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Thread: E36, e46, e90

  1. #1
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    To be continued...

    E36, e46, e90

    So, as a 15 year old about to turn 16, my dreams of a first car that I will love and cherish and grow old with are slowly becoming closer to reality. I've been obsessed with cars since I was 11 when I watched Tokyo Drift for the first time and was actually able to remember parts of it, and that being said, BMW is my favorite brand aside from Porsche. Everything German is sexy. But anyways, I've seen different Youtubers and websites saying that E36 M3's make amazing and realistic first cars. On the other hand, I've seen a lot of people saying that the M3 is too much in maintenance for a beginner to handle. But nobody has mentioned the other members of the 3 series or other generations. So I come to this forum with my current situation. As I do nothing but look for cars online all day, I found tons of manual M3's, 325i's, 330i's, and their coupe counterparts in the 2002-2007 range, all going for $2,500-$5,000 but very few from the 90's. So as a teenage driver who will be using after school and summer jobs to fund these cars, would an E46 or maybe a 2006-2007 E90 be too difficult to learn to do my own work on? And would having the M badge on my car really make the maintenance that much more expensive if I plan to work on it myself? I'd like to spring for the newest possible option, but I know that the more modern I go, the more electrical and more complex the car will be to work on, and being able to repair and mod my own car comes before looks. I should mention that I will be mostly teaching myself how to do mechanical repairs and mods using the internet because I have no friends or family that are even slightly interested in cars. They don't understand why I wouldn't be happy in a Camry and I don't understand how they're happy without a fun car. So should I find an E36 for the old simplicity? Is the E46 a perfect middle ground? Or is the E90 simple enough to make it worth a look? Lastly, would getting an M3 variant add a lot to maintenance costs? Thanks for any help. I appreciate all advice.

  2. #2
    Pelican Parts's Avatar
    Pelican Parts is offline Senior Member Supporting Vendor
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    Welcome to the forum man! You're quite a bright kid and outlined everything correctly and have a very realistic way of looking at it. If you're realistically going the BMW route, I would start with an E36 or E46 - parts are quite inexpensive now compared to the E90 and I find them to be way more fun and enjoyable to drive from an enthusiast point of view. Figure out your overall budget: price of the car plus cost of getting it operational. Browse the forums, nearly everything that you could have a question on has likely been covered (google is your best friend). I'm also attaching our DIY tech articles on the E36 and E46 platforms, so that you can see what certain repairs take. It seems like you're still in the very early stages, so take your time and study up. The more info you have now, the better it'll be for you when the time comes to decide on a ride. Best of luck to you!

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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Drevj12 View Post
    So, as a 15 year old about to turn 16, my dreams of a first car that I will love and cherish and grow old with are slowly becoming closer to reality. I've been obsessed with cars since I was 11 when I watched Tokyo Drift for the first time and was actually able to remember parts of it, and that being said, BMW is my favorite brand aside from Porsche. Everything German is sexy. But anyways, I've seen different Youtubers and websites saying that E36 M3's make amazing and realistic first cars. On the other hand, I've seen a lot of people saying that the M3 is too much in maintenance for a beginner to handle. But nobody has mentioned the other members of the 3 series or other generations. So I come to this forum with my current situation. As I do nothing but look for cars online all day, I found tons of manual M3's, 325i's, 330i's, and their coupe counterparts in the 2002-2007 range, all going for $2,500-$5,000 but very few from the 90's. So as a teenage driver who will be using after school and summer jobs to fund these cars, would an E46 or maybe a 2006-2007 E90 be too difficult to learn to do my own work on? And would having the M badge on my car really make the maintenance that much more expensive if I plan to work on it myself? I'd like to spring for the newest possible option, but I know that the more modern I go, the more electrical and more complex the car will be to work on, and being able to repair and mod my own car comes before looks. I should mention that I will be mostly teaching myself how to do mechanical repairs and mods using the internet because I have no friends or family that are even slightly interested in cars. They don't understand why I wouldn't be happy in a Camry and I don't understand how they're happy without a fun car. So should I find an E36 for the old simplicity? Is the E46 a perfect middle ground? Or is the E90 simple enough to make it worth a look? Lastly, would getting an M3 variant add a lot to maintenance costs? Thanks for any help. I appreciate all advice.
    E66 with 30's

  4. #4
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    Welcome to the forum. I believe that a person of your age and assumed financial resources of the typical person of your age, is really going to need to be committed to this to make it work. I gather from your post that you have zero experience turning wrenches and it also sounds like you are going to get zero support from friends/family in terms of mechanical expertise. I'm not trying to discourage you, but I'd really hate to see a guy/gal of your age scraping money together to get what you perceive to be your dream car only to wind up having it sitting in the driveway because it broke down the day after you got it and you can't fix it.

    Most that do their own work on BMWs started out with at least a basic understanding of the mechanical aspects of an automobile and then added what they needed to know about their BMW. The point that I'm trying to make is that you are going to hit a very steep learning curve. I mean, let's say that you get into your car one day and it won't start. Would you even have an inkling of what the problem might be? In many instances, the biggest hurdle to fixing your own car is figuring out what is wrong with it in the first place. With a BMW, problems aren't always as readily apparent as they are on "normal" cars.

