BMW Buyers Guide - Where To Buy

BMW dealership

Don't automatically dismiss main dealers as too expensive.


By far the most important thing you need when buying a car is patience. It can be frustrating when the car of your dreams and your budget is illusive, but it will happen it you wait a bit longer. It can take me a month to find the right car at the right price. But I have a habit of finding bargains that amaze my friends. It not just because I know about BMWs, it's because I search in lots of different places every day and don't buy a car until it feels right. If it doesn't feel right, it isn't.

Where to Look?

If you are spending a lot on a fairly new BMW a proper franchised dealer is the only Choice. Non BMW dealers won't have the proper tools and computers to service your car nor the experience to spot common BMW faults. Your warranty will be invalid if the car isn't serviced by a main dealer.

That said don't just assume you local dealer has the best selection. I bought my two cars from dealers adverts in areas far from where I lived, this gave me a bigger selection of vehicles and saved me money as I lives in an expensive location. Phone around for the best deal.

If you're spending a bit less on a slightly older car, one outside the five year maximum used car warranty extension period, try a German car specialist. They have a good range of cars and the mechanics tend to be BMW or VW/Audi trained. They often provide better deals and service than the official dealers and if you don't need to worry about new car warranties go for it.

For old BMWs your best choice is probably a private sale. The dealer markup on cars at this price level is very noticeable and most reputable dealers won't touch older cars anyway as they feel they'll spoil their image. Get the FAQ for your model and give the car a good once over.

For even older classic BMWs you could try auctions, specialist dealers, such as Munich Legends (UK), or look in the classified section of a magazine such as BMW Car. If you buy a car with a few warts you must carefully consider the price of fixing them vs the cost of just buying a nicer car. Things like paintwork are important as the cost of a good respray may be thousands. If something IS broken be sure you know what it will cost to fix.

No matter what kind of BMW you are buying you should beware of a really dirty trick perpetrated on all of us by BMW. They have deliberately made almost all of their cars so downright fun to drive, good looking and stylish that it is almost impossible not to want every car you look at! At all cost you must resist the temptation to buy the first car you see and succumb to this trickery. Somehow you must view the whole process coldly and clinically, do all the sums and find the right car for you.

One thing I'd always recommend at any price level is to sell your current car privately first. Being a buyer with no trade in makes the process simpler and you can drive a better deal, you'll likely get more for you're old car too.

What About Extras?

Look carefully at what your prospective purchase does and doesn't have in the way of extras. Some things, like wheels, are easy to fit but others are not economically viable to retrofit to an existing car. If it's going to annoy you not having it for the next few years and it's not possible to retrofit it then it's not the car for you.

If you're buying a new BMW the extras list is a minefield. BMWs come with more standard kit than they did years ago but the expensive options are still there. Few options will add much to the used or trade in value of the car. The price of optional extras can be crazy, a good one was satnav in the days before it was a standard feature - the cost was out of all proportion. It's here that car companies and dealers make a good chunk of their profit.

If you have a firm idea of the extras you want and ones you don't want to pay for you may well have to order a new car and wait a few months for delivery, stand by your guns and do it. The dealer may try to talk you into a car that's in stock and is almost right, but it's your BMW and it should be the way you want it - have patience and wait, you'll be glad you did.

Buying Warranties

In the UK used BMWs come with a very comprehensive warranty. This can be extended annually until the car is five years old. For my E36 318iS it cost about 340 GBP to renew the warranty, not cheap and that was in 1996! It'll be a lot more now. The price also includes roadside assistance, certain types of insurance and a few other services.

I had to call out BMW Assistance three times in six years. Once for a flat battery (my fault), once for a broken door hinge (a friend's fault) and once for a dodgy breather tube (the car's fault). They averaged 20 minutes to attend and very quick and efficient. I have found all my BMs to be very reliable.

Non BMW warranties are much cheaper. This is often because they cover everything that isn't likely to go wrong. They are often not worth the paper they are written on and tend to come in around the 100-150 GBP price range. They normally don't include roadside assistance either. But if you shop around and read the small print you may find a good one. A non-BMW garage selling you a policy on a used car is likely more concerned with profit than with whether the policy give you good cover or not.

And Finally

Don't just buy the first nice BMW you see. Unless you are looking for something rare it pays to think really hard about your purchase. Can you really live with that colour? Have you got an acceptable insurance quote? Does it fit in the garage? How much is the annual car tax?

As I said at the start, patience is the key.