The 3-Series is BMW‘s most popular selling model. Known for its superb handling, quality, sporty demeanor and entry level price range gives the discerning driver/buyer an opportunity to get into a vehicle that carries the BMW name and its unique characteristics. Making every generation of the 3-Series highly successful, even the aging E46 body style made from 98-06 is still desirable in 2016.
The current generation 3-Series, the F30, has shown the biggest changes anyone has seen in at lease 10 years. Most notably is the removal of the coupe and convertible versions that replaced by the 4-Series, and the 4-Cylinder engine makes a comeback with new turbocharging technology. For the 2016 model year, the 3-Series just got a facelift with some new options, restyled exterior lighting and all new numbering for each model throwing everyone off from what BMW enthusiasts have been used to since 2007.
Times have changed though. Within the past 10 years, a lot of cars have come a long way. With new technology, new performance, bigger bodies and so on cars have also gotten more expensive. Even for average cars, think what the Hyundai Sonata was in 2004, now compare that and the price to what it is for 2016… The same applies to the 3-series and it certainly was not inferior to change and increasing prices.
The 3-series has always been known as the “Affordable BMW” and with that comes an entry level price, but with a premium for the luxury, quality, and performance that makes it BMW. To give an idea, one could buy a fully loaded Toyota Avalon or buy a lesser equipped, smaller-sized 3-Series for the same money. But that isn’t the case anymore.
Today, a brand new the 3-series can easily reach the $50,000 mark when properly equipped and can go up to $60,000 for 6-Cylinder models. (Isn’t that the price range for a 5-Series?) For example, on average a new 2017 BMW 330i (formerly known 328i) will run you about $45,000 when properly equipped. Add on some goodies will bring it up to the $50,000 mark and you still might be missing out on some features. This is the most popular selling model of the 3-Series, and it has a 4-cylinder engine with 240HP. If you’re looking for more power you can opt for the 340i (formerly known 335i), with a turbocharged Inline-6 cylinder engine putting out 320HP. Despite its starting price of $47,900, rarely is this car below $50,000 when new. Thankfully there’s no charge for the M-Sport package on the 340 for 2017 but add on all the extra options and this car will be just above $60,000. Quite a bit. If that’s too expensive you can opt for the entry level 3-Series, the 320i. However, the performance of the 320i is quite unimpressive with a power output of only 189HP, add on the options to enjoy the luxury offerings of the 3-series and the price comes close to $40,000. There’s quite a significant price difference between the F30 3-series and its predecessor the E90. A fully loaded 335i would cost about $50,000 with every option added on, and the 328i would average in the high 30’s with the right options.
Options are key for the 3-Series. Even though the starting price of each 3-series trim level might be within reach, the standard equipment for each trim level of the 3-series are pretty minimal. Even on the top-level 340i, leather is not standard and navigation is a optional that requires the tech package of $2700. For a vehicle of this class, discerning buyers want options like navigation, satellite radio, backup camera, smart key access, and other convenience features in their luxury car. Which is why you will not find many right at that appealing starting MSRP. Add dealer markups, taxes, and fees the price goes up from there.
A Pre-Owned F30 3-Series
Despite everything listed about the high prices of the 3-series. Thankfully for our wallets, the depreciation for the 3-series has not slowed down. It’s been 4-years since the F30’s original debut, meaning that the leasing a 3-series isn’t the only option. A base model 2012 328i can be found for less then $20,000 with decent miles, while the 335i can be found in the high 20’s to mid 30’s. For example we can across a Certified Pre-Owned 2013 BMW 335i with only 11,000 miles on the clock with an asking price of just $35,000. Yes there is a premium for the Certified Pre-Owned because the CPO warranty offered by BMW adds 2 additional years to the original remaining warranty, and ups your mileage limit to 100,000 miles. Anything that goes wrong with your New used BMW will be covered just like factory warranty. One of the best things about CPO with BMW is the coverage is also transferrable to the next owner which could be you. So if you we’re to purchase a BMW that was purchased as a Certified Pre-owned by the previous owner, you would eligible for the same coverage. And since it is not technically being sold as CPO from BMW you could save on the CPO premium price. Pretty awesome.
A Pre-Owned 3-Series Today
With the F30 coming close to being 5 years old for it’s earliest models. The build quality of the 3-series is quite exceptional, with minimal pre-mature wear or notable flaws in build quality. However, a few complaints have been reported about pre-mature wear on the leather if equipped with the coral red color. Issues with the 3-series have been spotty with various reports of infotainment glitches and steering wheel vibration. Most major issues are rare and have occurred while under warranty.
Previous owner care is normally good, but maintenance and preventive service is somewhat lacking and some have shown lack of care and body damage has been spotted with some 328’s. Expect better care with 335’s, especially with M-Sport package as some have been owned by those who truly care about their BMW. So do your homework and check the history before purchasing.
Used F30 3-Series Driving Test
The 3-series has optimal performance regardless of which engine you choose. The 4-cylinder engine found in the 328 is potent with minimal turbo lag. While the Inline-6 in the 335i has exceptional acceleration, and even better with AWD. There’s 3 transmission options available for the 3-series, a 6-Speed Manual, an 8-Speed Automatic, and a 8-Speed Sport Automatic (which can identified by a thicker, leather bottomed gear selector). The 6-speed is great for enthusiasts, but it has somewhat of a long throw as with previous generations, but clutch engagement is slightly shorter. The 6-speed is definitely more enjoyable to drive in a 335i when equipped with the M-Sport package. The 8-speed automatic is a very good transmission and is aimed at delivering economy and decent performance. The Sport auto however is very impressive with lightning quick shifts similar to dual clutch transmission.
If you’re going to buy the F30 3-Series, save yourself about $20,000 and buy pre-owned. You get the options, luxury, performance, and the name of BMW for much much less. Whether you buy certified or not, most 3-series are still under warranty and is still a decently reliable car with lower upkeep costs (especially with 4-cylinder models) than some of BMW’s V8 models. If you do buy CPO, then you have some extra piece of mind with the savings.