When you think of affordable cars, a BMW might not be the first thing that comes to mind. But fear not, Bimmer enthusiasts! There are some true gems hiding in the corners of the used-car market, just waiting for you to discover them. This is where the magic of depreciation really starts to show. So, grab your driving gloves, and let’s go hunting for the best BMWs you can snag for under $5k – BIMMERIST style.
1999-2005 BMW E46 3 Series: The Gateway Bimmer
Ah, the E46 – that perfect blend of sporty handling, timeless design, and just enough technology to keep things interesting. If you’re new to the world of BMW, this is the ideal place to start. This generation of the 3 Series offers a range of engines, from the fuel-sipping 318i to the punchy 330i. You’ll likely find most examples in the 323i or 325i flavor, both of which offer plenty of performance for the price.
What’s to love? The E46’s balance of power, handling, and comfort is still impressive today. And don’t even get me started on the glorious inline-six engine noise!
Buyers Beware: Cooling system issues are the Achilles’ heel of the E46. Make sure you budget for a cooling system refresh if it hasn’t been done recently.
1995-2001 BMW E38 7 Series: Baller on a Budget
If you want to cruise around town like James Bond, the E38 is your ticket to ride. With sleek lines, an opulent interior, and a choice of silky-smooth V8 or V12 engines, this 7 Series will have you feeling like royalty in no time.
What’s to love? The E38’s ride quality is unparalleled, thanks to its double-wishbone suspension. And if you’re lucky, you might even find one with a rare and delightful manual transmission.
Buyer’s Beware: The electronics in these cars can be finicky, so make sure you test every switch and button. The cooling system is also a weak point, so keep an eye on the temperature gauge.
2004-2010 BMW E60 5 Series: Sedan Swagger
The E60 is the ultimate sleeper – a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Sure, it may not be the prettiest Bimmer on the block, but with the right engine and suspension setup, this 5 Series can be an absolute riot on a twisty road. Look for a 530i or 535i for the best bang for your buck.
What’s to love? The E60’s performance chops are impressive, especially when equipped with the optional sport package. Plus, the interior is both spacious and comfortable, making it a fantastic daily driver.
Buyer’s Beware: The infamous “VANOS” variable valve timing system can cause issues, so listen for any odd noises or rough idling. The iDrive infotainment system can also be finicky, so test it thoroughly.
MORE: BMW E60 5 Series: The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide
1992-1998 BMW E36 3 Series: Classic Cool
The E36 is the ideal BMW for the budding enthusiast looking for a fun and engaging rear-wheel-drive experience. With its lightweight chassis, perfect 50/50 weight distribution, and rev-happy engines, the E36 is a true driver’s car.
What’s to love? The E36’s driving dynamics are still a benchmark for modern sports sedans, and its clean lines have aged gracefully. Plus, with a massive aftermarket and enthusiast community, there’s no shortage of support and modifications available.
Buyers Beware: Rust can be a problem, particularly around the rear subframe mounting points, so check the underbody carefully. Also, the cooling system is a known weak point, so make sure it’s been well-maintained.
1999-2006 BMW E53 X5: The Adventurous Bimmer
If your BMW cravings come with a side of off-road prowess, the E53 X5 is your perfect match. This first-generation X5 combines the driving dynamics BMW is known for with the versatility of an SUV. With a range of engines, from a frugal inline-six to a potent V8, the E53 is as at home on a twisty road as it is on a dirt trail.
What’s to love? The E53’s all-wheel-drive system is surprisingly capable, making it a great choice for weekend adventures. And with its spacious, well-appointed interior, it’s equally suited for family road trips.
Buyers Beware: Keep an eye out for worn suspension components and potential transmission issues, particularly on higher-mileage examples. The cooling system should also be inspected and maintained regularly.
1996-2002 BMW Z3: The Roadster for the Purist
For those who crave open-top motoring, the Z3 roadster is an affordable entry into the world of BMW convertibles. With its classic roadster proportions and a choice of punchy inline-four or silky-smooth inline-six engines, the Z3 offers a fun and engaging driving experience.
What’s to love? The Z3’s compact size and nimble handling make it an absolute joy on twisty roads. The available M Sport package further sharpens the handling and adds a touch of visual flair.
Buyer’s Beware: The rear subframe can suffer from cracking, so inspect this area carefully. Additionally, check the condition of the convertible top and its operation, as a replacement can be costly.
So there you have it, the best BMWs for under $5k – a little something for everyone, from the sports sedan aficionado to the off-road explorer. With a keen eye and a little patience, you can find an Ultimate Driving Machine that fits both your budget and your lifestyle.
Just remember, these cars may be older and require some love and care, but with proper maintenance, they’ll reward you with countless miles of driving pleasure. Happy hunting, Bimmerists!