I write this guide based on my experience as an owner of a 2001 BMW 330CI (coupe). When you finish reading please click "Yes" below.
These are great little cars. They are luxurious yet very responsive and fun to drive. There are plenty of reviews written on these cars, so I won't bore you with my amateur opinions. I will however share some information you won't find elsewhere that might help you BMW owners or prospective buyers save some serious money.
Factory Warranty: This and other BMWs came with a factory 3 year/36,000 Mile maintenance program that covers almost everything except gas and tires. On top of this warranty BMW provided 4 years/50,000 warranty on the majority of the vehicle.
Other Warranty: Additional warranty coverage comes with "certified" cars purchase through authorized dealers. These programs add on a number of years of coverage and typically extend mileage limits to 100,000 miles. You can also purchase warranty coverage for your BMW through independent programs. Make sure you clearly understand the items that are covered under these programs. It might be a good idea to ask a BMW service advisor about problems that are likely to occur with your specific car and determine if these events would be covered.
Brakes: Unlike most other vehicles, the brakes on a BMW are designed so that the rotors and the pads wear together. This design provides for superior braking performance. It also means that a brake job could cost you more than $800 because both pads and rotors will be replaced. Depending on your driving style, it is possible that your brakes may approach max wear at about the same time your 36,000 mile warranty expires. Be sure to have your brakes inspected just before your warranty expires. If at all possible, try to convince the BMW dealership to replace your brakes while your car is under the 36k warranty.
Door Seal: On 2 Door 3 Series cars watch for the trim around the door coming loose. This trim peice is held in place with an adhesive that will not hold in hot weather. I live in Arizona where it gets plenty hot. I replaced these seals about once a year. The cost to replace one side is approximately $500. Here is the trick. The dealer that replaces the seal will warrant their work for 2 years. Other authorized service centers will also warrant their work. Listen up for this next part. If you save the receipts for all work done on your vehicle, you will be able to take advantage of repair warranties that exceed the life of your Factory warranty at any Authorized Service Center. If you have your BMW serviced at Dealership A and try to claim repair warranty at Dealership B without receipts from Dealer A, you may be out of luck. While Dealer B will be able to see some of the maintenance history for your vehicle, they may not have all the details they need.
Loaner Cars: Some dealers provide free BMW loaner cars. If you have more than one dealership in your area, contact them and ask if they provide this service. Trust me, a new X3 or 530i is much more pleasant to drive than the Ford Taurus you will get from the on site Enterprise Rental Office. If you schedule your car in on a Friday and tell them you are not in a hurry to get it back, you will likely have a loaner to drive for the weekend.
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John Baker - Scottsdale, AZ