1994 BMW with 200,000 miles for $1,200 - good purchase?

There is a black 1994 BMW 5-series, in what appears to be very good condition inside and out, for sale a few blocks from where I live. The only thing is, it has a little over 200,000 miles on it. I ask this because my friend who has for years been without a car is now looking to buy one for cheap, and he loves BMWs, and I want to know if this is a good deal for the money. My dad has always said that BMWs are very expensive to maintain, so I figure that with all the miles on it, something may go wrong and cost a lot of money to fix. What’s your opinion?

Depends on the state of the engine and if it’s been well serviced over the years. BMWs are well built engine-wise, but as you say, parts and servicing are expensive.

Can you pay a mechanic a little bit of money to check it out before you buy? Does it come with service history?

If it were a 2002 I’d snap it up for $1,500. Classic Mmotorsports says values are on the rise. (And they’re sexy cars.)

If your friend is looking for a cheap automotive lifestyle, a BMW is not part of it.
That being said, if a mechanic’s inspection shows this thing to be sound, he could pay the $1200 and then the next time it needs a repair for more than $300 your friend could sell it.
I’ll bet he’d make it six months, which is like having a $200 car payment… if he gets a little luckier, he might make it to a year. You never can tell.
If you’re broke, the best way to get yourself rolling is an older domestic… they depreciate quite quickly.
Check out a Ford Taurus of the same vintage… maybe a Hyundai or Kia… Korean cars depreciate like mad, too.

I just checked the auction value of the car, but need to know a few things. Which model of the 5 series is it? Is it a 525, 530, or 540? Is it a sedan or wagon? 5 spd or automatic? What color is it (yes, color matters for value)?

Do you know the carfax of the car? Has it ever been in an accident? Usually with that many miles and years on the car an accident does not really matter, but it could mean future problems if there was a front end collision.

However, if it is a good, super clean car, grab it. A dealer would get this money you are spending for it at the auction. However, that is only if you could afford to lose the money you spent buying it. Because your Dad is partially right. They are not as expensive to maintain as you would think (there are mom and pop places that are reputable and specialize in European cars), but they are super expensive to fix. A transmission could cost 3 times what you just paid for it.

Since your question really involves informed opinions. let’s move it from GQ to IMHO.


It’s a black 540i with a gray leather interior. It is a sedan.

As was mentioned, get a qualified mechanic to inspect it. If the car is ready for a clutch, figure up to $1000 for that. A new exhaust sytem is over 1500, more if you need the catylitic converter changed. Face it, at 200k miles, many major systems are worn out, and BMW service is expensive. The real dilemma is; you buy the car, and all of a sudden, you are faced with several thousand in repairs? Do you scrap it or fix it? You will never get your money back, and there is nothing worse than driving a car that needs continual repairs. Still, if the car is in top shape, you may well be able to drive it for 2-3 years and come out ahead. a gamble.

By the way, with those miles, stick is WAAAY better than automatic.
A BMW clutch probably costs under $1200 to fix if it wears out. I’ll be the cost for the auto tranny is over twice that… and the manual tranny likely needs the service less often anyway.

If I am correct, the car is an automatic, not a manual transmission. I do not believe the 540 came in a stick shift. Here at my dealership, we would definitely send it to the auction, but we would also give someone around 2000 for the car, if it is clean/in good shape. We would send it to the auction, and someone would buy it for export, where it would sell in Haiti for 5000 USD.

The person drove it around 16500 miles a year, which is definitely above average. But if they did all scheduled maint. to the car, I would say buy it. As everyone else is saying, if your friend gets two years driving experience out of it, it was worth the money. Where else could you drive a car for 70 a month. And it is a nice size engine, nice power, etc. Once again, if your friend can afford the risk of losing 1700, I would say it was a great deal. If a year from now, they do not want it, you could ask 4k for it, accept 2k for it, and still come out okay.


Could I trouble you for input on this thread:

I’d have emailed you, but that’s turned off on your profile.

Kelly Blue Book gives these values for a 94’ 540i Sedan with 200K miles:

Trade-in value: Excellent (condition) $4,400
Good $3,875
Fair $2,975

Private Party value: Excellent $6,600
Good $5,975
Fair $5,150

Retail Value: Excellent $8,900

So I guess $1200 is a pretty good deal

I just responded to that thread. I have a couple of e-mail addresses, and you can reach me at losttrust75 at hotmail dot com, for one.

To repeat what I said in the previous thread, KBB is NOT a good source to use when going to the dealer. 99% of dealers use what is called Manheim, which is the auction results for a car. I have seen cars list on KBB for 10,000 trade-in value and actually be worth 14,000 for true trade-in value. The problem is Manheim is not really accessible to the average consumer. And sometimes it works the opposite way. KBB might show 20000 for trade-in value and it really might be worth 16000 to the dealer. And then you think the dealer is trying to rob you.

Not that you ask, but I’d pay someone $250 to detail it and then I’d sell it for $5,500.

Use the profit to buy a better, newer BMW–or keep detailing/selling older ones until you can afford new. I’ve heard of people actually doing that for a living, but you have to know what you’re doing.

I had an '85 320i, from about 1991 to 1996. It showed 150k + miles, but there were 2 stretches where the odometer was broken, for a total of about 18 months. Long story short, it was 15 years old and 200k + easily. That engine was smoooooooth as glass. And they were likely “hard miles” too. It was a 3-speed automatic which was geared horrendously. At 65 MPH it was taching over 3 grand. :eek:

Like I said, all those miles and all those revs, that car was sweet. I’d check your’s for rust etc., ArgentTowers, but I wouldn’t let just the mileage scare you.

:smack: '82 320i…