Taking the plunge into BMW ownership is intimidating to many enthusiasts. Maybe you’ve always wanted to experience what it’s like to drive a well-appointed car with fine-tuned handling dynamics, but are concerned the maintenance costs will drive you into penury. Horror stories about the cost of parts and all the things that break are usually just that — stories.
Yes, the cost of maintaining a BMW is going to be greater than the cost of maintaining a Toyota Camry, and the driving experience is going to be more rewarding, but this isn’t the kind of life decision that keeps your kids from going to college. One of the best ways to offset these maintenance costs is by working on your BMW yourself.
Where to Begin
We always recommend you have a mechanic inspect a car before you buy it. That one simple step can save you a fortune in repairs. Assuming you don’t end up owning a lemon, you can begin to service your BMW on your own on day 1.
Like any car, your BMW has an oil cap, wheel lugs and spark plugs that all need to come off and on every so often. It has fluids that need to be replaced, and a battery that will also eventually need to tag out.
Every time you pay the dealer to do these things, you’re adding approximately $60 per hour in labor, and probably an extra premium on the parts. Just because there’s a roundel on the hood doesn’t change the basic procedure — if you can change the oil on a Bronco, you can change the oil on a 3-series.
Getting Organized for Projects
One of the best ways to make working on your own car simpler is to have a usable workspace. Usually, that means getting your garage organized and having the right tools.
A good garage for car projects should be well-ventilated. It should ideally have a sealed floor that will keep spilled fluids from staining, and a power door with modern safety measures, such as a manual override and a laser sensor to make sure nothing is blocking the door.
You’ll also want to have a few cleaning supplies like microfiber towels, window cleaner, automotive detergent, and wax. A penny saved on detailing is still a penny saved on owning a Bimmer.
When you’re feeling more comfortable and perhaps have bought a factory service manual, you can attempt more involved jobs. Online resources like forums offer a wealth of knowledge and step-by-step DIY instructions from people who’ve actually done these projects, so be sure to read up.
As you become more involved in the car community, you’ll meet other people with common interests. The car community tends to be very friendly when it comes to trading favors and sharing information, which is another way you can keep the costs of owning a BMW from draining your bank account.
In the end, a little common sense is the best tool you have when working on your own car. We don’t recommend jumping into the hobby on an unloved early-production 8-series. The truly rare and exotic models will be more expensive to maintain — however, many of BMW’s finest works are easy to find, cheap to buy and simple to work on.