In this entry – how I choose a used BMW car for purchase.

It is clear that each of us has desired things, and there is also a list of “must-have” options. In my opinion, there is no shortage of myths, strangeness, prejudice. The only thing that I can suggest – gather the information regarding one or another feature. Take a test drive with a car, which has this option. It can turn out that, for example, HUD is almost useless because you can observe only the speed of the car. For example, the only task of the seat vent – give health problems (frozen back) during summer. 

Let’s assume that you already have made a list (or even a shortlist) of your potential dream cars. How to evaluate them?

Stage one. Gathering of the initial information

Use (require) VIN number. Evaluate the available images. Try to check if the shade of colors is the same as all images – different shades would indicate replaced or repainted spare parts. Evaluate the condition of the interior. Yes, the interior condition does not indicate the mileage, but – if it is worn out, I doubt that you will have pleasure by driving such a car. Check the setup of the car using the VIN decoder. Check if the car is not a “constructor” if some initial options have not disappeared. Check the data from the last TI’s. You can order the car history on Auto DNA or CarVertical (or from similar services). But, keep in mind – these data have only an exclusive nature! So – if there are records regarding modified odometer; serious crashes – keep away from it. But if there are no such records – unfortunately, it does not mean anything. Unfortunately, people are hiding not only crashes but also are modifying the odometer. There are hundreds of companies who manufacture thousands of tools for modifying the odometers; many car repair masters are working in the grey sector and repair the cars, whose owners don’t report the accidents to the police or the insurance companies. For this reason, 99% of information regarding the car can be gathered only in person.

BMW/AOS. Aftersales Online system gives information not only regarding intended and performed recall campaigns but also regarding records in all BMW servers. The newer the car, the more efficient info. Together with info from the local dealer, AOS data gives an initial idea regarding the vehicle – are the maintenance performed at the dealer center and how often did the owner solve the defects included in the recall campaigns. These data are very significant; there have been recalling campaigns in which very expensive spare parts were replaced – for example, HPFP and piezo injectors (such a set would cost you 2000 .. 3000 EUR).

On-site inspection

Evaluation of the interior. I have mentioned several times that the wear of the interior has no direct connection regarding the mileage of the car. At the same time – the worn-out interior will be an argument; why not choose the current car, which has a small (even if it is true) mileage. I will mark at once – the interior, which is in good order, DOES NOT MEAN that the car has a small mileage (or small wear in motor hours)!

Evaluation of the body

I check if the shade of color of any body part is different from others. Width of gaps between body parts – do they correspond to the required. I check if the replaceable body (front car wings, hood cover, luggage compartment cover, doors) parts have been replaced. With a color thickness gauge, I check the thickness of the color of the painting. Most critical are the load-bearing structures and irreplaceable parts been repaired and how good they were repaired. To succeed with this task, you have to know how the car is painted in the factory. So I have spent quite a lot of time exploring the nuances of the manufacturing process of BMW cars. You have to know what should be the thickness of the paint in one or another place of the body, which body part should be covered with a varnish, but which parts don’t need to have the varnish. You have to know, which seams are sealed at the factory, what kind of bolts are used by the manufacturer, etc. The task of this inspection – understand, have there been body part repairs and how serious they have been. I evaluate the condition of the engine support elements and other components in the engine compartment. Sometimes the inspection of headlights; safety belts; window glass data helps to find out any unconformity.

Note. In my experience, I have seen an F series car, which was put together from 2 or even 3 cars in such a way that the initial inspection does not show anything suspicious or bad. All parts were painted in the factory; the repair specialists have hidden the seams below the roof railings; below the threshold – on the floor; at the front – below the front wing; exchangeable body parts were taken from another car with the same color code. The morality of the story – in this and other stages of the inspection: the more experience, the larger possibility that you will not miss anything important. Also, as if completely “clean” cars should be inspected very carefully. The argument “this is a cheap car, no one will tense on complicated repair works” does not stand up to criticism. A time ago, it was expensive, and any tricks paid off. 

Evaluation of SRS systems

Of course, you have to check the error messages of the SRS system (also) with diagnostics tools, but there are some tricks, how to cheat in a way, the computer diagnostics will not indicate anything suspicious. So I evaluate the SRS elements visually. I check the existence of side SRS airbags; inspect the frontal airbag; steering wheel and instrument panel airbag; condition the pyropatron of the battery. If the car does not have any component of the SRS system, this car is immediately rejected.

If everything is in order with the setup of the car, it has not suffered serious damages; after a small crash (if such has been) SRS system has been restored, it is worth connecting the diagnostics equipment. 

