This is a 1998 740iL, owned by a client. We’ve seen the car since 2003 and 73,329 miles. It now has 147,000 miles on it, and now needs a water pump. They have taken fastidious care of it, and it remains one of the nicest we see.

It has been in the shop 29 times in total in slightly over 12 years, and their overall expenditure is $12,373.02. Sounds like a lot, right? As a lump sum, it is. But consider: the average bill has been $426.65, and the average annual expenditure has been $1,031.00. This includes everything from routine services to large jobs, such as replacing the torque converter replacing the timing chain guides.

When looked at this way, $1,000 a year to daily drive a 7-series BMW sounds pretty reasonable. This is why I will defend these as great cars, and not any 7 built since. Their successor, the E65, regularly consumes this amount of money in 3 years, easily. Make it an E60 M5 or E63 M6, and you can all but count on $5,000 yearly expenses.

When I say I believe BMW has lost its way, it’s not because of the X6, or 5GT, or whatever 438isIOUxdrivedynamic35i they’ve come out with. That’s just serving holes in the market, and we can’t blame them for that. It’s because at the end of my day, they’ve gone from being an engineering company that builds cars capable of 300,000 miles on regular maintenance (several of which I’ve owned and loved) to a marketing company that builds cars that are taking themselves apart by 100,000 miles. Because I’ve seen this, I will never own a BMW newer than a 2005 E46 M3. Dealer auction lots are filled with late-model BMWs in all variety of distress, I’ve seen them. The N62 V8 is a disaster, particularly in turbo form. I have an N20-powered 528i in now with failed timing chain guides, a 3 year old car with 63,000 miles, and BMW has politely told them to piss off. The paint starts to fade within 5 years, the weatherstripping shortly thereafter. The quality that BMW was known for simply isn’t there in the long term. They’re great under warranty and for a bit thereafter, but woe betide the person who buys one after that. There are exceptions of course, people who have had 150,000 miles on oil changes alone. I’m here to tell you, they’re the lucky ones.

I’ll bet the new M2 is a riot. I’ll bet the new 7 is a nice place to be. But in 10 years, this car will still be on the road, and those will be near death and languishing on the lot at Slick Jimmy’s Used Cars, waiting for a sucker.