost effectively, on some cars whereas a dealer may say that's an engine out job etc, specialists know ways to do it without.

So, although I accept the running costs for a 40k car at 10 years old may be higher than a 20k car at 10 years old, you should still be paying much less for service and parts on a 10 year old M3 than a nearly new one at dealer prices.

skylarking808

43 posts

6 months

Thursday 15th June
quotequote all
At least this one is likely to be used, rather than bought as "the next big thing" investment.

I think the E46 M3 really only makes sense on a track to fully enjoy the top end of the rev range. Then you end up wanting to reduce the weight and spend more money upgrading, so a car at the cheaper end of the market works well.

kambites

51,518 posts

141 months

Thursday 15th June
quotequote all
The E46 M3 certainly has its appeal.

Add a grand for a set of bushes, tie-rods, ball joints, etc. and another grand for dampers. Plus a weekend or two to fit it all and it'd make a nice practical daily for not too much money.