How Annual Mileage Affects BMW Buying Choices

There are three use cases for buying a BMW and they revolve around annual mileage be it high, low or average.


BMW E31 850Ci

Not doing many miles? 850Ci could be for you.

Low Mileage

If you don't do much in the way of mileage you're lucky, just get the big engined V8 you always wanted but buy an older one that's done all it's depreciating. Big engined cars are a bargain because few people want them. A V8 7 series could cost 60-70,000 new but a friend recently bought a lovely one with full history and only 54,000 miles for only 2000!

If you buy a BMW that's been looked after it'll still feel like the super expensive car it was a few years before. Bills needn't be big if you buy one with history that's been pampered, there's lot of choice so be picky. Have patience and take the time to find the right car.

Average Mileage

If you do an average mileage, say 12,000 a year in the UK, you might be better looking at fixed price contract hire on a newer car. Servicing is included in the price and you don't need to worry about depreciation. If you want to buy find the lowest mileage example you can with a good number of extras and solid service history. Don't keep it too long or put too many miles on it.

Even on more expensive cars if you buy well and look after them depreciation can be minimised. The trick is to buy something that will still be desirable when it comes to sell, so no horrid colours or poverty specifications and be sure to retain the service history.

When it's time to change sell privately, not as a trade in. Because you've bought a good car in the first place with a nice specification it won't be hard to move on. Be sure to keep all the service history and don't be frightened to ask a good price. Have a look at ebay and the cars for sale, it's amazing the mistakes people make when they come to sell. Pictures of dirty cars with rubbish on the footwells, scant descriptions and spelling errors.


BMW E46 325Ci red

This cost me 1400 in 2012, it's ready for the next 100,000 miles.

High Mileage

For those who do a lot of miles don't even look at a newer car. Get something less expensive and with no more than 100,000 miles. Keep it well maintained and run it into the ground, don't worry about depreciation because you're not going to get much for it. If you're faced with a big repair bill for something just sell the car with an honest description.

Don't assume you have to get a diesel, see the pros and cons on the diesel vs petrol page in the buyer's guide.

To give an example many years ago I paid 1000 pounds for a nice E36 328i touring with 98,000 miles and full service history. It was mint, not a mark on it. Only fault it had was that it ran a little cold as the thermostat was sticking, easy to fix. I ran it for 65,000 miles until the dual mass flywheel started to breakdown. Too big a job for a driveway mechanic like me and too expensive to be worthwhile, so I sold it for 400 on ebay. So it cost me 600 in depreciation and maybe 700 in parts and service consumables over three years and 65,000 miles. Not bad. Plus I really enjoyed driving it and the car was 100% reliable, it always put a smile on my face. That sort of tale sums up many of my cars, I even made a small profit on a few.

The Trick

The trick with enjoying the same BMW for many years is not to let faults build up into a long list that want to make you sell the car. If something is wearing out or broken fix it as soon as possible. That's how you get a good ownership experience, don't let niggles accumulate and annoy you.

If you start to feel a bit bored with the car take it out and give the inside and outside a damn good valet, this should take a few days if done properly. You'll have a car that looks great. Take it for a drive somewhere nice and throw it around a few corners, you'll soon remember why you like it so much and want to keep it. It's all the sweeter when you think how little it's costing you.

We live in a throwaway society, let's try not to treat our BMWs that way.