Having owned and driven 3 e30 BMW's (316i, 318is, 320i), I can tell you that they will run forever if taken care of. The difference between a well taken care of and neglected one (ie. no service history) is huge.
I have had absolutely no electrical problems with any 3 of my e30s.
Depreciation is not a problem, as I don't think they will go down in price anymore. Maybe they will increase as they become more rare.
Parts are easy to find in a scrap yard and cheap. Never bring it to a BMW dealer. They don't want to see you if your car is over 10 years old unless you are willing to pay ridiculous amounts for parts and labour.
I never have a fear of it breaking down. I have driven a few long drives with no problems. The only problems I have had were fixed before they caused a major catastrophe.
Being an enthusiast helps as it's very easy to work on.
It is very easy to live with, once you get used to the pedal offset of course. The engine is very smooth and the handling is great. I love the gearbox. I will never buy FWD after owning one of these cars.
They can be a bit messy in the wet, but it's very easy to correct a slide after you get used to RWD. I always feel safe driving it. There is so much feeling of the road, you know exactly what's going on and when/if the wheels are going to break loose of the tarmac.
The car even though the lowest end model is quite good spec wise. It has a tilt/slide sunroof, Electric front windows, all round disc brakes and ABS.
There is almost no difference (book values) on economy on any of the 4-cyl models, so the only reason you should buy the 316i over the 318i is for tax or insurance reasons. My 316i actually is worse than my previous (now dead) 318is (318i to 16v touring conversion) on petrol. The body is a bit heavy for only 100hp, and you find yourself flooring it to merge or overtake.
The 316i is no rocket. In fact I am always left behind at the traffic lights by Peugeot 206s and Ford Fiestas with 1.2l engines, but it can take some weight and barely effect the performance.
Looks wise, it stands out. When I meet new people where I live, they ask me "Are you the one that drives that old silver estate?" I think it's a classic and has aged quite well. It is most distinctively 80s design and the standard 15" BBS alloys are perfect for it. It turns heads at traffic lights, and gets a few looks in a car park.
For its age, rust isn't much of a problem, even though I live beside the sea, and I think it did in its former home. There a few small rust spots, but they haven't spread. The paintwork is amazing for 16 years even on the wheels, a good wax job shows up my mother's 2007 Saab.
The body's sheet metal is thick and doesn't dent easily. There is no stone chips amazingly!
It is truly, along with the e34 5-series, the last real BMW. The design philosophy behind it is very different to modern BMW's. It's a classic design. The quad headlights, it's low to the ground, the dash is really low, and visibility all round is amazing, although the mirrors have terrible blind spots.
I find the lighting terrific. The halogen lights are very bright, and you feel confident driving at night. I couldn't say the same thing of my dad's Volvo.
The interior lighting is a different story. One of the worse points about the car. It's only lit by two lights above the rear seats.
The seats are reasonable, although there is little side support. The rear seats are very comfortable, although headroom is a serious problem for people over 6 foot. The car really only fits 4 people comfortably.
I would recommend this car to anyone who is comfortable working with cars, or who wants to learn. Even though it's had its share of problems, I still love it. What can you expect when it's 16 years old. I'm sure the parts I've changed won't have to be changed again any time soon. I learned to drive in it, and everything I know about working on cars.