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Hey guys,

I am kinda torn between a few BMWs for my next purchase and would like some help. Here’s a little background info about me. I am 22 years old (yes I know what you’re thinking, another young kid on the forums), I’ll be graduating in about 6 months or so and wanted to treat myself to a nice graduation gift. I am an absolute BMW nut and know quite a bit about them. At the age of 19 I was able to save up enough money to buy my first BMW, an 04 330XI 6 speed manual. Absolutely loved it, however I decided to get rid of it after 2 years due to becoming a broke college kid, I told myself I have just one more year of college left and I’ll be able to get back into another BMW. I think im done with the e46 chassis for now and I am looking into a couple choices. An e90 330, e90 335, e39 540 sport, e46 m3, e60 550i or e39 m5. (all of which must be manual transmissions of course) While I owned the e46 I did all the work on my own, everything from oil changes to spark plugs and disa valve. So I would say I am pretty good when it comes to DIY projects.

My main question here is..which of the above cars would be the more practical, cost effective and fun combo to go with? I am torn between the e90 330 and e39 540 sport more than anything else, but I just threw in a couple of the other options because I wouldn’t mind any of those. The e46 m3 is at the bottom of the list due to the older looking interior. Yes I do know that the M5 is one hell of a machine and most will probably say its too much for a guy y age and as as daily driver. I also know of the expensive parts such as brakes..and to stay away from anything pre 01. I also know about the 335 and its hpfp issues, walnut blasting, and turbo wastgate rattles. Is the e60 too much of an older man car for me?

Any thoughts and opinions would help greatly. I have a few months before making a purchase but I am extremely meticulous and like to plan way ahead before biting the bullet when it comes to my cars.
 

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I already posted my answer to your question on Bimmerforums. I suspect the 540i is right for you. Your budget can certainly buy you an e39 M5, but $2k per year maintenance, though doable in the long term, probably won't work out the first year as usually a new to you BMW takes a premium the first year to fix all the little things that bug you that didn't bug the previous owner.
 

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It also comes down to what the particular car needs. Even a 540i will need upper and lower control arms, tie rods, perhaps a rear bushing and of course the usual brakes or miscelleanous stuff. The suspension issues become evident at 80-100K miles so a 75K mile car while low miles for the year is headed for expensive repairs whereas a 130K mile car may well (or not) have had these things done. I think that's what runs through our minds with our beloved high mileage cars. We look over the long list of refurbished items that have restored the car to great condition, but dream to have a lower number on the odometer and perhaps a few less scratches on the body with a newer or less used example. It's a hard decision for some to make. To answer your question, I'd start by test driving both chassis to see which you would enjoy driving most. Both a E39 or E90 can be rewarding, the latter has a few more electronics and dealer programmed items though.
 

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As has already been posted; you need to drive each of your prospective vehicles with similar options (e.g. sport package, summer tyres, etc.). Try not to get too caught up in the newer electronics, gadgets and gizmos and focus on the driving position ad dynamics. Take each platform for an extended test drive (1-2 hrs.). When you find the cars that you want to buy get a through and independent PPI.

1-2K for the first years maintenance is doable even with the M5, but any of the cars that you are considering can easily exceed that if they have been only mildly neglected. I also look at the cost of ownership slightly differently than some (maintenance=longterm parts replacement (suspension, driveline mounts, water pumps and radiators, etc.); running costs=normal items (oil/filters, brakes, tyres etc.); upgrades (infotainment system, cosmetics and the other things that make the driving experiences more enjoyable); and finally Performance Mod's.

As far as the e39 is concerned the pre-facelift v. post-facelift is more a matter of cosmetics and options with little as far as performance or reliability differences.

For the E9x beware of the run-flat tyres as the significantly hurt the ride characteristics, this is easily fixed by replacing the RFTs with proper tyres.

Good luck.
 

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personally since you will be buying used, it also depends to market availability.

but generally a ///M is a ///M and not replaceable by a " M package " for a series BMW, and you wont regret a ///M , either a E46 M3 or a E39 M5
 

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It all depends on your local weather I think. I own both an E90 335 and an E39 M5.

Your av says you live on the east coast, so doesn't tell me much about your weather. Up here in most parts of Canada, you need an AWD vehicle, and thats why I bought the 335 xDrive after being out of University for a couple years. Got the Msport. It was perfect. Great handling, decent power, very comfotable, and amazing in the snow. It's a great year round vehicle. And if you don't plan to do any mods, go for the N55 (>= MY2011). It's much more reliable than previous gen's, and shouldn't leave you stranded. Only thing to worry about is the electric water pump.

When I had some spare cash, I began looking for my M5 to fill the void that I and almost everyone else on this board know about. Had patience and got the right one. And now use it exclusively for summer driving. Stays parked in the winter.

Having both cars, I wouldn't change any decisions, and would have acquired them in the same order. If I had to go to one, I would sell the E39. Daily driving and year round safety are just too important to me. Fortunately I don't have to though haha.

That all being said, if your weather is rarely snowy/icey, go for the E39. Little more in maintenance, but a lot more in character and fun.
 

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It all depends on your local weather I think. I own both an E90 335 and an E39 M5.

