You might be thinking that this is the biggest lie of all.
Owning used German cars has got to result in declaring bankruptcy. At the very least, it must be one of the dumbest financial decisions you can make, correct?
Surely, it must be the same as taking all the cash you have in your bank account, draining your spouse’s savings account, pulling the money out of your kids’ wallet and flushing it all down the toilet.
For instance, take a look at this guy who spent $39K in 2009 on his E39 M5.
$39,000!!! Unbelievable! You could pay for a fiftieth of your kid’s college education with that money or buy a 2006 911 Carrera S!
True, it is usually the case that with many of fine pieces of German machinery, you end up paying the same amount of cash that you would to buy a first class ticket on an international Emirates Airlines flight, complete with your own room and a shower (with accommodations like this, you would want to be stuck on a 20 hour flight). But, there is still a way that you can drive these cars and have money left in your bank account by mitigating the risks of financial disaster as much as possible.
Who knows - with a bit of luck you can not only break even but make money in certain scenarios. But that might be a bit ambitious.
Don’t get me wrong. In general, cars are usually the worst things you could be spending money on. You’re better off taking that $30,000 and putting all of it on black in Vegas. At least that way, you have a 50/50 shot at doubling it.
There is no question that cars are depreciating assets. However, if you buy something that is generally in high demand for a great price, it’s highly possible that you can drive it around for a while and then sell it without incurring a significant financial hit. Of course, that’s easier said than done but here is an example based on my most recent experience.
A few months ago, while I was on my 5th hour of continuous Craigslist “cars-for-sale” browsing, I came across a fantastic deal. It was a 6-speed, 2009 BMW 335i that I only ended up paying $17.5K for. I knew that 6-speed manual transmissions for 335’s were rare and judging by the demand out there for one I figured I could drive it for a while and sell it quickly close to what I bought it for. I would enjoy the car for a few months and then let it become someone else’s maintenance nightmare.
The 335i I found on craigslist was an even better than usual deal since it had more power than what came from factory. It had an output of roughly 350 hp and 370 lb-ft of torque which is a big increase over a stock 335i. I also recently compared my car with my friend’s M3 and although I prefer the M3 over the 335i, there was no denying the fact that the 335i, in general, is superb value for the money.
But there’s a catch to being able to buy all these used German autos for so cheap. The reason they plummet in value the way that they do is because the repairs on these cars cost so much. For example, here are some typical problems I could expect with the E9x BMW 335 and how much it would cost me to get them fixed.
Replacing Injectors: $2950 to replace all 6
Oil Filter Housing Gasket Leak: $800
Transmission Oil Pan Leak:$ 1800
Wastegate Rattle: $ 2,158
Valve cover gasket replacement: $ 1097
You might be looking at this list thinking: “You are an idiot to even think about buying a used 335i without a warranty.” Yes, from a financial standpoint it is risky but I compare it to buying stocks. Any stock you buy could always go down, but if you do enough research and buy stocks in a company with great fundamentals, you would lower the likelihood of losing your money.
It’s a similar concept when buying German vehicles without a warranty. Although, in most cases, buying German cars is like buying penny stocks with no upside, if you are thoughtful about what you purchase and have it inspected, then you minimize your chances of throwing away all of your hard-earned cash.
So, to try to make sure that I wouldn’t regret buying this car, I had a pre-purchase inspection done on it by the dealer. They probably took a look at the car for all of about 5 minutes and then proceeded to fill out the checklist in 5 seconds.
“Sir, your car is ready”.
They did mention that there was some oil around the gasket, but when I looked at the area myself, I couldn’t tell if it was dirt or oil. Was this a stealership I was dealing with?
Knowing that I would only keep the car for a few months, I thought I’d just live with a problem that didn’t really look like a problem. The service advisor tried to get me to fix it but when I was pushing back he didn’t show any indication that there was a serious issue here (he probably just looked at forums and thought, well it’s going to fail anyway so I might as well try to convince this guy to take care of it now).
It didn’t work and I just decided to keep an eye on the oil level and set aside some money for repairs. Worst case scenario: $800 to get the problem fixed.
Tires and brakes were fine. They weren’t great, but at the very least, they wouldn’t need to be replaced during the time that I would own the car.
Owning The 335i For Three Months
The 335i was an amazing daily driver to own. The power was great and the handling was tremendous. If it only looked like the M3, then I would have liked the car that much more.
Fortunately, over the three months I owned it, I didn’t get stuck with a huge repair bill. Here is where the pre-purchase inspection was helpful. The brake fluid replacement light came on and so I got that done for $133, but that was it.
All the necessary niceties were there like a fantastic sounding Harmon-Kardon stereo, bluetooth, navigation, sunroof along with gobs of torque. Keyless entry was such a huge convenience: I don’t think the keys ever really came out of my pocket other than to lock the car. It was a really nice feature to have especially if you’re lazy like me and want to move less than a turtle.
Even in the back, the passengers in the rear seats had their own A/C vents. For being a relatively small coupe, it was fairly roomy and spacious inside the car.
I didn’t plan on selling it so soon but I just thought I’d put up an ad and see what happens. I knew I wouldn’t have much trouble selling it and I was right! People love a manual 335i and so I immediately started getting some responses. It only took a few weeks to have someone pay me $18K for the car, $500 more than what I paid for it initially (without sales tax).
Cheap BMW Ownership
Saying “cheap BMW ownership” is like saying “Donald Trump’s hair is real”. Those words just don’t belong together. In my case, luck played a factor but also buying a car that was highly desired meant that I was able to enjoy this car for only $274 a month (not including gas + insurance).
I should say that if you go through the buying and selling process of used cars long enough, there will be cases where you have to end up paying for a large repair bill. But that’s part of the journey. My goal is to continue buying, enjoying and selling used cars and hope that I don’t lose a whole lot of money in the process. But even if I do, I won’t complain because that’s what I signed up for.
It’s kind of like gambling, but the fun kind - the kind that I love.
But I’ll probably regret it some day when I’m really old and all I have left in my bank account is $2.53.
Torque Affair is about exploring my fascination with cars; I’m always on the lookout for things that interest me in the car world.