The mileage against maintenance debate is one that will run and run for as long as second-hand cars are available. Of course the ideal scenario is a car lightly used with an impeccable service record, but those cars are a) very difficult to find and b) expensive as when they were sold as a result.
Either side sit, broadly speaking, the low mileage cars that really haven't been used (or serviced) much, the high mileage dogs to avoid at all costs, and those driven, enjoyed, but also maintained to a really high standard. Britain has a unique obsession (some might say affliction) with low mileage cars; higher odo readings don't seem to affect owners (or values) as much on the continent, yet over here a premium is placed on those with minimal mileages.
Which is a curious one, really, since cars are designed to be driven, and while some can impress as static objects, the real joy should be in getting them out on the road. The cynical here will suggest there's quite a lot of joy in holing a car away and selling for lots more money than you paid - we'll stick with the enthusiast's viewpoint for now.
This E46 example of the BMW M3 is the perfect advert for what can be achieved with diligent and conscientious ownership. Believe it or not, the 2002 car has covered 165,000 miles, half with the current owner. In their seven years of ownership, roughly £15,000 has been spent on upkeep (see the Excel spreadsheet for proof!) covering everything that you could ever imagine a car would need. The work is described in the advert as "nothing I would class outside general wear and tear and preventative maintenance"; M3s of this vintage are notoriously costly to keep on top of, and it's nice to see an owner acknowledge the fact. Their enthusiasm and passion for the car is clear to see in mention of two common issues - rear subframe cracking and Vanos problems - being checked (with no apparent problems). They even concede to more rust appearing, saying "I'm leaving this to the new owner to decide how they wish to address this rather than hiding it" - which seems more than fair enough.
Let's not forget, either, that the E46 M3 represents for many a highpoint of BMW M cars. More accommodating than the earlier stuff yet sharper than what followed, there's never going to be a point where this M3 isn't a fast car icon. Unlike the E36 M3, which has only recently received its share of attention, the E46 was loved at launch. And then sort of ever since, too.
At £8,500, this M3 isn't one of the bargain basement cars that once existed, but that isn't going to happen again - the cars are simply too revered. Instead it still represents a reasonably affordable route into one of the 21st century's automotive heroes, even if the next owner will have to be as willing to spend on maintenance as the current one. Furthermore, it's an M3 that can be used and enjoyed as intended; it's always going to be a high mileage car with this number on the odo, so there would be no point storing it. And while it would make an ideal track project donor as a manual car without a sunroof, it seems too good to sacrifice.
Why not, instead, keep it for high days and holidays, a throwback to the glory days of BMW at the turn of the millennium. Engines and chassis like this this will only seem more extraordinary as time passes, so best to make the most of them while possible. With that in mind, perhaps the use could be more regular, and 200k could be up before you know it - what a story that could be...
SPECIFICATION - BMW M3 (E46)
Engine: 3,246cc, straight-six
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive,
Power (hp): 343@7,900rpm
Torque (lb ft): 269@4,900rpm
First registered: 2002
Recorded mileage: 165,000
Price new: £39,730
Yours for: £8,500