Throughout my life, my fascination in BMWs grew stronger year after year. The only thing that kept one out of my driveway was my low budget. Over the years I’ve always owned low-budget cars including air-cooled and water-cooled front and rear wheel VWs, not to mention some American metal with proper rear wheel drive. Recently, when it came time to replace my daily driver, purchasing a pre-owned BMW was inevitable. Here is how I ended up buying an E46 BMW 325i.

At first, I considered a BMW 2002, then realized that it was a little too old considering reliability and parts availability. Even though my best bet was to buy a pre-1975 model to avoid California’s stringent smog laws.  Additionally, 2 doors was not going to cut it. An E30 BMW 325i / 318i 4-door with a manual transmission was my second choice. As I searched through all the different classified ads for one. It quickly became clear to me that E30’s were either located too far away, or too run-down. Then I thought maybe something from the same era, but bigger and more comfortable, like a manual E28. My search came to the same conclusion as the E30. I did not want a project car, since I already have two of those at my house.

BMW E46 325i
At that point, I decided to double my budget and look for either a later year E36, or an E46 that will fits it. Since middle school I liked the E36 BMWs, naturally, my search began there. I narrowed it down to ’96 or newer (OBDII) 4-door with a manual transmission, and a dark interior. After many texts, emails and phone tagging, I gave up on some sellers. This is where I learned that one of the most frustrating parts of buying from a private seller, coordinating a time and place to meet. The few that I did manage to take a look at and test drive did not meet my basic standards.

If my memory serves right, one classified ad was particularly annoying. The car was absolutely nothing like the ad described it to be. In the photo of the ad it showed a black 4-door BMW E36 with a dark interior. I met the guy to look at the car, it turned out to be a green 2-door, with a white leather interior. After that incident, I decided to look for a newer generation 3 Series, an E46 that I could afford. At this point I figured that a manual transmission was not a deal breaker. Afterall the E46 would be my daily driver on one of the world’s busiest freeways, the might I-405 Freeway in Southern California.

BMW E46 325i
With that in mind, I set out to search for a 4 door E46 with an auto trans, dark color exterior and interior. Initially I looked at 330i’s with sport packages. Many were out of my budget, while those that were within my budget were too abused than I felt comfortable dealing with. One was missing the spare wheel, with stitching on the back seat coming apart. Another with terrible leather seats that looked like they were wrinkled.
Throughout my search there was one car that always came up, but I always ignored because it was an E46 325i. Priced around a 330i, it had more miles than I wanted on it. But it had a nice blue exterior color with black leather interior, completely stock.

At that point, I had enough after being disappointed with abused 330i’s, so I went to check out the 325i. Took the car for a spin after meeting up with the owner. The car drove good. True, not as powerful as a 330i, but it felt like a good cruiser. It had the usual wear and tear for a 10 year old ride. One advantage was the leatherette interior which held up way better than the real leather interiors I have seen. I liked it. It wasn’t what I originally wanted, but it had all I needed for a daily driver. So I got down to business negotiating a fair price for it, but the guy would take of more than a few hundred dollars.

BMW E46 325i
I used a tactic with the owner, trying to convince him that the car will need new control arms, or control arm bushings to say the least, interior detail, and brake pads and rotors. Just as I was about to walk away from the deal, and give him the “I’ll think about it”, he pulls out a manila folder. He showed me proof that he was the original owner. He had all the service records for the entire life of the car, even the key chain was original from the factory.

That right there sold me. We worked out a price, then met him the next day to pick up the car. And that’s how I ended up buying an E46 BMW.

GUEST AUTHOR: Marcos Bello


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