The computer diagostics

Should be added immediately – if you don’t have at least ISTA and INPA (both – BMW AG diagnostics software), it’s not worth wasting time. With a “universal” tool, you will see .. “nothing”. 

ISTA. I use ISTA to get a quick overall picture. The total count of the error messages and their content tells me a “story” regarding the “life” of the car. Of course, the seller of the car will stubbornly claim that the error messages appeared because that battery was low, that it “doesn’t mean anything”, etc. It’s a classic of the genre. The common info will tell me if the car has ever seen any maintenance. But the existence or non-existence of the error messages DOES NOT MEAN ANYTHING. Deleting the error messages directly after the customer appears – a question of 5 minutes.

INPA. INPA gives me access to the History and Info memory of the main modules. The dealer does not even see these data, even when using ISTA, not even talking about universal tools. Accordingly, there is a better possibility to see something interesting. Instead, if also the History data are deleted, for me, it’s a signal: someone is diligently hiding something! 

The second part, where I use INPA: inspection of live data of the main modules – for example, the engine and the gearbox. Modern engines and gearboxes are so complicated that the error messages regarding their performance do not give a lot of information regarding their technical condition. Live and adaptation data – another thing! Of course, you need serious knowledge and experience, but if you have them – the picture is getting more and more clear. Then you can evaluate the condition of the injectors and other expensive hubs. 

Activation of test modules and components gives the option to check the performance of the most important and capricious modules (for example, pneumatic suspension, panoramic sunroof, etc.).

ISTA/CBS. CBS is the data of the car maintenance. Here you see the information, how many times the replacement of brake pads; oil changes; cooling agent, and brake fluid has been registered. Here can you see, if the battery is registered, also the replacement of the DPF filter (for diesel engines). Replacement intervals can be seen. Wery often, these data tell a lot. Or – makes you ask a lot of questions. Here you can also see cheating – for example, as if “replaced” DPF filters without a physical replacement, 5 changes of the brake pads for a vehicle with as if a mileage of 80 ‘000 km, etc. 

Note. The mileage of the car is only one of the parameters, which describes the were of it. The second most important parameter – motor-hours. Third – specific of the car usage, about that more – here. All three aspects should be checked and evaluated together. 

Finally, I will talk in short about the odometer modification possibility. Times when this “operation” cost a lot of money is gone. E series (E6X; E9X, especially E65) was quite well protected against the modification of the odometer. A long time ago, the modification of the E65 odometer cost even to 1000 USD, now – just several tens of EUR. With the F series, the situation is even more pitiful. Modifying of F series odometer is very simple; even the “blocking” of the odometer is possible (using a specific tool, the odometer “freezes”- the count of km does not change). Taking into account a simple and cheap modifying of the odometer, there are many BMW cars whose odometers are modified before each TI; before each visit to the dealer center. Odometer indications and database reporters for BMW have to be taken very critical! Cheating is very popular (without exaggeration – in the cheap price segment, around 90% of 10 years old have one or another type of cheating with the odometer readings). The situation is changed with the last models of F series (SW changes) and G series – all data of these cars (telemetrics, live data, etc.) regularly (and automatically, without knowledge of the driver) are downloaded on BMW AG servers. Accordingly – when turning to AOS, you can get wide info regarding the use of the car.

Inspection of the running gear – the last and the simplest stage of the inspection of the car, but I would suggest doing it also in the specialized service. When you don’t know the nuances, you can make mistakes, which can lately cost several thousand in repair works. But, if some lever or some axle box should be replaced – this definitely is not a reason why refuse the car.

Directly after purchase

What should be done directly after purchase? Does it have to be washed? Of course! But additionally – install the necessary security systems, make insurance. And the service maintenance should be performed. What is included in this? Subsistence minimum:

a. Replacing oil and oil filters in the engine; replacement of engine air filters; replacement of interior air filters;

b. Replacement of the filter and oil in the automatic gearbox if the mileage is above 120’000km;

c. Replacement of the chain for N and B series diesel engines (if the mileage is 200’000km and more);

d. Replacement of the DPF filters for diesel cars if the mileage is 200’000km and more.

Yes, unfortunately, such is a reality of BMW diesel engine cars – if the mileage is 200’000km and more (a very popular situation), expenses of the maintenance directly after purchase can reach 3500 .. 4000 EUR. If you don’t put any effort into the maintenance, you are endangering your health (and the health of others, initially – your co-drivers), breathing in MP, and you can “stick” with even more expenses if the chain of the engine will break or the speeds of the gearbox will “disappear”.