This is a review of my experience following the advice of Doug DeMuro and buying a German Car from CarMax. I think it was good advice.
On Thursday I sold my BMW back to CarMax after putting 113,000 miles on it. It was a 2010 LeMans Blue 335i, with the N54 twin turbocharged inline six, and the M-Sport package. It was a truly fun daily driver for my 70-mile-per-day commute. I thought I would share my thoughts on the ownership of an “unreliable German car” from CarMax.
I decided to sell it because of the high miles and unpredictability of an automatic transmission in that mile range. Service to flush the ZF transmission is $900 at an independent shop (BMW says it is a “lifetime” part). I’m not sure how any component with a filter can have that type of maintenance schedule. I kept my E46 until 168,000 (if I recall), so I moved this one on a little sooner. But, honestly, except for a few things, I think if you are attentive these cars can be driven as long as most.
Oil changes are much expensive than the Japanese sedans, the M-Sport has a staggered layout from front to rear with different tire sizes which makes the tires more expensive, and you’ll need to buy cheap wheels with snow tires to rotate if you’re in the midwest or the mountain states. But, I love the balance of rear-wheel drive with an engine that runs parallel with the travel of the car. I think the best thing BMW does is make sports sedans and they are a delight to drive. The best BMWs are in the 2, 3, and 4 series sizes.
I bought the car for about $29,000 with the longest CarMax MaxCare Warranty. It had 36,000 miles at the time of purchase and I sold it back at 149,000. Back in January 2015, I sold my E46 325i to them for $3,300, put down about $13,000, and financed the rest at 2% APR, which is an incredible rate for a used car.
CarMax MaxCare is basically insurance underwritten by CNA Financial Corporation. At around 90,000 miles I had my first claim with a fault in the fuel injector. I took to Autohaus BMW and the repair bill was completely covered minus my deductible. Unlike other extended warranties, the MaxCare simply requires you follow the maintenance schedule of the manufacturer. A previous one I had was voided unless every oil change was 3,000 miles apart—which is expensive, wasteful, and unnecessary, with 7 odd quarts of synthetic oil. So that is the benefit of MaxCare—no silly hoops to jump through to maintain coverage.
The BMW was a very good commuter car. It was comfortable and very fast. It handled like it was on rails, especially in summer tires. Every bit of the road transferred to the steering wheel, including the groves in the highway lanes. I just felt connected. For such a long commute it was a nice compromise because running up all those miles on a 335i does not feel like a crime like it would be putting them on an M3 or M2. I loved the color, the simple black interior, with the orange LEDs, and I love the wheels.
The warranty ended at 120,000 miles. For all the repairs and service during the warranty, I went to Autohaus BMW in Maplewood, Missouri, which included a well appointed waiting room with televisions, snacks, and a voucher for the gift shop. I also received nice loaner cars, like an Estoril Blue 435i coupe, a black 335i sedan, and on one occasion a garden variety X3. The service was excellent and I like the detailed reports on the maintenance of the car after each trip to Autohaus.
After the warranty finished, I serviced the car at Bimmers R Us in St. Louis, which is an independent shop with a strong reputation & some very cool classic BMW inventory. Below is my E90 at Bimmers R Us.
Please note that I accidentally put my Oppo sticker on backwards. I realized the mistake right away but decided it was meta-opposite.
When I sold it back to CarMax, I forgot to take a Mix Tape CD of classic blues out of the Business CD Player. I also forgot to take off the Opposite Lock decal. So I need a new decal for my next BMW if anyone is selling them.
Here are some photos of the cool cars that Bimmers R Us. I kinda want all of them. Especially this E30 xDrive Wagon in green.
I think the fire extinguisher should an option in more BMWs frankly. You can never be too safe.
My car in a St. Louis snow dusting. I grew up in Chicago and Minnesota so I have a natural experience driving rear wheel drive cars in snow, but I failed to appreciate how insane an ice storm is until I moved to St. Louis.
I love this E46 ZHP coupe at Bimmers R Us. I would love this car for a daily driver.
Above are a supercharged 2002 and below it a brand new M2 Competition at Bimmers R Us in St. Louis.
My E90 was a 2010 335i, which was the second fastest E90 at the time, slotted under the M3 obviously, and the 335is which introduced the DCT transmission to the chassis. At the time the 328 was still naturally aspirated. The N54 had direct fuel injection, double VANOS, and an electric water pump. It had an aluminum engine block with twin turbo chargers.
For my long commute, I don’t think I need this much power. I want to get a sports car to work on and drive for fun, but not rack up all the miles. For my next daily, I’ll probably look at a F30 328i or 330i to save money on fuel. I’ll keep you posted.
I’m also not sure if I will buy from CarMax again for the next car. I essentially bought a low mileage BMW for the price of a Camry, which was cool. But, CarMax is expensive for their used cars. And now it will be more competitive because both BMW and Mercedes Benz offer unlimited mileage warranties for the CPO cars, which is even better than CarMax MaxCare.
Currently, I am thinking I will just buy a car from Bimmers R Us. CarMax was good, but an independent shop dedicated to keeping old BMWs on the road is probably even better.