Your av says you live on the east coast, so doesn't tell me much about your weather. Up here in most parts of Canada, you need an AWD vehicle, and thats why I bought the 335 xDrive after being out of University for a couple years. Got the Msport. It was perfect. Great handling, decent power, very comfotable, and amazing in the snow. It's a great year round vehicle. And if you don't plan to do any mods, go for the N55 (>= MY2011). It's much more reliable than previous gen's, and shouldn't leave you stranded. Only thing to worry about is the electric water pump.

When I had some spare cash, I began looking for my M5 to fill the void that I and almost everyone else on this board know about. Had patience and got the right one. And now use it exclusively for summer driving. Stays parked in the winter.

Having both cars, I wouldn't change any decisions, and would have acquired them in the same order. If I had to go to one, I would sell the E39. Daily driving and year round safety are just too important to me. Fortunately I don't have to though haha.

That all being said, if your weather is rarely snowy/icey, go for the E39. Little more in maintenance, but a lot more in character and fun.
I will follow up with this and say, the e39 M5 is not a hopeless car in the winter if you need to drive it. I have a set of blizzaks for mine and daily drive it in all conditions until the snow is more then 10 inches deep. Even though our weather is not quite that of Alberta Canada's in the winter, I do live in the snowbelt region just south of the snowiest city in the US last year Erie, PA. We typically see 100-200 inches of snow in a year.

Actually the e39 M5 is a very pleasant and fun car to drive in the snow. It has an incredible heater and the heated seats are fast too. When you want to use it, the traction control system works very well, it will torque vector you around a turn. It also seems to have the uncanny ability to get you started from a dead stop on an icy hill. If you want to turn the traction control off, the e39 M5 has a limited slip diff and RWD, 5 mph drifts in the snow are far more satisfying and safe then dry road power drifts.
 

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OP- Everyone has covered most of it, but I will say having owned E39 540i 6MT and an E60 550i 6MT along side my E39 M5. The E39 M5 is the one I kept and wanted to drive the most:

E60 550i:
Great car and very good handling for such a big lump of metal. Very fast mid range but left me wanting more on the very low end and very top end rpm. Greatest feature was the intermediate DTC traction control mode, allows some slip but saves it if you get too far out of whack. Great for power sliding around streets with curbs. Downsides: Almost as expensive for maint as S62 on the valvetronic motor. Several come in with valve seal failures from what I hear from a tech at a BMW dealership. Also Alt bracket leaks and requires lifting motor to replace seal.

E39 540i:
Great car too but will leave you wanting more as you'll know the M5 is how it should have been done in the first place in the back of your mind. After a few months with the 540i you'll wish you had an E39 M5 and will waste what you saved initially in $$ on upgrades to the 540i to make it like an E39 M5 but will still be falling short. Worst thing about the e39 540i for me was the ridiculous steering ratio. Also has more cooling system failures due to the higher temp it runs at, putting more stress on the system to hold the coolant inside. I'd say just buy the e39 M5 if you're thinking about buying either one of these two cars. Just had this discussion with a friend two days ago who asked which one to buy. If you can do the work yourself buy the M5. If paying someone to do the maint' buy the 540i is what I told him, and you now.
 

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I would look for an e90 330i sport if I were you. Modern in terms of features and body style. Fantastic motor - the last of the NA straight 6 from BMW in a really good chassis. It will give you many years of use without too much trouble.


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I will chime in on this. If you can find an e90 330xi with a manual, it would be an absolute blast. I have the same drivetrain in my X3, and it is a ton of fun. I imagine it would only get better without the extra weight.

Also, don't rule out a higher mileage e46 M3. Very robust car, though it does have some interior finish issues as it ages.
 

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I am looking at almost the exact same line-up of potential cars right now. In my opinion, the only 550i worth getting is the sport, and those are at the top (~$18k) of what I am willing to pay for an e39 m5. You also aren't really saving any money on maint. there either. The 330 is a decent car, but a little bit boring in every aspect to me. The interior is pretty nice, exterior is a boring, and the motor feels pretty flat and, well, boring.

Now the e46 m3, is a viable option. The s54 is a fantastic motor, the best 6-cylinder BMW has ever made in my opinion. The styling is more aggressive than the m5, and the car a lot more exciting to drive. The ride is a little rough and the interior is definitely not as nice as the e39. I do think the m3 will be a little cheaper to maintain, just be ready to do rod bearings at some point which really isn't that big a deal. My e30 has an s54 in it though, so I think the e46 m3 would just be a bigger, slower fun car.

The e39 m5 is a fantastic car, and I think it's the best $15k you can spend at the moment. I also think that the market is at the price floor right now, I don't see good examples getting any cheaper. However, if you are not truly prepared to either dump $3-4k on the car at any time or really put some serious work into it, you should look elsewhere. My roommate bought a higher mileage, but really nice '01 a few years back. He is knowledgeable and knew what he was getting into, I helped him do some maint. stuff here and there, but the car nickel and dimed him to death. He ended up selling it after about a year and a half. In my situation, I am looking for a $12-14k m5, but I have the time/space and am not scared to do a motor/clutch/whatever if I need to.
 
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