    If/when it does come time to grab a wrench to change a part, do you have that wrench? Fixing your own car involves more than just buying the parts. You're going to need tools, a place to keep them and a place where you can work on your car.

    I could go on and on, but I'm sure that you get where I'm going.

    In any case, I'd recommend a 2005ish E46 330i. The E46 has fewer electronics than an E90, is arguably easier to work on and the parts are cheaper. Still, unless you get very, very lucky, you can plan on having to put another $2000 or more into whatever it is that you buy just to get it into shape, before you can even start to think about modding anything. I bought an E46 325i not too long ago. It only had around 75,000 miles on it, but it needed a good bit of work. I always have my eye out for a nice E46 and look at them often. What I've found is that once the car is out of warranty, even those that think they are taking good care of their car, are not keeping up with preventive maintenance as they should and revert to fixing things as they break. This is not good on an E46 (BMWs in general), especially with the cooling system. If you get an E46, you can pretty much count on having to do a total cooling system refresh (radiator, expansion tank, water pump, thermostat, hoses, belts, pulleys, etc.), control arm bushings and shocks, among other things like window regulators.

    My son drives the E46. He's an actor and works regularly when his school schedule allows and makes two or three times more per month than other kids his age and with the cost of insurance, a social life, gas and other incidentals, he wouldn't be able to support his car without help. I do give him financial help, but what I mean most by "help" is that he has access to my collection of tools, my experience and my garage.

    The E46s I've driven that were in decent shape are really fun to drive. They instill confidence due to their handling and did I mention that they are really fun to drive? I drive an E90 and prefer the way the E46 "feels."

    What it comes down to is being able to afford it. If you can buy the car, get it into shape and then keep $500 (at least) on the side for when things go wrong or your parents will be there with their check book when it's needed, you may be able to swing this, if you are really dedicated to making sacrifices to have that car. If you can swing it, personally, I'd buy an E46 330i with a manual transmission.

    If you can't swing it, get a Honda Civic. They are fun to drive too.

  5. #5
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    Just get en e36 328i. Cheap, easy to work om, reliable but still fun to drive.

  6. #6
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    323i E30 is offline ⅂!ʈө !ƨ l!ʞө ɐ ʇөlөbouө
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    Quote Originally Posted by BimmerBreaker View Post
    Just get en e36 328i. Cheap, easy to work om, reliable but still fun to drive.
    +1

  7. #7
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    Mini JCW e36 328is ect..
    It would appear that the first two long posts really drove home the points about cost of ownership so I will save you that.

    Quote Originally Posted by BimmerBreaker View Post
    Just get en e36 328i. Cheap, easy to work om, reliable but still fun to drive.
    I can't say enough good things about e36 328s, they are just plane awesome cars to drive. The issue is finding a good condition non M e36 any more. The M cars in general for any one generation are much better kept, as they were the most expensive when new and generally only owned by enthusiasts. This means that the non M verities generally are not as nice or just non existent. You will find as many e36 M3s for sale as all the other non M models combined. I know very little about e46s but can tell you that they are pretty fun to drive as well. I recently drove an e46 330ci and compared to my e36 328is, it didn't feel nearly as raw. The engine didn't have as fun of a sound and the car just felt big to me, but overall it was still an addicting fun car to drive.

    A note on M car maintenance. The e36 M3 is more or less a very warmed over e36 328 or 325. They are not expensive to work on and not particularly exotic. Suspensions are unique to the e36 M3 but most of the car is the same as a non M model. The e46 M3 however is a vastly different car from the normal e46, the engine is a technical masterpiece and will not be as cheap to fix. I owned an e39 M5 for 3 years. It taught me that the M tax is a very real thing. Parts that were nearly identical between the e39 M5 and my parent's e38 740iL cost twice as much for the M5.

    The only e9x 3 series I have been in is an e92 M3 with the competition package. It is a different world from the other 3 series I have been discussing. It very much resembled my e39 M5 for speed. It didn't have the low end of the M5 but once into the rpms the e92 was a beast. E9Xs are also very complex very expensive cars in any situation. They can be had for cheap but the parts are pricey and they are not as easy to work on as the older cars.

  8. #8
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    To be continued...
    Sorry I'm so late to reply. I've been caught up recently between fixing up my bike and doing some odd jobs. I'll start looking into the e36 328i. The e36 is probably my favorite generation of the 3 series. I'm not quite sure why tho. They kinda look longer than the e46 to me which probably plays into my unhealthy obsession for the 70's land yachts. Whatever it may be, I'm pretty sure I'll be 100% dedicated to my car whenever I have it. I don't have much experience working on cars but I've found myself to be pretty decent at learning to work on things, as I've pretty much replaced the majority of things on my bike by just diving in with a set of tools until everything works. I realize that might not work as well on a car, but that's what the internet and manuals are for. And I'm willing to learn. That being said, sub 100k mile 2003-2005 Z4's are looking pretty cheap. But thats a different beast that belongs in a different discussion. Thanks for all the advice.

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