All of the above are common issues with these cars. At 20+ years old these cars will require a significant investment for freshening. However, once this is taken care of you will have a bullet proof BMW that will keep you happy for many more years.
I would only recommend one of these cars if you are willing to tackle repair work on your own (or have deep pockets). They are very simple to work on, and parts themselves are not that much more expensive than a domestic vehicle.
That aside, I couldn't be happier with mine.
Hello, this is the original poster again. It has been over nine years since I bought this car, and five since I sold it... for $1,300. *shaking head*
As I mentioned in my above comment, I bought a 95' Legacy LSi. I had that car for two years and had various minor issues. Sold it after putting 30K on it, when I found my next car, a 99' Forester L. Fun car with a 5 speed and the DOHC H-4. Also had various minor issues, though the guy who bought it from me had some serious problems like a botched clutch job (NOT the car's fault) and a leaking head gasket (A common Subaru issue with 2.5L motors).
Now, I have an 01' Outback Limited. Again, various minor issues, though more than either previous Subaru in only 12K of driving. I guess I'm being punished for buying a car that was only 8 years old with less than 110K when I got it, ha-ha! Other family cars have been Honda's, a 98' Civic, a 00' Accord and most recently a brand new 10' Accord. Various minor issues across the board with them as well, with the Civic aging more gracefully than the other two.
What I've learned from from all these cars is that my old BMW really was actually pretty reasonable! It was a sold performer that started everyday, no exceptions. As far as repairs go, they really were not that bad. Basically, everything that went wrong with the E30 went wrong with the Accord. Repairs on the Accord were only slightly less expensive... very slightly. My Subaru's have been much the same story. Other running costs are about the same with the exception of MPG. The BMW was just as efficient as the Accord (worse city/better HWY MPG), and blows ALL my Subaru's out of the water (to be expected with AWD).
People say hindsight is 20/20. In this case it's more like 20/10. I've wished every single day since I sold it that I hadn't. About three weeks after buying the 95' Legacy, I nearly bought a 90' 318i, but I really just wanted my old car back, and this one was less well equipped. As punishment for looking at the 318i, my Subaru promptly blew a transmission seal after my test drive (kidding about the punishment). Nowadays, these are all but gone here in the U.S. Every now and then I see one, but unless the price is $4-$5K or more, they aren't even worth looking at. E36 and E46 models are easier to find and are around the same price. Though they are a lot easier to find, finding one in good condition with a manual transmission can be very tricky (like every other car in this country).
All-in-all, I had this car for four years and 36K miles. With good MPG and no car payments, this was actually quite cheap to run! And since all the repairs I had done also had to be done to our 00' Accord and other cars, I would HIGHLY recommend this car if you can find one. If it's an ES/iS model, just pounce on it. I've now had my 01' Outback for two years, and am already sick of it, just like all my other cars since the E30. BMW's spoil you, even at 20+ years. Lately I've found myself looking at Merc W210 E320's, E36, E46 and E39 BMW's plus a few Preludes and Lexus SC300/400's. They are all very nice, but as I said before, they are all hard to find with a stick (the w210 and SC400 were not offered with a manual in North America). Seems if you have a stick these days, hold on to it!
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